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Congress, White House reach high for next virus bill

Update 11:15 p.m. EDT April 6: Congressional leaders are jolting ahead with another coronavirus rescue package as President Donald Trump indicated Monday that Americans will need more aid during the stark pandemic and economic shutdown.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said another $1 trillion is needed, beyond the just-passed $2.2 trillion effort. She wants another round of direct payments to Hutchinson News Americans and more money for companies to keep making payroll. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said in recent days that health care should top the list, signaling his intent to get to work on a new bill.


“We’re going to take good care of our people,” Trump said Monday at his daily White House briefing. “It was not their fault.”

It’s a rare sign of emerging consensus as Washington responds to the public health emergency and severe economic fallout that is ransacking communities nationwide, a crisis on par with a war effort or the Great Depression.

The contours of the package are still being debated and any votes in Congress remain a logistical conundrum. The House and Senate adjourned for most of the month, as part of strict stay-at-home orders from public health officials to prevent the spread of the highly contagious virus.

Trump, Biden spoke by phone about coronavirus outbreak
Update 10:20 p.m. EDT April 6: President Donald Trump said he had a “really wonderful, warm conversation” with Joe Biden on Monday about the coronavirus outbreak.

“He gave me his point of view, and I fully understood that, and we just had a very friendly conversation,” Trump said at his daily press briefing.

The president said he and Biden agreed not to share the details of their conversation, but confirmed an earlier statement from the Biden campaign that the Democrat offered “suggestions” on how to address the pandemic. Biden had previously said he’d like to share with Trump some lessons he learned from dealing with similar crises during the Obama administration.

But Trump added: “It doesn’t mean that I agree with those suggestions.”

Kate Bedingfield, Biden’s deputy campaign manager, said in a statement that the two had a “good call” where Biden gave Trump some advice and “expressed his appreciation for the spirit of the American people in meeting the challenges facing the nation.”

The conversation was the culmination of a dayslong effort by aides to get the two on the phone, after White House adviser Kellyanne Conway called on the former vice president to “offer some support” to Trump. Biden, the prospective Democratic presidential nominee, has in recent weeks released a series of proposals for responding to the pandemic and has criticized the Trump administration for acting too slowly to halt the virus’ spread.

Wisconsin moves forward with election despite virus concerns
Update 8:30 p.m. EDT April 6: Voters in Wisconsin will face a choice Tuesday of participating in a presidential primary election or heeding warnings from public health officials to stay away from large crowds during the coronavirus pandemic.

Hours after Democratic Gov. Tony Evers issued an order postponing the election for two months, the conservative-controlled Wisconsin Supreme Court on Monday sided with Republicans who said he didn’t have the authority to reschedule the race on his own. Conservative justices on the U.S. Supreme Court quickly followed with a ruling blocking Democratic efforts to extend absentee voting.

The decisions leave Wisconsin as the only state with an election scheduled in April that is proceeding as planned. As other states prepare to vote in May or June, Wisconsin will be closely watched for signs that fears of the coronavirus may depress turnout or cause other problems at the polls.

Trump slams watchdog report on hospitals engulfed by virus
Update 7:40 p.m. EDT April 6: President Donald Trump on Monday disputed the veracity of a federal survey that found hospitals faced severe shortages of coronavirus test supplies, questioning whether its conclusions were skewed by politics.

With coronavirus cases rocketing toward their expected peak, the nonpartisan Health and Human Services inspector general’s office reported Monday morning that a shortage of tests and long waits for results were at the root of mounting problems faced by hospitals.

“Hospitals reported that severe shortages of testing supplies and extended waits for test results limited (their) ability to monitor the health of patients and staff,” the report said.

Three out of 4 U.S. hospitals told the inspector general’s office they are already treating patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19, and they expect to be overwhelmed.

Asked by a reporter about the report’s finding on testing, Trump responded: “It’s just wrong.”

“Give me the name of the inspector general,” he added. “Could politics be entered into that?”

The acting HHS inspector general is Christi A. Grimm, a career government manager who took over the position early this year. “When was she appointed?” Trump asked.

Trump’s comments carried an edge because last Friday he announced the firing of the inspector general of the intelligence community, Michael Atkinson, for reporting to Congress the whistleblower complaint that the president tried to enlist Ukraine in investigating Joe Biden’s son.

The HHS inspector general’s report was based on a telephone survey of 323 hospitals around the country, from March 23-27. With hundreds of new coronavirus cases daily, the situation is becoming more dire for many the nation’s 6,000 hospitals.

Trump saddened to hear Johnson in intensive care
Update 6:25 p.m. EDT April 6: President Donald Trump said he was saddened to hear British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was taken into intensive care as he battles the new coronavirus.

“Americans are all praying for his recovery,” Trump said during a White House press briefing. “He’s been a really good friend. He’s been really something very special, strong, resolute, doesn’t quit, doesn’t give up.”

Trump said he asked two “leading companies” to contact officials in London about therapeutics that could be of help.

He also confirmed in the daily White House press briefing that he’d called New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier Monday to let him know that the USNS Comfort can now be used for COVID-19 patients.

“We’re going to let him do it,” said Trump, adding that the ship will be used for patients from both New York and New Jersey.

As cases surge, 3 in 4 US hospitals already facing COVID-19
Update 5:30 p.m. EDT April 6: Three out of four U.S. hospitals Press Release Distribution Services In Hutchinson surveyed are already treating patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19, according to a federal report that finds hospitals expect to be overwhelmed as cases rocket toward their projected peak.

A report Monday from a federal watchdog agency warns that different, widely reported problems are feeding off each other in a vicious cycle. Such problems include insufficient tests, slow results, scarcity of protective gear, the shortage of breathing machines for seriously ill patients and burned-out staffs anxious for their own safety.

“There’s this sort of domino effect,” said Ann Maxwell, an assistant inspector general at the Department of Health and Human Services. “These challenges play off each other and exacerbate the situation. There’s a cascade effect.”

The inspector general’s report is based on a telephone survey of 323 hospitals around the country, from March 23-27. With hundreds of new coronavirus cases daily, the situation is becoming direr for many of the nation’s 6,000 hospitals. Others can still scramble to prepare.

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