Franco Ordoñez

Franco Ordoñez is a White House Correspondent for NPR's Washington Desk. Before he came to NPR in 2019, Ordoñez covered the White House for McClatchy. He has also written about diplomatic affairs, foreign policy and immigration, and has been a correspondent in Cuba, Colombia, Mexico and Haiti.

Ordoñez has received several state and national awards for his work, including the Casey Medal, the Gerald Loeb Award and the Robert F. Kennedy Award for Excellence in Journalism. He is a two-time reporting fellow with the International Center for Journalists, and is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School and the University of Georgia.

The White House coronavirus task force rejected detailed guidance drafted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on how workplaces ranging from schools to bars to churches should resume operations to prevent the spread of the virus because it was viewed as "overly prescriptive."

President Trump said the existing coronavirus social distancing guidelines that are set to expire with the end of April on Thursday will not be extended further, as more governors begin steps to lift restrictions and reopen their economies.

The administration said the existing social distancing recommendations are being incorporated by governors into their new future plans.

"They'll be fading out, because now the governors are doing it," Trump said.

Updated at 8:45 p.m. ET

President Trump signed an executive order on Tuesday aimed at addressing concerns about meat shortages.

The order invokes the Defense Production Act to ensure beef, pork, poultry and egg plants keep running.

Vice President Pence says comments he made last month about coronavirus testing were misunderstood by the public.

At issue: test distribution versus test completion.

Pence joined President Trump on Monday to announce a federal "blueprint" to help states ramp up their testing of the virus. Testing is seen as crucial for states to begin to lift social and economic restrictions.

Vice President Pence is slated to leave the confines of Washington twice this week — the latest in a series of trips the White House is using as test runs for President Trump to get back on the road after the coronavirus brought political travel to a screeching halt.

Two leading former federal health officials who served in recent Republican and Democratic administrations are spearheading a call for a $46 billion public health investment in a future coronavirus aid package in order to safely reopen the economy.

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New White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows is working with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to see how to reduce wage rates for foreign guest workers on American farms, in order to help U.S. farmers struggling during the coronavirus, according to U.S. officials and sources familiar with the plans.

Opponents of the plan argue it will hurt vulnerable workers and depress domestic wages.

Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, criticized governors Thursday, saying they don't have a handle on their own supplies of masks and ventilators needed to combat the coronavirus outbreak.

In a rare appearance in the White House briefing room, Kushner urged governors and some senators to be more resourceful in their own states instead of looking first to the federal government for help.

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The people working to get President Trump reelected are planning for how they are going to have to address the coronavirus pandemic on the campaign trail. They see an opportunity to rewrite the narrative and double down on Trump's America First agenda.

Two weeks ago, President Trump entered the White House briefing room and announced an aggressive plan to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Stay home for 15 days, he told Americans. Avoid groups of more than 10 people. "If everyone makes this change, or these critical changes, and sacrifices now, we will rally together as one nation and we will defeat the virus," he said.

The United States and China are locked in a struggle over influence and messaging about the coronavirus pandemic even as governments around the world struggle to control the outbreak.

This week, Washington claimed a small victory.

State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus hailed comments by China's ambassador walking back an earlier false claim in Beijing that the U.S. Army had introduced the coronavirus to its epicenter in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

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Updated at 9:30 p.m. ET

President Trump on Friday declared that the coronavirus pandemic is a national emergency, a designation that frees up as much as $50 billion in federal assistance to state and local governments overwhelmed by the spread of the virus, and makes it easier to surge medical resources to areas that need them most.

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Rachel, let's talk more about the White House response to the coronavirus here. I want to bring in NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez, who is at the White House. Hi, Franco. Franco, you with us?

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Hello.

Ricardo Flores can't vote on Tuesday. He's not a citizen.

But Flores wants to play a role now. He figures if he can convince a few people, especially members of his own Latino community in Kansas City, Mo., to cast a ballot for his candidate — that's a close second.

"I'm going to become a citizen of this country," he says. "And I'm going to be able to vote and I have my life here now, I want to see things better."

Updated at 7 p.m. ET

President Trump on Friday stopped in at the Atlanta headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the agency marshaling the response to coronavirus — a major political test for his administration.

The trip itself was almost derailed by coronavirus fears, and mixed signals about what was happening created an on-again, off-again drama that played out in front of television cameras. The chaotic impression clashed with the White House quest to show that the public health crisis is under control.

Updated at 7 p.m. ET

Vice President Mike Pence will travel to Olympia, Wash., on Thursday to meet with the governor and health officials and express support for the region that has been hit hardest by coronavirus.

"By being there on the ground, I want to assure the people of Washington State, people of California, people that are in the communities that are being impacted by the virus, that we're with them," Pence told reporters, pledging federal resources to help.

Updated at 5 :45 p.m.

The White House sought to show it was shoring up its efforts to corral the spread of coronavirus on Thursday, naming an internationally recognized HIV/AIDS expert as its new coronavirus response coordinator.

Debbie Birx is a State Department ambassador-at-large who works on global health diplomacy issues. Vice President Pence said Birx would be detailed to his office.

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Updated at 9:10 p.m. ET

Jared Kushner has been quietly trying to resurrect discussions to overhaul the U.S. immigration system, multiple people familiar with the conversations have told NPR.

President Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law has been meeting with business leaders, immigration hard-liners and other interest groups important to Republicans with the goal of rolling out a new immigration plan once Trump's impeachment trial ended.

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President Trump took full advantage of the large television audience for his State of the Union speech on Tuesday to make his case for reelection in November, touting the strong economy and delighting Republicans in the room with a series of made-for-TV moments.

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó's appearance at the State of the Union — as well as the bipartisan ovation he received — was intended to send a strong message of U.S. support for his efforts to unseat Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro.

Guaidó attended the address as a guest of the White House.

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As the second week of the Senate impeachment trial begins, President Trump is making sure not to fully cede the spotlight to Democrats' effort to oust him.

Trump is set to meet Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then Netanyahu's political rival, Benny Gantz, as the administration plans to release its plan for Middle East peace.

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Updated at 6:30 p.m. ET

President Trump on Thursday defended students who feel they can't pray in their schools — and warned school administrators they risk losing federal funds if they violate their students' rights to religious expression.

Trump held an event in the Oval Office with a group of Christian, Jewish and Muslim students and teachers to commemorate National Religious Freedom Day. The students and teachers said they have been discriminated against for practicing their religion at school.

Updated on Jan. 17 at 9:30 p.m. ET

President Trump has picked some high-wattage lawyers to round out his defense team for the Senate impeachment trial — a group of attorneys who are as comfortable in front of the television cameras as they are in courtrooms.

Ken Starr, a Fox news commentator whose special counsel investigations led to President Bill Clinton's impeachment, will join the team. Harvard Law professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz also will help deliver opening arguments.

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