Coronavirus Live Updates: White House and Congress Reach $2 Trillion Stimulus Deal

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The relief package includes jobless benefits and direct payments to individuals. People fleeing New York to other parts of the country are told to self-isolate for 14 days. President Trump wants the U.S. “opened up” by Easter.Right NowHospitals in Spain are overwhelmed and mortuaries in Madrid are full to capacity as the death toll in…

The relief package includes jobless benefits and direct payments to individuals. People fleeing New York to other parts of the country are told to self-isolate for 14 days. President Trump wants the U.S. “opened up” by Easter.

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Hospitals in Spain are overwhelmed and mortuaries in Madrid are full to capacity as the death toll in the country reaches 3,000.

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Credit…Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times

The White House and Congress struck a deal in the predawn hours to deliver $2 trillion in government relief to a nation increasingly under lockdown, watching nervously as the twin threats of disease and economic ruin grow more dire.

Reached after midnight, the stimulus deal was the product of a marathon set of negotiations among Senate Republicans, Democrats and the White House that had stalled as Democrats insisted on stronger worker protections and oversight of a $500 billion fund to bail out distressed businesses.

Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, announced the deal on the Senate floor well after midnight.

“At last, we have a deal,” he said. “In effect, this is a wartime level of investment into our nation.”

The passage of the bill buoyed financial markets in Asia and Europe, and the optimism looked likely to carry over to Wall Street, as trading in futures indicated a strong opening for stocks there.

The sheer size and scope of the stimulus package would have been unthinkable only a couple of weeks ago. Its total cost is several hundred billions of dollars more than the entire annual federal budget, and administration officials said they hoped that its effect on a battered economy would be exponentially greater, generating as much as $4 trillion in economic activity.

“This is not a moment of celebration, but one of necessity,” the minority leader, Sen. Chuck Schumer, said as he took careful note of the changes his party had secured in the legislation. “To all Americans I say, ‘Help is on the way.’”

The legislation, which is expected to be enacted within days, is the biggest economic stimulus package in modern American history, dwarfing the $800 billion stimulus bill passed in 2008 during the financial crisis. The aim is to deliver critical financial support to businesses forced to shut their doors and relief to American families and hospitals reeling from the rapid spread of the disease and the resulting economic disruption.

“We are your future,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York warned the nation as the infection rate exploded and hospitals began to confront a growing influx of patients. “Where we are today, you will be in three weeks, four weeks, five weeks, six weeks.” Alarmed by the scale of the epidemic in New York City, White House officials advised people who have passed through or left the area to quarantine themselves for 14 days.

But even as the crisis deepened in New York, President Trump pressed to reopen the country for business by Easter, on April 12.

Mr. Trump made his comments on the same day that India announced a “complete lockdown” of the country’s 1.3 billion people and the Olympic Games in Tokyo were postponed for a year.

The nightmarish situation in Spain deepened seemingly by the hour. More than 40,000 Spaniards have tested positive for the virus and 3,000 have died. The majority of the cases are in Madrid, where the mortuaries are full to capacity.

The country has asked NATO for assistance as it struggles to get the epidemic under control.

France, under lockdown for a week, has been increasingly aggressive in penalizing those who violate social distancing rules, issuing more than 100,000 fines.

In London, the military was helping convert the sprawling Excel convention center in London into the 4,000-bed “N.H.S. Nightingale Hospital.”

A similar effort was underway in New York City, where the 1.8-million-square-foot Jacob K. Javits Convention Center — which was scheduled to hold an expo for exotic flowers this week — looked more like a front-line military depot as workers rushed to transform the complex to handle an imminent surge of patients.

Governor Cuomo said that with cases doubling every three days in New York City alone, as many as 140,000 people might need urgent care in the next few weeks.

And the state was still in dire need of critical equipment, particularly the ventilators needed to keep critically ill patients alive long enough for them to fight off the virus. The Trump administration promised to send 4,000 from the national stockpile, but Governor Cuomo said the state needed tens of thousands more.

More than 200 people have already died statewide, and there was broad agreement that the worst of the crisis would play out over the next few weeks.

Against this backdrop, Mr. Trump’s push to ease restrictions so soon seemed out of touch with the scale of the crisis both in the country and around the world.

When asked how he came up with April 12 as a target date, Mr. Trump did not cite any scientific evidence.

“I just thought it was a beautiful time,” he said.

Listen to ‘The Daily’: ‘Raring to Go by Easter’

President Trump said he would like to allow shuttered businesses around the United States to reopen within weeks, defying the advice of top health officials.

Markets across Asia and Europe were buoyant on Wednesday, as investors cheered a $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package to shore up the American economy.

The positive mood looked likely to carry over onto Wall Street, with a strong opening expected there as well.

As Congress neared agreement on Tuesday to stabilize the faltering U.S. economy, the S&P 500 had its biggest daily gain since 2008, rising more than 9 percent. Shares of companies likely to receive bailouts, such as airlines, cruise lines and casinos, soared. Norwegian Cruise Lines was the best performing stock in the S&P 500 on Tuesday, jumping more than 40 percent, while Delta, American Airlines and United Airlines all rose more than 20 percent.

But investors are still fragile and could sour on stocks if the promised deal hits a snag again. The U.S. government will report weekly jobless claims on Thursday, and some analysts expect the data to show that millions of Americans became unemployed last week.

Across India, crowds swarmed into food stores and cleaned out the shelves. At a fancy market in New Delhi, one man stuffed his Mercedes with groceries on Wednesday afternoon and then jumped behind the wheel and zoomed off — wearing blue rubber dishwashing gloves and a clear plastic face mask that looked like it would fit with a snorkel.

This is Day 1 of how India is coping with the world’s biggest coronavirus lockdown after 1.3 billion people — nearly a fifth of humanity — were ordered to stay inside unless vitally necessary.

India has reported relatively few coronavirus cases — fewer than 600 so far — but with the population density so high and the public health system so weak, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has imposed stringent measures to try to keep the country from sliding into the disaster that the United States, Italy and other countries face.

On Wednesday, most Indians, from the snowbound valleys in the Himalayas to tropical islands in the Andaman Sea, seemed to be following the rules — though the price for some will prove high.

With New York and California already instituting strict measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus, and doctors in Washington State dealing with the bleak reality that they may have to decide which patients to prioritize for care, the United States has begun to grapple with several major outbreaks nationwide at once.

In New York, the epicenter of the crisis in the country, cases exceeded 25,000 statewide by Tuesday, and in California, at least 2,500 cases had been confirmed, with those numbers expected to rise significantly in the coming days.

But even as the crisis escalated, the response to the pandemic has remained widely inconsistent. President Trump said on Tuesday that a national lockdown had never been under consideration and that he “would love to have the country opened up” by Easter, a goal that health experts have called far too quick.

Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas continued to resist calls to issue a statewide order to force millions to stay at home, but he did urge Texans to avoid going out.

A regulatory patchwork has unfolded in recent days in Texas — which has 700 confirmed infections and 11 deaths — with restrictions, curfews and stay-at-home orders that vary from county to county.

As states and local authorities grapple for adequate responses, the virus continues to claim more victims.

A 17-year-old California boy whose death was linked to the coronavirus on Tuesday may be one of the youngest victims of the outbreak in the United States, if the cause is confirmed by the C.D.C. Gov. Gavin Newsom of California said that half of the 2,102 people who had tested positive for the virus in his state were aged 18 to 49.

In Georgia, a 12-year-old girl who has Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, was placed on a ventilator this week. And in Kentucky, a person who went to a “coronavirus party” attended by young adults has tested positive, Gov. Andy Beshear said.

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Coronavirus Has Hospitals in Desperate Need of Equipment. These Innovators Are Racing to Help.

Health care workers are facing a serious shortage of critical equipment needed to treat the coronavirus. We spoke to the makers who are building innovative protective gear and ventilators for them.

Health care workers around the world are asking for help. “What do you want?” “PPE.” “When do you need it?” “Now.” They’re in desperate need of more PPE, also known as personal protective equipment. Stocks of the critical gear are disappearing during the coronavirus pandemic. Doctors say they are rationing gloves, reusing masks and raiding hardware stores. The C.D.C. has even said that scarves or bandannas can be used as protection as a last resort. “I’ve met the doctors, and talked with them every day. I think there’s an interesting challenge here in that, currently, there’s such a need that if they had anything, they would deploy it.” The cries for help are mobilizing a wide range of innovators, some of them even joining forces through online messaging platforms like Slack. These are engineers, doctors and even high school students from around the world. They come from all walks of life, but say their goal is the same. “It’s amazing because no one’s asking which country are you from? They’re just like, how can I help? What do you need?” They’re pitching in by crowdsourcing designs for masks, face shields and even ventilators that could be reproduced around the world. This is Nick Moser. He’s an active player in one of the maker groups. His day job is at a design studio. Now, he’s designing replicable face masks. “We’re focused on three products: a face shield, a cloth mask and an alternative to N95-rated respirators. The face shield is the first line of defense for medical workers. It protects against droplets. If a patient coughs, it’ll hit the face shield rather than them.” Some designs are produced using 3-D printers or laser cutters. “There you go.” Then, the prototypes are field-tested by health care workers. Even some university labs are experimenting with DIY techniques. A group at Georgia Tech is working with open-source designs from the internet to develop products. “My lab works in the area of frugal science, and we build low-cost tools for resource-limited areas. And now, we’ve realized that I don’t have to go that far. It’s in our backyard, right? We need it now. So this is a plastic sheet I have — not too different from what you would get out from a 2-liter Coke or a soda bottle. I actually bought this from an art store. It’s just sheets of PET, so we can cut these out. We are calling this an origami face shield, and it’s the Level 1 protection. This is one idea. There are multiple different prototypes.” “This headband can be reused, and a doctor or nurse could just basically tear this off and basically snap another one on. We’re hearing that, in some cases, that they go through close to 2,000 of these a day.” Because the need is growing so rapidly, the makers are also thinking about how to increase their production. “So how do we get from this one that someone made at home on a laser cutter or a 3-D printer, and then get it in the hands of thousands of doctors and front-line workers?” They’re working with mass manufacturers that can take their tested designs, and replicate them at a larger scale. “We’ve been on the phone talking to a number of suppliers, material suppliers. So I think one of the neat things that we’ve done is not only the design, proving that you can make it rapidly, but then also trying to secure the entire supply chains.” This is Dr. Susan Gunn, whose hospital system in New Orleans has even started its own initiative to 3-D print equipment. “So it starts with an idea. We put the idea into place. And then we make sure that it’s professional-grade first. Infection control is looking at it, and we’re making sure that we’re using the correct materials that would be approved by the C.D.C. and the World Health Organization.” Dr. Gunn says the gear is a safe alternative for those who might otherwise face a shortage. “We’re creating face shields and we’re creating these different PPEs, and we’re putting them in the hands where people felt like they needed them.” Another critical piece of equipment is the N95 mask, and the supply is dwindling fast. Nick and his team are designing a robust alternative for this mask that can hold any filter material, and be mass produced. “It is easily printable. This one is used in medical situations where there’s an actively infectious patient. So nursing homes or obviously I.C.U. units would be the target to receive these.” “These are really hard objects to manufacture because you’re going to give it to a nurse, and then I want to be really confident that it will not let a virus through, right?” This equipment is not approved by federal agencies, but the designers are testing their respirator prototypes for safety. “That was basically the first, almost the first question that was asked. Can we do anything that’s actually going to be safe and helpful?” Some makers are pursuing even more ambitious projects. An engineer named Stephen Robinson in New Haven, Conn., is working on designing ventilators to help patients breathe. Countries are facing a dire shortage of the lifesaving machines. Right now, these DIY ventilators are still prototypes. “So really, this should be thought of as the seed of an idea that could potentially be grown with, and absolutely requiring, the medical and the tech communities.” But they could become key if critical supplies run out. “We’re in very uncertain times, and I see explorations and projects as kind of an insurance policy that could potentially be leaned on if there was extreme circumstances.” Health care workers are hopeful that these efforts could prevent an even worse outcome. “We don’t want anybody — let’s be clear — to use a bandanna to protect themselves. I hope it never gets to the point where we have to wear a bandanna. And I don’t think, with this initiative that we will get there.” For innovators like Saad, the challenge is personal. “I just can’t stop. I have to do stuff. And then I’m currently at a hospital. That’s why I have this uplifting little flower portrait. We’re expecting a baby boy, and what do we tell him when he grows up about what we did when society needed us?”

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Health care workers are facing a serious shortage of critical equipment needed to treat the coronavirus. We spoke to the makers who are building innovative protective gear and ventilators for them.CreditCredit…Christopher Saldana

Health care workers on the front lines of the pandemic are in desperate need of more personal protective equipment. The C.D.C. has even said scarves or bandannas can be used for protection as a last resort.

This growing demand has mobilized a wide range of innovators, including engineers and high school students, many of them sharing information through online platforms like Slack. They’re pitching in by designing 3D-printable masks and face shields that can be reproduced around the world. Some of this equipment is already in the hands of clinicians, and the makers are looking to drastically scale up their production soon.

Doctors are hopeful that these types of efforts will prevent the problem from getting worse. “I hope it never gets to the point where we have to wear a bandanna,” said Dr. Susan Gunn, a senior physician in pulmonary and critical care at Ochsner Health. “And I don’t think with this initiative we’ll get there.”

A Federal Emergency Management Agency employee who was working at the agency’s headquarters on the day that Vice President Mike Pence visited an operations center there has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to Trump administration officials and an email obtained by The New York Times.

The employee, who tested positive for the virus on Tuesday, works at the National Response Coordination Center at FEMA headquarters, which has become increasingly occupied by White House officials.

The employee was working at the center on Monday when Mr. Pence was there to host a conference call with governors, an official said.President Trump visited the center last Thursday, but it is unclear if the employee who tested positive for the virus was at work while he was there.

Neither the employee nor “any others known to have contact with” the employee came within six feet of Mr. Pence or the other members of the White House’s coronavirus task force, according to Lizzie Litzow, a FEMA spokeswoman.

Ms. Litzow said that on Tuesday, FEMA officials traced the movements of the employee to see if the person had made contact with any of the hundreds of employees who fill the coordination center. She added that all of the areas visited by Mr. Pence and the other task force members were disinfected before they arrived on Monday.

As the coronavirus pandemic brings the global economy to an astonishing halt, the world’s most vulnerable countries are suffering intensifying harm.

Businesses faced with the disappearance of sales are laying off workers. Households short of income are skimping on food. International investment is fleeing so-called emerging markets at a pace not seen since the global financial crisis of 2008, diminishing the value of currencies and forcing people to pay more for imported goods like food and fuel.

From South Asia to Africa to Latin America, the pandemic is confronting developing countries with a public health emergency combined with an economic crisis, each exacerbating the other. The same forces are playing out in wealthy nations, too. But in poor countries — where billions of people live in proximity to calamity even in the best of times — the dangers are amplified.

California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington and the District of Columbia have opened enrollment under the Affordable Care Act to allow laid-off workers to get subsidized health insurance, and the Trump administration, which has been gunning to repeal the law, is considering opening the federal exchange to new customers.

Mr. Cuomo, once considered a bit player on the national stage, is emerging as the party’s most prominent voice in a time of crisis. His briefings — articulate, consistent and often tinged with empathy — have become must-see television. On Tuesday, his address was carried live on all four networks in New York and a raft of cable news stations, including CNN, MSNBC and even Fox News.

In a sign of the way Mr. Cuomo has become the face of the Democratic Party in this moment, his address even pre-empted an appearance by former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on ABC’s “The View” in New York. Mr. Biden called Mr. Cuomo’s briefings a “lesson in leadership,” and others have described them as communal therapy sessions.

The governor’s actions have not always been at the forefront: He waited several days last week, as the count of confirmed cases continued to rise, before instituting an order to close nonessential businesses and ask residents to stay at home, even as Gov. Gavin Newsom of California had already done so.

But Mr. Cuomo’s briefings have been filled with facts, directives and sobering trends: On Tuesday, the governor disclosed that the number of positive cases in New York had risen past 25,000, and that the state now projects it will need up to 140,000 hospital beds to house virus patients.

There were also signs that Washington was listening: after Mr. Cuomo spoke on Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence said 2,000 ventilators were being sent to New York, with a promise of 2,000 more on Wednesday.

Reporting and research were contributed by Emily Cochrane, Marc Santora, Megan Specia, Raphael Minder, Jeffrey Gettleman, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Haley Willis, Robin Stein, Natalie Reneau, Drew Jordan, Matt Phillips, Noam Scheiber, Mike Isaac and Sheera Frenkel.

  • Updated March 24, 2020

    • How does coronavirus spread?

      It seems to spread very easily from person to person, especially in homes, hospitals and other confined spaces. The pathogen can be carried on tiny respiratory droplets that fall as they are coughed or sneezed out. It may also be transmitted when we touch a contaminated surface and then touch our face.

    • What makes this outbreak so different?

      Unlike the flu, there is no known treatment or vaccine, and little is known about this particular virus so far. It seems to be more lethal than the flu, but the numbers are still uncertain. And it hits the elderly and those with underlying conditions — not just those with respiratory diseases — particularly hard.

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.

    • What if somebody in my family gets sick?

      If the family member doesn’t need hospitalization and can be cared for at home, you should help him or her with basic needs and monitor the symptoms, while also keeping as much distance as possible, according to guidelines issued by the C.D.C. If there’s space, the sick family member should stay in a separate room and use a separate bathroom. If masks are available, both the sick person and the caregiver should wear them when the caregiver enters the room. Make sure not to share any dishes or other household items and to regularly clean surfaces like counters, doorknobs, toilets and tables. Don’t forget to wash your hands frequently.

    • Should I wear a mask?

      No. Unless you’re already infected, or caring for someone who is, a face mask is not recommended. And stockpiling them will make it harder for nurses and other workers to access the resources they need to help on the front lines.

    • Should I stock up on groceries?

      Plan two weeks of meals if possible. But people should not hoard food or supplies. Despite the empty shelves, the supply chain remains strong. And remember to wipe the handle of the grocery cart with a disinfecting wipe and wash your hands as soon as you get home.

    • Should I pull my money from the markets?

      That’s not a good idea. Even if you’re retired, having a balanced portfolio of stocks and bonds so that your money keeps up with inflation, or even grows, makes sense. But retirees may want to think about having enough cash set aside for a year’s worth of living expenses and big payments needed over the next five years.


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