Coronavirus Live Updates: House Passes Sweeping Package to Assist Affected Americans

The House early Saturday morning passed a sweeping relief package to assist people affected by the outbreak of the coronavirus, moving to confront a growing pandemic that has upended lives and wreaked havoc on financial markets.

The vote followed a roller-coaster day of negotiations that threatened to veer off track as President Trump criticized the plan during a White House Rose Garden news conference in which he declared a national emergency. Instead, by dusk, Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote to House Democrats saying they had reached an agreement with the administration, and Mr. Trump later tweeted that he would sign the bill “ASAP!”

The measure includes two weeks of paid sick leave and up to three months of paid family and medical leave for Americans who work for businesses with less than 500 employees or the government and are infected by the virus, quarantined, have a sick family member or are impacted by school closures. The relief package also includes enhanced unemployment benefits, free virus testing for those who lack insurance, and additional food aid and federal funds for Medicaid.

The deal was a product of an intense round of talks that unfolded between Ms. Pelosi and Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, as financial markets swung wildly amid uncertainty about the spiraling crisis. It must still be approved by the Senate, which is expected to take up the measure when it returns next week.

Confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States have climbed to more than 2,100, even with sparse testing, and the death toll has risen to at least 48. West Virginia was the only state yet to report a known case of the virus by Friday evening. The United States is facing the prospect that those numbers could soar, as they did in China, Italy, South Korea and other countries.

Apple said on Friday that it would temporarily close most of its stores worldwide, becoming one of the first major retailers to take such drastic measures to fight the coronavirus outbreak.

The company’s chief executive, Timothy D. Cook, said that Apple would shutter all stores until March 27, excluding those in mainland China — where infections have significantly declined recently — and in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

“The most effective way to minimize risk of the virus’s transmission is to reduce density and maximize social distance,” Mr. Cook said in a statement posted to the company’s website.

Many firms around the world are contemplating similar measures as the virus spreads. Patagonia, the outdoor-clothing retailer, said on Friday that it would shut its stores until late March. Starbucks has said it would consider closing stores temporarily as a “last resort.”

The virus has already taken a toll on many businesses, disrupting supply chains and hurting demand in critical markets.

Apple recently reopened all of its 42 stores in China, after closing them for more than a month as the country grappled with the outbreak. But the company struggled to ramp up production of smartphones amid delays at its factories in China.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand has announced that everyone arriving in the country after Sunday night will have to isolate themselves for 14 days. Quarantine for travelers and self-isolation, she said, is the only way to protect the country from community outbreak. The measure applies to citizens of New Zealand as well as foreigners.

“We must go hard, and we must go early,” she said at a news conference Saturday. “We must do everything we can to protect the health of New Zealanders.”

She said the travel restrictions would be reviewed in 16 days. She also announced a suspension of all cruise ship arrivals until at least the end of June.

Ukraine announced a comparably sweeping measure: the country will bar all foreign visitors from entering, starting on Sunday afternoon. Ukrainian citizens will be allowed to return, though they may be quarantined, depending on where they are coming from.

As thousands of Americans flee from Europe and other centers of the coronavirus outbreak, many travelers are reporting no health screenings upon departure and few impediments at U.S. airports.

Since January, officers from Customs and Border Protection have been on heightened alert for travelers who could potentially spread the virus. The Department of Homeland Security has told employees to look for physical symptoms, search through their travel documents and review a federal database that tracks where they came from.

But travelers, including some who say they showed visible signs of illness, say screening has been lax. Members of Congress this week grilled senior officials from the Department of Homeland Security over what some described as a porous screening process.

Even top officials at the department acknowledge the task of fully sealing the United States from the virus is impossible.

“We are trying to reduce and delay the biggest peak in the virus wave hitting on the United States of America,” said Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, the acting deputy secretary of homeland security. “And all of these steps reduce and delay. They do not stop the virus.”

Over the past 24 hours, a question has loomed large over the White House: Would President Trump, 73, be tested after interacting with at least two infected members of the Brazilian delegation that visited his Mar-a-Lago estate last weekend?

Late Friday, Sean P. Conley, the White House physician, offered an answer: Mr. Trump would not be tested — nor would he self-quarantine.

Trump’s interactions with the infected individuals qualified as “LOW risk,” so quarantine was not recommended, Dr. Conley said in a statement. He added that because the president showed no symptoms of the virus, “testing for Covid-19 is not currently indicated.”

Pressure on Mr. Trump to get tested has been growing since Fabio Wajngarten, a top communications aide to President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, tested positive for the coronavirus after visiting Mar-a-Lago. On Friday, two other senior Brazilian officials who accompanied Mr. Bolsonaro on his Florida trip disclosed that they, too, had tested positive for the coronavirus and had gone into quarantine.

One of them, Nestor Forster, Brazil’s top diplomat in Washington, sat at a dinner table with Mr. Trump.

Some medical experts say testing should not be ruled out for people who are asymptomatic, since there is evidence that they can spread the virus to others.

The Pentagon on Friday said it was halting all official travel for military service members in the United States beginning on Monday for nearly three months.

The decision by David L. Norquist, the deputy defense secretary, was another severe measure taken by an American institution to try to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

The new travel restrictions apply to service members, civilians employed by the Department of Defense, and families who are assigned to Department of Defense facilities in the United States . They only apply to official travel. In an unsigned statement, the department said there may be exemptions for “compelling cases” in which the travel is essential to a mission, warranted for humanitarian reasons or necessary because of “extreme hardship.”

As hospitals and governments hunt for respirators and surgical masks to protect doctors and nurses from the coronavirus pandemic, they face a difficult reality: The world depends on China to make them, and the country is only beginning to share.

China made half the world’s masks before the coronavirus emerged there, and it has expanded production nearly 12-fold since then. But it has been claiming that output for itself in large part.

“Mask exports are still not authorized, but we are following the situation every day,” said Guillaume Laverdure, chief operating officer of Medicom, a Canadian manufacturer that makes three million masks a day at its Shanghai factory.

Worries about mask supplies are rising worldwide, putting pressure on China to meet the needs, even as it continues to grapple with the coronavirus itself. Although government data suggests China has brought infection rates under control, epidemiologists warn that its outbreak could flare again as officials loosen travel limits and more people return to work.

The rate of new infections in China has continued to slow. On Friday, just 11 new cases were confirmed, officials said — four in Wuhan, the city where the outbreak began, and seven among travelers who had arrived from abroad. Thirteen deaths were also reported, bringing China’s total official death toll from the outbreak to 3,189, out of 80,824 infections.

More schools are closing, more companies are asking employees to work remotely. Here are some tips to help you work from home more efficiently, and balance home-schooling for your children.

And here is more coverage on how the coronavirus affects your day-to-day life here.

On Broadway, theater doors are shut. In Milan, the Teatro alla Scala opera house is silent. In Paris, theaters including the storied Comédie-Française announced on Friday they were closing down too.

Across the United States and across Europe, theaters and other cultural venues have drawn the curtains as authorities try to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

But on Friday afternoon, inside the National Theater in London, the show was going on. Dozens of people milled around in the foyer of the concrete building on the south bank of the river Thames, many of them with a drink in hand. They were about to go in and see “The Seven Streams of the River Ota,” Robert Lepage’s seven-hour saga about the repercussions of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

Tasha Kitcher, 22, said she wasn’t worried about sitting next to a stranger for such a long time. “We’re British,” she said, “so it’s, like, whatever.”

Can social isolation help reduce the production of greenhouse gases and end up having unexpected consequences for climate change?

“Any time you can avoid getting on a plane, getting in a car or eating animal products, that’s a substantial climate savings,” said Kimberly Nicholas, a researcher at the Lund University Center for Sustainability Studies in Sweden.

Many people trying to avoid the coronavirus are already two-thirds of the way there.

“For average Americans, the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions is driving,” Dr. Nicholas said. Anything that reduces driving, including working from home, “has a big impact on our climate pollution.”

Avoiding air travel can have a large effect as well: One round-trip flight from New York to London, she said, produces as much greenhouse gas emissions as the preventive climate impact of nearly eight years of recycling.

Reporting was contributed by Javier Hernandez, Emily Cochrane, Damien Cave, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Keith Bradsher, Liz Alderman, Alex Marshall and John Schwartz.




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