WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump acknowledged Monday that the U.S. economy “may be” heading toward a recession because of the coronavirus but predicted growth would bounce back strongly.
“Well, it may be,” Trump said in the White House in response to a question about whether the economy is “headed” toward a recession.
“We’re not thinking in terms of recession. We’re thinking in terms of the virus,” the president continued. “Once we stop, I think there’s a tremendous pent-up demand both in terms of the stock market, in terms of the economy.”
The president’s remarks came as rising fears about the impact of the coronavirus on the economy sent stock prices into freefall Monday. The Dow Jones industrial average collapsed 2,999 points, or 12.9%, to close at 20,188.52 – its second worst percentage loss in history behind the “Black Monday” crash in 1987.
Unlike during his Rose Garden appearance on Friday, when his decision to declare a national emergency appeared to drive prices up, the president’s remarks Monday did not appear to ease investor concerns. Instead, the market selloff continued as the president and other officials suggested that Americans would have to continue to practice social distancing into the summer.
Social distancing through August? Trump says it may be needed to help confront coronavirus
The benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500 index plunged 12% to finish at 2,386.13. The broad index briefly triggered an automatic shock absorber for the third time in six sessions when it fell more than 7% shortly after the opening bell. The technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite dropped 12% to end at 6,904.59, one of its worst days ever.
The White House and congressional leaders have been negotiating over a series of stimulus proposals to offset losses caused by the virus, but work on one of those measures appeared to slow in Congress this week over what House Democrats described as technical corrections to legislation approved early Saturday.
Several economists predict the U.S. economy could be heading to a recession if the virus continues to disrupt Americans’ normal routines into the summer. Kevin Hassett, who previously served as the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under Trump, told CNN Monday that the “odds of a global recession are close to 100% right now.”
– John Fritze and David Jackson
Pence: `I’ve not been tested yet’
Vice President Mike Pence has not been tested for the coronavirus, he said Monday, two days after the White House announced that the president’s test had come back negative.
Pence said that the White House physician advised that he did not need to get tested because he hadn’t had a long exposure to anyone who had been infected and neither he nor his wife Karen Pence have symptoms.
“I’ve not been tested yet,” Pence said. “But we’re checking our temperature regularly every day and we’ll continue to follow guidance.”
He used that point to emphasize that the priority for testing should be people with symptoms and health care workers. People people should consult a doctor before getting tested, he added.
“That’s what my family is doing as well,” he said.
Before that disclosure at a White House briefing, President Donald Trump was asked if he and Pence are trying to stay separate to protect the chain of command in case one of them gets sick.
“We haven’t thought about it, Trump said. “We’re very careful. We’re very careful with being together. Even the people behind me. They’ve been very strongly tested. I’ve been very strongly tested.”
– Maureen Groppe
Trump dismisses false reports of national lockdown
President Donald Trump appeared to suggest foreign groups could be behind a disinformation campaign that circulated rumors the government was close to placing the U.S. on lockdown.
When asked if he agreed with U.S. officials who warned that foreign entities are behind a disinformation campaign to stoke fears of a nationwide quarantine, Trump said: “I think it could be that you have some foreign groups that are playing games, but it doesn’t matter. We haven’t really determined to do that all. Hopefully, we won’t have to.”
The president said the administration was not at the point taking that step. He also said U.S. officials may look at restrictions for specific areas where there’s an outbreak of coronvirus, or “certain hot spots as they call them.”
Trump’s comments came after the U.S. Health and Human Services Department confirmed Monday it was targeted in a cyberattack over the weekend as the agency battles the coronavirus pandemic that has killed 69 people across the U.S.
The attack prompted the National Security Council to issue a statement in a late Sunday tweet about text messages circulating about a looming national quarantine.
“Text message rumors of a national #quarantine are FAKE. There is no national lockdown. @CDCgov has and will continue to post the latest guidance on #COVID19,” the statement said.
– Courtney Subramanian and David Jackson
Trump urges federal help for airlines
President Donald Trump said Monday he believed the federal government should support airlines “very strongly” amid the losses they are taking because of the coronavirus.
“We’re going to back the airlines 100%,” Trump told a news conference. “It’s not their fault.”
The trade group for most of the largest carriers, Airlines for America, requested $25 billion in grants for passenger airlines, $25 billion in loan guarantees and tax relief for the first three months of the year. The request Monday came after the U.S. blocked air travel from China and most of Europe and after declines in domestic travel because of concerns about the spread of coronavirus.
For comparison, Congress provided airlines with $5 billion in grants and $10 million in loan guarantees after the decline in travel terror attacks Sept. 11, 2001.
Trump didn’t cite figures when he discussed his call for help for the airlines.
– Bart Jansen
White House issues new coronavirus guidelines
President Donald Trump issued guidelines on Monday for Americans to follow over the next 15 days to help avoid spread of the novel coronavirus but did not take drastic measures such as imposing a national quarantine or curfew.
The new guidelines call on Americans to avoid social gatherings involving groups of 10 or more.
The guidelines also call for governors in states with evidence of community transmission to close schools in affected and surrounding areas. Bars, restaurants, food courts, gyms and other venues where groups of people congregate should also be closed in states with evidence of community transmission, according to the guidelines.
“Each and every one of us has a critical role to play,” Trump said at a news conference with members of his coronavirus task force.
“If everyone makes these critical changes and sacrifices now, we will rally together as one nation and we will defeat the virus,” he said.
Among the other guidelines:
- If someone in your house has testified positive, keep the entire household at home. Do not go to work or school.
- If you are an older person, stay home and away from other people
- If you are a person with a serious underlying health condition, stay home and away from others.
- Avoid discretionary travel shopping trips and social visits.
- Avoid eating or drinking in restaurants bars, food courts. Use drive-through, pickup and delivery options.
- Do not visit nursing homes or retirement or long-term care facilities unless to provide critical assistance.
- Practice good hygiene such as washing your hands, especially after touching frequently used items or surfaces. Avoid touching your face.
Earlier Monday, the White House pushed back on news reports that it is considering imposing curfews and a national quarantine in the wake of the spread of the coronavirus epidemic.
“This is not correct,” tweeted Katie Miller, a spokeswoman for Vice President Mike Pence, who is heading up the coronavirus task force.
– Michael Collins and David Jackson
Trump: Americans could be hunkered down until summer
President Donald Trump said Americans could be hunkered down and practicing social distancing at least until July or August to confront the coronavirus pandemic.
During a White House briefing on Monday, Trump was asked whether the administration had any estimate of how quickly the country would “turn this corner.” Many Americans have been working from home, and states are increasingly closing schools, businesses and prohibiting large gatherings of people.
“People are talking about July, August — or something like that,” Trump told reporters, were spaced every other seat in the White House briefing room to practice distancing.
The president did not discuss specific practices that would have to be implement for that long, but the question was posed in terms of the steps that the country is currently taking.
Trump said it could take at least that long until the virus “washes through,” a term he has used before that he acknowledged Monday that some around him don’t like. Reporters pressed Trump on whether the work from home order and closes would be the new normal until the height of the summer.
“They think August, could be July,” Trump said. “Could be longer than that.”
The answer to that question could have enormous implications for not for people’s daily lives but for the economy. The White House and Congress are attempting to approve a first economic bill this week to help offset economic losses and are already contemplating other legislation to target particularly hard industries.
— John Fritze and David Jackson
Several coronavirus relief packages up in the air
Small businesses. Cruise lines. Public transit agencies. Childcare for health workers. Tribal clinics.
The list of sectors potentially needing federal help keeps growing, yet efforts to deliver that aid remain bogged down.
Among the relief packages in play:
Congress earlier this month passed a $8.3 billion package to ramp up development of testing kits among other programs to prepare for the virus.
A coronavirus relief bill the House hustled to pass early Saturday morning, which expands paid sick leave and covers the cost of testing for all Americans whether insured or not, is on hold because at least one lawmaker objects to technical corrections needed for the bill to head to the Senate.
The administration already is working with Democrats on a third relief bill seeking help for cruise lines, air lines and other small businesses being directly affected by the fallout from the virus. The airlines are seeking $50 billion in grants, loans for losses from coronavirus.
Democratic Senate Leader Charles Schumer, D-NY., Monday unveiled a proposal to spend $750 billion to address a number of sectors, including emergency child care for health care workers and first responders; medicine and food delivery systems for seniors, and assistance to keep public transportation running.
“We will need big, bold, urgent federal action to deal with this crisis,” Schumer said. “The kinds of targeted measures we are putting together will mainline money into the economy and directly into the hands of families that need it most. Importantly, this proposal will also ensure our medical professionals have all the resources – including physical space and equipment – they need to provide treatment and keep Americans safe, among other people-focused initiatives.”
– Ledyard King
U.S. passenger airlines seek $50 billion in grants, loans for losses from coronavirus
U.S. airlines are asking the federal government for grants, loans and tax relief to cope with the lost business from the coronavirus pandemic.
President Donald Trump has suspended travel from most of Europe and other countries including China, which prompted airlines to greatly reduce their schedules.
Administration and congressional officials have suggested airlines will be among the industries targeted for aid in the next funding bill. But the administration and Congress are still haggling over legislation the House approved Saturday to provide paid leave and other assistance to families coping with the outbreak.
The trade group Airlines for America, which represents most of the largest U.S. carriers, said the industry employs 750,000 people directly and 10 million indirectly. But airlines have been hard hit from a dramatic decline in demand.
The group is urging immediate and long-term assistance including $25 billion in grants to passenger airlines, $25 billion in loan guarantees and a rebate in federal excise taxes that airlines owe for the first three months of the year.
“This is a today problem, not a tomorrow problem. It requires urgent action,” said Nicholas Calio, the group’s CEO.
— Bart Jansen
Trump questions Cuomo’s response in tweet
Confronted with a pandemic that will require the state and federal governments to work together, President Donald Trump used a tweet Monday to question the governor of New York’s response.
Trump posted the tweet after a morning video conference with the nation’s governors to discuss the coronavirus outbreak and the government’s response to its widening impacts.
“Just had a very good tele-conference with Nations’s Governors,” Trump posted to Twitter. “Went very well. Cuomo of New York has to ‘do more’.”
The president didn’t clarify what, specifically, he wanted New York State to do and the White House did not immediately respond to questions about the tweet. State officials announced Monday that all schools would close for at least two weeks.
Cuomo’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The president’s tweet followed a New York Times report that said Trump told state officials on the call to try to procure ventilators and other medical equipment themselves.
“Try getting it yourselves,” Trump said, according to a recording of the call reviewed by the Times.
“I have to do more?” Cuomo tweeted in response to the president’s message minutes later. “No — YOU have to do something! You’re supposed to be the President.”
Two officials with knowledge of the call, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the contents of a conversation not released to the public, said Trump wasn’t offering governors an ultimatum but rather was suggesting they try to procure the equipment at the same time that the federal government works on redirecting ventilators and other needed equipment from the strategic national stockpile.
— John Fritze and David Jackson
Trump, G-7 world leaders vow ‘coordinated international approach’
Following President Donald Trump’s video teleconference call with G-7 world leaders, the White House released a statement from the group acknowledging COVID-19 as a “human tragedy and a global health crisis,” adding they are committed “to do whatever is necessary to ensure a strong global response.”
Trump joined leaders from Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy and Japan in vowing a “strongly coordinated international approach” in the coronavirus pandemic. The group directed their health and finance ministers to continue coordinating on a weekly basis.
The group also promised to:
- Coordinate on necessary public health measures to protect people at risk from COVID-19
- Restore confidence, growth and protect jobs
- Support global trade and investment
- Cooperate on research and technology development
- Pool epidemiologic and other data to combat the virus
- Support the launch of joint research projects funded by both public and private resources
Trump earlier held a phone call with the nation’s governors to discuss the coronavirus response.
“Everybody is so well unified and working so hard. It is a beautiful thing to see,” he tweeted earlier Monday when trading was suspended for a third time in a week after the stock market plunged. “They love our great Country. We will end up being stronger than ever before!”
— Courtney Subramanian
As stock market craters, Trump’s economic adviser says there are ‘buying opportunities’ for investors
Top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow insisted Monday that the economy would weather the damage from coronavirus-related disruptions and said plunging stock prices presented “buying opportunities” for investors.
“The fundamentals of the economy are strong,” Kudlow told reporters after a television interview. “I believe this is a short term problem.”
He added that “these big dips” in the stock market, including the ones last week, are “buying opportunities if you’re a long term investor.”
At 1:20 p.m. EDT, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 8.6% Monday. Trading was halted because of automatic circuit breakers that kick in when the market is falling dramatically. This marked the third time in a week that circuit breakers were set off during regular trading hours following sharp losses.
Kudlow also said the administration would continue to push for more economic stimulus to inject money into the economy, including a payroll tax cut. While Trump has pushed the payroll tax holiday, it’s not included in a stimulus bill currently pending in Congress and has met with lawmaker skepticism, including among some Republicans.
“The payroll tax holiday is a serious proposal, a very serious proposal,” Kudlow said.
Kudlow also said a future stimulus should include assistance to the hardline airline industry. “If they get into a cash crunch, we’re going to try to help them,” Kudlow said. “I see it as a liquidity fix, not as a bailout.”
He also said there are a lot of ideas floating around to counter the economic problems wrought the coronavirus.
“We are going to be challenged.” Kudlow said. “There’s no question about that.”
Responding to concerns about a global recession, Kudlow also said: “We have a big challenge. I’ve been saying that and I’ll continue to say it. I’m not going to label it one thing or another.”
— David Jackson
Romney: Send every adult $1,000
Sen. Mitt Romney proposed on Monday that the federal government immediately send every adult $1,000 to ease any personal financial strain caused by the coronavirus.
The Utah Republican said that will help families pay their bills while also boosting the economy.
He compared it to actions Congress took during the 2001 and 2008 recessions.
On Saturday, the House passed legislation still pending in the Senate that would ensure sick leave for affected workers, extend unemployment insurance for furloughed workers, and beef up food assistance for needy families, among other things.
White House officials and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have both said more assistance is needed.
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Monday the White House would continue to push for more economic stimulus to inject money into the struggling economy. In addition to help for airlines, hotels and other travel-related industries hit hard by the virus, the administration continues to push for a payroll tax cut that was jettisoned from the bill the House just passed after bipartisan opposition emerged.
Pelosi wrote in a letter to colleagues over the weekend that lawmakers have already begun working on another emergency response package “that will continue to put families first.”
Romney said he will be pushing for the $1,000 assistance, as well as other proposals he outlined Monday, to be included in the next round of help.
– Maureen Groppe
White House says curfews not under consideration
The White House is pushing back on news reports that it is considering imposing curfews and a national quarantine in the wake of the spread of the coronavirus epidemic.
“This is not correct,” tweeted Katie Miller, a spokeswoman for Vice President Mike Pence, who is heading up the coronavirus task force appointed by President Donald Trump.
Miller re-tweeted a CNN report that there are “active discussions” to encourage a possible nationwide curfew in which non-essential businesses would have to close by a certain time each night.
Asked about rumors that the administration is considering some kind of national quarantine, Miller said: “Consider it shot down.”
The White House announcement follow a National Security Council tweet late Sunday about text messages floating around the Internet.
Said the NSC: “Text message rumors of a national #quarantine are FAKE. There is no national lockdown. @CDCgov has and will continue to post the latest guidance on #COVID19. #coronavirus.
– David Jackson
Surgeon General: Americans should follow federal guidelines
The United States will end up with as high a mortality rate from the coronavirus as Italy without an aggressive response that includes Americans following the federal government’s guidance, Surgeon General Jerome Adams said on “Fox & Friends” Monday.
“When you look at the projections, there’s every chance that we could be Italy,” Adams said.
“But there’s every hope that we will be South Korea if people actually listen, if people actually social distance, if people do the basic public health measures that we’ve all been talking about as doctors all along, such as washing your hands, such as covering your cough, and cleaning surfaces.”
Adams said there will be more guidance coming about the previous recommendation that people consider postponing elective surgeries to free up the system to respond to the coronavirus.
“And we’re going to be talking more today to try to figure out how we can give more guidance because elective doesn’t mean non-urgent,” he said of his recent conversations with the American College of Surgeons and the American Hospital Association.
Adams noted that his wife just through cancer treatment, which is not something that can be delayed for six months. But procedures like hip and knee replacements need to be put off “until we can get a handle on this” and “we aren’t taking up ICU beds and hospital beds and then saying we’re going to have to put our coronavirus patients out in tents in the streets.”
Adams said people will start to see new testing sites in their communities, including in his hometown of Cumberland, Md., where a hospital is starting drive-thru testing. He said there will be “30 to 40 new pods” in up to 19 sates that will enable drive-thru and walk-thru tests.
But the testing will focus first on those most at risk, including health care workers and then people over age 65 who have a fever or other symptoms.
“We are hopeful that if we lean into this then maybe in about six to eight weeks we’ll get over the majority of the pain, we will have flattened the curve, and we can start to slowly get back to life as normal,” he said.
– Maureen Groppe
Supreme Court postpones oral arguments for the first time since 1918
The Supreme Court announced Monday it is postponing oral arguments scheduled for later this month due to the coronavirus, something it has not done in more than 100 years.
The court already had closed its doors to the public last Thursday until further notice “out of an abundance of caution.”
The justices had several major cases scheduled for oral argument in March. Top on the list were several that will decide if President Donald Trump can shield his tax returns and financial records from congressional committees and New York prosecutors.
“In keeping with public health precautions recommended in response to COVID-19, the Supreme Court is postponing the oral arguments currently scheduled for the March session,” the announcement said. The court will examine the options for rescheduling those cases in due course in light of the developing circumstances.”
The last time oral arguments were postponed was in 1918, due to the Spanish flu epidemic. The court also shortened its argument calendars in August 1793 and August 1798 in response to yellow fever outbreaks.
Coronavirus response bill could still be days away from reaching president
The coronavirus relief bill the House hustled to pass early Saturday morning to confront the intensifying crisis could still be days away from reaching President Donald Trump, who has already indicated he would sign it.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which expands paid sick leave and covers the cost of testing for all Americans, needs a technical correction that leaders of both parties have agreed to.
But the bill would be brought up on what’s known as “unanimous consent,” or UC, meaning only one member would have to object to force a full vote by the House – problematic because the House lawmakers are back in their districts due to the recess and not due back until next week.
And at least one member is objecting: Rep. Louis Gohmert. The Texas Republican was one of 40 GOP lawmakers who voted against the bill early Saturday morning. It passed 363-40.
Reporter Laura Litvan of Bloomberg News tweeted after speaking with Gohmert that “he doesn’t know if his concerns can be solved today. He hasn’t seen final text and doesn’t appreciate the rushed process for passing the bill Saturday.”
An email to his office seeking comment was not immediately returned Monday afternoon.
If the technical corrections bill passes the House, further delays could await it in the Senate. Some conservative senators already have indicated they have problems with the bill as it relates to the strain paid sick leave would impose on small businesses.
– Ledyard King and Christal Hayes
White House cancels annual Easter Egg Roll
The White House has canceled the annual Easter Egg Roll because of concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.
First Lady Melania Trump’s office announced in a news release Monday that the 142nd annual celebration was canceled “out of an abundance of caution.”
“The health and safety of all Americans must be the first priority, especially right now,” the first lady said. “I deeply regret this cancellation, but we need to make difficult decisions in the short-term to ensure a healthy country for the long-term. During this time, I encourage everyone to listen to state and local officials and follow CDC guidelines in order to help protect the health and well-being of everyone.”
The annual tradition brings hundreds of children to the White House South Lawn to hunt for eggs and play games. This year’s celebration had been scheduled for April 13.
The Easter Egg Roll officially dates back to 1878 and the presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes, but first-hand accounts suggest that informal festivities began with egg-rolling parties under President Abraham Lincoln, according to the White House website.
The Easter Egg Roll was not held from 1917 to 1920 because of World War I and was canceled again from 1943 to 1945 during World War II. Food conservation and construction on the White House prevented any celebrations from 1946 to 1952 as well. President Dwight Eisenhower reinstated the tradition in 1953.
– Michael Collins
Trump administration, Congress negotiate paid leave for coronavirus
WASHINGTON – While the House voted overwhelmingly to approve coronavirus legislation early Saturday, and President Donald Trump strongly endorsed it, senators have voiced reservations about because of the impact on smaller businesses.
The Senate could approve legislation immediately with unanimous support. But Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said he would prefer that the Senate change the bill to improve it or approve nothing at all. He suggested that workers who fall ill or are quarantined should use state unemployment benefits.
“Although mandating that all employers must pay for sick leave might sound good, we need to consider the unintended consequences of this legislation,” Johnson said. “I fear that rather than offering a workable solution, the House bill will exacerbate the problem by forcing small businesses to pay wages they cannot afford and ‘helping’ them go further into debt.”
The National Federation of Independent Business, which advocates for 325,000 small businesses, wrote to congressional leaders Friday that coronavirus has already hurt 23% of its members and 43% expect an impact within three months.
But the group criticized several elements, including mandating small businesses comply while exempting those with at least 500 workers. Struggling small businesses could apply for a waiver from the secretary of the Labor Department, but the exemption process is poorly defined, according to the group. Federal tax credits to reimburse businesses for paid leave might not arrive quickly enough, according to the group.
“Businesses experiencing cash flow difficulties due to disruptions caused by COVID-19, combined with new federally mandated paid family and medical leave, may not stay afloat until the next quarterly payroll tax credit is claimed,” said the letter from Kevin Kuhlman, the group’s senior director for federal government relations. “By requiring small businesses to shoulder additional burdens and costs, small businesses who cannot afford to keep up will close.”
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who negotiated the legislation with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said on Fox News Sunday said businesses would be able to get a cash advance from the Internal Revenue Service, to avoid delays in reimbursements.
“We were very focused we need to get the money to people quickly,” Mnuchin said. “We don’t want them to have to deal with big bureaucracy.”
The House and Mnuchin had announced that technical corrections were needed before the legislation moves to the Senate. But amid reports of broader concerns from small businesses, Mnuchin said he was working with the Senate to resolve them.
“We hope they pass this bill,” Mnuchin said. “If not, we’ll work with the center on whatever minor changes we need.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the Senate would work to approve legislation swiftly.
“I know senators on both sides are carefully reviewing the details and are eager to act swiftly to help American workers, families, and small businesses navigate this challenging time,” McConnell said.
– Bart Jansen
Coronavirus task force expected hold briefing as death toll rises
Members of the coronavirus task force are scheduled to hold a press briefing at 3:30 Monday afternoon as the US death toll from the virus rose to 69, with over 3,770 cases confirmed as of Monday morning.
According to President Donald Trump’s daily schedule, Trump is also scheduled to hold video meetings with the G-7 world leaders and the nation’s governors on the coronavirus response.
Surgeon General Jerome Adams said on Fox and Friends Monday morning the government was in discussions about giving guidance on elective surgeries amid heightened concerns about the disease, which has been named COVID-19.
“We’re going to be talking more today to try to figure out how we can give more guidance because elective doesn’t mean non-urgent,” Adams said.
“Things like tonsils, things like total hips and total knees, we need to pull those down until we can get a handle on this and flatten the curve so that we aren’t using up our PPE (personal protective equipment) that’s going to be necessary to respond to coronavirus cases,” he continued.
McConnell: Senate still needs to receive House coronavirus bill
Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended against holding gatherings of more than 50 people at a time, the Senate, where the average age is 63, remains in session this week to act on surveillance legislation and to take up the coronavirus legislation the House passed shortly after midnight last Friday.
In a statement released Sunday evening, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate was still waiting to receive the coronavirus bill from the House.
“We still need to receive the final version of the House’s coronavirus relief legislation,” McConnell said. “I commend Sec. Mnuchin for his hard work on this. I know Senators on both sides are carefully reviewing the details and are eager to act swiftly to help American workers, families, and small businesses navigate this challenging time.”
The Kentucky Republican said more steps needed to be taken to help Americans, small businesses, and the healthcare system and medical professionals in future legislative packages to address the coronavirus.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said over the weekend “technical corrections” needed to be made to the House bill before the Senate could take it up. Republican and Democratic leaders in the House already agreed to the corrections, Mnuchin said.