Coronavirus task force holds briefing as Democrats seek more relief


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

The White House and local and state officials have issued guidance aimed at reducing the spread of the outbreak while Congress has passed legislation to ease the economic impacts of shutting businesses.

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 days. “I will work with [Treasury] Secretary [Steve] Mnuchin and [Senate Minority] Leader [Chuck] 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.

On Wednesday, Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for even more additional funding.

President Donald Trump initially downplayed the outbreak’s impact but has since stepped up his administration’s response. Last week, he invoked the Defense Production Act to force several companies to increase production of critically needed supplies. The badly needed equipment is needed to help protect health professionals on the front lines of the fight to save lives.

Individual states and territories have adjusted their nominating contests, with some opting for a mail-in system to replace in-person voting and others delaying the primaries entirely. Trump took aim Wednesday at voting by mail, saying Republicans lose out in the process that several states are already using to cut the risk of transmitting the coronavirus.

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 1.4 million confirmed cases worldwide and over 82,992 deaths so far, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. There are at least 399,900 cases in the United States and at least 12,911 deaths, according to the latest tallies.

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