Coronavirus Live Updates: Senate Cancels Recess to Negotiate Aid Package

Image
Credit…Pete Marovich for The New York Times

Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, the majority leader, canceled a recess that had been planned for next week, as House Democrats and the administration continued to negotiate a deal on a sweeping coronavirus relief package.

House Democrats scheduled a vote on their package Thursday, but leaders postponed it as their negotiations with the White House continued behind the scenes.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, and Steven Mnuchin, the treasury secretary, spent Thursday negotiating privately over the contours of the measure, which would provide a substantial new paid sick leave program, enhanced unemployment insurance, free coronavirus testing and food assistance. Many Republicans are opposed to the paid sick leave proposal, complaining that Democrats are using the coronavirus crisis to accomplish a long-held domestic priority that is exceedingly costly.

But an improbable sticking point has emerged: Republicans are trying to insert abortion restrictions into the emergency bill. The Republicans want to include the Hyde amendment, which would bar the use of federal funds for abortions, according to a person familiar with the deliberations. Republicans routinely push to include the language in legislation that governs the distribution of federal money.

It is not clear whether the Mr. Mnuchin is actively pressing for the abortion curbs. Earlier on Thursday, Ms. Pelosi described the treasury secretary’s suggestions for the package as “all very reasonable” and unlikely to become roadblocks to a compromise.

“I am glad talks are ongoing between the administration and Speaker Pelosi,” Mr. McConnell said on Twitter earlier. “I hope Congress can pass bipartisan legislation to continue combating the coronavirus and keep our economy strong.”

Senators from both parties had pushed to scrap the recess, which would have begun in effect Thursday afternoon, when senators typically leave for the week to return to their home states. Frustrated with the Democrats’ package and aware of the urgency to respond to the pandemic, senators had begun pushing to stay in Washington to work out a bipartisan compromise.

Republican congressional aides have said that the House bill appeared to contain several “poison pills” that would make it difficult for them to support it. And the top House Republican called it ineffective and too expensive.

“If the Democrats try to move what they’re trying to do, I don’t know that that will help the economy,” Representative Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California and the House minority leader, said in an interview on Fox News. “It’ll just cost us so much more money.”

U.S. stock prices on Thursday suffered their worst beating since the 1987 crash, plunging almost 10 percent as the latest government efforts to address the coronavirus outbreak failed to assuage investors’ concerns about the reeling global economy.

The S&P 500 index closed down 9.5 percent and the Dow Jones industrial average fell just under 10 percent — the biggest single-day declines since Black Monday, Oct. 19, 1987. The drop came after weeks of sharp losses.

Both benchmarks fell deep into bear market territory, defined as a drop of 20 percent or more from their peaks, set last month. The S&P has fallen to 27 percent below its high, while the Dow has shed 29 percent.

The day on Wall Street began badly. Stocks fell more than 7 percent in the opening minutes, triggering an automatic 15-minute pause in trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Prices recovered slightly after the Federal Reserve Bank said it would offer at least $1.5 trillion worth of short-term loans to banks today and tomorrow, but then the decline resumed.

President Trump’s ban on most travel from Europe, announced on Wednesday, hit travel-related stocks and European financial markets particularly hard. The major European stock indexes declined even more steeply than their American counterparts, with some losing more than 12 percent on the day.

New York will ban most gatherings of more than 500 people, including at Broadway shows, and restrict smaller groups in an extraordinary step to fight the growing outbreak in the state, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced on Thursday.

The restrictions are expected to have a profound impact on the city’s cultural institutions, including theater, a multibillion dollar industry at the heart of New York’s tourist trade. The ban will take effect at 5 p.m. Thursday for Broadway theaters and will go into effect for other venues on Friday at 5 p.m., Mr. Cuomo said.

The Broadway League, a trade organization representing producers and theater owners, said the closing would last through April 12.

New York’s Roman Catholic archdiocese announced that its elementary schools would be closed next week, and possible longer.

California joined other states in imposing new measures aimed at containing the virus, telling residents to postpone or cancel gatherings of more than 250 people through the end of March. An order from Gov. Gavin Newsom required local governments not to permit them. California also advised against gatherings in smaller venues that don’t allow for 6 feet between people. Gatherings of high-risk people, like those in retirement homes, should be no more than 10 people, officials said.

The Walt Disney Company said on Thursday that it would close the Disneyland resort in Anaheim for the first time since the Sept. 11 attacks, and just the fourth time in its 65-year history, because of the coronavirus pandemic. He said that the order applied to nonessential gatherings — places like schools and courthouses were also exempt, but subject to more specific guidance.

Negotiations with Native American tribes over the casinos were ongoing, Mr. Newsom said. He said operators of amusement parks, theaters and casinos are proposing ways to keep people at safe distances from each other, such as staggered seating and show times, and all this demands careful evaluation.

Delays in testing have made it difficult to get a full sense of scale of the outbreak, but the epidemic is increasingly altering American life, and state, local and private institutions are taking matters into their own hands. Mr. Newsom also discussed how the state is working with hospitals and commercial labs in an effort to significantly boost testing capacity.

Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington State said that people should no longer sit shoulder-to-shoulder in bars, and he banned public gatherings of 250 people or more in three counties in the Seattle area.

In Ohio, the governor said a ban on large events was imminent.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle became the first in the country to suspend public celebration of Mass. Episcopal bishops in Virginia and Washington, D.C., said that churches in their dioceses would close for two weeks.

Many colleges have moved classes online and some have directed students to not return after spring break.

As of Thursday afternoon, more than 1,500 people nationwide had tested positive and 38 had died, most of them in Washington State. But the prevalence is unknown, because testing has been limited.

In New Rochelle, N.Y., National Guard troops have begun delivering food for school lunches and helping clean and sanitize public facilities and buildings.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association on Thursday called off the men’s and women’s Division 1 basketball tournaments, among the most-watched annual sports events, joining a long list of event and venue closures and cancelations in a global push to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

On Wednesday, the N.B.A. suspended its season after a Utah Jazz player tested positive for the coronavirus, and a second Jazz player tested positive on Thursday. The N.H.L. and Major League Soccer followed by announcing pauses to their seasons.

Major League Baseball halted spring training and postponed the start of the season by at least two weeks.

The N.C.A.A. said earlier this week that basketball tournament games would be played, but without fans in the arenas.

Most N.H.L. teams have about a dozen games left in the regular season, with the Stanley Cup playoffs scheduled to begin in about a month. “It’s the right thing to do but obviously it stinks,” Florida Panthers center Aleksander Barkov said in a telephone interview.

In New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art announced on Thursday that it would temporarily close its three locations, including its Fifth Avenue flagship. The sprawling music, tech and film festival in Austin, South by Southwest, was canceled and the giant Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, which takes place in the picturesque desert of Southern California, was postponed until October.

Congress’s visitor center will shutter the Capitol to visitors until April, and the Supreme Court building is closing until further notice.

Ireland’s government canceled all St. Patrick’s Day parades, including Dublin’s. (Boston, which has a robust Irish-American population, also canceled its parade; Manhattan’s was postponed.) Several places in Germany, including Berlin, closed all state theaters, concert halls and opera houses.

Mr. Trump said on Thursday that he could restrict domestic travel to regions of the United States where the coronavirus becomes “too hot.”

Asked by a reporter in the Oval Office whether he was considering limits on travel inside the country to hard-hit states like Washington or California, Mr. Trump said the subject had not yet been discussed, before adding: “Is it a possibility? Yes, if somebody gets a little bit out of control, if an area gets too hot.”

He did not elaborate, except to say that a containment zone New York State had imposed around the city of New Rochelle was “good.”

The president also said that he was canceling or deferring several political events in the coming weeks.

Video

bars
0:00/2:05
2:05

transcript

‘That’s Really Disturbing’: Health Officials Grilled at Coronavirus Hearing

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz pressed top health officials about the current shortcomings of the government’s coronavirus response.

There are countless more examples of problems with people getting access to tests all across the country, including in my home state of Florida. We need to have someone in charge of making sure that as many people as possible across this country have access to getting tested as soon as possible. Who is that person? Is it you? Is it the vice president? Can you give us the name of who can guarantee that anyone, but especially health care workers, who need to be tested can be?” “As I tried to explain to Congressman Green, from the C.D.C. perspective —” “OK, I’m asking for a name. Who is in charge of making sure that people who need to get tested, who are indicated to be tested, can get a test? Who?” “Yeah, I was trying to say that the responsibility that I have at CDC is make sure all the public health labs have it, and they can make the judgment on how they want to use it.” “But they’re referencing people who have been advised to be tested to you, and they’ve been turned down. So is it you?” “As I said, I’m going to look into the specifics — “I know that. So basically you’re saying, reclaiming my time, basically you seem to be saying, because you can’t name anyone specifically, that there’s no one specifically in charge that we can count on to make sure that people who need to be tested — health care workers or anyone else — there’s not one person that can ensure that these tests can be administered. Yes or no?” “My colleague is looking at me to answer that. The system, the system is not really geared to what we need right now, what you are asking for. That is a failing.” “A failing, yes.” “It is a failing. Let’s admit it. The fact is, the way the system was set up is that the public health component that Dr. Redfield was talking about was a system where you put it out there in the public and a physician asks for it and you get it. The idea of anybody getting it easily the way people in other countries are doing it — we’re not set up for that. Do I think we should be? Yes. but we’re not. “OK. That’s really disturbing and I appreciate the information.”

Video player loading
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz pressed top health officials about the current shortcomings of the government’s coronavirus response.CreditCredit…Joshua Roberts/Reuters

One of the country’s top health officials said that the government’s coronavirus testing methods were inadequate in testimony on Capitol Hill on Thursday.

Speaking at a House committee hearing on coronavirus testing, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fielded pointed questions about rising frustration over a lack of testing kits across the country.

“The system does not, is not really geared to what we need right now, what you are asking for,” Dr. Fauci said. “That is a failing. It is a failing, let’s admit it.”

Dr. Fauci had stepped in to respond to a question, from Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, to Dr. Redfield about who was ultimately responsible for overseeing testing.

“The idea of anybody getting it, easily, the way people in other countries are doing it, we are not set up for that,” Dr. Fauci added. “Do I think we should be? Yes. But we are not.”

Mr. Pence said on Thursday that thousands more cases of coronavirus were expected in the United States.

“We know there will be thousands of more cases of coronavirus,” Mr. Pence said on NBC’s “Today” show. Asked whether it could be millions, he declined to answer, saying, “I’ll leave to the experts to make the estimates of how many people will be infected.”

At another point in the testimony, Dr. Redfield told Representative Katie Porter that he would commit to making coronavirus testing available for Americans, regardless of insurance.

On both sides of the Atlantic on Thursday, the consequences of President Trump’s decision to ban most travel from Europe began to be felt economically, politically and socially.

Traveling Americans sought to understand what Mr. Trump’s plan meant for them, and European Union leaders sharply condemned the move, even as many nations on the Continent moved to tighten their own restrictions on the movement of people.

“The coronavirus is a global crisis, not limited to any continent and it requires cooperation rather than unilateral action,” a statement from European leaders said. “The European Union disapproves of the fact that the U.S. decision to impose a travel ban was taken unilaterally and without consultation.”

Italy’s government reported more than 15,000 infections through Thursday, a jump of more than 2,000, and more than 1,000 deaths. With the worst outbreak outside of China, Italy is under a national lockdown. In France, which has more than 2,280 cases, President Emmanuel Macron, announced that the country’s schools and universities would close starting next week, calling the coronavirus epidemic “the most serious health crisis that France has gone through in the past century.”

Mr. Macron said he would speak with President Trump on Friday “to propose an exceptional initiative between G7 members.”

Mr. Trump said on Wednesday night that Europe had failed to take appropriate measures to the contain the virus and its “horrific infection, “ and that he was suspending most travel from Europe for 30 days beginning on Friday.

He imposed a 30-day ban on foreigners who in the previous two weeks have been in the 26 countries that make up Europe’s Schengen Area. American citizens, permanent legal residents and their families would still be able to return to the United States, and Mr. Trump later tweeted to clarify that cargo would not be blocked.

“Please remember, very important for all countries & businesses to know that trade will in no way be affected by the 30-day restriction on travel from Europe,” Mr. Trump posted. “The restriction stops people not goods.”

In appearances on several morning television shows on Thursday, Mr. Pence offered more details. Americans returning from the affected area of Europe in the next 30 days, he said, would be “funneled through 13 airports” and would be required to self-quarantine for two weeks.

A senior Brazilian government official who visited Mar-a-Lago days ago, and was in close proximity to Mr. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, has tested positive for the new coronavirus, Brazil’s government confirmed on Thursday.

The official was part of a delegation led by Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, who is now awaiting results for a coronavirus test.

But Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence will not be tested, according to the White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham. “Both the president and vice president had almost no interactions with the individual who tested positive,” she said in a statement.

In contrast, the office of Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, said that his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, had been tested after developing flu-like symptoms and that he decided to work from home until receiving his wife’s results.

The Brazilian official who tested positive is Fábio Wajngarten, Mr. Bolsonaro’s communications chief. He was at Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s oceanfront resort in Florida, as part of a Brazilian government delegation. Members of that group dined with Mr. Trump on Saturday.

In a statement, Mr. Bolsonaro’s office said it was “adopting all the necessary preventive measures to preserve the health of the president and the delegation that accompanied him on the recent official trip to the United States,” and had informed U.S. officials.

It said that Mr. Wajngarten tested positive in two separate tests after returning home with flu-like symptoms. Mr. Bolsonaro was being tested for the virus, and results were expected on Friday.

Over the weekend Mr. Wajngarten posted a photo on his Instagram account posing shoulder-to-shoulder with Mr. Trump, who appears smiling and holding a baseball cap with the words “Make Brazil Great Again.” It was not clear when the photo, which includes Mr. Pence, was taken.

Asked at a news conference about Mr. Wajngarten Mr. Trump said, “I’m not concerned.”

Senator Rick Scott, Republican of Florida, who met with Mr. Bolsonaro in Miami earlier this week, said he would put himself in isolation as a precautionary measure. He added that said he did not think he had interacted with Mr. Bolsonaro’s aide and does not have any symptoms.

The office of Senator Lindsey Graham announced on Twitter that he had also been at Mar-a-Lago last weekend, though he had “no recollection of direct contact” with Mr. Bolsonaro or Mr. Wajngarten, and would self-quarantine. He also said he was awaiting the results of a coronavirus test

Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, is already in quarantine because of another encounter with an infected person at a conservative conference near Washington. Several House Republicans also self-isolated after meeting the same individual.

As of Thursday, Brazil had at least 73 confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 930 suspected cases.

A passenger on a JetBlue flight from New York to West Palm Beach, Fla., on Wednesday night learned midair that he had tested positive for the coronavirus, raising questions about possible widespread exposure.

The passenger, who had previously been tested for the virus and was awaiting results, got a notification toward the end of the flight that the test had come back positive, JetBlue said on Thursday. He was overheard talking about it, and the flight crew quickly notified health officials on the ground.

The flight, which departed from Kennedy International Airport with 114 people on board, landed at Palm Beach International Airport around 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Medical workers rushed to the airport shortly after, officials said.

“JetBlue had no prior indication that this customer had or may have had coronavirus,” the airline said in a statement. Both airports and the airplane were being cleaned.

At least 102 people who traveled in Egypt last month have tested positive for the coronavirus after returning to their home countries, stoking fears of a much wider outbreak in the Arab world’s most populous country than had previously been calculated.

Egypt has declared 67 coronavirus cases, and officials insist that it is still safe for tourists to come to the country. “Thank God, Egypt is one of the least affected countries,” Tourism Minister Khaled el-Enany told reporters in Cairo on Tuesday.

Egyptian officials say that the country’s outbreak is concentrated on a cruise ship on the Nile, on which 45 people were infected, that has been quarantined since Friday. But the high number of people who have tested positive after leaving Egypt suggests that the virus has spread to other parts of the country.

Outside Iran, the highest number of reported cases in the Middle East are in countries like Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and Iraq, which have declared about 500 cases between them.

The number in Qatar jumped to 262 from 24 on Wednesday amid fears that the virus will spread in the packed camps for construction workers who are building soccer stadiums for the 2022 men’s soccer World Cup.

Relatively little is known about the spread of the virus in some of the region’s most vulnerable war-torn corners, such as Syria, Yemen and Libya.

Here are tips for stocking your pantry in ways that are practical and delicious; answers to some common questions about travel, and steps to take when talking to an anxious teen about coronavirus.

Reporting was contributed by Peter Baker, Elisabetta Povoledo, Steven Erlanger, Alissa J. Rubin, Alexandra Stevenson, Daniel Victor, Austin Ramzy, Russell Goldman, Livia Albeck-Ripka, Albee Zhang, Derrick Bryson Taylor, Daniel Victor, Sui-Lee Wee, Annie Karni, Marc Santora, Megan Specia, Declan Walsh, Vindu Goel, Michael Crowley, Patricia Mazzei, Nicholas Fandos, Kevin Draper, Mihir Zaveri, Katie Robertson, Elian Peltier, Jason Horowitz, Emma Bubola, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Emily Cochrane, Adam Liptak, Jorge Arangure, Matthew Futterman, Elaine Yu, Amy Qin, Alan Rappeport, Emily Cochrane, Karen Zraick, Sandra E. Garcia, Sarah Mervosh, David M. Halbfinger, Scott Cacciola, Sopan Deb, Brooks Barnes, Noah Weiland, Sheri Fink, Mike Baker, Monika Pronczuk, Melissa Eddy, Roni Caryn Rabin, Donald G. McNeil Jr., Andrew Keh, Ernesto Londoño, Aurelien Breeden, Katie Thomas, Jill Cowan, Thomas Fuller, Richard Pérez-Peña and Dagny Salas.