House passes a sweeping relief package as the coronavirus spreads to 49 states.
The House early Saturday morning passed a sweeping relief package to assist people affected by the outbreak of the coronavirus, moving to confront a growing pandemic that has upended lives and wreaked havoc on financial markets.
The vote followed a roller-coaster day of negotiations that threatened to veer off track as President Trump criticized the plan during a White House Rose Garden news conference in which he declared a national emergency. Instead, by dusk, Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote to House Democrats saying they had reached an agreement with the administration, and Mr. Trump later tweeted that he would sign the bill “ASAP!”
The measure includes two weeks of paid sick leave and up to three months of paid family and medical leave, enhanced unemployment benefits, free virus testing including for those who lack insurance, additional food aid and federal funds for Medicaid.
The deal was a product of an intense round of talks that unfolded between Ms. Pelosi and Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, as financial markets swung wildly amid uncertainty about the spiraling crisis. It must still be approved by the Senate, which is expected to take up the measure when it returns next week.
Confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States have climbed to more than 2,100, even with sparse testing, and the death toll has risen to at least 48. West Virginia was the only state yet to report a known case of the virus by Friday evening. The United States is facing the prospect that those numbers could grow exponentially, as they did in China, Italy, South Korea and other countries.
Department of Defense bans official travel for service members in U.S.
The Pentagon on Friday said it was halting all official travel for military service members in the United States beginning on Monday and extending for nearly three months.
The decision by David L. Norquist, the deputy defense secretary, was another severe measure taken by an American institution to try to stop the spread of the coronavirus, which has now infected more than 2,100 people in 49 states and killed at least 48 people.
The new travel restrictions apply to service members, civilians employed by the Department of Defense, and families who are assigned to Department of Defense facilities in the United States and applies only to official travel. In an unsigned statement, the department said there may be exemptions for “compelling cases” in which the travel is essential to a mission, warranted for humanitarian reasons or necessary because of “extreme hardship.”
At U.S. airports, lax screening raises concern.
As thousands of Americans flee from Europe and other centers of the coronavirus outbreak, many travelers are reporting no health screenings upon departure and few impediments at U.S. airports.
Since January, officers from Customs and Border Protection have been on heightened alert for travelers who could potentially spread the virus. The Department of Homeland Security has told employees to look for physical symptoms and search through their travel documents and a federal database that tracks where they came from. Those customs officers will soon have to spot symptoms among a flood of more Americans funneled to 13 designated airports from multiple countries in Europe.
But travelers, including some who say they showed visible signs of illness, say screening has been lax. Members of Congress this week grilled senior officials from the Department of Homeland Security over what some described as a porous screening process.
Even top officials at the department acknowledge the task of sealing the United States from the virus is impossible.
“This has never been from Day 1 intended to be a hermetically sealed process,” said Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, the acting deputy secretary of homeland security. “We are trying to reduce and delay the biggest peak in the virus wave hitting on the United States of America. And all of these steps reduce and delay. They do not stop the virus.”
China, a top maker of face masks, is only now sharing them with the world.
As hospitals and governments hunt for respirators and surgical masks to protect doctors and nurses from the coronavirus pandemic, they face a difficult reality: The world depends on China to make them, and the country is only beginning to share.
China made half the world’s masks before the coronavirus emerged there, and it has expanded production nearly 12-fold since then. But it has been claiming that output for itself in large part.
“Mask exports are still not authorized, but we are following the situation every day,” said Guillaume Laverdure, chief operating officer of Medicom, a Canadian manufacturer that makes three million masks a day at its Shanghai factory.
Worries about mask supplies are rising worldwide, putting pressure on China to meet the needs, even as it continues to grapple with the coronavirus itself. Although government data suggests China has brought infection rates under control, epidemiologists warn that its outbreak could flare again as officials loosen travel limits and more people return to work.
The rate of new infections in China has continued to slow. On Friday, just 11 new cases were confirmed, officials said — four in Wuhan, the city where the outbreak began, and seven among travelers who had arrived from abroad. Thirteen deaths were also reported, bringing China’s total official death toll from the outbreak to 3,189, out of 80,824 infections.
Trump promised a testing website by Google. He got key details wrong.
Verily, a life sciences unit of Google’s parent company Alphabet, is working on a way to direct individuals with a high risk of coronavirus infection to testing sites. But the program will not be as sweeping as President Trump suggested in his public remarks.
“I want to thank Google,” Mr. Trump said from the Rose Garden. “Google is helping to develop a website, it’s going to be very quickly done, unlike websites of the past, to determine whether a test is warranted and to facilitate testing at a nearby convenient location.”
Google’s shares surged, to a gain of more than 9 percent, as Mr. Trump spoke.
Late Friday, Carolyn Wang, a spokeswoman for Verily, said that the aim was to make a website that helps triage people for virus screening available by Monday, but that it would be limited to testing sites in the Bay Area. If the pilot goes well, Verily aims to deploy the project nationwide, but there is no timetable for a national rollout.
The website was originally intended only for health care workers, Ms. Wang said, but Mr. Trump’s statement prompted the company to plan to make it available to the public.
New Zealand cancels a memorial service for the Christchurch victims.
New Zealand has canceled a national remembrance service marking the one-year anniversary of the Christchurch mosque attacks over concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.
The event had been scheduled for Sunday in Christchurch. It had been expected to draw a large crowd, including relatives of victims traveling from overseas.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that while there was no community transmission of Covid-19 in New Zealand, extra caution was required.
“This is a pragmatic decision,” she said. “We’re very saddened to cancel, but in remembering such a terrible tragedy, we shouldn’t create the risk of further harm being done.”
In a statement sent to the families of the 51 people who were killed in a gunman’s attacks on two mosques on March 15 — and the dozens more who were wounded — Ms. Ardern and the mayor of Christchurch, Lianne Dalziel, lamented the cancellation and asked New Zealanders to acknowledge what had happened in other ways.
“Overcoming division and creating a more peaceful world starts with three simple actions,” they wrote. “Spread peace, reconnect and feed the hungry.”
Your home dynamics have changed. Here’s how to manage the shift.
More schools are closing, more companies are asking employees to work remotely. Here are some tips to help you work from home more efficiently, and balance home-schooling for your children.
And here is more coverage on how the coronavirus affects your day-to-day life here.
In London, the show goes on.
Across the United States and across Europe, theaters and other cultural venues have drawn the curtains as authorities try to halt the spread of the coronavirus.
But on Friday afternoon, inside the National Theater in London, the show was going on. Dozens of people milled around in the foyer of the concrete building on the south bank of the river Thames, many of them with a drink in hand. They were about to go in and see “The Seven Streams of the River Ota,” Robert Lepage’s seven-hour saga about the repercussions of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.
Tasha Kitcher, 22, said she wasn’t worried about sitting next to a stranger for such a long time. “We’re British,” she said, “so it’s, like, whatever.”
A silver lining: Social isolation reduces carbon emissions.
Can social isolation help reduce the production of greenhouse gases and end up having unexpected consequences for climate change?
“Any time you can avoid getting on a plane, getting in a car or eating animal products, that’s a substantial climate savings,” said Kimberly Nicholas, a researcher at the Lund University Center for Sustainability Studies in Sweden.
Many people trying to avoid the coronavirus are already two-thirds of the way there.
“For average Americans, the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions is driving,” Dr. Nicholas said. Anything that reduces driving, including working from home, “has a big impact on our climate pollution.”
Avoiding air travel can have a large effect as well: One round-trip flight from New York to London, she said, produces as much greenhouse gas emissions as the preventive climate impact of nearly eight years of recycling.
Reporting was contributed by Damien Cave, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Keith Bradsher, Liz Alderman, Alex Marshall and John Schwartz.