Republican opposition to jobless aid delays final action on $2 trillion stimulus plan.
A last-minute dispute over jobless aid was delaying a final Senate vote expected on Wednesday to approve sweeping legislation to deliver $2 trillion in government relief for an economy battered by the coronavirus pandemic.
Four Republican senators said they believed the bill, which would provide a substantial expansion of unemployment insurance — including more generous benefits for a longer period of time, available to a more Americans — could incentivize some employees to leave their jobs and go on unemployment. The senators argued that the measure as written could result in some workers getting more in unemployment payments than their regular wages, and said they would object to fast-tracking a vote until their concerns were addressed.
“If this is not a drafting error, then this is the worst idea I have seen in a long time,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina. “We need to create a sustainable system.”
Republicans who wrote the provision with the Trump administration said there was no mistake, and that Mr. Graham and the other Republicans were misinterpreting the plan.
“Nothing in this bill incentivizes businesses to lay off employees, in fact it’s just the opposite,” said Taylor Foy, a spokesman for Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa and the Finance Committee chairman. He noted that people who voluntarily leave their jobs are not eligible for unemployment benefits.
But the Republican reservations had a cascading effect. Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont and a Democratic presidential candidate, said if Republicans insisted on their objections, he would block the bill for being too lenient on corporations.
There were other criticisms of the package. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York said that the bill “would really be terrible for the state of New York.”
The governor said the bill would provide the New York’s state government with only $3.8 billion, at a moment when its response to the virus is increasing expenses — and the economic shutdown is driving down tax collections. Mr. Cuomo said that the state faces a potential revenue shortfall of between $9 billion and $15 billion, far more than the stimulus bill would provide. “That is a drop in the bucket, as to need,” he said.
The bill contains $150 billion to help state and local governments. Last week the United States Conference of Mayors sent a letter urging lawmakers to send $250 billion directly to cities, writing, “Without significant federal assistance, we soon will be faced with having to make decisions that could include laying off employees, cutting budgets, and reducing or eliminating critically needed services.”
The legislation, which is expected to be enacted within days, is the biggest economic relief package in modern American history, dwarfing the Wall Street bailout of 2008 during the financial crisis. The aim is to deliver critical financial support to businesses forced to shut their doors and relief to American families and hospitals reeling from the rapid spread of the disease and the resulting economic disruption.
Senate leaders still hoped to vote on it later Wednesday, and the House was expected to follow suit on Thursday.
New York sees early signs that social distancing could be working.
As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New York continued to grow — reaching more than 30,000 — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Wednesday that there were early signs that the state’s stringent restrictions on social gatherings could be slowing the virus’s spread.
In a briefing on Wednesday, Mr. Cuomo said there were indications that social distancing measures put in place in New York appeared to be helping — but that more needed to be done. “The evidence suggests that the density control measures may be working,” he said.
On Sunday, for example, the state’s projections showed hospitalizations doubling every two days. By Tuesday, the estimates showed hospitalizations doubling every 4.7 days, he said — adding the caveat that such a projection was “almost too good to be true.”
He cited encouraging news from Westchester County, where the rate of infection has slowed. “We have dramatically slowed what was an exponential rate of increase,” Mr. Cuomo said. “That was the hottest cluster in the United States of America. We closed the schools, we closed gatherings, we brought in testing, and we have dramatically slowed the increase.”
New York State, which has tested more people than any other state, now has 30,811 confirmed cases, an increase of more than 5,000 since Tuesday morning. New York City has 17,856 confirmed cases.
But Mr. Cuomo said that more needed to be done, particularly to make it easier to maintain social distancing in New York City, the most densely populated major city in the United States.
Mr. Cuomo said that the city would begin a limited pilot program to begin closing some streets to automobile traffic to give pedestrians more space outside, and to institute new rules to limit density in the city’s playgrounds.
“No basketball,” he said.
The outbreak already led Broadway theaters to go dark, and on Wednesday the Tony Awards, which had been scheduled for June 7, were postponed until an undecided date.
Even as the crisis deepened in New York, which does not have enough hospital beds or equipment to handle the cases it expects, President Trump pressed to reopen the country for business by Easter, on April 12. The president issued his goal despite widespread warnings from public health experts that the worst effects of the outbreak were still to come and that lifting the restrictions now in place would result in unnecessary deaths.
The number of new coronavirus cases in the United States has rapidly increased in recent days, with more than 20,000 new cases diagnosed on Monday and Tuesday alone, in part because of expanded testing. That spike brings the country’s total cases to nearly 60,000.
Mr. Cuomo has said that with cases doubling every three days in New York City, as many as 140,000 people might need urgent care in the next few weeks. In New York City, 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 into a hospital to handle an imminent surge of patients.
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 Mr. Cuomo said the state needed tens of thousands more.
More than 200 people have already died statewide.
States shun visitors to limit the spread of the virus.
Florida has a message for New Yorkers: Please don’t visit.
Hawaii, another state that thrives on tourism, is asking tourists to stay away for a month.
And Alaska is requiring a 14-day quarantine for anyone entering that state from, as Alaskans put it, Outside.
It is a rare circumstance in the United States, a country where travel between states is generally welcomed, that states are suddenly looking for ways to discourage residents of other states from coming into theirs. They are on particular alert for travelers from New York City, which has far more cases than any other area in the country.
Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida signed an executive order this week requiring a 14-day quarantine of anyone who had arrived from the New York region over the past three weeks.
Stephen Moosbrugger received the quarantine orders when he landed in Miami on Tuesday evening from New York. He had planned to reunite with his wife in their Miami Beach apartment, but opted to ride out the quarantine in a hotel room after telephoning his son from the airport.
“He said, ‘Well, Dad, that’s really stupid,’” Mr. Moosbrugger, 64, recalled with a chuckle. “It’s a shame when your child is lecturing the father.”
But in some places, cross-border travel seems unlikely to slow. Mayor Randy Hibberd of Weiser, Idaho said he had gone to a doctor’s appointment in Boise the other day, a trip that took him briefly into Oregon, which has reported nearly three times as many cases.
“I was asked when I got there if I’d been out of state and I said ‘Yeah, this morning,’” he said. “You can’t close things down.”
Schools extend closings, and some signal that students may not return until next year.
As the virus spreads, school systems around the country are extending closings that superintendents once hoped would only last for a few weeks.
School districts in six Bay Area counties, including San Francisco, said on Wednesday that the schools would remain closed at least through May 1, and Maryland said the state would keep schools shuttered for another month, until at least April 24. In Connecticut, the governor extended the suspension of in-school classes through April 20 but indicated that students could stay at home until fall. And in Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker said that he would keep schools closed at least through at least May 4.
“This is not an extended school vacation,” Mr. Baker said Wednesday, saying that schools would continue to develop programs for home instruction.
Some states have already gone farther. Virginia officials announced this week that schools would not reopen until the fall. Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly was the first to take that drastic step when, last week, she ordered all schools to close until the fall.
At least 55 million K-12 students in every state have been affected by the coronavirus, according to Education Week, a website that is tracking the closings.
To ensure hot spots get what they need, experts say Washington should manage the nation’s ventilator supply.
As hospitals prepare for a flood of desperately ill patients unable to breathe on their own, public health experts are calling on the federal government to oversee the nation’s ventilator supply so hospitals overwhelmed by coronavirus patients are not forced to ration the lifesaving equipment.
There are currently fewer than 200,000 ventilators in the United States, when nearly a million could be needed over the course of the pandemic. As leaders continue to wrangle over how to increase the supply of the crucial equipment, experts are suggesting that the existing stock could be used more efficiently.
Because peak coronavirus infections will hit cities and regions at different times in the coming months, experts are calling for a centralized federal effort to send machines to infection hot spots from cities and states that have yet to experience significant numbers of cases.
“This is a national crisis,” said Frank Kendall, who served as under secretary of defense for acquisition and logistics in the Obama administration. “In a time of scarcity, you can’t leave it up to companies and governors to manage it themselves.”
Mr. Kendall said that only the federal government had the authority to take over the allocation of ventilators, both from manufacturers who are in the business of selling devices to the highest bidder, and state leaders who are unlikely to voluntarily let go of machines they fear they might need in the future.
“As the states become more desperate, someone has to referee the situation,” he said. “The marketplace isn’t set up to do that.”
After criticism, Gilead withdraws its request for special status for an experimental virus treatment.
Bowing to criticism that it was exploiting the coronavirus pandemic, the drugmaker Gilead said Wednesday that it would no longer seek a special designation it was granted earlier this week for remdesivir, an experimental drug being tested as a possible treatment.
The Food and Drug Administration had only granted the special designation, known as orphan-drug status, on Monday. The status gives drug companies a seven-year monopoly on sales, tax credits and expedited approval. Gilead said it asked the agency to rescind the status.
The company’s decision to seek orphan status for the drug had drawn immediate criticism. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, called it “truly outrageous,” noting that Gilead had received “tens of millions” of dollars from the federal government to develop the drug.
The consumer group Public Citizen and other health groups sent a letter on Wednesday to Gilead’s chief executive, Daniel O’Day, asking him to reverse course.
No treatment has been proved to be effective against the virus, and Gilead is just one of several companies with drugs in trials around the world.
The orphan-drug designation was intended to encourage development of drugs that treat diseases affecting fewer than 200,000 people in the United States, but the status has come under scrutiny because some drug companies have obtained it for blockbuster drugs and reaped millions, if not billions, of dollars in sales. Without orphan-drug status, a company like Gilead would receive five years of monopoly protection for a new drug approval.
As states delay primaries, June 2 is suddenly a major date in the Democratic race.
Pennsylvania is poised to become the 10th state to delay its presidential primary election because of the coronavirus pandemic, with its State Senate voting in an extraordinary remote session Wednesday afternoon to move the contest from April 28 to June 2.
Gov. Tom Wolf, who has said he favors the delay, was expected to sign the measure as early as Wednesday evening.
With numerous states, including Indiana, Connecticut and Ohio, pushing or preparing to push 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.
Members of the Pennsylvania Senate, voting unanimously, cited the pleas of county elections officials, who said the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus outbreak made it impossible to gear up for an election by the end of April. The Pennsylvania House of Representatives approved the delay earlier Wednesday.
The postponement will also affect a number of other elections in Pennsylvania, including congressional primaries.
Nine other states, as well as Puerto Rico, have taken action over the past two weeks to adjust the dates of their elections as the campaign calendar has been upended by the outbreak. Elections officials in New York are also considering postponing that state’s April 28 primary, with June 23 as the likely replacement.
Pennsylvania would be the sixth state to shift its primary to June 2, joining five other contests already scheduled for that Tuesday.
Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, has 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 Birkhall, their home in Scotland.
“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.
Prince Charles is the eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II, who went into self-isolation last week, leaving Buckingham Palace for her country home, Windsor Castle.
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, though it was not clear how they had arrived at that assessment.
The incubation period for the coronavirus varies by patient, according to the World Health Organization, with most people showing symptoms about five days from the date they were infected. But it can incubate for as long as 14 days, which, given when Charles began showing symptoms, would be before he met with his mother.
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.”
With the announcement, Charles joins a growing list of actors, musicians, athletes and public figures, including Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and Prince Albert II of Monaco, who have also tested positive for the virus.
Some of the first actors to announce they had contracted the virus were Tom Hanks, Idris Elba and Daniel Dae Kim. Several N.B.A. players have tested positive, including two Utah Jazz stars and Kevin Durant, one of four players who has the virus on the Brooklyn Nets.
Several notable figures have died of complications related to the coronavirus, including Terrence McNally, a Tony-winning playwright; Aurlus Mabele, a Congolese singer; Floyd Cardoz, an international restaurateur and chef; and Manu Dibango, a saxophonist from Cameroon.
Citing coronavirus, Putin delays a key vote that would allow him to stay in power another 16 years.
Calling for “discipline and responsibility” in confronting the coronavirus, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Wednesday ordered a weeklong national holiday starting Saturday and announced the postponement of a referendum next month on whether he can rule until 2036.
In a televised address to the nation from his country residence outside Moscow, Mr. Putin stopped short of ordering a nationwide lockdown — as India and several European countries have done — but still warned that, despite the relatively few confirmed infections so far in Russia, it was “objectively impossible” to stop the virus from spreading.
The decision to postpone until further notice a vote scheduled for April 22 to endorse constitutional changes that would allow Mr. Putin to crash through term limits means that the virus has achieved a feat that has eluded the Kremlin’s largely powerless opponents: It has slowed the previously relentless march toward a coronation of Mr. Putin as president for life.
Mr. Putin, in his first public address about the pandemic, said, “We managed to restrain the spread of the disease, but it is impossible to completely block its infiltration.”
He added: “Don’t think that, ‘this doesn’t concern me.’ It concerns everyone.”
Mr. Putin said the national holiday would not apply to shops, pharmacies, public transport, banks or government offices.
He left up in the air whether the Kremlin would continue as planned with its biggest event of the year — nationwide celebrations on May 9 to mark the 75th anniversary of the Red Army’s victory over Nazi Germany. Current plans include a huge military parade through the center of Moscow and large gatherings of spectators.
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, stirring alarm that Russia could be following the same path.
Stocks inch higher ahead of an expected bailout for the airline industry.
Stocks on Wall Street rose on Wednesday, as investors sized up a $2 trillion coronavirus rescue package intended to shore up the American economy, but the gains faded late in the day as debate over the bill continued without a vote in the Senate.
The S&P 500 climbed 1 percent, adding to a 9.4 percent gain on Tuesday that had come as investors anticipated a bipartisan deal on the plans.
Some of the companies expected to benefit from government aid helped drive Wednesday’s rise. Boeing, whose stock price was below $100 a share as recently as Monday, closed at $158.73. Major airlines, including American, Delta and United, all posted double-digit percentage gains.
The airline industry is poised to receive an enormous bailout as part of the stimulus bill, including billions to pay employees of passenger and cargo carriers. In exchange for the aid, airlines are prohibited from stock buybacks and dividends until a year after the loan is repaid. They must also maintain current staffing levels through September.
In recent weeks, the outlook for the global aviation business has soured significantly, with major carriers like American fighting for survival and United eliminating virtually all of its international flights for April. During that time, airline executives and industry groups had been lobbying the White House and members of Congress for aid.
The provisions almost exactly mirror what the industry lobbying group, Airlines for America, said would be necessary to stave off devastation of the industry.
Governments elsewhere have also been laying out plans to help economies worldwide. 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.
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.
Spain turns an ice-skating rink into a makeshift morgue.
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 — putting the nation 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 as many bodies as they were one 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,” Javier Fernández, the two-time world champion Spanish figure skater, told the television channel Antena 3. “If they need all the ice skating rinks of Spain, I’m sure they will do that.”
The crisis continued to mount across the globe.
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.”
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 outbreak until the crisis had passed.
On Wednesday, the United Nations said it hoped to raise $2 billion to fight the virus in 53 countries — in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and South America — suffering from instability.
These 11 states are letting the uninsured sign up for Obamacare outside the 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 Michael Cooper, Karen Zraick, Alan Blinder, Lara Jakes, Jonah Engel Bromwich, Katie Thomas, Andrew Jacobs, Neal E. Boudette, Matt Richtel, Nicholas Kulish, Mark Landler, Emily Cochrane, Katie Robertson, Andrew Higgins, Johnny Diaz, Derrick Bryson Taylor, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Patricia Mazzei, Julie Bosman, Marc Santora, Megan Specia, Raphael Minder, Anna Schaverien, 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.