The Senate unanimously passed another coronavirus aid package Tuesday evening that would replenish funding for an emergency small business lending program, provide additional money for hospitals and expand funding for COVID-19 testing.
Lawmakers announced earlier in the day that they had reached agreement on the $500 billion proposal. The House of Representatives intends to vote on the measure Thursday, and President Donald Trump tweeted that he would sign the bill.
The package comes on the heels of the record $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill passed last month.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) issued a joint statement ahead of the Senate vote.
“We have achieved an agreement that follows the path set by the bipartisan CARES Act by strengthening the Paycheck Protection Program, expanding small business support beyond PPP by increasing funding for emergency disaster loans and grants and providing an additional $100 billion for hospitals, providers and testing in a way that addresses the health needs of the American people,” Pelosi and Schumer said.
More than $300 billion of the money would to go the small business payroll loan program that was part of a previous relief package but quickly ran out of money, the statement said. Some $75 billion would go to hospitals and $25 billion would go toward increased testing.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a daily news briefing shortly after the vote that large companies like those who made headlines in recent days for taking advantage of the small business loans would no longer qualify for funding under the new bill. Trump went one step further and said large companies and entities like Harvard University would pay back the loans.
The U.S. had more than 823,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, as of Tuesday evening, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Nearly 45,000 people have died in the U.S., and more than 75,000 patients have recovered.
Worldwide, the total number of infections was more than 2.5 million, and more than 176,000 people have died. More than 679,000 patients have recovered.
-Dr. Deborah Birx, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, said the curve is flattening in some large cities, including Detroit, New Orleans, Chicago and Boston. But she said social distancing is still necessary.
-The city of San Francisco is closing 12 city streets to allow for greater social distancing among pedestrians, cyclists and others. A statement from the city’s municipal transit authority said the move was necessary because reduced mass transit service means more people are walking or biking to work, and many people are choosing to walk in the street in order to maintain a space between themselves and others.
-Boise State University is furloughing all employees who make more than $40,000 a year, the Idaho Statesman reported. University President Marlene Tromp addressed the move in an email to faculty and staff on Monday that said canceled events at the university have contributed to about $10 million in losses.
-President Trump said at the Tuesday news briefing that he would soon sign an executive order that would suspend nearly all immigration under the rationale of preventing the spread of the new coronavirus. Trump had announced the halt in immigration in a late-night tweet Monday. “In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!”
-Gov. Roy Cooper said North Carolina is not yet ready to reopen. The state has not seen a 14-day decline in COVID-19 cases, as recommended in the White House’s guidance for reopening, Cooper said. “Right now, staying at home is saving lives,” he said. He also said the state has not met the threshold for contract tracing and testing. Cooper said a task force will lay out guidelines this week on the state’s goals to reopen. North Carolina’s stay-at-home order is set to expire on April 29.
-Hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug widely touted by President Donald Trump for treating the new coronavirus, showed no benefit in a large analysis of its use in U.S. veterans hospitals, and those patients who took it had higher death rates than those who didn’t, researchers reported. The nationwide study analyzed medical records of 368 male veterans hospitalized with confirmed coronavirus infection at Veterans Health Administration medical centers who died or were discharged by April 11. About 28% who were given hydroxychloroquine plus usual care died, versus 11% of those getting routine care alone. About 22% of those getting the drug plus azithromycin died too, but the difference between that group and usual care was not considered large enough to rule out other factors that could have affected survival. Hydroxychloroquine made no difference in the need for a ventilator, either.
-Gov. Charlie Baker announced Massachusetts schools will remain closed and remote learning will continue through the rest of the school year. He also extended his order closing all non-emergency childcare programs until June 29. In discussing reopening the state, Baker said, “I’ll be damned if the way this works is we go through this thing, we flatten the curve, we do all the things we’re supposed to do and then we go up again in the fall because we don’t handle the re-entry in a way that keeps people safe.” The current stay-at-home advisory and nonessential business closure runs through May 4.
-Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said the state’s stay-at-home order will remain in effect until April 30. “Keep doing what you are doing,” Ivey said. “I am as eager as anyone to get our economy back open and operating on all cylinders again. We have to do it in a smart way.” She also said the state needs to expand its testing before resuming normal economic activity. “Getting our economy up and running is not as simple as flipping a switch,” she said.
-West Virginia’s Gov. Jim Justice has issued an executive order allowing hospitals to resume elective procedures on April 27. At a new conference Monday, Justice said reopening some aspects of life are needed sooner rather than later. “If we continue down this path for very much longer, there is a real, real possibility that the engine won’t start back,” he said. “Or, the engine won’t start back in a way that will assure us to not drift into not a recession — but the possibilities of a depression.”
-Wisconsin health officials have identified seven people who appear to have contracted the coronavirus through activities related to the state’s April 7 election. Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik told the Journal Sentinel six of the cases are in voters and one is a poll worker.
-The Scripps National Spelling Bee was canceled Tuesday because of the coronavirus pandemic. The bee, which began in 1925, was last canceled from 1943-45 because of World War II. “The Bee has determined there is no clear path to safely set a new date in 2020,” Scripps said in a statement, noting “uncertainty around when public gatherings will be possible or advisable.” Bee officials had concluded a virtual, online bee would be too difficult logistically and would not be true to the spirit of the competition. The next bee is scheduled for June 1-3, 2021.
-Oil prices continued to collapse Tuesday, in turn driving stock markets lower. As of 11 a.m. EST, the S&P 500 was down 2.7%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 538 points, or 2.3%, to 23,104, and the Nasdaq was down 3.4%. A barrel of U.S. oil to be delivered in May was at $3.81, after falling to negative $37.63 on Monday. A barrel of U.S. oil for delivery in June dropped $5.48, or 27%, to $14.94. Brent crude, the international oil standard, fell nearly 22% to $20.05 per barrel.
-The U.S. will need to be able to perform millions of coronavirus tests each week before the country can reopen, two new reports say. A plan from the Rockefeller Foundation said the U.S. should expand testing capacity to 3 million tests per week within the next two months and 30 million tests per week over the next six months. A proposal by Harvard University’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics said the country will need to deliver at least 5 million tests per day by early June to begin reopening. It says as many as 20 million tests per day would be needed to fully remobilize the economy, ideally by late July. So far, the U.S. has performed only about 4 million coronavirus tests, according to CNN, and governors have reported continued shortages of the materials needed to run tests, from chemical reagents to swabs.
-The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has authorized a COVID-19 diagnostic test that allows a person to collect samples with the included nasal swabs at home and send them to a laboratory for testing using LabCorp’s Pixel by LabCorp COVID-19 Test home collection kit. LabCorp intends to make the kits available to consumers in most states, with a doctor’s order, in the coming weeks, the FDA said in a news release.
States are moving ahead with reopening plans. On Monday, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said fitness centers, bowling alleys, body art studios, barbers, hair and nail salons and massage therapy businesses can reopen as early Friday. Theaters and restaurants will be allowed to open on Monday.
-The mayors of Atlanta and Augusta and other Georgia cities pushed back against Gov. Kemp’s decision to allow more businesses to reopen and say they were caught off guard by his announcement. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottom told ABC News, “I will continue to use my voice as mayor of Atlanta to ask people to continue to stay home, follow the science and exercise common sense.” Hardie Davis Jr., mayor of Augusta, told CNN, “We are at a place where we’re putting folks in harm’s way as opposed to taking these grave measures to continue to flatten the curve.” Savannah Mayor Van Johnson told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Kemp’s move is “reckless, it’s premature and it’s dangerous.” Mayor Bo Dorough of Albany, the epicenter of one of Georgia’s biggest outbreaks, called the rollback dangerous.
-South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said Monday that department stores and other retail businesses deemed “nonessential,” such as sporting goods stores, book, music, shoe and craft stores, jewelry stores, floral shops and other luggage and leather goods stores, can reopen this week.
-Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced his statewide stay-at-home order will expire April 30, and most businesses in 89 counties will be allowed to reopen May 1.
-In a letter to the federal government, the NAACP, National African American Tobacco Prevention Network and Council on Black Health requested specific actions to address the racial disparity seen in COVID-19 cases and the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on the black community. In the short-term, the groups ask for mobile COVID-19 testing for underserved communities; COBRA coverage for workers losing health insurance because of COVID-19 furloughs; data on race/ethnicity and location for COVID-19 incidences, hospitalizations and deaths; and a credible strategy to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in African American communities.
-Social distancing rules apply even if you’ve won a few Super Bowls. NFL quarterback Tom Brady, who recently left the New England Patriots for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was attempting to work out in a Tampa city park. “But you know our parks are closed down,” Mayor Jane Castor said during a briefing Monday, “and so a lot of our parks staff, they patrol around just to make sure people aren’t doing contact sports and things and saw an individual working out in one of our downtown parks. And she went over to tell him that it was closed and it was Tom Brady. … He has been sighted.”
-British Prime Minister Boris Johnson remains at his country home where he is getting updates from his staff and is scheduled to speak to President Trump later today, his spokesman said. Johnson also plans to hold his weekly audience with Queen Elizabeth II by telephone later this week — the first such conversation in three weeks.
-Copenhagen’s famed Tivoli Gardens plans to reopen for its summer season on May 11. The park, which inspired Walt Disney to create his theme parks, shut down on Feb. 24 and had been scheduled to reopen on April 16.
-The running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, has been called off because of the coronavirus pandemic. Pamplona city hall announced Tuesday that the nine-day San Fermin festival held in July won’t take place this year.
-The U.N. World Food Program says the number of people with acute hunger could increase by 130 million this year to 265 million people amid the coronavirus pandemic. The 10 countries with the worst food crises last year were Yemen, Congo, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Syria, Sudan, Nigeria and Haiti.
-Chancellor Sebastian Kurz says Austria, which allowed small shops to open a week ago, intends to open all shops at the beginning of May and all restaurants in mid-May as coronavirus infections have continued to drop. Kurz said the government will review the situation at two-week intervals. Schools are scheduled to start opening in May and religious services resuming May 15.