Trump, White House coronavirus task force hold Friday briefing

National News

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR/AP) — President Donald Trump and the White House coronavirus task force held a briefing on the country’s battle against the COVID-19 coronavirus Friday afternoon. You can stream the briefing live right here.

During the briefing Friday, Trump said the CDC is recommending the use of simple cloth masks or face coverings while out in public. He stressed they are not recommending the medical type of mask, but the kind that can be made at home He said it is voluntary, and that he is choosing not to do it.

In light of new evidence that asymptomatic carriers can contribute to spread, the CDC is recommending wearing a simple cloth covering over the face, especially in public areas where adhering to full social distancing guidelines can be difficult, like the grocery store.

“Wash your hands first. Do not touch your face while you are wearing a face covering. If you choose to wear a face covering, please leave the N95 masks for the frontline workers,” U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said.

Vice President Pence said 1.4 million Americans have been tested for COVID-19; 266,000 have tested positive so far.

During Thursday’s briefing, Trump announced the paycheck protection program, which launched today.

Small Business Administration administrator Jovita Carranza said the paycheck protection program will help small companies keep employees on payroll and remain afloat.

Lenders have raised concerns that they won’t be able to handle the crush of applications as businesses scurry for a cash infusion and help keeping employees on the payroll. The Labor Department announced that unemployment claims soared to 6.6 million last week, more than double the previous week.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the administration decided to raise interest rate to 1% instead of 50 basis points to make the program more attractive to community lenders

The administration also announced new guidelines for nursing homes to help protect seniors.

On Friday, the Trump administration abruptly changed its description of the Strategic National Stockpile, the federal government’s repository of life-saving medicines and supplies, to conform with President Donald Trump’s insistence that it is only a short-term backup for states, not a commitment to ensure supplies get quickly to those who need them most during an emergency.

The change, reflected on government websites on Friday, came a day after Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and White House senior adviser who has taken a larger role in the coronavirus response, offered a new argument about the stockpile.

After saying that states should use their own stockpiles first, Kushner said, “And the notion of the federal stockpile was it’s supposed to be our stockpile. It’s not supposed to be states’ stockpiles that they then use.”

Until Friday, the federal Health and Human Services website had reflected a markedly different approach to the stockpile. The “Strategic National Stockpile is the nation’s largest supply of life-saving pharmaceuticals and medical supplies for use in a public health emergency severe enough to cause local supplies to run out,” the website used to say, according to an archived search.

“When state, local, tribal, and territorial responders request federal assistance to support their response efforts, the stockpile ensures that the right medicines and supplies get to those who need them most during an emergency,” the website had said.

But, according to data, the description changed Friday morning: “The Strategic National Stockpile’s role is to supplement state and local supplies during public health emergencies. Many states have products stockpiled, as well. The supplies, medicines, and devices for life-saving care contained in the stockpile can be used as a short-term stopgap buffer when the immediate supply of adequate amounts of these materials may not be immediately available.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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