Mar 21, 2020 - Health

Coronavirus briefing: Delivery date of medical masks to doctors, nurses unclear

In this image, Pence and Trump stand next to each other.

President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence give a coronavirus task force briefing on March 19. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Officials on the White House coronavirus task force had no firm answers on Saturday when asked when doctors and nurses across the country would receive medical masks to protect themselves while treating patients with the novel coronavirus.

What they're saying: "Sooner than weeks, it's going to be days, I would hope. We're going to try to make it days to the best possible way that we can," Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, replied when reporters asked him about the timeline for delivering masks.

Why it matters: Hospitals around the country are running out of masks and other protective gear, and health care workers are taking desperate steps to protect themselves from exposure to COVID-19, Axios' Caitlin Owens.

Where it stands: The Department of Health and Human Services "just placed an order for hundreds of millions of N95 masks," Vice President Pence said on Saturday, saying the order cost half a billion dollars and was coordinated through FEMA. It was unclear when or with what company the order for the masks was placed.

The state of play: 141 people died in the U.S. from COVID-19 between Tuesday and Friday. Hospitals are urging the federal government to approve emergency aid as soon as possible, fearful of shutting down over lack of funds. More states are issuing stay-at-home orders to promote social distancing.

  • A "Phase 3" coronavirus stimulus package to bring relief to potentially millions of Americans facing unemployment is being hashed out on the Hill. Pence said on Saturday that members of the task force are working with Congress to pass the legislation on Monday.
  • White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told reporters on Saturday that the new stimulus package would be between $1.3 trillion and $1.4 trillion, the New York Times' Emily Cochrane reports.

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