By: Haymes Law
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Here’s what you need to know:
- The Senate unanimously passed a $2 trillion stimulus plan.
- At one New York City hospital, an ‘apocalyptic’ surge.
- For Peace Corps volunteers, a sudden and sad evacuation.
- Sickened celebrities put faces to an invisible scourge.
- Fauci sees signs of the virus becoming cyclical, like the flu.
- Essential businesses? Given latitude, some retailers choose to stay open.
- How to manage your anxiety and its side effects.
The Senate unanimously passed a $2 trillion stimulus plan.
The Senate voted unanimously on Wednesday to approve a sweeping, $2 trillion fiscal measure to shore up the United States economy as it weathers the devastation of the coronavirus pandemic, advancing the largest fiscal stimulus package in modern American history.
The House was expected to quickly take up the bill on Friday and pass it, sending it to President Trump for his signature.
The legislation would send direct payments of $1,200 to Americans earning up to $75,000 — which would gradually phase out for higher earners and end for those with incomes more than $99,000 — and an additional $500 per child. It would substantially expand jobless aid, providing an additional 13 weeks and a four-month enhancement of benefits, extending them for the first time to freelancers and gig workers and adding $600 per week on top of the usual payment.
The measure would also provide $350 billion in federally guaranteed loans to small businesses and establish a $500 billion government lending program for distressed companies reeling from the impact of the crisis, allowing the administration to take equity stakes in airlines that received aid to help compensate taxpayers. It would also send $100 billion to hospitals on the front lines of the pandemic.
The bill was the product of intense bipartisan negotiations among Republicans, Democrats and the White House. Three senators were absent from the late-night roll call because of the novel coronavirus. Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, has contracted Covid-19, while two Utah Republicans, Senators Mitt Romney and Mike Lee, were in self-isolation out of an abundance of caution after spending time with Mr. Paul. Senator John Thune of South Dakota, the second-ranking Republican, also missed the vote because he wasn’t feeling well and had left Washington to return home out of an abundance of caution, a spokesman said.
At one New York City hospital, an ‘apocalyptic’ surge.
At Elmhurst Hospital Center in Queens, Dr. Ashley Bray performed chest compressions Tuesday on a woman in her 80s, a man in his 60s and a 38-year-old who reminded the doctor of her fiancé. All had tested positive for the coronavirus. All eventually died.
Elmhurst, a 545-bed public hospital, has begun transferring patients not suffering from coronavirus to other facilities as it moves toward becoming a facility dedicated entirely to the outbreak. Doctors and nurses have struggled to make do with a few dozen ventilators. Calls over a loudspeaker of “Team 700,” the code for when a patient is on the verge of death, come several times a shift. Some have died inside the emergency room while waiting for a bed.
A refrigerated truck has been stationed outside to hold the bodies of the dead. Over the past 24 hours, New York City’s public hospital system said in a statement, 13 people at Elmhurst had died.
“It’s apocalyptic,” said Dr. Bray, a general medicine resident at the hospital.
All of the more than 1,800 intensive care units in New York City are expected to be full by Friday, according to a FEMA leadership briefing obtained by The New York Times. Patients could stay for weeks, limiting space for newly sickened residents.
For Peace Corps volunteers, a sudden and sad evacuation.
The urgent update from the Peace Corps landed abruptly in the email inboxes of volunteers on March 15: It was time to evacuate.
Miguel Garcia, a 27-year-old volunteer leader in the Dominican Republic, had a job to do. He had 24 hours to get 32 volunteers scattered across the country to Santo Domingo, the capital. Several were about eight hours away in hard-to-reach communities.
“Panic took over, and I was just mindlessly doing things,” Mr. Garcia said. “It wasn’t until I came home to an apartment that needed to be packed that it all hit me. I showered in cold water for about 45 minutes and cried, overwhelmed by all of the people I needed to communicate with and say goodbye to.”
For the first time in its nearly 60-year history, the Peace Corps has temporarily suspended its operations, evacuating more than 7,000 volunteers from posts in more than 60 countries because of the coronavirus pandemic.
An independent agency of the U.S. government created by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, the corps sends volunteers abroad to help with social and economic development projects. They dig wells, teach in schools and train people in everything from sewing to healthy breastfeeding.
In an open letter, Jody Olsen, the director of the Peace Corps, said the move was meant to protect volunteers and prevent them from being stranded during the pandemic. Within hours, volunteers were packing their bags, saying their farewells and rushing to designated meeting places as airlines canceled flights and countries began closing borders.
In interviews, volunteers described shock, confusion and heartbreak as they arrived back home in the United States.
“The situation in Morocco went so fast,” said Elizabeth Burke, 54, who had been in the country for less than a year, teaching English and working at a sewing cooperative. “It went from Moroccans not being aware of the coronavirus and what was going on to a complete shutdown.”
Sickened celebrities put faces to an invisible scourge.
The revelation on Wednesday that Prince Charles, the 71-year-old heir to the British throne, had contracted the coronavirus was the latest example of a well-known figure humanizing the spread of the virus.
For those who don’t yet personally know anyone who has been confirmed ill, the steady flow of celebrities and other well-known names has put a face to the crisis. Those who have tested positive include:
Entertainers: Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson, Idris Elba, Daniel Dae Kim, Andy Cohen.
Athletes: Kevin Durant, Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell, Sean Payton.
Public figures: Senator Rand Paul, John Bessler (the husband of Senator Amy Klobuchar), Sophie Grégoire Trudeau (the wife of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada), Prince Albert II of Monaco.
The Times is maintaining a running list of high-profile people who have the virus and have shared information about their experiences. Last week, we examined whether the rich and famous have had better access to limited testing.
Fauci sees signs of the virus becoming cyclical, like the flu.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Wednesday that he was seeing indications that the virus could keep returning as a “seasonal, cyclic thing,” like the flu.
One of the key questions about the virus has been whether its spread would slow or stop in warm weather and return in cold weather, and Dr. Fauci suggested that it may follow that seasonal pattern.
“What we are starting to see now in the southern hemisphere,” he said, referring specifically to southern Africa, “is that we are having cases that are appearing as they go into their winter season. And if, in fact, they have a substantial outbreak, it will be inevitable that we need to be prepared that we will get a cycle around the second time.”
That makes it all the more important that scientists “have a vaccine available for that next cycle,” as well as “a menu of drugs that we have shown to be effective and shown to be safe,” he said.
Essential businesses? Given latitude, some retailers choose to stay open.
In states hit hard by the coronavirus, like New York and California, governors and mayors have mandated the closure of all but the obviously essential stores, like supermarkets and pharmacies. And the Department of Homeland Security has laid out guidelines for businesses across the country to follow when deciding whether to stay open, even in regions not known to be hot spots for the virus. The agency is careful to note that its definition of a “critical” work force is not an official standard, leaving it up to corporations to decide for themselves.
Given this latitude, retailers have kept thousands of stores open, even as health experts warn that the virus is likely to spread more widely across the country in the coming weeks.
At some Guitar Center stores, employees are still allowing customers to try out models of guitars. Dillard’s, a department store chain popular in the South, is still welcoming shoppers looking for clothing and makeup. And Michaels, the arts and crafts chain, says it is keeping many of its stores open to provide supplies to parents teaching their homebound children. “We are here for the makers,” the retailer said in an email to one concerned customer.
That some retail stores are staying open while other businesses have closed reflects the piecemeal approach to combating the pandemic in the United States. There are emergency orders limiting business to essential retailers in about half the country, but much of the South and West has no such government restrictions.
How to manage your anxiety and its side effects.
Coronavirus-related anxiety is real and likely impacting many aspects of your life, from your eating habits to the way your children are acting. There is also a grief that comes along with the loss of our daily routines and rituals. Here are some tips to help you get through these tough times.
Reporting was contributed by Julie Davis, Emily Cochrane, Nicholas Fandos, Michael Corkery, Sapna Maheshwari and Mariel Padilla.