The House is planning to take up the $2tn rescue package passed by the Senate on Friday.
But the logistics of holding a vote in the midst of a pandemic are complicated: several members are quarantining, in addition to at least two members who have tested positive for Convid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Flights are severely restricted in some states while travel may pose undue risk for certain lawmakers.
Nevertheless, one Kentucky lawmaker wasn’t going to miss the vote at any cost. For members struggling to find flights, he suggested they “hitch a ride.”
Rep. Massie (R-KY) to his colleagues: “If Congressman are complaining that it’s hard to travel, what about the truckers that I saw on the road when I drove to DC. I’m in DC by the way, drove here. Hitch a ride with a trucker.”
A New York City health worker who was treating Covid-19 patients has died two weeks after being diagnosed with the virus. The news of Kious Kelly’s death was confirmed by his hospital, Mount Sinai West in Manhattan.
“We are deeply saddened by the passing of a beloved member of our nursing staff. The safety of our staff and patients has never been of greater importance and we are taking every precaution possible to protect everyone,” the hospital said in a statement.
Nurses at Mount Sinai West have complained they have been forced to use garbage bags to protect themselves due to a lack of equipment.
‘9/11 was nothing compared to this’: New York doctor on coronavirus crisis – video
New York City is being hit particularly hard by the virus and the acting navy secretary, Thomas Modly, said hospital ship USNS Comfort will “hopefully” reach the city in the next week to assist with the relief effort. “We had been originally looking at April 3, but in all likelihood, she’s going to be getting underway this weekend,” said Modly on Thursday. “I’m actually going to be going down there to the ship either tomorrow or Saturday. So sometime after that she’ll be leaving.”
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Ford wants to reopen five plants shut down by the Covid-19 outbreak, although the company may well receive pushback from union members. Ford suspended production at the plants a week ago under pressure from the United Auto Workers, who feared its members could fall ill.
The company wants to restart production over the next three weeks at sites in Hermosillo, Mexico; Dearborn, Michigan; Louisville Kentucky; Cleveland, Ohio; and Kansas City. Ford says it will introduce new safeguards to protect workers. Donald Trump has already said that he wants America to reopen for business by Easter, despite warnings from medical experts that such a decision could have dire consequences for public health.
“We are reviewing with great concern and caution today’s announcement [from Ford],” the United Auto Workers said in a statement. “Our priority is the health and safety of our members, their families and the American public.”
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Mnuchin: unemployment numbers are ‘not relevant’
Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin waived off the staggering unemployment numbers reported on Thursday morning, saying the figure was “not relevant” while touting the historic economic stimulus package he negotiated with Congressional leaders. The $2tn emergency relief bill passed the Senate on Wednesday night.
Asked on CNBC about the weekly joblessness report, which totaled nearly 3.3 million people, Mnuchin replied: “I just think these numbers right now are not relevant. Whether they’re bigger or smaller in the short term … the good thing about this bill is, the president is protecting these people.”
Mnuchin said he spoke to Pelosi and House minority leader Kevin McCarthy about the need to pass the bill quickly. The House is expected to vote on Friday.
The bill offers a one-time direct cash payment of up to $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for couples, with $500 added for every child. The benefit begins to phase out for individuals making more than $75,000 in income and those making $99,000 or more will not receive assistance. Mnuchin said most of the payments would come as direct deposits.
“We’re determined to get money in people’s pockets immediately,” he said.
You can follow business developments live in our dedicated business blog out of London, here.
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Kenya Evelyn reports on why Florida congressman Matt Gaetz picked the wrong university to single out from the $2tn economic stimulus bill meant to combat the coronavirus outbreak.
In a tweet late on Wednesday, the Republican congressman questioned why Howard University, a historically black college located in the nation’s capital, was earmarked to receive $13m in funding from the bill.
“Education is important but a $13m check to Howard does not belong in COVID-19 relief,” Gaetz said.
Rep. Matt Gaetz
$13,000,000 in taxpayer funds could be going to families across the nation struggling to put food on the table in the midst of COVID-19.
Instead, it’s going to Howard University.
Education is important- but a $13 million check to Howard does not belong in COVID-19 relief. pic.twitter.com/uIT6yaTMUo
Critics immediately highlighted that the university is home to a level-1 trauma hospital central to medical care in Washington DC. It had also been specially designated a Covid-19 treatment facility with a medical school training the next class of professionals to respond to the pandemic.
Howard University’s campus Democrats chimed in to explain the reason for the funding with a history lesson, before offering a quip about Gaetz’s home state of Florida handling the outbreak.
HU College Democrats
Instead of worrying about the funding that insures the well-being of a University and Hospital that saves lives only a mere 2.2 miles from your office, Please call to your friend Governor @RonDeSantisFL and ask him to lockdown Florida.
Another university located in Washington DC was also specifically earmarked in the legislation. Gallaudet University, another federally chartered institution, is set to receive $7m in funding from the bill.
Critics, including Howard alumnae and California senator Kamala Harris, were quick to point out the racial implications of Gaetz singling out an HBCU – one of 100 black educational institutions historically disenfranchised prior to the passage of Brown v Board of Education in 1954.
The bill provides $30 billion to protect students and help schools, colleges and universities combat the coronavirus. This is $13 million.
$13 million = .04% of $30 billion
Why do you take issue with money going to Howard, Congressman? https://t.co/7nyaijShhd
Gaetz’s rebuttal juxtaposing Howard to “regular people” only added to the accusations of racist dog whistles. Earlier this year Gaetz notoriously mocked the severity of the coronavirus outbreak by wearing a gas mask to a congressional hearing. Gaetz later announced a self-quarantine after coming in close contact with others who tested positive, including Donald Trump.
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Edward Helmore has news from the stock market, which has opened higher than many expected.
US stocks traded higher on Thursday even after a record 3.3 million workers applied for unemployment benefits last week, ending a decade-long period of job expansion.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 600 points by 10am, a day after it recorded a rise of more than 1,315 points after more than a week of savage declines. The index climbed 2.8% shortly after the opening bell. The S&P 500 opened up 2.8%, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite added 2.5%.
The gains came after lawmakers passed a $2tn stimulus package on Wednesday night that is expected to help stabilize the economy.
In a rare interview on Thursday morning, federal reserve chairman Jerome Powell said that he expected economic activity to decline “pretty substantially” in the second quarter. The central bank is taking unprecedented action to help ensure economic activity can resume as soon as the coronavirus pandemic is under control, he told NBC’s Today show.
Pompeo: 10,000 Americans have been repatriated
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said 10,000 Americans have been repatriated during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’ve now brought over 10,000 Americans back home from places where they were stranded through no fault of their own,” he told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Thursday. “There’s still a lot of work to do. We’ve got a lot of people who are trying to get back this way, and with travel shut down in many of these countries without any notice or little notice, there’s still a major undertaking.”
US officials said Wednesday that as many as 50,000 Americans needed help getting home from foreign countries where borders are closed and commercial flights are suspended.
Over the next week and a half, 66 more flights will carry home 9,000 more Americans, according to Ian Brownlee, the head of the State Department’s repatriation task force.
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An emergency physician has said that the public is being shielded from the true suffering caused by Covid-19. Ethical and privacy issues mean that footage of ICUs and wards are not shown on television. But in a text to CNN, emergency physician Esther Choo said the severity of the outbreak risks being lost.
“This whole thing has been hampered by its abstractness. I mean, half the interviews on TV that I’ve seen are totally well people pissed they didn’t get tested. The truth is, the sickest patients are terrifying,” Choo said. “They are air hungry, dropping their oxygen, confused, distressed. We can never show that. But it is terrifying … What would the zombie apocalypse be like if we only had verbal descriptions of zombies, but could never show them?”
My colleague Sam Levine sends this report on efforts to get Americans to respond to the US census.
Rapper Cardi B reminded New Yorkers that the 2020 census will not feature a question asking about citizenship in a public service announcement released Wednesday urging people to fill out the decennial survey.
“Remember, the citizenship question is off the census,” she says in the video, which will run on local TV networks and was made in collaboration with New York City’s census efforts. “No matter what anybody tells you, immigrants with or without papers count too.”
Cardi B wants YOU to fill out the US census
The US Supreme Court blocked the Trump administration from adding the question last year, but there is still lingering confusion in immigrant communities and a lingering fear that the information collected in the decennial survey will be used in a harmful way. Individual census responses must be kept confidential according to federal law.
The census, which is mandated by the constitution, is used to determine how $1.5 trillion in federal funds are allocated and how political districts get drawn for the next decade. Americans can fill out the survey online at my2020census.gov or by calling 844-330-2020 (phone numbers to respond in other languages available here).
“This census is about power, money, and respect for our communities,” Cardi B says in the video. “If our city is undercounted, we risk being underrepresented, especially our communities of color.”
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The city of Miami’s 460,000 residents will be put under curfew from Friday night onwards. Police will have the power to detain anyone on the streets between 10pm and 5am. Exceptions will be made for medical emergencies, people on their way to and from work, and dog walkers within 250 yards of their homes. The city is already under a more general shelter-in-place order. Some questioned whether arresting and then detaining people in confined spaces would help spread, rather than curb, the spread of the virus but one Miami police chief denied that accusation.
“The idea here is not to throw somebody in jail,” Commissioner Joe Carollo told the Miami Herald. “None of us want to do that.”
Speaking of the experts, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was on New York’s WNYC public radio, warning that it was still too early for the country to return to normal.
The Guardian’s Ed Helmore reports that Fauci said Trump was not “wed” to Easter as a date certain for the US to lift restrictions on public activity.
“He put that out because he wants to give people some hope, but he is not absolutely wed to that,” Fauci said.
“He keeps saying that although he would like that to be the date, he’s open-minded and flexible to make sure the facts and what the pattern of the virus is will determine what we do,” he added.
On Wednesday evening, Fauci put it even more bluntly.
“You’ve gotta be realistic and you’ve gotta understand that you don’t make the timeline,” Fauci told CNN. “The virus makes the timeline.”
Edward Helmore has news on how the Covid-19 outbreak is affecting the fishing industry.
The commercial fishing industry is requesting $4bn in aid as orders dry up from restaurant owners and exports, which account for as much as 60% of their business, dry up due to the coronavirus pandemic
In a letter to House and Senate leaders, seafood industry leaders, processors and fishermen said their industry was being hit hard. “This is totally unprecedented. This is the biggest crisis to hit the fishing industry ever, no question about that,” Noah Oppenheim, executive director of The Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations told NPR.
Of the seafood that’s not exported from the US, around 80% is sold to restaurants, he said. “Both of those sectors of the seafood economy are largely nonfunctional at the moment, so we’re going to have to make up for approximately 90% of our markets … through either new supply pipelines or new sets of customers.”
If aid isn’t forthcoming, Oppenheim added, “We could see hundreds to thousands of fishermen leave the industry nationwide.”
The wholesale price of lobster, reported one Maine fisherman, has dropped to $2.50 per pound, compared to the usual $10 for this time of year.
“It’s definitely a shock to the system,” said Sam Rosen, a 30-year-old lobsterman based in Vinalhaven, Maine. “This is uncharted territory right now. I don’t think anyone thought it was going to be as bad as it’s getting.”
Fed chair: US ‘may well be’ in a recession
Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell said the US “may well be in a recession” as the pandemic puts an unprecedented strain on the US economy.
In a rare live interview with NBC’s Today Show, Powell sought to draw a distinction between what’s happening to the economy now as the result of forced public isolation and social distancing and a “normal” recession.
“I think it’s been 30 years since we had a federal reserve chair (on TODAY) live … What is the message you want to send?” -Guthrie
“… The Federal Reserve is working hard to support you now, and our policies will be very important when the recovery does come.” -Powell pic.twitter.com/bd3Az6RKyH
“There is not anything fundamentally wrong with our economy,” he told NBC. “Quite the contrary. We are starting from a very strong position.”
But he continued, “People are being asked to close their business, to stay home from work, and to not engage in certain economic activity, and so they are pulling back.”
Asked about Trump’s drive to “open” the economy by Easter, Powell, a longtime target of the president’s wrath, said that the decision should depend on the best advice of public health officials.
“We are not experts in pandemics over here. We don’t get to make that decision,” he said. “We would tend to listen to the experts.”
“The sooner we get the virus under control, people will very willingly open back up their businesses and get back to work,” he added.
at 1.37pm GMT
Sports fans have been deprived of entertainment over the last few weeks, with leagues across America – and the world – shutting down during the Covid-19 outbreak (you can still watch top-class Belarus soccer action though!). But fear not! Two-time NBA MVP and professional nice guy Steph Curry will be online from 10am PT/1pm ET to discuss Covid-19 with infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci. And, like all good sports radio hosts, they’ll be taking questions from callers/people who follow Curry on Instagram.
Hyped to talk all things COVID-19 with Dr. Fauci of the @NIAIDNews tomorrow. This is a conversation for YOU so submit questions with #SCASKSFAUCI and join at 10am PT tomorrow (Mar 26). Let’s get it! pic.twitter.com/7DC0dty6u6
Curry, who has won three NBA titles with the Golden State Warriors, is known for his charity work alongside his wife Ayesha. He recently donated an undisclosed amount to the Alameda County Community Food Bank, and a Facebook fundraiser by the Currys for Feeding America has raised more than $7m so far.
Fauci has become known for gently correcting Donald Trump on the medical side of the outbreak in recent weeks. Curry has been rather more forceful in his statements on Trump. The Warriors did not go on the traditional White House visit when they won titles during Trump’s presidency. “By acting and not going, hopefully that will inspire some change when it comes to what we tolerate in this country and what is accepted and what we turn a blind eye to,” said Curry after the Warriors’ title win in 2017.
at 1.31pm GMT
Good morning and welcome to our live coverage of the coronavirus in the US and all things politics.
Overnight, the US Senate unanimously voted to approve a historic $2.2tn stimulus package to rescue the spiraling economy and rush financial assistance to workers, businesses and a healthcare system nearly stretched to capacity as cases of the coronavirus sweep across the country.
The House is expected to take up the vote on Friday morning. Donald Trump has said he would sign it.
In a tweet, the president touted the rare unanimous vote in the Senate. The vote was 96-0.
Donald J. Trump
96-0 in the United States Senate. Congratulations AMERICA!
In a sign of the virus’s reach, the four Republican senators who missed the vote were in quarantine, including senator Rand Paul who tested positive for Covid-19.
On Thursday morning, the US labor department announced that a record 3.3 million people filed claims for unemployment last week as the Covid-19 pandemic shut down large parts of America’s economy. The figure is the highest ever reported, beating the previous record of 695,000 claims filed the week ending 2 October 1982.
This morning Trump participates in a video teleconference at with the G20 leaders. The coronavirus task force will hold a briefing this evening at 5pm EST.
We will also hear more from the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, at her weekly press conference later this morning. Today is the speaker’s 80th birthday.
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