Pres. Trump announces suspension of non-essential traffic at Mexican border

Author: CBS News
Published: Updated:
U.S. President Donald Trump addresses his administration’s daily coronavirus task force briefing as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence listen at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 20, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
  • U.S.-Mexico border will be temporarily closed
  • Federal tax deadline delayed until July 15
  • Standardized testing requirements won’t be enforced for students in grades K-12

Evidence that a malaria drug will work as an effective treatment for COVID-19 is “anecdotal” and needs more research, leading infectious diseases expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said during a Coronavirus Task Force briefing at the White House Friday, after President Trump expressed hope on Thursday that the drug could be a solution.

During Thursday’s briefing, Mr. Trump spoke at length about the drug Hydroxychloroquine, suggesting it has “tremendous promise.” Fauci insisted Friday there isn’t distance between his message and the president’s “feeling” about how the drug might play out. Health officials have pointed to the need for more thorough, clinical studies of the drug on coronavirus patients.

“There really isn’t that much of a difference in many respects with what we’re saying. The president feels optimistic about something — his feeling about it,” Fauci said on Friday. “What I’m saying is that it might, it might be effective, I’m not saying that it isn’t. It might be effective. But as a scientist, as we’re getting it out there, we need to do it in a way as while we are making it available for people who might want the hope that it might work, you’re also collecting data that will ultimately show that it is truly effective and safe under the conditions of COVID-19. So it really isn’t different, it’s just the question of how one feels about it.”

On Friday, Mr. Trump announced he’s temporarily closing the U.S.-Mexico border to non-essential traffic, as the U.S. and Mexico both look to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. CBS News had previously reported the restrictions, which exclude traffic for work and other essential needs.

The restrictions go into effect at midnight, but Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said border patrol will “immediately” return all migrants attempting to cross both the Mexican and Canadian borders “without delay.”

On another front, Mr. Trump, announced that last night he put the Defense Production Act “into gear” to boost the production of ventilators and masks. Mr. Trump had said as recently as Thursday he would only do so if necessary, but Democrats and governors had urged him to implement the DPA, which he invoked earlier this week. Moments before the briefing, a spokesperson for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the senator urged Mr. Trump to implement the DPA, and the president directed someone in the room to do so immediately. Health care workers are sounding the alarm that they need more ventilators, more masks and more respirators now, not weeks or months from now.

“We have millions of masks that we’ve ordered. They will be here soon, we’re having them shipped directly to states,” Mr. Trump said on Friday.

The president also announced standardized testing requirements won’t be enforced for students in grades K-12, as schools across the nation shutter due to the coronavirus pandemic. The administration is also pushing back Tax Day, to July 15.

“We’ll be stronger than ever before, and we’ve learned a lot,” the president told reporters Friday.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are meeting to discuss provisions in a bill proposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that would provide rebates of up to $1,200 for most Americans. Several Republican committee chairs are set to meet with their Democratic counterparts today, while Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow will be visiting the Capitol to discuss the legislation.

“There’s tremendous spirit to get something done, so we’ll see what happens,” Mr. Trump said Friday.

While McConnell has said he wants to move at “warp speed” to negotiate and pass the bill, he is facing some opposition from members of his own party, as well as Democrats. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, an ally of the president, voiced opposition to the idea of direct cash payments to Americans on Thursday.

Schumer also raised concerns in a joint statement Thursday that the proposal “is not at all pro-worker and instead puts corporations way ahead of workers.”

Senator Lindsey Graham, after a meeting with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, said the federal government needs to “tell the public the truth,” and the ultimate aid to Americans needs to be much more than $1 trillion.

“We gotta tell the public the truth, we’re going to be floating probably 70% of the nation’s payroll .. . it’s gonna be a hell of a lot more than $1 trillion,” Graham said.

Dr. Deborah Birx, a point person on the Coronavirus Task Force, told reporters Friday that one “concerning trend” they’re seeing is that the mortality death rate for males seems to be twice that of females, across age groups.

The president said he doesn’t foresee a national lock down, as New York and California are doing. “I don’t think so,” Mr. Trump responded when asked about such a possibility.

Asked what his message is to Americans who are scared, the president responded that the incidence of death is low.

Member of vice president’s office tests positive for coronavirus

A member of Vice President Mike Pence’s office has tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) per Pence’ press secretary.

“‪This evening, we were notified that a member of the Office of the Vice President tested positive for the coronavirus,” said Katie Miller, press secretary to Vice President Mike Pence. “Neither President Trump nor Vice President Pence had close contact with the individual. Further contact tracing is being conducted in accordance with CDC guidelines.”

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