UPDATE: Federal Response to the Coronavirus Crisis

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The number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. is nearing 500,000 with nearly 17,000 deaths.

But there are positive signs that the tough social distancing guidelines in place are doing their job in slowing the spread.

In New York, the hardest-hit state, Gov. Andrew Cuomo says hospitalizations and ICU rates are dropping.

And a top U.S. model shows fewer deaths by August than previously projected.

Earlier this week that model was predicting the virus would claim at least 81,000 lives. Now that projected number has dropped to around 60,000.

But federal health officials warn it’s not time yet to ease up on social distancing.

“We have to continue to re-double our efforts at the mitigation of physical separation to get those numbers down and hopefully even lower,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said.

While things are slowing down in New York, two other major cities—Philadelphia and Washington, D. C—are expected to become the new hot spots for the deadly virus.

Efforts to pass more funding for the Trump administration’s small business relief loans program have stalled in the Senate.

The legislation would provide an additional $250 billion for the program. But Senate Democrats are also demanding extra money for hospitals and state and local government, along with fixes to the loan program.

Republicans, including President Trump, argue additional funding for hospitals and states should be part of a separate bill.

While lawmakers work to hammer out more financial relief in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the Trump administration says direct payments from the last economic stimulus package are still on schedule to begin going out to some Americans by the end of next week.

The Federal Reserve is continuing efforts to prop up the economy, including support for small businesses and consumers.

The Central Bank announced a new $2.3 trillion round of loans Thursday.

In addition to providing financial aid for small businesses, the Fed says it’s also giving up to $500 billion in loans, and $35 billion in credit protection to help state and local governments manage cash flow stresses.

This is the first time the Central Bank has extended support for states, cities and municipalities.