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Trump bats down criticism over coronavirus response

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(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, SAYING:

"We're in great shape, compared to other places, we are in really good shape. And we want to keep it that way."

U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday appeared upbeat and confident about his administration's response to the coronavirus epidemic sweeping the nation.

No so the stock market. The Dow Jones plunged for its worst day since 1987 a day after Trump delivered an Oval Office address announcing new travel restrictions on European countries in an effort to contain the illness.

The restrictions could cripple the travel industry, and they surprised and angered European leaders who said they were not consulted.

Trump brushed off criticism over the move.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, SAYING:

"Well it will be a big impact but it will be a bigger impact and it's also a human impact which is more important frankly that the financial."

The U.S. death toll from the virus, which causes the potentially deadly COVID-19 illness, continued to climb and cases continued to mount.

In his address Wednesday night, Trump read from a teleprompter a number of steps he was taking.

Shortly afterward, the White House had to issue a series of corrections to his announcement.

As the Administration struggled to respond, Democrats in Congress on Thursday introduced a bill to combat the virus.

It would grant workers 14 days of paid sick leave, up to three months of paid family and medical leave, unemployment insurance to furloughed workers, and an additional $500 million to help feed low-income pregnant women or mothers with young children who lose their jobs or are laid off because of the virus outbreak.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she was negotiating with Republican and with the White House, but urged them to move quickly.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. HOUSE SPEAKER, NANCY PELOSI, SAYING:

"The fact is, it's like the house is on fire. People are concerned about their - of course - their health and the health of their children."

But Republican lawmakers balked.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. SENATE MAJORITY LEADER, MITCH MCCONNELL, SAYING:

"But unfortunately, it appears at this hour that the speaker and House Democrats instead chose to produce an ideological wish list that was not tailored closely to the circumstances."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urged bipartisan efforts at passing what he called "smaller, non-controversial pieces of legislation today," but it was not clear what those would be.

A reporter asked Trump about the House bill.

REPORTER: Do you support the House bill? The House Democrat bill?

TRUMP: No, because there are things in there that have nothing to do with what we're talking about."

Trump said he favored eliminating a payroll tax, which could put more money into the hands of workers, as a means to boost the economy.

If the next steps are unclear, the response so far - and its shortcomings - are coming into clearer focus.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill assailed health officials for an inadequate supply of tests to measure the spread of the virus.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of infectious diseases at the national institutes of health, admitted that government fell short.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) ANTHONY FAUCI, HEAD OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES AT THE NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH, SAYING:

"The system does not, is not really geared to what we need right now, what you are asking for. That is a failing. Yeah, it is a failing, let's admit it."

Fauci appeared to directly refute this claim that Trump made last week:

(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, SAYING:

"Anybody, right now, and yesterday, anybody that needs a test gets a test."

(SOUNDBITE) (English) ANTHONY FAUCI, HEAD OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES AT THE NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH, SAYING:

"The idea of anybody getting it easily, the way people in other countries are doing it, we're not set up for that. Do I think we should be? Yes, but we're no."

And some Republicans, such as Utah Senator Mitt Romney, have echoed this criticism. (SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. REPUBLICAN SENATOR MITT ROMNEY, SAYING:

"...our testing process has been lacking. And of course, people are also frustrated they can't find masks, they can't find sanitary wipes for their countertops, they can't find alcohol in the stores for cleansing and for making sure that they don't get get sick so our system has just not been up to snuff. And I think a lot of people are frustrated by it. I'm one of them."

But Trump remained positive on the subject.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, SAYING:

"Frankly, the testing has been going very smooth."

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