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Coronavirus Live Updates: Additional Aid Stalls in Senate; New York Hospitalizations Fall

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A Trump administration request for quick approval of $250 billion to replenish a new loan program for distressed small businesses stalled in the Senate on Thursday morning after Republicans and Democrats clashed over what should be included.

With Congress in recess and lawmakers scattered around the country, Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, attempted to push through the small business loan funding during a procedural session, a maneuver that would have required all senators to agree.

“Treating this as a normal kind of partisan negotiation could literally cost Americans their jobs,” Mr. McConnell said. “Do not block emergency aid you do not even oppose just because you want something more,” he told Democrats.

But Democrats objected, proposing to double the size of the emergency relief bill by adding $100 billion for hospitals and $150 billion for state and local governments.

“Yes, we know we need more money for this program,” said Senator Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland. “But for goodness sake, let’s take the opportunity to make some bipartisan fixes to make this program work better.”

Republicans, in turn, blocked the Democrats’ proposal, arguing that the small business program has a more urgent need for funds, and that additional demands for aid could be addressed in future legislation.

“We need to stop turning every conversation into a conversation about everything,” Mr. McConnell said. “We need to patch holes when we see them.”

The dispute is a prelude to what is likely to be a far more complicated and consequential set of negotiations over another sweeping round of government aid that lawmakers expect to consider in the coming weeks. But the interim package appears to face problems of its own, even beyond the Senate.

Without the modifications Democrats are advocating, Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California warned on Wednesday that the administration’s $250 billion request would not pass the House. This latest round of negotiation comes on the heels of the $2 trillion stimulus law enacted late last month, which created the small business loan program. The program, which has been inundated with applications from desperate businesses, has been plagued with problems since its launch earlier this month.

Another 6.6 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week as the coronavirus outbreak continued its devastating march through American businesses and jobs, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

With astonishing swiftness, the pandemic has shut down both longstanding and new businesses, leaving veteran workers and recent hires in nearly every type of industry without a paycheck. In just three weeks, more than 16 million Americans have lost their jobs — more losses than the most recent recession produced over two years.

At the same time, the Federal Reserve on Thursday announced another round of emergency measures to help the economy. The central bank said it would use Treasury Department funds to buy municipal bonds and expand its purchases of corporate bonds. The efforts are aimed at shoring up companies as well as state and local governments whose budgets are straining under the cost of the pandemic.

Across the United States, more and more people cannot pay rent. Food banks are so crowded the National Guard has been called out to stuff boxes. Construction sites sit abandoned, shopping malls are ghost towns and roughly 80 percent of hotel rooms stand empty.

But with no vaccine, no reliable drug therapies and no widely available test to tell who might have been exposed to the virus, “shelter at home” orders remain the only reliable tool in slowing the spread. Mindful of that, public health officials warned that, in most places, now was not the time to ease up.

Even though more than 1,000 people are now dying every day in the United States, new infections have slowed in places where stringent restrictions have been in place for more than two weeks.

But the virus has officially reached more than two-thirds of the nation’s rural counties, with one in 10 reporting at least one death. Wayne County, Mich., which includes Detroit, suffered 192 deaths this week. State officials in Illinois reported 82 additional deaths, many in the Chicago area.

Now, with nearly a half million confirmed infections — one-third of the worldwide total — America is the center of the global crisis. Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, pointed to revised models showing the estimated deaths dropping to 61,000 deaths from 86,000, but warned “there is still a significant amount of disease.”

The story of the coronavirus in New York State continues to be one of encouraging progress and devastating loss of life, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Thursday.

Over the course of weeks, the number of virus patients hospitalized has grown more and more slowly, from over 30 percent per day to single-digit percent increases this week.

From Wednesday to Thursday, the number of hospitalized patients increased by 200 people, to 18,279, an increase of just 1 percent. If the trend continues, the number of people in hospitals will soon start to decline, a sign that the virus has passed its apex.

But the number of people dying of complications from the virus is continuing to grow: 799 people died from Wednesday to Thursday, another one-day high. The total number of known deaths in the state is 7,067.

For the second consecutive day, the governor compared the toll of the virus to the attacks of Sept. 11, calling the virus a “silent explosion that ripples through society with the same randomness, the same evil that we saw on 9/11.”

Like other regional officials in recent days, including Mr. de Blasio and Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey, Mr. Cuomo stressed that social distancing and other restrictions continued to be enforced, and were necessary to continue the progress the state had made.

Mr. Cuomo said that the ability to rapidly test was necessary to restart the New York’s economy and said that the state and the federal government were working to reach that capacity.

“Everybody is assuming, well, once we get through this, we’re done,” Mr. Cuomo said. “I wouldn’t be so quick to assume that. This virus has been ahead of us from day one.”

With transmission still widespread, Mayor Bill de Blasio said he thought the city could as early as mid-May move to the next stage: one with low-level spread of the virus, in which cases could be more easily traced.

“We can say that it’s time to start planning for the next phase very overtly,” Mr. de Blasio said at a news conference.

But New York, the hub of the epidemic in the U.S., is still responding to the outbreak and assessing its spread.

In New York City, the virus is killing black and Latino people at twice the rate that it is killing white people, according to statistics that the city government released this week. The disparity reflected longstanding and persistent economic inequalities and differences in access to health care, Mr. de Blasio said. Mr. Cuomo also continued to emphasize the communities the black and Hispanic communities that had been hardest hit by the virus in New York, and said that additional testing sites would be opened in those communities.

The governor also said that the state was seeing issues with domestic violence, a situation that has been cause for concern since the virus began but which the data in New York City had failed to reflect. New York City’s police commissioner, Dermot Shea, had also said it was a worry and that police officers had been checking in on those thought to be most vulnerable.

Some of the state’s cases have also emerged from New York’s sprawling network of group homes for people with special needs.

As of Monday, 1,100 of the 140,000 developmentally disabled people monitored by the state had tested positive for the virus, state officials said. One hundred five had died — a rate, far higher than in the general population, that echoes the toll in some nursing homes.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease specialist, said Thursday that he was “cautiously optimistic” that the spread of the virus was slowing and that life may start to look somewhat normal again this summer if Americans continue to follow social distancing guidelines and other protective measures.

“I think that’s going to be a good time to look and see how quickly can we make that move to try and normalize,” Dr. Fauci said Thursday, speaking on “CBS This Morning.” “But hopefully, and hopefully, by the time we get to the summer we will have taken many steps in that direction.”

The summer climate in general, however, is not likely to slow the spread of the virus on its own. A panel of scientists recently concluded that there is little evidence to suggest that the coronavirus will fade away in warmer weather as some other viral diseases typically do. Any slowing in the spread of the virus will most likely be the result of social distancing and other behavioral measures.

Speaking on NBC’s “Today,” Dr. Fauci warned that the country needs to be prepared to return to restrictive measures if the virus “starts to try and rear its ugly head.”

“When you’re talking about getting back to normal, we know now that we can get hit by a catastrophic outbreak like this,” Dr. Fauci said. “It can happen again, so we really need to be prepared to respond in a much more vigorous way.”

About 90 percent of hospitalized patients had at least one underlying condition, the C.D.C. finds.

On March 1, there were 88 confirmed cases of the virus in the United States. By month’s end, there were more than 170,000. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has compiled data on people who were hospitalized from the virus during that month to get a clearer demographic picture of infected patients who have required the most serious medical care.

Approximately 90 percent of the 1,482 hospitalized patients included in the study released Wednesday had one or more underlying medical conditions. Older people infected with the virus were more likely to be hospitalized; men were more likely to endure severe cases than women; and black people were hospitalized at a higher rate than whites. The study also found that hospitalization rates for the virus have been significantly higher than for recent outbreaks of influenza.

The numbers reflected trends that were reported from other countries at earlier stages of the outbreak. Of the hospitalized patients in the C.D.C. study, 89.3 percent had underlying medical conditions. The most common of those was hypertension, in 49.7 percent of patients, followed by obesity, chronic metabolic disease (like diabetes), chronic lung disease (like asthma) and cardiovascular disease.

The data, based on hospitalizations from March 1 to 30, was taken from a network of hospitals in parts of 14 states, including New York, Connecticut, California and Ohio. The area studied includes only about 10 percent of the overall population of the United States, but is seen as a representative snapshot of the virus’s spread and the demographic breakdown of patients.

The virus came to New York mainly from Europe, not from Asia, studies show.

New research indicates that the virus began to circulate in the New York area by mid-February, weeks before the first confirmed case, and that it was brought to the region mainly by travelers from Europe, not from Asia.

“The majority is clearly European,” said Harm van Bakel, a geneticist at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, who co-wrote a study awaiting peer review.

A separate team at N.Y.U. Grossman School of Medicine came to strikingly similar conclusions, despite studying a different group of cases. Both teams analyzed genomes from samples taken from New Yorkers starting in mid-March.

The research revealed a previously hidden spread of the virus that might have been detected if aggressive testing programs had been put in place. On Jan. 31, President Trump barred foreign nationals from entering the country if they had been in China — the site of the virus’s first known outbreak — during the previous two weeks.

Viruses invade a cell and take over its molecular machinery, causing it to make new viruses. An international guild of viral historians ferrets out the history of outbreaks by poring over clues embedded in the genetic material of viruses taken from thousands of patients.

As state governments struggle to keep up with record-breaking numbers of unemployment applications, laid-off workers from around the country are tapping themselves as unofficial unemployment czars, creating online communities to help guide people through the convoluted and often frustrating process.

The Facebook and Reddit groups, some of which have gained thousands of members, offer help to a broad array of workers, from those in the RV industry, to dog walkers, delivery workers, court reporters and restaurant servers. Some cover entire regions, from Sioux Falls, S.D., to Portland, Ore.

Many of the more than 16 million American workers seeking unemployment benefits have been struggling to wade through antiquated government websites that often crash or waiting on the phone, sometimes for eight hours or more, to speak to unemployment officers.

People who run the informal groups acknowledge they are not experts. They advise members to post only about their own experiences, with the hope that winning strategies will emerge through crowdsourcing.

“It’s been amazing the outpouring of people helping each other through these tough times,” said Cyara Neel, who created the group “Unemployment Nevada Information and Help,” which now has more than 7,000 members.

A sailor stricken with the virus and assigned to the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt has been admitted to an intensive care unit at a Navy hospital in Guam, a Defense Department official said, marking the first hospitalization of a crew member since an outbreak began aboard the ship last month.

At least 286 members of the crew have tested positive for the virus.

“The sailor tested positive for Covid-19 on March 30 and at the time of hospitalization was in a 14-day isolation period on Naval Base Guam,” Cmdr. Clayton Doss, a Navy spokesman, said in an email.

The outbreak aboard the Roosevelt has been, in many ways, a microcosm of the Defense Department’s handling of the virus within its ranks as military officials have weighed military preparedness with the health of its personnel.

The ship’s commanding officer, Capt. Brett E. Crozier, was relieved after he wrote a strongly worded letter to Navy officials pleading for more help aboard the carrier. The fallout from the episode led to the resignation of Thomas B. Modly, the acting Navy secretary, this week.

In California, there’s concern over the governor’s decision to ship ventilators to other states.

California’s decision to ship hundreds of ventilators to other states this week has been met with alarm by some local officials, who expressed concern about a shortage.

Readying the supplies for heavily-hit states like New York and New Jersey, workers packed the equipment in cardboard boxes and wrote messages of support in black marker. “Prayers from the West Coast,” said one message.

“We couldn’t be more proud as a state to be sending those ventilators back east,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom, who said a total of 500 ventilators would be split among Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, New York, Nevada, New Jersey and Washington D.C. He described the shipments as a loan.

But in places like Riverside County, east of Los Angeles, officials expressed concern about a “fragile” supply chain and said hospitals were anxiously preparing for a shortage in ventilators.

The county has been among the hardest hit in the state, with more than 1,100 cases, at least 32 deaths and an outbreak at a nursing home that forced older patients to be evacuated this week, after a beleaguered and sickened staff failed to show up two days in a row.

Officials said this week that the state had denied its request for ventilators, and that a second one was pending.

“We were denied, yet some of the state ventilators went out of the state,” said Karen Spiegel, a member of the board of supervisors.

She said counties often fall last in a hierarchy that prioritizes federal and state governments. “We are the last one down,” she said, “yet we are the first ones working.”

In Santa Clara County, where the need for hospital beds is expected to grow, the health officer issued an order asking everyone in the county to disclose inventories of supplies, including ventilators.

Even as the state gave away some supplies, Mr. Newsom announced one of the highest death tolls in California since the crisis started: 68 people died over the past 24 hours, he said on Wednesday, bringing the state’s total to more than 500.

Officials cautioned that the number of cases had not yet peaked in California, the largest state in the nation, with 40 million residents.

California hospitals collectively have as many as 11,000 ventilators on hand, and the state had separately secured about 8,000 other ventilators, some of which were being refurbished, Mr. Newsom said. “We feel we are adequately resourced for the moment,” he said.

And Mr. Newsom described a broad effort to buy gowns, masks and other equipment. That included a deal to buy 200 million masks a month from factories in Asia, and a plan to spend $1.4 billion on personal protective gear for medical personnel, supermarket workers, employees of the state’s department of motor vehicles and any other “front-line employees walking the streets.”

The scale of the purchase was possible “only in California,” he said, “where our procurement capacity is quite literally second only to the United States itself.”

The virus has killed more people in the Navajo Nation than in the whole of New Mexico.

When Chad Yazzie joined the Navajo Police Department just a few months ago, he expected to issue speeding tickets or break up the occasional fistfight.

But the virus is now tearing across the Navajo Nation, the largest Indian reservation in the United States. The nation’s casualty count has eclipsed that of states with much larger populations, placing the rookie Officer Yazzie on the front lines.

“My job is to tell our people to take this virus seriously or face the consequences,” Officer Yazzie, 24, said recently as he set up a police roadblock outside the town of Window Rock to enforce the tribal nation’s 8 p.m. curfew.

Faced with an alarming rise in deaths from what the tribal health department calls Dikos Ntsaaigii-19 — or Covid-19 — Navajo officials have been putting up checkpoints, assembling field hospitals and threatening curfew violators with 30 days in jail or a $1,000 fine.

The measures are part of a scramble to protect more than 150,000 people on the vast reservation, which stretches 27,000 square miles across Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, and tens of thousands of others who live in towns bordering the Navajo Nation. As of Wednesday night, the virus had killed 20 people on the reservation, compared with 16 in the entire state of New Mexico, which has a population thirteen times larger.

Attorney General William P. Barr said Wednesday night that the White House should soon reconsider its recommendations that Americans stay at home to combat the coronavirus.

“When this period of time, at the end of April, expires, I think we have to allow people to adapt more than we have, and not just tell people to go home and hide under their bed, but allow them to use other ways — social distancing and other means — to protect themselves,” Mr. Barr said in an interview with Fox News host Laura Ingraham.

The White House has asked that all people stay at home this month in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus, which has begun to overwhelm hospital systems and, by some estimates, could result in more than 100,000 deaths.

Mr. Barr called efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus “draconian,” and he echoed President Trump’s assessment that the “cure cannot be worse than the disease.”

Mr. Barr also raised the specter that the government could improperly impose emergency measures to strip citizens of their civil liberties. He said that he was worried that the government would begin to declare “everything an emergency” and then impose “these kinds of sweeping, extraordinary steps.”

The C.D.C. issues new back-to-work guidelines for essential workers.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published new guidelines on Wednesday detailing how essential employees could go back to work even if they had been exposed to infected people, provided they did not feel sick and followed certain precautions.

Those employees have to take their temperature before heading to their workplaces, wear a face mask at all times and practice social distancing while on the job, Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the C.D.C. director, said.. They should not share headsets or other objects that touch their faces, and they should not congregate in break rooms or crowded areas.

Dr. Redfield said that employers should send workers home immediately if they developed any symptoms. He also said that they should increase air exchange in their buildings and clean common surfaces more often. The goal, he said, was to “get these workers back into the critical work force so that we don’t have worker shortages.”

Need ways to preserve special days during this time? Check these out.

Stay-at-home orders don’t have to put a damper on things. Here are some ways to celebrate birthdays, weddings and the coming spring holidays.

Reporting was contributed by Alan Blinder, Eileen Sullivan, Jonah Engel Bromwich, Simon Romero, Peter Baker, Jim Rutenberg, David Waldstein, Emily Cochrane, Caitlin Dickerson, Maggie Haberman, Nick Corasaniti, Marc Santora, Brooks Barnes, Dan Barry, Conor Dougherty, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Manny Fernandez, Sheri Fink, Michael Levenson and Carl Zimmer.


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