The Trump administration and congressional Democrats are close to agreeing on economic relief measures intended to help people and businesses affected by the new coronavirus, they say, as the pandemic leads to more cancellations and generates more uncertainty from the public.
On Thursday alone, major theme parks, houses of worship, museums and cruises said they will shut down. The country’s professional hockey, basketball and soccer leagues suspended their seasons. Small towns have emptied out, big cities have banned large gatherings, and at least five states announced they will close all schools.
Amid intense pressure from both sides, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she expected a vote Friday ”one way or another” to approve the economic relief package. Expected to total several tens of billions of dollars, it will include expanded unemployment insurance, paid sick leave and food security assistance, as well as free coronavirus testing.
But concerns about testing are already well underway, vexing laboratories, health officials and patients across the country. Strict regulations on who can be tested mean that not everyone who wants one has been able to get one, despite President Trump’s sweeping declarations to the contrary.
As of early Friday, more than 1,600 cases of the virus were being treated across the United States, including at least one patient in nearly every state and the District of Columbia. But experts — including many government officials — say the spread of the virus may be far more pronounced.
The coronavirus increasingly appears to be turning into one of the biggest tests for Trump’s presidency, it has taken a toll on him personally. As many of his family’s hotels and clubs shut down this week, a Brazilian official who had been photographed next to him and Vice President Mike Pence tested positive for the virus.
On the Democratic campaign trail, meanwhile, both Sen. Bernie Sanders and former vice president Joseph R. Biden Jr. slammed the president for his response to the virus. And the president hit back.
Late on Thursday, Trump said Biden’s efforts to curb the H1N1 swine flu epidemic in the Obama administration were some “one of the worst on record.”
“Our response is one of the best,” Trump said on Twitter.