A bipartisan $2 trillion aid package was approved by the House of Representatives and signed by President Donald Trump on Friday.
The stimulus provides $1,200 to most Americans along with funds for small businesses and unemployment insurance.
Meanwhile, New York continued to see an uptick in deaths and Italy reported 919 deaths in 24 hours, the deadliest single day since the coronavirus outbreak began three months ago in China.
In other news, the U.S. became the global leader in cases and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tested positive for the coronavirus as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
The U.S. counted more than 97,000 cases of coronavirus on Friday, with at least 1,400 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard. More confirmations are expected as the U.S. ramps up testing. More than 586,000 people are known to have been infected globally, and roughly 26,000 have died.
House votes to pass $2 trillion relief package
The House voted to pass a $2 trillion coronavirus relief package – the largest emergency aid bill in history – that will offer $1,200 checks to Americans, extensive unemployment benefits for those out of work and financial relief to businesses and the health care industry hard-hit by the worsening crisis.
Trump signed the measure – the largest stimulus in U.S. history – in the Oval Office hours after it was approved by the House of Representatives, an unusually rapid approval that underscored dire warnings of a recession as companies began to lay off workers and U.S. consumers hunkered down in their homes to avoid spreading the virus.
“I want to thank Democrats and Republicans for coming together and putting America first,” Trump said at the signing.
While the president’s signature ended the legislative effort on Capitol Hill, it marked a beginning to the government’s work managing the crisis. Now the Trump administration must rapidly pump hundreds of billions of dollars into the economy in the form of direct payments, loans and grants to hard-hit industries such as the airlines
The House’s vote allows the bill to head to President Donald Trump’s desk for final approval. Trump has signaled he will sign the bill.
The vote comes one day after the U.S. reached two grim milestones, becoming the country with the most coronavirus cases in the world and reporting a record 3.28 million workers who applied for unemployment benefits in one week – the highest number in history since the Department of Labor started tracking data in 1967.
– Christal Hayes
Coronavirus death toll spikes in Italy
Italy suffered the deadliest single day since the coronavirus outbreak began three months ago in China, as the number of its deaths jumped by 919 people in 24 hours.
The country has the highest death toll of any country, with 9,134 fatalities, according to Italy’s Civil Protection Department. The nation also surpassed China on Friday to take second place behind the United States with the most infections: 86,498 cases.
China recorded its highest single-day death toll of 150 on February 23, according to its National Health Commission.
Italian authorities have been hoping that aggressive lockdown measures taken in the country more than two weeks ago would start to yield conclusive results. But the data have been mixed, with the number of deaths and new infections each day this week fluctuating.
– Kim Hjelmgaard
Mayors report acute shortage of face masks, test kits, ventilators
A nonpartisan survey of U.S. mayors found an overwhelming number said they did not have an adequate supply of face masks for their first responders and medical personnel nor enough coronavirus test kits.
The survey by U.S. Conference of Mayors between last Friday and Tuesday involved 213 cities in 41 states and Puerto Rico, ranging from towns of 2,000 people to 3.8 million.
Among those mayors responding, more than 90% noted the lack face masks and test kits, while 85% said they do not have enough ventilators for their hospitals.
In other categories, 88% said they did not have an adequate supply of personal protect equipment (PPE) other than face masks to protect police, fire, emergency medical responders and medical personnel.
The survey found that the cities cumulatively needed 5 million face masks, 4 million PPE items, 9 million test kits, and 139,000 ventilators.
New York to keep schools closed though April 15
New York will keep all schools closed until at least April 15 as the state continues to battle the spread of the novel coronavirus, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday.
Cuomo said keeping the schools closed is the prudent decision as the number of coronavirus cases continues to increase in New York. Previously, Cuomo had shuttered schools until April 1.
New York continues to be an epicenter of the outbreak, reporting almost 40,000 cases and 365 deaths.
– Jon Campbell
British PM Boris Johnson tests positive for virus
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson became the first world leader to test positive for coronavirus Friday. Johnson confirmed the infection himself on his official Twitter account.
Johnson, 55, said he developed mild symptoms over the last 24 hours.
“I am now self-isolating, but I will continue to lead the government’s response via video-conference as we fight this virus,” he said.
Prince Charles, Queen Elizabeth II’s son and heir to the British throne, tested positive for the coronavirus this week and was self-isolating in Scotland, according to his office. He only displayed mild symptoms, his office said.
– Kim Hjelmgaard
38 infected inside one of America’s largest jails
Dozens of people have been confirmed to be infected in Illinois’ Cook County Jail, which has more than 5,000 people incarcerated on a given day.
At least 38 detainees have tested positive, and six have tested negative, according to the Cook County Sheriff’s Office. Another 123 tests were pending as of Friday afternoon. At least six employees have tested positive, but the sheriff’s office did not immediately say how many employee tests were pending or negative.
Amid fear over growing spread within the jail, the Chicago Community Bond Fund, an organization that raises money to pay off bonds, is working with other groups to pay over $120,000 in bonds to free more than 20 people from pretrial incarceration.
Cook County Jail is in the processing of releasing and screening non-violent, pretrial defendants who are older or have preexisting conditions.
More than 1,900 people have tested positive for the virus in Cook County.
– Grace Hauck
Stocks retreat following 3-day surge
U.S. stocks pulled back Friday following three straight days of gains as a massive coronavirus relief package for the U.S. economy headed for congressional approval.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average slumped 800 points, as the U.S. eclipsed China as the global leader in virus cases. The blue-chip average has rallied 21% over the past three days, its biggest gain in that span since 1931. Heading into Friday, the Dow was on track for its best week in nearly 90 years. The Standard & Poor’s 500 fell 3%.
Traders say the pending passage of a $2 trillion fiscal stimulus bill has helped drive the stock market’s double-digit percentage gains this week. Congress and the Federal Reserve have promised an astonishing amount of aid for the economy and markets, hoping to support them as the pandemic shuts down more businesses each day.
– Jessica Menton
Trump questions Cuomo’s bid for 30K ventilators
President Donald Trump questioned New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s call for 30,000 ventilators to meet an expected surge of patients in the coming weeks.
“I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators,” Trump told Fox News host Sean Hannity on Thursday. “You know, you go into major hospitals, sometimes, they’ll have two ventilators. And now all of a sudden they’re saying, ‘Can we order 30,000 ventilators?'”
Cuomo has said he needs 30,000 of the machines “at a minimum” to meet the peak of the outbreak in his state in a couple of weeks.
New York, which had 39,140 confirmed coronavirus case and 461 deaths as of Friday, has been at the epicenter of the crisis in the U.S.
The state has only about 4,000 ventilators, which are needed to help patients breathe as they battle a virus that attacks respiratory systems. Cuomo said the state is converting some anesthesia machines into ventilators and adding a second tube to some ventilators.
Death rate soars in New Orleans; city could become next epicenter
The number of known coronavirus cases in Louisiana jumped to over 2,300 on Thursday, an increase of 510 cases from Wednesday, and a total of 83 deaths, according to the Louisiana Department of Health. Nearly half of Louisiana’s cases — 997 — came from New Orleans.
Throngs of revelers may have brought the coronavirus to New Orleans during Mardi Gras celebrations.
But the city’s poverty rate, lack of healthcare and affordable housing, coupled with high rates of residents with preexisting medical conditions, may be driving its explosive growth and could make it the next U.S. epicenter of the outbreak.
The city reported Thursday that a 17-year-old teen died after contracting the virus, bringing the city’s coronavirus death tally to 46 — more than half of the state’s total death count.
New Orleans Homeland Security Director Collin Arnold said hospital capacity in the New Orleans region is dwindling and the city will need additional hospital beds within weeks.
– Rick Jervis, Maria Clark and Lorenzo Reyes
Record 3.3M Americans apply for unemployment benefits amid coronavirus
The number of Americans filing initial applications for unemployment benefits jumped nearly twelvefold to a record 3.3 million last week, the Labor Department said, offering the most vivid evidence yet of the coronavirus’s widespread damage to the economy. The total was well above the 1.5 million claims economists had forecast, according to the median estimate of those surveyed by Bloomberg.
The pandemic has set off the most abrupt near-shutdown of the economy in history. Many restaurants, shops, movie theaters, sports arenas and other gathering spots were compelled to close their doors or scale back service – and lay off staff.
– Paul Davidson
Three migrant children in US custody in New York test positive for COVID-19
Three unaccompanied minor children in U.S. custody in New York have tested positive for the coronavirus, officials said Thursday.
The children, whose ages and nationalities weren’t released, are in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The office is responsible for housing migrant minors.
The agency said it is doing an evaluation of the children and will not release them from New York care provider facilities. It has stopped placements of unaccompanied minor children in the states of California, New York, and Washington, which have been the hardest hit by the coronavirus. With more than 30,000 cases in New York, the state has become the epicenter of the coronavirus epidemic in the United States.
– Monsy Alvarado, Bergen Record
Will Florida be the next New York?
Florida has come under fire after its beaches remained jammed with spring breakers last week, and Gov. Ron DeSantis has ignored calls to issue a statewide shelter-in-place order.
That may contribute to the state becoming the next hot spot for COVID-19, a chilling possibility considering the elderly are the most likely to die from the disease and Florida is home to nearly four million people 65 and over, the second-highest number in the U.S. behind California.
Hospitals and doctors around the state say they still don’t have nearly enough testing kits and can’t get the ones they have analyzed fast enough, echoing complaints from state health officials across the country. Health officials have completed 27,000 tests so far in Florida, while New York is doing more than 18,000 tests a day.
– Alan Gomez
4 elderly passengers have died on cruise line stuck off Panama
Four elderly passengers have died on board Holland America’s MS Zaandam, which is anchored off Panama because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Two people aboard the ship have tested positive for coronavirus and 138 have complained of flu-like symptoms, which are similar to coronavirus symptoms.
Due to privacy regulations, Holland America Line said it could not disclose whether the four deceased passengers had reported coronavirus symptoms.
The sick still aboard the ship include 53 passengers and 85 crewmembers. There are 305 Americans aboard the MS Zaamda, which carries 1,243 passengers and 586 crew members.
The ship did not have coronavirus tests until Thursday evening when it rendezvoused with Holland America’s MS Rotterdam for additional supplies and medical personnel.
The ships received permission to anchor off the coast of Panama to transfer supplies and passengers. However, the plan for disembarkation is not yet finalized.
Holland America Line, along with major cruise lines worldwide, announced March 13 it would suspend cruise operations for at least 30 days and end its cruises in progress. But some ships have been denied ports and remain stuck at sea.