Trump Signs $8.3 Billion Bill to Combat Coronavirus

WASHINGTON (CN) — With 227 cases and 15 deaths reported in the United States, President Donald Trump signed an $8.3 billion spending package Friday aimed at combating the novel coronavirus.

Trump signed the package the day after it cleared the Senate in a near-unanimous vote. The spending deal includes $2.2 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and $3.1 billion to the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund that will go toward developing vaccines and treatments and helping prepare health systems to respond to the outbreak.

A man blocks the view last week as a person is taken by a stretcher to a waiting ambulance from a nursing facility in Kirkland, Wash., where more than 50 people are sick and being tested for the COVID-19 virus. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Beyond the money aimed at stopping and treating the virus, the package allows the Small Business Administration to hand out $1 billion in loan subsidies to small businesses and other organizations that have seen a financial hit from the virus.

The $8.3 billion package far outpaces the Trump administration’s $2.5 billion request and came after negotiations between House and Senate appropriators.

“We’re doing very well, but it’s an unforeseen problem,” Trump said at the White House after signing the package. “What a problem. It came out of nowhere, and we’re taking care of it.”

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told reporters at the bill-signing that the CDC has provided all of the coronavirus tests requested by California and Washington, two of the states the virus has hit hardest.

He said the agency has in total shipped enough tests to public health facilities for 75,000 people, and that a private company contracted to send out tests to the private sector has sent enough to test 700,000. By next week, the U.S. will have capacity to test up to 4 million people, Azar said.

The United States is up to 227 reported cases and 14 deaths from the virus, which has killed more than 3,000 people worldwide, mostly in China where the outbreak began.

Trump had been scheduled to visit the CDC on Friday, but the White House abruptly put off the trip. Trump explained Friday he delayed the visit because someone at the center was being tested for coronavirus and that the trip may be back on after the test comes back negative.

In Washington state – which has seen the most deaths from the virus nationally – the University of Washington has canceled all campus classes and advised instructors to teach online until the end of winter quarter on March 20 in response to the coronavirus outbreak in the Seattle area.

“In addition to providing maximum flexibility for our university community to take health precautions and finish classes this quarter, this transition provides our facilities crews additional time to deep-clean classrooms, auditoriums, libraries, restrooms and other public spaces, as is their standard practice,” university president Ana Mari Cauce wrote in an email to faculty and staff Friday.

A number of other area events have been canceled in recent days in hopes of containing the spread of COVID-19, including Emerald City Comic Con, a comic book and entertainment convention that annually draws around 100,000 to Seattle.

“After many hours of conversation internally & consultation with local government officials and the tourism bureau, we have decided to move next week’s Emerald City Comic Con to Summer 2020 with date & detail announcement forthcoming,” the event’s organizers said in a tweet.

Already the epicenter of coronavirus outbreak in the United States, King County officials announced three more deaths Friday, bringing the death toll to 14 and confirmed positive cases to 79.

“As more testing has become available, we are getting increased numbers of reports from laboratories and other facilities,” King County Public Health said in a statement.

All civil and criminal matters scheduled for in-court appearances in the Western District of Washington are continued pending further notice, according to a statement by the court Friday.

Americans should avoid traveling to Seattle because of the coronavirus outbreak, Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow told CNBC Friday.

“That would be a place you would avoid for now,” Kudrow said.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan called Kudlow’s remarks “irresponsible.”

“The city of Seattle, King County, Washington state and public health officials are taking thoughtful and precautionary steps to stop the spread of the virus. We rely on our federal partners for the steadfast support every American deserves. This administration is name-calling and making inaccurate off-the-cuff comments – it’s simply irresponsible and has serious consequences for our residents and businesses,” Durkan said.

“Our response should embrace science. Actions like this have the potential to devastate our local economy, which relies in part on our tourism and hospitality industry,” she continued. “Instead of public health and economic support, irresponsible comments hurt our local economy, cause our businesses to shutter, and jobs to be lost. So many of these businesses are family-owned and are already skating on a thin profit margin. My office immediately called the administration, urging all parts of this administration to speak with one voice on this emerging public health emergency.

Durkan noted small businesses make up 95% of Seattle establishments and generate nearly 200,000 jobs.

%d bloggers like this: