President Trump invokes powers to spur coronavirus supplies

President Donald Trump and members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, led by Vice President Mike Pence, held a news conference Friday morning to update the public on the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the news conference, President Trump announced that the Department of Education will not enforce standardized testing requirements for students in elementary through high school for the current year. Under federal education law, states are required to administer standardized tests every school year.

He also reminded Americans that all interest on federal student loans has been temporarily suspended, adding that borrowers can suspend their student loan payments without penalty for the next 60 days at least.

The President also invoked the Defense Production Act to get needed medical supplies on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak, mobilizing the federal government to marshal the private sector to combat the pandemic.

Trump had said earlier in the week he would tap the act as needed. He said Friday he has put that “in gear.”

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said he implored Trump during a phone call Friday to invoke the Korean War-era act immediately to order the manufacture of ventilators and other critically needed medical gear. The president told Schumer he would, then could be heard on the telephone making the order. He yelled to someone in his office to do it now, said Schumer’s spokesman, Justin Goodman.

Trump also announced an effective closure of the U.S. border with Mexico, prohibiting most travel except for trade. That brings it in line with the restriction on the Canadian border earlier this week.

The president and the Cabinet officials who briefed reporters focused on the border as they moved to restrict the entry of people without documentation to the U.S. This follows a stepped-up State Department travel advisory telling Americans they should not leave the country.

Officials again urged Americans to maintain social distancing while Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, applauded strict new measures put in place by the governors of California and New York to limit mobility in an effort to stop the spread of the virus.

“Americans from every walk of life are coming together,” Trump said. “We are winning and we are going to win this war.”

Friday’s update comes just hours after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced that the Trump administration has decided to push the income tax filing date to July 15 from April 15.

Meanwhile, thousands more Americans are getting tested for the coronavirus. The number of reported cases has climbed to more than 13,000 and at least 195 people have died.

There are 119 cases in Ohio alone, according to the Ohio Department of Health’s latest report released Thursday afternoon. Of those, 33 are hospitalized. 

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