This is the daily coronavirus update from the state of Tennessee and the White House. The state update is first.
Cameron Sexton, speaker of the Tennessee House:
“Our greatest generation has made sacrifices for us over the years” and Tennesseans will make hard decisions in the days ahead.
“We will regroup, rally and sacrifice to make our state even better.”
The budget the Legislature passed put money aside for the rainy days to later reassess the state’s needs.
Jack Johnson, Senate majority leader:
“I’m not happy. I don’t’ think any of us are with what’s going on in our state right now with the tornado, with the coronavirus.”
But governor and assembly came together to set aside the session and focus on the “critical matters at hand.”
Unanimous budget no one happy about but addresses the needs and sets money aside for the future.
The Legislature has recessed until June 1.
William Lamberth, House majority leader:
“We’ll arise from whatever comes in the next few weeks and months and together we will push forward.”
Focus on family, community, faith.
Gov. Bill Lee:
The government “will do what we can to provide an environment where Tennesseans can thrive.”
Responding to questions:
Is it responsible for churches to meet, when they have seniors, and are people creating a scare at grocery stores by panic buying? Lee said a grocery representative said we have a stable food supply chain, but it does get temporarily disrupted by panic buying and hoarding. Lee said he believes people will want to do the right things but sometimes they do not think through that their behavior may cost someone their life. Churches with elderly they are “risking people’s lives.” Worship can happen without people gathering. He urges churches to do that.
Daycare closings? Lee said the state is working with daycare centers. HHS is pushing out $10million to help daycare centers to address their challenges. It’s important that daycares figure out ways to keep kids in groups of 10. They are looking at using schools as daycare centers to limit class sizes so parents can continue to go to work. They are working with the faith community and asking churches to adopt a school that has closed and help parents in directing kids to appropriate daycare opportunities.
Will Lee take executive action to stop church and other gatherings? Lee said you can never enforce behavior like that. “Nothing is ever off the table. WE don’t know what’s coming. We don’t know the enormity of this crisis.” There is a right time to make decisions; that’s the real difficulty in that discernment.
Lee’s daughter lost her job at a restaurant. She said there was a married couple working there. They have four children. They are in a very difficult position. “Every day that we can keep a business open and that business accepts the responsibility of social distancing…we strike the right balance.”
Lee said the state is providing $2 million per business or nonprofit as small business loans. There is a $200 million grant to every county and city for relief programs.
A reporter mentioned the House failed to approve relief for restaurants from the sales tax. Lee said the Legislature determined that was not the best way to go. There are a lot of alternatives.
What is the state doing with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the uninsured? The state is asking for clarity to get a waiver to use Medicaid money to serve the uninsured population for the coronavirus.
The Legislature failed to pass the virtual meeting bill for local governments. Lee said the challenge is to let local governments meet while providing open government. “We need to provide open government” and provide logistics for local governments while not providing a health hazard. They are meeting with the Comptroller and Attorney General to do an executive order to accomplish that then they can give guidance.
Are we reopening closed hospitals? The state has a pending executive order to loosen restrictions which may help. Most of the current available beds are not staffed.
“Mandating the closure of a business means mandating the elimination of a paycheck for hardworking Tennesseans who have obligations to meet.” The state will take that decision a day at a time.
This is the White House’s daily briefing.
President Donald Trump:
He spoke with Sen. Chuck Schumer and is working on a deal. He spoke with Sen. Mitch McConnell.
The Department of Education will not enforce standardized testing.
All interest on federal student loans temporarily and payments for 60 days and could be extended. Borrowers contact lenders.
April 15 will not be tax day. Tax day will be July 15, so people have time, no interest, no penalties. If have refunds or credits you may file early.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom and NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo are taking bold steps and “I applaud them.”
The Defense Production Act was activated Thursday night.
We are providing paid sick leave at no cost to employers and direct payments to workers.
Trump praised Americans’ teamwork. People are fighting to defeat “the unseen enemy.”
“We are winning this war … and America will rise higher than ever before.”
Mike Pompeo, secretary of state:
We continue to monitor Afghanistan and Iran.
The US and Canada agreed to block all nonessential traffic, that starts at midnight tonight.
The US and Mexico agreed to block nonessential travel across the border.
Yesterday State issued a Level 4 global travel advisory so all citizens should avoid international travel. US citizens overseas should come home unless they plan to stay overseas a long time.
Disinformation: I urge everyone to use reliable sources.
Chad Wolf, Homeland Security:
DHS has screened over 200k people coming from infected countries.
Cross-border travel: Essential commercial activities will not be affected. Essential includes: people with medical purposes, education, public health, lawful trades. Both border bans start at midnight.
CDC order directs the end of people entering the nation without proper travel documentation.
We apprehend people from over 120 nations, many with no documentation, which is medically risky. AT midnight will return people without documentation.
Our screening of visitors has grown. This has slowed the spread of the virus. Italy and the US had their first travel related case at end of January while Italy has been overwhelmed.
The CDC is ending the entry of certain persons into the US. This applies Mexico and Canada illegally who normally would be detained. Not US citizens or lawful residents.
Illegal immigrants taken into custody. Significant numbers of immigrants. Oct to Feb DHS prover over 21k northern and 151k at southern border. Customs facilities not designed for large numbers or for pandemic. They are infecting DHS workers and citizens. Those draw upon the American health care system.
Dr. Deborah Birx:
From Italy: Men are twice as likely to die as women.
Groups no more than 10. If one person sick at home everyone quarantines.
Parents of kids with medical conditions: We don’t know the level of risk.
No one is immune. We don’t know if contagion levels are different by age groups.
Gov. Cuomo’s orders: We have a group of guidelines for all the nation. But there are states and cities that are stressed much more including Washington State and California. I support Cuomo’s actions. New Yorkers are tough. Please cooperate with the governor and mayor.
Vice President Mike Pence:
Millions are practicing the president’s 15 days of guidelines to slow the spread of the virus.
Today we will speak with manufacturers. Many are offering to retrofit plants to provide for the health system.
We met with the governors and FEMA to implement guidance to protect citizens. FEMA has the lead.
We hope to see Congress approve the stimulus next week.
More Americans are being tested.
Medical supplies: Now that industrial masks will be available to hospitals, “we are more encouraged than ever.” This weekend will announce a major purchase of masks by the federal government. We are working on stockpiling ventilators, with anesthesiologists found thousands that can be retrofitted, and we urge everyone to postpone any elective medical procedure. Businesses are donating N95 masks to hospitals.
Responding to questions:
Defense Production Act: Trump said it has been invoked as of yesterday. The government has the power to tell businesses to produce medical supplies, which can help the states. Masks will be shipped directly to states.
On Cuomo: National lockdown? Trump said he does not think so. California and New York are the two hot spots.
15 day guidelines: Trump said he is happy with its progress. We are working on a financial package. Social distancing has become the hottest term.
A reporter said Democrats have said the stimulus does more for business than for individuals. Trump said that is all being discussed; he does not want stock buybacks. “I don’t like buybacks.”
A reporter asked Trump if he is giving Americans a false sense of hope about possible drugs like Chloroquine that could help with the coronavirus. Trump said. no. xxx has been around for years.
A reporter asked Trump what he would say to scared Americans. Trump chastised the reporter for sensationalizing and called him a terrible reporter.
Another reporter asked Trump what he would say to scared Americans. Trump said the chances of death are low. They have done an “incredible job” and it is not their fault. “We are going to come out stronger, bigger, better.”
A question asked about small businesses having weeks, not months. Trump said his talk with Congressional leaders dealt with small businesses.
Regarding Congressional members who allegedly used insider trading to dump their stocks: Trump said he knows the people and they are honorable but he does not know about the allegations.
Will airline stock buybacks be a deal breaker for you? Trump said no but he does not like buybacks. The workers are my No. 1 concern. I am fine with restricting buybacks. I would demand there would be no stock buybacks.
Work allowance for border crossings: Pompeo wants agricultural workers to be able to cross.
A reporter said the Mexican government has not announced any travel ban for Europe. They said they would not take back any non-Mexican so what would happen with those immigrants? Pompeo said on travel to Mexico, he believes that will be worked out. An official said immigrants would be returned to their nations.
Disinformation: Is there any focused area? Pompeo said it is diffused but does come from Russia, China and Iran.
Americans stranded overseas: Pompeo said there have been flights out of Morocco. People should try to return on their own. But we are trying when air travel has been disrupted. The State Department website has a log-in to help track you.
Pompeo said he cannot say how long the borders will be restricted.
Humanitarian assistance is available for Iran, Pompeo said. There is no sanction on medicine.
A reporter said CDC learned of the coronavirus in Wuhan in December and asked when it altered others. CDC was briefed on Jan. 3; it was later learned there were cases in December but we may not have known in December. Pompeo said the Chinese government was first to know about the virus. Information-sharing isn’t about political games, its about saving people. Every moment of delay creates risk for everyone around the world. This is not about blame.
A reporter mentioned criticism that we do not shut down the nation over other health or safety issues like traffic accidents. Trump said if we can save lives, every nation is doing something. We will know more in 15 days. “We can bring our finances back very quickly; we can’t bring our people back.”
A doctor said that is a false equivalency to compare traffic accidents. When you have something new and cannot totally predict its impact and you see the impact in Italy, China and New York City, you cannot say “let’s let it rip” and let people die.
New York fears supplies will run out, a reporter said. The mayor asked Trump to help, she said. The reporter said ER nurses are being told not to wear N95 masks. Trump said he is not dealing with the mayor but with the governor.
A reporter asked how immigrants will be returned. An official said it will be handled quickly. They will be taken to an airfield.
Will a thousand-dollar check help major unemployment? Trump said they are looking at more than that amount.
What unemployment numbers are you seeing? Trump said he is seeing different numbers but once the virus is defeated the economy will come back very quickly.
Tens of thousands of tests are taking place every day. We hear individual stories of a lab that does not have a supply. FEMA is creating a task force. Lab people may not understand they can get supplies on the open market.
Some 90 percent test negative for the virus, Pence said.