The number of known cases of the coronavirus in the U.S. has surpassed 5,000 as testing, which was initially limited, has expanded, according to a New York Times database that is tracking every identified case in the country.
At a White House briefing, President Trump and top officials urged Americans not to hoard supplies or seek out non-urgent medical care. Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases, urged young people to avoid public gatherings.
As the growing economic toll of the coronavirus became clearer, the White House said Tuesday that it supported the idea of sending cash payments directly to Americans.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that the administration is talking to Congress about sending checks to Americans over the next two weeks to cushion the economic blow of the pandemic. “The president has instructed me we have to do this now,” he said at a briefing.
It was a shift in priority for the administration, which has been advocating a payroll tax cut, and it came as the coronavirus began to grind large swaths of the economy to a halt, cost an increasing number of people their jobs and continued to send the markets reeling.
Mr. Mnuchin said that the Trump administration favors making direct payments quickly, noting that the effects of a payroll tax cut would take months to reach people.
Mr. Trump said that his administration was also working to expand testing and preparing to ask Congress to infuse about $850 billion in additional stimulus to prop up the economy.
“Today the Senate has taken up coronavirus legislation that includes free testing for those who need it,” Mr. Trump said, adding that he had directed Mr. Mnuchin to meet with senators on the additional stimulus package. “There’s tremendous spirit.”
“We want to have a big infusion as opposed to going through little meetings every couple of days,” Mr. Trump said about his administration’s aid request to Congress. “We’re going big, and that’s the way it’ll be.”