U.S. lawmakers try again on a $1.8 trillion stimulus plan.
Senators and senior Trump administration officials were scrambling on Monday to strike a deal on a $1.8 trillion measure to bolster the economy, after Democrats blocked action on the package on Sunday, demanding stronger protections for workers and restrictions for bailed-out businesses.
The vote on Sunday shook markets around the globe and threatened to derail bipartisan talks that had yielded substantial compromises over the outlines of the package, which is emerging as the largest economic stimulus measure in modern history.
“We need this to pass today,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told the Fox Business Network on Monday, just before heading to Capitol Hill to meet with Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the minority leader, to try to cement a deal.
Mr. Mnuchin and Mr. Schumer met late into the night on Sunday after the failed vote, but did not come to terms.
At the heart of the impasse is a $425 billion fund created by the bill that the Federal Reserve could leverage for loans to assist broad groups of distressed companies, and an additional $75 billion it would provide for industry-specific loans. Democrats have raised concerns that the funds do not have rules for transparency or enough guardrails to make sure companies do not use the funds to enrich themselves or take government money and lay off workers. They also argue the measure would give Mr. Mnuchin too much discretion to decide which companies receive the funds, calling the proposal a “slush fund” for the administration.
As the legislation is currently written, Mr. Mnuchin would not have to disclose the recipients until six months after the loans were dispersed. Some Democrats also objected to loopholes in the legislation they said could allow Mr. Trump’s real estate empire to take advantage of the federal aid.
The Democratic leader told reporters shortly after midnight that the bill as currently written would give bailouts to major corporations without accountability and that it would not provide enough funding to health care workers on the front lines.
“This bill is going to affect this country and the lives of Americans — not just for the next few days, but in the next few months and years,” Mr. Schumer said, “so we have to make sure it is good.”
He said he hoped to have a compromise bill ready on Monday.
Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, has scheduled three procedural votes at noon Eastern in an effort to intensify pressure on Democrats to cement an agreement.
Also on Monday, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, said that her husband, John Bessler, had tested positive for the coronavirus. Ms. Klobuchar, writing in a post on Medium, said that she and her husband have been in different places for the past two weeks, and that because 14 days had elapsed since she saw him, she was following her doctor’s guidance and not getting a test for the virus while there is a shortage of tests in the country.
The Fed says it will buy as much debt as it needs to cushion the blow for businesses.
The Federal Reserve said it would buy as much government-backed debt as it needs to keep financial markets functioning, and unrolled a series of programs meant to shore up both large and small businesses — a whatever-it-takes effort to cushion the economic blow of the pandemic.
“Aggressive efforts must be taken across the public and private sectors to limit the losses to jobs and incomes and to promote a swift recovery once the disruptions abate,” the central bank said in a statement on Monday, adding that the Fed was “using its full range of authorities to provide powerful support for the flow of credit to American families and businesses.”
The Fed this month resurrected a huge bond-buying program — last used in response to the 2008 financial crisis — saying that it would spend $700 billion on Treasury securities and $200 billion in mortgage-backed debt. On Monday, the central bank said it would not limit its purchases, instead buying “in the amounts needed to support smooth market functioning.”
Wall Street fell on Monday even after the Fed unveiled its expansive new bond-buying program. The S&P 500 was down about 1 percent in early trading.
Markets stumbled on the news that a political stalemate in the Senate had slowed a rescue plan for the U.S. economy. Senate Democrats on Sunday blocked action on an emerging deal to prop up the economy, halting the progress of a nearly $2 trillion government rescue package. They contended that the legislation failed to adequately protect workers or impose strict enough restrictions on bailed-out businesses.
Major indexes in Germany, Britain and France were lower, and most Asian markets also closed down.
New York is now the center of the U.S. outbreak.
As New York became the center of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said he would issue an emergency order requiring the state’s hospitals to increase their capacities by at least 50 percent.
The order was a mandatory directive from the state, Mr. Cuomo said, adding “I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say try to reach a 100 percent increase but you must reach a 50 percent increase.”
Data released Sunday indicated that the state accounts for roughly 5 percent of coronavirus cases worldwide.
The jump stemmed from both the rapid growth of the outbreak and a significant increase in testing in the state. Health officials emphasized that testing was revealing how quickly the virus had spread.
There are now 20,875 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the state and at least 157 deaths. About 13 percent of the people who tested positive for the virus were hospitalized.
Moving to stem the crisis on multiple fronts, Mr. Cuomo pleaded with federal officials to nationalize the manufacturing of medical supplies and ordered New York City to crack down on people congregating in public. He suggested that some streets could be closed to traffic, allowing pedestrians more space.
The governor announced measures intended to prepare for a wave of patients, including setting up temporary hospitals in three New York City suburbs and erecting a large medical bivouac in the Jacob Javits Center on Manhattan’s West Side.
Already, hospitals across the New York region are reporting a surge of coronavirus patients and a looming shortage of critical supplies like ventilators and masks.
Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York told CNN on Monday that hospitals had only “days” to get critical supplies before doctors will be unable to save the lives of those who might otherwise survive.
More states order residents to stay home.
Millions more Americans were ordered on Monday to stay at home as much as possible, as Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin became the latest states to announce sweeping directives to keep people at home to stop the spread of the virus.
“If we all do our part and simply stay home, we have a shot,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan said at a news conference from her office at the State Capitol on Monday, citing a study that projected that 70 percent of Michigan’s 10 million residents could become infected if nothing changed. Already, she said, the state had gone from zero cases to more than 1,000 in less than two weeks.
“This disease can’t spread person-to-person if we’re not out there,” she said, adding: “The goal here is simple: Stay home, stay safe, save lives.”
Ms. Whitmer, who is among a handful of Democratic governors who have exchanged jabs with President Trump over the virus, said the action was necessary, in part, because of a lack of response from the federal government.
“Without a comprehensive national strategy, we, the states, must take action,” she said.
A cascade of other states issued similar instructions in recent days. Instructions for residents to stay at home will soon cover more than 100 million Americans in at least 13 states, including California, Illinois and New York. Many states also ordered all nonessential businesses to close.
In Massachusetts, Charlie Baker, a Republican, emphasized that an advisory to stay at home did not amount to home confinement. “I do not believe I can or should order U.S. citizens to be confined to their home for days on end,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense from a public health point of view, and it’s not realistic.”
In Minnesota, Gov. Tim Walz said he would be self-quarantining at home for 14 days after a member of his security detail had tested positive for the virus on Sunday night. Mr. Walz was not experiencing any symptoms, but had been in “close proximity to this individual late last week,” a statement from his office said.
Keep your distance, world leaders warn, or there will be consequences.
From India to Germany to Australia, world leaders have begun taking a harder line with people who violate the strict measures put in place to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia said on Sunday that if people didn’t comply with social distancing measures, he was ready to introduce “far more draconian measures,” after crowds thronged Australia’s beaches over the weekend.
“Do what is right for our country,” Chancellor Angela Merkel told people in Germany on Sunday, after introducing measures that limit groups in public to just two people, aside from families — at a safe distance. “Show reason and heart,” she said.
Ms. Merkel, who was isolating herself at home after learning that a doctor who vaccinated her against pneumonia on Friday was infected, learned on Monday that her first test for coronavirus was negative, a top official said, confirming German media reports.
As increasingly drastic restrictions are introduced across the world, leaders are making it abundantly clear that while many people are complying, in order for social distancing to work, everyone has to limit interactions.
Local leaders in some Italian towns and regions have taken to the streets to demand that residents return home and called out those who fail to adhere.
Vincenzo De Luca, the president of the regional government of Campania, issued a threat in a video message to those planning to throw graduation: “We will send the police over, with flamethrowers.”
In some places, fines have been introduced for people who break the rules. In the German states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate, people who unnecessarily leave their homes can face fines of up to 25,000 euros, about $26,700.
Alain Thirion, a top security official at France’s interior ministry, told reporters in Paris on Sunday that the police had carried out checks on over 1.7 million people and that over 90,000 of them were in violation of a mandatory lockdown. Repeat offenders could face up to €3,700 in fines and six months in prison, under legislation passed on Sunday by France’s Parliament.
The maker of an experimental drug says it will cut emergency access, as researchers race for a cure.
Nearly 70 drugs and experimental compounds may be effective in treating the coronavirus, a team of researchers reported on Sunday night.
Some of the medications are used to treat other diseases, and repurposing them to treat Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, may be faster than trying to invent a new antiviral from scratch, the scientists said.
Among the drugs on the list was remdesivir, an experimental antiviral produced by Gilead Sciences that has been used in emergency cases to treat the coronavirus. But the company said on Sunday that it was suspending access to emergency requests for remdesivir, citing an “exponential increase” in such requests as the virus spreads through Europe and the United States.
As coronavirus cases have increased around the world, demand has overwhelmed “an emergency treatment access system that was set up for very limited access to investigation medicines and never intended for use in response to a pandemic,” the company said in a statement.
The list of drug candidates appeared in a study published on the website bioRxiv. The researchers have submitted the paper to a journal for publication.
Also on the list was chloroquine, a malaria medication that has been much in the news this past week, thanks to speculation about its use against the coronavirus — some of which was repeated by President Trump at a news briefing at the White House on Friday.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, followed the president’s remarks with a warning that there was only “anecdotal evidence” that chloroquine might work.
India extends its lockdown to cover almost the entire nation of 1.3 billion.
The Indian authorities are grounding all domestic flights and putting most of the country, the world’s second most populous, in full lockdown.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in India remains relatively low — about 400 — but the government wants to lock things down before the virus spikes in the densely populated country. It has steadily tightened restrictions, first ending all international flights and now grounding domestic ones, starting Wednesday at midnight.
The crackdown has also included religious gatherings. On Saturday, local authorities in Ayodhya said they would block as many as 1 million Hindu pilgrims that had hoped to visit the holy city in northern India starting Wednesday to celebrate the birthday of Ram, one of the most important Hindu gods.
On Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi posted an urgent appeal on Twitter: “Many people are still not taking the lockdown seriously,” he said. “Please, save yourself, save your family, follow the instructions seriously.”
In New Delhi, the capital, the front page of all major newspapers featured a full-page announcement outlining the new restrictions. They reminded residents that the country has a long history of fighting disease, reaching back to the Epidemic Diseases Act of 1897 that was instituted in British-occupied India to combat the bubonic plague. The law has been used to combat outbreaks of swine flu, cholera and malaria.
But nothing on this scale has been tried before, and there was some confusion as to the scope of the new edict. For instance, food stores were supposed to be exempted, but in some neighborhoods the police ordered small grocery stores to close.
India was one of the first nations to essentially shut its borders, canceling visas and denying entry to all but a few foreigners. But the containment measures have been imperfect, and fear has started to spread.
The government, hoping that aggressive and swift action will spare the nation, is offering a clear slogan: “Say No to Panic, Say Yes to Precautions.”
Racing to save the sick, Spain’s health workers fall victim themselves.
“A nurse cannot work without protection,” Teresa Galindo, who leads a union that represents nurses in the Madrid region, said, adding that she never thought the health service’s resources “could be stretched so far to the limit.”
Videos shared on social media show dire conditions at hospitals in the region, with coughing patients lying on the floor or on beds in corridors, many hooked up to oxygen tanks, as overwhelmed health professionals shuffle past.
“There are people without rooms, sitting in plastic chairs for more than 30 hours,” Javier García, a union representative, told the newspaper El Mundo.
Hotels and exhibition centers are being converted into field hospitals. The aid organization Doctors Without Borders has set up a 100-bed unit on a university campus in Madrid, and the army is deploying to take patients to hospitals and alleviate the burden on the health sector.
Spain is also racing to cope with a shortage of tests, so the number of infected may be far higher than the reported caseload. Hundreds of thousands of new test kits will be handed out in the coming days, the authorities say, and health professionals will be the first to be tested.
Trump warns against letting the ‘cure’ become ‘worse than the problem itself.’
As public health officials and leaders around the world braced their populations for a struggle that could continue for months, President Trump signaled that measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus could have their limits.
“We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself,” he wrote on Twitter. “At the end of the 15 day period, we will make a decision which way we want to go!”
Early last week, the White House released guidelines — effective for 15 days — urging Americans to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people and recommending that people work from home, avoid unnecessary shopping trips and refrain from eating in restaurants.
Many states and cities have since imposed even stricter measures, with one in four people in America now under some form of restricted movement.
The point of locking down entire cities and nations has been to give health care systems time to gear up so they do not find themselves overwhelmed by a surge of patients. And as the number of known cases in the United States crossed 31,700, governors from multiple states warned that they were still not ready.
Mr. Trump said that major disaster declarations were in process for New York, California and Washington — the three states hardest hit by the virus — and that they would not have to pay for deploying National Guard units.
Mr. Trump also said he had directed FEMA to supply four large federal medical stations with 1,000 beds for New York, eight stations with 2,000 beds for California, and seven stations with 1,000 beds for the state of Washington. The stations for New York, to be built in Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan, were announced earlier in the day by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
Many state and local officials have pressed Mr. Trump to use his authority under the Defense Production Act to mobilize industry to manufacture scarce goods. At the news conference on Sunday, Mr. Trump defended his decision not to do so.
“Call a person over in Venezuela,” he said. “Ask them: How did nationalization of their businesses work out? Not too well. The concept of nationalizing our businesses is not a good concept.”
Chinese officials appear to disagree on whether to push a conspiracy theory about the U.S.
China’s ambassador to the United States sought to distance himself from a prominent Chinese government spokesman who has been promoting a conspiracy theory that the coronavirus was started by the United States, an unusual display of discordance at senior levels of the Chinese government.
The diplomat, Cui Tiankai, said in an interview with Axios on HBO that politicians should refrain from “very harmful” speculation on the source of the virus that has upended daily life and economies around the world.
Mr. Cui’s remarks contradicted the approach taken by his colleague Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, who has in recent days been tweeting unfounded theories that it may have been the U.S. Army that brought the epidemic to Wuhan, and promoting tweets suggesting that the United States was concealing cases of Covid-19 that had been misdiagnosed as the flu late last year.
In the interview with Axios, the Chinese ambassador, Mr. Cui, reiterated his criticism of people in the United States who were promoting unproven theories about the virus. “This is the job for the scientists to do, not for diplomats, not for journalists to speculate,” he said. “Because such speculation will help nobody. It’s very harmful.”
But he deflected questions about Mr. Zhao’s remarks, saying it wasn’t his job to explain the view of his colleague.
The fringe theories on the virus’s origins first came to the fore last month when Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas claimed that the deadly coronavirus, which first emerged in Wuhan, was manufactured by the Chinese government. In a February interview on “Face the Nation,” Mr. Cui called such claims “crazy.” He said other rumors asserting that the virus had originated from an American military laboratory were similarly unbelievable.
A little joy in a difficult time.
It is reasonable to feel anxious and worried about the news. Today, we hope to offer you ideas for a small respite.
Reporting and research were contributed by Eileen Sullivan, Katie Robertson, Sarah Mervosh, Michael Cooper, Jonah Engel Bromwich, Hari Kumar, Jeffrey Gettleman, Vindu Goel, Elian Peltier, Raphael Minder, Marc Santora, Megan Specia, Melissa Eddy, Jeanna Smialek, Ian Austen, Mariel Padilla, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Katie Van Syckle, Jesse McKinley, Emily Cochrane, Jim Tankersley, Jeanna Smialek, Nick Corasaniti, Kate Taylor, Tiffany May and Mike Baker.