March 17 coronavirus news

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12:29 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Trump administration working to send checks directly to Americans

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

The Trump administration is working to send money directly to Americans in a bid to curb the economic fallout of the coronavirus crisis.

“We’re looking at sending checks to Americans immediately,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters at the White House.

Mnuchin said the administration was looking at ways to provide the checks within the next two weeks.

He also said the administration will allow Americans to defer up to $1 million in payments to the Internal Revenue Service for 90 days.

Mnuchin said the IRS would not charge interest or penalties for the deferral. He said corporations could defer up to $10 million in IRS payments.

CNN’s John Harwood also asked President Donald Trump and Treasury Sec. Steve Mnuchin about the logistics of an economic stimulus idea that could give $1,000 checks to Americans, which is gaining some bipartisan support. 

Mnuchin expressed some support for the idea and it would be discussed during his Capitol Hill meetings.

“I think it’s clear we don’t need to send people who make a million dollars a year checks. But we like — that’s one of the ideas we like. We’re going to preview that today and then we’ll be talking about details afterwards,” Mnuchin said.

Trump chimed in, saying, “I think we’re going to do something that gets money to them as quickly as possible. That may not be an accurate way of doing it because obviously some people shouldn’t be getting checks for $1000. But we’ll have a pretty good idea by the end of the day what we’re going to be doing.”

12:34 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Over 70s should stop having Sunday lunch with their families, says UK’s top science adviser

Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance
Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images

Healthy people over the age of 70 should avoid crowded places and social gatherings -- even family Sunday lunches -- the UK’s chief scientific adviser said Tuesday as he clarified some of the government advice given to the British public the day before.

Sir Patrick Vallance told the House of Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee that everyone over 70 -- not just those with underlying health conditions -- should drastically change their daily routines.

“Avoid crowded spaces, avoid gatherings, don’t got to the club where you normally go to, reduce travel, try to avoid unnecessary travel, don’t [do] your usual things in terms of going to the shops unless you absolutely have to,” Vallance said.

Asked by the committee’s chairman, and former health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, whether people that age should avoid Sunday lunch with their grandchildren, Vallance said they should.

Giving evidence later, the chief executive of the National Health Service in England, Sir Stewart Stevens, said elective (non-urgent) operations would be suspended until April 15, or earlier, if hospitals could manage it, in order to free up capacity to deal with the expected spike in coronavirus cases.

Asked whether the country would have enough ventilators to treat the expected number of cases in the new set of modelling published by scientists at Imperial College London yesterday, Stevens demurred, saying that it would be necessary to wait and see what the real-life effects of the social distancing advice given by the UK government would be.

12:37 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Trump says "we're starting the process" of helping New York increase hospital capacity

 Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
 Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump said at a news conference the federal government is beginning the process of increasing the hospital bed capacity in New York as requested by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

"We're starting the process," Trump said, in response to a question about Cuomo's request that the President deploy the Army Corp. of Engineers to build field hospitals in the state.

Trump said the federal government has the equipment in stock and they are "looking at a few different sites" in New York. He added that the Army Corp is "ready, willing and able" and just waiting for his go-ahead. "We think we can have quite a few units up very rapidly," Trump said.

More context: Earlier today, Gov. Cuomo said that if the number of cases in New York continues to increase rapidly the state could run out of hospital beds to care for the sick. He reiterated an overture he's been making to the President the past couple of days to send in the Army Corp. to increase healthcare capacity.

12:05 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Trump predicts economy will "pop" once country emerges from crisis

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Trump predicted a speedy economic recovery once the current coronavirus outbreak passes, saying he believed it could come quicker than some are predicting.

“It will pop,” Trump said, saying the administration was working to provide relief to affected industries and small businesses to ensure the country emerges from the crisis “with (a) prosperous and growing economy.”

Trump predicted victory against the virus in optimistic terms.

“We will be up here saying, well, we won. We'll say that. Sure as you're sitting there we'll say that. We are going to win,” he said. “I think we are going to win faster than people think, I hope.”

12:04 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

US Vice President Mike Pence urges construction companies to donate masks to hospitals

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

Vice President Mike Pence urged construction companies to donate construction-grade N95 masks to local hospitals and forego additional orders as the nation’s hospitals work to procure masks for healthcare workers.

“We would make one specific request, and that is we would urge construction companies to donate their inventory of N95 masks to your local hospital and forego additional orders of those industrial masks,” Pence said, adding, “Those industrial masks that they use on construction sites are perfectly acceptable for healthcare workers to be protected from a respiratory disease.”

He reiterated, “We’re asking construction companies that our President knows very well from his background, we’re asking them to donate to their local hospitals and also forego making additional orders.”

Pence also announced that the administration “spoke just yesterday with the leaders of every broadcast network in America that we’ll soon be unveiling a public service campaign using CDC guidelines.”

12:17 p.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Trump walks back criticism of New York governor, says he's doing a good job

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

President Trump appeared to walk back his Tuesday morning Twitter warning to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, telling reporters they had a productive call as New York faces coronavirus.

“There’s great, tremendous spirit. And I can say that for Republicans and Democrats. I could say that with respect to Gov. Cuomo. We had a great talk this morning. We’re both doing a really good job and we’re coordinating it and we agree: different states need different things,” Trump said, contradicting his morning tweet.

He continued, “I think we are right down the same track and it’s going to be very successful. New York has a pretty big problem - the number one hotspot, it’s no fault of anybody, just the way it is. But we’re working very closely together and also getting FEMA very much involved.”

He said that the administration is “dealing with the Army Corps of Engineers, should that be necessary,” adding that the Army Corps of Engineers is working on standby in some cases and are engaged in other

Trump concluded, “My conversation with Andrew Cuomo was a very productive one and a very good one and I appreciate that.”

WATCH TRUMP AT BRIEFING:

11:56 a.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Trump lays out new testing authority for states, tele-health initiatives

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Trump laid out two new efforts being undertaken by his administration as part of the federal response to the spread of novel coronavirus in the US. 

First, Trump said the Food and Drug Administration announced, “groundbreaking new policies to further increase testing.”

“All states can now authorize tests developed and used within their borders in addition to the FDA,” Trump said.

Second, Trump said the administration would be expanding accessibility to tele-health services for individuals using Medicare. 

“Today we’re also announcing a dramatic expansion of our tele-health services. Medicare patients can now visit any doctor by phone or video conference at no additional cost, including with commonly used services like FaceTime and Skype,” Trump said. “In addition, states have the authority to cover tele-health services for their medical patients.”

The President added that the administration “will not enforce applicable HIPAA penalties so that doctors can greatly expand care for their patients using tele-health.”

11:49 a.m. ET, March 17, 2020

There are now more than 5,000 coronavirus cases in the US

There are at least 5,010 cases of the novel coronavirus in the United States, according to the state and local health agencies, governments and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the CDC there are 70 cases from repatriated citizens.

According to CNN Health’s tally of US cases that are detected and tested in the United States through US public health systems, there are 4,940 cases in 49 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases to 5,010. 

In total, 97 people have died. 

11:38 a.m. ET, March 17, 2020

Maryland will turn car inspection sites into drive-through testing centers, governor says

WBAL;
WBAL;

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said all vehicle emissions inspection programs will cease operations on inspections.

He has instead directed the state's Health Department and the Department of Transportation to repurpose them into drive-through coronavirus testing centers across the state.