US Coronavirus Updates: Trump to Increase Swab Production; South Dakota Cases Jump

The coronavirus death toll in New York dropped again, a sign that Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday means the state is “on the other side of the plateau” and that ongoing social distancing practices are working to stem the spread of the virus

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The Trump administration and Congress are nearing an agreement on an aid package of up to $450 billion to boost a small-business loan program that has run out of money and add funds for hospitals and COVID-19 testing.

President Donald Trump said Sunday, "We're getting close to a deal."

Along with the small business boost, Trump said the negotiators were looking at "helping our hospitals," particularly hard-hit rural health care providers.

A deal could be announced Monday, the president said at a White House briefing.

The press briefing came as the U.S. reached yet another grim milestone in the coronavirus pandemic – over 758,000 people have been infected with COVID-19 nationwide, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University. The number of fatalities continues to climb, with more than 40,000 deaths as of Sunday.

Here are the latest developments in the coronavirus crisis in the U.S.:

Trump Says He'll Act to Increase Swab Production

Trump said he will use the Defense Production Act to increase manufacturing of swabs used to test for the coronavirus.

Many governors have for weeks urged the White House to further evoke federal powers to increase private industry’s production of medical supplies as health officials work to slow the spread of the virus. Trump has generally been reluctant to do so.

But the president said during a briefing Sunday evening that he would use the measure to increase production of swabs and that he would soon announce that production reaching 10 million per month.

To emphasize the point, Trump waved a swab in front of reporters. Trump also said that Vice President Mike Pence would hold a call with governors on Monday to discuss testing and send a list of lab facilities in their states.

Seema Verma, head of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said during the press briefing that new rules will mandate that nursing homes report cases to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She said the moves are aimed at increasing transparency about the spread of the virus at facilities where populations can be especially vulnerable to its effects.

There have been 7,121 deaths at long-term care facilities nationwide, according to an Associated Press tally.

Verma also discussed plans to allow elective surgeries to resume after being placed on hold during the pandemic.

That move is coming as part of larger Trump administration guidelines to reopen the economy and Verma said lifting restrictions would be gradual — not like flipping on a light switch, but “more like a sunrise.”

Dr. Deborah Birx explains the difference between the two types of testing that will happen with coronavirus as the United States begins a path toward reopening the country.

South Dakota Covid-19 Cases Jump to 1,635

South Dakota health officials said the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the state has jumped by 93.

According to the state Department of Health, the number of confirmed cases has risen to 1,635, compared with 1,542 the day before.

Of the new cases, Minnehaha County accounts for 86. Minnehaha County is the location of a large outbreak at a Sioux Falls pork processing plant.

The Argus Leader reports the number of Smithfield employees who have tested positive for the coronavirus increased by 18 to 725 on Sunday. The Department of Health said 143 non-employees who had close contact with Smithfield workers tested positive as of Sunday.

No new deaths from the coronavirus were reported in South Dakota, but the state has recorded seven deaths from COVID-19.

How Coronavirus Has Grown in Each State — in 1 Chart

New York has quickly become the epicenter of the American coronavirus outbreak. This chart shows the cumulative number of cases per state by number of days since the 10th case.

Source: Johns Hopkins University
Credit: Amy O’Kruk/NBC

New York Death Toll Drops, Officials Warn to Stay Vigilant

The coronavirus death toll in New York dropped again, a sign that Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday means the state is “on the other side of the plateau” and that ongoing social distancing practices are working to stem the spread of the virus.

Cuomo said 507 people died on Saturday, down 33 from the previous day. Hospitalizations and other medical indicators are trending downward.

But Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio maintained their warnings that people in New York City and the rest of the state need to stay vigilant.

De Blasio blasted President Donald Trump, saying Sunday that the president is betraying his fellow New Yorkers by failing to push for billions of dollars in additional federal aid needed to help the city deal with the coronavirus economic crisis.

De Blasio referenced an infamous tabloid headline — “FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD” — from 1975 when then-President Gerald Ford denied assistance to spare New York from bankruptcy.

“Are you going to save New York City,” the mayor said, “or are you saying to New York City 'drop dead?’”

Dr. Deborah Birx took a moment at the coronavirus task force press conference on Saturday to thank Americans for their help in mitigating the spread of the virus through social distancing.

Pence Says 150,000 Coronavirus Tests Now Being Conducted Daily

Vice President Mike Pence says 150,000 coronavirus tests are now being conducted daily in the U.S. but suggested that governors and not the federal government were to blame for numbers not being higher.

Pence tells NBC’s “Meet the Press” that, “if states around the country will activate all of the laboratories that are available in their states, we could more than double that overnight.”

He said the nation has “sufficient testing today” for states to begin reopening their economies as part of the initial phases of guidelines the White House released this week.

Governors from both parties have said that while they do have more labs that could increase testing in many areas, they often are unable to do so because of federal delays.

Pence was also asked about President Donald Trump tweeting that Democratic governors in Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia should “liberate” their states — even though officials there are following many of the Trump administration’s own guidelines about slowing the spread of coronavirus.

Pence sidestepped those, saying, “This president wants to reopen the American economy as soon as we can safely and responsibly do it.”

Members of a Chattanooga, Tenn., church gathered inside their church destroyed by a tornado to sing.

Wayzata, Minn. Assisted Living Facility Moves Residents Due to COVID-19 Outbreak

About three dozen residents have been moved from a Minneapolis area senior living facility after an outbreak of the coronavirus made many staff members too sick to care for residents.

The Minnesota Department of Health tells the Star Tribune that the decision to relocate residents from Meridian Manor in Wayzata on Saturday came in consultation with state and local officials.

The department said a majority of staff members and administrators at the 50-bed facility became sick and were unable to care for residents. Five residents were sent to a hospital, some residents were relocated with family and others were being moved to a nearby long-term care facility.

North Dakota Coronavirus Cases Rise to 585; 1 New Death

The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in North Dakota has risen to 585, with the biggest jump coming in northeastern North Dakota, where a wind turbine plant has been temporarily idled during an outbreak of COVID-19.

The North Dakota Department of Health on Sunday reported 34 new cases in Grand Forks County, where the LM Wind Power facility is based in Grand Forks. Health officials did not report how many of the new cases are connected to the plant, where 110 cases were reported in early testing.

Statewide, the number of new cases rose by 57, with Cass County second with 15 new cases.

Illinois Democrats Seek $41B in Federal Coronavirus Relief

Illinois Senate Democrats are seeking more than $41 billion from the federal government in the next coronavirus relief plan, including $10 billion for a pension bailout.

Senate President Don Harmon made the request in a recent letter to U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and every member of the state’s congressional delegation.

In the letter, Harmon says it’s an “unprecedented situation” and the state will likely face “additional, unanticipated costs that could result in future requests for assistance.”

The Illinois Republican Party criticized the request on Twitter as ”brazenly using a global pandemic as an excuse” to fix the state’s longtime financial problems, including a massively underfunded pension system. Harmon’s office says Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan weren’t involved in drafting the letter, which was sent Tuesday.

The Associated Press/NBC
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