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Trump approves major disaster declarations in N.Y. and Washington state due to coronavirus

Trump gives update on coronavirus response
Trump approves major disaster declarations in N.Y. and Washington state due to coronavirus 22:16

President Trump and members of his Coronavirus Task Force, charged with leading the U.S. response to the coronavirus pandemic, held a briefing Sunday as the global death toll from the illness topped more than 14,000.

Mr. Trump told reporters that the major disaster declarations in New York and Washington state have been approved; he will approve California's request "soon." The president also said the Federal Emergency Management Agency is working to assist states hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, including by activating the National Guard in those three states.

New York has surpassed Washington as the state with the highest number of coronavirus cases, with the total number topping 15,000, Governor Andrew Cuomo said earlier Sunday. The death toll in the state stands at more than 110.

As public health officials sound the alarm about a lack of personal protective equipment for medical workers assisting patients fighting the coronavirus, Mr. Trump detailed how the federal government, with the assistance of the private sector, is ensuring states have the facilities and supplies needed, including by providing face masks, ventilators, gowns and gloves.

The president said Sunday that four large medical stations with 1,000 beds each are going to be built in New York. Eight medical stations are heading to California over the next 48 hours. In Washington state, Mr. Trump said seven medical stations will be set up there. A hospital ship is in the process of being deployed to New York in the "next few weeks," according to Mr. Trump. In addition, the president said medical supplies are on the way to New York and California for health care workers on the frontlines of the pandemic.

"This is a challenging time for all Americans," Mr. Trump said. "We're enduring a great national trial and we will prove that we can meet the moment. I want to assure the American people that we're doing everything we can each day to confront and ultimately defeat this horrible invisible enemy. We're at war."

Vice President Mike Pence told reporters the government will issue new guidelines for first responders on Monday.

President Trump, flanked by FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor (R) and Vice President Mike Pence, speaks during the daily briefing on the novel coronavirus at the White House on Sunday, March 22, 2020, in Washington, D.C. CBS News

In the U.S., where nearly 400 people have died due to the coronavirus, members of the Senate reconvened earlier Sunday to move forward with an economic stimulus package to help families and industries impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. The proposal is expected to cost between $1.5 trillion and $2 trillion.

But as the White House Coronavirus Task Force gave its update Sunday night, the procedural vote to move forward with the stimulus bill failed as Democrats blocked Republicans from reaching the 60 votes needed. The absence of several senators who are self-quarantining due to the coronavirus sidelined several Republicans who were unable to vote.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had unveiled the 247-page bill Thursday, though it was swiftly met with criticism from Democrats who said the proposal didn't do enough to help workers and provided too much for industries reeling from the outbreak, which has led state officials to urge residents to remain in their homes and order restaurants, bars and theaters to close.

Republican and Democratic negotiators worked over the weekend to hammer out the details of the "phase three" deal, but Democratic leaders said Sunday they were at odds over several aspects of the legislation. The bill follows an $8.3 billion emergency package signed into law by President Trump earlier this month and a coronavirus relief bill signed by Mr. Trump last week.

The number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. has continued to climb, with more than 30,000 confirmed cases in all 50 states. An issue for the Trump administration has been the availability of testing, though Pence told reporters at the White House it is "more and more available every single day."

More than 250,000 Americans have been tested, he said, adding that the backlog of tests should be cleared by midweek.

Mr. Trump also said his administration is "taking a look" at an executive order releasing elderly nonviolent criminals from federal prisons, saying it's a "bit of a problem."

Among the industries that could potentially receive relief as part of the Senate's stimulus package is the hotel industry, prompting questions as to whether Mr. Trump's company, the Trump Organization, which owns several hotels, would benefit from a bailout.

The president declined to publicly commit that his company would not accept federal relief.

"I've learned let's just see what happens because we have to save some of these great companies," he said.

Mr. Trump did, however, confirm that he reached out to several countries to offer help with responding to coronavirus, including North Korea and Iran.

"If anybody needs help, we'll give them help," he said.

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