The Trump administration will seek to send cash payments directly to Americans.
White House Announces New Economic Measures
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that the administration is considering sending checks to Americans over the next two weeks to cushion the economic blow of the pandemic.
“Last night, the F.D.A. announced groundbreaking new policies to further increase testing — very substantially. So, all states can now authorize tests developed and used within their borders in addition to the F.D.A.” “The payroll tax holiday would get people money over the next six to eight months. We’re looking at sending checks to Americans immediately. And what we’ve heard from hardworking Americans, many companies have now shut down, whether it’s bars or restaurants. Americans need cash now, and the president wants to get cash now. And I mean now in the next two weeks. The president has instructed me, we have to do this now. So this is now —” Reporter: “Within a week?” “We are going to work with the Senate who is in session right now, actively. We will continue to have conversations with the House. I’ve already spoken to Speaker Pelosi once today. This is stuff that needs to be done now. The president has instructed me that this is no fault to American workers. For medical reasons we are shutting down parts of this economy. And we’re going to use all the tools we have as I’ve said, and what tools we don’t have we’re going back to Congress. I’ve got to go back to —” Reporter: “Can we assume the price tag is $850 billion, to those who might be concerned that’s too expensive —” “We don’t want to talk about it, but it’s a substantial number. We’re going big. The expression — we can do it two ways: We can keep going back every day or every week, we’re going big. And that’s where Mitch McConnell, that’s the way he wants to go — that’s the way I want to go. I think we want to get it done, and have a big infusion as opposed to going through little meetings every couple of days. We don’t want to do it that way. We want to go big, go solid.”
As the growing economic toll of the coronavirus became clearer, the White House said that it supported the idea of sending cash payments directly to Americans as part of a broader $850 billion stimulus proposal that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin discussed Tuesday with Republicans on Capitol Hill.
Mr. Mnuchin said at a briefing that the administration would talk to Congress about sending checks to Americans over the next two weeks to cushion the economic blow of the pandemic. “The president has instructed me we have to do this now,” he said at a briefing.
It was a shift in priority for the administration, which has been advocating a payroll tax cut, and it came as the coronavirus ground large swaths of the economy to a halt, cost an increasing number of people their jobs and sent the markets reeling. Marriott International, the giant hotel chain, said Tuesday that it is starting to furlough what it expected will be tens of thousands of employees as it closes hotel properties around the world.
Mr. Mnuchin said that the Trump administration favors making direct payments quickly, noting that the effects of a payroll tax cut would take months to reach people.
Mr. Mnuchin later told Senators that about $250 billion of the stimulus plan would cover the cost of sending checks to Americans to replace lost wages, according to people familiar with his proposal.
Over lunch in an office building across from the Capitol, the Treasury secretary privately told Republicans that he envisioned the direct payments covering two weeks of pay and going out by the end of April, with additional checks possible if the national emergency persists, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe a private discussion.
After the session, Mr. Mnuchin declined to publicly put a dollar figure on the payments, telling reporters only that, “it is a big number.” Earlier at the White House, he said the proposal would be targeted so it would not go to the highest earners, such as those making $1 million or more.
‘Our Lives Are at Stake’: U.S. Residents Scramble to Find Coronavirus Testing
Since March 3, the Trump administration has said coronavirus testing is available to all. But people across the country told us that’s not the case.
“It started for me with a pretty severe sore throat.” “I started to feel symptomatic five days after traveling.” “It’s different than the bronchitis that I’ve gotten before.” “Everything had kind of settled in my lungs. And I was just coughing a ton.” “I had a headache and felt feverish.” “It felt like I had a bowling ball on my chest. Nobody’s willing to see me, and nobody has the test kit and even C.D.C. is refusing to test me.” “I traced back, you know, my wife, she works at Amazon. They had a confirmed case.” “Four different planes in four different airports. So I don’t know who sat next to me or who I was in contact with.” “It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.” “We’re going down, not up. We’re going very substantially down. Not up.” “Anybody that needs a test, gets a test. They’re there. They have the tests. And the tests are beautiful.” “We have a president saying anyone who wants tests can get a test. And I’m thinking, That is so not true.” “It was just interesting, because there was this kind of gray area for a while of people who felt like they were really sick and should have been tested just as, even as a rule out. And the state of Washington just did not have the capacity to do that, because the government had not supported us at that point essentially.” “I got through to public health after about an hour, and they told me that I did not meet the criteria for being tested.” “They said, ‘There’s no way to get tested. We don’t have tests right now. There’s nothing set up in Delaware.’” “I looked at the C.D.C. website and it said, call your doctor if you have the symptoms. So I called the doctor’s office and they told me to go to an urgent care facility. I called an urgent care facility and they said that there’s nothing that they can do. And they don’t have the tests. And they told me to go to the E.R. And I called a hospital, and they told me that they don’t have the test either.” “I just felt like I was getting the run-around. It was clearly obvious that they just are under capacity, and they’re not able to test.” “I eventually just gave up because, at that point, the testing criteria was so strict. It was, you travel to China or have you been in contact with someone known diagnosed Covid. And I didn’t meet any of that.” “As a nurse in an E.R., it’s pretty vital if I have an infectious disease that I know what it is because I could be spreading it to people who are really vulnerable.” “I actually work in a building that’s a fairly public place. There’s people of every generation coming in there. There’s a private school there. There’s a senior center.” “Southwest Florida is full of elders. There is a lot of snowbirds coming here. They’re all in their 70s and 80s. I cannot get myself, like I cannot convince my conscience to leave the house just thinking about that, Hey you went grocery shopping and now like five people died. So I just self quarantined myself and basically started working from home.” “We stocked up on food items as much as possible. I bought a 25 pound bag of rice. We bought beans. We got ready basically just to hunker down for those two weeks. At this point, I’m telling people like make — if you have a decision to make, think about survival and make the decision based on survival for yourself, your family and your community.” “We knew this was coming. The federal government is just completely bungling this, and our lives are at stake. I feel like they’re just leaving us here to die in Seattle.” “The most overwhelming feeling was you are on your own.” “I’m just really concerned for those that this is going to affect the hardest. And I think we pretty much failed at early testing, early containment. We had more time than other governments.”
Mr. Trump, who spent his morning heckling individual state governors on Twitter, struck a tone of coordination and cooperation in the briefing room. Mr. Trump, who has been fixating on the fluctuating markets behind closed doors, emphasized that many of his administration’s actions have been taken in order to bolster the economy.
“The best thing we can do is get rid of the virus,” Mr. Trump said. “Once it is gone, it will pop back up like nobody has seen — that is my opinion.”
Mr. Mnuchin also said that Mr. Trump had instructed him to allow for the deferment of tax payments, interest free and penalty free for 90 days, which he said would inject $300 billion into the economy.
The Trump administration is also supporting a request for $50 billion in economic relief for the airline industry as part of the broader package.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said several State Department employees — “you can count them on one hand,” he said — worldwide have tested positive for the coronavirus. But he did not say where those people were working.
The president reiterated an earlier request for Americans not to hoard food supplies, and again outlined the guidelines put in place by his administration on Monday, which include not congregating in groups over 10 and working from home when possible.
Mr. Trump, who repeatedly downplayed the contagiousness and lethality of the virus, also asserted that he “felt this was a pandemic long before it was a pandemic.”
The White House moved as the Federal Reserve announced Tuesday that it would try to keep credit flowing to households and businesses by buying up commercial paper, short term promissory notes companies use to fund themselves.
“This Fed facility ensures that companies can get the overnight funding they need to meet short-term obligations like payroll,” said Ernie Tedeschi, policy economist at Evercore ISI, calling it “obviously a positive step, obviously necessary.”
There were signs of support in Congress for the idea of sending direct payments. A group of Senate Democrats, led by Michael Bennet of Colorado, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Sherrod Brown of Ohio, had earlier proposed legislation to send as much as $4,500 to nearly every adult and child in the United States this year, as part of a sustained government income-support program to counter the economic slowdown from coronavirus.
Coronavirus Map: Tracking the Global Outbreak
The virus has infected more than 187,700 people in at least 140 countries.
The Pentagon will provide millions of face masks for health workers and other vulnerable groups.
Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said on Tuesday that the Pentagon will make available to the Department of Health and Human Services up to 5 million N95 masks, which can be used to help protect health workers and vulnerable people against the virus. The first 1 million, he said, would be available immediately.
The Pentagon is also making available 2,000 ventilators for hospitals, a number that would likely fall far short of the expected need.
“When you look at how many people who may need it, 2,000 doesn’t put much of a dent into it,” he said.
While the military has infrastructure to help, there are limits. Field hospitals and the hospital ships Comfort and Mercy are designed for trauma wounds, not viruses, and doctors would have to be assigned from elsewhere to staff them.
The ships, each with a 1,000-bed capacity, have helped in natural disasters like tsunamis, hurricanes and earthquakes, not quarantines.
Defense Department officials said that one possibility for the Comfort would be to station in New York Harbor and absorb non-coronavirus cases in New York, which would then presumably free up hospital beds in Manhattan to attend to infectious cases from the coronavirus — if they are called.
Parts of the U.S. could run out of hospital beds as the virus spreads.
A new Havard analysis shows that many parts of the United States will have far too few hospital beds if the new coronavirus continues to spread widely and nothing is done to expand capacity.
In 40 percent of markets around the country, hospitals would not be able to make enough room for all the patients who became ill with Covid-19, even if they could completely empty their beds of other patients. That statistic assumes that 40 percent of adults become infected with the virus over 12 months, a scenario described as “moderate” by the team behind the calculations.
These numbers are not exact predictions and reflect a worst-case scenario, since they do not take into account the efforts hospitals can make to quickly increase capacity during an emergency. Around the country, hospitals have begun canceling elective operations and speeding home patients with less critical ailments. Those efforts could increase the number of free beds available for coronavirus patients.
Yet the Harvard estimates suggest that the coronavirus outbreak could require significantly more resources. In hard-hit Italy, hospitals have been rationing care for older patients who are severely ill with the virus.
Stocks on Wall Street rebounded as the Fed took another emergency measure.
Stocks rose on Tuesday, lifted by the latest emergency measure from the Federal Reserve to keep money flowing through the economy and rebounding from Wall Street’s sharpest drop since the outbreak of the coronavirus.
After suffering their worst day in decades, stocks bounced back on Tuesday as Washington policymakers talked up plans to try to cushion an economy careening toward a deep recession driven by the coronavirus outbreak.
The S&P 500 rose about 6 percent, rebounding from a 12 percent collapse on Monday, which was its steepest drop since 1987.
But the tone of the trading was tentative. The best performing parts of the market were traditionally defensive areas, such as the utilities and consumer staples, where investors hide out during trying economic times. And, reflecting concern about the global economy, oil prices fell.
Early trading was unsteady, and stocks briefly fell into negative territory. They then surged after the Federal Reserve said it would use its emergency lending powers to try to keep credit flowing to households and businesses in the United States by buying up commercial paper.
There are few historical parallels for the shock waves created by the outbreak. From still-closed factories in China, to Western nations where millions of people are living in a state of semi-house arrest, most of the engines that keep the global economy aloft have simultaneously sputtered to a halt.
St. Patrick’s Day parades are canceled, travel is halted, and even beaches mandate social distancing.
Bus service in Detroit was halted after drivers, fearing for their safety, balked at leaving their garages. In North Carolina’s Outer Banks, some officials said they would establish checkpoints to turn away visitors. And Florida moved to ban beach groups of more than 10, after photos showed packed Gulf Coast beaches this week during Spring Break.
The spread of the coronavirus continued to upend life in America on Tuesday in ways large and small, as the number of confirmed cases continued to climb. That figure surpassed 5,000 as testing, which was initially limited, has expanded, according to a New York Times database that is tracking every identified case in the country. At least 95 people have died.
The popular St. Patrick’s Day parades in New York City and Boston were canceled — as they were in Dublin, where people were encouraged to celebrate the day online using the hashtag #StPatricksDayTogether. Many bars and pubs around the United States were closed before the holiday, shutting them down on what is traditionally one of their busiest days of the year.
In Northern California, residents of seven counties began their new cloistered life under a “shelter in place” order that took effect Tuesday — keeping them home except for essential reasons, including buying food and caring for pets, in some of the nation’s most restrictive measures.
As nervous people around the nation picked the shelves of many stores clean, Amazon moved to meet the surge in demand for household staples and medical supplies by pulling back on stocking items like consumer electronics and toys. And after several days of closing non-essential businesses, some essential ones began to close as well: On Tuesday, Social Security’s field office network were closed to the public in most situations until further notice.
The bus problem in Detroit began Tuesday morning when drivers showed up to their garages but then refused to drive, leaving passengers stranded. The city issued a statement saying that because of a driver shortage, there would be no service at all.
Glenn Tolbert, the president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 26, which represents the drivers, said that some drivers had reported to work early in the morning and found that the buses weren’t adequately cleaned. The state’s order that restaurants and bars to switch to take-out service, and that hospitals severely restrict visitors, deprived drivers of the places they would go to visit restrooms and wash their hands, he said.
“We just didn’t feel that the city, although they were making an effort, was doing enough to protect us and the public,” Mr. Tolbert said.
Some parts of the country moved to keep out visitors.
In Dare County, N.C., which includes much of North Carolina’s Outer Banks, officials said they would set up checkpoints to turn away visitors. And in Maine, an island in Penobscot Bay called North Haven, which is reachable only by boat or aircraft, moved to limit access to year-round residents, saying that it did not have the resources to handle even a few cases and was hours from the nearest hospital.
“People don’t understand how fragile we are if something catastrophic happened because we don’t have quick access,” Kathleen Macy, a lifelong resident and town clerk, said Tuesday. “We’re a pretty hardy bunch, but we’ve never had this situation before.”
In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, moved to shut down bars and nightclubs, following similar closures in other states, and limited the size of beach groups. Some localities went further: Miami-Dade County, the largest in the state, will also close all restaurants, banquet halls and cafeterias, except for take-out. In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott activated the National Guard on Tuesday, but did not deploy any guardsmen.
And across the globe, the actors Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, were released from an Australian hospital and will remain in self-isolation after being treated for Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, their son said in a video statement on Monday.
New York City considers a shelter-in-place order as public life is curtailed.
Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City said that residents should prepare for the possibility of a “shelter in place” order to be announced in the next 48 hours, as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New York City neared 1,000.
Mr. de Blasio said that a decision on such an order, which would require coordination between the city and New York State, had not been made. But he said he believed that kind of recommendation, which is in place in San Francisco, would be “the right guidance.”
New York City has already come to a halt, but a “shelter in place” recommendation would be a major escalation in restrictions on public life. The mayor did not elaborate on what a “shelter in place” order would look like in practice.
Mr. de Blasio said that the city was rushing to add more hospital beds.
The city’s public transportation system, the largest in North America, was seeking a $4 billion federal bailout as the pandemic set off an extraordinary free fall in ridership.
In a letter on Tuesday to New York’s congressional delegation, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs the city’s subway and buses and two commuter railroads, said that subway ridership had plunged 60 percent and bus ridership had fallen 49 percent on Monday compared with the same day last year.
Voting is going ahead in Florida, Illinois and Arizona, but not Ohio.
With states postponing upcoming primaries to avoid congregating during the coronavirus pandemic, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez on Tuesday urged the states left to vote to conduct all vote-by-mail contests.
“In order to ensure the voices of voters are heard, the DNC is urging the remaining primary states to use a variety of other critical mechanisms that will make voting easier and safer for voters and election officials alike,” Mr. Perez said. “The simplest tool is vote by mail, which is already in use in a number of states and should be made available to all registered voters.”
Voters did not go to the polls Tuesday in Ohio, where the presidential primary was postponed after state officials declared a public health emergency — but the primaries in Arizona, Florida and Illinois went ahead as scheduled.
And Maryland became the fifth state to postpone its primary election to prevent the spread of coronavirus: Gov. Larry Hogan announced on Tuesday that the April 28 primary would instead be held on June 2.
In states that went ahead with their elections — even after the White House urged people to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people — officials took steps to try to keep voters and poll workers safe. In Arizona, some counties offered curbside pickup outside precincts Tuesday so that voters could turn in their ballots without having to enter crowded polling sites.
Mr. Perez condemned Ohio’s eleventh hour decision to postpone its planned primary. Doing so would not be necessary, he said, if voters could cast ballots by mail. “What happened in Ohio last night has only bred more chaos and confusion, and the Democratic party leadership in Ohio is working tirelessly to protect the right to vote,” he said.
The outgoing White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, is in self-quarantine.
Mick Mulvaney, the outgoing acting White House chief of staff, is in self-quarantine in his home state of South Carolina, after his niece, with whom he shares an apartment in Washington, fell ill and is awaiting test results, according to four people familiar with the matter.
Mr. Mulvaney took a test for the coronavirus last week and the results were negative, according to one of the people familiar with the matter. But the results of the test that his niece, Maggie, took are not back yet, the person said.
Mr. Mulvaney’s niece is a professional fund-raiser who works on a team led by Kimberly Guilfoyle, the head of the Trump Victory finance effort. Ms. Mulvaney, Ms. Guilfoyle and others were all at Mar-a-Lago, President Trump’s private club, the weekend of March 6 for a series of events, including a Republican National Committee fund-raising retreat and Ms. Guilfoyle’s 50th birthday party.
The same weekend, President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil dined with Mr. Trump. One of Mr. Bolsonaro’s aides who was present has since tested positive for coronavirus.
Ms. Mulvaney fell ill soon after returning from the weekend, according to three of the people briefed on the matter. She was tested for the virus early last week, but the results still haven’t come back, people familiar with the matter said.
Ms. Mulvaney and people close to her had hoped to avoid her illness becoming a story until they knew the results. But senior White House officials let it be known on Tuesday that Mr. Mulvaney was in self-quarantine.
What is social distancing? And how do you do it?
There are many misunderstandings about social distancing. Can you leave your home? Can you go to the grocery store? We compiled some helpful hints about how to keep safe.
Find more coverage on how coronavirus is impacting your day-to-day life here.
China expresses anger over Trump’s use of the phrase “Chinese virus.”
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed indignation on Tuesday when asked about a tweet from President Trump referring to the epidemic as the “Chinese Virus.”
“The World Health Organization and the international community are clearly opposed to associating the virus with specific countries and regions, and against stigmatizing it,” a spokesman, Geng Shuang, said, without mentioning Mr. Trump by name. “We urge the U.S. side to immediately correct its mistakes and immediately stop its unjustified accusations against China.”
Nearly two months after a coronavirus outbreak in central China escalated into a national emergency, the country’s daily count of new, local infections has approached tantalizingly close to zero.
Just one new locally originated infection was reported on Monday, according to the Chinese National Health Commission’s daily update of new coronavirus cases. The new case was in Wuhan, the center of the outbreak.
The Greek government orders church services suspended as concerns grow for migrants huddled in camps.
Over the past week, Greece has closed schools, cafes, bars and restaurants. When Greeks scrambled to the country’s beaches, the government closed them too. It will shut most shops from Wednesday.
But for days, leaders of the Greek Orthodox resisted calls to suspend services. So the government was forced to take action, despite the risks of challenging a powerful institution that is deeply tied to the nation’s sense of itself.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said there was no choice. “The protection of public health requires clear decisions,” he wrote on Twitter.
Four deaths have been attributed to coronavirus in Greece with 352 infections on Monday, with cases centered in Athens.
Beyond the capital, there have been growing concerns over a possible coronavirus outbreak at camps on the five Aegean Islands that host some 50,000 migrants in intensely overcrowded conditions.
A 6-year-old girl died on Monday when a fire broke out at the notoriously cramped Moria camp on Lesbos.
Doctors Without Borders, known by its French acronym MSF, called for the evacuation of those living in the camps where whole families are packed tightly into confined quarters.
The international medical humanitarian organization warned that lack of adequate sanitation and limited medical care made the risk of the virus spreading extremely high.
Reporting was contributed by Michael Cooper, Katie Rogers, Karen Zraick, Anton Troianovski, Matthew Haag, Sean Plambeck, Patricia Mazzei, Adeel Hassan, Kate Taylor, Catie Edmondson, Christina Goldbaum, Reid J. Epstein, Steven Lee Myers, Margot Sanger-Katz, Sarah Kliff, Alicia Parlapiano, Alan Rappeport, Emily Cochrane, Melissa Eddy, Raphael Minder, Aurelien Breeden, Marc Santora, Helene Cooper, Megan Specia, Jonathan Martin, Richard C. Paddock, Maya Salam, Neil Vigdor, Nick Corasaniti, Stephanie Saul, Tiffany May, Patricia Cohen, Jeffrey Gettleman, Suhasini Raj, Karan Deep Singh, Kai Schultz, Niki Kitsantonis and Jim Tankersley.
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