Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today
Complaints from some Republicans that the unemployment provisions were too generous held up a Senate vote on the stimulus package.
Closed schools in the U.S. are talking about not reopening until the fall.
France says it has issued 100,000 fines to people who broke social-distancing edicts.
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What’s in the $2 trillion stimulus package
The deal hammered out overnight in Washington for about $2 trillion in federal aid to help the U.S. ride out the pandemic is expected to pass quickly in both houses of Congress — though there was some last-minute squabbling on Wednesday — and get President Trump’s signature soon after that.
Our colleague Catie Edmondson in Washington has been reporting on what’s included in the package. A few big things stand out:
Direct payments to taxpayers: If you make less than $75,000 a year ($150,000 for couples), you’ll get $1,200 — faster if the I.R.S. has your direct-deposit information, later if they mail you a check. There’s an extra $500 for each dependent child. People who make more get less; over $100,000 a year ($200,000 for couples), and you’ll get nothing.
Expanded unemployment benefits: Larger checks for four months; an extra 13 weeks of eligibility; and assistance for freelancers, “gig” workers (like Uber drivers) and furloughed workers.
Emergency loans for small businesses: Employers who pledge not to lay anyone off can get government loans to help make payroll — and if they keep that promise for the duration of the crisis, they won’t have to repay the loan.
Money to shore up the heath care system: $100 billion for hospitals and health systems, and billions more for testing supplies, protective equipment for health care workers, and construction of more space to house patients.
$500 billion to bail out larger companies: To be doled out at the administration’s discretion, but with immediate reporting of who receives it, an inspector general to watch over the process, and a ban on any of the money going to businesses owned by senior government officials — including the Trump family.
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Can people become immune?
It’s one of the most pressing questions: Do people who recover from Covid-19 develop immunity to the virus?
So far, evidence points to a qualified yes.
If that bears out, it will have big implications. Survivors could return to work before the outbreak is over and help reboot the economy; immune doctors and nurses could care for the critically ill without fear. Crucially, the antibodies their bodies produce could speed the search for an effective treatment.
But a lot is still unknown. For instance: Do the antibodies give lifelong immunity — as with polio or measles — or is the protection narrow and likely to fade, as with antibodies for colds and the flu?
(Even if you can get reinfected, it’s likely the symptoms would be milder the second time.)
Another critical question: Do people who get the coronavirus but do not become very sick produce enough antibodies to protect them, at least until a vaccine can be introduced?
The quickest answers lie in blood tests, which can detect the antibodies. These tests have been used in China, Singapore and some other countries, but are not yet widely available. Researchers in New York have an antibody test that they say can be scaled up quickly, but it is not yet approved.
What’s next: The Food and Drug Administration has approved using plasma from Covid-19 survivors to treat some severe cases. Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York says the state will be the first to test a serum developed from recovered patients.
‘What I learned when my husband got sick’
Jessica Lustig, an editor for The Times in New York, describes in a first-person essay what life with her family has been like since her husband received a diagnosis of Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
“It’s as if we are in a time warp, in which we have accelerated at 1½-time speed, while everyone around us remains in the present — already the past to us — and they, blissfully, unconsciously, go about their ordinary lives, experiencing the growing news, the more urgent advisories and directives, as a vast communal experience, sharing posts and memes about cabin fever, about home-schooling, about social distancing, about how hard it all is, while we’re living in our makeshift sick ward, living in what will soon be the present for more and more of them.”
Jessica, who refers to her husband by the initial T, writes about how jarringly her outlook has had to change:
Now we live in a world in which I have planned with his doctor which emergency room we should head to if T suddenly gets worse, a world in which I am suddenly afraid we won’t have enough of the few things tempering the raging fever and soaking sweats and severe aches wracking him — the Advil and Tylenol that the doctors advise us to layer, one after the other, and that I scroll through websites searching for, seeing “out of stock” again and again. We are living inside the news stories of testing, quarantine, shortages and the disease’s progression.
A red-blue divide?
Not long ago, many Americans seemed to be seeing the coronavirus pandemic the way they see so many facets of life — refracted through pure partisanship.
But the picture has begun to shift, our colleagues at The Upshot write. Political scientists think Republicans’ and Democrats’ feelings about the crisis may soon converge.
Madrid is converting an ice rink into a makeshift morgue, as Spain’s case count nears 48,000. The country has recorded more than 3,400 deaths linked to the coronavirus, second most in the world after Italy.
New York State, with 30,811 confirmed cases, projects that it will need 30,000 ventilators before the crisis is past. It has 4,000 now and 7,000 more on the way, the governor says.
Several U.S. states are ordering anyone who arrives from a hot spot like New York to isolate themselves for 14 days. Alaska said arrivals from anywhere must do so; Hawaii asked tourists to put off visiting for a month.
Prince Charles has the virus. So do 8,076 other people in Britain, as of Wednesday afternoon. He hasn’t seen his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, since March 12, before he would have been infectious, palace officials said.
What you can do
Don’t go stir crazy: We’ve begun At Home, a place to find recommendations from our reporters and critics on what to read, play, cook and much more.
Raise a glass: For a successful virtual happy hour, host a small group, dress for the occasion and keep the conversation light.
Join an aid network: Some people are creating virtual groups to help their neighbors and coordinate donations.
Remake your home: We’ve gathered tips for how to add an office, make space for kids and tackle the organizing projects on your to-do list.
What else we’re following
The Times Editorial Board asked President Trump to call for a nationwide, two-week shelter-in-place order: “A nationwide lockdown is the only tactic left to parry a viral adversary that is constantly on the move, and to buy the time for medical workers to prepare for what comes next.”
After just over a week of being cooped up, many American families face an all-day challenge: fighting cabin fever.
Of course, it could always be worse. In an essay for the Marshall Project, a man incarcerated at the Thumb Correctional Facility in Lapeer, Mich., writes: No, Your Coronavirus Quarantine Is Not Just Like Being in Prison.
Worries about money and virus transmission are prompting many people to stop employing house cleaners, who often are undocumented immigrants with no health insurance or paid sick leave and no access to unemployment benefits.
For women with abusive partners, staying at home brings its own risks. The intensity and frequency of domestic abuse escalated directly after 9/11, Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Katrina.
New York State said earlier this month that it would start making its own hand sanitizer using prison labor. But inmates say they are just putting an outside vendor’s product into “NYS Clean” bottles, VICE reports.
We’re all collectively grieving right now, the world’s foremost expert on grief told the Harvard Business Review in an interview. But he says there are ways to manage the discomfort — and even find meaning in it.
What you’re doing
We’re playing Yahtzee on Zoom! My mom, sister, cousins and aunts all have our own score cards and dice at home, so we can play together remotely. Reviving old memories, and sharing some laughs like we did growing up.
—Leslie Johnson, Crystal, Minn.
Let us know how you’re dealing with the outbreak. Send us a response here, and we may feature it in an upcoming newsletter.
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Lara Takenaga and Tom Wright-Piersanti contributed to today’s newsletter.