Trump calls himself “wartime president” as he battles coronavirus – The Denver Post

WASHINGTON — Describing himself as a “wartime president” fighting an invisible enemy, President Donald Trump invoked rarely used emergency powers to marshal critical medical supplies against the coronavirus pandemic. Trump also signed an aid package — which the Senate approved earlier Wednesday — that will guarantee sick leave to workers who fall ill.

Trump tapped his authority under the 70-year-old Defense Production Act to give the government more power to steer production by private companies and try to overcome shortages in masks, ventilators and other supplies.

Yet he seemed to minimize the urgency of the decision, later tweeting that he only tapped the Defense Production Act “should we need to invoke it in a worst case scenario in the future.”

“Hopefully there will be no need,” he added, “but we are all in this TOGETHER!”

The pandemic was starting to show its effects in the job market. The Labor Department reported Thursday that the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits surged last week by 70,000.

Trump’s mixed messaging came as he took a series of other extraordinary steps to steady the nation, its day-to-day life suddenly and fundamentally altered.

The Canada-U.S. border, the world’s longest, was effectively closed, save for commerce and essential travel, while the administration pushed its plan to send relief checks to millions of Americans.

Trump said he will expand the nation’s diagnostic testing capacity and deploy a Navy hospital ship to New York City, which is rapidly becoming an epicenter of the pandemic, and another such ship to the West Coast. And the Housing and Urban Development Department will suspend foreclosures and evictions through April to help the growing number of Americans who face losing jobs and missing rent and mortgage payments.

But as Trump laid out efforts to help the economy, markets plummeted. Gone were nearly all the gains that the Dow Jones Industrial Average had made since Trump took office.

The administration announcements came on a fast-moving day of developments across the capital, its empty streets standing in contrast to the whirlwind of activity inside the grand spaces of the White House and the Capitol.

The Senate overwhelmingly passed a second coronavirus response bill, which Trump signed Wednesday night. The vote was a lopsided 90-8 despite worries by many Republicans about a temporary new employer mandate to provide sick leave to workers who get COVID-19. The measure is also aimed at making tests for the virus free.

Meanwhile the administration pushed forward its broad economic rescue plan, which proposes $500 billion in checks to millions of Americans, with the first checks to come April 6 if Congress approves.

The White House urged hospitals to cancel all elective surgeries to reduce the risk of being overwhelmed by cases. The president was pressed on why a number of celebrities, like professional basketball players, seemed to have easier access to diagnostic tests than ordinary citizens.

“Perhaps that’s the story of life,” Trump said. “I’ve heard that happens on occasion.”

Trump dismissed a suggestion from his own treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, that the nation could face 20% unemployment at least in the short term.

That’s an “absolute total worst case scenario,” Trump said. “We’re no way near it.”

The government has told Americans to avoid groups of more than 10 people and the elderly to stay home while a pointed reminder was given to millennials to follow the guidelines and avoid social gatherings. Trump likened the effort to the measures taken during World War II and said it would require national “sacrifice.”

“It’s a war,” he said. “I view it as a, in a sense, a wartime president. It’s a very tough situation.”

No longer able to run for reelection on a healthy economy, he was taking on the mantle of a wartime leader after played down the severity of the crisis for weeks.

The president also employed more nativist, us-vs-them rhetoric at the briefing, continuing his recent habit of referring to the coronavirus as the “Chinese virus,” which has been sharply criticized as racist. “It’s not racist at all,” Trump said. “It comes from China, that’s all.”

He was asked about a report that a White House aide had referred to the virus as the “Kung flu” when talking to an Asian-American reporter and Trump did not signal disapproval of the offensive term.

The Defense Production Act gives the president broad authority to shape the domestic industrial base so that it is capable of providing essential materials and goods needed in a national security crisis. The law allows the president to require businesses and corporations to give priority to and accept contracts for required materials and services.

The executive order issued by Trump gives Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar the authority to determine “the proper nationwide priorities and allocation of all health and medical resources, including controlling the distribution of such materials … in the civilian market, for responding to the spread of COVID-19 within the United States.” It also applies to certain health services.

Azar released a statement Wednesday night, saying, “we are coordinating closely with private suppliers, healthcare purchasers, and our federal partners like the Commerce Department to ensure that resources are going where they’re needed.”

Trump also said he would soon invoke a rarely used federal statute that would enable the U.S. to tighten controls along the southwest border because of the new coronavirus, based on a recommendation of the U.S. surgeon general.

The president said the law, intended to halt the spread of communicable diseases, would give authorities “great latitude” to help control the outbreak. Earlier, U.S. officials told The Associated Press that the administration would invoke the law to immediately turn back all people who cross the border illegally from Mexico and to refuse people the right to claim asylum there.

More than eight weeks after the first U.S. case of the virus was detected, the federal government is still struggling to conduct widescale testing for the virus. Compounding the problem, laboratories are reporting shortages of supplies needed to run the tests, which officials urged to be given to those most likely to have COVID-19.

Deborah Birx, who is coordinating the White House response, cautioned that there has been a backlog of swabs waiting in labs to be tested, and as that backlog clears “we will see the number of people diagnosed dramatically increased” in the next few days.

Asked about the administration’s mixed messages when it comes to the threat posed by the virus, Birx said new studies about how long the virus can be transmissible on hard surfaces helped prompt the administration’s tightening of recommendations on social distancing. “None of us really understood” that, she said. “We’re still working out how much is by human transmission and how much is it by surface.” She added, “Don’t exposure yourself to surfaces outside the home.”

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.

Birx said there have been “concerning reports” from France and Italy about young people becoming seriously ill. The task force last week urged young generations to avoid going out to bars and restaurants and to avoid groups of more than 10 people.

“We cannot have these large gatherings that continue throughout the country for people who are off work,” Birx said. She added that the federal pandemic task force so far has not seen any “significant mortality” in children.

The White House has had several coronavirus-related health scares, with the president himself exposed to at least three people who later tested positive. Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said Wednesday that she had tested negative for the virus. McDaniel, who met last week with the president and Senate Republicans, had previously been exposed to someone who tested positive.

Join our Facebook group for the latest updates on coronavirus in Colorado.

Sourcing & Methodology

Associated Press writers Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Matthew Perrone, Darlene Superville, Robert Burns, Deb Riechmann and Lauran Neergaard contributed to this report.

The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Source: Read Full Article

Another attempt to move ahead on coronavirus aid package snags – The Denver Post

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump expressed qualms Monday about extending the current 15-day shutdown recommended by the federal government, even as his officials warned that the coronavirus crisis is deepening and Congress ran into more roadblocks trying to complete a nearly $2 trillion economic rescue package.

At the Capitol, tempers flared and emotions were raw as senators wrangled over critically needed aid. Democrats blocked another vote to advance the package, trying to steer more of the assistance to public health and workers. They argue the package is tilted toward corporations.

Trump sounded a note of impatience about the two weeks of suspended public activities his administration recommended Americans live through starting a week ago. In all capital letters, he tweeted: “We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself. At the end of the 15-day period, we will make a decision as to which way we want to go.”

His suggestion that the remedies may be more harmful than the outbreak contradicts the advice of medical experts across the country.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi assailed Trump’s apparent wavering on the federal response and statements he’s made about the pandemic that some of his public-health officials have had to walk back.

“He’s a notion-monger, just tossing out things that have no relationship to a well coordinated, science-based, government-wide response to this,” she said on a health-care conference call. “Thank God for the governors who are taking the lead in their state. Thank God for some of the people in the administration who speak truth to power.”

A week ago, the White House came out with a “15 Days to Stop the Spread” plan that encouraged Americans to work from home and avoid bars, restaurants and discretionary travel, as well as groups of more than 10 people. It also told older Americans and those with serious underlying health conditions that they should stay home and away from other people.

Since then, states that have become hot spots for the virus have implemented even more radical measures, which the White House has applauded.

Yet on Sunday, Vice President Mike Pence said the country should expect new federal guidance “which will make it possible for people that have been exposed to return to work more quickly with — by wearing a mask for a certain period of time.”

On Monday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was back on Capitol Hill after officials worked through the night on the massive economic rescue plan.

“We’re making a lot of progress,” Mnuchin said midday as he shuttled through the halls.

The top Senate Democrat, Chuck Schumer of New York, said: “We’re very close to reaching a deal.” Yet, another attempt to move the package forward snagged.

At the Capitol, the virus has struck close. Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who announced he tested positive for coronavirus, is now among five senators under self-quarantine. Several other lawmakers have cycled in and out of isolation. And the husband of Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., is in a hospital with pneumonia after testing positive, she said Monday.

Democrats are holding out as they arguing the package is tilted toward corporations and did too little to help workers and health care providers. Schumer said earlier the bill would “affect this country and the lives of Americans, not just for the next few days, but in the next few months and years — so we have to make sure it is good.”

As talks progressed, Pelosi came out with the House Democrats’ own sweeping bill, urging Senate negotiators “to move closer to the values” in it. “We must be bold and forward looking,” she said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell fumed, warning Democrats — and Pelosi in particular — to quit stalling on “political games” and strike a deal. Other Republicans joined with fiery arguments on the Senate floor.

“It’s time to get with the program, time to pass historic relief,” McConnell said as he opened the chamber. “The eyes of the nation are on the Senate.”

Trump has also balked at using his authority under the recently invoked Defense Protection Act to compel the private sector to manufacture needed medical supplies like masks and ventilators, even as he encourages them to spur production. “We are a country not based on nationalizing our business,” said Trump, who has repeatedly railed against socialism overseas and among Democrats.

On Monday, Democratic presidential rival Joe Biden criticized Trump for stopping short of using the full force of emergency federal authority .

“Trump keeps saying he’s a wartime president,” Biden said in an online address from his Delaware home. “Well, start acting like one.”

On the economic front, the Federal Reserve announced Monday it will lend to small and large businesses and local governments as well as extend its bond-buying programs as part of a series of sweeping steps to support the flow of credit through an economy ravaged by the viral outbreak.

With a population on edge and shell-shocked financial markets entering a new work week, Washington labored under the size and scope of a rescue package that’s more ambitious than any in recent times — larger than the 2008 bank bailout and 2009 recovery act combined.

Democrats are particularly fighting for constraints on the largely Republican-led effort to provide $500 billion for corporations. Democrats call that a “slush fund.”

Democrats won a concession — to provide four months of expanded unemployment benefits, rather than just three as proposed, according to an official granted anonymity to discuss the private talks. The jobless pay also would extend to self-employed and so-called gig workers.

But Republicans complained Democrats were holding out for more labor protections for workers, wanting assurances that corporations taking federal aid will commit to retaining their employees.

Alarms were being sounded from coast to coast about the wave of coronavirus cases about to crash onto the nation’s health system.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said from the pandemic’s U.S. epicenter: “April and May are going to be a lot worse.” On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” he all but begged Washington to help procure ventilators and other medical supplies and accused the Republican president of “not lifting a finger” to help.

Trump urged Congress to get a deal done and, during the Sunday briefing, responded to criticism that his administration was sluggish to act. He cited his cooperation with the three states hardest hit — New York, Washington and California — and invoked a measure to give governors flexibility in calling up the national guard under their control, while the federal government covers the bill.

But even as Trump stressed federal-local partnerships, some governors, including Republican Greg Abbott of Texas, expressed unhappiness with Washington’s response. The president himself took a swipe at Democratic Gov. J. B. Pritzker of Illinois, saying that he and “a very small group of certain other Governors, together with Fake News” should not be “blaming the Federal Government for their own shortcomings.”

The urgency to act is mounting, as jobless claims skyrocket and financial markets are eager for signs that Washington can soften the blow of the health-care crisis and what experts say is a looming recession.

Central to the package is as much as $350 billion for small businesses to keep making payroll while workers are forced to stay home. There is also a one-time rebate check of about $1,200 per person, or $3,000 for a family of four, as well as the extended unemployment benefits.

Hospitals would get about $110 billion for the expected influx of sick patients, said Mnuchin.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.

Join our Facebook group for the latest updates on coronavirus in Colorado.

Sourcing & Methodology

Bev Banks contributed. Associated Press writers Jill Colvin, Colleen Long, Hope Yen, Mary Clare Jalonick, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Alan Fram and Padmananda Rama contributed to this report.

Source: Read Full Article

Denver stay-at-home order takes effect — after one final sunny afternoon

Denver residents couldn’t have asked for a nicer afternoon Tuesday to get in their final trips to clothing stores, playgrounds and at least one ice cream shop.

At 5 p.m., mobile phones blared with the city’s public safety alert. It was a notification most knew was coming: The city is effectively closed down for at least two weeks, the result of a stay-at-home order announced Monday by Mayor Michael Hancock that grants some exceptions. It’s the latest effort aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

Those final hours allowed small moments of escape before the city retreats inside.

At Commons Park near downtown, dozens of people walked, threw balls for their dogs, lounged on the grassy hill under the sun and filled the air with laughter as they picnicked in groups — largely well-spaced from one another. Many of those activities, save for individual exercise, are now banned in parks.

Lauren Danielson, 36, and her partner, Rossinni Alba, 32, relished the fresh air as they kicked a soccer ball. They live nearby.

“Before this announcement, we had interactions with maybe one or two of our friends — like a total of four people over the last couple of weeks,” Danielson said. “We’re planning on cutting off any interaction with people that isn’t 6 feet away. I’m just trusting that they know what they’re talking about,” she said of city officials, “and that this is going to be what’s best. It’s not the worst thing in the world to be ordered to sit on my couch and watch TV.”

Hancock’s order also closes “nonessential businesses” and some public places. It will last until April 10, unless he decides to extend it.

The order allows residents to venture out to buy groceries, visit doctors, fill medications and exercise. And it includes a host of exemptions that allow some kinds of businesses to keep their doors open or their employees on site. But more Denver employers face a decision between shifting most employees to working from home Wednesday or, if that’s not an option, closing down temporarily.

Little Man Ice Cream took a cue from the city’s order and went on hiatus at 5 Tuesday at all of its Denver locations, though they weren’t required to. Some other ice cream shops are staying open, offering takeout or delivery service, but business has been slow for most, including Little Man.

Michael Pannier was among a half-dozen people in line a few minutes before 5 at its iconic giant milk can in Lower Highland, there to buy pints while his pregnant wife waited in the car.

In Stapleton, Central Park’s playgrounds — now closed — were popular throughout the afternoon, but some other parks, particularly in west Denver, offered quieter respite.

Chad Hadersbeck and Rory Conrad threw a Frisbee on the trail near Paco Sanchez Park. Conrad said they go to the park about twice a month and hope to keep doing so.

“I feel like everything changes day-to-day, but if that’s what we’ve got to do to keep everyone safe, we need to do it,” Hadersbeck said of the city’s new rules.

New restrictions in a new reality

Denver’s stay-at-home order was the first to be announced in the metro area, with Boulder and several other areas beginning to follow suit. So far, Gov. Jared Polis has held off on a statewide stay-at-home order.

Such an edict adds just a few more restrictions to the already-drastic changes many residents have made in just a couple weeks. But for those who have shirked the city’s and state’s prior guidance, the order means big changes.

In his announcement, Hancock lamented that Denver’s city’s parks drew huge crowds over the weekend. City parks will still be open, but the order prohibits pretty much any outdoor activity at them except for individual or family exercise. Playgrounds, dog parks, tennis and basketball courts, and golf courses will be closed.

“This isn’t a recommendation anymore,” Hancock said Monday.

Denver was still adjusting Tuesday evening. On East Colfax Avenue, foot traffic remained consistent as the deadline came and went, though there were fewer people than usual at that time. On the patio at Atomic Cowboy, couples sat and chatted around 5:45 p.m.

A couple hours earlier, Lorenzo Mathis, 36, killed time with his fiancee in front of Union Station downtown while waiting for a bus back home to Stapleton. His job at Walmart will continue feeding his five children, for now. But he was skeptical about Hancock’s action.

“I think it’s too early to make the right call. You’re sending out a big panic to millions of” metro-area residents, he said. “We saw what happened (Monday) as soon as they made the call.”

Hancock’s initial order inadvertently set off a mad rush to liquor stores and marijuana shops — even those outside city limits — causing the kinds of lines and crowds he meant to discourage. Hours later, the mayor reversed the decision to treat those businesses as nonessential.

Retail outlets slim down staffs or close

Other types of businesses aren’t so fortunate.

In Stapleton, the often-bustling streets and sidewalks of Northfield shopping center were unusually quiet at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday and eerily so an hour later, when employees erected large, red A-frame signs at the entrances to make the retail district’s closure official.

Whimsy Studios co-owner Stine Hildre said after seeing little traffic these past two weeks, the stay-at-home order has meant layoffs. The store will keep one full-time employee, plus her. Hildre’s husband and co-owner is a National Guard medic who’s helping with the coronavirus response.

“We’re switching our business model from in-studio painting classes to online painting classes,” Hildre said. “We have these to-go kits that people can take home — and then we have a video on our website, so they can follow along.”

The 16th Street Mall, too, was oddly quiet near Lower Downtown even before the deadline.

On Wazee Street, the iconic store Rockmount Ranch Wear was dark. But the notice in its window was optimistic: “When Papa Jack founded Rockmount in 1946 he weathered all kinds of challenges, same as all businesses over time. This too will pass.”

Even some small businesses that can stay open under the city’s order are struggling. Intermountain Radiator and Muffler on Federal Boulevard at West 25th Avenue has seen business nosedive, with about 10% of normal customer traffic coming through Tuesday, owner Riley Meehan said.

“I think it’s because people are scared,” said Meehan, who has had the shop for 40 years. Still, he feels the measures taken are necessary.

“The small businessman should really understand that they’re there to support society,” he said, “and it’s not the government’s job to support them.”

Join our Facebook group for the latest updates on coronavirus in Colorado.

Source: Read Full Article

Coronavirus support loophole leaves workers without pay

Full-time workers who have recently changed jobs are being sacked or left without pay because of an apparent loophole in the government’s coronavirus support scheme, Sky News can reveal.

To be eligible for the wage subsidy of up to £2,500-a-month because of the COVID-19 outbreak affect on workers, an employee must have been on their company’s payroll on 28 February.

Job change data from the website LinkedIn suggests at least several thousand people could be affected by the clause.

Sky News has spoken to dozens of workers who started new roles in the days and weeks after the cut-off point, meaning their employer cannot claim the 80% wage subsidy.

Dundee-based software engineer Kuljit Athwal has worked full time for 25 years but was laid off just weeks into a new job because he started three days after the cut-off point.

“I have three children under ten who are no longer going to school… my wife is a healthcare assistant in a pharmacy, so she works sometimes 12 hour shifts a day,” he said.

“This scheme was a lifeline for me…it just so happened this great opportunity came up for me when it did in January and I changed jobs just at the wrong moment in time.”

The Treasury says the measures are already protecting thousands of jobs.

It is understood the 28 February date has been used so the government can reference claims against pay data.

But Tim Roache, General Secretary of the GMB Union said: “if you’ve been working, paid your taxes, done everything you were supposed to but just happened to have changed jobs at the wrong time, it can’t be right that there’s no support”.

Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell says he’s raised the issue with the government and will continue to press for action.

A Facebook group calling for change has hundreds of members while thousands of people have signed a petition against the clause.

Treasury guidance states that employers can re-hire staff that have been made redundant and still claim the subsidy.

But that doesn’t apply if the worker has voluntarily left their post and some employees say firms are reluctant to keep former or outgoing staff on their books.

Sophie Evans is currently working a three-month notice period with a law firm in Birmingham but says her new employer cannot claim the subsidy for her when she joins them in the coming weeks.

While her existing firm could extend her contract and claim the wage subsidy, she says they won’t do it as they have “no obligation” to help.

“Why would they waste their resources even sorting it out? It also raises legal issues – my firm will not assist and wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole,” she said.

Some small businesses also say they are being forced to choose between sacking new starters or further financial pressure.

Source: Read Full Article

Colorado Republicans denounce Polis’ statewide stay-home order

A majority of Colorado Senate Republicans sent Gov. Jared Polis a letter Friday denouncing his decision to enact a stay-at-home order due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The letter comes the same week some of those lawmakers sent a letter to Douglas County commissioners urging them to cut ties with a public health organization that planned to issue a stay-at-home order in Douglas County.

Fourteen of Colorado’s 16 Republican senators signed Friday’s letter to the governor. Sens. Jack Tate, a Centennial Republican, and Kevin Priola, a Henderson Republican, were notably absent from the list.

“Despite many of our constituents’ expressed concerns over the last two weeks, we have resisted publicly critiquing you, your office, and your efforts, but we must formally express to you our disappointment in your “Stay-at-Home” order issued on Wednesday afternoon,” the letter stated.

The lawmakers said they were disappointed that Polis did not engage them in the decision and asserted that the governor did not present facts to back his decision. There appears to be a disconnect between his order and what rural residents are seeing, they said.

“It is our sincere belief, Governor Polis, that your actions on Wednesday have potentially sown discord and fear in Coloradans that are seeking clarity from their elected officials at this time of despair,” they wrote. “Elements of the order, especially those directing individuals to report on their neighbors, may have the unintended effect of breaking the bonds of community unity.”

The lawmakers said they were still were committed to working with the governor through the crisis.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the governor’s office said Polis is thankful for lawmakers’ commitment to protecting Coloradans.

“These are painful and heavy decisions for any elected official including Governor Polis, and they are being made in real time as we receive the most up-to-date data from across Colorado,” wrote Conor Cahill.

Source: Read Full Article

‘We’re angry and unprotected’ Builders and electricians urge Boris to help self-employed

Many builders were forced to turn up for work yesterday, many using packed public transport, after being excluded from lockdown measures.

Downing Street said they should continue to work if they can follow public health guidelines to remain two metres apart.

But the government advice was at odds with official instructions in Scotland and London mayor Sadiq Khan said he clashed with the PM about the move.

Electrician Dan Dobson said the Government must provide support to self-employed workers, including about a million in the construction industry, and then shut down building sites.

He added: “They have no incentive to stay at home, they have bills to pay.

“Everyone on site at the minute feels angry and unprotected.

“None of them want to go to work, everyone is worried about taking it (coronavirus) home to their families.

“But they still have bills to pay, they still have rent to pay, they still have to buy food.

“Construction sites will stay open until the Government issues an order to close.

“But the Government cannot issue the order to close until it offers support to the one million-plus construction workers – it has to go hand in hand.”

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said the Construction Leadership Council had issued guidance to the industry.

He added: “We urge employers to use their common sense when managing live projects and ensuring that employees can follow the Government guidance and practice safe social distancing on site.”

Cabinet minister Michael Gove said “construction on sites should continue”. 

But Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said construction sites should close unless the work is “essential” such as hospitals.

London’s Mr Khan said he told the Prime Minister “forcibly” at a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee that construction workers should not be going into work.

He told LBC: “One of the points I made was, construction workers, unless it is for safety reasons, should not be going to work. I was overruled.”

British Safety Council chairman Lawrence Waterman said that all non-essential construction work should be stopped so that workers can stay safe.

He added: “The construction sector needs clarity from the Government – on most sites social distancing will be impossible or simply unsafe.

“All non-essential construction should end now so that construction workers can go home House-builder Taylor Wimpey has closed its construction sites, show homes and sale sites.

But rival Redrow said its sites remain open with “strict precautions in place including enhanced levels of cleaning, additional hygiene facilities and social distancing”.

Source: Read Full Article

Factbox: U.S. lawmakers who tested positive for the coronavirus

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Three members of the U.S. Congress have tested positive for the coronavirus, and more than two dozen others have said they are self-quarantining, even as lawmakers scramble to pass more legislation to help cope with the pandemic.

Here is a look at some of the lawmakers affected:

WHO HAS THE VIRUS?

Senator Rand Paul

The Kentucky Republican said on Sunday that he had tested positive for COVID-19 and was in quarantine. He said he was asymptomatic and feeling fine and was tested out of an abundance of caution. He had been in the Senate and using the gym there in the days before he received his positive result.

Representative Mario Diaz-Balart

The Florida Republican said on March 18 that he tested positive after developing symptoms on March 14. That was less than 24 hours after he and more than 400 other members of the House of Representatives crowded into the chamber to pass a sweeping coronavirus aid package.

Representative Ben McAdams

The Utah Democrat said on March 18 that he had the virus, also having developed symptoms on March 14. In a statement on Tuesday, the 45-year-old said he was hospitalized and doctors were monitoring his occasional need for oxygen.

McAdams urged lawmakers to stop partisan games and take swift action to support communities grappling with the public health emergency. “At the advice of my doctors, I am still in the hospital. My experience further shows me the seriousness of this issue,” he said on Twitter.

WHO IS SELF-QUARANTINED?

Republican Senators Mitt Romney and Mike Lee said on Sunday they would self-quarantine after having spent time with Paul.

Romney said on Tuesday that he had tested negative for the virus but would stay in quarantine.

At least four other senators previously self-quarantined. They are Republicans Cory Gardner, Lindsey Graham, Rick Scott and Ted Cruz. Cruz and Graham have returned to public life.

Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar said on Monday her husband, 52-year-old John Bessler, had the virus and was in the hospital, but she was not at risk because she had not seen him for two weeks. That is longer than the quarantine period.

At least 23 House members have self-quarantined, some after exposure to Diaz-Balart or McAdams, and others after contacts with their constituents or staff members who later tested positive. Not all are still in isolation.

They include: Republicans Steve Scalise, Mark Meadows, Tom Cole, Doug Collins, Drew Ferguson, Matt Gaetz, Paul Gosar and Ann Wagner along with Democrats Don Beyer, Anthony Brindisi, Julia Brownley, Jason Crow, Joe Cunningham, Sharice Davids, Kendra Horn, Andy Kim, Gwen Moore, Stephanie Murphy, Ben Ray Lujan, David Price, Kathleen Rice, David Schweikert and John Yarmuth.

Source: Read Full Article

McConnell, Pelosi, Mnuchin see deal soon on $2 trillion U.S. coronavirus aid

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Senior Democrats and Republicans said on Tuesday they were close to a deal on a $2 trillion coronavirus economic stimulus package, raising hopes that the divided U.S. Congress could soon act to try to limit the pandemic’s economic fallout.

“At last, I believe, we’re on the five-yard line,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, using a football analogy meaning close to scoring, as the chamber opened its session on Tuesday morning.

“We are very close,” added McConnell, the top Republican in Congress.

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in Congress, said the two sides had agreed to more oversight provisions for a proposed $500 billion fund to help hard-hit businesses, resolving a key sticking point.

“I think there is a real optimism that we could get something done in the next few hours,” Pelosi told CNBC.

Steven Mnuchin, President Donald Trump’s treasury secretary, told reporters that lawmakers hope to have a draft ready within the next two to three hours. He confirmed the changes to the industrial fund.

“There’s better oversight,” Mnuchin said.

Along with the industrial aid, the bill would send direct payments of up to $3,000 to millions of U.S. families at a cost of $500 billion. It also would provide $350 billion for small-business loans, $250 billion for expanded unemployment aid and at least $75 billion for hospitals.

Democrats have twice blocked attempts to advance the bill, saying it did not provide enough money for states and hospitals, lacked sufficient aid for unemployed Americans and did not include adequate supervision of a massive fund to aid big businesses.

Those concerns appear to have been addressed.

Related Coverage

  • McConnell says lawmakers very close to a deal on coronavirus bill

“I’m very optimistic that there will be a deal announced this morning,” Democratic Senator Chris Coons said on MSNBC.

Wall Street bounced from three-year lows on Tuesday on hopes that the Senate might be close to ending its standoff on the legislation.

Trump, seeking re-election on Nov. 3, has said he may ease a public-health clamp-down that aims to slow the spread of the virus in an effort to quickly restart the economy. Other officials warned that such an action could compound the damage.

‘ALL OF THE NONSENSE’

Republicans, Democrats and top Trump aides have negotiated for days over the package, which would be the third and largest passed to address the crisis if it is backed by both the Republican-majority Senate and Democratic-led House and signed by the Republican president.

The money at stake in the stimulus legislation amounts to more than the U.S. government spends on national defense, scientific research, highway construction and other discretionary programs.

“Congress must approve the deal, without all of the nonsense, today. The longer it takes, the harder it will be to start up our economy,” Trump wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.

The coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 550 people in the United States and sickened more than 43,800, shuttered thousands of businesses, thrown millions out of work and led state governors to order about 100 million people – nearly a third of the nation’s population – to stay at home.

Pelosi has introduced her own $2.5 trillion counterproposal that also includes $4 billion that would allow states to conduct the November presidential and congressional elections by mail.

That legislation would likely be irrelevant if a bipartisan deal is forged in the Senate.

Republicans normally hold a slim 53-47 majority in the Senate, meaning they need Democratic support to garner the 60 votes required to advance most legislation.

But the coronavirus has affected their ranks, giving Democrats more leverage. Republican Senator Rand Paul has tested positive for coronavirus and four other Republicans are also unable to vote because they were exposed to Paul or others with the virus.

Source: Read Full Article

Bloomberg to transfer $18 million to Democratic National Committee

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Billionaire media mogul Mike Bloomberg will transfer $18 million to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and several of the field offices from his 2020 presidential bid to state parties, his campaign announced on Friday.

Bloomberg, a former New York City mayor who ended his White House bid earlier this month after a poor showing on “Super Tuesday,” had said if he did not succeed he would do everything he could to ensure a Democrat defeats Republican President Donald Trump.

“While our campaign has ended, Mike’s number one objective this year remains defeating Trump and helping Democrats win in November,” his campaign said in a statement.

Bloomberg’s campaign noted that his self-funded $275 million media blitz had not included running any negative ads against his fellow Democratic rivals.

While Bloomberg had considered creating an independent entity to back the eventual Democratic nominee, ultimately it seemed a better use of resources to be “united in strategy and execution” with the national and state parties, according to a memo from his campaign to the DNC.

After dropping out of the race, Bloomberg backed former Vice President Joe Biden, who currently leads rival U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont in delegates and national opinion polls.

The DNC said that Bloomberg’s resources will allow them to hire hundreds of organizers in key battleground states and to accelerate hiring.

“With this transfer from the Bloomberg campaign, Mayor Bloomberg and his team are making good on their commitment to beating Donald Trump. This will help us invest in more organizers across the country to elect the next president and help Democrats win up and down the ballot,” DNC Chair Tom Perez said in a statement.

Source: Read Full Article

Coronavirus: ‘Your NHS needs you’ – 65,000 ex-doctors and nurses asked to return

More than 65,000 former doctors and nurses are being asked to return to the NHS to help tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

Letters will be sent out to medics who have retired or left their roles in the last three years, and have up-to-date skills and experience.

People vulnerable to coronavirus will not be expected to rejoin and workers will fill a variety of jobs – including person-to-person roles as well as manning the NHS 111 phone line.

Final year medical students and student nurses will also be asked to take temporary, fully paid roles to boost frontline staffing.

Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director for the NHS, said: “By offering to return to the NHS now, these thousands of well-qualified and compassionate people will make more of a difference than ever before – not just to patients, but to colleagues and the wider community.”

Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England, said: “As the health service gears up to deal with the greatest global health threat in its history, my message to former colleagues is ‘your NHS needs you’.

“Our wonderful nurses in every corner of the country are preparing to change the way we work so that we can provide the right care for the rising numbers of people who will need it.”

Conservative MP Maria Caulfield has announced she will be returning to her job as a nurse alongside her political role.

She said she was returning to nursing because “the NHS will be getting unprecedented numbers of patients needing care, but also because staff are liable to get sick themselves”.

Ms Caulfield, who used to work at the Royal Marsden Hospital in Brompton, is the MP for Lewes in East Sussex.

Those who join will be given an induction and online training before they start work.

NHS medics working in non-frontline roles have also told Sky News that they could be redeployed to help fight the COVID-19 outbreak.

One said: “I’ve come to the opinion that the point of our job, simply, is to help people. Under normal circumstances my research is the best thing I can do to help society, and that will be the case for 99% of my career.

“For these few months, if me working on the acute side is more likely to help people, then I’m okay with that.”

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced around 1.4 million people classed as vulnerable will be contacted by the NHS from Monday and given advice on how to self-isolate.

This will include further information on remaining safe while continuing to receive treatment for conditions such as cancer.

Source: Read Full Article