Coronavirus Live Updates: Senate Moves Toward Passing Sweeping $2 Trillion Aid Deal

Coronavirus Live Updates: Senate Moves Toward Passing Sweeping $2 Trillion Aid Deal


The Senate on Wednesday moved toward a vote on a sweeping bipartisan deal 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 rescue 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.

“At last, we have a deal,” Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, said on Wednesday. “In effect, this is a wartime level of investment into our nation.”

On a conference call on Wednesday morning, Mr. McConnell told Republican senators that the timing of a vote was unclear, but he hoped the measure could be wrapped up later Wednesday, according to a person on the call who insisted on anonymity to relate the private conversation.

The Democratic-led House is unlikely to take up the package until at least Thursday, when Speaker Nancy Pelosi hopes to approve it by unanimous consent, a practice usually reserved for minor, uncontroversial measures. In this case, it would ensure that House members, who are scattered across the country, do not have to travel back to Washington.

News of the agreement buoyed financial markets in Asia and Europe, and the optimism carried over to Wall Street. The S&P 500 had risen about 2 percent by midday.

The sheer size and scope of the package would have been unthinkable only a couple of weeks ago. Administration officials said they hoped that its effect on a battered economy would be exponentially greater than its $2 trillion cost, generating as much as $4 trillion in economic activity.

“This is not a moment of celebration, but one of necessity,” the minority leader, Senator 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 relief package in modern American history, dwarfing the $700 billion Wall Street bailout in 2008 and the $800 billion stimulus bill passed in 2009. 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.

As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New York continued to grow — reaching more than 30,000 — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Wednesday that there were early signs that the state’s stringent restrictions on social gatherings could be slowing the virus’s spread.

The scale of the epidemic in New York City has led White House officials to advise people who have passed through or left the area to quarantine themselves for 14 days.

In a briefing on Wednesday, Mr. Cuomo said there were indications that social distancing measures put in place in New York appeared to be helping — but that more needed to be done. “The evidence suggests that the density control measures may be working,” he said.

On Sunday, for example, the state’s projections showed hospitalizations doubling every two days. By Tuesday, the estimates showed hospitalizations doubling every 4.7 days, he said — adding the caveat that such a projection was “almost too good to be true.”

He cited encouraging news from Westchester County, where the rate of infection has slowed. “We have dramatically slowed what was an exponential rate of increase,” Mr. Cuomo said. “That was the hottest cluster in the United States of America. We closed the schools, we closed gatherings, we brought in testing, and we have dramatically slowed the increase.”

New York State, which has tested more people than any other state, now has 30,811 confirmed cases, an increase of more than 5,000 since Tuesday morning. New York City has 17,856 confirmed cases.

But Mr. Cuomo said that more needed to be done, particularly to make it easier to maintain social distancing in New York City, the most densely populated major city in the United States.

Mr. Cuomo said that the city would begin a limited pilot program to begin closing some streets to automobile traffic to give pedestrians more space outside, and to institute new rules to limit density in the city’s playgrounds.

“No basketball,” he said.

Governor Cuomo said that the nearly $2 trillion federal stimulus bill that Congress was racing to pass “would really be terrible for the state of New York.”

The governor said the bill would provide the state government with only $3.8 billion, at a moment when its response to the virus is increasing expenses — and the economic shutdown is driving down tax collections. Mr. Cuomo said that the state faces a potential revenue shortfall of between $9 billion and $15 billion, far more than the stimulus bill would provide. “That is a drop in the bucket, as to need,” he said.

But even as the crisis deepened in New York, which does not have enough hospital beds or equipment to handle the cases it expects, President Trump pressed to reopen the country for business by Easter, on April 12. The president issued his goal despite widespread warnings from public health experts that the worst effects of the outbreak were still to come and that lifting the restrictions now in place would result in unnecessary deaths.

The number of new coronavirus cases in the United States has rapidly increased in recent days, with more than 20,000 new cases diagnosed on Monday and Tuesday alone, in part because of expanded testing. That spike brings the country’s total cases to about 54,000.

Mr. Cuomo has said that with cases doubling every three days in New York City, as many as 140,000 people might need urgent care in the next few weeks. In New York City, 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 into a hospital to handle an imminent surge of patients.

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 Mr. Cuomo said the state needed tens of thousands more.

More than 200 people have already died statewide.

Charles, 71, had been experiencing mild symptoms for days, but has “otherwise remained in good health” and is working from home, according to a statement released by Clarence House, the prince’s official residence.

“The Duchess of Cornwall has also been tested but does not have the virus,” the statement said, referring to Prince Charles’s wife. Both are now self-isolating at Birkhall, their home in Scotland.

“The tests were carried out by the N.H.S. in Aberdeenshire, where they met the criteria required for testing,” the statement added.

It was impossible to tell who Prince Charles may have caught the virus from “owing to the high number of engagements he carried out in his public role during recent weeks,” Clarence House noted. Handshakes, meetings and public appearances are a daily reality for members of the royal family, and Prince Charles had taken part in a number of engagements this month.

Prince Charles is the eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II, who went into self-isolation last week, leaving Buckingham Palace for her country home, Windsor Castle.

Officials at Buckingham Palace said Charles last saw his mother on Thursday, March 12. Doctors estimate that the earliest the prince could have been infectious with the virus was the next day, March 13, though it was not clear how they had arrived at that assessment.

The incubation period for the coronavirus varies by patient, according to the World Health Organization, with most people showing symptoms about five days from the date they were infected. But it can incubate for as long as 14 days, which, given when Charles began showing symptoms, would be before he met with his mother.

A spokesman for Buckingham Palace said “the queen remains in good health.”

The queen, who turns 94 next month, released a message to the nation last week urging Britons to stay at home for the greater good of the community.

“I am certain we are up to that challenge,” she said in the statement. “You can be assured that my family and I stand ready to play our part.”

With the announcement, Charles a growing list of actors, musicians, athletes and public figures, including Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and Prince Albert II of Monaco, who have also tested positive for the virus.

Some of the first actors to announce they had contracted the virus were Tom Hanks, Idris Elba and Daniel Dae Kim. Several N.B.A. players have tested positive, including two Utah Jazz stars and Kevin Durant, one of four players who has the virus on the Brooklyn Nets.

And at least three notable figures have died of complications related to the coronavirus: Terrence McNally, a Tony-winning playwright, Aurlus Mabele, a Congolese singer, and Manu Dibango, a saxophonist from Cameroon.

Investors started sizing up a $2 trillion coronavirus rescue package to shore up the American economy, and stocks climbed higher on Wednesday, adding to a surge the day before.

The S&P 500 rose about 2 percent by midday, and some of the companies expected to benefit from government help led the gains. Boeing was up more than 30 percent, and American Airlines jumped roughly 15 percent.

On Tuesday, stocks on Wall Street had their best day since 2008 on expectations of the relief deal. Democratic and Republican leaders in the Senate finally came to agreement in the early hours of Wednesday. The Senate was expected to vote on Wednesday.

Governments elsewhere were also laying out plans to help. On Monday, Germany prepared an emergency budget and rescue fund for companies and state-supported loans. European Union leaders were working on additional measures to help loosen up money for some countries to help soften the economic blow of the virus.

Though investors have welcomed the plans, few were willing to conclusively say that the worst of the market sell-off was over.

Calling for “discipline and responsibility” in confronting the coronavirus, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Wednesday ordered a weeklong national holiday starting Saturday and announced the postponement of a referendum next month on whether he can rule until 2036.

In a televised address to the nation from his country residence outside Moscow, Mr. Putin stopped short of ordering a nationwide lockdown — as India and several European countries have done — but still warned that, despite the relatively few confirmed infections so far in Russia, it was “objectively impossible” to stop the virus from spreading.

The decision to postpone until further notice a vote scheduled for April 22 to endorse constitutional changes that would allow Mr. Putin to crash through term limits means that the virus has achieved a feat that has eluded the Kremlin’s largely powerless opponents: It has slowed the previously relentless march toward a coronation of Mr. Putin as president for life.

Mr. Putin, in his first public address about the pandemic, said, “We managed to restrain the spread of the disease, but it is impossible to completely block its infiltration.”

He added: “Don’t think that, ‘this doesn’t concern me.’ It concerns everyone.”

Mr. Putin said the national holiday would not apply to shops, pharmacies, public transport, banks or government offices.

He left up in the air whether the Kremlin would continue as planned with its biggest event of the year — nationwide celebrations on May 9 to mark the 75th anniversary of the Red Army’s victory over Nazi Germany. Current plans include a huge military parade through the center of Moscow and large gatherings of spectators.

Russia on Wednesday reported a sharp jump in confirmed cases, to 658. And while the figure is low compared with much of Western Europe and the United States, the 163 new infections on Wednesday constituted the largest one-day increase yet, stirring alarm that Russia could be following the same path.

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 30,000 statewide by Wednesday, 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.

The Ice Palace, an Olympic-size skating rink in Madrid — a site of joy only months ago — is now being filled with the bodies of the dead.

The conversion of the sporting facility into a morgue underscored the dire situation in Spain, where the death toll passed 3,400 on Wednesday — putting the nation ahead of China and second only to Italy in the grim tally of fatalities.

“This is a very hard week because we are in the first stages of overcoming the virus, a phase in which we are approaching the peak of the epidemic,” Salvador Illa, the Spanish health minister, told the nation.

As the crisis in Spain deepened, the country’s military made an urgent appeal to NATO for assistance. Like many other countries, Spain has been struggling with a lack of medical supplies for testing, treatment and the protection of front-line workers.

In a statement, NATO said Spain’s military had asked for “international assistance,” seeking medical supplies to help curb the spread of the virus both in the military and in the civilian population.

The request specified 450,000 respirators, 500,000 rapid testing kits, 500 ventilators and 1.5 million surgical masks. But it was not clear when or if help would arrive.

Funeral parlors in Madrid are now handling about seven times more bodies than a week earlier, according to officials. And workers said they had not been given any of the protective gear promised by the government, Juan José López Vivas, the deputy president of the national association of funeral parlors, told the television channel La Sexta.

The conversion of the ice rink to a morgue resonated across the country, a vivid illustration of the desperation of the moment.

“This surface, which has given me so many good hours, as well as some difficult moments, can now help people who have lost their loved ones take them to wherever they wish,” Spain’s two-time world champion figure skater, Javier Fernández, told the television channel Antena 3. “If they need all the ice skating rinks of Spain, I’m sure they will do that.”

The crisis continued to mount across the globe.

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.”

On Wednesday, the United Nations said it hoped to raise $2 billion to fight the virus in 53 countries — in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and South America — suffering from instability.

With numerous states, including Indiana, Connecticut, Ohio and Pennsylvania, pushing or poised to push their presidential primaries to June 2 because of the coronavirus pandemic, the votes that day will confer a huge bounty of delegates, second only to Super Tuesday in early March.

Although former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. has built an all but insurmountable lead, June 2 — which is 10 weeks away — will be his first chance to clinch his party’s presidential nomination. Only then would he have a definitive reason to press for the withdrawal of his rival, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who has shown no inclination to leave a race that feels frozen in place.

Some Democratic strategists see possible perils in the delay. Having to wait until June 2 for the next major chapter in the nominating race largely deprives Mr. Biden of a chance to rack up interim victories that would bring media attention; President Trump, on the other hand, is promoting his leadership in a global pandemic.

The government in Ireland said it would take control of all privately-owned health care facilities and hospitals to create a single, free national health service to deal with the coronavirus outbreak until the crisis in the country had passed.

“There can be no room for public versus private when it comes to pandemic,” Simon Harris, the Irish health minister, said in a news conference in Dublin on Tuesday. He added that the step was necessary “for the common benefit of all of our people.”

The move will be a dramatic change for Ireland’s mixed public and private health system, which at present resembles a hybrid between the U.S. for-profit health system, and the tax-funded public services which are the norm in much of Europe.

Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, said the measure would bring 2,000 beds, nine laboratories and thousands of staff into the public system. The private facilities have agreed to provide their services on a nonprofit basis for the duration of the pandemic.

The move to a single-payer, state-controlled health care system, even temporarily, could set a precedent in a country where there is already broad consensus that an entirely public, tax-funded system should be introduced.

Critics of the existing system, which allows many senior doctors on public salaries to treat private patients in publicly funded hospitals, say it encourages people to take out private insurance so they can pay extra to skip waiting lists in the public system.

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.

Reporting and research were contributed by Michael Cooper, Karen Zraick, Alan Blinder, Lara Jakes, Jonah Engel Bromwich, Mark Landler, Emily Cochrane, Katie Robertson, Andrew Higgins, Johnny Diaz, Derrick Bryson Taylor, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Marc Santora, Megan Specia, Raphael Minder, Anna Schaverien, Ed O’Loughlin, Trip Gabriel, Iliana Magra, Jeffrey Gettleman, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Haley Willis, Robin Stein, Natalie Reneau, Drew Jordan, Matt Phillips, Noam Scheiber, Mike Isaac and Sheera Frenkel.



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