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US VP: Summer demise for virus

By AI HEPING in New York | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2020-04-24 11:38

US Vice-President Mike Pence holds a microphone as he addresses plant employees over an intercom system during a tour of a GE Healthcare manufacturing facility during the global coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Madison, Wisconsin, US on April 21, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

US Vice-President Mike Pence said Thursday that much of the coronavirus pandemic hitting the United States could be "behind us" by late next month. "We're getting there, America," he said.

Pence made the comments at the daily White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing. In a radio interview earlier Thursday, Pence predicted that the epidemic will be "largely behind us" by Memorial Day, May 25.

Pence also said that 16 states have formal plans to reopen their state economies.

US President Donald Trump said at the briefing that he was "grateful" for the House earlier Thursday approving a $484 billion stimulus bill that provides more funds for hospitals and will rescue a depleted small-business loan program and that he would sign the measure as early as Thursday evening.

At the briefing, Trump introduced Bill Bryan, an official from the Department of Homeland Security, to report on what his agency has learned about the survival of the coronavirus in warmer weather.

He said the agency's research has found that it lives for a shorter time in warmer, more humid conditions and when exposed to direct sunlight.

"Our most striking observation to date is the powerful effect that solar light appears to have on killing the virus, both surfaces and in the air," Bryan said. "We've seen a similar effect with both temperature and humidity as well where increasing the temperature and humidity or both is generally less favorable to the virus."

But Bryan warned, "it would be irresponsible for us to say that we feel the summer will totally kill the virus".

Bryan also said research has shown the virus dies in bleach in about five minutes and in isopropyl alcohol in 30 seconds, with no manipulation, no rubbing — only spraying it on and leaving it.

"You rub it and it goes away even faster," Bryan said.

Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the coronavirus task force who wasn't at the briefing, has previously said that he wouldn't count on warmer weather to stop the spread.

With some lawmakers wearing face masks and some wearing gloves, members of the House returned to Capitol Hill on Thursday and approved the relief bill that provides more funds for struggling hospitals. It also will rescue a small-business loan program that was quickly depleted by companies impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

The legislation approved by the House includes $75 billion to help overwhelmed hospitals and $25 billion for a new coronavirus testing program, two provisions Democrats pushed for in negotiations.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the money for testing requires the Trump administration to produce a national plan on how it will increase testing across the country.

At the news briefing, Trump reiterated that the US has done more testing than any country in the world. "We're doing a great job on testing,'' he said.

He was asked if he agreed with comments made by Fauci who told Time on Thursday that he isn't confident the US is where it needs to be on testing. "We are doing better, and I think we are going to get there, but we are not there yet," Fauci told Time.

Trump said the nation's testing was "very advanced'' and that he didn't agree with what Fauci said. "I think we're doing a great job on testing. I don't agree — if he said that, I don't agree with him," Trump said.

About 4.4 million workers filed claims for unemployment benefits for the week ended April 18, the US Labor Department reported Thursday. That is down from 5.2 million claims filed for the week ended April 11.

About 26 million people — or 1 in 6 Americans — have filed jobless claims since mid-March. That was when the coronavirus pandemic led states to issue stay-at-home orders to limit the spread of the disease, and much of the economy shut down.

In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo said Thursday that results from random testing of New Yorkers showed that the coronavirus outbreak is widespread across the state, infecting about 2.7 million people.

The testing started Sunday when New York health officials randomly tested people at various locations across the state. The goal was to help understand who has built up immunity to the virus and where it is most prevalent.

The Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort will leave New York City after it floated for three weeks mostly empty of patients. The Comfort and its 1,000 hospital beds and 12 operating rooms sailed into New York late last month but was sparsely used. Cuomo met with Trump on Tuesday and they agreed the ship can be sent elsewhere.

The Federal Reserve on Thursday announced it will reveal every month the names of companies that borrow under its massive emergency lending programs, as it faces intense pressure to be transparent about its use of bailout money.

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