Here’s what you need to know:
The $2 trillion relief package is the biggest in American history.
The White House and Congress struck a deal in the predawn hours to deliver $2 trillion in government relief to a nation increasingly under lockdown, watching nervously as the twin threats of disease and economic ruin grow more dire.
Reached after midnight, the stimulus deal was the product of a marathon set of negotiations among Senate Republicans, Democrats and the White House that had stalled as Democrats insisted on stronger worker protections and oversight of a $500 billion fund to bail out distressed businesses.
Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, announced the deal on the Senate floor well after midnight.
“At last, we have a deal,” he said. “In effect, this is a wartime level of investment into our nation.”
The passage of the bill buoyed financial markets in Asia and Europe, and the optimism looked likely to carry over to Wall Street, as trading in futures indicated a strong opening for stocks there.
The sheer size and scope of the stimulus package would have been unthinkable only a couple of weeks ago. Administration officials said they hoped that its effect on a battered economy would be exponentially greater than its $2 trillion cost, generating as much as $4 trillion in economic activity.
“This is not a moment of celebration, but one of necessity,” the minority leader, Sen. Chuck Schumer, said as he took careful note of the changes his party had secured in the legislation. “To all Americans I say, ‘Help is on the way.’”
Trump wants U.S. “opened up” by Easter as New York infections soar and Spain’s crisis deepens.
“We are your future,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York warned the nation as the infection rate exploded and hospitals began to confront a growing influx of patients. “Where we are today, you will be in three weeks, four weeks, five weeks, six weeks.” Alarmed by the scale of the epidemic in New York City, White House officials advised people who have passed through or left the area to quarantine themselves for 14 days.
But even as the crisis deepened in New York, President Trump pressed to reopen the country for business by Easter, on April 12.
The nightmarish situation in Spain deepened seemingly by the hour. More than 40,000 Spaniards have tested positive for the virus and 3,400 have died. The majority of the cases are in Madrid, where the mortuaries are full to capacity.
The country has asked NATO for assistance as it struggles to get the epidemic under control.
France, under lockdown for a week, has been increasingly aggressive in penalizing those who violate social distancing rules, issuing more than 100,000 fines.
In London, the military was helping convert the sprawling Excel convention center in London into the 4,000-bed “N.H.S. Nightingale Hospital.”
A similar effort was underway in New York City, where the 1.8-million-square-foot Jacob K. Javits Convention Center — which was scheduled to hold an expo for exotic flowers this week — looked more like a front-line military depot as workers rushed to transform the complex to handle an imminent surge of patients.
Governor Cuomo said that with cases doubling every three days in New York City alone, as many as 140,000 people might need urgent care in the next few weeks.
And the state was still in dire need of critical equipment, particularly the ventilators needed to keep critically ill patients alive long enough for them to fight off the virus. The Trump administration promised to send 4,000 from the national stockpile, but Governor Cuomo said the state needed tens of thousands more.
More than 200 people have already died statewide, and there was broad agreement that the worst of the crisis would play out over the next few weeks.
Against this backdrop, Mr. Trump’s push to ease restrictions so soon seemed out of touch with the scale of the crisis both in the country and around the world.
When asked how he came up with April 12 as a target date, Mr. Trump did not cite any scientific evidence.
“I just thought it was a beautiful time,” he said.
Prince Charles tests positive for the coronavirus.
Prince Charles, first in line to the British throne, has tested positive for the coronavirus, a spokesman for the royal family said on Wednesday.
Charles, 71, had been experiencing mild symptoms for days, but has “otherwise remained in good health” and is working from home, according to a statement released by Clarence House, the prince’s official residence.
“The Duchess of Cornwall has also been tested but does not have the virus,” the statement said, referring to Prince Charles’s wife. Both are now self-isolating at their home in Scotland, Birkhall.
“The tests were carried out by the N.H.S. in Aberdeenshire, where they met the criteria required for testing,” the statement added.
It was impossible to tell who Prince Charles may have caught the virus from “owing to the high number of engagements he carried out in his public role during recent weeks,” Clarence House noted. Handshakes, meetings and public appearances are a daily reality for members of the royal family, and Prince Charles had taken part in a number of engagements this month.
Officials at Buckingham Palace said Charles last saw his mother on Thursday, March 12. Doctors estimate that the earliest the prince could have been infectious with the virus was the next day, March 13. A spokesman for Buckingham Palace said “the queen remains in good health.”
The queen, who turns 94 next month, released a message to the nation last week urging Britons to stay at home for the greater good of the community.
“I am certain we are up to that challenge,” she said in the statement. “You can be assured that my family and I stand ready to play our part.”
Stocks are unsteady as relief over U.S. stimulus fades.
Wall Street was set for a volatile day Wednesday as investors started sizing up a $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package to shore up the American economy.
U.S. stock futures and European stocks initially rallied after Democratic and Republican leaders in the Senate finally came to agreement in the early hours of the day. But that rally faded. On Tuesday, stocks on Wall Street had their best day since 2008 on expectations of the stimulus deal.
Lawmakers and their aides were still finishing the enormous legislation that would enact the country’s biggest emergency spending plan ever, so only the broad outlines were known. The Senate was expected to vote on Wednesday.
Governments elsewhere were also laying out plans to help. On Monday, Germany prepared an emergency budget and rescue fund for companies and state-supported loans. European Union leaders were working on additional measures to help loosen up money for some countries to help soften the economic blow of the virus.
Though investors have welcomed the plans, few were willing to conclusively say that the worst of the market sell-off was over.
Widespread social distancing measures put in place to control the spread of the coronavirus have hammered consumer spending, the heart of the American economy. Economists are expecting almost unthinkable declines in the gross domestic product in the second quarter. Analysts at Capital Economics said on Wednesday that they now expected U.S. growth to fall 40 percent in the second quarter, at an annualized pace, as the unemployment rate jumps to 12 percent — higher than its 10 percent peak in 2009.
In India, Day 1 of lockdown for a fifth of humanity.
Across India, crowds swarmed into food stores and cleaned out the shelves. At a fancy market in New Delhi, one man stuffed his Mercedes with groceries on Wednesday afternoon and then jumped behind the wheel and zoomed off — wearing blue rubber dishwashing gloves and a clear plastic face mask that looked like it would fit with a snorkel.
This is Day 1 of how India is coping with the world’s biggest coronavirus lockdown after 1.3 billion people — nearly a fifth of humanity — were ordered to stay inside unless vitally necessary.
India has reported relatively few coronavirus cases — fewer than 600 so far — but with the population density so high and the public health system so weak, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has imposed stringent measures to try to keep the country from sliding into the disaster that the United States, Italy and other countries face.
On Wednesday, most Indians, from the snowbound valleys in the Himalayas to tropical islands in the Andaman Sea, seemed to be following the rules — though the price for some will prove high.
Outbreaks emerge across the U.S., but states’ responses vary.
With New York and California already instituting strict measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus, and doctors in Washington State dealing with the bleak reality that they may have to decide which patients to prioritize for care, the United States has begun to grapple with several major outbreaks nationwide at once.
In New York, the epicenter of the crisis in the country, cases exceeded 25,000 statewide by Tuesday, and in California, at least 2,500 cases had been confirmed, with those numbers expected to rise significantly in the coming days.
But even as the crisis escalated, the response to the pandemic has remained widely inconsistent. President Trump said on Tuesday that a national lockdown had never been under consideration and that he “would love to have the country opened up” by Easter, a goal that health experts have called far too quick.
Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas continued to resist calls to issue a statewide order to force millions to stay at home, but he did urge Texans to avoid going out.
A regulatory patchwork has unfolded in recent days in Texas — which has 700 confirmed infections and 11 deaths — with restrictions, curfews and stay-at-home orders that vary from county to county.
As states and local authorities grapple for adequate responses, the virus continues to claim more victims.
A 17-year-old California boy whose death was linked to the coronavirus on Tuesday may be one of the youngest victims of the outbreak in the United States, if the cause is confirmed by the C.D.C. Gov. Gavin Newsom of California said that half of the 2,102 people who had tested positive for the virus in his state were aged 18 to 49.
In Georgia, a 12-year-old girl who has Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, was placed on a ventilator this week. And in Kentucky, a person who went to a “coronavirus party” attended by young adults has tested positive, Gov. Andy Beshear said.
Spanish morgues run out of room for the dead as the nation pleads for help.
The Ice Palace, an Olympic-size skating rink in Madrid — a site of joy only months ago — is now being filled with the bodies of the dead.
The conversion of the sporting facility into a morgue underscored the dire situation in Spain, where the death toll passed 3,400 on Wednesday, ahead of China and second only to Italy in the grim tally of fatalities.
“This is a very hard week because we are in the first stages of overcoming the virus, a phase in which we are approaching the peak of the epidemic,” Salvador Illa, the Spanish health minister, told the nation.
As the crisis in Spain deepened, the country’s military made an urgent appeal to NATO for assistance. Like many other countries, Spain has been struggling with a lack of medical supplies for testing, treatment and the protection of front-line workers.
In a statement, NATO said Spain’s military had asked for “international assistance,” seeking medical supplies to help curb the spread of the virus both in the military and in the civilian population.
The request specified 450,000 respirators, 500,000 rapid testing kits, 500 ventilators and 1.5 million surgical masks. But it was not clear when or if help would arrive.
Funeral parlors in Madrid are now handling about seven times more bodies than a week earlier, according to officials. And workers said they had not been given any of the protective gear promised by the government, Juan José López Vivas, the deputy president of the national association of funeral parlors, told the television channel La Sexta.
The conversion of the ice rink to a morgue resonated across the country, a vivid illustration of the desperation of the moment.
“This surface, which has given me so many good hours, as well as some difficult moments, can now help people who have lost their loved ones take them to wherever they wish,” Spain’s two-time world champion figure skater, Javier Fernández, told the television channel Antena 3. “If they need all the ice skating rinks of Spain, I’m sure they will do that.”
Moscow mayor warns the situation is becoming serious in Russia.
President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, a country so far largely spared the ravages of the coronavirus, has been warned that “situation is becoming serious” and that the number of sick Russians is “much bigger” than official figures indicate.
At a briefing at the president’s country residence near Moscow, Sergei Sobyanin, the mayor of the Russian capital, told Mr. Putin that many of those returning from countries with major outbreaks had not been tested and were simply sheltering at home.
Russia on Wednesday reported a sharp jump in confirmed cases, to 658. And while the figure is low compared with much of Western Europe and the United States, the 163 new infections on Wednesday constituted the largest one-day increase yet, suggesting that Russia could be following the same path.
Mr. Sobyanin has taken the lead in trying to control the spread of the coronavirus as the head of Russia’s largest city — imposing mandatory self-isolation and other sweeping restrictions long before the rest of the country. From Thursday, all residents of Moscow over 65 will be forbidden from leaving their homes.
Mr. Sobyanin told Mr. Putin that other large cities now needed to follow the capital’s example.
The Kremlin worries that if Russia cannot escape the infection trajectory seen in other countries it will have to cancel or at least postpone two events of great personal and political significance for Mr. Putin: a referendum on April 22 on constitutional changes allowing him to stay in power until 2036, and a military parade on May 9 for the 75th anniversary of the Red Army’s victory over Nazi Germany.
As states delay primaries, June 2 is suddenly a major date in the Democratic race.
With numerous states, including Indiana and Pennsylvania, pushing back their presidential primaries to June 2 because of the coronavirus pandemic, the votes that day will confer a huge bounty of delegates, second only to Super Tuesday in early March.
Although former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. has built an all but insurmountable lead, June 2 — which is 10 weeks away — will be his first chance to clinch his party’s presidential nomination. Only then would he have a definitive reason to press for the withdrawal of his rival, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who has shown no inclination to leave a race that feels frozen in place.
Some Democratic strategists see possible perils in the delay. Having to wait until June 2 for the next major chapter in the nominating race largely deprives Mr. Biden of a chance to rack up interim victories that would bring media attention; President Trump, on the other hand, is promoting his leadership in a global pandemic.
Ireland’s health care system will go public for the duration of the crisis.
The government in Ireland said it would take control of all privately-owned health care facilities and hospitals to create a single, free national health service to deal with the coronavirus outbreak until the crisis in the country had passed.
“There can be no room for public versus private when it comes to pandemic,” Simon Harris, the Irish health minister, said in a news conference in Dublin on Tuesday. He added that the step was necessary “for the common benefit of all of our people.”
The move will be a dramatic change for Ireland’s mixed public and private health system, which at present resembles a hybrid between the U.S. for-profit health system, and the tax-funded public services which are the norm in much of Europe.
Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, said the measure would bring 2,000 beds, nine laboratories and thousands of staff into the public system. The private facilities have agreed to provide their services on a nonprofit basis for the duration of the pandemic.
The move to a single-payer, state-controlled health care system, even temporarily, could set a precedent in a country where there is already broad consensus that an entirely public, tax-funded system should be introduced.
Critics of the existing system, which allows many senior doctors on public salaries to treat private patients in publicly funded hospitals, say it encourages people to take out private insurance so they can pay extra to skip waiting lists in the public system.
These 11 states are letting uninsured sign up for Obamacare outside typical window.
California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington and the District of Columbia have opened enrollment under the Affordable Care Act to allow laid-off workers to get subsidized health insurance, and the Trump administration, which has been gunning to repeal the law, is considering opening the federal exchange to new customers.
Reporting and research were contributed by Mark Landler, Emily Cochrane, Andrew Higgins, Marc Santora, Megan Specia, Raphael Minder, Ed O’Loughlin, Trip Gabriel, Iliana Magra, Jeffrey Gettleman, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Haley Willis, Robin Stein, Natalie Reneau, Drew Jordan, Matt Phillips, Noam Scheiber, Mike Isaac and Sheera Frenkel.
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