Trump moves to blunt coronavirus' heavy impact on US economy

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People wearing a masks walk through a terminal at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Monday, March 16, 2020, in Arlington, Va. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Ahead of an expected surge in coronavirus cases, President Donald Trump on Tuesday moved to blunt the impact of the pandemic on a U.S. economy fundamentally altered by a push for the nation to stay home.

As the global markets fluctuated amid fears of a recession, the president conferred with tourism executives as well as restaurant leaders, retailers and suppliers. His administration was expected to propose a roughly $850 billion emergency economic stimulus to address the free-fall, including considering the sending of checks to American workers trying to make their way in the deeply unsettled economy.

U.S. businesses large and small were reeling from shutdowns, cancellations and public fear about the virus as the number of cases rose nationwide. Stocks moved higher on Wall Street on Tuesday, a day after plunging to their worst losses in more than three decades.

The president again urged Americans to follow sweeping guidelines that for the next two weeks would temporarily rewrite the norms of society, including for older residents to stay home and for all people to avoid gatherings of more than 10 as well as restaurants and bars.

“By making shared sacrifices, we can protect the health of our people and our economy and I think our economy will come back very rapidly," Trump said. “If we do this right, our country and the world, frankly, but our country can be rolling again ... very quickly."

Trump, maintaining his newly somber tone about the crisis enveloping the globe, urged Americans to work from home and urged the nation's cities and states to issue restrictions to promote distancing in line with new federal guidelines. He promised a dramatic increase in access to coronavirus tests, ventilators, hospital beds and telehealth services. His administration said it would coordinate responses with the states, push for construction workers to give masks to health care workers and, if needed, use the Army Corps of Engineers to build more hospital space.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, the administration's lead negotiator with Congress, said tax filings could be delayed and vowed that the stock markets would remain open but their hours could be shortened. The president pledged to maintain the safety of elections while voters in three states went to the polls Tuesday even as Ohio postponed its primary. Officials said assistance could be offered to the airlines, hotels cruise ships and airplane manufacturers.

In a meeting with hotel industry leaders, Trump listened as executives outlined the impact to their business. They told him that business was dropping by the day and that some hotels had occupancy rates in the single digits. That compared to a 67% percent occupancy rate for the industry last year, said Chip Rogers, president and CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association.