President Donald Trump has already declared himself a “wartime President” in a battle against the “invisible, horrible enemy” of coronavirus.
COVID-19 has already launched an assault against his own administration: Friday it was revealed that a staffer for Vice President Mike Pence was infected.
That staffer, said Pence, had “mild cold-like symptoms” and Pence is confident that he’s not positive. However, a test awaits Pence and his wife later this afternoon.
For now, Pence isn’t one of the 20,000 diagnosed with COVID-19. That number was officially crossed Saturday as the President and his coronavirus task force spoke.
Meanwhile, with the national and global economies careening toward tailspin, the President’s team (with Pence central to the effort) is working with Congress on an ambitious stimulus package.
With Quantitative Easing having been used by the Trump and Barack Obama administrations to fuel what was called the longest economic recovery in U.S. history after the 2008 crash, the toolbox of monetary tricks here will be payouts for citizens and bailouts for corporations.
While the terms of the bailout are still being hashed out, expectations are that $1 trillion will be the smallest amount contemplated.
“I think we’re getting very close,” Trump said. “It’s going to be something really special that helps people.”
“We’re providing an incentive not to work … creating a package that keeps companies together, workers paid,” he added.
Trump seeks a buyback exclusion for companies and their bottomed-out stock, something that wasn’t the case with his tax cuts earlier in his term.
The President will not be negotiating first hand, however, as he will remain in the Oval Office while terms of the deal are worked out.
Trump marveled at the virus being in 148 countries, and extolled “national solidarity” as a “very nice thing to see.”
“We’re all one big American family,” Trump said.
“There’s been a sense of unity we haven’t seen in this country in a long time,” added HUD Secretary Ben Carson.
Pence offered affirmational narrative, describing the White House being “overwhelmed” by how Americans have come together in the current crisis.
The President lauded the Democratic Governors of California and New York, citing “unprecedented action” in the latter case.
However, with much of the country showing low incidence rates, a national quarantine isn’t in the cards, Trump added.
The President also touched on forestalling tax day to July 15. And his decision to forestall mortgage payments for the next year, if needed, as well as a 60 day forbearance on “various elements” of student loans.
New York, declared a “major disaster” by FEMA, will qualify for federal funding in the current health care crisis.
“There’s been a clear call to action for the private sector,” Trump said, noting his invoking earlier this week of the Defense Production Act to produce vital equipment.
Perhaps the most critical shortfall: protective masks.
Despite a marked increase in mask production, with 55 million from one source alone, the VP urges those who have surplus supplies to donate them to hospitals.
“Pack up as many as you can spare,” Pence said.
President Trump noted that administrations preceding his had done “very little” in terms of preparation for this crisis.
Testing continues to ramp up, Pence said, noting over 195,000 have been tested, with under 10% testing positive.
“Among the number of more than 195,000 who have been tested, it’s important to remember that only 19,343 — at this moment — have tested positive for the coronavirus.”
Progress will be gradual, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, with “Washington state, California, and New York City” showing “robust” incidence rates.
However, Fauci noted that people can help by not trying to get tested when they have no symptoms, as they represent drags on the system.
The President also found time to bemoan “secretive” China and “inaccurate” reporting about him, showing that even during the gravest of crises, there’s always time to soliloquize about “phony stories.”