Trump pushes economic relief amid coronavirus crisis: Stay calm and 'it will go away'

Surgeon General: "This is going to likely get worse before it gets better."

  • President Donald Trump says details still to come on "major" economic proposals being considered to address the novel coronavirus
  • Democratic congressional leaders have proposed their own sweeping stimulus package that includes paid sick leave and free coronavirus testing
  • After a lunch meeting with GOP leaders on Capitol Hill, Trump said on COVID-19: "Stay calm and it will go away”
  • Trump confirmed he has not been tested, said he's not showing any symptoms
  • ABC News counts over 5,000 COVID-19 tests have been administered across the country as of Tuesday afternoon
  • Trump goes to Capitol Hill to push economic relief but gives no details

    President Donald Trump headed to Capitol Hill Tuesday to push what he called a "very dramatic" economic relief plan to counter the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, and on Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, after experiencing the biggest-ever point drop on Monday, rose close to 800 points in trading near the opening Tuesday before settling down to about 300 points up later in the day -- and even in the red at one point --before closing up some 1100 points.

    Before leaving the White House, Trump held a photo op with health care company executives who told him they would waive all co-pays for coronavirus testing.

    In a brief appearance at a White House coronavirus briefing Monday evening, the president said reporters would be told more on Tuesday about what he called "very major" and "very substantial" proposals to deal with the novel coronavirus outbreak, which he has tried to downplay. U.S. cases jumped overnight to more than 750 infected across 36 states, leaving at least 26 Americans dead.

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    But after meeting behind closed doors with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republican leaders to discuss his economic relief proposals, including what he said Monday would be a possible payroll tax cut and loans for small businesses, he gave few details other than to say he had a "great feeling" about the impending economic stimulus plan, telling reporters "you'll be hearing about it soon."

    "Everybody has to be vigilant and be careful, but be calm. It's working out. A lot of good things will happen," Trump said. "The consumer has never been in a better position than they are right now."

    In the hour-long meeting, Trump first and foremost pitched a payroll tax cut, though a host of other ideas were discussed covering wide swaths of the economy from consumers to industry, according to numerous senators.

    “I think we are all aware that fear is spreading faster than the virus,” Louisiana Republican Sen. John Kennedy said.

    Most senators said there was no firm time frame discussed for stimulus measures, in particular the payroll tax cut -- though they want to move quickly and keep it in effect through the current fiscal year -- and there was a general question of how to pay for it all, if passed.

    “I don’t think any decision whatsoever has been made,” Kennedy added. “I think the secretary of the treasury is working closely with House Democrats, and then the administration will work with us.”

    ABC News Senior Congressional Correspondent Mary Bruce asked the president how long Americans should be prepared for the economy to suffer as a result of the coronavirus, and Trump encouraged patience.

    “It hit the world, and we're prepared. We're doing a great job with it, and it will go away," he said, striking a remarkably optimistic tone as the coronavirus neared pandemic proportions. "Stay calm and it will go away.”

    When asked why he wouldn't get tested after interacting with GOP Reps. Matt Gaetz and Doug Collins over the weekend, Trump said he isn't showing no symptoms and that his doctor hasn't prescribed it.

    "I don't think it's a big deal. I would do it. I don't feel any reason. I feel very good, but I guess -- it's not a big deal to get tested-- so it's something I would do," he said. "But again I spoke to the White House doctor, a terrific guy, a talented guy, and he sees no reason to do it. There's no symptoms."

    Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow were on hand to meet with GOP leaders.

    Trump insults Fed as 'pathetic' and 'slow moving'

    Trump hurled insults at the Federal Reserve and its chairman, Jay Powell, Tuesday morning, appearing to try to distance himself from stock market losses as the market grows close to ending its 11-year bull market.

    "Our pathetic, slow moving Federal Reserve, headed by Jay Powell, who raised rates too fast and lowered too late, should get our Fed Rate down to the levels of our competitor nations. They now have as much as a two point advantage, with even bigger currency help. Also, stimulate!" the president tweeted. "The Federal Reserve must be a leader, not a very late follower, which it has been!"

    Pelosi, Democrats cool to Trump's payroll tax cut idea, prefer paid sick leave

    The president's proposals come on the heels of Democrats suggesting their own sweeping stimulus plan they said focuses on everyday American workers.

    "We're always willing to discuss something that is evidence- and science-based, that addresses the needs of families first as we go forward, because that is what needs to be done," Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters Monday before the briefing.

    "This is very serious, and I don't know how seriously it was taken at first by the administration in terms of decisions that were made about tests and about turning down tests that were proven to be worthy. The list is a long one about not filling the positions that they vacated at the National Security Council that addressed this kind of a challenge in terms of epidemics and the rest," she continued. "So, again, we have to see what it is."

    Later Monday night, Pelosi also released a "Dear Colleague" letter, reading, "in light of reports that the Trump Administration is considering new tax cuts for major corporations impacted by the coronavirus, Leader Schumer and I released a statement calling on the Administration to prioritize the health and safety of American workers and their families over corporate interests."

    Her letter went on to list the sweeping measures including paid sick leave, free and widespread coronavirus testing, bolstering unemployment insurance and ensuring students out of school who receive free lunch continue to get food, among other initiatives.

    It also listed several officials coming to brief Democrats at their Tuesday morning caucus meeting, including the Sergeant at Arms, the Attending Physician and the Chief Administrative Officer, ”for an update on the continuity of operations protocols for the Capitol and to prepare our offices.”

    When asked on ABC's "Good Morning America" how the president might be feeling Monday morning ahead of a busy day, Senior White House Correspondent Cecilia Vega said: "I think it's safe to say the economic impacts of the coronavirus have President Trump this morning very agitated, very worried."

    "The Democrats are really hoping that the White House will focus on what they're calling individuals, essentially real people, working American families but here's the reality -- not even all Republicans are on board with the payroll tax," Vega said. "It's been floated before and have not been able to get widespread support, so a lot remains to be seen over whether they can pull it off."

    Former President Barack Obama pushed Congress to cut the payroll tax nine years ago to stimulate the economy -- but it's unlikely if Democrats will jump on board unless parts of their plan are included in the deal with the White House, she added.

    Surgeon General: Crisis will 'likely get worse before it gets better'

    Surgeon General Jerome Adams also appeared on "Good Morning America" Tuesday morning, to detail the state of the federal government's response. Adams said they have moved from containment to mitigation.

    "Initially we had a containment posture, and that's outward facing, that's saying we want to keep cases outside our community and that works when you know where the cases are coming from. Originally over 95% were coming from Japan. Now most of the cases are actually coming from Europe, South Korea and Iran and we're looking at mitigation," Adams said.

    "Mitigation means within your community: how do you lower the impact of the virus and prevent it from spreading within those communities and things like school closures and pulling down large social gatherings and telework policies. Those are all steps that folks should be thinking about in case they have an outbreak in their communities," he continued. "People should know that this is going to likely get worse before it gets better."

    Trump has touted his decision to close the U.S. border to China as the "best" and a "Godsend," but Adams confirms that most cases are now being spread within American communities, not from foreign travelers entering the U.S.

    When asked why the U.S. is so far behind in number of tests performed, compared to 10,000 tests in South Korea and 20,000 in the U.K, Adams said it's because the tests are more regulated in the U.S. He implied it's about quality over quantity and said that 4 million more tests will be ready by the end of the week.

    "When we looked at the test that was going on in other parts of the world, they weren't being held to the same quality standards that people in America expect and FDA regulations require," Adams said. "The American people don't really care about the total number of tests so much as they care about whether or not they can get a test. We have over a million tests that have gone out earlier this week. We expect 4 million by the end of the week and we want to get to a place where every American can rapidly get tested if their doctor says they should and can get the results back."

    Trump set to announce campaign rally amid advice against large gatherings

    The Surgeon General was also asked if big, campaign rallies are wise considering the threat of community spread. He didn't provide a yes or no answer but said to know your risk and know your circumstances.

    "If you are in one of those high risk groups, you should think carefully about the steps you can take to keep yourself safe. If you're one of these candidates out there, make sure you're washing your hands frequently and using hand sanitizer. Consider an elbow bump or chest tap. We don't want people to put themselves at any undue risk."

    When Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and member of the president's coronavirus task force, was asked the same question at Monday night's news briefing, he provided a similar answer to Adams', saying it's an "evolving thing."

    "I can't comment on campaign rallies. It really depends where we are having -- as we have all said -- this is something in motion. This is an evolving thing," he said. "If you are talking about a campaign rally tomorrow in a place where there is no community spread, I think the judgment to have it might be a good judgment. If you want to talk about large gatherings in a place where you have community spread, I think that is a judgment call and if someone decides they want to cancel it I wouldn't publicly criticize them."

    The president is expected to announce Tuesday a campaign rally scheduled for next week, while cities across the country are cancelling events such as Boston's St. Patrick's Day parade and Austin's SXSW Festival amid coronavirus concerns.

    White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham issued a statement Monday night confirming earlier ABC News reporting that the president has not been tested for the coronavirus.

    “The President has not received COVID-19 testing because he has neither had prolonged close contact with any known confirmed COVID-19 patients, nor does he have any symptoms. President Trump remains in excellent health, and his physician will continue to closely monitor him," the statement said. “Per current CDC guidelines, medical professionals should base testing decisions on patient symptoms and exposure history.”

    In another sign of the times, chairs for reporters in the Pentagon Briefing Room were placed roughly three feet Tuesday, instead of side-by-side as usual, in an apparent act of social distancing amid coronavirus concerns across the country.

    ABC News' Cecilia Vega, Trish Turner, Jordyn Phelps, Ben Gittleson and John Parkinson contributed to this report.