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House debates another round of pandemic aid as Trump vows, ‘We’re back’

Editor's Note: In this piece, we mistakenly referred to "Frederick, Virginia," when we meant "Fredericksburg, Virginia." We regret the error.

In the U.S., more than 87,000 people have died from COVID-19, and another 300,000 have recovered from it. The House of Representatives is considering another round of federal relief, but Republicans, and even some Democrats, dismissed the proposed bill as unrealistic. Meanwhile, more areas of the country, from the Grand Canyon to the Jersey Shore, are preparing to reopen. Amna Nawaz reports.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Another week ends in the era of COVID-19.

    As of tonight, more than 87,000 people have died nationwide. More than 300,000 have recovered. More of the country is reopening, or getting ready to, from the Grand Canyon to the Jersey Shore.

    And more federal relief is moving through the U.S. House of Representatives.

    Amna Nawaz begins our coverage.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    In the Capitol today, fervid debate over the newest coronavirus aid bill.

  • Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif.:

    We hear members talking about how much they love America, how much they love their constituents. Put up or shut up. Now is the time to do it.

  • Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Ga.:

    This is the single largest borrow-and-spend bill the country has ever seen, and it included not one Republican amendment.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Proposed by Democrats, the 1,800-page, $3 trillion relief package would send almost $1 trillion to state and local governments, renew $1,200 in direct cash payments to individuals, and provide hazard pay to health care workers and others on the front line.

    Democrats argued more federal support is needed for struggling states and businesses.

    Congressman Alcee Hastings of Florida:

  • Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla.:

    Americans are afraid, not just of how they're going to make ends meet, but whether they're going to make it through this pandemic at all.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    But Republicans accused Democrats of pushing through a partisan bill.

    Congressman Tom Cole of Oklahoma:

  • Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla.:

    So, let's do what we have done four times in a row, sit down, work together and craft a bipartisan bill. We have proven we have done it, and can do it again.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Senate Majority Leader Republican Mitch McConnell has dismissed the House proposal as a — quote — "totally unserious effort." And the president has threatened to veto it.

    But today's vote came as the number of Americans in need of help continues to grow. New figures this week reveal a total of 36 million Americans have now filed for unemployment in just the last two months. And new Commerce Department numbers today showed retail sales in April plunged a record 16 percent.

    In an attempt to soothe the financial strain, more than 40 states have already announced plans to reopen or are in the midst of doing so. In Frederick, Virginia, Mike Mansfield's gastropub began a phased reopening today.

  • Mike Mansfield:

    We want to do something. Everybody wants to work and just get busy. But we want to take every precaution also. It's a little scary, but we're ready.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    In parts of New York state, Governor Andrew Cuomo allowed restrictions to ease while extending stay-at-home orders for most of the state, including New York City, until May 28.

  • Governor Andrew Cuomo:

    There's no politics to this judgment. There's no arbitrary nature to this judgment. It's all on the numbers.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Back in Washington, the sounds of protesting truck drivers honking their horns, frustrated by low freights during the pandemic, pierced the president's White House event, promoting the administration's efforts to develop a coronavirus vaccine.

    Though Drs. Birx and Fauci of the Coronavirus Task Force wore masks, the president did not.

  • President Donald Trump:

    I want to make one thing clear: Vaccine or no vaccine, we're back. And we are starting the process. And in many cases, they don't have vaccines, and a virus or a flu comes, and you fight through it.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    According to National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, large-scale trials for a possible vaccine aren't expected until July.

    And now new questions about a COVID-19 test made by Abbott Labs and used daily at the White House. The Food and Drug Administration said late Thursday the test can sometimes give a false negative, clearing the person tested as virus-free, when he or she isn't.

    And, today, a blistering editorial from the "Lancet" medical journal, bashing the national pandemic response as — quote — "inconsistent and incoherent," accusing the Trump administration of — quote — "marginalizing and hobbling" the CDC, and calling on Americans to vote for a president who — quote — "will understand that public health should not be guided by partisan politics."

    Overseas, in China, officials said they marked one full month with no new COVID deaths. But vulnerable populations, like here in Bangladesh, are bracing for a blow. In this crowded camp, home to one million Rohingya Muslims, the first coronavirus case was confirmed just today.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Amna Nawaz.

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