As State Pleas Mount, Trump Outlines Some Federal Action; Senate Democrats Block Stimulus Package

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Credit…Erin Scott for The New York Times

Senate Democrats on Sunday blocked action on an emerging deal to prop up an economy devastated by the coronavirus pandemic, paralyzing the progress of a nearly $2 trillion government rescue package they said failed to adequately protect workers or impose strict enough restrictions on bailed-out businesses.

The party-line vote was a stunning setback after three days of fast-paced negotiations between senators and administration officials to reach a bipartisan compromise on legislation that is expected to be the largest economic stimulus package in American history — now expected to cost $1.8 trillion or more. In a 47-to-47 vote, the Senate fell short of the 60 votes that would have been needed to advance the measure, even as talks continued behind the scenes between Democrats and the White House to salvage a compromise.

The failure to move forward shook financial markets and threatened an ambitious timeline set by the Trump administration and leading Republicans to move the rescue package through the Senate on Monday and enact it within days.

In voting to block action, Democrats risked a political backlash if they are seen as obstructing progress on a measure that is widely regarded as crucial to aid desperate Americans and buttress a flagging economy.

“This is irresponsible and unwise,” said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine. “They are playing with fire.”

The move enraged Republicans, whose numbers were dwindling after Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, announced on Sunday that he had contracted the coronavirus and prompted two senators to self-isolate and miss the vote that evening. The maneuver by Democrats, they argued, contravened days of bipartisan negotiations that continued in private and jeopardized faith that Congress was capable of mustering a legislative salve for a shuddering economy.

The mood in the Capitol was grim as the vote unfolded, in an eerie echo of the spectacle in 2008 when the House initially defeated a $700 billion Wall Street bailout that aimed to stabilize the financial system amid a global meltdown, sending the Dow Jones industrials plunging. Sunday evening’s vote was a procedural one, but it shook markets all the same. Dow futures fell 5 percent, triggering a “limit down,” meaning they could not fall any further.

Senators and aides said they still hoped to reach a compromise on the legislation in the coming hours, with Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, declaring after the vote that “we’re closer than we’ve been at any time over the past 48 hours to an agreement.”

After the governors of multiple states and other leaders made urgent pleas on Sunday for masks and other protective equipment to help fight the swelling outbreak, President Trump listed a number of federal actions in a news conference in the evening.

As the number of known cases in the United States crossed 31,700, California officials told hospitals to restrict coronavirus testing, and a hospital in Washington State warned that it could run out of life-preserving ventilators by early next month. ​Washington State’s Department of Health told local leaders that only the highest-priority areas would have access to the government’s reserves of protective equipment, including N95 masks.

Mr. Trump said that major disaster declarations were in process for New York, California and Washington — the three states hardest hit by the virus — and that they would not have to pay for deploying National Guard units.

“Through FEMA, the federal government will be funding 100 percent of the cost of deploying National Guard units to carry out approved missions to stop the virus, while those governors remain in command,” Mr. Trump said.

Mr. Trump placed National Guard units from California, New York and Washington under Title 32 authority. This means the troops from these states will still be under the control of their state’s governors but will be supporting a federal mission, much like the roughly 2,200 National Guard soldiers currently on the southern border.

Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, the head of the National Guard Bureau, told reporters Sunday that the troops will support the Department of Health and Human Services with testing and at medical facilities, as well as provide unspecified support for FEMA.

“We’re in this for the long haul,” General Lengyel said. “It’s a historic event and it’s going to require a historic response.”

Mr. Trump also said during the Sunday conference that he had directed FEMA to supply four large federal medical stations with 1,000 beds for New York, eight large federal medical stations with 2,000 beds for California, and three large federal medical stations and four small federal medical stations with 1,000 beds for the State of Washington.

The stations for New York, to be built in Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan, were announced earlier in the day by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

As Mr. Trump detailed federal activities, he at times repeated facts and appeared halting as he described a complex list of facts and figures in the millions.

Many state and local officials have pressed Mr. Trump to use his authority under the Defense Production Act to mobilize industry to manufacture scarce goods. On Sunday, Peter T. Gaynor, the FEMA administrator said the president was not doing so, and instead was using the threat of the act as “leverage to demonstrate that we can.”

At the news conference on Sunday, Mr. Trump defended his decision not to implement the Defense Production Act despite an outcry from state governors and Democrats.

“Call a person over in Venezuela,” Mr. Trump said. “Ask them, how did nationalization of their businesses work out? Not too well. The concept of nationalizing our businesses is not a good concept.”

The president’s top trade adviser said that, in fact, the act had spurred the country’s “industrial base” to voluntarily mobilize, allowing for the quick conversion of corporate production facilities to produce medical supplies.

“We’re getting what we need without putting the heavy hand of government down,” Peter Navarro, the president’s top trade adviser, told reporters.

A sharp increase in confirmed coronavirus cases in New York State on Sunday indicated that the state now accounts for roughly 5 percent of coronavirus cases worldwide.

The jump stemmed from both the rapid growth of the outbreak and a significant increase in testing in the state. Health officials emphasized that testing was revealing how quickly the virus had spread.

There are now 15,168 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the state, up 4,812 since Saturday, and 114 deaths, Mr. Cuomo said. About 13 percent, or 1,974 people in New York who tested positive for the virus, were hospitalized, he said.

The governor took issue with what he called the “insensitive” and “arrogant” behavior of New York City residents who continued to gather in parks and other public spaces. Mr. Cuomo indicated that he would give the city 24 hours to come up with a plan to reduce density in these spaces, which he would need to approve.

“I don’t know what I’m saying that people don’t get,” Mr. Cuomo said, suggesting that city officials could close some streets to traffic to give residents more outdoor space.

Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday morning, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York warned that the city’s hospitals were straining under a deluge of cases, and he again called on Mr. Trump to send more help.

“April is going to be worse than March,” he said. “And I fear May will be worse than April.”

Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, has tested positive for coronavirus, his office announced in a statement on Sunday. He is the first senator and the third member of Congress to test positive.

Mr. Paul “is asymptomatic and was tested out of an abundance of caution due to his extensive travel and events,” his office said on Twitter, and he has since self-quarantined. His Washington office began operating remotely 10 days ago, the statement said, and “hence virtually no staff has had contact” with him. The statement did not detail how long Mr. Paul had been in quarantine.

Later on Sunday, both of Utah’s senators, Mike Lee and Mitt Romney, said they would be self-quarantining, citing Mr. Paul’s diagnosis and the advice of the attending physician of the U.S. Congress.

The statement from Mr. Romney’s office said that he had “sat next to Senator Paul for extended periods in recent days.” Mr. Lee’s office said he would not be tested, despite his “exposure to Sen. Paul,” given that he had “no symptoms or other risk factors.”

Two other members of Congress — Representative Mario Diaz-Balart, Republican of Florida and Representative Ben McAdams, Democrat of Utah — have also tested positive for the virus. Over a dozen others have since self-isolated after coming into contact with them or other individuals who had also tested positive for Covid-19.

At his news conference on Sunday, Mr. Trump expressed concern for Mr. Paul and Mr. Diaz-Balart. “He’s been a great friend of mine,” Mr. Trump said of Mr. Paul.

“Romney’s in isolation? Gee, that’s too bad,” Mr. Trump said dryly when he was apparently told for the first time by a reporter that Mr. Romney — the lone Republican senator who voted to convict Mr. Trump during his impeachment trial last month — had entered isolation on Sunday.

Mr. Trump denied that the tone in his voice was sarcasm, and said he would favor remote voting for lawmakers.

The Food and Drug Administration said Sunday that hospitals and health care professionals may now repurpose ventilators that were originally intended for other environments. For example, the agency said, hospitals could adapt ventilators that are now used in ambulances for use on patients who are being treated inside their facilities.

In addition, the agency said that manufacturers that would normally need F.D.A. clearance to modify a ventilator could now do it without an agency review. The F.D.A. said that this would help companies speed up their manufacturing by obtaining ventilator parts from automobile manufacturers or other companies that do not currently make medical devices.

“We are providing maximum regulatory flexibility to facilitate an increase in ventilator inventory, while still providing crucial F.D.A. oversight,” said Stephen Hahn, the agency’s commissioner.

Hospitals across the country have been sounding the alarm that they cannot find anywhere to buy ventilators, which help patients breathe and can mean the difference between life and death for those struggling with the most dire respiratory effects of the coronavirus.

American and European manufacturers say they cannot speed up production enough to meet the soaring demand, at least not soon.

Canada’s Olympic and Paralympic Committees said Sunday night that the country will not send teams to the Tokyo Games unless they are postponed by a year.

“While we recognize the inherent complexities around a postponement, nothing is more important than the health and safety of our athletes and the world community,” the groups said in a joint statement. “This is not solely about athlete health — it is about public health.”

The committees said that going ahead with the Olympics as planned in July contradicts advice from public health officials, and that training for the Games threatens the health of athletes.

Canada made its statement after the International Olympic Committee said earlier in the day that it will come to a decision about the timing of the games within four weeks.

The Australian Olympic Committee said on Sunday that its athletes should “prepare for a Tokyo Olympic Games in the northern summer of 2021.” It added that its board has concluded that “an Australian Team could not be assembled in the changing circumstances at home and abroad.”

Several Canadian athletes have been at the forefront of calls for the I.O.C. to postpone or cancel the 2020 games. Hayley Wickenheiser, a six-time Olympian and a member of the I.O.C. Athletes’ Commission, wrote on Twitter last week that “the IOC insisting this will move ahead with such conviction is insensitive and irresponsible given the state of humanity.”

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany said on Sunday that she was going into isolation because her doctor had tested positive for the coronavirus, as the country banned groups of more than two people from gathering, except for families, to fight the outbreak.

The chancellor was informed of her doctor’s infection after a news conference Sunday at which she announced the tough new measures severely limiting social contact. The doctor vaccinated Ms. Merkel against pneumonia on Friday, the chancellor’s office said.

Ms. Merkel said the new social-distancing rules, which would be in place for at least two weeks, were among the strictest that any country had imposed on movement outside the home. They were announced as the number of confirmed cases in Germany rose to more than 23,900 on Sunday, with more than 90 deaths.

Before she announced that she would be self-isolating, Ms. Merkel demonstrated what responsible shopping looked like in times of the coronavirus when she was spotted at her local supermarket in Berlin.

President Trump outlined the movement of the U.S. Navy’s two hospital ships Sunday.

The Mercy, the name of the ship stationed on the West Coast, will head to Los Angeles within the next week or so, while the Comfort, currently undergoing repairs in Virginia, will head to New York Harbor in three to four weeks, Mr. Trump said.

“They’re incredible ships,” he said. “They’re meant for war.”

Mr. Trump said maintenance on the Comfort had been accelerated and that staffing of both ships with proper medical personnel is underway.

Both ships have space for up to a thousand hospital beds. On Wednesday, Air Force Brig. Gen. Paul Friedrichs, the surgeon for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that both ships will focus on treating trauma patients to relieve some of the pressure on area hospitals confronting the influx of coronavirus cases.

Communities in warmer places appear to have a comparative advantage to slow the transmission of the coronavirus, according to an early analysis by scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The researchers found that most cases occurred in regions with low temperatures, between 37.4 and 62.6 degrees Fahrenheit (or 3 and 17 degrees Celsius).

“Wherever the temperatures were colder, the number of the cases started increasing quickly,” said Qasim Bukhari, a computational scientist at M.I.T. who is a co-author of the study. “You see this in Europe, even though the health care there is among the world’s best.”

The temperature dependency is also clear within the United States, Dr. Bukhari said. Arizona, Florida and Texas have seen slower outbreak growth compared with Washington, New York and Colorado. Coronavirus cases in California have grown at a rate that falls somewhere in between.

Dr. Bukhari acknowledged that factors like travel restrictions, social distancing measures, variations in the availability of tests and hospital burdens might have affected the number of cases in different locations.

This past week, as borders closed and airlines canceled flights, the lesson for many Americans and others studying abroad was this: You’re on your own.

In Peru, Jessica Buie, 25, a student at Lenoir-Rhyne University in North Carolina, said she and her fellow students packed their bags and headed to the U.S. Consulate in Cusco as soon as they got word that the Peruvian government would close its border. They found a note on the Consulate gate advising U.S. citizens to call airlines, and providing a number to the American Embassy in Lima, which turned out to be incorrect.

“I felt a little helpless,” Ms. Buie said on Saturday, as she and her fellow students remained in Peru. “I felt we were going to have to work together as a group, to be a wolf pack at this time to get ourselves out.”

She is among 17 students and faculty from four colleges in Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina who are still in Cusco and Lima. A half-dozen physical therapy students from the University of North Carolina are stuck in Guatemala. And about 2,000 Americans enrolled in State Department-funded educational and cultural exchange programs worldwide remain in their host countries, the department said Saturday.

U.S. government efforts to evacuate Americans have been halting. President Trump said this past week that the military would bring back Americans from Peru, though evacuations had not taken place as of Saturday even as that country imposed further restrictions on charter flights.



‘Brace Yourself’: How Doctors in Italy Responded to Coronavirus

Officials in the U.S. and elsewhere fear they’ll face a coronavirus scenario similar to Italy’s soon. Three doctors and a nurse in Lombardy, the region hit hardest by the virus, described what they faced and offered advice to those awaiting the storm.

“And this is really the eye of the cyclone.” “A nightmare. A nightmare.” “Lombardy for sure is one of the most advanced regions in Italy in terms of health care.” “38-year-old with severe respiratory distress. And immediately, in the next two, three hours we see 10, 8, 9 patients exactly with the same clinical presentation.” “Every single square meter is occupied by beds, every single aisle is filled up by beds. And you can hardly recognize where you normally work.” “The gastroenterology ward is not there anymore. Internal medicine is not there. Neurology has been replaced. Doctors from other specialties have been called to do shifts.” “We had seven I.C.U. beds and now we have 24.” “As many as 5 to 10 percent of the severe cases and of deaths are actually among the health care personnel.” “We forget to eat, we forget to drink, and we keep on working.” “I’m far away from my family since Feb. 19.” “The worst is somebody dying in the isolated ward asking for the wife, the husband for the last hours of their life and having no chance to have anybody around and dying on their own.” “So the problem is that now we don’t have any intensive care beds anymore. We have to intubate, put on a helicopter and transfer to another region, actually, because in the region all the intensive cares are full.” “Prepare more intensive care beds, get more devices for mechanical ventilation. Do the swab to everybody within the hospital and be aware that somebody will not make it anyway.” “We try to give our best to win not only the battle, but win the war, finally.”

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Officials in the U.S. and elsewhere fear they’ll face a coronavirus scenario similar to Italy’s soon. Three doctors and a nurse in Lombardy, the region hit hardest by the virus, described what they faced and offered advice to those awaiting the storm.CreditCredit…The New York Times
  • In Spain, some 3,500 doctors and other health workers have tested positive for the coronavirus, accounting for roughly 12 percent of the country’s cases, the Spanish health ministry said on Sunday. The number of dead in Spain rose by about 400 overnight to reach 1,753 on Sunday.

  • Italy reported 3,957 new cases on Sunday, and the country’s total reached 59,138. There were also 651 deaths, with the total reaching 5,476. But the increases in both numbers were lower than reported a day earlier, and officials hoped that the lockdowns and other restrictive measures were working.

  • Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis of Greece on Sunday announced “a ban on all unnecessary movement by citizens across the country.” As of 6 a.m. Monday, only those who are going to or from work, buying food, visiting a doctor or pharmacy, taking brief exercise or walking a pet will be allowed on the streets, he said. Greece reported a total of 624 cases.

  • A quake struck on Sunday near the Croatian capital, Zagreb, complicating quarantine measures and sending residents pouring into the streets during a partial lockdown. A 15-year-old was reported to be in critical condition and others were injured, news outlets reported. It was the strongest earthquake to hit the city since 1880. Croatia has 235 cases.

  • Uzbekistan, which has reported 42 cases, said the country’s borders with Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan would be closed to everyone except foreign citizens leaving the country and international cargo haulers. From Wednesday, anyone not wearing a mask in a public place will be fined.

  • In Iran, the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, rejected a reported offer of U.S. assistance, citing an unfounded conspiracy theory that the virus was “created by America.” The country has more than 21,000 cases.

  • Cases in the Czech Republic rose to 1,047, Health Ministry data showed, and 15,584 people had been tested as of Saturday.

  • Belgium is heading into “the peak of the epidemic, after which the curve will go down,” the country’s health minister, Maggie de Bock, said on Twitter. There were 3,400 confirmed cases and 75 deaths as of Sunday in the nation of 10 million, which hosts the European Union institutions.

  • France, one of the countries in Europe hit the hardest, reported 16,018 confirmed cases and 674 deaths on Sunday. French officials said they had ordered more than 250 million face masks. In an interview on French TV on Sunday, Health Minister Olivier Véran announced the first death of a French doctor from the virus.

  • In Pakistan, where Prime Minister Imran Khan has resisted implementing a total lockdown, provincial governments are calling for one that comes with strict measures for those who violate it. Several provinces have sought help from the military, which is setting up temporary medical facilities and deploying doctors to help provide civilian medical services.

  • India observed its first so-called people’s curfew on Sunday, with millions staying indoors and emerging only for a few minutes at 5 p.m. to ring bells and bang on steel plates. The country has reported around 350 cases, relatively low for its population of 1.3 billion. The authorities also shut down metro lines and interstate passenger trains on Sunday.

  • Afghanistan on Sunday confirmed its first coronavirus death — a 40-year-old man in northern Balkh Province — as the total number of confirmed cases in the country rose to 34. Testing remains low. With as many as 15,000 people arriving daily from Iran, one of the worst-hit countries, Afghanistan remains extremely vulnerable.

  • Officials in the densely populated Gaza Strip reported the first two coronavirus cases, two Palestinian men who had been in Pakistan and then entered Gaza via Egypt.

Several Americans who were among hundreds evacuated to the United States on Friday after being exposed to the coronavirus during a two-week cruise have reported severe symptoms.

After several passengers had fallen ill with the coronavirus, two of whom died, more than 300 cruise passengers from the United States and Canada were taken off the ship, Carnival’s Costa Luminosa, in Marseille, France, on Friday and boarded a chartered flight to Atlanta.

The passengers were screened on arrival in Atlanta by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Georgia health authorities. Those without fevers were released to make their way home on commercial flights, despite having been in close quarters for up to 24 hours with infected people.

“Several people who have left the ship and were considered safe by the C.D.C. are getting worse,” said Kelly Edge, a passenger from Miami. She said that her doctor had told her she almost certainly had the virus. Other passengers have also posted on Facebook that they now had high fevers.

Carnival did not respond to a request for comment on Sunday about the new reports of illness.

Reporting was contributed by Ian Austen, Niki Kitsantonis, Austin Ramzy, David M. Halbfinger, Katrin Bennhold, Iyad Abuheweila, Matina Stevis-Gridneff, Choe Sang-Hun, Damien Cave, Jeffrey Gettleman, Mujib Mashal, Fahim Abed, Joe Orovic, Iliana Magra, Yonette Joseph, Maggie Haberman, Motoko Rich, Alan Rappeport, Emily Cochrane, Katie Rogers, Knvul Sheikh, Mariel Padilla, Vanessa Friedman, Jessica Testa, Kate Taylor, Matt Futterman, Amelia Nierenberg, Mike Baker, Sheri Fink, Derrick Bryson Taylor, Niraj Chokshi, Aurelien Breeden, Melissa Eddy, Raphael Minder, Joanna Berendt, Jason Horowitz, Elisabetta Povoledo, Maria Abi-Habib, Tim Arango, Michael Levenson, Emily Badger, Kevin Quealy, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Matt Stevens, Katie Van Syckle, Jesse McKinley, Vanessa Swales, Jim Tankersley, Catie Edmondson, Shaila DeWan, Chris Cameron, Julie Turkewitz, Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Sheila Kaplan.

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