nito100/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- As the novel coronavirus spread across the globe and health officials implored the public to use more hand sanitizer to mitigate the potentially deadly pathogen, grocery stores and online retailers saw the product evaporate from their shelves.
Desperate first responders and others on the frontlines of the battle against the pandemic grew alarmed, but in walked an unlikely savior: the booze industry, which shifted gears to churn out sanitizer using alcohol it had on hand and following a recipe approved by the World Health Organization.
But U.S. federal regulators -- trying to balance safety concerns with a rising demand for the virus-mitigating product -- are insisting that the recipe is not enough, and this stance is now complicating efforts to waive federal excise taxes on the sanitizing product.
The result has led to an increasing pressure campaign, including senior members of Congress.
Critics say the unbending stance by the Food and Drug Administration is inhibiting the production and distribution of thousands of gallons of the germ killer, though some distillers are providing their product regardless of FDA guidelines.
More than 2,000 distillers are involved in sanitizer production, according to industry experts, many following WHO rules, which allows for the use of "undenatured" alcohol, a food-grade ethanol that the industry has readily available.
The new $2 trillion stimulus bill signed into law last week threw something of a wrench into the works of this massive mobilization effort. The legislation provides a much-needed waiver of costly federal excise taxes on distillers who make sanitizer.
But, it links that waiver to an adherence to the stricter FDA guidelines, which require the use of much more bitter, often toxic, chemicals, called "denatured" alcohol, to deter consumption, particularly by children. And critics have cried fowl.
"This would penalize distillers who jumped in to produce hand sanitizer based on the WHO guidelines when regulatory guidance was unclear," said Chris Swonger, president and CEO of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), which represents scores of large and small distillers.
Swonger said these toxic agents could make it much harder for stills to turn back to the production of whiskey and such beverages when the nation returns to normal.
And DISCUS has been pressing the FDA to alter its guidelines, recently participating in a conference call with the agency pressing it to research possible ways to reach an accommodation with the industry, potentially issuing safety warnings, according to Swonger and his chief counsel, Courtney Armour -- who noted that the industry is equally concerned about children. DISCUS has also been working behind the scenes with President Donald Trump's coronavirus task force.
"Those distillers were responding to pleas from their local officials and communities and should not now be faced with a huge tax bill. Distillers are already under significant financial pressure due to the COVID 19 crisis. This will inflict further injury on them," said Swonger, who estimated that 40% of the profit for spirit makers, which normally comes from tourist visits to craft distillers, has dried up in the face of this spreading health crisis.
Still, the FDA has not backed down. And while the agency did revise its guidelines just days ago to permit the use of food-grade alcohol, its safety concerns remain, according to a spokesman. The addition of foul-tasting chemicals is still required in the final product, they said.
"The FDA’s guidances explain that the FDA does not intend to object to the manufacture of denatured or undenatured alcohol for use in hand sanitizers, so long as a denaturant (bitterant) is added prior to the final production of the hand sanitizer," FDA's Jeremy Kahn, said in a statement to ABC News. "Adding these denaturants to the alcohol renders the product less appealing to ingest."
Kahn said incidents of children consuming lethal sanitizer have been increasing during the COVID-19 pandemic, noting that "in an 18-month old child, it takes only a small amount to be potentially lethal."
"Consumer safety is a top priority for the FDA," Khan said, adding, "To protect children, it is important to make hand sanitizers unpalatable."
And while any potential accommodations would just be temporary while the current pandemic is strangling sanitizer supplies, Kahn said, "It is unclear what, if any, measure could be instituted to ensure that the product does not make its way into consumer hands, where children could have access."
He continued, "Given these unknowns, our current position is that a denaturant should be added to all hand sanitizer products, regardless of the ultimate intended setting."
But, members of Congress are now putting their weight behind the effort to pressure the FDA for temporary changes.
"Through the current guidance, the FDA is standing in the way of hundreds of thousands of gallons of hand sanitizer from being produced and given to those on the front lines battling this pandemic," said Kentucky Reps. John Yarmuth and Andy Barr, the co-chairs of the Congressional Bourbon Caucus, in a letter this week to FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn.
"We have a responsibility to provide more resources to help flatten the curve and alleviating this burden would allow distilleries the opportunity to step up and help their communities," the pair of lawmakers said, along with a bipartisan group of 85 of their House colleagues.
Also squarely behind the effort, according to a spokesman, is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a native of Kentucky.
Meanwhile, in western Kentucky, along the bourbon belt, which would normally be teeming with tourists flocking to sample the state's coveted alcohol, one whiskey and moonshine maker has found a way to make the stricter regulations work.
Arlon "AJ" Casey Jones and his wife, Peg Hays, formed a partnership with two other distillers, one which Jones said had its alcohol seized by the military to fight the virus, in order to churn out FDA-approved sanitizer.
The distilling trio, which Jones said met a couple of years ago during the lunar eclipse celebrations, have joined forces with an ethanol plant and a chemical company to make hand sanitizer that is being shipped out across the U.S. -- from first responders to a state penitentiary. Some of the product has also been donated to local hospitals, police and fire departments, as well as the Salvation Army and Boys and Girls Clubs.
And this extraordinary effort has helped Casey Jones Distillery bring back all of its employees, most of whom were laid off as the virus first struck. Hays said they’ve even hired a few part-time workers to help out.
"It’s just incredible. We’ve even corralled the grandkids -- who are all old enough -- to help us get the product out the door," said Hays, whose efforts were recently lauded on the Senate floor by McConnell, who has known Peg Hays since she was a child, and worked with her mother and father in his early days in politics.
But Hays minced no words when asked if the stimulus bill’s excise tax waiver was key to enabling them to do their crucial work.
"Absolutely. That passage was key," said Hays, who calculated that the tax relief will save her own business tens of thousands of dollars. "This is the only thing that makes it affordable."
And while Jones and Hays say they would like nothing better than to return to making their famous moonshine, which they said was enjoyed by none other than mafia don Al Capone, they are humbled by their involvement in helping to mitigate against a pandemic threatening to ravage whole communities.
"I told everyone on the first night we made the sanitizer, ‘Remember, the product we’re making will no doubt be saving someone’s life,'" Jones recounted.
It’s a sentiment echoed by DISCUS’ Swonger: "We all want to be making whiskey, not hand sanitizer, but we want to be as helpful as we can. So, it’s critical that we keep working at it and that we find a resolution."
"We are calling on the FDA to dig deep and do their research on the WHO guidelines," he added.
Swonger said his group also has its eye on "a variety of options in Phase 4," the next stimulus legislation that is already being discussed in the halls of Congress.
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dganser/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump had direct praise for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at a press conference Tuesday: "Great governor. Knows exactly what he’s doing." Trump hailed Florida's response to the novel coronavirus outbreak as he answered a question about the Republican's resistance to issuing statewide stay-at-home restrictions for Floridians.
Now, less than 24 hours after the administration revealed sobering data with death toll projections in the U.S. between 100,000 to 240,000 with social distancing and proper mitigation measures in place, DeSantis reversed course and told citizens in his state Wednesday afternoon to stay home for the next 30 days.
As elsewhere in the country, confirmed cases of coronavirus have continued to rise in Florida, up to nearly 7,000 as of Wednesday, the fifth-highest total of any state, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
From the beginning of the coronavirus spread in the U.S., DeSantis faced scrutiny over what some critics have described as a lackadaisical approach to restricting gatherings and ordering the closing of various businesses as some other states were quicker to do so.
Florida Democrat Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said last week that DeSantis's decisions had shown a lack of leadership in the state.
"We have a governor who has been really irresponsible and has had an absence of leadership," she said. "I'm trying to think of the nicest way I can put it."
Last month, when photographs of crowded beaches filled with spring breakers emerged, the governor left the decision to close beaches to local municipalities. DeSantis did end up ordering beach gatherings be limited to 10 people, but he stopped short of ordering them closed.
Democratic members of Florida’s congressional delegation also raised their concerns in a letter to DeSantis Tuesday, telling him they appreciated a recent announcement issuing a "safer at home" order for the southern portion of the state, but said that wasn’t enough given the rapid increase in positive cases.
"This pandemic has not respected global borders so it certainly will not respect county borders," the 13 Democratic members wrote. "We cannot wait, and we cannot leave this decision to county and municipal governments. We urge you to immediately issue a statewide stay-at-home order to save lives."
DeSantis has developed a close relationship with the president and the two speak frequently. On Monday Trump opened the call with governors by congratulating DeSantis and his wife Casey on their new baby, joking that he had a good excuse not to be on the phone call, according to an audio recording of the call obtained by ABC News.
DeSantis said he spoke with the president and other White House officials about Wednesday’s decision to order Floridians to stay at home, prior to the announcement.
"I did consult with folks in the White House. I did speak with the president about it," DeSantis said Wednesday. "He agreed with the approach of focusing on the hot spots but at the same time, you know, he understood that this is another 30-day situation and you gotta just do what makes the most sense."
A total of 45 states have now issued or announced statewide closures of non-essential businesses. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves also issued a stay-at-home orders for their states Wednesday.
Prior to the reversal, when specifically asked about DeSantis not issuing a stay-at-home order, the U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said on NBC that his "advice to America would be that these guidelines are a national stay at home order" as he held up the White House recommendations to slow the spread of the virus.
While Florida has lagged behind other states in their response, the state has received all of their requested supplies from the federal government within days of the request.
Florida is also among only few states that are the first to receive newly-developed rapid tests that are expected to significantly reduce test turnaround time. DeSantis said during a press briefing that the state has deployed about 1,700 rapid tests to Memorial Healthcare System and another 500 to northern Florida.
When the president was asked why Florida has received 100 percent of its request for supplies compared to other states that are having difficulty and have pleaded for help, he said it’s because Florida is "very aggressive."
"Well, Florida, they are very aggressive in trying to get things, and they are doing a very good job, but I think I can say all of the governors are very committed," Trump said Sunday. "We’re very committed. We’re working together. We’re getting things out at a level that nobody has ever seen before."
Memorial Healthcare System said it has "ample protective equipment" for its front-line workforce thanks to its significant inventory prior to the outbreak and to community donations.
On Monday, Florida's Department of Emergency Management said officials there have ordered 250,000 coveralls, 500,000 gowns, 500,000 gloves, 150,000 full kits of protection and 2 million of the all-important N95 masks.
But some Florida nurses and their unions say healthcare workers in the state are still pushed into dangerous front-lines without the proper protection.
Rosanne O'Malley, an emergency room nurse at the Medical Center of Trinity in the city of Trinity told ABC News that her hospital provides its staff with just one procedural mask throughout their shift, and N95 masks. Other protective gear like gowns, gloves and goggles are reserved only for those entering COVID-19 units, she said.
O’Malley, who is part of the team that screens incoming patients for fever and coughs before they enter the emergency room, said her team should have more protection than just disposable surgical masks that they wear throughout their 12-hour shift, and her hospital should have the money and resources to provide that.
"Gov. DeSantis says he's gotten the equipment but the trickle down just hasn't happened yet," O’Malley said. "Maybe just we don't see that in the emergency room but a lot of nurses on the floor are saying the same thing. We have minimal protection, but not maximum protection."
Kim Brooks, a registered nurse with a stepped-down intensive care unit at Blake Medical Center in Bradenton said she was suspended from work for wearing an N95 mask she brought herself. Brooks said she wasn’t taking care of COVID-19 patients but she felt that she needed to protect herself and her family now knowing who might have the virus.
"It is very scary. We do feel like there is a shortage. Just on the regular floor, or even on the stepped-down ICU floor without COVID patients, we don't have the opportunity to have the masks unless we supply them ourselves," Brooks said. "We're open to contracting the virus. I'm concerned for their physical health care workers across the country."
The Medical Center of Trinity and Blake Medical Center did not immediately response to ABC News' request for comment.
Dr. Mark Supito, an attending physician in the Emergency Department at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, said that while he feels the hospital has "adequate" personal protection equipment supplies, they have been rationing so that they do not run out. Supito told ABC News he has been wearing the same N95 mask for a week.
Supito has also begun wearing a regular surgical mask that can be more easily discarded over his N95 respirator, which he described as a "smart" way to protect a vital supply.
"This is kind of what we have always been preparing for," Supito said. "But I don't think any of us could have ever predicted something on this scale."
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Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump and his top health officials warned Americans to brace for a "very painful" few weeks ahead as they delivered their projection Tuesday that between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans will die of the novel coronavirus, even if social distancing measures are strictly followed.
Far from the president’s vision just last week of "packed churches" on Easter, a grim-faced Trump now says that 100,000 lives lost is a "very low number" in comparison to a 2.2 million projection if nothing had been done.
After comparing COVID-19 to the flu and downplaying its contagious nature for weeks -- insisting Americans wanted to get back to work -- Trump faces questions Wednesday on how the curve might look now had the federal government responded sooner -- and on whether nationwide restrictions should be enacted as governors seek guidance.
Here are the latest developments in the government response:
FBI academy suspends classes due to COVID-19
While the FBI and other law enforcement agencies continue to insist their security posture has not been hindered by the spread of coronavirus, the crisis has now led to a temporary pause in training classes for the bureau’s next generation of leaders at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia.
"In consultation with our Chief Medical Officer and executive leadership, training classes at the FBI Academy have been suspended temporarily," the FBI said in a statement. "We will continually evaluate the suspension and remain prepared to resume training when safe and appropriate as recommended by our chief medical officer."
One source familiar told ABC News that one reason for the suspension in classes is "because law enforcement leaders are needed where they serve," a reference to the academy’s instructors.
Trump rejects calls for nationwide stay-at-home restrictions
To open the daily coronavirus task force briefing at the White House, President Donald Trump first brought forward several top officials and military officers who praised the president’s response to COVID-19 and then outlined what the administration is doing to combat what the president claimed was the danger of drug trafficking and illegal narcotics amid the pandemic.
“As governments and nations focus on the coronavirus, there’s a growing threat that cartels, criminals, terrorists, and other malign actors will try to exploit the situation for their own gain,” Trump said. “We will never let that happen.”
He was joined by Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Attorney General William Barr and National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien.
Pivoting to talk about coronavirus about an hour after the briefing was expected to begin, Trump spoke of the huge need for supplies and the efforts the federal government was taking.
"Every day new plane loads are landing in cities such as New York, Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles. Additional flights have been scheduled and we are adding more and more," Trump said. "The amount of usage, the amount of is something that nobody has ever seen before. We are getting so much, but no matter how much we get, we seem to use it up very quickly."
He said newly available medical equipment was being taken directly to hospital and not put in the national stockpile.
The president warned "starting pretty much now, but especially a few days from now, things are going to be horrific."
Asked about stopping flights between "hot spot" cities, including Detroit and New York City, Trump said that would be tough on the hard-hit airlines industry but then said, "We're looking at it very closely."
“It's very tough. You have them going from hot spot to hot spot. If you notice, they're usually hot spot to hot spot. Very few flights. New York to Miami, and we are thinking -- we are looking at it. Once you do that, you really are clamping down industry that is desperately in need,” Trump said.
When a reporter sought to clarify if the president was only considering limiting flights directly between hot spots or if it was broader than that, the president replied, “We are looking at the whole thing because we are getting into a position now where we want to do that---we have to do that. We're looking at the whole thing."
Trump has yet to issue a national "stay at home" order, instead leaving the decision up to the states. The president defended the decision not to implement an overarching order, saying states are all different.
"There are some states that are different. There are some states that don't have much of a problem. They don't have thousands of people that are positive," Trump said. "You have to look -- you have to give a little flexibility."
It's tough to tell states to "close it down," Trump said. The president has often prioritized economic impact as long as he could in making decisions about the disease.
Earlier in the day, Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a mandatory stay-at-home order for the state of Florida starting Thursday at midnight, after resisting calls for weeks and leaving state beaches open amid criticism. DeSantis has previously said that if the White House task force had recommended a statewide order, "that's something that would carry a lot of weight with me." He said today he had talked about doing so with the White House and Trump.
Trump said he would "absolutely" speak with former Vice President Joe Biden about the coronavirus response, after the Democratic front-runner's campaign released an earlier statement saying that Biden would like to talk to the president.
"If he would like to call, I'd absolutely take his call," Trump said, adding that he always found Biden to be "a nice guy."
Surgeon General: 'Even if you do wear a mask, it can’t be at the expense of social distancing'
Surgeon General Jerome Adams acknowledged Wednesday that the extension of the nationwide social distancing guidelines through April may not be enough time to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus in some areas, "depending on where they are on the curve."
"We're looking at this next 30 days as an opportunity for the entire country to really understand if we do the right things, then we can flatten our curve in our own different areas and actually get to the other side," Adams told ABC News’ Good Morning America.
He also explained that data from California, Washington state, and elsewhere made clear that it is possible to flatten a curve.
"If you are aggressive about mitigation, you can get through to the other side and usually in about three weeks or so to hit your peak and start to see cases come down," he said, noting the most important thing people can do is stay home.
Adams confirmed the federal government has "asked the CDC to take another look at whether or not having more people wear masks will prevent transmission of the disease to other people," while stressing the general public should not wear N95 masks.
"If you take one of those N95 masks, you may be taking it out of the hands of a health care worker who desperately needs it to care for patients," he added.
Asked if states that have not issued stay-at-home orders, like Florida, needed to be stricter, Adams said it was up to the governors but that states should provide people with "social support so that they can do the right things."
"We trust the governors and the mayors to understand their people and understand whether or not they feel like they can trust the people in their states to make the right decisions," he said.
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.
OlegAlbinsky/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- It appeared to be an attempt to rewrite history -- his own.
President Donald Trump took a newly dire tone at the latest White House briefing and contradicted many of his previous assessments on how he's talked about and handled the novel coronavirus.
It came as his White House medical experts unveiled their own death projections for the first time, revealing that they estimate the virus will kill 100,000 to 240,000 Americans at a minimum -- and only if the nation practices strict social distancing.
And that's being called the "best-case scenario."
Trump said the prospect of 100,000 deaths was "sobering" but then went on to call it "a very low number," compared to the 2.2. million it could have been if the U.S. did "ride it out" without mitigation efforts -- as he said some of his "friends" suggested. He cast it as a success of sorts.
While the coronavirus may have silently spread across the country for the past ten weeks, President Trump has insisted that the virus is "under control," and later suggested the economic fallout will be worse than the death toll.
Trump on Tuesday defended any prior rosy assessments about the coronavirus, describing himself as a "cheerleader for the country" who wants to "give people hope."
But all the mixed messaging has created confusion over how serious the situation really is.
Here are a few examples -- side by side -- of how he has contradicted himself -- in his own words:
From signaling U.S. cases ‘close to zero’ to 100K being "a very low number"
The president initially downplayed the impact the virus would have on Americans, telling CNBC on Jan. 22, two days after the first reported cases on American soil, that "it’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine."
Feb. 26 -- Coronavirus task force briefing: "We're going very substantially down, not up." the president said, as the number of Americans infected with the virus grew to 60. "When you have 15 people and the 15 within a couple days is going to be down to close to zero, that's a pretty good job we've done."
March 31 -- Coronavirus task force briefing: "A hundred thousand is, according to modeling, a very low number. I asked this a while ago, they said, ‘it's unlikely you will be able to attain that’ -- I think we are doing better than that," he said. "When you look at it could have been 2.2 million people died and more if we did nothing, if we just did nothing," adding the country has "done a great job."
From the virus will 'disappear' to the worst problem 'probably ever seen'
Trump previously suggested that coronavirus cases would drop as the weather warmed up. Now he’s signaling that 100,000 deaths would be considered a victory.
Feb. 27 -- Cabinet Room meeting: "One day -- it’s like a miracle -- it will disappear. And from our shores, we -- you know, it could get worse before it gets better. It could maybe go away. We’ll see what happens. Nobody really knows," Trump said.
March 31 -- Coronavirus task force briefing: "I want every American to be prepared for the hard days that lie ahead." Trump said he anticipates the pandemic will be "the worst thing the country has probably ever seen."
From several flu comparisons to ‘it’s not the flu’
While the number of infected Americans grew exponentially, President Trump repeatedly compared COVID-19 to the flu, even as health officials warned the novel virus appeared to be both more lethal and contagious. From his own packed rallies in February to just last Friday in the White House Briefing Room, the president said, "call it a flu."
Feb 26 -- Coronavirus task force briefing: "This is a flu. This is like a flu," Trump repeated. "It's a little like the regular flu that we have flu shots for. And we'll essentially have a flu shot for this in a fairly quick manner."
March 31 -- Coronavirus task force briefing: President Trump acknowledged for the first time, "it’s not the flu. It’s vicious."
When stocked tumbled and jobless claims broke records last week, the president urged Americans to get back to work and insisted the country wasn’t built to be closed. Even after the White House initially proposed its social distancing guidelines on March 16, Trump more vocal in the coming days that the country "wasn't built to be shut down" -- an argument he has appeared to have since dropped.
March 24 -- Fox News Town Hall: Trump said he envisioned "packed churches" on Easter, April 12. "It’s such an important day for other reasons, but I’d love to make it an important day for this. I would love to have the country opened up, and raring to go by Easter."
March 31 -- Coronavirus task force briefing: A somber Trump told Americans, "We’re going to start seeing some real light at the end of the tunnel but this is going to be a very painful, very very painful two weeks."
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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Vice President Mike Pence told "Nightline" co-anchor Byron Pitts on Wednesday that Americans should not attend church services of more than 10 people during the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Police on Monday arrested a Florida megachurch pastor for allegedly violating a county social distancing order by holding a packed church service, and the day before, according to the Associated Press, around 500 people attended a church service in Louisiana, despite a statewide ban on large gatherings.
Pence said he, his wife Karen and President Donald Trump have "been enjoying worship services online."
"We're so grateful to churches and synagogues and places of worship around America that have heeded the president's coronavirus guidelines for America," he said, referring to federal recommendations that encourage people to keep a distance from one another and not hold large gatherings.
"We really believe this is a time when people should avoid gatherings of more than 10 people," Pence said. "And, and so, we continue to urge churches around America to heed to that."
Trump recently projected -- without any evidence -- that the outbreak would dissipate enough by Easter, on April 12, to allow people to pack church pews. He sharply reversed from that rosy assessment on Sunday, when he said those recommendations should say in place at least through the end of April.
Even if Americans follow the guidelines and local orders, the White House said Monday that it expected 100,000 to 240,000 people to die from COVID-19 in the United States over the coming months. Trump struck a somber tone after months of downplaying the threat.
In a nod to another holiday, though, Pence said that the White House's modeling gives hope that the U.S. will have turned a corner by Memorial Day, which in 2020 falls on May 25.
"We believe we're in a much better place by June the 1st," Pence said. "If every American will put these guidelines into practice, if we all continue to do our part, we really do believe that by Memorial Day weekend or by early summer ... we can be through the hardest part of this."
He added, "We can save lives, and we can begin to put America back to work."
Asked why the Trump administration does not mandate social distancing, Pence signaled he preferred to make recommendations and leave enforcement up to others.
"We've also been working very closely with governors around the country to make sure that they have the information and the resources to make the best decision for their communities," he said.
The vice president spoke from a Walmart distribution center in Virginia, where he thanked workers for being on the “frontlines” of the nation’s effort to ensure the reliability of critical supply chains amid the pandemic.
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ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders joined the hosts of ABC's The View remotely on Wednesday, as the novel coronavirus and related "stay at home" orders cripple much of the nation, defending his decision to stay in the race for the 2020 Democratic nomination for president.
Sanders continues to face questions about why he's choosen to keep going, particularly with President Donald Trump's approval rating ticking up slightly in recent weeks. He pushed back when co-host Whoopi Goldberg asked about his narrowing path to victory.
"Last I heard, people in a Democracy have a right to vote and have a right to vote for the agenda that they think can work for America," he said, adding, "In this unprecedented moment in American history, I think we need to have a very serious discussion about how we go forward."
The senator said he continues to assess his campaign, crediting the former candidates who dropped out crediting for his poor performance on Super Tuesday. Especially as his former opponents threw their support behind former vice president and current Democratic front-runner Joe Biden.
"I think the main reason is that several of my opponents kind of dropped out right before Super Tuesday," he said.
Bernie Sanders on staying in the race: “Last I heard, people in a democracy have a right to vote and have a right to vote for the agenda that they think can work for America, especially in this very, very difficult moment. We are assessing our campaign.” https://t.co/XqBZIxsIGR pic.twitter.com/WPNsidZQ7f
— ABC News (@ABC) April 1, 2020
The Vermont senator is currently down over 300 pledged delegates to Biden, and the narrow path to a spot on November's ballot now appears even steeper than the one in front of him at this point in 2016.
The interview with Sanders comes as much of his campaign has shifted focus to COVID-19 response.
Even as accusations have sprung up recently that the Vermont senator is politicizing the COVID-19 pandemic as a means to further his platform -- he continued to highlight his Medicare for All plan on The View, saying amid the crisis, people "should not have to worry about" their health care.
"In coming together, we got to do a couple of things. And one thing is, especially in this crisis, people should not have to worry about the cost of healthcare, they should not have to worry about whether they can afford prescription drugs, or not." Sanders told the hosts. "They should not have to worry about them the pharmaceutical industry is going to make billions of dollars by creating a vaccine that will be unaffordable for ordinary people."
Sen. @BernieSanders responds to critics of his push for Medicare-for all amid coronavirus pandemic.
— The View (@TheView) April 1, 2020
“Should we put politics aside and all come together? Of course we should,” he says, adding “in coming together,” we have to “guarantee health care to all.” https://t.co/3KIuxmVGhR pic.twitter.com/HHkFNNiOTh
Co-host Sarah Haines said people are scared amid the coronavirus pandemic, and she said a lot of that is due to misinformation, including what's coming from the daily White House press briefings. She asked Sanders about the number one issue at the top of his mind. He turned to Trump.
"Trump from the very beginning downplayed the threat of this virus. The idea that today we have doctors and nurses in this country that do not have masks that cost 50 cents or a dollar apiece is unbelievable," he said. "Not enough ventilators, gloves, gowns. That speaks to this health care system, but right now we have to listen to the scientists."
He also continued to criticize the coronavirus response package signed by Trump just last week.
"We have the absurd situation that the recent stimulus bill compensate you for the cost of the testing that they may need for the current environment," said Sanders. "It does not come with a treatment."
He later added, "[Trump's] inaction has cost the lives of many many Americans."
Sanders also revealed that at least two people involved with his campaign had been infected with COVID-19.
" It's very difficult to me, but it's difficult to everybody in the country and most of the people around," Sanders told the hosts. "I'll give you an example. I just heard literally two minutes ago that someone who was working on my campaign was terribly ill, on the ventilator. Good news is she's out right now and she's healthy. On the other hand, somebody else on the campaign passed away a couple of days ago."
He added, "I think we all have to take a deep breath and appreciate we are living in an unprecedented moment in American history."
His campaign, continuing to focus on fighting the impacts of the coronavirus, has mobilized its sophisticated volunteer network to call their senators to lobby for Sanders’ coronavirus-response plan, to update voters about changes to elections because of COVID-19 and to check on the well-being of fellow supporters.
Emails from the Sanders campaign to supporters have been missing their typical appeal for donations to his campaign. Instead, the emails have called for recipients to read his coronavirus response plan or asked for help providing relief to workers impacted by the pandemic-related shutdowns and closures.
The campaign released a statement last week saying it raised more than $2 million for COVID-19 relief efforts and pushed again in a solicitation Tuesday for assistance for restaurant workers, artists, tenants struggling to make rent and others affected by the outbreak.
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Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks(WASHINGTON) -- As the White House coronavirus task force continues to debate whether to officially revise the Center for Disease Control guidelines on wearing masks, President Donald Trump now has informally endorsed the idea -- backing Americans wearing face coverings when going out in public.
"It's not a bad idea, at least for a period of time" to cover your face when going out in public," Trump said at his White House briefing Tuesday evening, suggesting Americans wear a scarf as an alternative.
"You can use a scarf, a lot of people have scarves and you can use a scarf. A scarf would be very good. My feeling is if people want to do it there's certainly no harm to it. I would say do it. Use a scarf if you want rather than going out and getting a mask," he said.
There is apparent confusion about whether Americans should be wearing masks as a general prophylactic measure. Right now, the message from places like the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is that you need one only if you are sick or caring for the sick.
As the situation and understanding of the virus has evolved, the task force has seen cases of unknown origin and studied the community spread where there is no known nexus to travel. They've also seen recent studies that the virus seems to be able stay alive in aerosolized form -- linger in the air -- in limited scenarios.
The debate over how to formally advise Americans of any change is fluid, but sources tell ABC News there is a general agreement inside the task force that face coverings should be recommended.
Any guidance is likely to recommend avoiding the use of those N95 medical masks that hospitals across the country so desperately need. The CDC has been having informal conversations about the issue over the past week, and one idea floated was recommending the use of masks inside nursing homes, according to sources.
The presidents comments -- and those from health experts in recent days -- illustrate a change in tune from officials who had previously advised against wearings masks out in public.
"CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory illness, including COVID-19. You should only wear a mask if a healthcare professional recommends it. A facemask should be used by people who have COVID-19 and are showing symptoms," the current guidelines on masks say.
Dr. Anthony Fauci said on the CBS program 60 Minutes on March 8 that "there's no reason to be walking around with a mask" adding that the risk could actually be higher because people touch their faces more. And Surgeon General Jerome Adams and Vice President Pence have said the same. "The average American does not need to go out and buy a mask," Pence said Feb. 29.
Officials have also expressed concerned that recommending wearing masks could take away resources from hospital workers and have stayed consistent about the need to conserve resources for those workers, which was clearly part of the impetus for telling people not to buy masks.
"The thing that has inhibited that a bit is to make sure we -- that we don't take away the supply of masks from the health care workers who need them. But when we get in a situation where we have enough masks, I believe there will be some very serious consideration about more broadening this recommendation of using masks," Fauci said on CNN Tuesday.
"We're not there yet, but I think we're close to coming to some determination. Because if, in fact, a person who may or may not be infected wants to prevent infecting someone else, one of the best ways to do that is with a mask.
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.
ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- From his home in Burlington, Vermont early Tuesday morning, in a remote interview with a comedian stationed 250 miles away, Sen. Bernie Sanders made an unusual concession.
"There is a path," Sanders, I-Vt., told Seth Meyers, when asked in an appearance on Late Night about his chances to win the Democratic presidential nomination, before continuing.
"It is admittedly a narrow path," Sanders said.
Sanders’ presidential bid exists, as with much of society's normal activities, in a state of coronavirus-induced holding pattern. With both the senator and former Vice President Joe Biden each suspending campaign activities, from rallies with tens of thousands of attendees down to door-to-door canvassing, and several states postponing primaries for several weeks, the opportunity for the former to claw his way back into the race, or the latter to land a final knockout punch are stuck in suspended animation.
Down over 300 pledged delegates to Biden and with that "narrow path" to a spot on November's ballot appearing even steeper than the one in front of him at this point in 2016, Sanders continues to face questions about why he is choosing to remain in the race -- particularly with President Donald Trump's approval rating ticking up slightly in recent weeks, leading many Democrats to believe that it is more important than ever for the party to unite.
"Campaigns are an important way to maintain that fight and raise public consciousness on those issues, so that's, I think, one of the arguments for going forward," Sanders said on Late Night as part of his same answer about continuing to campaign.
It's a position that several of his staff and supporters have used to counter the unity argument, contending that his progressive platform, including his signature Medicare for All proposal, contains the solutions needed to solve many of the problems highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Limited by the inability to hold rallies and with his staff stuck working at home, Sanders is instead utilizing his campaign infrastructure to promote his proposed response to the coronavirus pandemic rather than any path toward the Democratic nomination, drawing both millions of eyeballs and potential advocates for his ideas, but also criticism over his participation and engagement in the negotiations on Capitol Hill.
The campaign has mobilized its sophisticated volunteer network to call their senators to lobby for Sanders’ coronavirus-response plan, to update voters about changes to elections because of COVID-19 and to check on the well-being of fellow supporters.
Emails from Sanders' campaign to supporters have been missing their typical appeal for donations to his campaign. Instead, the emails have called for recipients to read Sanders’ coronavirus response plan or have asked for help providing relief to workers impacted by COVID-19 related shutdowns and closures. The campaign released a statement last week saying it raised more than $2 million for COVID-19 relief efforts and pushed again in a solicitation Tuesday for assistance for restaurant workers, artists, tenants struggling to make rent and others affected by the pandemic.
One senior Sanders campaign official argued that its base of working-class supporters will be disproportionately affected by the economic fallout from COVID-19.
“It’s really showing that the senator and his campaign is in tune with what is happening immediately and the campaign right now is secondary to that,” said the aide.
Such efforts amid the health crisis are providing a test case for Sanders' public-driven theory of governance.
Throughout his presidential campaign, the senator pledged to be an "organizer-in-chief," and pursue his ambitious agenda by rallying the public to apply pressure on opposition leadership rather than finding compromise through drawn-out negotiations.
"When people begin to stand up and fight for policies that represent working families, no politician is going to stand in the way," Sanders explained to an audience in Anamosa, Iowa in January, adding, "It's not just sitting down and arguing with Mitch McConnell, it is getting people to stand up and fight back."
Today, that position appears to be manifesting itself through live-streamed events attracting a viewership in the millions the past few weeks. Though run by his campaign, the senator has entirely avoided mention of presidential politics in favor of pitching relief proposals with help from assorted guests and supporters, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and international president of the Association of Flight Attendants Sara Nelson -- a platform that could potentially dwindle should his bid for the White House come to an official end.
But Sanders also faced backlash after missing a procedural vote for a coronavirus package, remaining at home in Burlington, Vermont to host a campaign-sponsored livestream focused on COVID-19 rather than return to the Capitol. A spokesperson for his Senate office later said Sanders was engaged in negotiations remotely and that they felt certain the cloture vote would fail whether or not he was present.
“If that was more than a procedural vote, Sen. Sanders would have been there,” said a campaign official familiar with the senator's thinking. “But again, he’s handling the main thing and it's no surprise that they would go reach up to criticize him.”
That criticism, coupled with questions about the impact his continued existence in the primary race may have on Democrats' chances against Trump in November, still hangs over Sanders, even as his campaign is stuck on the backburner. The vast majority of Sanders' campaign staff contacted by ABC News agree with the senator that it's important he continue his run.
“Everything is so uncertain right now you’ve got coronavirus, you’ve got all of these primaries delayed, and states trying to figure out how they're going to help everybody to vote," one told ABC News.
Other allies point to the uncertainty that has existed throughout the campaign over the course of the past year as a reason to potentially stick it out.
Charles Chamberlain, chairman of progressive political action committee Democracy for America, told ABC News that the response of the Democratic party establishment to Biden's win in South Carolina, the subsequent coalescence of the field behind Biden, and the media coverage that came with it stalled Sanders' momentum toward the nomination, but argued it is capable of shifting again.
"I think you can say that the Sanders campaign was maybe a little flat footed by the Democratic elite response to the victory in South Carolina, but I would definitely say that, you know, he's run a very strong campaign," said Chamberlain, "But like we've seen a couple times in the campaign already, momentum can shift overnight sometimes and that's what happened with South Carolina, and that's what I think when we're looking at the race we have right now."
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Oleksii Liskonih/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. and Chinese governments have increasingly turned the novel coronavirus pandemic into a contest over their primacy as the world's leading humanitarian force, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo highlighting U.S. contributions to global aid agencies Tuesday and pushing back on Chinese propaganda about its overseas assistance.
But as the pandemic spreads to the developing world and kills more people in nearly every region, experts say a lack of global coordination has cost the world time, money, and lives, with some saying U.S. leadership has been missing.
"This pandemic can only be won when countries and means and resources are put and pooled together to contain and to fight the spread of the virus," Robert Mardini, director-general designate of the International Committee of the Red Cross, told ABC News. "This is the only way forward."
Pompeo has consistently taken China to task as Chinese officials have spread false information about the U.S. being the source of the novel coronavirus, with a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson even pushing the conspiracy theory that the U.S. military brought it to Wuhan -- the Chinese city of 11 million where cases first exploded.
But that diplomatic spat seemed to recede in the last week. President Donald Trump largely stopped using the phrase "Chinese virus," saying he didn't "need" to anymore, and during a briefing at the State Department Tuesday, Pompeo didn't use the phrase "Wuhan virus" either, which a State Department official had told ABC News he used to push back on Chinese disinformation.
That's because Chinese propaganda organs had stopped pushing that conspiracy theory, according to Lea Gabrielle, head of the State Department's Global Engagement Center, which monitors and combats state-run and terrorist recruitment propaganda. After receiving a negative response in Latin America and Africa, according to Gabrielle, China's state-run media outlets, amplified by their overseas ambassadors, have shifted to focus on propaganda praising the Communist Party's response and criticizing the U.S. for stigmatizing China.
Pompeo seemed to take aim at that Tuesday, telling reporters, "The United States was one of the first nations to step forward and offer help. ... We've long maintained an unsurpassed commitment to global health and humanitarian assistance."
The State Department followed up by issuing a fact sheet Tuesday, showing how U.S. contributions to global agencies far surpass China's -- $400 million to the World Health Organization, compared to China's $44 million; $700 million to UNICEF, compared to China's $16 million; and $1.7 billion to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), compared to $1.9 million from China.
Senior U.S. officials have also accused the Chinese government of attaching "strings" to their assistance.
"The Chinese Communist Party has a special responsibility to provide no-strings-attached assistance around the world and take responsibility for what everyone realizes is the result of the cover-up that happened in Wuhan," James Richardson, director of the State Department's office of foreign assistance resources, said Thursday, although he did not provide evidence of China attaching any conditions to its aid.
Instead, some countries have welcomed Chinese assistance and praised Beijing for providing much-needed medical supplies or sharing data and know-how. Ethiopia's health minister thanked Chinese officials for "sharing valuable experience" and helping "improve the capacity of Africa in containing COVID-19," while the African Union's commissioner of social affairs praised Chinese "cooperation ... to fight COVID-19 in the continent," including the supply of more than 10,000 lab testing kits.
But other countries have pushed back on Beijing, reporting that Chinese-provided tests or other medical supplies have been defective. The Dutch Health Ministry said over the weekend that 600,000 medical masks from China would not be used and some would be recalled after distribution because they did not fit or work properly. In Spain, health authorities said tens of thousands of tests, out of hundreds of thousands from China, were defective, with Turkey and the Czech Republic reporting similar issues.
The European Union's top diplomat, Josep Borrell, warned that the U.S. and China are competing in "a struggle for influence through spinning and the 'politics of generosity.'"
"China is aggressively pushing the message that, unlike the U.S., it is a responsible and reliable partner. In the battle of narratives, we have also seen attempts to discredit the EU as such, and some instances where Europeans have been stigmatized as if all were carriers of the virus," Borrell said, an apparent reference to Trump's restriction on travel from Europe that he initially cast as a Europe-wide ban and that was issued without European consultation, a senior European diplomat told ABC News at the time.
Pompeo's statement also seemed intended to quell a domestic audience. With testing insufficient to broadly trace and isolate cases in the U.S., and shortages of equipment like face masks and ventilators putting the lives of medical professionals and patients at risk, there has been anger over U.S. assistance to other countries.
In particular, the State Department helped send 17.8 tons of personal protective equipment, or PPE, and other medical supplies from U.S. charities, including Samaritan's Purse and the Mormon Church, to Wuhan in early February. Pompeo tweeted video of their arrival in China, saying they "can help save lives in #China and help protect people from the #coronavirus."
"Trump, you incompetent idiot! You sent 18 tons of PPE to China early but ignored warnings & called COVID19 concerns a hoax. You've endangered doctors, nurses, aids, orderlies, & janitors - all risking their lives to save ours," tweeted Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., chair of the House Financial Services Committee -- although those supplies didn’t come from the nation’s stockpiles.
The U.S. has offered $274 million to assist 64 different countries and UNHCR in combatting the pandemic, and Pompeo said Tuesday those funds are key to keeping the American people safe as well.
"In America, we provide aid because we're a generous and noble people. We also do it because we know from prior experiences that [if] we don't have good data, full transparency, and all-out effort to fight pandemics, that can harm Americans back home, too," he said.
But experts have called for a global effort to combat the pandemic, arguing that individual countries alone, battling over medical resources or finger-pointing about the virus' origins, will not solve this crisis. The U.S., however, has made no public effort to bring together like-minded countries, and foreign ministers from the G7 alliance of democracies failed to issue a joint statement on the pandemic after Pompeo insisted the group call it the "Wuhan virus."
"Unfortunately, even as COVID-19 accelerates inside our country, the Trump administration seems to view diplomacy as a bludgeon to score points against adversaries and alienate friends rather than an essential tool for helping to protect Americans," tweeted Brett McGurk, a senior diplomat under George W. Bush and Barack Obama who served as special envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS until he resigned over Trump's ordered withdrawal from Syria.
The presidents of Germany, Singapore, Ethiopia, and Ecuador, and the king of Jordan authored a joint op-ed in the Financial Times on Tuesday, calling for a new global alliance to convene the "medical, economic, and political elements required to produce a vaccine for all who need it" and ensure that testing kits are produced quickly and distributed widely and fairly.
"This is a global crisis. Delay in action means death. We all face the same enemy and we stand to gain by bringing the full force of humanity together to fight it," the five leaders wrote. "Before this virus, we are all equal and must work together to beat it."
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.
Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks(WASHINGTON) -- The federal government has been rolling out its response to the novel coronavirus crisis, trying to slow the spread and prop up the economy, amid a volatile stock market and record unemployment numbers.
After the nation’s top health officials warned the death toll from COVID-19 could reach 200,000, even with mitigation efforts, President Donald Trump has abruptly changed his messaging and extended the White House coronavirus guidelines through the month of April.
While last week he stressed a need for Americans to get back to work and said he envisioned "packed churches" on Easter, the president now says the COVID-19 death toll will peak around the holiday and signaled normalcy may not return until June 1 or later.
Trump said he would expand on his overall strategy moving forward and the White House reportedly will reveal which death-estimate models are driving his decision-making on Tuesday.
Tune into ABC at 1 p.m. ET and ABC News Live at 4 p.m. ET every weekday for special coverage of the novel coronavirus with the full ABC News team, including the latest news, context and analysis.
Here are the latest developments in the government response:
Trump says White House guidelines a ‘matter of life and death’
In an abrupt shift from his messaging last week that downplayed the impact of the novel coronavirus and urged Americans to return to work, President Donald Trump opened his daily briefing Tuesday saying the extension of the White House social distancing guidelines through April represents “a matter of life and death.”
“In a few moments, Dr. Birx will explain the data that form the basis for our decision to extend the guidelines and Dr. Fauci will explain why it's absolutely critical for the American people to follow the guidelines for the next 30 days,” the president said. “It's a matter of life and death, frankly.”
Trump said the federal government is distributing 10,000 ventilators, key life saving devices in the fight against coronavirus that many states have said they need. The president acknowledged that the "surge is coming."
"We have almost 10,000 ventilators that we have ready to go. We have to hold them back because the surge is coming and it's coming pretty strong," Trump said. Ventilators are going to Michigan, Louisiana, New York and New Jersey, Trump said.
Patients who are hardest hit by coronavirus end up in Intensive Care Units on ventilators to allow them to breathe, and states that are hardest hit have warned that if they don't have enough, they risk facing a situation where they have to choose who lives and who dies.
Trump predicted as things get better, “it's going to be like a burst of light.”
“Hopefully as the experts are predicting, a lot of us are predicting having studied it so hard, going to start seeing some real light at the end of the tunnel, but this is going to be a very painful two weeks,” Trump said, appearing to refer to the peak of the death toll, which some models have signaled will hit mid-April.
Trump grew quiet and solemn as he described watching doctors and nurses heading into work at a hospital in Queens that has been one of the hardest hit by the coronavirus crisis. The president said he grew up near Elmhurst Hospital.
It was the most emotion Trump has shown during the daily briefings given at the White House and marked a clear change in tone.
"I watched as doctors and nurses went into a certain hospital in Elmhurst this morning. I know Elmhurst -- Queens, that’s -- I grew up right next to it. I know the hospital very well. I've been seeing it all my life, my young life," the president said. He described seeing the "scenes" of truck trailers that are being used as freezers for bodies of patients who have died from coronavirus.
"And I watched the doctors and the nurses walking into that hospital this morning. It's like military people going into battle, going into war. The bravery is incredible. And I just have to take my hat -- I would take my hat -- if I were wearing a hat, I'd rip that hat off so fast and I would say 'you people are just incredible.' They really are. They’re very brave," the president said.
Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House's coronavirus response coordinator, utilizing a slideshow and flanked by visual models, then explained what drove the White House’s decision to extend the guidelines.
Introducing studies from the University and Washington and London Imperial College, Birx said, their models showed “what social distancing would do, what would happen if people stayed home, what would happen if people were careful every day to wash their hands and worry about touching their faces -- what an extraordinary thing this could be if every American followed these.”
Birx emphasized that without mitigation efforts, between 1.5 million and 2.2 million people in the U.S. would die. Even with social distancing, models show “100 to 200,000 deaths, which is still way too much,” Birx acknowledged.
“I know it's stressful to follow the guidelines, but it is more stressful and more difficult to the soldiers on the front line,” she added.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert and a key member of the coronavirus task force, urged Americans not to take their foot off the accelerator with regards to mitigation efforts like social distancing and staying home.
"This is tough. People are suffering, people are dying. It's inconvenient from a societal standpoint, from an economic standpoint, to go through this, but this is going to be the answer to our problems," Fauci said.
"The 15 days that we had of mitigation clearly have had in effect, although it's tough to quantitate it," Fauci said, urging people that it's more important than ever to keep it up rather than let their guard down. "The reason we feel so strongly about the necessity of the additional 30 days is that now is the time ... not to take your foot off the accelerator ... but to just press it down on the accelerator," Fauci said.
Fauci said they have seen "inklings" of fewer cases per day in New York but said Americans should brace themselves to continue to see deaths rise because of the timeline of the virus and know that mitigation efforts are still working.
"So what we are going to see, and that's why we have to brace ourselves, in the next several days to a week or so, we're going to continue to see things go up. We cannot be discouraged by that because the mitigation is actually working and will work," he said.
Asked if Americans should be prepared for 100,000 Americans to die from COVID-19, Fauci said point-blank, “The answer is yes.”
“As sobering a number as that is, we should be prepared for it,” Fauci continued. “Is it going to be that much? I hope not. And I think the more we push on the mitigation the less likelihood it would be that number -- but being realistic we need to prepare ourselves that that is a possibility that that is what we will see.”
Fauci says masks for everyone "under very active consideration"
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the top health expert on the coronavirus task force, says the recommendation of masks for all Americans is "under very active consideration."
Fauci told CNN Tuesday morning that the issue of facial coverings will be discussed at the task force meeting "today" but that the determination could only come "when we have enough" for health care workers.
"The idea of getting a much more broad community-wide use of masks outside of the health care setting is under very active discussion at the task force. The CDC group is looking at that very carefully," Fauci said. "The thing that has inhibited that a bit is to make sure we don't take away the supply of masks from the health care workers who need them."
"But when we get in a situation where we have enough masks, I believe there will be some very serious consideration about more broadening this recommendation of using masks. We're not there yet, but I think we're close to coming to some determination," Fauci added.
"If, in fact, a person who may or may not be infected wants to prevent infecting somebody else, one of the best ways to do that is with a mask, so perhaps that's the best way to go," Fauci said. "That's under very active consideration. We'll be discussing it today, this afternoon, at the task force meeting," he told CNN.
His comments follow reporting in the Washington Post that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is considering recommending general public wear face coverings for all Americans in public, after initially telling Americans they're only recommended for health care workers.
Hospitals across the country have sounded alarms in recent weeks that they lack the personal protective equipment like masks to treat COVID-19 patients.
Asked Monday about the potential for all Americans to start wearing masks, President Trump said it’s something he and the task force could discuss for the short-term.
"We haven't discussed it to that extent, but it's certainly something we could discuss," Trump said. "We’re not going to be wearing masks forever, but it could be for a short period of time after we get back into gear."
Fauci also said the data is starting to show "glimmers" that social distancing is taking an effect.
"If you look now, we are starting to see glimmers that that is actually having some dampening effect," he said of mitigation efforts. "We hope, and I believe it will happen, that we may start seeing a turnaround, but we haven't seen it yet."
Army Corps of Engineers tackling shortages of medical sites, supplies and potentially staff
U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, the commanding general of the Army Corps of Engineers spearheading an effort to build makeshift hospitals in response to the coronavirus crisis, said the scope of the initiative is "immense."
"We're looking right now at around 341 different facilities across all of the United States, very similar to the Javits Center," Semonite told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos Tuesday on Good Morning America.
"We've got eight contracts under gear right now, people in centers constructing facilities, probably about 8,500 beds," Semonite said. "By the end of the day, we should have another five contracts awarded with somewhere around another 4,000 beds."
Semonite said they're looking at hotels and dormitories as well as large, open spaces like convention centers, as potential sites. Some will house COVID-19 patients and some that will treat all other patients.
"Our thought was to make it extremely simple," he added. "Find an existing facility that already has all the codes, has heat, has water, has I.T., has parking lots, and then just put in whatever we can like a hospital inside of that."
The Army Corps of Engineers is working in lockstep with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as local governments, Semonite said.
Pelosi previews 4th COVID-19 package
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi signaled on Monday that the priorities for the next COVID-19 stimulus package should include more protections for front line health care workers, with an added infrastructure element to boost the nation’s water systems and broadband capabilities.
Pelosi, who last week instructed her committees to begin coming up with proposals for the next relief bill, said that it is likely the next bill won’t get a vote until mid to late April, as the House is not scheduled to return until at least April 20th.
"I would not suspect that we would have any bipartisan legislation before we return after Easter and Passover. But we’re getting ready -- and in some cases we are ready," Pelosi said.
During the call with reporters, Pelosi said she wants to see an increase in aid for states, bolster front line health care worker safety protections, include another round of direct cash payments
Pelosi also ruled out the possibility of lawmakers moving towards remote voting amid the pandemic.
"There is no way we can engage in remote voting," Pelosi said. "Let’s not waste time on something that is not going to happen."
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iStock/AndreyPopov(BOSTON) -- As more Americans rely on videoconferencing for work and to keep connected to love ones amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is warning of potential hijacks of videoconferencing applications.
Overnight, the FBI highlighted two incidents in Massachusetts related to the popular videoconferencing app Zoom.
"In late March 2020, a Massachusetts-based high school reported that while a teacher was conducting an online class using the teleconferencing software Zoom, an unidentified individual(s) dialed into the classroom. This individual yelled a profanity and then shouted the teacher’s home address in the middle of instruction," a release from the Boston FBI Field Office said. "A second Massachusetts-based school reported a Zoom meeting being accessed by an unidentified individual."
The statement continued, "In this incident, the individual was visible on the video camera and displayed swastika tattoos."
Brad Garrett, a former FBI agent, said Zoom has been a rich target for cyber criminals and malicious actors.
"Cyber criminals are targeting video conferencing sites like Zoom, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic," Garrett, now an ABC News contributor, said. "Typically they create domains that impersonate Zoom, with the goal of stealing personal information."
He noted that because about 60% of Fortune 500 companies use apps like Zoom, cyber criminals see an opportunity to potentially steal corporate proprietary information and sensitive information about employees.
"As more schools and businesses work remotely, this creates an ideal environment for cyber thieves," Garrett said.
Advocacy groups have been calling for Zoom to take action against what they allege is trolling of African American users on the platform.
Dennis Johnson, a doctoral student at California State University, Long Beach, was presenting his dissertation via Zoom last week as per the school's COVID-19 contingency plans. In the middle of his dissertation he said a hijacker gained control of his presentation and interrupted it by posting pornographic images and typing a racial slur on screen.
"Honestly, I was just lost -- I reached out to Zoom and they tell me these are 'party crashers.' These are not party crashers, there are racist, sexist attacks on people of color," Johnson alleges.
"This week, one of our members, Dr. Dennis Johnson was defending his dissertation via the Zoom platform when a racist troll hijacked his presentation -- drawing crude images ... on the screen," Brandi Collins-Dexter, Senior Campaign Director Color Of Change wrote in a letter to executives at Zoom.
The FBI offered some tips to people who are working from home – especially using apps like Zoom. They said to make sure everyone’s software is updated, not to make meetings or classrooms public and to provide the link directly to people.
In a statement, Zoom told ABC News that they urge people to report incidents on their website and they will take appropriate action.
"We take the security of Zoom meetings seriously and we are deeply upset to hear about the incidents involving this type of attack. For those hosting large, public group meetings, we strongly encourage hosts to review their settings and confirm that only the host can share their screen," a Zoom spokesperson said in a statement.
"For those hosting private meetings, password protections are on by default and we recommend that users keep those protections on to prevent uninvited users from joining," the statement said.
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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- In an unusually blunt memo, the captain of the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier has warned top Navy leaders that most of his ship's crew of 5,000 needs to be quarantined ashore in Guam -- because he's concerned that keeping them on the ship would continue the spread of the novel coronavirus.
A week after an initial three sailors were identified as being infected with the virus, a U.S. official told ABC News that the number of infected sailors has risen to at least 70.
The aircraft carrier is currently in Guam, where it docked on a timely port visit that allowed it to quarantine the growing number of infected sailors and enable the testing of the ship's crew.
Under Navy orders, the majority of the ship's crew has remained aboard the ship while pierside. Some have been moved to shore, though not in the individual housing advised under guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In a copy of the memo, sent to top Navy leaders on March 30 and obtained by ABC News, Captain Brett Crozier, the ship's commanding officer (CO), argued that testing was not enough and that more needed to be done to keep the virus from spreading quickly to the rest of the ship's crew. The contents of the memo were first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle.
Crozier continued, adding that "due to a warship's inherent limitations of space," it isn't possible to comply with the CDC's recommendations for social distancing.
"With the exceptions of a handful of senior officer staterooms, none of the berthing onboard a warship is appropriate for quarantine or isolation," Crozier wrote. "Thousands of ‘close contact’ Sailors require quarantine in accordance with guidance."
"The only effective method to preserve an individual’s health is total isolation for 14 days in accordance with the NAVADMIN Individual hotel/barracks rooms with separate heads," he wrote.
Crozier added that "decisive action is required" because the "the spread of the disease is ongoing and accelerating" and will continue because he can’t meet the CDC’s social distancing guidelines and separation for up to two weeks.
In order to meet the guidelines, Crozier urged that his sailors needed to be placed in individual quarantine facilities on Guam, each with its own bathroom. While he acknowledged that it "may seem like an extraordinary measure" to remove the majority of a deployed U.S. aircraft carrier's personnel, he said it was "necessary."
Crozier said that 10% of the ship's crew could remain aboard to run its nuclear reactor, maintain security and sanitize the ship.
"This is a necessary risk," Crozier said. "Keeping over 4,000 young men and women on board the [Roosevelt] is an unnecessary risk and breaks faith with those Sailors entrusted to our care."
A Navy official said the leadership is "moving quickly" to take necessary action to ensure the ship crew's health and safety, and "pursuing options" to address the captain's concerns.
In a broadcast interview on Tuesday, acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said he was aware of Crozier’s letter, but that there have been developments that have occurred since his letter was first reported publicly.
"We’ve been working actually the last several days to move those sailors off the ship and to get them into accommodations in Guam," he said.
Modly said the problem is that Guam doesn't have enough beds and they are talking with the government about potential hotel space or "create some tent-type facilities there."
"We don't disagree with the CO on that ship, and we're doing it in a very methodical way, because it's not the same as a cruise ship," Modly said.
Crozier said his ship is still capable of going into wartime operations if needed, but he bluntly made his point, writing "We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset our Sailors."
"There are challenges associated with securing individualized lodging for our crew," he continued. "This will require a political solution, but it is the right thing to do."
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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump and his coronavirus task force geared up on Tuesday to explain the sobering data that drove the decision to extend federal recommendations to blunt the spread of coronavirus until the end of April.
His health health experts advised him 100,000 to 200,000 people could die even if the restrictions remained in place.
At the same time, they said, models predicted that heavy death toll would still be significantly lower than the 2.2 million estimated without mitigation efforts.
Trump on Tuesday also alluded to possibly providing some changes to the federal guidelines aimed at slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus, which he initially implemented for a 15-day period set to run out early this week.
The president said Monday said the recommendations would remain “very much as they are” but that they “may be even toughened up a little bit.” Across the country, governors and local officials have enacted their own social distancing rules, often mandatory and enforceable, unlike the federal ones.
Trump said Sunday that, on Tuesday, he would explain the extension by sharing "all of the findings, all of the data, and the reasons we're doing things the way we're doing them."
The White House has declined to elaborate on how the guidelines could be toughened as the president teased. Trump was expected to address reporters at a scheduled briefing by his coronavirus task force scheduled for 5 p.m.
Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House's coronavirus response coordinator, told reporters Monday that the White House conducted its own modeling -- and consulted a dozen other models -- to make its decision.
The White House "ended up at the same numbers" as did the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, Birx said. Assuming social distancing policies stay in place, that model predicts a nationwide peak on April 15, with a projected 84,000 deaths from the pandemic's first wave.
She said that some models predicted that, without any mitigation, up to half of the United States population would become infected and up to 2.2 million would die.
"There'll be a comprehensive piece presented on Tuesday that really talks about not only diagnosing individuals, but also increasing our surveillance now that we have more test kits so that we can really stop and contain new infections," Birx said.
The update on the federal guidance comes as President Trump has publicly expressed openness to broadening out the federal government’s recommendations on the use of face masks and coverings by the general public.
“I could see something like that happening for a period of time. But I would hope it would be a very limited period of time,” Trump said Monday when about the idea that everyone should wear a mask in public but suggested the idea had not been discussed at length.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s foremost expert on infectious diseases and a member of the president's task force, confirmed Tuesday that the administration was actively discussing a recommendation for wide use of face masks or coverings.
“The idea of getting a much more broad, community-wide use of masks outside of the health care setting is under very active discussion at the task force,” Fauci said in an interview with CNN.
He then qualified: “We’re not there yet, but I think we're close to coming to some determination.”
Both the World Health Organization and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have repeatedly said only health care workers and infected people should wear face masks.
The administration has previously moved to actively discourage members of the general public from purchasing certain high-grade masks, such as N-95 respirators, in order to keep the limited supplies available for health care workers in desperate need of protective gear that has been running in short supply.
"Seriously people - STOP BUYING MASKS!" the U.S. surgeon general, Jerome Adams, tweeted late last month. "They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!"
Fauci on Tuesday acknowledged that making sure the mask supply chains remain secure to meet the demands of healthcare workers is a top priority as the administration weigh expanding guidance on face coverings for general use.
“When we get in a situation where we have enough masks, I believe there will be some very serious consideration about more broadening this recommendation of using masks,” Fauci said.
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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- A new audit into the FBI's surveillance warrant application process has uncovered a series of errors made by agents seeking wiretaps on subjects of national security investigations, a Justice Department watchdog revealed Tuesday.
DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz said the results of audit, which grew from last year's scathing report that scrutinized the surveillance of former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, showed that of the 29 randomly selected Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) applications, 25 included files with "apparent errors or inadequately supported facts."
In the other four cases, the FBI field offices told investigators they either couldn't locate them or "did not know if they ever existed."
Horowitz said his office did not examine, however, whether the identified errors would have had any material effect on the warrants overall.
The audit suggests that issues with how agents have handled the surveillance warrants in recent years, in particular the factual accuracy reviews of the statements they include in court applications, go beyond the errors and omissions identified by Horowitz last year in his investigation of the Carter Page warrants.
While Horowitz found that DOJ has an authorized purpose for investigating whether there was a crime, in January, the Justice Department concluded that two of the surveillance orders targeting Page were not valid because they included "material misstatements" by agents that were seeking them.
The results of the new audit, according to Horowitz's office, indicate that oversight functions -- also known as "Woods Procedures" -- built into the FISA process in 2001 after problems were discovered in several applications for counter-terror investigations, have not proved to be adequate in preventing errors in warrants.
"We do not have confidence that the FBI has executed its Woods Procedures in compliance with FBI policy, or that the process is working as it was intended to help achieve the 'scrupulously accurate' standard for FISA applications," Horowitz said Tuesday in a memo.
In a response to the report, Paul Abbate, FBI associate deputy director, said in a letter that the bureau "fully accepts" the recommendations from Horowitz's office for reforms to the factual accuracy review procedures, which he said further build upon the series of more than 40 reforms ordered by FBI Director Chris Wray after last year's IG report.
"As Director Wray has stressed, FISA is an indispensable tool to guard against national security threats," Abbate said. "But we must ensure that these authorities are carefully exercised and that FISA applications are scrupulously accurate."
Wray told ABC News in an exclusive interview following the release of last year's IG report that he viewed the errors by agents as "below the standard that I expect of our employees."
"In my view, every error and omission is significant and it's something we need to take seriously," he said.
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Andrei Stanescu/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The Trump administration will require car and truck companies to make modest improvements to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and fuel economy standards, finalizing a rollback of more ambitious requirements put in place by former President Barack Obama as part of policies intended to combat climate change.
The Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation finalized a replacement for the Obama-era rule on fuel economy on Tuesday, saying that reducing regulations on new cars will make them cheaper and more Americans will be able to buy new, safer vehicles to replace older ones.
The agencies said getting more new cars on the road would prevent an estimated 3,300 fatalities in traffic crashes and 397,000 fewer injuries if the rule prompts millions more Americans to buy new vehicles.
Critics argue that reducing requirements to reduce CO2 and other emissions will actually result in increased air pollution, potentially causing smog and respiratory illnesses.
States, like California, have challenged the change in court, saying they want the ability to set their own more stringent standards. The EPA ultimately withdrew California's waiver to set its own fuel economy standards, saying the state cannot set de facto national standards even if it disagrees with the federal government.
Obama compared the rule to climate denial in a tweet on Tuesday, calling on young people concerned about the policy to vote, saying "All of us, especially young people, have to demand better of our government at every level."
We've seen all too terribly the consequences of those who denied warnings of a pandemic. We can't afford any more consequences of climate denial. All of us, especially young people, have to demand better of our government at every level and vote this fall. https://t.co/K8Ucu7iVDK— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) March 31, 2020
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said President Donald Trump promised to reinvigorate the American auto manufacturing industry, praising the final rule as a "win, win, win." She added that she believes it will save lives and prevent injuries, lower the price of new vehicles and grow the economy.
"These standards are reasonable, realistic and achievable," she said on a call with reporters on Tuesday.
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler also said the rule represents a balance between the need to reduce air pollution and the economic and safety concerns around new vehicles.
"Now, more than ever, this country needs a sensible national program that strikes the right regulatory balance for the environment, the auto industry, economy, safety, and most importantly, American families," he said.
Officials said the rule was not changed in light of the current economic situation but that it looked at economic changes over a seven year period and they still believe it will help Americans buy new cars.
Under the original Corporate Average Fuel Economy rules put in place by the Obama administration in 2012, emissions standards would have required automakers to reach an equivalent to 54 miles per gallon (mpg) by 2025, or reduce emissions through other improvements.
The new rule will reduce that requirement on automakers -- instead, requiring cars and trucks to maintain the equivalent of 31 mpg by 2025. Because of the lower fuel economy, consumers buying new cars would end up paying more for gasoline and other operating costs, according to EPA and DOT’s analysis of the rule. But, the agencies still said it will drive down the cost of producing new cars and trucks.
The administration originally proposed freezing limits on CO2 emissions and fuel economy requirements at 2020 levels, but changed course to require a 1.5% increase each year through 2026, after considering the more than 3 million public comments. The Obama-era rule would have required a 5% increase each year through model year 2026.
James Owens, acting administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said the administration took in feedback from the public and industry and said the final rule "strikes the right balance between environmental considerations, health and safety considerations and economic considerations."
Gina McCarthy, president and CEO of the Natural Resources Defense Council and former EPA administrator under Obama, said they plan to file legal challenges to the rule.
“Gutting the clean car standards makes no sense," she said in a statement. "It will harm the air we breathe, stall progress in fighting the climate crisis and increase the cost of driving."
She noted that the clean cars program helped the Obama administration bounce back during the 2008 recession and "achieve record sales."
“I am hoping that automakers know better than to go along with this illegal, ill-conceived and dangerous rollback," she said, adding "They should join us in fighting back."
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