Congress delivers nearly $500 billion more in virus aid


The latest:There have been more than 873,000 coronavirus cases in the United States, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally.The U.S. death toll has surpassed 49,000 people, according to Hopkins.Globally, there have been more than 2.7 million cases with more than 190,000 deaths. More evidence is emerging that far more New Yorkers have had the coronavirus than the number confirmed by lab tests.The House is sending President Trump a nearly $500 billion package for small businesses and hospitals for relief.The mayor of Las Vegas is calling for businesses to reopen, but she’s not providing any social distancing guidelines on how to safely do so.More than 4.4 million laid-off workers applied for U.S. unemployment benefits last week as job cuts escalated across an economy that remains all but shut down. The House is sending President Donald Trump a fourth bipartisan bill to help businesses crippled by the coronavirus, an almost $500 billion measure that many lawmakers are already looking beyond.The measure passed almost unanimously, but the lopsided tally belies a potentially bumpier path ahead as battle lines are being formed for much more ambitious future legislation that may prove far more difficult to maneuver through Congress.Anchoring the bill is the Trump administration’s $250 billion funding request to replenish a fund to help small- and medium-size businesses with payroll, rent and other expenses. The payroll program provides forgivable loans so businesses can continue paying workers while forced to stay closed for social distancing and stay-at-home orders.Supporters are already warning that more money will be needed almost immediately for the business-backed Paycheck Protection Program. Battle lines are forming over the next measure amid growing demands to help out state and local governments, the Postal Service and first responders.Thursday’s vote in the House brings the total cost of the four bipartisan bills to respond to various impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic to about $2.5 trillion, according to the Congressional Budget Office, Washington’s impartial scorekeeper.Study suggests coronavirus spread earlier than first thoughtA preliminary study of 3,000 New Yorkers found that 13.9% tested positive for coronavirus antibodies, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday.The revelation provides further evidence that the coronavirus spread earlier and infected more people than official tallies show.Both California and Indiana are retracing their coronavirus timelines after discovering that the highly infectious disease started killing people earlier than previously known. In addition, researchers at Northeastern University estimated that the virus had spread widely in major cities as early as March 1.Taken together, these discoveries emphasize just how much about this pandemic remains uncertain and unknown. Four months since the novel coronavirus was first discovered in Wuhan, China, experts worldwide still do not fully understand how the virus started, how it impacts the body or what treatments are effective. Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease expert, said New York’s antibody testing results could be good news, as it means that the virus’s fatality rate may be lower than the official fatality rate.”It tells us this virus is much more widespread than we thought. When we look at the models that are using hospitalization rates and case fatality ratios, that those are likely overestimating because they’re based on skewed data,” he said. “The hospitalization rate may be much lower because the denominator (of people infected) is so much bigger.”I think it’s also in a way reassuring, meaning that we are developing some immunity to this. There are people that have mild illness that don’t know they are sick, and those individuals may be part of how we move forward as we start to think about reopening certain parts of the country.”Still, despite the many unknowns as well as ongoing testing shortages, several U.S. states are planning to loosen their stay-at-home restrictions to alleviate the pains of a flailing economy and high unemployment. Earlier spread than knownCalifornia Gov. Gavin Newsom has asked coroners to review California cases dating to December after autopsies revealed two people in the state died of coronavirus in early and mid-February — up to three weeks before the first known U.S. death from the virus.”We are doing the same across the state and in other counties as well to ultimately help guide a deeper understanding of when this pandemic really started to impact Californians directly,” Newsom said Wednesday.In Indiana, too, officials are tracking cases going back to at least mid-February — weeks before the state announced its first case in early March.A model of the disease’s spread by researchers at Northeastern University estimates that on March 1, while Americans were still focused on China, thousands of people in New York, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago and Seattle were silently infected with coronavirus, according to The New York Times.Governors and mayors are feuding over reopeningThe decision to reopen even as coronavirus deaths linger is pitting governors against mayors in some of the largest cities.Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman said the city’s businesses are ready to reopen, but she did not provide any social distancing guidelines.”For a restaurant to be open or a small boutique to be open, they better figure it out. That’s their job. That’s not the mayor’s job,” Goodman told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.The state’s key leader did not share her enthusiasm. “We are clearly not ready to open,” Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak told CNN. In Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp made the most aggressive move yet to get the state’s economy humming by allowing businesses such as barbershops, nail salons, bowling alleys and gyms to reopen Friday.Trump initially applauded the decision by one of his key Republican allies, a source said, then criticized it during his daily coronavirus briefing Wednesday.”I disagree with him on what he’s doing but I want to let the governors do (what they want),” the president said.The state is struggling with an epidemic that has left about 850 people dead. The mayor of Georgia’s largest city said the decision to reopen left her puzzled.”I have searched my head and my heart on this and I am at a loss as to what the governor is basing this decision on,” said Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, a Democrat.Other states have begun to reopen but in slower steps. In neighboring South Carolina, Gov. Henry McMaster announced certain stores can reopen at 20% capacity along with beaches. Mayor Stephen Benjamin of Columbia accused him of using “arbitrary dates” instead of data to make his decisions.”When you should go back to business is when you have some true indicators over two weeks that show a deceleration of the pandemic,” Benjamin said, referring to one of the White House’s criteria for reopening state economies. “We need more testing. We need more data, and then we can decide how we go back into business.”Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg said the governor’s reopening plan was “a measured response” that took safety and social distancing into account. “It’s not like he opened the barn door and everything flies out,” Tecklenburg said. Gov. Bill Lee has announced that restaurants in Tennessee will be allowed to reopen Monday for dine-in service with reduced seating capacity as part of his effort to reopen large swaths of the state economy by the end of the month.Lee announced earlier this week that he would not extend his mandatory safer-at-home order, which expires April 30. Instead, the Republican said businesses in 89 out of the state’s 95 counties will be allowed to reopen. That did not include the state’s biggest cities, including Nashville, Memphis, Chattanooga and Knoxville.Multiple states extend stay-at-home ordersMeanwhile, several areas are extending stay-at-home orders. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Thursday extended his stay-at-home order through May 30, which was to expire April 30.North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said Thursday that the state’s stay-at-home order from COVID-19 will remain in place for at least another two weeks. The order, which allowed only essential business to open and limited movement by the public, was set to expire next Tuesday. Now it will be extended to May 8.And Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Thursday announced he will extend a ban on nonemergency surgeries for another week.The Associated Press contributed to this report.

The latest:

  • There have been more than 873,000 coronavirus cases in the United States, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally.
  • The U.S. death toll has surpassed 49,000 people, according to Hopkins.
  • Globally, there have been more than 2.7 million cases with more than 190,000 deaths.
  • More evidence is emerging that far more New Yorkers have had the coronavirus than the number confirmed by lab tests.
  • The House is sending President Trump a nearly $500 billion package for small businesses and hospitals for relief.
  • The mayor of Las Vegas is calling for businesses to reopen, but she’s not providing any social distancing guidelines on how to safely do so.
  • More than 4.4 million laid-off workers applied for U.S. unemployment benefits last week as job cuts escalated across an economy that remains all but shut down.

The House is sending President Donald Trump a fourth bipartisan bill to help businesses crippled by the coronavirus, an almost $500 billion measure that many lawmakers are already looking beyond.

The measure passed almost unanimously, but the lopsided tally belies a potentially bumpier path ahead as battle lines are being formed for much more ambitious future legislation that may prove far more difficult to maneuver through Congress.

Anchoring the bill is the Trump administration’s $250 billion funding request to replenish a fund to help small- and medium-size businesses with payroll, rent and other expenses. The payroll program provides forgivable loans so businesses can continue paying workers while forced to stay closed for social distancing and stay-at-home orders.

Supporters are already warning that more money will be needed almost immediately for the business-backed Paycheck Protection Program. Battle lines are forming over the next measure amid growing demands to help out state and local governments, the Postal Service and first responders.

Thursday’s vote in the House brings the total cost of the four bipartisan bills to respond to various impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic to about $2.5 trillion, according to the Congressional Budget Office, Washington’s impartial scorekeeper.

Study suggests coronavirus spread earlier than first thought

A preliminary study of 3,000 New Yorkers found that 13.9% tested positive for coronavirus antibodies, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday.

The revelation provides further evidence that the coronavirus spread earlier and infected more people than official tallies show.

Both California and Indiana are retracing their coronavirus timelines after discovering that the highly infectious disease started killing people earlier than previously known. In addition, researchers at Northeastern University estimated that the virus had spread widely in major cities as early as March 1.

Taken together, these discoveries emphasize just how much about this pandemic remains uncertain and unknown. Four months since the novel coronavirus was first discovered in Wuhan, China, experts worldwide still do not fully understand how the virus started, how it impacts the body or what treatments are effective.

Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease expert, said New York’s antibody testing results could be good news, as it means that the virus’s fatality rate may be lower than the official fatality rate.

“It tells us this virus is much more widespread than we thought. When we look at the models that are using hospitalization rates and case fatality ratios, that those are likely overestimating because they’re based on skewed data,” he said. “The hospitalization rate may be much lower because the denominator (of people infected) is so much bigger.

“I think it’s also in a way reassuring, meaning that we are developing some immunity to this. There are people that have mild illness that don’t know they are sick, and those individuals may be part of how we move forward as we start to think about reopening certain parts of the country.”

Still, despite the many unknowns as well as ongoing testing shortages, several U.S. states are planning to loosen their stay-at-home restrictions to alleviate the pains of a flailing economy and high unemployment.

Earlier spread than known

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has asked coroners to review California cases dating to December after autopsies revealed two people in the state died of coronavirus in early and mid-February — up to three weeks before the first known U.S. death from the virus.

“We are doing the same across the state and in other counties as well to ultimately help guide a deeper understanding of when this pandemic really started to impact Californians directly,” Newsom said Wednesday.

In Indiana, too, officials are tracking cases going back to at least mid-February — weeks before the state announced its first case in early March.

A model of the disease’s spread by researchers at Northeastern University estimates that on March 1, while Americans were still focused on China, thousands of people in New York, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago and Seattle were silently infected with coronavirus, according to The New York Times.

Governors and mayors are feuding over reopening

The decision to reopen even as coronavirus deaths linger is pitting governors against mayors in some of the largest cities.

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman said the city’s businesses are ready to reopen, but she did not provide any social distancing guidelines.

“For a restaurant to be open or a small boutique to be open, they better figure it out. That’s their job. That’s not the mayor’s job,” Goodman told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

The state’s key leader did not share her enthusiasm. “We are clearly not ready to open,” Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak told CNN.

In Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp made the most aggressive move yet to get the state’s economy humming by allowing businesses such as barbershops, nail salons, bowling alleys and gyms to reopen Friday.

Trump initially applauded the decision by one of his key Republican allies, a source said, then criticized it during his daily coronavirus briefing Wednesday.

“I disagree with him on what he’s doing but I want to let the governors do (what they want),” the president said.

The state is struggling with an epidemic that has left about 850 people dead. The mayor of Georgia’s largest city said the decision to reopen left her puzzled.

“I have searched my head and my heart on this and I am at a loss as to what the governor is basing this decision on,” said Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, a Democrat.

Other states have begun to reopen but in slower steps. In neighboring South Carolina, Gov. Henry McMaster announced certain stores can reopen at 20% capacity along with beaches. Mayor Stephen Benjamin of Columbia accused him of using “arbitrary dates” instead of data to make his decisions.

“When you should go back to business is when you have some true indicators over two weeks that show a deceleration of the pandemic,” Benjamin said, referring to one of the White House’s criteria for reopening state economies. “We need more testing. We need more data, and then we can decide how we go back into business.”

Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg said the governor’s reopening plan was “a measured response” that took safety and social distancing into account. “It’s not like he opened the barn door and everything flies out,” Tecklenburg said.

Gov. Bill Lee has announced that restaurants in Tennessee will be allowed to reopen Monday for dine-in service with reduced seating capacity as part of his effort to reopen large swaths of the state economy by the end of the month.

Lee announced earlier this week that he would not extend his mandatory safer-at-home order, which expires April 30. Instead, the Republican said businesses in 89 out of the state’s 95 counties will be allowed to reopen. That did not include the state’s biggest cities, including Nashville, Memphis, Chattanooga and Knoxville.

Multiple states extend stay-at-home orders

Meanwhile, several areas are extending stay-at-home orders. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Thursday extended his stay-at-home order through May 30, which was to expire April 30.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said Thursday that the state’s stay-at-home order from COVID-19 will remain in place for at least another two weeks. The order, which allowed only essential business to open and limited movement by the public, was set to expire next Tuesday. Now it will be extended to May 8.

And Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Thursday announced he will extend a ban on nonemergency surgeries for another week.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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