Two congressmen were battling the coronavirus while lawmakers wrestled with details of an emergency aid package Thursday as the life-changing pandemic continued to torment the country.
China reached a milestone: the epicenter city of Wuhan and the surrounding province reported no new domestic cases. Meanwhile, Italy was poised to surpass China in total deaths.
In the U.S., deaths jumped to 150 across 22 states — including the first reported fatalities in Connecticut, Michigan, Missouri and Pennsylvania. There were more than 9,400 confirmed cases in the U.S. early Thursday, up from about 1,600 a week earlier, when there were 40 reported deaths.
The global death toll passed 9,000, with more than 220,000 confirmed cases.
Our live blog on the coronavirus is being updated throughout the day. Refresh for the latest news. More headlines:
US trajectory: Will we follow Italy?
The U.S. could soon find out whether it’s likely to be the next South Korea or Italy or even China when it comes to the acceleration of coronavirus cases and deaths. A data analysis by USA TODAY finds that, two weeks after the U.S. first entered into community transmission on March 3, America’s trajectory is trending toward Italy’s, where circumstances are dire.
“When you’re on an exponential curve every moment is dangerous,” Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, told USA TODAY.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s worst-case-scenario is that about 160 million to 210 million Americans will be infected by December. Under this forecast, 21 million people would need hospitalization and 200,000 to 1.7 million could die by the end of the year.
Collins said that if the U.S. takes drastic measures “we should certainly be able to blunt” the U.S. curve. “But let’s be clear: There’s going to be a very rough road.” Read more here.
– Kim Hjelmgaard and Jim Sergent
Italian death toll spikes, closing in on China’s total
Italy’s death toll rose by 475 on Wednesday, bringing the national total to 2,978, Italian Emergency Commissioner and Civil Protection Chief Angelo Borrelli said. Italy appeared likely to pass China on Thursday for the most deaths from the coronavirus crisis that began in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December.
Italy, which is under national lockdown, has reported a total of 35,713 cases. Borrelli said the number of people recovering was on the rise, while the number of new cases appeared to be flattening out.
“It is necessary to limit movements as much as possible,” he said. “Today’s figures help us to think positively, but correct conduct must be adopted.”
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Talks continue on $1,000 checks for all, business bailouts
A deal for an emergency relief package that would provide checks of $1,000 or more for most Americans and financial lifelines for businesses socked by the coronavirus pandemic could come as soon as Thursday.
On Wednesday night, President Donald Trump signed a sweeping multibillion-dollar emergency aid package that will provide paid sick leave for Americans who are in quarantine and help family members who are infected with COVID-19 or have children whose schools have closed as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
The bill offers free testing for coronavirus and boosts unemployment insurance, food assistance and federal funding for Medicaid as part of an ongoing effort by Washington to combat the rapid spread of the pandemic.
– Courtney Subramanian
NYC mayor mobilizing Medical Reserve Corps
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio urged retired health care workers to join the city’s battle against COVID-19, saying the 9,000-member Medical Reserve Corps would be mobilized immediately on a voluntary basis. The group includes mostly retired health care workers, but de Blasio said anyone with health care training would be welcome to volunteer.
“If you are a health care worker, you have any appropriate training, we need you and we need you right away,” de Blasio said in a recording published Thursday on social media. “Your city needs you now.”
The city has seen a boom in cases, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the USNS Comfort will be deployed to New York harbor next month. The 1,000-bed hospital ship has 12 fully-equipped operating rooms and “will significantly increase New York’s hospital surge capacity,” Cuomo said in a statement.
Wuhan, China, reports no new coronavirus cases
China’s National Commission reported no domestically transmitted cases of the virus Thursday, the first time since it started recording them in January. COVID-19 emerged in Wuhan, in China’s central Hubei province, in December.
But the announcement also comes as China, South Korea and Singapore faced a spike in infections from abroad that could be the start of a second coronavirus wave. And in China’s case, it’s also not clear how reliable its data is because the country has clamped down hard on domestic and foreign reporting on the virus that has killed more than 3,200 people in China amid over 81,000 infections. Seventy-thousand have recovered.
Places in Asia such as Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Japan have been praised for their quick and effective testing, tracing and “social distancing” measures. China aggressively deployed similar tactics.
– Kim Hjelmgaard
Stock market poised for another drop
U.S. stock futures again pointed downward Thursday, but the early numbers were far less numbing than Wednesday’s 6%-plus crash. The Dow has lost nearly all of its gains since Trump’s inauguration. Shares in Asia failed to hold onto opening gains Thursday, skidding further after the latest selloff on Wall Street amid fears of a prolonged coronavirus-induced recession.
The New York Stock Exchange said it will temporarily close its trading floor and move to electronic trading effective next Monday. “NYSE’s trading floors provide unique value to issuers and investors, but our markets are fully capable of operating in an all-electronic fashion,” said Stacey Cunningham, president of the New York Stock Exchange.
– Jessica Menton
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Florida, Utah congressmen test positive for coronavirus
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., announced Wednesday that he has tested positive, becoming the first known member of Congress to contract the rapidly spreading virus. Hours later, Rep. Ben McAdams, a Democrat from Utah, announced he had tested positive.
Members of Congress have been worried about the prospects of contracting the virus, with some arguing that lawmakers should be able to vote remotely to avoid traveling back and forth to Washington. At least 15 lawmakers so far have gone into self-quarantine after coming into contact or being in the vicinity of someone who has tested positive for the virus.
–Christal Hayes, USA TODAY, and David DeMille, St. George (Utah) Spectrum & Daily News
Fed moves to bolster ailing financial system
The Federal Reserve took another step to ease strains in the financial system as the coronavirus hammers the economy and markets, making loans available to financial institutions that buy assets from stressed money market mutual funds.
The Fed said the lending program, called the money market mutual fund liquidity facility, will be very similar to one launched during the financial crisis. At that time, money funds inundated with redemption demands could have had to sell short-term business loans, known as commercial paper, to meet the requests. Commercial paper provides companies with funding to meet payroll, buy inventories and pay other daily operating expenses.
– Paul Davidson
Oregon governor suspends all non-emergency procedures
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown on Wednesday directed all Oregon hospitals, outpatient clinics, and health care providers to cease all nonemergency procedures. The order includes veterinarians and dentists.
The order, which also limits hospital visitation, is meant to “preserve personal protective equipment, such as surgical masks, gowns, and gloves, for health care workers treating COVID-19 patients,” according to a statement from the governor’s office.
Brown also ordered all colleges and universities in the state to move to an online learning model through at least April 28.
– Jordan Culver
Shopping mall owner closes properties across 38 states
Simon Property Group, the largest owner of shopping malls in the nation, is closing all of its malls and retail properties because of the coronavirus outbreak.
The closings come after several department stores, from Macy’s and J.C. Penney to Nordstrom and other mall brands including Gap, Victoria’s Secret and Sephora, announced they are also temporarily closing locations.
The closings include the company’s 209 U.S. properties, which include malls and premium outlets in 38 states and Puerto Rico.
– Kelly Tyko
Census suspends field operations
A week after the once-a-decade census began, the work of counting every resident in the U.S. is being curtailed. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham said in a posting that field operations will be suspended immediately for two weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic. The posting said the decision was made to protect the public, census employees and those applying for census taker positions. Further adjustments to this pause could be forthcoming.
Census takers are currently scheduled to start visiting in late May the households that haven’t responded, but the timing could be delayed.
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Contributing: The Associated Press