John Bacon and Jorge L. Ortiz
Published 2:44 AM EDT Mar 23, 2020
Even as President Donald Trump was announcing federal aid Sunday for New York, Washington and California — three states walloped by the coronavirus crisis —lawmakers in Congress continued to haggle in the evening over a massive stimulus package that stalled after initially appearing close to being agreed on.
Congress again felt the wrath of the virus on a personal level as Rand Paul, R-Ky., on Sunday became the first senator to test positive for COVID-19. Two members of the House have also tested positive, and several lawmakers have gone into self-isolation after coming in contact with infected people.
Earlier in the day, the governor of New York and the mayor of New York City laid out in stark terms the grim prospects ahead for their jurisdictions, and a growing number of states issued stay-at-home orders as the nation lurched through another day under the coronavirus’ 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” on a massive stimulus package.
“We’ll be introducing our own bill,” said Pelosi, D-Calif.
The U.S., which had confirmed more than 33,000 cases and 417 deaths as of Sunday evening, overtook Spain and now trails only Italy and China in reported infections. Confirmed cases, however, are a function of testing. Worldwide cases of confirmed coronavirus surpassed 332,000, and there were more than 14,400 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard.
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Medical aid for three hard-hit states: Washington, New York and California
President Donald Trump announced new actions to help Washington state, California and New York, saying FEMA would be funding “100% of the cost” to deploy the National Guard to those states to assist governors in combating the spread of the virus.
He also directed FEMA to supply:
Four large federal medical stations with 1,000 beds in New York, which has by far the largest number of COVID-19 cases in the country with more than 15,000.
Eight large federal medical stations with 2,000 beds in California, which along with New York is expected to get hospital ships from the Navy.
Three large federal medical stations and four small federal medical stations with 1,000 beds for Washington.
Trump also said those hard-hit states would received medical equipment and supplies, such as respirators and protective equipment, that have been in high demand as the crisis escalates.
The president said he approved disaster declarations for New York and Washington and would soon do the same for California.
— Courtney Subramanian
Utah Rep. Ben McAdams hospitalized with ‘severe shortness of breath’
Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, one of two members of the House of Representatives to be diagnosed with the coronavirus, said in a statement late Sunday evening he had been admitted to the hospital after experiencing “severe shortness of breath.”
McAdams said he received oxygen “as I struggled to maintain my blood oxygen at appropriate levels” but now was feeling “relatively better” and was off oxygen.
The Utah Democrat said he expected to be released “as soon as the doctors determine it is appropriate.”
Two other members of Utah’s delegation of Congress, Sens. Mitt Romney and Mike Lee, said they would self-quarantine after coming into contact with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who announced a positive coronavirus diagnosis on Sunday.
– Nicholas Wu
Reports: DC Mayor Muriel Bowser restricts access to Tidal Basin
Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the National Guard and the Metropolitan Police Department will restrict access to the Tidal Basin, according to reports from WTTG-TV and WRC-TV.
Crowds continued to flock to the area to see cherry blossoms, prompting the shutdown. WRC-TV reported access to the Jefferson Memorial and the National Mall will be restricted in the area bounded by 14th Street to 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue to Independence Avenue SW.
The National Park Service tweeted a link to the “Bloom Cam,” which allows people to see the cherry blossoms from home.
Kentucky’s Rand Paul is first US senator to test positive for coronavirus
Paul tested positive for COVID-19 but feels “fine” and is being quarantined, his office said. Paul 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.”
Paul, 57, had lung surgery in August to address an injury stemming from a physical confrontation with a neighbor in November 2017.
Last week, Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., and McAdams 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
Gov. Andrew 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
Ohio, Louisiana, Delaware tell residents to stay home; LA mayor enacts stricter measures
The dramatic measures initially taken by the San Francisco Bay Area and then California to prevent further spread of the virus are starting to expand to more of the country.
Ohio, Louisiana and Delaware are among the states that instituted stay-at-home orders on Sunday, mandating their residents not to leave the house except for essential activities such as purchasing groceries and medicines, seeking medical treatment and exercising.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti tweeted the city’s Department of Recreation and Parks will shut down sports and recreation at city parks and that parking at city beaches will be shut down in response to “too many people packing beaches, trails and parks.”
“That doesn’t mean gather elsewhere,” he tweeted. “This is serious.”
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 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.
Amtrak cancels Acela service
Amtrak will cancel its flagship Acela Express trains in the Northeast on Monday, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to reduce demand for intercity travel.
The railroad will still operate its slower Northeast Regional trains from Boston to New York to Washington, though at only 40% of the regular weekday schedule.
Amtrak had previously canceled only a handful of Acela trains that run without stops between New York and Washington.
The trains, launched in 2000, carried 3.5 million passengers in 2019, out of the 12.5 million passengers on the Northeast Corridor and 31.5 million passengers nationwide.
– Curtis Tate
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 Bill de Blasio says coronavirus 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.”
De Blasio is not the only elected official to criticize the Trump administration for the lack of medical supplies to fight the virus. Cuomo and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker have voiced the same complaint, and on Sunday the latter got into a Twitter feud with the president.
“You wasted precious months when you could’ve taken action to protect Americans & Illinoisans,” Pritzker, a Democrat, tweeted at Trump. “You should be leading a national response instead of throwing tantrums from the back seat.”
– Lorenzo Reyes and David Jackson
Donald 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
Tenor Placido Domingo has the virus
World-renowned opera singer Placido Domingo said in a Facebook post that he has tested positive for the virus.
Domingo, 79, said he and his family have self-isolated in Mexico, and he urged the public to, “Please follow your local government’s guidelines and regulations for staying safe and protecting not just yourselves but our entire community.”
Domingo is the latest celebrity from the sports and entertainment worlds to acknowledge contracting COVID-19. The list includes actors Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson, fellow actor Idris Elba and NBA stars Kevin Durant, Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell.
According to the Niagara (N.Y.) Gazette, disgraced movie producer Harvey Weinstein has also tested positive for coronavirus and has been put in isolation at a New York state prison.
Help for stranded Americans
The State Department has chartered two flights to begin evacuating on Monday hundreds of Americans who are stranded in Guatemala.
Guatemala suspended all air travel except for cargo flights on March 16 in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus.
“We do not know when civilian flights will resume in Guatemala after these U.S. government-coordinated charter flights, but urge travelers to continue to check the availability of commercial flight options,” the State Department said.
On Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters at the White House that the department had established a repatriation task force to help Americans trapped outside the country.
– Curtis Tate
24 TSA officers across nation test positive, 5 at JFK
At least 24 Transportation Security Administration officers across the nation have tested positive for the coronavirus, including nine at airports in the New York City area.
The breakdown: five officers at JFK and four at Newark Liberty. In addition, the TSA said an employee at LaGuardia has tested positive.
TSA said the airport’s security screening checkpoints remain open.
Workers have tested positive at several airports, with new cases at Washington Dulles and Phoenix Sky Harbor. A TSA officer at the airport in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, also tested positive, according to the agency.
Other affected airports include Orlando, Florida; Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson; San Jose, California; Fort Lauderdale, Florida; and Cleveland.
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– 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.
Said Murphy: “We have to change our behaviors.”
Illinois required residents to stay home as much as possible. 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.
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Germany’s Angela Merkel self-quarantines
German Chancellor Angela Merkel will go into self-quarantine after coming into contact with a doctor who has tested positive for the coronavirus, her spokesperson told German media outlets Sunday. The Associated Press reported that Merkel had received a vaccination from the doctor.
More coronavirus news, tips and information from USA TODAY:
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- Coronavirus closings: Macy’s, Apple, Sephora say they’ll reopen soon. But will they?
- Her bat mitzvah was rescheduled twice: How to cope when coronavirus cancels milestone celebrations.
- Fact check: Does using ibuprofen when you have coronavirus make symptoms worse?
- Take extra precautions while you’re on the go. Here’s everything you need to protect yourself from germs.
We ride at dawn: Truckers are working, and not from home
Many of the nation’s 3.5 million professional truckers are working flat-out to keep stores and businesses stocked as consumers worry about riding out home quarantines. Some truckers say they aren’t overly concerned about getting sick, although their jobs — which require touching shipments that could be contaminated, interacting with others and going out in public at a time when many lawmakers are urging people to stay home – could put them at increased risk of contracting COVID-19.
“I haven’t stopped since this all started,” Ron Applegate, 57, says of the coronavirus outbreak. “If people are going to eat, the trucks are gonna move. If they need medical supplies, the trucks are gonna move. If we stop, the world stops.”
– Trevor Hughes
Contributing: The Associated Press
How many cases of coronavirus in US?
More coronavirus news and information from USA TODAY:
- American Airlines is finding a purpose for some of its idle planes: The airline’s first cargo-only flight since 1984 is carrying medical gear.
- Before a vaccine arrived in the 1950s, polio had the US scared and quarantined. Now, those who lived through it face a similar terror: Coronavirus.
- Small colleges were already on the brink. Now, coronavirus threatens their existence.
- Should you be wiping down packages and disinfecting letters? No, but keep washing your hands, experts say.
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