U.S. Coronavirus Blog: Trump's Vaccine Hopes; House Vote On Aid

Gus Saltonstall

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House Democrats are pressing forward Friday, attempting to push through the newest $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill, despite the White House threatening to veto the legislation if it is passed.

As the bill went before the House, President Donald Trump took a moment Friday to update the country on the latest efforts to a develop a vaccine for the virus. During a presentation at the White House Rose Garden, Trump said he's hopeful the country will have a coronavirus vaccine by year's end.

He also reiterated that he wants to see states move forward on reopening their economies.

"We are back, vaccine or no vaccine," Trump said.

A day earlier, members of the Trump administration were focused on the Democrats' proposed stimulus package, calling it "misguided" and adding the Democrats who drafted it were more interested in passing through "ideological wishlists" than they were with providing support to the public health challenges the country faces.

The message from the White House was sent out after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi criticized congressional Republicans seeking to slow down the process on the new relief bill.

"It's amazing to me how much patience and how much tolerance someone can have for the pain of others," Pelosi said at a news conference.

The bill cleared an early procedural hurdle Friday in a 207-199 vote, with 14 Democrats voting in opposition — an unusually high number of “no” votes but small enough to suggest that leadership had things under control.

The bill is sure to go nowhere in the GOP-led Senate, let alone reach Trump’s desk, where a promised veto awaited. Pelosi has said the legislation is the party's opening offer in what is expected to blossom into negotiations with White House and congressional leaders of both parties.

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appears at a news conference. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Whistleblower Issues Dire Warning If Virus Rebounds

Dr. Rick Bright, who was ousted as the director of a federal medical research agency, testified for nearly four hours Thursday in front of a House subcommittee.

"I believe by not telling America the truth or being totally transparent regardless of where the information was coming from, people were not prepared as they could have been," he told the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Bright was removed as the director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Agency in April. He claims he was moved to a lesser position after opposing a directive from the White House to allow widespread access to a malaria drug promoted by Trump as a treatment for COVID-19.

"Our window of opportunity is closing," Bright said. "If we fail to develop a national coordinated response, based in science, I fear the pandemic will get far worse and be prolonged, causing unprecedented illness and fatalities."

U.S. deaths from the new coronavirus reached more than 86,850 as of Friday afternoon, along with more than 1.4 million confirmed cases of the virus.

Nearly 3 million laid-off workers applied for U.S unemployment benefits last week. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

36M Have Sought U.S. Unemployment Aid Since Virus Hit

The U.S. Department of Labor reported Thursday that 36 million Americans are now jobless, an increase of nearly 3 million from the week prior and four times the record low that prevailed before the coronavirus hit hard in March.

Adding to the hardships, jobless workers in some states are still reporting difficulty applying for or receiving benefits. These include freelance, gig and self-employed workers, who became newly eligible for jobless aid this year.

It's likely the numbers fail to truly capture the number of Americans not working.

The government said many workers in April were counted as employed but absent from work, yet should have been counted as temporarily unemployed. Millions of other laid-off workers didn't look for a new job in April, likely discouraged by their prospects in a mostly shuttered economy, and weren't included either.

In short, if all those people had been counted as unemployed, the jobless rate would have reached nearly 24 percent.

U.S. health officials have released documents as part of some long-delayed specific guidance on helping states reopen. (AP Photo/Jon Elswick)

CDC Releases New Reopening Guidelines

U.S. health officials on Thursday released guidance that schools, businesses and other organizations can use as states reopen from coronavirus shutdowns.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted six one-page "decision tool" documents that use a collection of graphics to tell organizations what they should consider before deciding to reopen.

The CDC drafted the guidance more than a month ago, but Trump officials initially shelved it.

The graphic tools are for schools, workplaces, camps, child care centers, mass transit systems, and bars and restaurants.

Sen. Burr Steps Down As Intelligence Chair Amid Probe

Sen. Richard Burr, a Republican from North Carolina, stepped down as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday after the FBI served a warrant for his phone as part of an investigation tied to insider trading.

Burr is being investigated regarding a mysteriously timed sale of stocks right before the coronavirus crisis caused markets to plummet.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Burr stepping aside Thursday, saying both he and Burr agreed it was in the Senate's best interest.

The Justice Department declined to comment. Burr's attorney did not respond to phone and email messages from The Associated Press.

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This article originally appeared on the Across America Patch