Pelosi and Trump Reach Deal on a Relief Package


Instead, by dusk, Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote to House Democrats saying, “We are proud to have reached an agreement with the administration to resolve outstanding challenges.”

Not long after, even as congressional and administration aides negotiated the final legislative language of the compromise, Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, confirmed it would move forward.

“We have an agreement that reflects what the president talked about in his speech the other night,” Mr. Mnuchin said on Fox News. He said Mr. Trump was focused on making sure “hard-working Americans don’t lose their compensation because they have to be home.”

The measure includes two weeks of paid sick leave and up to three months of paid family and medical leave, enhanced unemployment benefits, free virus testing including for those who lack insurance, additional food aid and federal funds for Medicaid.

The deal is a product of an intense round of talks that unfolded between Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Mnuchin as financial markets swung wildly amid uncertainty about the spiraling crisis.

Mr. Trump on Friday afternoon officially declared a national emergency that he said would give states and territories access to up to $50 billion in federal funds to combat the spreading coronavirus epidemic.

In a live address in the White House Rose Garden, he also gave broad new authority to the health secretary, Alex Azar, who he said would now be able to waive regulations, giving doctors and hospitals more flexibility to respond to the virus, including making it easier to treat people remotely.

“I am officially declaring a national emergency, two very big words,” Mr. Trump said, adding, “I’m urging every state to set up emergency operations centers effective immediately.”

Mr. Trump said he was waiving interest on student loans, and that with oil prices low, the government would buy large quantities of crude oil for the nation’s strategic reserve.

His comments marked the first time he has addressed the coronavirus as a problem within the country’s borders, not just something that needed to be kept out with travel restrictions. But the optics of the address offered a contrast to the social distancing that many experts recommend: Mr. Trump and the top advisers he invited to speak crowded together around the lectern and shared a microphone.

Mr. Trump, who has been accused of downplaying the crisis, said that millions of virus testing kits would become available, but added that he did not think so many would be needed.

“We don’t want everybody taking this test,” he said. “It’s totally unnecessary.”

“This will pass, this will pass through, and we will be even stronger for it,” the president said.

Asked if he would be tested for the coronavirus because of his contact at his Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago, with an infected Brazilian official, he said, “most likely, yeah,” countering earlier White House statements that he would not be tested.

“I think I will do it anyway,” he said. “Fairly soon.”

Stocks rallied on Friday, rebounding from their worst day in more than 30 years after Mr. Trump said leaders of private U.S. companies had agreed to help with efforts to test for the coronavirus and declared a national emergency that would free billions in funding for states and territories.

The S&P 500 rose more than 9 percent, with most of the gains coming as government officials and business executives spoke at a news conference at the White House. The chief executives of Walmart, Target and Walgreens all said they are making facilities available for testing.

Financial markets have been nothing if not inconsistent for the past three weeks, plunging and then rising, and then plunging again. Each day brought new measures to contain the outbreak and new worries that the economy, workers and businesses would take a hit as a result of them.

Verily, a life sciences unit of Google’s parent company Alphabet, is working on a way to direct individuals with a high risk of coronavirus infection to testing sites. But the program will not be as sweeping as President Trump suggested in his public remarks.

“I want to thank Google,” Mr. Trump said from the Rose Garden. “Google is helping to develop a website, it’s going to be very quickly done, unlike websites of the past, to determine whether a test is warranted and to facilitate testing at a nearby convenient location.”

Google’s shares surged, to a gain of more than 9 percent, as Mr. Trump spoke.

Late Friday, Carolyn Wang, a spokeswoman for Verily, said that the aim was to make a website that helps triage people for virus screening available by Monday, but that it would be limited to testing sites in the Bay Area. If the pilot goes well, Verily aims to deploy the project nationwide, but there is no timetable for a national rollout.

The website was originally intended only for health care workers, Ms. Wang said, but Mr. Trump’s statement prompted the company to plan to make it available to the public.

Trying to answer that question, epidemiologists arrived at some terrifying estimates of what would happen if — and this was a very big “if” — nothing was done to stop the spread: more than a million Americans could die, and hospitals would be swamped with many times more patients than beds.

Last month, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and experts from around the world conferred quietly about the range of possibilities, with what was known then about the virus. The agency presented a range of possibilities based on variables that remain hard to pin down, like how contagious the virus is, and how severe the resulting illnesses are.

Those figures represented the worst-case scenario, with no organized intervention, and clearly government at all levels is intervening, as are private organizations and individuals. But they give an idea of the potential seriousness of the disease.

“There is a lot of room for improvement if we act appropriately,” said Lauren Gardner, an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering who models epidemics.

Today, we look at how the places you interact with daily are ensuring they stay safe while still being able to function, including how gyms should be disinfecting their equipment, new guidance for building managers, and how needed changes may affect workers.

Local officials in Washington State recently settled on two locations to house people exposed to the coronavirus who may have no safe place to isolate themselves: a former Econo Lodge Motel in the city of Kent, south of Seattle, and another location in an unincorporated part of the county, both of which serve mostly lower-income neighborhoods.

An employee who works in a Washington State prison tested positive for the coronavirus, a spokeswoman for the state prison system said on Friday, in what appeared to be the first reported case of the virus in a person tied to a prison.

New York is the country’s largest school system, with 1.1 million students, about 114,000 of them homeless. Closings could have a severe effect on parents who will need to find child care, and on the many students who depend on schools for food and shelter.

The Los Angeles and San Diego school districts said they were canceling school beginning on Monday, affecting more than 750,000 students in Southern California. The decisions were the latest in a slew of similar moves across the country affecting more than six million students.

All public schools, and many if not all private schools, in Illinois, Virginia, Ohio, Michigan, Maryland, Washington State, Oregon, Kentucky, New Mexico and Puerto Rico were told to close beginning next week. The Houston Independent School District, the largest school district in Texas, also said it was closing for two weeks.

In Washington State, where more than 30 people have died from the virus, more than anywhere else in the country, public health officials have escalated through most of a 13-step strategy checklist for controlling infectious outbreaks and now have only a few remaining options: closing workplaces, restricting people to their homes and cordoning off targeted areas to help control the spread of infection, measures that have already been put in place in other parts of the world.

The possibility of more draconian measures if the outbreak continues to escalate has become a rising subject of conversation among public health officials across the country, forcing them to confront difficult questions about how much pain to endure — in their local economies and in civil liberties — to save more lives.

Political leaders are considering their options, alarmed over research that suggests 400 people in the Seattle area could die in the coming weeks if the trajectory of the outbreak cannot be altered. The research shows that if policymakers could reduce the transmission rate by 75 percent — primarily through what is known as “social distancing” — then the number of deaths could be reduced to only about 30 in that period.

One official said that none of the options were off the table, but that officials were mindful of the tremendous burden that such restrictions could impose on families and businesses.

There is, though, rising concern that President Trump and members of his staff and cabinet might have been exposed in meetings with different officials from overseas, including with Mr. Bolsonaro’s aide.

In a closely connected political world where officials crisscross the globe as they take part in frequent meetings with heads of state and other policymakers, the cases vividly illustrate how no one is immune from a virus that does not distinguish between the powerful and everyone else.

The risk is that entire cabinets or senior government officials could be sidelined at once, potentially undermining an already complex response.

Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, said on Friday he would extend his self-quarantine to March 17 after learning he had come into contact with a second individual who has tested positive, though he still had no symptoms. Two other Republican senators, Rick Scott of Florida and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have also preemptively isolated themselves after exposure to others.

Louisiana will postpone its April 4 primary election for two months, becoming the first state to adjust its elections in response to the coronavirus outbreak. The presidential primary will now be held on June 20, and municipal elections on July 25.

Reporting was contributed by Ian Austen, Ernesto Londoño, Melissa Eddy, Aurelien Breeden, Constant Méheut, Elisabetta Povoledo, Ivan Nechepurenko, Davey Alba, Raphael Minder, Karen Zraick, Andy Newman, Steven Erlanger, Marc Santora, Megan Specia, Matina Stevis-Gridneff, Steven Lee Myers, Andrew Higgins, Damien Cave, Farah Stockman, Hannah Beech, Heather Murphy, Gillian Wong, Jorge Arangure, Bhadra Sharma, Emily Cochrane, Jeanna Smialek, Jim Tankersley, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Nick Corasaniti, Mike Baker, Miriam Jordan, Jason Horowitz, Peter Baker, Maggie Haberman, Annie Karni, Katie Benner, Sarah Mervosh, Patricia Mazzei, Neil Vigdor, Rick Gladstone, Linda Qui and Dai Wakabayashi.



Source link Nytimes.com

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