President Donald Trump pushed back Wednesday against criticism that his administration isn't doing enough to meet the coronavirus threat, as lawmakers called for giving disease fighters much more money than the $2.5 billion the White House has requested.
A day after he sought to minimize fears of the virus spreading widely across the U.S., Trump prepared to hold a White House press conference with experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Meanwhile, two new coronavirus cases have been reported in Americans who had traveled on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, health officials said Wednesday. The new cases bring the U.S. tally to 59.
Trump tweeted Wednesday that the CDC, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and others in the administration are "doing a great job with respect to Coronavirus!" and accused some news outlets of "panicking markets."
On Capitol Hill, senior lawmakers called for a bipartisan spending package that would give federal, state and local officials more resources. Congress in recent years took a similar approach with the opioid epidemic, pumping out federal dollars for treatment and prevention. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York unveiled an $8.5 billion coronavirus proposal.
Trump and members of his administration have been sending mixed messages about the virus.
The CDC on Tuesday warned the American public to prepare for an an outbreak of the disease, which has spawned more than 80,000 cases around the world but relatively few so far in the U.S.
The count includes 14 people who traveled back from outbreak areas in China, or their spouses; three people who were evacuated from the central China city of Wuhan; and 42 Americans, passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship who were evacuated by the federal government to the U.S. from where the ship was docked in Japan.
But before he flew home from India on Tuesday, Trump said the coronavirus situation is "very well under control in our country." The administration has asked Congress for an additional $2.5 billion to speed development of a vaccine, support preparedness and response activities, and to gather needed equipment and supplies.
Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike have questioned whether that request is sufficient.
Schumer's $8.5 billion plan is more than triple Trump's request. It includes $4.5 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services to work to contain the outbreak in the U.S., $1 billion to develop and manufacture a vaccine, $1 billion to help other countries battle the coronavirus, and $2 billion to reimburse states for costs incurred in tackling the outbreak.
"We will put together a supplemental that will address this issue," said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., who chairs a key panel that sets spending for health agencies. Aides said the House measure is likely to be unveiled next week. Bipartisan "four corner" meetings — Democrats and Republicans in both the House and Senate — are beginning Wednesday, a House Democratic aide said, with a bipartisan bill the goal.
DeLauro dismissed the White House's $2.5 billion request, saying the two-page summary appeared to have been put together without much thought. She contrasted it to a 28-page submission from the Obama administration on Ebola.
Testifying before her committee Wednesday, Azar said, "I appreciate your frustration with the two-page letter being the documentation," but he said he believes $2.5 billion will be enough for now. "If it doesn't fund it, we'll come back to you."
Schumer has been harshly critical of Trump's response to the outbreak, and his request — announced before the Democratic-controlled House Appropriations Committee has weighed in — rankled some Democrats hoping for quick, bipartisan action to address the crisis.
Arriving back in the U.S. early Wednesday, Trump immediately began to counter critics who say he should have acted sooner to bolster the federal response to the coronavirus.
Trump has wondered aloud if health secretary Azar is the right person to lead the administration's response. The White House has considered naming a virus czar, but is not sure that is the right route, said a person familiar with the discussions. Azar himself was said to be supportive of naming a czar.
Among those under consideration for such a post: Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham was also pushing back. Grisham retweeted a CDC post that said "there is currently no reported community spread" of coronavirus in the U.S.
This week, the National Institutes of Health received a shipment of test doses of a vaccine candidate from Moderna Inc., in preparation for first-step safety testing in a few dozen people aimed to begin by April. But Dr. Anthony Fauci, NIH's infectious disease chief, cautioned reporters that in a best-case scenario, "you're talking about a year to a year and a half" before any vaccine would be ready for widespread use.
Fauci said that while only a few cases have turned up in the U.S. from travelers outside the country, "we need to be able to think about how we will respond to a pandemic outbreak."
"It's very clear. If we have a global pandemic, no country is going to be without impact," Fauci said.
A pandemic involves the continual spread of sustained transmission from person to person in multiple regions and hemispheres throughout the world simultaneously, Fauci noted.
The South Carolina community that searched, prayed and then cried for a missing 6-year-old girlsaid goodbye Friday to the youngster, who disappeared from her front yard and was found dead three days later.
A sea of bright colors, especially pink and purple, filled Trinity Baptist Church in Cayce where folk gathered for a public memorial service to honor and remember the bubbly spirit of 6-year-old Faye Marie Swetlik. The stairs leading to the pulpit were filled with flowers, stuffed animals and pictures of the child.
Prior to a eulogy read by the church's pastor, Dr. Eddie Coakley, the song "Better When I'm Dancing" played as a video rolled showing photos of Faye's smiling face. Audience members were seen wiping away tears as that and other videos of the child were played.
Coakley said the eulogy was written by the girl's mother, who acknowledged having a hard time "explaining the life of someone who meant so much to so many in just a few paragraphs."
Her mother wrote that Faye "became my whole world in just a few minutes"and recalled how she got her name.
"Faye is French for fairy. When I was pregnant, she felt like fairies dancing around. And I always wanted her to believe in magic, so she was dubbed Faye Marie — my little fairy Mary. Änd magic she was. From the day she was born, we taught her the beaut of magic and the most important magic of all — love. Faye loved hard. There wasn't a single person she couldn't make smile. She wanted everyone to be as happy as she was," said the message, read out by Coakley.
"So long as we can love one another, her memory lives on," the pastor continued, reading from the mother's statement.
She also said in the statement: "I ask when you leave here to love a little more, to be a little more kind, to compliment a stranger, to dance in the rain, to stop and smell the flowers and show just a little bit more love to everyone you meet and just have a Faye day."
The girl was a first-grader at Springdale Elementary School and was playing in her front yard after getting off the school bus Feb. 10 when she disappeared.
More than 200 officers searched for her until Thursday, when Faye's rain boot found in a neighbor's trash can led police to search a nearby area for a fourth time. That's when they found her body recently placed there.
DNA evidence connects the girl's death to that neighbor, 30-year-old Coty Scott Taylor, authorities said.
Right after Faye's body was found, Taylor was found dead with his own thrato slit on his patio, according to the Lexington County Coroner's Office.
Officers questioned Taylor and went into his home the day before the girl's body was found, but Cayce Public Safety Director Byron Snellgrove said they found no evidence of the girl at that time.
Investigators have not said why Taylor, who had no criminal record, wanted to kidnap the girl. The coroner's office said that, out of respect for Faye's family, they were refusing to release any details about the condition of the girl's body or disclose any other way she might have been injured beyond dying of asphyxiation.
The girl's disappearance shocked Cayce, a town of about 13,000 just west of Columbia, the state capital. Several prayer vigils were held while she was missing and after her body was found. Both the county coroner and the police chief in Cayce said they and their employees were shaken
In her obituary, Faye's family said she was gone too soon but wouldn't be forgotten.
"She made everyone believe in all things good again. She left behind a world that loved her. May she forever sparkle," they wrote.
Coakley said as he closed the service that the family asked people to write in journals stationed around the church a little note "as if you were writing to Faye" or to the family. The books would later be given to the family, he said.
"Thank you for being here tonight. What a blessing to be here to honor Faye," Coakley said.
Two charter flights carrying cruise ship passengers from Japan landed at military bases in California and Texas overnight, starting the clock on a quarantine period to ensure passengers don't have the new virus that's been spreading in Asia.
A plane carrying American passengers touched down at Travis Air Force Base in Northern California just before 11:30 p.m. Sunday, local time. A second flight arrived at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas around 2 1/2 hours later, early Monday.
Japan's Defense Minister Taro Kono had tweeted earlier that Japanese troops helped transport 340 U.S. passengers on 14 buses from Yokohama port to Tokyo's Haneda airport. About 380 Americans were on the cruise ship.
The U.S. said it arranged the evacuation because people on the Diamond Princess were at a high risk of exposure to the virus. For the departing Americans, the evacuation cuts short a 14-day quarantine that began aboard the cruise ship Feb. 5.
The State Department announced later that 14 of the evacuees received confirmed they had the virus but were allowed to board the flight because they did not have symptoms. They were being isolated separately from other passengers on the flight, the U.S. State and Health and Human Services said in a joint statement.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, said Sunday that an infected person who shows minimal symptoms could still pass the virus to someone else.
After arriving in the U.S., all of the passengers must go through another 14 days of quarantine at the military facilities — meaning they will have been under quarantine for a total of nearly four weeks.
Australia, Canada, Hong Kong and Italy were planning similar flights of passengers. Other governments, including Canada and Hong Kong, also will require the passengers to undergo a second 14-day quarantine.
Japan on Monday announced another 99 infections on the Diamond Princess, raising the ship's total number of cases to 454. Overall, Japan has 419 confirmed cases of the virus, including one death. The United States has confirmed 15 cases within the country. Separately, one U.S. citizen died in China.
Americans Cheryl and Paul Molesky, a couple from Syracuse, New York, opted to trade one coronavirus quarantine for another, leaving the cruise ship to fly back to the U.S. Cheryl Molesky said the rising number of patients on the ship factored into the decision.
"We are glad to be going home," Cheryl Molesky earlier told NHK TV in Japan. "It's just a little bit disappointing that we'll have to go through quarantine again, and we will probably not be as comfortable as the Diamond Princess, possibly."
She sent The Associated Press a video of her and her husband boarding the plane with other Americans.
"Well, we're exhausted, but we're on the plane and that's a good feeling. Pretty miserable wearing these masks though, and everybody had to go to the bathroom on the bus," she said.
Some American passengers said they would pass up the opportunity to fly to the United States because of the additional quarantine. There also was worry about being on a long flight with other passengers who may be infected or in an incubation period.
One of the Americans, Matthew Smith, said in a tweet Sunday that he saw a passenger with no face mask talking at close quarters with another passenger. He said he and his wife scurried away.
"If there are secondary infections on board, this is why," he said. "And you wanted me to get on a bus with her?"
He said the American health officials who visited their room was apparently surprised that the couple had decided to stay, and wished them luck.
"Thanks, but we're fine," Smith said he told them.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was wearing his firesuit and had just finished signing autographs for fans stuck in long lines to enter Daytona International Speedway when he was stopped by Secret Service. Not even the Daytona 500 pole-sitter was immune from the security checkpoint, so Stenhouse extended his arms, clutched his phone and stood still as a wand was waved around him.
His No. 1 starting spot secured, Stenhouse had to wait because of heightened security measures sparked by the arrival of No. 45: President Donald Trump became just the second sitting president to attend the Daytona 500 on Sunday.
Trump served as grand marshal for the race and gave the command for drivers to start their engines. The United States Air Force Thunderbirds performed a second flyover after Trump addressed the crowd.
He also took a parade lap around the 2 1/2-mile speedway in his armored limousine, leading the 40-car field before the green flag. The presidential motorcade remained on the apron in the corners instead of taking to the high-banked turns.
Thousands cheered and a band played patriotic music when Air Force One flew over the famed track, a flyover that was simultaneously shown on big screens. Trump's presence energized fans and caused huge headaches because of logistical issues at entrance points. The superspeedway-sized lines spurred Stenhouse to perk up fans who helped sell out the Daytona 500 for the fifth straight year.
"I didn't have anything to do because my appearances got moved around and I saw that line and I felt so bad for everybody out there having to wait," Stenhouse told The Associated Press. "Everybody seemed patient and didn't mind having to wait too much. The atmosphere was pretty good."
Stenhouse led the first 20 laps of the 200-lap race and will be up front again in his No. 47 Chevrolet when the rain-postponed event resumes Monday afternoon.
Trump, with first lady Melania Trump by his side, addressed the crowd before the race and called the Daytona 500 "a legendary display of roaring engines, soaring spirits and the American skill, speed and power that we've been hearing about for so many years."
"For 500 heart-pounding miles, these fierce competitors will chase the checkered flag, fight for the Harley J. Earl trophy and make their play for pure American glory," Trump said. "That's what it is, pure American glory."
He ended his remarks to chants of "U-S-A, U-S-A," and with his 2016 campaign tune, "You Can't Always Get What You Want" blaring over loudspeakers.
Hailie Deegan, billed as "NASCAR's Next Big Superstar," took to Twitter in hopes of getting her helmet signed by Trump. Donald Trump Jr. tweeted at her, "DM me... I may know someone."
Deegan accomplished her goal and got the president's signature on her helmet.
For all the pomp, Trump's arrival caused more jams around Daytona than a multi-car pileup on the frontstretch. Driver appearances were canceled or shuffled around to other areas on track property. The red carpet was rolled out for Trump and so was the green flag -- the start of the race was pushed back 13 minutes to accommodate his pace lap in the armored presidential limo called "The Beast."
"Any time the President who runs your country is coming to a sporting event that you are involved in, it says a lot about the sporting event and how much this race means to everybody," Stenhouse said. "You've got to respect the one that's in charge."
Daytona fans were largely enthusiastic over Trump's cameo, wearing T-shirts and hats in support of his campaign. Some draped themselves in Trump 2020 banners that flowed like capes.
The good times were dampened, though, near several gates as thousands of fans waited hours to get inside. The popular fan zone -- where fans can chug beers, listen to live music and purchase race merchandise — had three-hour waits.
"We would like a refund," said Kay Maiden, attending her first Daytona 500. "My feet are sore. I've been standing in that line for three hours. I paid $100 to stand in line for three hours, and that's not a good thing. We got water, but there's no place to go to the bathroom. It's definitely very unorganized."
There were enthusiastic "woo-hoos" and "we made it" yells once fans packed their bags and made it through security lines.
"This is really ridiculous," said Carl Jacobi, of Texas. "All the people pay for this thing and it's holding them up. We paid extra to get in here and we're not getting to enjoy it."
Track officials did hand out free bottled waters to waiting fans.
"The safety and security of our guests is our top priority at Daytona International Speedway.," the track said in a statement. "We are aware of the challenges for guests entering the facility today. We appreciate their patience and look forward to a great Daytona 500."
Giannis Antetokounmpo is passionate about helping children in Greece and Africa. Kevin Love is trying to shine the brightest light he can on mental health by sharing his own struggles. Chris Paul is aiming to ensure that technology comes to schools where it hasn't been affordable.
Former President Barack Obama is aware of all those endeavors.
And he's trying to make sure plenty of other people find out as well.
That's why Obama invited that trio of NBA stars to sit alongside him for a panel discussion hosted by his foundation on Saturday, saying he invited that trio of basketball stars to laud what he called their "extraordinary leadership" when it comes to their off-court work.
"It's so much bigger than basketball," Love said.
Obama clearly agrees. The foundation that was created in 2014 has championed causes like the ones that are near and dear to Antetokounmpo, Paul and Love, which is why the 44th President decided to invite them to sit for what was called a "fireside chat."
Most of the conversation had nothing to do with basketball, which is exactly the way it was planned.
"Part of the reason I wanted to convene these three, in addition to being amazing athletes, they're good people and each of them are at different stages in their careers," Obama said. "You've got old Chris Paul down at the end, the young guy (Antetokounmpo) here and Kevin somewhere in the middle. But each of them has shown character on the court but also off the court. And the work I'm doing after the presidency is entirely focused on how do we lift up and identify and amplify and support the amazing next generation of leaders that are coming up."
Obama is a longtime and passionate basketball fan — this event, in his hometown of Chicago, was his second official event during NBA All-Star weekend in the Windy City after one with children and first- and second-year players Friday — and he has aligned with NBA players many times before to highlight certain messages.
In February 2019, Obama sat with Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry to mark the fifth anniversary of My Brother's Keeper — an initiative he launched after the 2012 shooting death of unarmed Florida teen Trayvon Martin. The death of Martin, a 17-year-old African-American, sparked protests over racial profiling.
This time, it was for other issues, all important as well. Love told the story of why he decided to take his long struggle with mental health and battle against depression public. Paul talked about why it was important for him to make sure schools in poorer neighborhoods aren't left behind. Antetokounmpo told the story of how neighbors — in a predominantly white neighborhood — helped make sure that his parents, who moved to Greece from Nigeria in search of a better life, thrived.
"All I know is, people gave to me," Antetokounmpo said. "I've got to give back."