A bipartisan deal on a ballooning stimulus package appeared to hit a snag Sunday, Rand Paul became the first senator to test positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus, and New York’s mayor warned that the crisis “is going to get a lot worse” as the nation lurched through another day under the virus’ siege.
The stimulus package aims to pump life into a national economy staggered by shutdowns and quarantines. The GOP plan, now estimated at $1.4 trillion, includes $1,200 checks for most U.S. adults and hundreds of billions to assist businesses ground almost to a halt by the pandemic. With Federal Reserve emergency lending and other actions, the total effort could reach $2 trillion.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, however, said Sunday that there’s “no deal” yet on a massive stimulus package.
“We’ll be introducing our own bill,” said Pelosi, D-Calif.
The U.S., which confirmed almost 27,000 cases and 347 deaths, trailed only Spain, Italy and China in reported infections. Confirmed cases, however, are a function of testing. Worldwide cases of confirmed coronavirus surpassed 318,000, and there were more than 13,600 deaths as of Sunday, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard.
Gov. Cuomo: 80% of state could get infected; drug trials to start
New York state on Tuesday will begin testing drugs that could be used to combat the coronavirus, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. The Food and Drug Administration has shipped 70,000 doses of hydroxychloroquine, 10,000 of Zithromax and 750,000 of chloroquine to the state, Cuomo said. President Donald Trump has expressed optimism that these drugs may help be a “game changer” in treating the virus. Cuomo credited the FDA for moving expeditiously to provide the drugs.
Cuomo said up to 80% of state residents could become infected with the virus, though the vast majority would have mild symptoms.
“The president ordered the FDA to move and the FDA moved,” Cuomo said. “We are all optimistic that (the drugs) could work. I’ve spoken with a number of health officials and there is a good basis to believe that they could work.” Cuomo said the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in New York had risen to 15,168, and the death toll in the state is 114, both highest in the nation.
– Lorenzo Reyes
Stimulus: $1,200 checks for people; help for businesses, too
Your $1,200 check could be in the mail as soon as a deal is struck, but that timeline was far from settled. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said a deal was “very near” while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was less optimistic.
McConnell’s plan would provide a $1,200 check for most individuals making up to $75,000 annually; there would be smaller checks for people making more and no checks for those making in excess of $99,000. Some Democrats called for “unemployment insurance on steroids,” giving workers who lost their jobs checks approximating what they were making before they were let go. Hundreds of billions more would be ticketed for businesses and state and local governments.
Critical condition: Supply of equipment for health care workers
The scramble for vital gear needed to protect health care workers continues to intensify. Hospitals in Detroit put out a plea for donations of disposable face masks, N95 respirators, eye protection including face shields and safety goggles and other safety equipment. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged President Donald Trump to use the Defense Production Act to compel companies to manufacture much needed masks, gowns and ventilators.
FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor told CNN that a mandate isn’t required because companies are willingly producing the equipment. He said requests are coming in from every state “looking for the exact same things … We are trying to make sure we focus our efforts on the hot spots that need it he most. And then if you don’t it right away you will be a little further down the list, but we will get to you.”
NYC mayor says outbreak will ‘get a lot worse’
The coronavirus outbreak “is going to get a lot worse” in April and May, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio warned, urging President Donald Trump to send medically trained military personnel to hot spots such as New York. De Blasio, making the round of news shows, told NBC News he would use the NYPD to “break up large congregations where people are gathering.” He also echoed the call of many state and local leaders for federal help in obtaining equipment vital for an expected onslaught of sick people.
“We’re not getting the stuff we need. If we don’t get ventilators in the next 10 days people will die who don’t have to die, it’s as simple as that'” de Blasio told CNN. “And the one force that can do that, the federal government through the military, is not acting.”
– Lorenzo Reyes
Rand Paul is first senator to test positive
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus but feels “fine” and is being quarantined, his office said. Paul, a physician, is asymptomatic and was tested “out of an abundance of caution due” to his extensive travel and events,” his office said in a Twitter post. “He was not aware of any direct contact with any infected person.”
Last week, Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., and Ben McAdams, D-Utah, announced they had tested positive for the virus. Dozens of other lawmakers who fear they may have been exposed have undergone self-quarantines.
– Sarah Ladd, Louisville Courier Journal
Trump offers North Korea help with COVID-19
President Donald Trump has sent a letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un offering to help the secretive, communist nation’s fight against the coronavirus, the White House confirmed Sunday. The letter, which also expresses a desire to improve diplomatic relations, shows the strong “personal relations” between Trump and Kim, said Kim Yo-jong, Kim’s sister and first vice department director of the Central Committee of the North’s Workers’ Party, in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency. The letter came after North Korea again tested short-range ballistic missiles over the weekend, drawing protests from South Korea.
– David Jackson
21 TSA officers across nation test positive, 5 at JFK
At least 21 Transportation Security Administration officers across the nation have tested positive for the coronavirus, including a fifth officer at New York’s JFK International Airport, the TSA said.
TSA said the airport’s security screening checkpoints remain open, and the agency is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and city public health officials “to monitor the situation as well as the health and safety of our employees and the traveling public.” Workers have tested positive at several airports, among them New York’s LaGuardia, Washington Dulles, Orlando International, Newark Liberty and Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, TSA said.
– Curtis Tate
Hawaii, New Jersey enact strict measures
Hawaii’s governor will institute a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine starting for all people traveling to the state and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy ordered residents to stay at home as more states tightened restrictions aimed at curtailing the outbreak.
Murphy also canceled gatherings of any number, including parties, weddings and religious ceremonies.
“We need you to just stay at home,” Murphy said. “We have to change our behaviors.”
Illinois required residents to stay home as much as possible, aside from meeting their basic needs. New York plans to ban all nonessential travel beginning Sunday evening, following California’s lead, which began Friday. Connecticut and Oregon were preparing to do the same.
Hawaii Gov. David Ige said his order applies to returning residents as well as visitors. It applies to all arrivals at Hawaii airports from the continental U.S. and international destinations and extends to other private and commercial aircraft.
In Chicago, ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’
Under stay-at-home orders amid the coronavirus outbreak, people scattered throughout the Chicago metro area belted out Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On A Prayer” at 7 p.m. Saturday night, standing at windows, in yards and on balconies in freezing weather. Chicagoans shared dozens of videos capturing the citywide sing-along to social media. At least one Chicago radio station played the song at the designated hour. The song’s co-writer,Jon Bon Jovi, gave Chicago a shout-out on Instagram. “Sing it out, baby. We’re all going to come through this together. Be strong,” Jon Bon Jovi said in a post.
– Grace Hauck
Fund providing $75 million for NYC social service nonprofits
A group of foundations, corporations and individuals banded together to provide a NYC COVID-19 Response & Impact Fund to support New York City-based social services and arts and cultural organizations struggling with the coronavirus crisis. The $75 million fund will provide grants and interest-free loans to small and mid-size nonprofits to help them respond to emerging needs, the group said in a statement.
“The coronavirus pandemic threatens to cripple New York City’s nonprofit organizations and the vitally important services they provide,” said Patricia E. Harris, CEO of Bloomberg Philanthropies. She said the join initiative will “help ensure that many of our city’s nonprofits can withstand this crisis and continue to serve all New Yorkers.”
Italy coronavirus cases, deaths spike
For the second day in a row on Saturday, Italy registered a record number of deaths and new cases of coronavirus. Italy reported almost 800 coronavirus-related deaths and 6,557 new cases Saturday, the highest daily count yet in the nation’s health crisis. The latest figures raised Italy’s death toll from the virus to 4,825 as of Saturday evening.
Defense Protection Act: Trump not requiring companies to produce medical equipment
President Donald Trump clarified Saturday that he has not required private companies to produce extra medical equipment under the Defense Production Act. That’s because, he said, he hasn’t had to.
“Because we have so many companies making so many products,” he said. “We have the act to use in case we need it.”
Trump offered mixed signals on the point Friday, suggesting he had mandated companies to produce equipment and then later suggesting he hadn’t. Trump and White House aides have signaled that signing the executive order invoking the Korean War-era Defense Production Act has spurred private companies to act on their own, without a direct order from Washington. Trump mentioned clothes maker Hanes as one of the companies that has voluntarily agreed to retrofit its plants to manufacture masks.
– John Fritze
United Airlines reinstates some international flights
A day after Friday’s announcement that it would reduce international flights by 95% for April because of the government’s coronavirus-induced travel advisories, United Airlines said it is reinstating a handful of international flights to Asia, Australia, Latin America, the Middle East and Europe “in an effort to get customers where they need to be” and “help displaced customers who still need to get home.”
The reinstated routes will be in effect through the end of the month and include outbound flights between Newark and Amsterdam, Munich, Brussels and Sao Paulo; Washington Dulles to London; San Francisco to Frankfurt; and San Francisco to Seoul.
– Rasha Ali
Fauci: Efforts at containing coronavirus are working
Dr. Anthony Fauci said Saturday that efforts to contain the spread of the virus are working, but Americans need to continue to follow the 15-day guidelines for containing the disease. “I think we’re getting to the solution that everybody in the country is looking for,” said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
“We know we are clearly having an effect,” Fauci said. “We will get through it, I promise you.”
Fauci encouraged Americans who do not have symptoms to not get tested. Doing so, he warned, would make it harder for health care workers to prioritize the highest risk Americans. It would also use up highly needed personal protective equipment.
“When you go in and get tested you are consuming personal protective equipment masks and gowns,” Fauci said. “Those are high priority for the health care workers who were taking care of people who have coronavirus disease.”
– Michael Collins, John Fritze, Richard Wolf