As the number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus passed 10,000 in the U.S. Thursday, and the northern border to Canada closed to nonessential travel, President Donald Trump prepared to visit Federal Emergency Management Agency Headquarters, while his GOP allies continued working on “phase three” of coronavirus relief measures.

Trump once again appeared at the briefing, as a pattern emerges of the president offering daily updates on the White House response to COVID-19.

Ahead of a their visit to FEMA, Vice President Mike Pence announced the agency will now be taking the lead in the federal government’s national response. It was previously under Department of Health and Human Services.

“We will meet at the national response coordination center at FEMA, and outline President Trump’s decision to have FEMA take the lead in our national coronavirus response. Our nation’s response, through FEMA, will be locally executed, state-managed, and federally-supported,” Pence said.

The changes comes as healthcare workers across the country complain of shortages of protective equipment and amid alarming data that the disease is hitting younger people harder than projected.

Here are Thursday’s most significant developments in Washington:

  • Trump is scheduled to visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency or FEMA Headquarters in the afternoon
  • Pelosi calls on Trump to invoke Defense Production Act powers: ‘There is not a day to lose’
  • Trump signed “phase two” of coronavirus relief measures, enters “phase three,” negotiations which includes a proposal to send relief checks directly to Americans
  • At least two members of Congress have tested positive for COVID-19
  • Here is how developments unfolded on Thursday.

    Trump continues shifting blame to China

    President Trump appeared once again at the daily briefing by the White House coronavirus task force and again blamed China.

    “We continue our relentless effort to defeat the Chinese virus,” he said to open the news conference.

    “This is something that happened that was — some people would say it’s an act of God. I don’t view it as an act of God. I would view it as something that adjusts the pride of the whole world. If people would have known about it, it could have been stopped in place. It could have been stopped right where it came from, China,” Trump said.

    A closeup photo from Washington Post photographer Jabin Botsford of the president’s briefing notes revealed in a section where the prepared remarks read, “Corona Virus,” “Corona” was crossed out and “Chinese” was written in its place, in what appeared to be Trump’s handwriting.

    “But now the whole world almost is inflicted with this horrible virus, and it’s too bad. It’s too bad, because we never had an economy as good as the economy we had just a few weeks ago,” he continued. “But we’ll be back. I actually think we’ll be back stronger than ever before.”

    Later, Trump was asked if he has reason to disbelieve China, which reported Thursday that for the first time no new cases had emerged in the last 24-hour period in the hard-hit city of Wuhan.

    “It would have been much better if we had known about this a number of months earlier. It would have been contained that one area in China where it started. Certainly the world is paying a big price for what they did, and the world is playing a very big price for not letting them come out,” he said.

    “As far as believing what they are putting out now, I hope it’s true. Who knows? But I hope it’s true, I really do.”

    Trump says FDA is fast-tracking treatment

    President Trump also said the Food and Drug Administration was fast-tracking possible treatments.

    “I’ve directed the FDA to eliminate outdated rules and bureaucracy, so this work can proceed rapidly, quickly, and, I mean, fast. We have to remove every barrier. There were a lot of barriers that were unnecessary. They’ve done that to get the rapid deployment of safe, effective treatments, and we think we have some good answers. We’ll find out very, very soon,” Trump said speaking on clinical trials.

    The president said that chloroquine’s use had “had been approved” and “we are going to be able to make that drug available almost immediately.” He also said that chloroquine and another drug, remdesivir, “are out now, essentially approved for prescribed use.”

    But the FDA commissioner, Stephen Hahn, later clarified at the press conference that chloroquine was not yet approved for the treatment of COVID-19.

    Hahn said while chloroquine had already been approved for the treatment of malaria as well as an arthritis condition, it has not been approved to treat the coronavirus — but it is being looked at as a potential treatment.

    “The president’s right, with an off-the-shelf drug we do have a lot of information about the side effects of the drug. That really helps in terms of expediting,” Hahn explained. “I don’t want to speculate about a timeline at this point.”

    Trump gives update on the state of the stimulus

    “More help is on the way as we speak,” he said, referring to the economic damage the crisis has caused. “Our entire team headed by Secretary Mnuchin is on the Hill,” he said referring to his treasury secretary working with Senate Republicans on the economic stimulus package.

    “I want Americans to know we’re doing everything we can,” Trump said. “The American public has been incredible. We took the best economy we’ve ever had and we said, ‘Stop, you can’t work. You have to stay home.’ There’s never been a case like this.”

    Expected to be one of the largest emergency spending packages in American history, the $1 trillion “phase three” that the White House and Republicans are proposing breaks down to: $500 billion for two rounds of $250 billion of direct payments for Americans to go out around April 6 and May 18; $300 billion to help small businesses meet payroll; $50 billion for the airlines; and $150 billion for loans and loan guarantees for other parts of the economy.

    ABC News Chief White House Correspondent White House Correspondent asked Trump if he can guarantee that the money the federal government is giving to hard-hit industries like airlines will not go to executive bonuses or to more stock buybacks.

    He replied, “It takes many people, in this case, to tango. As far as I’m concerned, conditions like that would be okay with me.”

    Trump signed “phase two” of coronavirus economic relief Wednesday night after the Senate overwhelmingly passed the House-backed bill. It ensures free COVID-19 testing, paid leave for some workers, bolsters unemployment insurance, increases spending on health insurance for the poor and adds $1 billion in food aid.

    Pelosi urges Trump to use powers of Defense Production Act, Trump points to “next two of three days”

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in a written statement Thursday morning before the briefing, called on the president to “immediately use the powers” of the Defense Production Act — which he signed Wednesday but did not invoke — to mass produce and distribute critical supplies.

    “The President must immediately use the powers of the Defense Production Act to mass produce and coordinate distribution of these critical supplies, before the need worsens and the shortages become even more dire,” she said. “There is not a day to lose.”

    Asked then in the White House Briefing Room why not invoke the Defense Production Act immediately, Trump said it’s unnecessary since the nation’s governors are supposed to be doing a lot of this work.

    “The federal government is not supposed to be out there buying vast amounts of items and then shipping. We are not a shipping clerk. The governors are supposed to be. As with testing, the governors are supposed to be doing it,” Trump said.

    Trump then said he would know soon if he needed to invoke the measure, pointing to the “next two or three days.”

    “If we were desperately in need of something, and we, frankly, will know about that very shortly. We want to be ahead — we don’t want to do it as it happens, but before it happens. We will know a lot over the next two or three days. We’ll know a lot.”

    When pressed on the availability of masks given complaints about a severe shortage, Vice President Mike Pence insisted, “they are available now.”

    “The 3M facility I was at told me that in January they went to full production on 35 million masks … all 35 million of those that started to be produced at full capacity in January can now be sold to hospitals. That’s the distinction here.”

    He said they should be available “today.”

    Mnuchin says $1000 checks to most adults + $500 per child

    Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin gave an update to the White House’s proposal to send money directly to Americans affected by COVID-19, saying the White House aims to send $1,000 checks to most adult Americans and an additional $500 per child, in a phone interview Thursday morning with Fox Business’s Maria Bartiromo.

    “The plan is 500 billion dollars in two tranches. The first one would be $1,000 per person, $500 dollars per child,” Mnuchin said. “As soon as Congress passes this, we get this out in three weeks.”

    Mnuchin went on to say another round of identical payments would be sent out six weeks after that, if the country was still experiencing a national emergency.

    It’s one part of the trillion dollar plan in “phase 3” of the federal government’s economic response to offset COVID-19.

    Birx gets a space in the West Wing

    Ambassador Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, got office space in the West Wing, according to White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere.

    Birx raised concerns on Wednesday about reports coming out of Italy and France showing “some young people getting seriously ill and very seriously ill in the ICUs” — a threat the administration appears to be taking seriously.

    “We have not seen any significant mortality in the children, but we are concerned about the early reports coming out of Italy and France,” Birx said. “Even if it’s a rare occurrence, it may be seen more frequently in that group, and be evident now.”

    Politico first reported the news this morning.

    Trump continues to cast himself as a “wartime president”

    In his first tweet of the day, President Trump said, “We are going to WIN, sooner rather than later!”

    Trump said in Wednesday’s coronavirus task force briefing he is fighting an “invisible enemy.”

    What to know about coronavirus:

  • How it started and how to protect yourself: coronavirus explained
  • What to do if you have symptoms: coronavirus symptoms
  • Tracking the spread in the US and Worldwide: coronavirus map
  • ABC News’ Ben Gittleson, Jordyn Phelps, Anne Flaherty, and Michelle Stoddart contributed to this report.

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