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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.

Go deeper: U.S. coronavirus cases surge by over 10,000 in three days

Go deeper

DOJ cites discrimination in lawsuit against Texas over voting districts

Attorney General Merrick Garland. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Department of Justice on Monday filed a lawsuit against Texas, alleging Republican state lawmakers discriminated against Black and Latino voters and has "again diluted the voting strength of minority Texans" when they approved new redistricting maps.

Why it matters: A DOJ assessment of the new districts found that they violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, Attorney General Merrick Garland said at a press conference.

3 hours ago - World

Biden to warn Putin U.S. will add troops in Eastern Europe if Russia invades Ukraine

Putin meets Biden in Geneva. Photo: Peter Klaunzer - Pool/Keystone via Getty

President Biden will warn Russian President Vladimir Putin when they speak on Tuesday that if Russia invades Ukraine, the U.S. is prepared to increase its troop presence, capabilities and military exercises on NATO's "eastern flank," a senior administration official told reporters.

Why it matters: The administration believes it's increasingly likely that Putin will order an invasion.

4 hours ago - World

U.S. announces diplomatic boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics

An Olympic-themed sculpture in Beijing on Dec. 1. Photo: Hou Yu/China News Service via Getty Images

The U.S. announced Monday that it will not send officials to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics in protest of human rights abuses committed by the Chinese Communist Party.

Why it matters: The diplomatic boycott — which won't prevent American athletes from competing — marks a major escalation between the U.S. and China amid already heightened tensions over the CCP's treatment of Muslim minorities, military threats to Taiwan and economic tariffs.