Trump, Congress agree on $2 trillion virus rescue bill by ANDREW TAYLOR, LISA MASCARO and JONATHAN LEMIRE•Senate Democrats block coronavirus relief bill – Democrats in the US senate blocked a massive coronavirus WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House and Senate leaders of both parties announced agreement early Wednesday on unprecedented emergency legislation to rush sweeping aid to businesses, workers and a health care system slammed by the coronavirus pandemic.The urgently needed pandemic response measure is the largest economic rescue measure in history and is intended as a weeks- or months-long patch for an economy spiraling into recession and a nation facing a potentially ghastly toll.Top White House aide Eric Ueland announced the agreement in a Capitol hallway shortly after midnight, capping days of often intense haggling and mounting pressure. It still needs to be finalized in detailed legislative language.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we are done. We have a deal,” Ueland said.
The unprecedented economic rescue package would give direct payments to most Americans, expand unemployment benefits and provide a $367 billion program for small businesses to keep making payroll while workers are forced to stay home.
One of the last issues to close concerned $500 billion for guaranteed, subsidized loans to larger industries, including a fight over how generous to be with the airlines. Hospitals would get significant help as well.
“After days of intense discussions, the Senate has reached a bipartisan agreement on a historic relief package for this pandemic,” said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., a key negotiator. “It will rush new resources onto the front lines of our nation’s health care fight. And it will inject trillions of dollars of cash into the economy as fast as possible to help Americans workers, families, small businesses and industries make it through this disruption and emerge on the other side ready to soar.”
At the White House on Tuesday, even as the public-health crisis deepened, President Donald Trump expressed eagerness to nudge many people back to work in coming weeks and held out a prospect, based more on hope than science, that the country could be returning to normal in less than a month.
Vice President Mike Pence touted a potentially unsafe COVID-19 treatment on Tuesday even after it had been linked to deaths.
Pence, who’s been leading the White House’s response to the new coronavirus, appeared for a Fox News town hall on Tuesday. That’s where Dr. Mehmet Oz asked him about the malaria drug chloroquine that’s been discussed as a potential treatment for the new coronavirus, and Pence seemed more than hopeful about the drug’s prospects.
„There’s no barrier to access chloroquine in this country. We’re looking to add to that supply,” Pence said of the drug. „We are engaging in a clinical trial” with the intent to make chloroquine available „for off-label use.” But when asked if he’d take chloroquine if he became infected with COVID-19, Pence only said he’d follow the advice of his physician, even after repeated prodding from Oz. That cautious part of Pence’s response was left out of a clip shared by the Trump campaign.
Pence’s chloroquine confidence comes after President Trump repeatedly touted the drug’s potential in a Monday night press conference. After that, Nigeria reported two fatal overdoses of chloroquine and implored its citizens not to use the drug, which „will cause harm and can lead to death.” A man in Arizona died and his wife was hospitalized after ingesting a form of chloroquine that’s used to clean fish tanks. The woman said she got the idea from Trump.
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WASHINGTON — President Trump continued to downplay the exponential spread of the coronavirus in the United States on Monday, comparing the rising death toll to the number of Americans killed in car crashes and by the seasonal flu.
“We have a very active flu season, more active than most,” Trump said at a Monday briefing of the White House coronavirus task force, reverting to how he had described the coronavirus throughout February and early March, before he started to take the outbreak more seriously. “It’s looking like it’s heading to 50,000 or more deaths,” he went on, speaking of flu-related mortality.
He then compared the coronavirus outbreak to another killer of thousands of Americans. “You look at automobile accidents,” Trump said, “which are far greater than any numbers we’re talking about. That doesn’t mean we’re going to tell everybody no more driving of cars.” About 39,000 people die in vehicular accidents in the United States per year.
The point seemed to be that, as far as mortality numbers go, the coronavirus was not an especially fearsome killer. By that logic, effectively shuttering whole swaths of the economy, Trump said, made little sense.
“We have to do things to get our country open,” Trump said, calling the last several weeks “an incredible period of learning.” He did not say what was learned, or by whom.
The growth trajectory of the disease over the last several weeks has continued to cut a devastating swath across the nation. There are now more than 43,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States, and there have been more than 530 deaths.
Yet Trump’s views on the virus seem to have changed. On Monday he appeared swayed by the argument that the economic cost of attempting to halt the coronavirus through lockdown measures is greater than the human cost of letting it cycle through the population.
A laissez-faire approach to the coronavirus could kill as many as 2.2 million Americans, according to estimates. That number is believed to have spooked Trump and other White House officials into taking the outbreak more seriously.
Scroll back up to restore default view. NEW DELHI (AP) — India will begin the world’s largest lockdown on Wednesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in a TV address, warning citizens to stay inside or risk inviting the pandemic into their homes, and pledging $2 billion to bolster the country’s beleaguered health care system.
“To save India and every Indian, there will be a total ban on venturing out,” Modi said Tuesday night, acknowledging that the 21-day lockdown would be a major blow to the economy, but insisting that the alternative could set the country back 21 years.
The move puts nearly one-fifth of the world’s population under lockdown.
The announcement set off panic in many neighborhoods as people rushed to markets to stock up on supplies. At many places, police tried to disperse crowds outside stores.
Indian health officials have reported 469 active cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, and 10 deaths. Officials have repeatedly insisted there is no evidence yet of localized spread but have conducted relatively scant testing for the disease. In a country where tens of millions live in dense urban areas with irregular access to clean water, experts have said local spreading is inevitable.
For weeks, while the coronavirus wracked neighboring China and other parts of Asia, India’s official infection toll stood at just three, all students in the Chinese epicenter, Wuhan, who were treated in their home state of Kerala and recovered from the disease.
But since the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a global pandemic, triggering India’s government to invoke a British Raj-era epidemic act giving it sweeping powers to contain the disease, the cases have been growing rapidly and, according to Modi, have the potential to “spread like wildfire.”
In recent days, India had gradually expanded stay-at-home orders, banned international and domestic flights and suspended passenger service on its extensive rail system until March 31.
Modi called Tuesday’s order a “total lockdown” and did not address whether any service providers would be exempt, but said that „all steps have been taken by central and state government to ensure supply of essential items.”