Coronavirus task force holds briefing


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Members of the coronavirus task force are expected to hold a press briefing Tuesday, in what has become a daily affair as the pandemic continues to claim lives.

Following the roll-out of the $2 trillion economic stimulus plan in response to the outbreak, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that he hopes to approve further funding for the small business loan program within the next few days.

“I will work with Secretary Mnuchin and Leader Schumer and hope to approve further funding for the Paycheck Protection Program by unanimous consent or voice vote during the next scheduled Senate session on Thursday,” he said in a statement.

Lawmakers have acknowledged that program’s initial $350 billion has fallen short and are aiming to increase it by $200 billion to $250 billion.

President Donald Trump initially downplayed the outbreak’s impact but has since stepped up his administration’s response.

On Thursday, he invoked the Defense Production Act to force several companies to increase production of critically needed supplies. He also attacked 3M over its global distribution of respirator masks, but on Monday, announced the manufacturer had agreed to import 166.5 million masks over the next three months. The badly needed equipment will help protect health professionals on the front lines of the fight to save lives.

The White House recently predicted up to 240,000 U.S. fatalities from the pandemic.

Task force members include Vice President Mike Pence; Alex Azar, secretary of Health and Human Services; Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, among others.

The coronavirus has spread to dozens of countries globally, with more than 1.38 million confirmed cases worldwide and over 78,269 deaths so far, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. There are at least 378,289 cases in the United States and at least 11,380 deaths, according to the latest tallies.

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