Trump Rips Into Schumer for Complaints About Virus Response

President Donald Trump said New York state would have been better prepared for the coronavirus outbreak if Chuck Schumer hadn’t been distracted by impeachment, in an unusual rebuttal letter prompted by the Senate minority leader’s criticism of the administration’s handling of the outbreak

Trump, who frequently directs barbs at Schumer via Twitter, gave a four-point response on White House stationery to a letter Schumer released earlier in the day and some of the Democratic leader’s comments in interviews.

“If you spent less time on your ridiculous impeachment hoax, which went haplessly on forever and ended up going nowhere (except increasing my poll numbers), and instead focused on helping the people of New York, then New York would not have been so completely unprepared for the ‘invisible enemy,”’ Trump wrote.

Schumer had written that as the virus outbreak spreads “and its terrible, grim toll grows more severe with each passing day, the tardiness and inadequacy of this administration’s response to the crisis becomes more painfully evident.”

The spat conducted via TV interviews and letters shows two of the most powerful politicians in the U.S. trying to score political points as the nation faces a serious health and economic crisis. Trump’s impeachment by the House and his trial in the Senate is cited frequently by Republicans as a distraction at an early stage of the pandemic. Trump was acquitted by the Senate on Feb. 5. He downplayed the threat from the virus for weeks afterward.

Schumer also called for Trump to appoint someone from the military, rather than trade adviser Peter Navarro, to oversee implementation of the Defense Production Act to compel manufacturers to produce essential items like ventilators and protective equipment for medical workers.

“With all due respect to Dr. Navarro, whose expertise is in other areas, he is woefully unqualified for this task,” Schumer wrote.

Trump, in his letter, said that Rear Admiral James Polowczyk, a Navy logistics expert, is in charge of “purchasing, distributing, etc.” for the White House’s virus task force. Trump said he provided Schumer with this information, but “for public relations purposes, you choose to ignore it.”

At Thursday’s White House briefing, Polowczyk said Trump has asked him to get more more equipment to health care workers. He said there are pallets on their way to New York, loaded with 200,000 N95 masks. Polowczyk said that he has a personal interest in helping New York, since he has family working in the state’s hospitals.

“I’ve known you for many years, but I never knew how bad a senator you are for the state of New York, until I became president,” Trump said in concluding his letter. “If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call.”

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Trump Says Saudis, Russia Will Cut Output After Call With Prince

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President Donald Trump said he expects Saudi Arabia and Russia to cut oil production by about 10 million barrels after he spoke by phone with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman on Thursday.

Trump didn’t specify in a tweet whether the production cut would be per day. He said Prince Mohammed had spoken to Russian President Vladimir Putin about their oil price war. “Could be as high as 15 Million Barrels,” Trump added in a subsequent tweet.

“Good (GREAT) news for everyone!” he said.

But a Putin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the Russian president had not spoken to the crown prince. And Saudi Arabia didn’t confirm a production cut, instead calling for an “urgent meeting” of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries plus Russia and other unnamed countries, according to state-run media.

The White House declined to comment on the tweets.

Crude oil futures in New York surged as much as 35% on Trump’s tweet.

If Trump meant 10 million barrels per day, that would equal both Moscow and Riyadh curbing nearly 45% of their production — an unprecedented move that triggered skepticism in markets.

Riyadh has until now made clear it’s ready to cut production provided that other big oil producers, including some that aren’t part of the OPEC+ group like the U.S., Canada and Brazil, also reduce their output. OPEC+ refers to a previous alliance between OPEC and Russia to set production levels.

Russia’s refusal in early March to cut production triggered the oil price war, with the kingdom responding by increasing its output to a record high, above 12 million barrels a day.

Despite the triumphant tone of Trump’s tweets, Saudi Arabia and Russia have yet to agree to the size of any production cut, according to an OPEC+ delegate familiar with the conversations. Any curbs will be conditional on every major oil producer also agreeing to reduce production, the person said, asking not to be named discussing diplomatic conversations.

Saudi Arabia wants countries that aren’t part of the OPEC+ alliance to join in any future pro-rationing. Although Riyadh hasn’t drawn up a formal list, in the past OPEC+ had invited big American oil producers, Brazil and Canada to its meetings. Both Canada and Brazil have previously declined. OPEC had also invited the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates the oil industry in the state, to participate in its meetings.

Trump is scheduled to speak with the leaders of U.S. oil producers and refiners on Friday. One industry leader said the president may have been motivated to remark on the surplus oil production because the U.S. is literally running out of physical space to store crude.

“I think something like this was inevitable because there is nowhere to put the oil,” said Dan Eberhart, a Trump donor and chief executive of drilling services company Canary Drilling Services. “I think this is out of necessity, not out of gamesmanship.”

— With assistance by Justin Sink, Ilya Arkhipov, and Ari Natter

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U.S. Extends Measures; Singapore Central Bank Move: Virus Update

We’re tracking the latest on the coronavirus outbreak and the global response. Sign up here for our daily newsletter on what you need to know.

President Donald Trump extended federal measures that encourage social distancing to the end of April and said the peak of deaths could be reached in two weeks.

U.S. equity futures declined and oil fell to the lowest in 17 years as a top scientist suggested U.S. fatalities may reach 200,000.

Singapore’s central bank eased monetary policy to support an economy on track for its worst recession in years. Australia is expected to announce more income support for workers as part of a third stimulus package, after the country limited public gatherings to just two people over the weekend.

Key Developments:

  • Cases top 718,000; 33,800 dead, 149,000 recovered: Johns Hopkins
  • U.S. deaths pass 2,400, with more than 138,000 cases
  • Nigeria locks down main cities
  • Brazil deaths rise to 136
  • Passengers on “death ship” plea for rescue

Subscribe to a daily update on the virus from Bloomberg’s Prognosis team here.

Click VRUS on the terminal for news and data on the coronavirus and here for maps and charts. For analysis of the impact from Bloomberg Economics, click here. For BNEF’s view of the impact on energy, click here.

Singapore Central Bank Eases Monetary Policy (8:17 a.m. HK)

Singapore’s central bank eased monetary policy to support an economy on track for its worst recession in years due to the rapid global spread of the coronavirus.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore, which uses the exchange rate as its main policy tool rather than a benchmark interest rate, reduced the slope of the currency band to zero starting at the prevailing level of the nominal effective exchange rate of the Singapore dollar.

The MAS’s move comes days after Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keatunveiled a second fiscal support package of S$48 billion ($33.6 billion) for businesses and consumers, bringing the total stimulus delivered this year to about 11% of gross domestic product.​

Trump Wants to Restore Deductions for Business Meals (7:56 a.m. HK)

President Donald Trump said he wants to restore corporate tax deductions for business meals as restaurants reel from the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

The president said he’d spoken with celebrity restarateurs including Wolfgang Puck, Daniel Boulud and Jean-Georges Vongerichten on the subject.

Restaurants nationwide have been forced to close or restrict their business to take-out and delivery because of social distancing measures in place to curb the outbreak.

Trump Says GM ‘Doing a Fantastic Job’ (7:33 a.m. HK)

General Motors Co. won praise from President Donald Trump for its work on hospital ventilators, two days after he invoked a federal law to force the company to produce the devices faster and at lower cost.

“General Motors is doing a fantastic job,” Trump said Sunday at a White House news conference. “I don’t think we have to worry about General Motors now.”

GM is working with medical device maker Ventech Medical Inc. to retool some factories to make ventilators — not a simple task given the need to source dozens of parts and set up production lines. Trump and his aides said Friday that the automaker was moving too slowly and asking too high a price.

He issued a memo Friday invoking the Defense Production Act to force GM to make ventilators, but suggested hours later he might withdraw the order.

Read the story here.

Cigna, Humana Waive Out-of-Pocket Costs (7:31 a.m. HK)

U.S. health insurers Cigna Corp. and Humana Inc. said they will waive out-of-pocket costs for patients who need treatment for Covid-19.

“We’re stepping in as aggressively as we can to support care access and peace of mind,” Cigna Chief Executive Officer David Cordani said in a joint interview with Humana CEO Bruce Broussard.

Cordani and Broussard said they don’t want disputes over payment or concern about doctors being out-of-network to dissuade anyone from seeking care. Cigna said it would pay providers its in-network rates or Medicare rates, and both executives said patients would be shielded from balance or surprise billing by doctors or hospitals.

U.S. Measures Extended to April 30 (6:30 a.m. HK)

President Donald Trump said his administration expects coronavirus deaths to peak in about two weeks as he extended guidelines for Americans to distance themselves from one another until April 30.

“We can expect that by June 1 we will be well on our way to recovery” he said.

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said his estimate of 200,000 deaths — made on CNN — is “entirely conceivable” if efforts to mitigate the disease fail. Deborah Birx, the State Department immunologist advising Vice President Mike Pence, said all the models predicted 1.6 million to 2.2 million fatalities if the nation didn’t mitigate the spread.

Trump had aimed to return many Americans to work by Easter Sunday, April 12. The Easter deadline “was just an aspiration,” Trump said Sunday.

Drug Tested on 1,100 Patients (5:45 p.m. NY)

President Donald Trump said 1,100 patients in New York City are getting treatment using hydroxychloroquine, a malaria treatment he earlier touted as a potential remedy for Covid-19.

“Let’s see how it works. It may, it may not,” Trump said in his daily briefing.

Trump also reported on a experiment in which blood plasma is taken from people who recovered from Covid-19 and then transfused into sick patients to boost their immune system.

”Nothing would be worse than declaring victory before the victory is won,” he said.

Australia to Unveil Wage Subsidies (5 p.m. NY)

Australia will announce more income support for workers on Monday as part of a third stimulus package.

The government has already passed more than A$80 billion ($49 billion) of fiscal stimulus. In an interview with Sky News Monday, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg declined to comment on the scale of the planned wage subsidies, reported to be up to A$1,500 every two weeks per employee for the next six months.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday limited public gatherings to just two people as the national death toll climbed to 16.

Read the story here

Mexican Governors Test Positive (4:10 p.m. NY)

The governor of Mexico’s southern Tabasco state is the second regional official to test positive for the virus. Adan Augusto Lopez, a close ally of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, disclosed his test result on Sunday.

The other official with a confirmed test is Hidalgo state Governor Omar Fayad. The two men, writing on their respective Twitter accounts, said they would quarantine themselves at home and follow health protocols.

Rhode Island Expands Car Stops (4 p.m. NY)

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo repealed an order for police to only stop cars crossing the border with license plates from New York, and now is requiring all cars, regardless of origin, to be pulled over as they cross the state’s southern border with Connecticut.

Raimondo acted after an outcry from civil rights groups and a threat of legal action from Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York, now the U.S. epicenter of the outbreak.

All visitors will be told to self-quarantine for 14 days. The National Guard is also checking for out-of-state travelers at bus and train stations and at Rhode Island’s airport.

Read the story here

Venezuela’s Guaido Seeks Coalition (3:50 p.m. NY)

Venezuela National Assembly President Juan Guaido urged formation of a “national emergency government” to replace Nicolas Maduro’s regime and get financing to save lives.

Guaido in a Twitter video Saturday night said his team has developed what’s being called the Jose Maria Vargas plan that includes seeking $1.2 billion from multilateral organizations as well as obtaining medical supplies and food, making money transfers to people staying at home, and constructing water wells for hospitals.

Read story here

South Africa Cases, Deaths Rise (3:45 p.m. NY)

South Africa reported its second Covid-19 death as total cases rose to 1,280. The 74-year-old man had an underlying skin cancer condition, South Africa’s health ministry said in a statement, and was confirmed as ill on March 27 after returning with family from Kruger National Park with flu-like symptoms.

Nigeria Cities in Lockdown (2:45 p.m. NY)

Nigeria will restrict people’s movement and ordered businesses and offices closed in its main cities of Lagos and Abuja, as well as Ogun state. The lockdown begins Monday and continues for two weeks, President Muhammadu Buhari said on state TV Sunday. Nigeria, which has 97 cases, already closed its borders and halted domestic flights.

Read the full story here

France Monitors ICU Cases for Hope (2:40 p.m. NY)

France anticipates its lockdown measures will start to bear fruit this week as the rate of intensive care cases is set to slow, a health ministry official said.

“If there has been less contact between people thanks to the confinement,” France’s health director Jerome Salomon said, “we should start to see a reduction in the number of new cases requiring intensive care each day.”

France has 40,174 infections with 4,632 cases requiring intensive care and 2,606 deaths.

Think Tank Offers Reopening Plan (2:30 p.m. NY)

The conservative American Enterprise Institute on Sunday released a “road map to reopening” the U.S., offering a four-phase plan for navigating the pandemic and emerge from tough restrictions.

Scott Gottlieb, former head of the Food and Drug Administration and a resident AEI fellow, said on CBS that aggressive social distancing measures should stay in place until there is a “sustained reduction” in the number cases for 14 days.

The 16-page “road map” he co-wrote with four others suggests an outline to transition from “sweeping mitigation strategies” to new approaches. The report offers recommendations for avoiding a similar infectious disease threat in the future, through investment into research and development, expansion of health care infrastructure and workforce, and strong preparedness plans.

Slovenia Targets $3.3 Billion in Aid (2:25 p.m. NY)

Slovenia plans economic measures worth about 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion) to help protect jobs, ensure business liquidity and improve the welfare of the hardest-hit citizens, Prime Minister Janez Jansa said in live broadcast from Ljubljana.

The government will offer state guarantees to banks for loans to those hurt most by the crisis. It will temporarily freeze corporate and income tax payments and pay social contributions for all active employees, including the self-employed.

Slovenia confirmed its 11th death on Sunday.

Bulgaria to Offset Virus Fallout (1:55 p.m. NY)

Bulgaria is planning to revise this year’s budget to allow additional funding to offset the effects of the coronavirus.

The finance ministry will offer amendments to raise the maximum level of new debt, now fixed at 2.2 billion lev ($1.25 billion), Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov said Sunday on private Nova TV. The government is considering new borrowing of as much as 1 billion lev ($568 million), depending on market conditions, he said, without specifying a source of funding.

Bulgaria has 346 cases and eight deaths.

Moscow Enters ‘New Phase’ (1:30 p.m. NY)

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin ordered his city’s 12.7 million residents to stay home starting Monday, warning that the spread of novel coronavirus in the city “has entered a new phase.”

The measures in Russian capital’s are the strictest yet imposed in a major Russian city. Passes will be introduced soon, and residents who are out will need to be at least 1.5 meters from others. Sobyanin earlier ordered non-essential businesses to close to slow the spread of the illness.

Confirmed infections in Moscow jumped overnight to 1,014 on Sunday and make up two-thirds of the country’s total.

Normalcy May Be Six Months Away, U.K. Says (1 p.m. NY)

U.K. lockdown measures could last for months and the death toll will probably get worse in the coming weeks, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England Jenny Harries said.

While current measures appear to be succeeding in keeping people home, the steps will take time to yield results and the government is expecting the toll to increase in the next few weeks, she said.

It will take “two or three months to see whether we’ve really squashed it,” she said, and “three to six months, ideally — and there’s lots of uncertainty around that — to see at what point we can actually get back to normal.”

Fatalities in the U.K. increased to 1,228 Sunday with 19,522 confirmed cases.

New York Deaths Reach 965 (12:25 p.m. NY)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said total deaths for the state as of Sunday reached 965 up from 728 a day earlier.

At a briefing in Albany, Cuomo said thousands of state residents will die from the virus, although he did not have precise projections

“I hope it’s wrong,” the governor said.

— With assistance by Steve Geimann, Roxanne Henderson, Slav Okov, Jan Bratanic, Misha Savic, Ilya Arkhipov, Jake Rudnitsky, Ruth Olurounbi, Elisha Bala-Gbogbo, Aditya-V Singhal, Jill Ward, Ruben Munsterman, and Arsalan Shahla

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Trump to Send Off Navy Hospital Ship for New York Virus Mission

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President Donald Trump will travel to Norfolk, Virginia, on Saturday to send off a U.S. naval hospital ship bound for New York, where it will relieve the city’s health care system, at the breaking point from the coronavirus outbreak.

Trump will fly aboard Air Force One for the first time in more than two weeks, as “social distancing” has curtailed not only the movements of average American citizens but those of the president as well.

He is scheduled to take part in a ceremony as the Comfort, a 1,000-bed hospital ship with large red crosses on its sides, sails for New York, which has become the epicenter of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak, with more than 44,000 infections. The city accounted for nearly 50% of all U.S. cases as of Friday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

The Comfort should arrive in New York Harbor by Monday. On the West Coast, its sister ship, the Mercy, arrived in Los Angeles, also battered by the virus, on Friday.

The Comfort sailed to New York in 2001, following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and has since undertaken domestic missions in the Gulf of Mexico in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria in 2017.

The visit to Norfolk will be Trump’s first trip outside of the Washington area March 6, when he visited the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta to discuss the government’s efforts to fight the pandemic. He then flew to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

“The incredible naval hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, which is incredible actually when you see it inside, will be underway to New York city on Saturday,” Trump said at a press conference on Thursday. “I’m going to go out and I’ll kiss it goodbye.”

Trump said that he’d spoken to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo that afternoon to tell him the Comfort would be dispatched to the city sooner than anticipated. Military officials had said the ship needed several weeks of maintenance before sailing; Trump said it would arrive three weeks early.

Albert Shimkus, a professor of national security affairs at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, who was commanding officer of the Comfort in 2006, said in an interview on Friday that the ship is routinely maintained in Norfolk so that it’s always able to get underway within five days.

The Navy said this week that neither the Mercy nor the Comfort would treat coronavirus patients.

“They’re there to handle the overflow or — of acute trauma cases and other urgent needs, and they will not be handling pediatric cases or Ob-Gyn cases. This will allow our shore-based civilian hospitals to focus their medical care and resources on the treatment of Covid-19 patients,” Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly told reporters at a briefing on Thursday.

12 Operating Rooms

The Navy said that it had selected more than 120 volunteers from a group of reserve medical professionals for the mission to New York and that reserve sailors had also reported to the ship. The Comfort, placed into service in 1987, has 12 operating rooms, and it’s equipped to provide radiological services, lab work and diagnostic scans, among other features, according to the Navy.

“If you were to visualize the nature of the place where the patients come into it, it would be very similar to an E.R. at a civilian hospital,” Shimkus said.

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Trump Complains Democratic Governors Don’t Appreciate Virus Help

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President Donald Trump complained that two Democratic governors don’t appreciate his administration’s efforts to combat the coronavirus epidemic and said Vice President Mike Pence shouldn’t take their calls.

“I want them to be appreciative. I don’t want them to say things that aren’t true,” Trump said of the governors at a White House news conference Friday. “When they’re not appreciative to me, they’re not appreciative to the Army Corps. They’re not appreciative of FEMA,” he added, referring to the Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee, Trump said, is “constantly chirping and I guess complaining, would be a nice way of saying it. We’re building hospitals, we’ve done a great job for the state of Washington.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Trump said, “has no idea what’s going on and all she does is say, ‘Oh, it’s the federal government’s fault.’ And we’ve taken such good care of Michigan.” The president didn’t use her name, instead referring to her as “the woman in Michigan.”

He later insulted Whitmer on Twitter.

Both are Democrats. They have publicly complained that they haven’t received adequate support from the federal government to fight virus outbreaks in their states.

Trump said he told Pence not to call the two governors. “I say ‘Mike, don’t call the governor of Washington, you’re wasting your time with him, don’t call the woman in Michigan, it doesn’t make any difference what happens.’”

“If they don’t treat you right, I don’t call,” Trump said. Pence, he said, is “a different type of person, he’ll call quietly anyway.”

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House Approves $2 Trillion Virus Relief Bill, Sends to Trump

The House approved the largest stimulus package in U.S. history Friday as part of the response to the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, sending the measure to President Donald Trump for his signature.

Hundreds of House members traveled back to Washington to overcome the demand from one Republican to hold a recorded vote. The House passed the $2 trillion package by voice vote Friday, after the Senate’s 96-0 vote Wednesday to approve the measure.

Trump will sign the bill at 4 p.m. Friday in Washington, the White House said.

“Our nation faces an economic and health emergency of historic proportions,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said before the vote. “We do know that we must do more.”

Trump will sign the measure “as soon as possible,” said White House congressional liaison Eric Ueland.

Congressional action comes as the U.S. is reeling from the effects of the global health crisis. Infections in the U.S. have topped 92,000, passing the number of cases in China where the disease first emerged. Unemployment claims spiked to 3.3 million last week, dwarfing previous highs in Labor Department reports published since 1967.

“To the American public, if you do your part, I promise we will do ours,” Republican leader Kevin McCarthy said Friday. “We are going to help Americans through this. We are going to do this together.”

The size of the stimulus package is unprecedented, surpassing the approximately $800 billion Obama stimulus that passed five months after the 2008 financial crash. Together with Federal Reserve actions, the legislation will amount to a injection of $6 trillion into the economy, according to White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow, or about 30% of annual gross domestic product.

The House vote took place under unusual circumstances, with three members known to be infected with the coronavirus, including Democrat Joe Cunningham of South Carolina, who said he learned Friday that he had tested positive. Others have placed themselves in quarantine because of possible contact.

Representative Thomas Massie, a Republican from Kentucky, angered many of his colleagues — and Trump — by insisting on a vote procedure that requires the presence of at least half of the House members. Lawmakers gathered on the House floor and in the visitor’s gallery to provide a quorum while maintaining the social distance recommended to avoid spreading the virus.

Enactment of the bill will send direct payments to low- and middle- income Americans, and the unemployed will receive expanded benefits through at least July. Companies of all sizes will have access to emergency financing and tax breaks if they retain employees.

Stocks rose sharply this week as the Senate completed work on the bill. The S&P 500 had its best three day increase since 1933 before declining as much as 4% Friday.

Pots of Money

The package provides about $500 billion in loans and assistance for big companies, provided they do not conduct stock buybacks and retain most employees. Airlines are eligible for grants in exchange for giving the government equity stakes.

There is a separate pot of about $350 billion for small businesses loans, which won’t have to be paid back if used to to make payroll or pay mortgage interest and rents.

For individuals, the relief measure includes direct payments of $1,200 for each adult and $500 for each child, with the payment phasing out for individuals making more than $75,000 per year and couples making more than $150,000. Those without income, or with income solely from government benefits, like seniors on Social Security, are eligible. Individuals making above $99,000 and couples making more than $198,000 receive no payment.

The stimulus bill provides funding to allow states to boost weekly unemployment benefits by $600 through July 31. Maximum state benefit range from $235 in Mississippi to $823 in Massachusetts depending on income. The added boost would be four months for those laid off now, but less time for those losing their jobs closer to July.

Other Benefits

Those affected by the virus would be allowed to take up to $100,000 out of their employer-sponsored retirement funds without penalty. It also would let older retirees avoid having to sell retirement investments in a down market by waiving minimum distribution requirements for Individual Retirement Accounts. Students get relief from student loans, and some mortgage holders with government backed loans will be able to delay payments.

The package also contains $340 billion in emergency supplemental funding for government and local efforts stem the outbreak. That portion includes $117 billion for hospitals and veterans’ health care.

Congress has now enacted three major bills in response to the coronavirus pandemic, including an $8 billion bill funding agencies tasked with fighting the disease and a $100 billion measure focused on providing paid sick leave to workers to encourage them to stay home if infected.

Lawmakers have already begun discussing a fourth stimulus measure. Democrats want to see stronger workplace protections, more money for hard-hit states like New York, expanded food stamp benefits and expanded family leave for those caring for covid-19 patients.

Pelosi on Thursday predicted another round of direct payments and expressed hope for infrastructure spending.

“The interest rates are low,” Pelosi said. “The chairman of the Fed, Mr. Powell, said to me, ‘the interest rates are as low as they’ll ever be. Think big because whatever you borrow to do with this is going to be at the lowest interest.’“

— With assistance by Josh Wingrove

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NYC Mayor Says Trump Needs to Face Reality on Ventilator Crisis

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio says President Donald Trump needs to face reality because cases of the new coronavirus are going to become “astronomical,” putting unprecedented strain on the hospital system.

Trump said in an interview on Fox News on Thursday that he didn’t think New York state, which has become the epicenter of the outbreak in the U.S., needed the 30,000 ventilators that Governor Andrew Cuomo has asked for to treat Covid-19 patents with respiratory conditions.

“I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators. You go into major hospitals sometimes, and they’ll have two ventilators,” Trump said. “And now all of a sudden they’re saying, ‘Can we order 30,000 ventilators?’”

Cuomo and de Blasio have asked Trump to use his authority under the Cold War-era Defense Production Act to compel manufacturers to make ventilators and provide seed money to retrofit factories. The shortage has led to tough decisions about who lives and who dies in Italy and China.

Related: N.J. Starts Thinking Over How to Ration Scarce Ventilators

De Blasio, during an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Friday, said the city needs 15,000 ventilators. He estimates that half of New Yorkers ultimately will contract the virus, and that the crisis will continue to grow through April and into May. New York City has more than 23,000 cases of Covid-19, with 365 deaths at last count.

“When the president says the state of New York doesn’t need 30,000 ventilators, with all due respect to him, he’s not looking at the facts of this astronomical growth of this crisis,” de Blasio said. “If they don’t have a ventilator, a lot of people are just not going to make it.”

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Republican Governors Split on Trump Stay-at-Home Skepticism

President Donald Trump is a skeptic of public-health policies that could harm the economy while saving many thousands of lives. And he has attracted crucial allies among Republican leaders overseeing the movement of millions of Americans.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has resisted enacting orders that would restrict people to their homes — unlike what other large states like New York and California have done. Instead, his office has advised that people older than 65 stay inside. Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves also balked, saying the state isn’t China. And Alabama Governor Kay Ivey has said she has no plans for a state shelter-in-place order, so Birmingham approved its own Tuesday.

Other Republicans, like Ohio’s Mike DeWine, have been leading the charge to slow the virus despite the consequences. Economists estimate social distancing could limit infections and prevent as many as 600,000 additional U.S. deaths. That has set off fierce criticism of those following the lead of Trump, who has repeatedly questioned the need, given the economic costs.

“They have failed the people tremendously,” said Mario King, mayor of Moss Point, Mississippi, population 13,300. The lack of action, especially in a state often ranked one of the nation’s unhealthiest, is negligent and irresponsible, he said. “We have a very vulnerable population.”

GOP Skeptics

Trump has said he’d re-evaluate whether to call for people to return to work after his 15-day strategy to limit social contact elapses next week. On Tuesday, he repeatedly talked about the harm a long-term shutdown would have on the nation.

“This cure is worse than the problem,” Trump said. “In my opinion, more people are going to die if we allow this to continue.”

It created an instant schism among leaders in a party that Trump has thus far shaped in his own image. Officials had to balance danger to their constituents against the president’s expressed wishes.

Conservative leaders quickly backed Trump. Jerry Falwell Jr., head of Liberty University in Virginia, is telling students to return to campus, running counter to other universities’ directives to get students off campus because of fears of spreading the coronavirus. Conservative television pundit Glenn Beck said he would rather die than “kill the country.”

Trump’s own medical experts have said that restrictions on movement and commerce are the only way to curb the pandemic within the U.S. Francis Collins, who leads the National Institutes of Health, said in an interview with The Atlantic that the best case is that measures some states have taken will slow the spread of the disease over months rather than weeks. “That way we won’t have an example like Italy in our own country,” he said.

Some Republican governors have been reluctant to issue stay-at-home orders. Iowa’s Kim Reynolds, a Republican, said Tuesday that health data doesn’t warrant Iowans requiring to remain inside except for essential trips, something neighboring Illinois and Wisconsin have mandated. There are over 140 cases in Iowa, according to the state.

“I don’t want Iowans to think I’m making these decisions lightly,” Reynolds said at a news conference. She added that the decision-making was “fluid” as information changes.

In Florida, DeSantis’s reluctance to issue a stay-at-home order has been met with outcry in the state of 21 million people. He instead merely advised older residents stay in their homes and ordered that visitors from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut self-isolate for 14 days.

Several local governments have taken action themselves. Orange County, Florida, with over 1 million residents, and the city of Orlando issued stay-at-home orders and closed non-essential businesses on Tuesday. The City of Miami’s Republican Mayor Francis Suarez joined them effective at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday.

Despite a growing case count in the Miami metropolitan area, DeSantis noted that Florida still has several counties with no confirmed cases, suggesting that a uniform approach would be inappropriate in such a large state.

Yet even DeSantis is expressing frustration with how the administration has handled restrictions on people’s movement. He said he’s repeatedly brought up concerns about flights from New York with the president, who helped DeSantis get elected, and that ultimately only the federal government could limit air travel.

“It does kind of make no sense,” DeSantis said Wednesday in Orlando. “People fly all over the place from some of the hot zones. I mean, y’know, really? How does that make any sense if we’re trying to contain this thing?”

So far the Florida measures were only enforceable in airports. DeSantis said he had decided against setting up road blocks, saying he didn’t want to clog traffic when emergency medical shipments were sorely needed.

City Goes It Alone

Other governors have stressed that they’re different from the states with large urban areas dealing with outbreaks of the virus, making it unnecessary to issue a stay-at-home order.

“Folks, at this point, we have no current plans to do so,” Ivey said on Tuesday, according to local reports. “We have seen other states in the country doing that, as well as other countries. But however, y’all, we are not California, we’re not New York, we aren’t even Louisiana.”

At a Birmingham City Council meeting, local officials spoke passionately about the importance of saving lives versus saving money. Mayor Randall Woodfin, a Democrat who governs a relative dense, predominantly black city, said the virus isn’t discriminating based on location, race, age or political ideology.

“This is spreading all throughout America,” he said. “In our positions, we have two choices: Option one is to take the lead, be assertive and do everything necessary from a public safety standpoint to protect the residents of this city. Option two is do nothing and wait on other people and fall in line.

“I don’t think option two is an option.”

Wade Perry, who leads the Democratic Party in Alabama, said he would like to see leaders in the state follow the advice of health experts.

“It’s not about politics, it’s not about profits, it’s about people,” he said.

Ohio’s ‘War’

Some Democratic governors, like North Carolina’s Roy Cooper, have also stopped short of issuing a stay-at-home order, leading the county that encompasses Charlotte to implement its own. And not all Republican governors are resisting the measures. In Ohio, DeWine this week ordered that residents stay home, adding that the state is at war with the disease.

DeWine said he and Trump agreed that they wanted to get people back to work as soon as possible. But he said the economy can’t recover if hospitals are overwhelmed.

“We save our economy by first saving lives. We have to do it, and we have to do it in that order,” DeWine said during a news conference Tuesday. “When people are dying, when people don’t feel safe, the economy won’t come back.”

West Virginia Governor Jim Justice, a Republican, praised President Trump’s actions to fight the spread during a news conference, but said his aim to “get back to work” by Easter was ambitious.

“I hope and pray our President knows something I don’t know,” Justice said.

— With assistance by Janet Lorin, Jennifer Kay, and Katherine Rizzo

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Trump Says He’ll Stop Using ‘Chinese Virus,’ Easing Blame Game

President Donald Trump said he would stop using the term “Chinese virus,” the latest indication that the U.S. and China are seeking to deescalate their blame game over the deadly pandemic.

“I don’t regret it, but they accused us of having done it through our soldiers, they said our soldiers did it on purpose, what kind of a thing is that?” Trump said in an interview Tuesday with Fox News. “Look, everyone knows it came out of China, but I decided we shouldn’t make any more of a big deal out of it. I think I made a big deal. I think people understand it. But that all began when they said our soldiers started it. Our soldiers had nothing to do with it.”

Trump cited the Ebola virus and Lyme disease as other illnesses named for their location of discovery. “They do name it after places, it came from China,” he said. He also said that he maintained a “very good” relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping and that China had been though “a lot.”

“They lost thousands of people. They’ve been through hell,” he said.

Trump’s comments came after an unusual public spat between two top Chinese diplomats, which pointed to differences in Beijing over how to handle tensions with Trump. Chinese Ambassador to the U.S. Cui Tiankai reiterated to “Axios on HBO” earlier this week that he was opposed to promoting theories that the coronavirus had originated in a U.S. military lab. He said last month that spreading such theories would be “crazy,” even though a foreign ministry spokesman had repeatedly floated the idea on Twitter.

The virus was first found in humans in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year and has spread rapidly across the world, with more than 420,000 cases and almost 19,000 dead. Trump, who’s facing an election this year, has sought to blame China as the outbreak slams global stock markets and threatens to push the world into recession.

Protecting Asian-Americans

On Tuesday, Trump also tweeted his support for Asian-Americans, who have increasingly faced racism in recent weeks as the illness spreads across the U.S. and Republican politicians highlight its “Chinese” origins. The World Health Organization named the disease COVID-19 — short for “coronavirus disease 2019” — in part to avoid stigmatizing any one place or group for a virus that poses risks to everyone.

“It is very important that we totally protect our Asian American community in the United States, and all around the world. They are amazing people, and the spreading of the Virus…. is NOT their fault in any way, shape, or form,” he wrote.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, who holds a commanding lead over U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders in the Democratic presidential primary, told MSNBC that he was glad Trump “finally got there” on the issue.

“It was long overdue of him to say that he’s not going to put up with this xenophobia,” Biden said. “It’s strange coming from him, but him happy he did it — happy he did it.”

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Trump Calls Powell to Thank Fed for Actions on Economy

President Donald Trump said he called Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on Monday to thank him for his efforts to fight an economic slowdown from the coronavirus outbreak.

“I am happy with him,” Trump said at a White House news conference. “I really think he’s caught up. He’s really stepped up over the last week. I called him today and I said ‘Jerome, good job.’”

The Fed ventured into unchartered territory Monday by offering to directly finance U.S. companies, jumping ahead of the government, which is still struggling to produce a multi-trillion dollar package of support for American businesses and families.

Powell and his colleagues at the U.S. central bank went all in early Monday with another series of emergency actions to keep credit flowing. In their latest steps, the Fed went beyond its normal parameters to pledge support not only to financial markets but also through lending to businesses, states and municipalities that are buckling as the economy shutters to stem the virus.

The lack of a deal by Congress on the latest fiscal-stimulus measures later Monday contributed to a continued slide in stock markets. Wall Street benchmarks closed Monday at their lowest in more than three years.

A spokesperson for the Fed declined to comment.

Trump’s positive comments toward Powell were a shift from his repeated attacks for more than a year on the Fed chair and the central bank’s policy.

Read More

  • Key Trump Quotes on Powell as Fed Remains in the Firing Line
  • Fed Sidesteps Congress’s Bickering With Sweeping Rescue Plan
  • Trump Urges Senate to ‘Make a Deal’ on Stimulus: Congress Update

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