Senate passes $2 trillion relief package
Lawmakers unanimously approved an enormous aid measure on Wednesday that would send direct payments of $1,200 to Americans earning up to $75,000, substantially expand help for the jobless, and provide hundreds of billions of dollars in loans to businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi endorsed the legislation and planned to push it through the House on Friday, before sending it to President Trump for his signature. We answered some questions about what’s in the bill, and examined its fine print to learn which groups stand to benefit.
In other developments:
Today’s weekly Labor Department report on unemployment claims is expected to show millions more people seeking benefits, an unprecedented surge. The numbers are to be released at 8:30 a.m. Eastern. Here are the latest financial updates.
The president has pushed the private sector to voluntarily address a shortage of critical medical equipment, particularly ventilators, as he is confronted by calls to take control.
States have instituted a patchwork of rules to dissuade visitors. Florida now requires a 14-day quarantine of anyone who has arrived from the New York region over the past three weeks.
“The Daily”: Today’s episode is about the stimulus package in Congress.
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New York’s hospitals are under siege
Medical facilities in the city are starting to confront the sort of increases in coronavirus cases that have overwhelmed health care systems in China, Italy and other countries.
With ventilators in short supply, the challenges at Elmhurst, a 545-bed public hospital in Queens, show the hardships that medical workers are facing.
Watch: A video by Dr. Colleen Smith, an emergency room doctor at Elmhurst, offers an inside look. “I don’t have the support that I need,” she said.
Related: Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday offered hope that social-distancing measures were starting to slow the growth in hospitalizations.
What’s next: All of the city’s more than 1,800 intensive-care beds are expected to be full by Friday, according to an official briefing obtained by The Times. A 1,000-bed hospital ship is not scheduled to arrive until mid-April, but makeshift facilities at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center could be ready in a week.
Your virus questions answered
We’ve updated the expert guidance we’ve compiled on a range of subjects related to the pandemic, including health, money and travel. We also have tips on how to protect yourself and your community.
Trips to the grocery store are one of the few reasons that many of us are allowed to leave home. We spoke to infectious disease specialists about shopping during the crisis.
Related: Do people who survive the infection become immune? Scientists say the answer is a qualified yes, with some significant unknowns.
Another angle: As people stay home and go online, broadband has slowed around the world. Several tech companies have tried to ease internet traffic, including YouTube, which said this week that it would show videos in standard rather than high definition.
If you have a few minutes, this is worth it
Art in isolation
As daily life grinds to a halt in much of the world, artists are processing the changes.
Our Opinion desk compiled artwork that riffs in mostly whimsical ways on the pandemic. Above, part of a scene from a quarantine-themed coloring book about New York City.
Here’s what else is happening
Guilty plea in New Zealand attack: A white supremacist charged with killing 51 worshipers at two mosques in New Zealand last year unexpectedly changed his plea to guilty today, about two months before he was scheduled to face trial. A sentencing date has not been set.
Fate of former spy: Trump administration officials have concluded that Robert Levinson, a retired F.B.I. agent who disappeared in Iran in 2007 on an unauthorized mission for the C.I.A., died while in Iranian custody, his family announced.
Slower population growth: The U.S. population is growing at its slowest rate since 1919, according to government data released today. The figures, compiled long before the coronavirus pandemic, show the country close to an overall decline.
What we’re reading: The Twitter feed of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. Your briefing writer notes: While the museum is closed during the coronavirus pandemic, its head of security, Tim Send, has also been running its social media accounts. A self-professed Twitter newbie, he provides a virtual tour of the exhibits, charmingly punctuated by dad jokes.
Now, a break from the news
Sam Sifton, the founding editor of NYT Cooking and a former culture editor, has been named assistant managing editor to oversee The Times’s cultural and lifestyles coverage, a role that has new urgency in a time of pandemic.
Many of us are “staying home these days, some working and learning remotely, others out of work, many quietly freaking out alongside loved ones, everyone wondering what exactly to do right now that’s not panicky or scared but joyful, nourishing, fun,” Sam writes. “Our reporters and critics have a lot of ideas about that, and we’ll bring you more every day.”
And now for the Back Story on …
How New York became an epicenter
What is it about New York City that has made the virus surge here?
According to the experts, the single biggest factor is simply the density of the city. Twenty-eight thousand people live in every square mile of New York.
New York has been testing a lot of people. Are the big numbers just a product of that?
We looked into it. New York has conducted more tests than any other state. Even after you account for that, however, the number of cases in New York is much higher.
If you just compare the percentage of tests that have come back positive, it’s about 25 percent in New York, and in California it’s about 5 percent. That doesn’t necessarily mean that five times as many people in New York have it, but it is a sign that the virus is probably more widespread.
What would explain the difference?
What the experts think is that this virus was circulating in the city for much longer than we thought, and it spread before we put in place these social-distancing measures. We are starting to see the ramifications of that now, days and weeks after the virus spread, because it takes time for symptoms to show up.
Does New York’s experience offer any lesson?
I think the most important lesson for the general public is to take this seriously, because the number of cases can escalate extremely quickly, and it will catch you off guard.
That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.
• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Today’s episode is about the negotiations in Congress over the coronavirus relief package.
• Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Passing fancy (three letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
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