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Coronavirus live updates: Record 3.3 million Americans file for unemployment benefits
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Coronavirus live updates: Record 3.3 million Americans file for unemployment benefits

Coronavirus outbreak: What you need to know

Coronavirus live updates: Record 3.3 million Americans file for unemployment benefits

At least 487,000 people worldwide -- including more than 69,000 people in the United States – have been infected with the new coronavirus, and the number of deaths from the outbreak continues to rise. Officials are attempting to contain the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. as hospitals brace for unprecedented patient surges.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tracking cases in the U.S. here.

Live updates for Thursday, March 26, continue below:

US unemployment claims hit 3.3 million

Update 8:40 a.m. EDT March 26: Nearly 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week — more than quadruple the previous record set in 1982 — amid a widespread economic shutdown caused by the coronavirus.

The surge in weekly applications was a stunning reflection of the damage the viral outbreak is doing to the economy. Filings for unemployment aid generally reflect the pace of layoffs.

The pace of layoffs is sure to accelerate as the U.S. economy sinks into a recession. Revenue has collapsed at restaurants, hotels, movie theaters, gyms, and airlines. Auto sales are plummeting, and car makers have close factories. Most such employers face loan payments and other fixed costs, so they're cutting jobs to save money.

As job losses mount, some economists say the nation’s unemployment rate could approach 13% by May. By comparison, the highest jobless rate during the Great Recession, which ended in 2009, was 10%.

Global coronavirus deaths surpasses 22K, worldwide cases top 487K

Update 7:49 a.m. EDT March 26: The global death toll attributed to the novel coronavirus hit 22,030 early Thursday, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.

In the three months since the virus was first identified in Wuhan, China, it has infected at least 487,648 people worldwide.

• Italy has confirmed 74,386 cases, resulting in 7,503 deaths.

• The United States has reported 69,197 confirmed cases, resulting in 1,046 deaths.

• Spain has confirmed 49,515 infections, resulting in 4,089 deaths.

• Germany has reported 39,355 cases, resulting in 222 deaths.

• Iran has recorded 29,406 cases, resulting in 2,234 deaths.

• France has confirmed 25,604 infections, resulting in 1,333 deaths.

• Switzerland has confirmed 11,027 cases, resulting in 165 deaths.

• The United Kingdom has reported 9,642 cases, resulting in 467 deaths.

• South Korea has recorded 9,241 cases, resulting in 131 deaths.

• The Netherlands has confirmed 6,440 cases, resulting in 357 deaths.

Bosch develops coronavirus test kit

Update 7:26 a.m. EDT March 26: German engineering group Robert Bosch GmbH said Thursday its healthcare technology unit Bosch Healthcare Solutions had developed a rapid test for COVID-19, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The test – developed in tandem with molecular diagnostics group Randox Laboratories Ltd. – is touted for producing reliable results within a few short hours that meets World Health Organization standards.

Read more here.

Renowned Congolese human rights lawyer dies from coronavirus

Update 7:12 a.m. EDT March 26: Jean-Joseph Mukendi wa Mulumba, a lifelong defender of human rights in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has died of coronavirus.

Mukendi, 73, died in the Congolese capital of Kinshasa, The Washington Post reported.

According to the BBC, Mukendi may have contracted the virus which causes COVID-19 while on a recent trip to France for a medical checkup.

Read more here.

NJ nursing home evacuates all 94 residents, presumed positive for coronavirus

Update 7:01 a.m. EDT March 26: A nursing home in Woodbridge, New Jersey, was forced to evacuate its entire resident list on Wednesday after all 94 of them are believed to have contracted the novel coronavirus.

According to the Morrison Daily Record, state health officials had ordered St. Joseph’s Senior Nursing Home to transfer its entire residential to another facility.

At least two dozen of the center’s residents have already tested positive, and at least 12 employees are suffering respiratory symptoms consistent with the virus, which causes COVID-19, The Washington Post reported.

Read more here.

Priest living in same Vatican residence as pope tests positive, report says

Update 6:52 a.m. EDT March 26: An Italian priest who lives in the same Vatican residence as Pope Francis has tested positive for the coronavirus, Italy’s ANSA news agency reported Wednesday night.

According to The Washington Post, the Vatican did not confirm the infection nor address if the pope has been tested.

Read more here.

US hospitals weigh universal do-not-resuscitate orders for coronavirus patients

Update 6:40 a.m. EDT March 26: In a bid to protect medical staff from contagion, front-line hospitals are beginning to discuss the possibility of taking drastic measures as the novel coronavirus pandemic.

According to The Washington Post, hospitals are grappling with the possibility – however remote – that adopting universal do-not-resuscitate policies might become necessary to balance equipment and resources against unmanageable patient surge.

Read more here.

UK’s National Health Service attracts 500K volunteers

Update 6:16 a.m. EDT March 26: More than half a million people in the United Kingdom have signed up as volunteers to support the country’s novel coronavirus response, being led by the National Health Service.

Matt Hancock, the UK’s health secretary, tweeted his praise for the response, considering the government expected less than half as many people to volunteer.

Soccer match in Italy linked to epicenter of deadly coronavirus outbreak

Update 5:46 a.m. EDT March 26: A February soccer match appears to be linked to the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus in Italy’s Bergamo province. 

According to The Washington Post, the Feb. 19 Championship League contest in Milan attracted more than 40,000 Bergamo residents, and within weeks Bergamo became the hardest hit province in the hardest-hit region, Lombardi, of Europe’s hardest-hit nation to grapple with virus and its rampant spread.

Giorgio Gori, mayor of the city sharing its name with the Bergamo province, spoke with Agence France-Presse to provide context.

“Some 40,000 Bergamo inhabitants went to Milan to watch the game. Others watched it from their homes, in families, in groups, at the bar,” Gori said, adding, “It’s clear that evening was a situation in which the virus was widely spread.”

Spain extends coronavirus-induced state of emergency

Update 4:13 a.m. EDT March 26: The Spanish government will extend the country’s current state of emergency until April 12 after Wednesday’s novel coronavirus death toll surpassed China’s.

By early Thursday morning, Spain had confirmed a total of 49,515 infections, which have resulted in at least 3,647 deaths.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez reiterated to the public Wednesday that “social isolation is the only way to stop this virus” and encouraged residents to remain vigilant.

Bolivia enacts nationwide lockdown, state of emergency, border closings

Update 4:02 a.m. EDT March 26: Jeanine Anez, Bolivia’s interim president, declared a nationwide lockdown and state of emergency on Wednesday, expected to last through April 15, CNN reported.

In an address to the nation late Wednesday, Anez said Bolivians hadn’t followed the government-ordered mandatory quarantine measures, so the risk of infection is now higher and more stringent containment measures are needed, the network reported.

"No one leaves, nor does anyone enter the country, except for security and health reasons," Anez said.

Bolivia has confirmed 39 coronavirus cases and zero deaths.

New Zealand records largest single-day spike in coronavirus cases

Update 3:47 a.m. EDT March 26: The New Zealand Ministry of Health confirmed 73 new coronavirus patients and identified five additional presumptive cases in the past 24 hours, CNN reported.

"Of our new cases today, the majority still have a link to overseas travel, including being in the same household as someone who has returned from overseas, have attended a known event or linked to a cluster of other cases or are close contacts of a confirmed case," the ministry said.

To date, New Zealand officials have confirmed a total of 262 infections

Florida-bound cruise ship reports 77 passengers with possible coronavirus symptoms; safe harbor elusive for other vessels

Update 3:26 a.m. EDT March 26: Seventy-seven people aboard Holland America’s Zaandam cruise ship are reporting flu-like symptoms as the vessel continues its course to Florida, CNN reported.

The Zaandam left Buenos Aires, Argentina, on March 7, before the cruise operator announced it would be suspending global cruise operations for a month in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Among those reported ill, 30 are passengers, and 47 are crew members.

“Since it is flu season, and COVID-19 testing is not available on board, it is difficult to determine the cause of these elevated cases at this time,” Holland America said in a news release posted to its website.

The cruise line has, however, dispatched a support ship to deliver supplies, staff and coronavirus testing kits to the Zaandam.

Meanwhile, three cruise ships off the coast of Western Australia have been informed they will not be allowed to dock under any circumstances, the network reported. According to CNN:

• The Artania is carrying 800 passengers, mostly Germans, seven of whom have the coronavirus.

• The MSC Magnifica has refueled in Fremantle and remains in waters off the coast of Western Australia. 

• The Vasco da Gama is carrying around 800 Australians, including 200 Western Australians, 109 New Zealanders, and 33 UK citizens and other foreigners, according to the WA government.

Gilead rescinds orphan-drug request for Remdesivir to treat coronavirus

Update 3:04 a.m. EDT March 26: Gilead Sciences Inc. withdrew its application on Wednesday to gain orphan-drug status for Remdesivir, its investigational coronavirus drug, The Wall Street Journal and The Associated Press reported.

The decision appeared to be in direct response to public outcry after the company looked poised to capitalize on the national pandemic.

“COVID-19 is anything but a rare disease,” a letter, attributed to more than 50 consumer and patient advocacy groups, sent to the company earlier in the day Wednesday stated.

Gilead said in a statement Wednesday afternoon that it asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to rescind its request because the company “recognizes the urgent public health needs posed by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the AP reported.

Read more here.

California's coronavirus cases soar; officials warn San Francisco on track to rival New York levels

Update 2:24 a.m. EDT March 26: Health officials are sounding the alarm in California as the rate of novel coronavirus infections outpaces projections and the medical community braces for an undetermined patient surge in the coming weeks, CNN reported.

“We originally thought [the infection rate] would be doubling every six to seven days and we see cases doubling every three to four days,” Dr. Mark Ghaly, the secretary of California's Health and Human Services Agency, said at a Wednesday news conference. 

To date California has confirmed more than 3,100 coronavirus cases, resulting in 67 deaths.

Meanwhile, San Francisco Mayor London Breed warned residents on Wednesday that the city’s medical facilities will become overwhelmed if more residents fail to take stay-at-home recommendations to heart.

“If people who are out on the streets continue to congregate with one another, continue to interact with one another, which increases the spread of this virus, we will not have enough beds, enough ICU units, enough ventilators to support the people that we know are going to need them,” Breed told CNN.

Breed estimated the city, alone, will require at least 1,500 additional ventilators and 5,000 extra hospital beds to accommodate the expected influx of patients,

“It is plausible that despite all these efforts we could have a scenario similar to the one that is playing out in New York this very day,” San Francisco Director of Health Dr. Grant Colfax told CNN, adding, “If that happens our capacity, our surge capacity will be far exceeded.” 

State-by-state breakdown of 65,131 US coronavirus cases, 1,000 deaths

Update 1:10 a.m. EDT March 26: The number of novel coronavirus cases in the United States surpassed 69,000 across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands late Wednesday night.

According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, there are at least 69,018 confirmed U.S. cases of the virus, which have resulted in at least 1,000 deaths.

At least 233 deaths were recorded on Wednesday, alone, making it the deadliest day on U.S. soil since the pandemic began.

Of the confirmed deaths, 285 have occurred in New York, 130 Washington state and 65 in Louisiana

In terms of diagnosed cases, New York remains the hardest hit with nearly 30,811 confirmed cases – more than seven times any other state – followed by New Jersey with 4,402 and Washington with 2,586.

Nine other states have now reported at least 1,000 novel coronavirus cases, including:

• California: 2,535

• Michigan: 2,295

• Florida: 1,971

• Illinois: 1,865

• Massachusetts: 1,838

• Louisiana: 1,795

• Georgia: 1,387

• Pennsylvania: 1,127

• Colorado: 1,086

The figures include 21 people aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship and 49 repatriated citizens. The repatriations include 46 sickened aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship and three others retrieved from the outbreak’s epicenter in Wuhan, China.

The state-by-state breakdown – including presumptive cases – of at least 65,131 cases detected on U.S. soil is as follows:

• Alabama: 386, including 1 death

• Alaska: 42, including 1 death

• Arizona: 401, including 6 deaths

• Arkansas: 308, including 2 deaths

• California: 2,535, including 53 deaths

• Colorado: 1,086, including 19 deaths

• Connecticut: 875, including 19 deaths

• Delaware: 119

• District of Columbia: 183, including 2 deaths

• Florida: 1,971, including 22 deaths

• Georgia: 1,387, including 47 deaths

• Guam: 37, including 1 death

• Hawaii: 95

• Idaho: 123

• Illinois: 1,865, including 19 deaths

• Indiana: 477, including 14 deaths

• Iowa: 145, including 1 death

• Kansas: 126, including 3 deaths

• Kentucky: 198, including 5 deaths

• Louisiana: 1,795, including 65 deaths

• Maine: 142

• Maryland: 423, including 4 deaths

• Massachusetts: 1,838, including 15 deaths

• Michigan: 2,295, including 43 deaths

• Minnesota: 287, including 1 death

• Mississippi: 377, including 5 deaths

• Missouri: 356, including 8 deaths

• Montana: 65

• Nebraska: 64

• Nevada: 321, including 6 deaths

• New Hampshire: 137, including 1 death

• New Jersey: 4,402, including 62 deaths

• New Mexico: 112, including 1 death

• New York: 30,811, including 285 deaths

• North Carolina: 504, including 2 deaths

• North Dakota: 45

• Ohio: 704, including 10 deaths

• Oklahoma: 164, including 5 deaths

• Oregon: 266, including 10 deaths

• Pennsylvania: 1,127, including 11 deaths

• Puerto Rico: 51, including 2 deaths

• Rhode Island: 132

• South Carolina: 424, including 7 deaths

• South Dakota: 41, including 1 death

• Tennessee: 784, including 3 deaths

• Texas: 974, including 12 deaths

• U.S. Virgin Islands: 17

• Utah: 346, including 1 death

• Vermont: 123, including 8 deaths

• Virginia: 391, including 9 deaths

• Washington: 2,586, including 130 deaths

• West Virginia: 39

• Wisconsin: 585, including 6 deaths

• Wyoming: 44

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Read More
  • After talking for days about relaxing federal calls for Americans to drastically restrict their social activities in order to curb the spread of the Coronavirus, President Donald Trump said on Sunday that he would be extending those guidelines through the end of April, after new estimates showed the threat of a huge number of deaths from the virus outbreak. 'The peak in death rate is likely to hit in two weeks,' the President told reporters gathered in the Rose Garden. 'Nothing would be worse than declaring victory before the victory is won.' 'We will be extending our guidelines to April 30, to slow the spread,' Mr. Trump said, urging Americans to help by limiting their social activities.  'The better you do, the faster this whole nightmare will end,' the President added. The President said the decision was made after new modeling made available to the White House estimated the death totals from the Coronavirus could run over 1 million unless strong mitigation efforts were taken by Americans. At the White House, top federal experts endorsed the President's course change. 'We feel that the mitigation we are doing right now is having an effect 'The decision to prolong - not prolong, but extend - this mitigation process until the end of April, I think was a wise and prudent decision,' said Dr. Anthony Fauci. White House Coronavirus expert Dr. Deborah Birx said the 'growing number of potential fatalities' shown by the models made clear the need for more action to hold down the spread of the virus. Birx told reporters it is 'not a simple situation when you ask people to stay home for another 30 days, so they have to know that we really built this on scientific evidence and the potential to save hundreds of thousands of American lives.' “To every metro area out there, we have to do better,' Dr. Birx said at the Sunday briefing.
  • The mayors of OKlahoma's two largest cities have announced they will expand and more closely enforce “stay at home” measures for the general public as part of the response to the coronavirus pandemic. Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum enacted a 'Shelter in Place' order on Saturday for all age groups in the city to last from March 28 to April 16.  The 'Safer at Home' order mirrors the executive order made by Governor Stitt on Tuesday.   Mayor Bynum's order was announced hours after 7 more COVID-19 deaths were reported by the Oklahoma State Department of Health.
  • With some public friction over the federal Coronavirus response, President Donald Trump on Friday again singled out the Governor of Michigan and the Governor of Washington State for criticism, telling reporters that he had discouraged Vice President Mike Pence from calling either one to discuss the virus response. 'When they're not appreciative to me, they're not appreciative to the Army Corps (of Engineers), they're not appreciative to FEMA. It's not right,' President Trump said at a Friday White House briefing. 'All I want them to do, very simple, I want them to be appreciative,' the President added. 'We've done a great job,' the President said. 'I think the media and governors should appreciate it.' The President's comments came as he continued to spar long distance with Gov. Jay Inslee (D) of Washington State, and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) of Michigan. Inslee has already been a frequent target of the President - who referred to him in one briefing as a 'snake' - acknowledging that he has urged Vice President Pence not to call the Washington Democrat. 'I say Mike, don't call the Governor of Washington, you're wasting your time with him,' Mr. Trump said. 'Don't call the woman in Michigan.' In an interview Thursday night with Sean Hannity on Fox News, the President took aim at Whitmer, who has complained of troubles in getting medical supplies for hospitals to combat the virus outbreak. 'We’ve had a big problem with the young, a woman governor, you know who I’m talking about from Michigan,' the President said. While Gov. Whitmer went on TV to respond to the President, Inslee used Mr. Trump's favored mode of social media. 'I’m not going to let personal attacks from the president distract me from what matters: beating this virus and keeping Washingtonians healthy,' Inslee tweeted. While Inslee avoided barbs from the White House on Friday night, Whitmer did not. “Governor, Gretchen “Half” Whitmer is way in over her ahead, she doesn’t have a clue,” the President tweeted. Michigan has become a flash point in recent days in the fight to stop the Coronavirus; 32 deaths were announced on Friday, almost as many as the two previous days combined. 28 deaths were announced on Friday in Washington State, raising the death toll there to 175 people, second most of any state.
  • It was a scary day on Friday for Oklahoma Congressman Markwayne Mullin, who sent a message on Twitter that his son Jim took a bad fall while playing with his brothers at the family's ranch and hit his head. “He was unconscious and his vitals were very weak.  They had to life-flight him to Tulsa,” Mullin said in a video clip that he posted to Twitter as he was on his way back to Tulsa from Washington D.C. Since he first got word about the accident from his wife, he says his son has improved and was due released soon, Mullin citing the need to free up beds at the hospital for the Covid-19 crisis. He also voiced his appreciation for the prayers that were sent to him by friends and supporters.
  • With the backing of the White House and leaders in both parties, the U.S. House on Friday approved an emergency economic rescue plan to help the economy deal with the negative impact of the Coronavirus outbreak, as lawmakers on both sides put aside their differences on the details of the over $2 trillion package.  President Trump signed it into law several hours later. 'We need to support this bill now,' said Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL). 'The coronavirus has been a nuclear bomb to our economy,' said Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH). 'We've never faced a public health crisis of this magnitude,' said Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX). The main theater in the House Chamber during debate was not about who was for or against the bill, but whether Rep. Tom Massie (R-KY) would follow through on his threat to force a recorded vote on the measure, amid questions about whether enough lawmakers were present for a quorum. Under the rules, Massie - who did not speak during the debate - needed the support of several dozen lawmakers to force a vote. But Massie did not get that backing, and the bill was approved on a voice vote, to the applause of lawmakers, who sat both on the House floor, and in the galleries above. In debate, lawmakers of both parties expressed concerns about how their local hospitals might not be able to deal with an outbreak of the virus. 'For those from rural districts like mine, our hospitals cannot handle the onslaught of patients,' said Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL). 'Hospitals in my district face a situation as dire as it has been in my 18 years in Congress.' Lawmakers who flew back to Washington for the debate said the impact on the airline industry was obvious. 'There were two members of Congress on the plane out of a total of four passengers,' said Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL), who flew from St. Louis.  'You don't think that industry is on the brink of collapse - use it right now, and you will see,' Davis added. The House vote came as a third member of the House announced that he had tested positive, Rep. Joe Cunningham, a freshman Democrat from South Carolina. The package includes direct checks to Americans, billions in emergency aid for businesses big and small, money for state and local governments, and help for hospitals fighting the Coronavirus. “This is the biggest economic and health crisis the country has ever faced,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT).

Washington Insider

  • After talking for days about relaxing federal calls for Americans to drastically restrict their social activities in order to curb the spread of the Coronavirus, President Donald Trump said on Sunday that he would be extending those guidelines through the end of April, after new estimates showed the threat of a huge number of deaths from the virus outbreak. 'The peak in death rate is likely to hit in two weeks,' the President told reporters gathered in the Rose Garden. 'Nothing would be worse than declaring victory before the victory is won.' 'We will be extending our guidelines to April 30, to slow the spread,' Mr. Trump said, urging Americans to help by limiting their social activities.  'The better you do, the faster this whole nightmare will end,' the President added. The President said the decision was made after new modeling made available to the White House estimated the death totals from the Coronavirus could run over 1 million unless strong mitigation efforts were taken by Americans. At the White House, top federal experts endorsed the President's course change. 'We feel that the mitigation we are doing right now is having an effect 'The decision to prolong - not prolong, but extend - this mitigation process until the end of April, I think was a wise and prudent decision,' said Dr. Anthony Fauci. White House Coronavirus expert Dr. Deborah Birx said the 'growing number of potential fatalities' shown by the models made clear the need for more action to hold down the spread of the virus. Birx told reporters it is 'not a simple situation when you ask people to stay home for another 30 days, so they have to know that we really built this on scientific evidence and the potential to save hundreds of thousands of American lives.' “To every metro area out there, we have to do better,' Dr. Birx said at the Sunday briefing.
  • With some public friction over the federal Coronavirus response, President Donald Trump on Friday again singled out the Governor of Michigan and the Governor of Washington State for criticism, telling reporters that he had discouraged Vice President Mike Pence from calling either one to discuss the virus response. 'When they're not appreciative to me, they're not appreciative to the Army Corps (of Engineers), they're not appreciative to FEMA. It's not right,' President Trump said at a Friday White House briefing. 'All I want them to do, very simple, I want them to be appreciative,' the President added. 'We've done a great job,' the President said. 'I think the media and governors should appreciate it.' The President's comments came as he continued to spar long distance with Gov. Jay Inslee (D) of Washington State, and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) of Michigan. Inslee has already been a frequent target of the President - who referred to him in one briefing as a 'snake' - acknowledging that he has urged Vice President Pence not to call the Washington Democrat. 'I say Mike, don't call the Governor of Washington, you're wasting your time with him,' Mr. Trump said. 'Don't call the woman in Michigan.' In an interview Thursday night with Sean Hannity on Fox News, the President took aim at Whitmer, who has complained of troubles in getting medical supplies for hospitals to combat the virus outbreak. 'We’ve had a big problem with the young, a woman governor, you know who I’m talking about from Michigan,' the President said. While Gov. Whitmer went on TV to respond to the President, Inslee used Mr. Trump's favored mode of social media. 'I’m not going to let personal attacks from the president distract me from what matters: beating this virus and keeping Washingtonians healthy,' Inslee tweeted. While Inslee avoided barbs from the White House on Friday night, Whitmer did not. “Governor, Gretchen “Half” Whitmer is way in over her ahead, she doesn’t have a clue,” the President tweeted. Michigan has become a flash point in recent days in the fight to stop the Coronavirus; 32 deaths were announced on Friday, almost as many as the two previous days combined. 28 deaths were announced on Friday in Washington State, raising the death toll there to 175 people, second most of any state.
  • With the backing of the White House and leaders in both parties, the U.S. House on Friday approved an emergency economic rescue plan to help the economy deal with the negative impact of the Coronavirus outbreak, as lawmakers on both sides put aside their differences on the details of the over $2 trillion package.  President Trump signed it into law several hours later. 'We need to support this bill now,' said Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL). 'The coronavirus has been a nuclear bomb to our economy,' said Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH). 'We've never faced a public health crisis of this magnitude,' said Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX). The main theater in the House Chamber during debate was not about who was for or against the bill, but whether Rep. Tom Massie (R-KY) would follow through on his threat to force a recorded vote on the measure, amid questions about whether enough lawmakers were present for a quorum. Under the rules, Massie - who did not speak during the debate - needed the support of several dozen lawmakers to force a vote. But Massie did not get that backing, and the bill was approved on a voice vote, to the applause of lawmakers, who sat both on the House floor, and in the galleries above. In debate, lawmakers of both parties expressed concerns about how their local hospitals might not be able to deal with an outbreak of the virus. 'For those from rural districts like mine, our hospitals cannot handle the onslaught of patients,' said Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL). 'Hospitals in my district face a situation as dire as it has been in my 18 years in Congress.' Lawmakers who flew back to Washington for the debate said the impact on the airline industry was obvious. 'There were two members of Congress on the plane out of a total of four passengers,' said Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL), who flew from St. Louis.  'You don't think that industry is on the brink of collapse - use it right now, and you will see,' Davis added. The House vote came as a third member of the House announced that he had tested positive, Rep. Joe Cunningham, a freshman Democrat from South Carolina. The package includes direct checks to Americans, billions in emergency aid for businesses big and small, money for state and local governments, and help for hospitals fighting the Coronavirus. “This is the biggest economic and health crisis the country has ever faced,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT).
  • As Congress pushes ahead with a landmark economic stimulus plan to offset the negative impact of the Coronavirus, lawmakers not only put in provisions to funnel money to Americans and help businesses stay afloat, but also structured oversight for the billions in loans going to big businesses, and helped out a few specific players along the way. First, if you want to read through the text of the bill as approved by the Senate on Wednesday night, you can find the 880 page bill here. For those who want the short version, the table of contents for the bill gives you a good preview of what's to come. Now let's jump in and find a few interesting items in the bill. + 1. Restrictions aimed squarely at President Trump and his family. Section 4019 of the bill is titled, 'Conflicts of Interest,' and is intended to prohibit top government officials from benefiting in any way from the emergency aid being delivered in this bill. It lists the President, Vice President, member of Congress, top Executive Branch officials as people covered by this prohibition. But it goes further - adding, 'spouse, child, son-in-law, or daughter-in-law' as well. One GOP Senator pointed out the 'son-in-law' provision. 'I wonder who that could be targeted towards,' said Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) in a mocking tone, referring to Jared Kushner, as Lankford said Democrats were wrong to pursue such provisions. 'A lot of this fight that we've had over the last three days is because they were demanding that there was no way the President, or any member of his family could get any benefit from this loan program at all,' Lankford said. Democrats won those provisions. + 2. Temporary tax break for makers of hand sanitizer. With various alcohol producers switching over some of their production in recent weeks to make hand sanitizer, this bill also provides a temporary exception to the excise tax on the alcohol used to make hand sanitizer products. To an outsider, it shouldn't be any big deal for a liquor producer to shift into production of hand sanitizer, but in reality - it can have pretty big tax implications in how the federal government deals with the process. For example, after a company makes over 100,000 gallons of alcohol, the tax goes from $2.70 per gallon to over $13 per gallon. This provision on page 212 would allow those hand sanitizer products to be made without being hit by those higher taxes. Here was the social media appeal from one company in Maryland. 3. Special oversight for economic recovery spending. As part of provisions providing public insight into what companies get what kind of aid from the federal government, this bill sets up a special Inspector General inside the Treasury Department dealing with the 'Pandemic Recovery.' The internal watchdog would be charged with 'audits and investigations of the making, purchase, management, and sale of loans, loan guarantees, and other investments made by the Secretary of the Treasury under any program established by the Secretary under this Act.' There is also a new 'Congressional Oversight Commission,' with members appointed by various parts of the government, to oversee the operations of this economic recovery effort - all to guide against favoritism, and any questionable financial awards - much like there was with the Obama stimulus in 2009. 4. Postal Service gets special loan help. Just like after the anthrax attacks following Nine Eleven, the U.S. Postal Service finds itself in a crunch with the Coronavirus. Not only are some employees getting sick, but mail volume is going down - and that's leading to an even bleaker financial outlook. The Coronavirus rescue bill does not give a blank check to the Postal Service, but instead allows it to borrow up to $10 billion from the U.S. Treasury. Page 607 of the bill specifically says the money can only be used to pay for operating expenses - and not any outstanding debt of the Postal Service. The bill also orders the Postal Service to prioritize the delivery of medical products related to the Coronavirus, and also gives the Postal Service the right to establish 'temporary delivery points' during the outbreak, in order to shield employees from the virus. 5. Miscellaneous Provisions. Any reporter who has gone through Congressional spending bills starts to get a little excited when you get to the section labeled 'Miscellaneous Provisions' - and this bill does not disappoint. Starting on page 609, there is a laundry list of extra money sent to various government agencies to deal with the Coronavirus. Some, like money for food safety won't raise any eyebrows. But others were quickly getting the thumbs down from some GOP lawmakers who actually read their way through the details of the bill. 6. There is no Congressional Pay Raise. Let me say it again. There is no pay raise for members of the House and Senate, no matter what you read on Twitter or Facebook. The troublemakers on Twitter didn't take long in spreading fake news about the details of this bill, accusing lawmakers of voting themselves a pay raise. Let me be very clear - that did *not* happen in this bill. There is no reference to the underlying federal code which governs the pay of lawmakers (section 601(a) of the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 (2 U.S.C. 4501)).  Is there extra money for Congress in this bill? Yes, there is. The Senate gets $10 million, and the House gets $25 million. Where would that money go? It doesn't take too much imagination to come up with items like extra medical, safety, and security precautions for 435 members of the House. Expanded telework with laptops, servers, and more. Cleaning crews to deal with any outbreaks that might touch Congressional offices or the Capitol complex. And finally, even if lawmakers voted themselves a pay raise, they would not be allowed to get any extra money until the new Congress. That's not a law - that's in the Constitution.
  • The morning after the U.S. Senate unanimously approved an unprecedented $2 trillion economic rescue package to confront the negative impact of the Coronavirus outbreak, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters that she was already thinking ahead to the next Congressional move to spur economic growth. 'We have to do more,' the Speaker said at a U.S. Capitol news conference, as she told reporters about a phone conversation with Jerome Powell, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve. 'The Chairman of the Fed, Mr. Powell said to me, interest rates are low, think big,'  'There's no question that more money will be needed,' Pelosi added, as she indicated there would be support to funnel more money directly to Americans. 'I don't think we've seen the end of direct payments,' the Speaker said. Pelosi said the House would vote Friday to approve the $2 trillion economic package, most likely by a voice vote. 'We will have a victory tomorrow for America's workers. If somebody has a different point of view they can put that in the record,' the Speaker said.