The Trump administration still can't say how many Americans have been tested for coronavirus, but the public will know whether President Trump has been tested very soon, Vice President Mike Pence told reporters during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House Monday night.
The briefing comes as the continue of cases in the U.S. continues to rise, and as stocks plunge. Before walking off stage without taking questions, the president said they would hold a "major" press conference Tuesday after he meets with members of Congress about how to address the economic fallout from the coronavirus.
The president said the White House that his administration is working with Congress and businesses to make sure hourly workers "never miss a paycheck," as well as with the hospitality industry and cruise companies and airlines. Mr. Trump said members of his administration will speak with Congress on Tuesday about a possible payroll tax cut, too.
"I think we've handled it very very well," Mr. Trump said of his administration's response, leaving Pence to handle shouting reporters.
Pence said the White House would let reporters know "tonight" whether Mr. Trump has been tested after the president shook hands with two members of Congress who came into contact with a confirmed coronavirus patient at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the administration is working on a system to accurately count the total number of Americans tested so far — the administration currently can't say, since some tests have been conducted by the federal government, and others by private industry and localities.
"I could not give you a number of how many Americans have received a test..." Azar told reporters.
The head of the Centers for Disease Control, Robert Redfield, said they do expect the number of cases to continue to increase. The CDC head confirmed there are 500 cases currently in 35 states and the District of Columbia. The administration is releasing new guidelines to show communities how to best address the crisis, Pence said.
On an economic note, Secretary Steve Mnuchin said they will use "all our tools" to address the crisis.
The Trump administration has tried to push the message that it has a handle on the virus, even as it continues to spread. Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top immunologist with the National Institutes of Health, said on Sunday the country has moved past the "containment" phase and is now in the "mitigation" phase.
"We've been on this from Day One," Alex Azar said on Fox News Monday morning.
The economic uncertainty about coronavirus pushed the markets into free fall Monday, with U.S. stocks dropping a shocking 7% as markets opened Monday morning. Azar said the president "has the tools and knows the tools" to keep the economy strong.
Some of the greatest concern over the epidemic lies with the administration's failure to get sufficient tests out quickly enough. President Trump said on Friday there are enough tests for anyone who wants one, a claim contradicted by his own top health officials. On Saturday, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said U.S. public health labs currently have enough kits to test 75,000 people, and another 2.1 million tests for COVID-19 would be shipped by manufacturers to commercial labs by Monday.
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