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WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump parachuted into the coronavirus aid debate Wednesday, upbraiding his Republican allies for proposing too small of a relief package and encouraging both parties to go for a bigger one that would include his priority of $1,200 stimulus checks for most Americans.

But his top GOP allies — who worked for weeks with the White House to construct the very aid package Trump criticized — shrugged off the president’s mid-morning tweet.

They also weighed in against a $1.5 trillion aid package backed by moderates in both parties that earned praise from the White House.

All the key players in the entrenched impasse over a COVID-19 rescue package instead focused their energies on finger-pointing and gamesmanship, even as political nervousness was on the rise among Democrats frustrated by a stalemate in which their party shares the blame. There remained no sign that talks between the White House and congressional Democrats would restart.

“Go for the much higher numbers, Republicans,” Trump tweeted.

The smaller bill from Senate Republicans that Trump criticized did not include $300 billion for a second round of Trump-endorsed stimulus checks, which the White House said is a top priority.

“What the president was referring to was the $500 billion bill that passed the Senate,” said White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany. “It didn’t include direct payments. He wants more than the $500 billion and he’s very keen to see these direct stimulus payments.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., says any deal will have to include far more than just another set of “Trump checks" and a handful of other priorities.

“All they want is to have the President’s name on a check going out. …. That’s all he really cares about,” Pelosi said. “We have to do more than just have the Republicans check a box.”

At issue is a potential fifth coronavirus relief package that would extend supplemental jobless benefits to replace a $600-per-week COVID unemployment benefit that expired at the end of July. It would also funnel more than $100 billion to help schools open, provide assistance to state and local governments, and funnel more money into a program that directly subsidizes business hit hardest by the pandemic.

The bipartisan spirit that birthed a $2 trillion aid package in March has evaporated. Many Republicans cite deficits and debt and are simply wary of another Pelosi-brokered deal. As the talks progressed, Senate Republicans made their proposal smaller, moving further away from Democrats.

Pelosi, for her part, is fending off a rebellion among some Democrats who fear that her hardball strategy is partly responsible for the deadlock and makes for bad politics. Some of her more moderate colleagues from Trump-friendly congressional districts have signed on to a new bill by the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus that totals $1.5 trillion, a measure that won praise Wednesday from White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

“I thought it was very thoughtful and actually is in a way very meaningful if you’re looking at Republicans and Democrats coming together in a bipartisan way,” Meadows told reporters. Meadows, however, spent much of August negotiating with Senate Republicans to produce the much smaller $650 billion measure. And it was clear the $1.5 trillion total is a non-starter with most Republicans.

“We’d have to see what’s in it, but I think it’s difficult,” said House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, D-Calif.

Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., said Wednesday that worries among Democrats are not limited to frontline lawmakers in Trump-won districts like hers. “The concern about being able to actually move forward with a relief package has been top of mind for just about every member of Congress that I’ve spoken to,” she said.

Pelosi says she’s willing to negotiate from a $2.2 trillion marker set last month, but Senate GOP leaders haven’t budged from a $650 billion measure that Democrats scuttled last week via filibuster. An earlier $1 trillion Senate GOP plan never gained momentum.

The No. 2 Senate Republican, John Thune of South Dakota, asked about Trump’s “higher numbers” tweet, told reporters that a good number of Senate Republicans might support a $1 trillion measure. But “as you go upwards from there, you start to start losing Republican support pretty quickly,” he said.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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Tampa International Airport becomes first US airport to offer COVID-19 tests for both departing and arriving passengers in its terminals

Tampa International Airport has become the first US airport to offer COVID-19 tests for both departing and arriving passengers in its terminals.

The airport announced Tuesday it has joined forces with BayCare Health System to carry out voluntary testing for any travelers who have flown or are flying within three days, and can show proof of travel.

Officials said they hoped the move will help restore confidence in the industry after travel ground to a halt back in March when the pandemic ravaged America and several international destinations. 

Tampa International Airport has become the first US airport to offer COVID-19 tests for both departing and arriving passengers in its terminals. Pictured Registered Nurse and VP of business development at BayCare Donna St. Louis performs a rapid antigen test on Tampa International Airport employee Mary Baltzell at Tuesday's demonstration 

Tests will be available on a walk-in basis from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at a testing site set up near the Airside F shuttle in the main terminal.   

Passengers will be able to choose from two tests - a rapid antigen test and a polymerase chain reaction swab.

The rapid antigen test costs $57 and results are available in 15 minutes so passengers can be tested the same day they travel. 

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The polymerase chain reaction swab costs $125 with results available in 48 hours. 

It is designed for travelers going to destinations requiring this type of test, such as Puerto Rico.   

If a passenger tests positive for coronavirus they will be advised not to fly but the airport cannot legally stop them, reported Tampa Bay Times.  

The Florida Department of Health will be responsible for carrying out contact tracing for any positive results. 

Airport officials said they hoped the move will help restore confidence in the industry after travel ground to a halt back in March when the pandemic ravaged America and several international destinations. Pictured Tampa International Airport

The airport announced Tuesday it has joined forces with BayCare Health System to carry out voluntary testing for any travelers who have flown or are flying within three days, and can show proof of travel

The program is a trial running for the duration of October however Tampa International Airport's CEO Joe Lopano said it could be rolled out further if it's a success.

'This is just a test, but we think if it's successful - and we think it will be - we'll continue, and we'll grow it,' he said Tuesday as he announced its launch.   

Lopano said the move should help ease traveler concerns about the risks of flying and international travel as cases and deaths continue to tick up. 

'Our responsibility as good managers is to try to get out of this hole that we're in. And we're going to do that,' he said. 

John Tiliacos, the airport's executive vice president of operations and customer service, said it could also encourage governments to ease international travel bans.  

Florida has been one of the worst-hit states during the pandemic, with 704,568 cases and 14,143 deaths

'We get numerous calls every day from passengers that are flying to locations, whether it's within the US or outside the US, asking if we provide testing,' he said. 

'It's something that frankly the travel industry has been trying to impress upon governments - both the US government and governments around the world - that we really need to implement some form of rapid testing that ideally gives you results on the spot.'

He added: 'We hope this becomes a catalyst for a broader national conversation that needs to be had regarding testing of passengers, so that we can instill confidence in people to fly.' 

The airline industry was one of the hardest-hit by the pandemic back in March as borders closed, the federal government banned flights to and from some nations and stay-at-home orders left the few planes still operating empty of passengers.  

Airlines cut thousands of flights and thousands of staff were laid off or furloughed to try to keep the industry afloat. 

At Tampa International Airport, passenger traffic plummeted by a staggering 96 percent in April, triggering a projected revenue shortfall of almost $76 million for the fiscal year. 

This forced the airport to put on hold $900 million in construction projects. 

In May, the major airlines reached a deal with the US Treasury for $25 billion in federal aid to help pay workers and avoid massive layoffs in the industry. 

As part of the deal, airlines were banned from laying off staff before October 1.  

But, several flight bans with international destinations have rumbled on - even after lockdowns eased and infection rates in many affected areas slowed - meaning job cuts could be just around the corner. 

Florida has been one of the worst-hit states during the pandemic, with 704,568 cases and 14,143 deaths.

Nationwide, more than 205,000 Americans have been killed by the virus and cases have topped 7.1 million. 

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  • Tampa airport introduces coronavirus screening for all passengers

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