Trump proposes economic stimulus plan for coronavirus Graphic via Tania Lili for Courier

The president plans to meet with Republican Congress members to float cuts to payroll taxes, as well as protections for hourly wage-earners who may have to stay home, among other measures. 

Following exposure to lawmakers who had contact with a conference attendee infected with COVID-19, President Trump is not being tested for the disease (according to his spokeswoman, the president does not have any symptoms) nor is he planning to introduce any new health measures to safeguard Americans from its spread. 

He is, however, meeting with Republican Congress members on Tuesday to float an economic stimulus package that includes cuts to payroll taxes, as well as protections for hourly wage-earners who may have to stay home, and an increase in small business loans. 

“It’s not their fault,” he told reporters on Monday, referring to affected workers. “It’s not our country’s fault. This was something that we were thrown into and we’re going to handle it and we have been handling it very well.”

He added: “The main thing is that we’re taking care of the American public and we will be taking care of the American public.”

The proposed plan—of which the details are still being fleshed out—comes on the heels of the worst stock market plunge in 10 years Monday. Trump initially sought to blame the drop on falling oil prices rather than anxiety over a global pandemic.

The latest figures show there are at least 747 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, with 26 deaths.

(by Emiene Wright)

Ted Cruz Quarantined After He Shook Hand of Man With Coronavirus

Two Republican members of Congress announced Sunday they would self-quarantine themselves after being in close contact with a person who attended a conservative conference outside Washington D.C. in late February and later tested positive for coronavirus.

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas released a statement revealing that he had interacted with the person at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), where they engaged in a brief conversation and shared a handshake. Cruz said he wasn’t experiencing any symptoms and felt fine, but planned to self-quarantine himself at his house out of an “abundance of caution.” 

“Because of how frequently I interact with my constituents as a part of my job and to give everyone peace of mind, I have decided to remain at my home in Texas this week, until a full 14 days have passed since the CPAC interaction,” Cruz said. 

Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona, who also interacted with the infected attendee at CPAC, announced Sunday that he too would self-quarantine. 

“I was with the individual for an extended period of time, and we shook hands several times,” Gosar said. “I am not currently experiencing any symptoms, nor is any member of my staff. However, in order to prevent any potential transmission, I will remain at my home in Arizona until the conclusion of the 14 day period following my interaction with this individual.”

In his statement, Cruz also urged Americans to “treat this outbreak seriously and be driven by facts and medical science.”

“We need to continue to be proactive in mobilizing resources to combat this outbreak-including the $8.3 billion in emergency funding we provided last week-and I encourage everyone to follow the recommendations of the CDC and other health professionals in protecting their own health and welfare, as well as the health and welfare of those around them,” Cruz said. 

While Cruz, other lawmakers, and health officials continue to emphasize the urgency of the crisis, President Trump continues to downplay the outbreak’s severity. 

Trump spent most of Monday raging on Twitter, where he alternated between praising himself, blaming the “fake news” for Monday’s stock market crash, trying to reassure a frightened nation that the coronavirus was comparable to the flu, and attacking the Obama administration.

Here’s the rest of Monday’s coronavirus news:

  • There are more than 500 confirmed cases in the United States, including 22 deaths. Globally, the outbreak has sickened more than 110,200 people in 97 countries and killed at least 3,835 people.
  • Italy has issued a lockdown for the northern region of the country, with restrictions preventing the free movement of nearly 16 million people, including residents of Milan and Venice. 
  • In the United States, the leading American expert on infectious diseases, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, warned Sunday that similar regional lockdowns were on the table in the United States.
  • Schools continue to close across the country as the number of confirmed cases increases and fears over children’s health and safety grows.
  • The stock market crashed Monday morning, with the S&P 500 dropping by more than 7% and triggering a 15-minute trading halt. Stocks rebounded slightly upon the market’s re-opening, but the turmoil continued for the rest of the day, with the S&P 500, Dow Jones, and Nasdaq each hovering around a 6% loss as of publication.
  • A cruise ship containing at least 21 people who tested positive for coronavirus is expected to dock in Oakland on Monday, after which the more than 3,500 passengers and crew members will be quarantined. The real number of coronavirus cases on the ship is likely much higher, as only 45 people in total have been tested.

Published March 9, 2020 1:20 PM

Wall Street Plummets Again As Coronavirus Fears Grow

The stock market plunged once again on Friday morning, amidst the continued surge in coronavirus cases. 

The Dow Jones opened down another 800 points, after falling 970 points on Thursday. The Nasdaq and S&P 500 also slid about 3% each, after experiencing similar drops on Thursday. Friday morning’s volatility follows an already tumultuous week on Wall Street that has seen the Dow post two 1,000-point increases and one 800-point decrease. 

On Wednesday, a day after the Fed announced it was reducing interest rates, the Dow surged nearly 12,000 points, more than 4.5%, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq climbed around 4% each. 

Most of those gains were wiped out on Thursday, a day that also saw more dire headlines about the continued spread of coronavirus. There have been at least 227 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, and 14 Americans have died from the virus, all but one in Washington State. 

With reports of new cases in New Jersey, Maryland, and Tennessee on Thursday, 21 states in the U.S. now have infected patients. California, which has at least 66 known cases, declared a state of emergency on Wednesday, as did Maryland on Thursday. San Francisco and Houston also announced their first cases, and there are two “presumed” cases in Pennsylvania, according to the state’s Gov. Tom Wolf.

Globally, the outbreak has sickened more than 100,000 people and killed at least 3,401, all but 359 in mainland China. As the number of cases and deaths rise, fear over a possible pandemic has led to the cancellation or postponement of music festivals, movie releases, conferences, and is even threatening the summer Olympics. The outbreak has also caused severe economic damage to airlines, who stand to lose as much as $113 billion in global revenue, the International Air Transport Association said Thursday.

President Trump on Friday signed into law an $8.3 billion emergency aid package aimed at fighting the growing epidemic. The bill cleared the House on Wednesday and the Senate on Thursday.

While that funding could aid the Trump administration’s response to battling the outbreak, it’s unclear whether it will do anything to quell investors and economists’ growing concerns. The Institute for International Finance cut its outlook for the global economy on Thursday, downgrading its 2020 forecast for growth in the U.S. to 1.3%. The group also warned that global growth could drop to 1%, well below the 2.6% growth of 2019.

The virus hasn’t hurt every sector of the economy though. Companies like Costco have seen a spike in sales as concern over the virus has led panicked consumers to stock up on supplies, including canned goods, hand sanitizer, and protective masks.

Published March 6, 2020 10:20 AM

Congress Will Approve $8.3 Billion to Battle Coronavirus After 11 Americans Die

The House of Representatives approved $8.3 billion in emergency coronavirus funding on Wednesday, as the number of deaths and cases in the country continued to rise. 

Washington State confirmed its 10th death on Wednesday, while California announced its first fatality from the virus—the first death outside of Washington. There are currently at least 152 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, 51 of which are in California. Worldwide, the outbreak has infected more than 95,700 people and killed at least 3,281, all but 268 in mainland China.

The House bill, which is expected to be passed by the Senate and signed into law by President Trump by the end of the week, will provide nearly $7.8 billion for agencies dealing with the virus. The New York Times reports that the package also includes about $500 million to allow Medicare providers to administer tele-health services to elderly patients—who are at greater risk from the virus—so they can be treated at home.

The funding bill comes as the Trump administration has endured severe criticism for its response to the outbreak. The administration has been come under fire for its narrow testing criteria, lack of available tests, and inconsistent public statements. President Trump on Wednesday tried to blame former President Barack Obama for making widespread testing less available. (Obama has been out of office for three full years.)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also announced Wednesday it would broaden guidelines to allow doctors to test any patients who exhibit symptoms such as cough, fever, or difficulty breathing. The new standard will dramatically increase the number of patients who can be checked, though the capacity to perform those tests remains limited and experts worry the expansion could strain the healthcare system.

In Washington state, these systems are already being pushed to a breaking point. The region’s medical resources are “under incredible stress right now,” Patty Hayes, director of public health for Seattle and King County, told the New York Times. “We need to slow the spread of disease to the point where our health care system can continue to handle the load.”

Published March 5, 2020 7:30 AM

Fed Slashes Interest Rates to Deal With Coronavirus Fallout. Market Drops 800 Points Anyway.

Amidst growing fears that the coronavirus outbreak could cause a global recession, the Federal Reserve announced an emergency interest rate cut on Tuesday, slashing the benchmark U.S. interest rate by half a percentage point.

The emergency cut, the largest since the 2008 financial crisis, comes after Wall Street suffered its worst week since that very same crisis. 

“My colleagues and I took this action to help the U.S. economy keep strong in the face of new risks to the economic outlook,” Fed Chair Jerome H. Powell said at a press conference shortly after the announcement.

Fed leaders voted unanimously to reduce the U.S. interest rate to a range of 1% to 1.25% in order to help stabilize the economy and financial markets as the coronavirus spreads.

Lower interest rates traditionally spur borrowing, investing, and spending. It’s unclear, however, whether cutting rates will lead people to spend more money during an outbreak. Cutting rates also won’t address the rapid spread of coronavirus, which has shuttered factories and broken the supply chain, led to a massive reduction in travel, and spooked investors. 

The reduction comes after President Trump on Monday called on the Fed to reduce rates, citing reductions in other countries, such as Australia. On Tuesday, after the Fed announced its rate cut, Trump called on the Fed to further reduce rates.

Economists have warned that the outbreak could cut global economic growth in half, potentially causing recession in many countries. In the United States, Goldman Sachs projected that economic growth could stall in the second quarter, but stopped short of predicting a recession.

Stocks initially surged on the news, but then quickly slid again, and the Dow Jones, Nasdaq, and S&P 500 each closed down more than 3%.

During his press conference, Powell acknowledged the Fed could not create a vaccine or solve all of the economic problems caused by coronavirus, but said the Fed would do what it could.

“We don’t think we have all the answers, but we do believe our action will provide [support] to the economy,” Powell said.

He also left the door open to take further action, saying the Fed was “prepared to use our tools and act appropriately, depending on the flow of events.”

Nine Americans have now died from the coronavirus outbreak, all in Washington State.

Published March 3, 4:44 PM

Will We Have 1 Million Coronavirus Tests By Week’s End? Probably Not.

Nearly a million tests for coronavirus could be ready by the end of this week, the Trump administration announced Monday. Private companies and academic labs recruited to develop their own tests, however, are already pushing back on that number, sowing further confusion. 

“We expect to have a substantial increase in the number of tests this week, next week, and throughout the month,” Dr. Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said Monday during a White House press briefing. “There will be — the estimates we’re getting from industry right now, by the end of this week, close to a million tests will be able to be performed.”

The promised increase in tests comes after the FDA announced Saturday that hundreds of academic medical centers that developed and validated their own tests could begin testing patients immediately. But the New York Times reports that both public and private labs have said they’re not even close to reaching thousands, let alone a million performed tests. 

The figure includes orders for commercial tests that companies like Hologic, Cepheid, and Qiagen have said are still weeks away from FDA approval, let alone distribution. Public health labs, meanwhile, have said their capacity doesn’t come anywhere near the one-million number.

The announced expansion of testing comes after the number of cases in the United States crossed 100 and the outbreak claimed its first American lives, with six deaths reported in Washington State since Saturday.

Globally, the outbreak has infected more than 92,200 people and killed at least 3,127 people, all but 182 in mainland China. The outbreak has also rattled global markets, and the Trump administration has come under fire for its response to the virus. 

The lack of readily available testing has been criticized by medical professionals.

“In New York State, the person who tested positive was only the 32nd test we’ve done in this state. That is a national scandal,” Dr. Matt McCarthy, staff physician at New York Presbyterian Hospital, said in a Monday interview with CNBC.

As of Monday, the CDC had tested fewer than 500 people for the virus. In contrast, countries like South Korea have tested thousands per week. (South Korea even has a drive-through testing station.) As the CDC came under increasing scrutiny on Monday, the agency removed its data on how many people had been tested from its website. The agency has also come under fire for sending states faulty testing kits and instituting narrow testing criteria, which led to delays in testing symptomatic patients, some of whom were later diagnosed with coronavirus.

Vice President Mike Pence, who is leading the Trump administration’s coronavirus response and joined Hahn at the briefing, tried to reassure the American people. 

“The risk to the American people of the coronavirus remains low,” Pence said.

Others disagreed. Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told NBC on Monday that the virus had “reached outbreak proportions and likely pandemic proportions.”

Published March 3, 12:51 PM

—–

Six Americans Have Now Died

The coronavirus outbreak has claimed its first victims in the United States.

A Washington State man in his 50s was announced as the first death on Saturday. The following day, officials said a second man who was in his 70s and had underlying health conditions had also died. Both men were patients at EvergreenHealth Hospital in Kirkland, a suburb of Seattle. 

State health officials announced four more deaths on Monday. Further details were not immediately available. 

More cases are expected to be identified in Washington State, where a genetic analysis of the virus suggested that it could have been spreading through the community for six weeks before the first case was detected.

“This strongly suggests that there has been cryptic transmission in Washington State for the past 6 weeks,” wrote Trevor Bedford, a computational biologist at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. “I believe we’re facing an already substantial outbreak in Washington State that was not detected until now due to narrow case definition requiring direct travel to China.”

The number of cases also rose nationwide, from just 65 on Friday to more than 90 on Monday, with new cases identified in California, Florida, Illinois, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington. The new cases include people who traveled to high-risk countries, but also those who are believed to have contracted the disease within the U.S.

Globally, the virus has sickened nearly 90,000 people in 67 countries and killed 3,074, all but 162 in mainland China.

The uptick is expected to continue as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finally broadened its testing guidelines last week. Previously, the CDC’s testing criteria was narrow, focusing only on those who had been to China or in contact with someone who traveled there. This led to delays in testing patients, some of whom exhibited infectious symptoms and were later diagnosed with coronavirus

The initial round of tests the CDC sent to states were also faulty, forcing states and localities to send tests back to CDC headquarters in Atlanta, further delaying test results. Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former head of the FDA, said on CNBC that “we lost critical weeks” in addressing the virus. 

The CDC postponed its daily media briefing on Monday and has yet to comment publicly.

“This is not good,” said Dr. Matt McCarthy, a staff physician at New York Presbyterian Hospital, during an interview with CNBC. “We know that there are 88 cases in the United States, there are going to be hundreds by the middle of the week, there’s going to be thousands by next week.”

Published March 2, 2:07 PM

Clarification: A prior version of this article omitted information about Dr. Matt McCarthy’s role at New York Presbyterian Hospital. The article has been updated to include his position.