President Donald Trump is anxious to put the pandemic and its crippling economic crisis behind him ahead of the election in November, discussing with aides when social distancing can be rolled back. A team initially expected to be formally announced Tuesday has begun meeting behind closed doors in the West Wing to tackle another matter paramount to the president: how to begin reopening the American economy.
Meanwhile, governors insist they will not be pressured and will put safety in their states first. The dispute comes as the death toll in the U.S. climbed to nearly 26,000 with the total number of cases topping 608,000 as of Tuesday night, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University.
Here are the latest developments in the coronavirus crisis in the U.S.:
Trump's Name to Appear on Paper Stimulus Checks
A Treasury Department official confirmed to NBC News that President Donald Trump’s name will appear on the paper checks the IRS will send to Americans for the coronavirus economic stimulus.
The official said the name won't be in the form of a signature but that the front of the check would read: “President Donald J. Trump." Names of presidents do not normally appear on IRS checks, such as tax refunds.
The majority of coronavirus stimulus payments are expected to go out via direct deposit. The payments are part of a $2.2 trillion economic package approved by Congress.
Trump Announces US Funding Halt to WHO
President Donald Trump, facing criticism over his response to the pandemic, on Tuesday announced he ordered his administration to halt U.S. funding to the World Health Organization.
Trump made the announcement during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House in which he said the WHO made the "disastrous decision to oppose travel restrictions" from China and other affected regions.
In his criticisms, the U.S. president said the WHO "must be held accountable."
NBC News reported last week that the White House’s Office of Management and Budget was working on a plan for cutting U.S. aid to the World Health Organization as Trump repeatedly tries to deflect blame for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump’s focus on the WHO comes as he continues to face questions about his early public statements playing down the virus and how unprepared his administration has been for the pandemic. The president’s embrace of a broadside against the WHO echoes similar criticism from hosts on Fox News, including Tucker Carlson, and some Republican lawmakers.
Treasury: Major Airlines Will Take Aid to Meet Payrolls
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Tuesday that the nation's major airlines have tentatively agreed to terms for $25 billion in federal aid to pay workers and keep them employed through September.
The deals aren't final, but the assistance is almost certain to be a mix of cash and loans, and the government could take a small ownership stake in the leading airlines.
The airlines did not want to give up equity, but Treasury demanded compensation for taxpayers. The airlines have little leverage — their business has collapsed as the COVID-19 pandemic reduces air travel to a trickle and they face mass layoffs without the federal aid.
The nation's six biggest airlines — Delta, American, United, Southwest, Alaska and JetBlue — along with four smaller carriers have told the Treasury Department they plan to take part, and discussions are continuing with others, Mnuchin said.
Coronavirus Pandemic Coverage
Health Care Workers Are 10%-20% of US Coronavirus Cases
Between 10% and 20% of U.S. coronavirus cases are health care workers, though they tended to be hospitalized at lower rates than other patients, officials reported Tuesday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the first national data on how the pandemic is hitting doctors, nurses and other health care professionals.
The data is important new information but not necessarily surprising, said Dr. Anne Schuchat, who is running the federal agency's response to the outbreak. Medical staff have also been hit hard in other countries, including Italy and Spain.
As of the middle of last week, the CDC had reports of more than 315,000 cases in the U.S. The new report focused on about 49,000 for which researchers had data on whether or not they worked in health care. About 9,300, or 19%, of them were medical professionals. That included 27 who died.
But the data varied in how complete it was, researchers said. In 12 states that did a better job reporting on whether patients worked in medicine, around 11% of cases were health care workers.
Compared with U.S. cases overall, larger proportions of diagnosed health care workers were women, were white, and were young or middle-aged adults. That's consistent with the demographics of who works in health care, researchers said.
Fauci: 'We're Not There Yet' on Key Steps to Reopen Economy
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious disease expert, said Tuesday the U.S. does not yet have the critical testing and tracing procedures needed to begin reopening the nation's economy, adding a dose of caution to increasingly optimistic projections from the White House.
“We have to have something in place that is efficient and that we can rely on, and we’re not there yet,” Fauci said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Fauci’s comments come as President Donald Trump and others in the administration weigh how quickly businesses can reopen and Americans can get back to work weeks after the fast-spreading coronavirus essentially halted the U.S. economy. Trump has floated the possibility of reopening some areas by May 1 and said he could announce recommendations as soon as this week.
Fauci said a May 1 target is “a bit overly optimistic” for many areas of the country. Any easing off the strict social-distancing rules in place in much of the country would have to occur on a “rolling” basis, not all at once, he said, reflecting the ways COVID-19 struck different parts of the country at different times.
UPS, FedEx Delivery Workers Say They're in the Dark Over Who's Sick
In the last week, one FedEx employee and two UPS workers have died from COVID-19. But workers for both companies tell NBC News their employers are refusing to share crucial information about who's even sick, leaving them vulnerable in their workplaces.
Neither FedEx nor UPS would say how many employees had been diagnosed with or died from COVID-19. FedEx said employees had been diagnosed "across the enterprise." UPS employees and union representatives said they had heard of confirmed cases in more than a dozen states.
As the coronavirus spreads through the ranks of the nation's delivery workers, employees and union representatives across the country said there has been a frustrating lack of communication with front-line employees about coronavirus cases from UPS and FedEx.
"How are any of us supposed to get ahead of a virus when we don't even know who's sick?" a UPS Worldport employee asked.
Cuomo: If Trump Tries to Open NY 'We Would Have a Problem'
Gov. Andrew Cuomo says New York has been able to stop the spread of the coronavirus thanks to mitigation efforts but he cautioned those who see the rate of infections flat lining as a sign that "this is over," noting that a plateau is not a decline.
"It's a flattening of the increase, it's not a decline, so we have to keep that in mind," Cuomo told TODAY co-anchor Hoda Kotb. "If we stop doing what we are doing, then you'll see those numbers go up again, period."
Cuomo said reopening the state of New York and the virus-stalled economy must be done "gradually and controlled," or "you'll see the viruses go up and that would be a terrible shame - and then we'd have to start all over again."
Asked about President Donald Trump's claim that he has “total” authority to decide how and when to roll back tough social distancing guidelines and reopen states, Cuomo said he "doesn't know what the president is talking about" and that Trump is "just wrong on that point."
"You have to remember it's the states that created the federal government, right?" Cuomo said. "It's the colonies that created the federal government, not the other way around. We don't have a king, we have a president."
Cuomo also said if Trump were to try to open New York before the governor deemed it safe, "then we would have problem." He later said on CNN's "New Day" that he would sue the federal government if Trump ordered New York to re-open in a way that would endanger public health.
"I wouldn't do it. And we would have a constitutional challenge between the state and the federal government and that would go into the courts," Cuomo said.
His comments stood in stark contrast to remarks he made about the president a day earlier during an appearance on "The Howard Stern Show," where Cuomo praised Trump for delivering for New York.
Trump insisted Monday that the decision to reopen the government was his to make, promising at a daily briefing to release a paper outlining his legal argument. His comments came not long after Democratic leaders in the Northeast, including Cuomo, and along the West Coast announced separate state compacts to coordinate their efforts to scale back stay-at-home orders or reopen businesses on their own timetables.
Social Distancing May Be Necessary for Up to Year, Fla. Surgeon General Warns
Florida's surgeon general warned Monday that until there is a vaccine, which may be a year away, for the coronavirus illness COVID-19, social distancing and other measures to slow its spread will remain necessary, NBC News reports.
"As long as we're going to have COVID in the environment, and this is a tough virus, we're going to have to practice these measures so that we are all protected," Dr. Scott A. Rivkees said.
That raises the prospect that the changes in daily life — like sneeze guards and other measures at grocery stores and staying 6 feet away from others — may be necessary until there is a vaccine.
Florida has had more than 21,000 COVID-19 cases, including almost 500 deaths, according to an NBC News count of reports.
New Trump Panel to Explore Reopening US Economy
A new coronavirus response team, expected to be formally announced as early as Tuesday, has begun meeting behind closed doors in the West Wing to tackle another matter paramount to President Donald Trump: how to begin reopening the American economy.
With the country barreling toward a likely recession ahead of November's election, Trump is eager to spur an economic revival, hoping to steady financial markets and restore some of the 16 million jobs already lost due to the pandemic. He originally hoped to have the country stirring again by Easter, but now wants at least a partial reopening by the end of the month.
Many medical experts in the government, including Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx, have cautioned that easing up on social distancing too soon could lead a new wave of the disease that would require shuttering the economy again, with disastrous results.
As for the new council, Trump said he expected “they will give us some also good advice but no, we want to be very, very safe. At the same time we’ve got to get our country open.”
Among those expected to be part of the new team: Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and White House economic advisers, past and present, Kevin Hassett and Larry Kudlow. New White House chief of staff Mark Meadows is expected to chair the effort.
California Virus Cases to Peak This Week, Officials Say
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Monday that the state expects to see peaks in cases and deaths this week, NBC Los Angeles reports.
California may experience a peak in new cases on April 17 and a peak in new deaths on April 19, Garcetti said, quickly warning that the peaks would only hold if the public continued to follow social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines.
Garcetti said proceeding with caution and continuing to be vigilant would lead to employment gains and the economy coming back quicker.
How Coronavirus Has Grown in Each State — in 1 Chart
New York has quickly become the epicenter of the American coronavirus outbreak. This chart shows the cumulative number of cases per state by number of days since the 10th case.
Source: Johns Hopkins University
Credit: Amy O’Kruk/NBC