Capitol Report: Trump announces new coronavirus measures to protect nursing homes

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President Donald Trump talks to journalists during a news conference at the White House on Wednesday.

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President Donald Trump announced actions to protect people in nursing homes during Wednesday’s coronavirus task force briefing.

The president said the government will require increased testing of the nursing personnel in states where the outbreaks are the worst, adding it will distribute 15,000 rapid point-of-care diagnostic devices to support this effort. Trump said more than 600 devices this week will be also shipped to additional facilities.

Trump said the government will look to identify and warn governors about nursing homes in high-risk areas. He added that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will distribute $5 million from the provider relief fund to all nursing homes, to be used toward things like the hiring of additional staff, increased testing, and providing technical support so residents can connect to their families.

“I want to send a message of support and hope to every senior citizen who has been dealing with the struggle of isolation in what should have been the golden years of your life,” he said. “We will get to the other end of that tunnel very quickly, we hope. The light is starting to shine.”

Trump also touted efforts to expedite a potential COVID-19 vaccine. Earlier in the day, the federal government ordered doses of Pfizer and BioNTech’s experimental COVID-19 vaccine, which will be provided upon approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

“We think we have a winner there,” Trump said.

Asked about the looming expiration of expanded unemployment benefits, the president said Republicans, Democrats and his representatives are discussing a plan.

“I think ultimately something good will come of it,” Trump said.

Once regular faces at these briefings, neither Dr. Deborah Birx nor Dr. Anthony Fauci were present. Trump said he spoke to Fauci prior, adding that Birx was in the next room. Asked why they were no longer at the briefings, Trump described himself as a kind of middle-man, passing information from his own briefings with the experts to the American public.

“They’re very much involved,” he said. “The relationships are all very good.”

Trump spoke for about 30 minutes this time around. It was his second appearance at a coronavirus task force briefing in two days. He also was asked about mask-wearing. Though he said it was ultimately up to governors, he did encourage their use, even briefly pulling out his own mask when he said you should bring a mask with you.

Trump’s return to these briefings comes as he trails in the polls to former Vice President Joe Biden. The presumptive Democratic Party nominee has picked up steam amid the pandemic, especially as other polls reflected disapproval with Trump’s handling of the pandemic.

Asked about Biden’s remark that Trump is America’s first “racist” president, Trump repeated his claim that he’s done more for Black Americans than any recent president, referring to Black employment prior to COVID-19, opportunity zones and criminal justice reform.

“I’ve done more for Black Americans than anybody, with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln,” Trump said.