Trump discusses virus aid, payroll tax suspension during Wednesday news briefing

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WASHINGTON (WJW/AP) — President Donald Trump held a news conference at the White House Wednesday to update Americans on the latest developments surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

Wednesday’s briefing came as bipartisan talks on a huge COVID-19 response bill continued in Washington. The President addressed several concerns related to economic relief, including a plan to provide another $25 billion in federal aid to U.S. airlines.

Trump says he supports the plan, which has been gaining bipartisan support.

“I think it’s very important that we keep the airlines going,” Trump said during the briefing. “We don’t want to lose our airlines. If they’re looking at that, whether they’re Republican or Democrat, I’d be certainly in favor. We can’t lose our transportation system.”

Trump also said he is considering taking executive action if there is no progress toward an agreement on unemployment insurance, the payroll tax and the eviction moratorium.

“I’m also looking at a term-limited suspension of the payroll tax. Something that is great support from many, many sides, especially some of our top economists, and some people that we have great respect for,” said Trump. “So we’re looking at a suspension of the payroll tax.”

The President argues that suspending the payroll tax would provide an incentive to people and businesses to hire back their workers.

President Trump also said Wednesday that he believes the novel coronavirus will “go away.

“It’s going away now. It’ll go away. Like things go away. Absolutely. It’s in my mind, it will go away. Please go ahead, frankly, sooner, rather than later,” he explained.

He also argued that children are nearly immune from the virus and have a better ability to fight the disease off.

“I’m talking about getting very sick. If you look at children, I mean, they’re able to throw it off easily. And it’s an amazing thing because some flus, they don’t, they get very sick and they have problems with flus and they have problems with other things. But for whatever reason, the China virus, children handle it very well. And they may, they may get it, but they get it and it doesn’t have much of an impact on them,” Trump stated. “And if you look at the numbers, the numbers of, in terms of mortality, fatality, the numbers for children under a certain age, meaning young, their immune systems are very, very strong. They’re very powerful. And, they seem to be able to handle it very well. And that’s according to every statistic.”

Several studies suggest, but don’t prove, that children are less likely to become infected than adults and more likely to have only mild symptoms. But this is not the same as being “virtually immune” to the virus.

A CDC study involving 2,500 children published in April found that about 1 in 5 infected children were hospitalized versus 1 in 3 adults; three children died. The study lacks complete data on all the cases, but it also suggests that many infected children have no symptoms, which could allow them to spread the virus to others.

Meanwhile, Capitol Hill negotiators have still not reached an agreement on the COVID-19 response bill.

A combative meeting Wednesday involving top Capitol Hill Democrats and the postmaster general and a souring tone from both sides indicate that a long slog remains, and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows threatened afterward that President Donald Trump is exploring options to use executive authority to extend a partial eviction ban and address unemployment benefits.

After some movement Tuesday in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s direction on aid to states and local governments and unemployment insurance benefits, Wednesday’s session offered no breakthroughs or major progress, participants said afterward.

“If we can reach a compromise on these big issues, I think everything else will fall into place. If we can’t reach an agreement on these big issues then I don’t see us coming to an overall deal,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said after the two-hour meeting. “And then we’ll have to look at the president taking actions under his executive authority.”

Officials say multiple issues remain, but some areas of likely agreement are coming into focus.

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