COVID-19 major world updates, 9:30 p.m.: U.S. Senate approves $2-trillion relief package

COVID-19 major world updates, 9:30 p.m.: U.S. Senate approves $2-trillion relief package
COVID-19 major world updates, 9:30 p.m.: U.S. Senate approves $2-trillion relief package
COVID-19 major world updates, 9:30 p.m.: U.S. Senate approves $2-trillion relief package

The latest on the coronavirus pandemic. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.

These files come from the Associated Press and were posted by Black Press Media at 9:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 25.

TOP OF THE HOUR:

  • Senate unanimously passes $2 trillion economic stimulus package
  • Alaska Airlines to reduce flights by 70%, cut pay to its CEO and president to zero
  • South Korea has 104 new coronavirus cases, 5 more deaths
  • Trinidad & Tobago reports first death from virus
  • Spain extends its state of emergency by 2 weeks until April 11
  • China reports 67 new cases, all in recent arrivals from abroad

WASHINGTON —In an overwhelming bipartisan vote, the Senate on Wednesday passed a $2 trillion economic stimulus package —the largest ever —designed to pump money directly into Americans’ pockets while also shoring up hospitals, businesses and state and local governments struggling against the coronavirus pandemic.

The $2 trillion price tag is equal to more than half of the $3.5 trillion the federal government expects to collect in taxes this year, and is 9% of the nation’s gross domestic product.

“It’s going to take care of people,” President Donald Trump said of the legislation during a news conference, vowing to sign the bill immediately when it reaches his desk.

A vote was initially delayed in part by concerns from Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and a handful of Republican senators that laid-off low-wage earners in some states might be able to temporarily collect more from the expanded unemployment insurance in the bill than from their original salaries, creating a disincentive to work.

But Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin earlier Wednesday said most Americans would opt to keep their jobs, adding that the provision was needed to streamline the process of getting aid to workers nationwide.

“Our expectation is this bill passes tonight,” said Mnuchin, who took part in five days of tense, marathon negotiations between congressional Democrats and Senate Republicans.

The sweeping package will impact a broad swath of American society, with some elements potentially lasting longer than the health crisis.

Along with providing a one-time direct payout of up to $1,200 for most American adults, the bill includes $500 billion in loans to struggling businesses, $377 billion in loans and grants for small businesses, $150 billion for local, state and tribal governments struggling with a drop in revenue and $130 billion for hospitals.

The package also blocks foreclosures and evictions during the crisis on properties where the federal government backs the mortgage; pauses federal student loan payments for six months and waives the interest; gives states millions of dollars to begin offering mail or early voting; and provides more than $25 billion in new money for food assistance programs such as SNAP.

The real test will be whether the House accepts the bill as it is, and can pass it with “unanimous consent,” a procedure usually reserved for small, noncontroversial bills. If a single member comes to the House floor and objects, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., may have to recall House members to Washington for a vote that would draw out the process.

Democratic and Republican House leaders are hoping to avoid that, but it remains to be seen whether they can. A House vote is scheduled to occur Friday.

Alaska airlines chops flights; CEO and president to receive no pay

SEATTLE — Alaska Airlines will reduce flights by 70% in April and May and cut pay to its CEO and president to zero through September to conserve cash amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The Seattle-based airline said Wednesday that like other airlines they are seeing demand for flights drop by more than 80% and flight schedules for June and beyond will be based on demand.

“These actions are unprecedented, but these are truly unprecedented times,” Alaska CEO Brad Tilden said in a news release.

Additionally, Alaska plans to slash pay by 50% to the president of Horizon Air, and cut it by 20 to 30% for other executives. The company board also will not take their pay. The company has worked with the White House, The Treasury Department, and Congress on a $50 billion aid package for passenger airlines, Tilden said.

“As we more fully understand the impact of these provisions, we will add to our plans to manage through this change,” he said.

South Korea: 9,241 infections, 131 deaths

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 104 new cases of the coronavirus and five more deaths, bringing its totals to 9,241 infections and 131 deaths.

South Korea’s Centers for Disease Controls and Prevention said Thursday that 30 of the new cases were linked to recent arrivals.

Health authorities have been scrambling to prevent the virus from re-entering as an increasing number of South Koreans return from Europe and the United States amid broadening outbreaks and suspended school years.

From Friday, the country will enforce 14-day quarantines on South Korean nationals and foreigners with long-term stay visas arriving from the United States. Similar measures have already been applied to passengers arriving from Europe.

South Korean Prime Minister Chung Se-kyun on Thursday ordered officials to employ a “no-tolerance” policy on those who disobey quarantines, saying that South Korean nationals would be sued and foreigners would be expelled.

First death in Trinidad

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad — Trinidad & Tobago is reporting its first death from the coronavirus.

Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said late Wednesday that the patient was an elderly man with a pre-existing medical condition.

The twin-island nation of 1.4 million people has more than 50 confirmed cases. The oil- and gas-rich nation shuttered its borders earlier this week and has refused entry to everyone, including Trinidadians now stuck abroad.

Spain: State of emergency extended by two weeks

MADRID — Spain’s Parliament has voted in favour of the government’s request to extend the state of emergency by two weeks that has allowed it to apply a national lockdown in hopes of stemming its coronavirus outbreak.

The parliamentary endorsement will allow the government to extend the strict stay-at-home rules and business closings for a full month. The government declared a state of emergency on March 14. It will now last until April 11.

Spain’s government solicited the two-week extension after deaths and infections from the COVID-19 virus have skyrocketed in recent days. Spain 47,600 total cases. Its 3,434 deaths only trail Italy’s death toll as the hardest-hit countries in the world.

The parliament met with fewer than 50 of its 350 members in the chamber, with the rest voting from home to reduce the risk of contagion.

China says 67 new coronavirus infections, all from recent arrivals

BEIJING — China’s National Health Commission on Thursday reported 67 new COVID-19 cases, all of which it says were imported infections in recent arrivals from abroad.

Once again, there were no new cases reported in Wuhan, the central Chinese provincial capital where the coronavirus emerged in December.

After a months-long lockdown, Wuhan residents are allowed out of the city but cannot leave Hubei province until April 8. China has started lifting the last of the controls that confined tens of millions of people to their homes.

As outbreaks escalate in the United States and Europe, China’s ruling Communist Party has declared victory over the epidemic and is relaxing restrictions to revive the economy.

Two-month-old infant infected in DC

WASHINGTON — District of Columbia health officials announced 48 new positive infections from the coronavirus, including a 2-month-old boy, bringing the total up to 231.

Officials also announced Washington’s third death from the virus, a 75-year-old woman.

Officials in Washington have long predicted that infection numbers would spike as testing became more available. Mayor Muriel Bowser has declared a state of emergency, shuttered all schools and ordered all non-essential businesses to close.

White House and Capitol tours have been cancelled and the National Zoo, Smithsonian museum network and Kennedy Center have closed. Police have blocked off dozens of streets, bridges and traffic circles to prevent crowds coming to see Washington’s signature blooming cherry blossom trees.

Pentagon soldier tests positive

WASHINGTON — A U.S. Marine has become the first person stationed at the Pentagon to test positive for coronavirus.

The Marine has been in isolation at home since March 13, when a member of his immediate family began to show symptoms. The Pentagon said his workspace has been cleaned and a contact investigation is underway.

Two other defence workers who had visited the Pentagon have tested positive, but they were not assigned to the building.

Colorado: Stay-at-home order issued

DENVER — Colorado Gov. Jared Polis is issuing a statewide stay-at-home order in an attempt to stem the rapid spread of the coronavirus.

Polis said he is taking this “extreme measure,” effective Thursday until April 11 because restrictions taken to date haven’t done enough to reduce the spread of the virus. People should only leave home when they absolutely must, he said, for grocery shopping, to seek medical care or to care for dependents. Polis’ order comes after six Colorado counties issued stay-at-home orders affecting nearly 3 million people.

More than 1,086 people in Colorado have tested positive for the virus and at least 20 people have died.

Pentagon restricts troop movement

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has halted for 60 days the movement of US troops and Defence Department civilians overseas as a further measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The stoppage is expected to affect about 90,000 troops scheduled to deploy abroad or to return from abroad over the next two months. Some exceptions are allowed, and the order by Defence Secretary Mark Esper will not stop the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan as called for in last month’s deal with the Taliban.

Clarification on NYC self-isolation order

WASHINGTON — The White House says New York residents who have left the metro area in recent days should self-isolate for 14 days, clarifying guidance announced Tuesday which had applied to anyone who had visited New York recently.

Dr. Deborah Birx issued the new guidance Wednesday from the White House press briefing room, saying it applied to “residents of the metro area that may have gone to second homes or other places to reside.”

She says: “We’ve asked all of them to carefully monitor their temperatures and self-isolate from the communities where they went just to ensure their own health and the health of their communities.”

The New York metro area is now the epicenter of the outbreak in the U.S., accounting for more than 50% of all new infections reported in recent days.

Virus prompts truces in Libya, Philippines, other international hot spots

UNITED NATIONS — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is welcoming calls by some groups for an immediate ceasefire to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, and says he sees “a clear conscience emerging” that it’s time to concentrate on the war against COVID-19.

He pointed to communist guerrillas in the Philippines announcing a ceasefire from Thursday to April 15 in response to his appeal, and said he was encouraged to see a truce in Libya between the warring parties “holding with difficulties.”

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric also noted the humanitarian truce called for by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in the country’s northeast to deal with the virus. The group was allied with the United States in the fight against Islamic State extremists.

Guterres said at a humanitarian briefing Wednesday that the Palestinian Authority and Israel have also been able to work together on COVID-19, “even if we know the extreme division that exists politically between the two.”

He said U.N. envoys around the world are talking to warring parties about ceasefires and he expressed hope that “it will be possible in Yemen and Syria to make serious progress” to end fighting and tackle the coronavirus.

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