WASHINGTON — Key updates for March 23, 2020
- Ambasador Birx of the White House Coronavirus Task Force was tested for the new coronavirus and results came back negative
- Member of the White House press pool suspected of having COVID-19
- Congress failed to pass the nearly $2 trillion economic rescue package, again.
- The governors of Michigan and Indiana have issued stay-at-home orders for residents to curb the virus.
- China said Monday that the U.S. has attempted to “discredit others and look for a scapegoat to shift its responsibilities.”
- Japan will begin quarantining all travelers from the U.S. for 14 days.
- Two countries have said they will not field teams for the Tokyo Olympics unless the Games are postponed.
- New Zealand begins a four-week lockdown Wednesday that bans all non-essential activities.
US House considers voting by proxy amid virus outbreak
The House is considering whether to allow lawmakers to designate a colleague to vote for them if they can't return to Washington amid the coronavirus outbreak. The chairman of the House Rules Committee has proposed voting by proxy for lawmakers who are unable to cast in-person votes.
House Rules Committee staff began exploring options for voting after two House members tested positive for the virus.
The proposal comes as members of the House are away from Washington, awaiting an agreement in the Senate on a nearly $2 trillion economic rescue package that could come up for a vote this week.
United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee encourages postponing
Nearly seven in 10 U.S. Olympic hopefuls say they don't think the Tokyo Games will be fair if they're held in July due to the coronavirus pandemic.
That prompted leaders of Team USA to conclude the most promising path would be to postpone the Olympics. The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee received survey responses from nearly 1,800 athletes.
Sixty-nine percent said they'd feel comfortable competing in July if the World Health Organization said it was safe. But nearly the same number said there's no way the games could be fair given the restrictions that have been put on training.
The United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee released the following statement about the survey was released:
“We are thankful to the 1,780 Team USA athletes for sharing their voice and honest input with us as we address the issues related to COVID-19 and the Tokyo Games, and make good on our promise to put athletes first. We are now confident that we have heard a wide range of viewpoints and understand the diversity of challenges our athletes face. We regret that there is no outcome that can solve all the concerns we face. Our most important conclusion from this broad athlete response is that even if the current significant health concerns could be alleviated by late summer, the enormous disruptions to the training environment, doping controls and qualification process can’t be overcome in a satisfactory manner. To that end, it’s more clear than ever that the path toward postponement is the most promising, and we encourage the IOC to take all needed steps to ensure the Games can be conducted under safe and fair conditions for all competitors. We look forward to their feedback and direction, and stand ready to work in support of Team USA and in full cooperation with the global community.”
White House Coronavirus Task Force updates public Monday
Members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force addressed the nation Monday afternoon.
President Trump began by addressing reports of anger towards the Asian-American community saying that the spread of the virus "is not their fault in any way shape or form." The comments come after reporters repeatedly asked the president why he continued to refer to the new coronavirus as the "China virus," when the virus and its spread has nothing to do with race or nationality.
President Trump told reporters that the vaccine for the new coronavirus is "coming along very quickly."
Ambassador Deborah Birx said that noone under 15 in Europe has died and less than 1% of deaths have been under 50. Birx said that most deaths are with those above 50 and with preexisting conditions.
Birx made a special plea to those in New York City to especially social distance at this time, saying that specimens in testing labs came back with a 28% positive rate for people in the New York city area which is considered very high.
Ambassador Birx told reporters Monday that she did have a low grade fever at some point over the last few days and decided to have a coronavirus test which came back negative. She chalked it up to a possible gastrointestinal issue.
Trump also told reporters that First Lady Melania Trump has been tested for the new coronavirus and the results came back negative.
Before the briefing started, President Trump tweeted, "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. They are working closely with us to get rid of it. WE WILL PREVAIL TOGETHER!"
President Trump said that construction companies are donating their masks numbering in the hundreds of thousands. The president also mentioned the hope behind a Malaria drug which is leading to shortages. The evidence that the drug may help is thin, and a run on the drugs is complicating access for people who need them for rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.
Chloroquine and a similar drug, hydroxychloroquine, have shown encouraging signs in very small and early tests. But the drugs have major side effects. That's one reason scientists don't want to give them without evidence of their value, even in this emergency. Scientists say major studies are needed to prove the drugs are safe and effective when used for purposes other than those approved now.
The president also addressed the deadline to get a "REAL ID."
President Donald Trump said the deadline for having a "REAL ID" will be postponed amid closures across the United States in response to the coronavirus. That new deadline has yet to be released.
Member of White House Press Corps suspected of having COVID-19
Colleagues in the White House press pool were advised Wednesday that the White House Correspondent's Association was notified that one of their colleagues is suspected of having COVID-19. Members were told that the individual was at the White House on March 9, 11, 16 and 18. Journalists who were at the White House during that time period are being advised to review public health guidance, consult their medical professionals and take the appropriate next steps.
'Stay at home': UK's Johnson ramps up response to virus
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ordered the closure of most retail stores and banned public gatherings of more than two people in a stepped-up response to slow the new coronavirus. The measures Johnson announced in an address to the nation on Monday night a mark a departure from the British government's until-now more relaxed approach to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. Britain has already closed schools, bars and restaurants and urged people to stay home. But while many followed the instructions, some did not. The approach has led to confusion and caused alarm by public officials worried about the escalating number of cases. There were growing calls for the government to impose tighter restrictions with more rigorous enforcement.
Ontario to close all non-essential businesses
Canada's most populous province says that non-essential businesses must close for at least 14 days starting at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday in efforts to stem the new coronavirus pandemic.
Ontario Gov. Doug Ford said Monday he will release the list of businesses that will be allowed to stay open, but food will remain on the grocery store shelves and people will still have access to medication. Ford also acknowledged students will not going back to school on April 6, the date initially set for a return to classes.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier that “Enough is enough. Go home and stay home."
Senate fails to advance coronavirus bill package again
In a 49 to 46 vote, the U.S. Senate failed to advance a third phase of the coronavirus economic aid bill package for a second time.
The Senate has refused to advance the coronavirus rescue package for the first time on Sunday in a procedural vote with Democrats, rejecting a draft from Republicans and pushing for more aid for workers.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Sunday urged senators to “signal to the public that we're ready to get this job done.” He wanted passage by Monday. But Democrats have resisted, arguing the nearly $1.4 trillion measure needs to bolster aid and put limits on how businesses can use the emergency dollars.
Republicans need 60 votes to move forward on the bill. More voting is possible.
Longest-serving IOC member says Tokyo Olympics will be postponed
Veteran International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound said Monday he believes the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games are going to be postponed, according to USA Today.
The games have been threatened by the fast-spreading coronavirus, which causes COVID-19.
Pound told USA Today the games will likely be played in 2021, with all the details to be worked out in the next few weeks. He said the IOC is expected to announce its next steps soon.
The Olympics are scheduled to open on July 24, but Pound told USA Today that "the Games are not going to start on July 24, that much I know."
He added that he believes the IOC will announce the postponement and its next steps soon.
Tom Hanks says he and Rita Wilson "feel better"
Actor Tom Hanks says two weeks after their first coronavirus symptoms, he and his wife, Rita Wilson, "feel better."
Hanks and Wilson announced they tested positive for COVID-19 on March 11 while in Australia for the pre-production for a film about Elvis Presley's life for Warner Bros.
They first became concerned after feeling tired with body aches, chills and fevers. They opted to get tested and learned they were positive.
In the 63-year-old actor's recent update, he encouraged everyone to look out for each other.
Indiana governor orders residents to stay home
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb on Monday ordered residents to remain in their homes except for essential errands in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus, mirroring similar orders in adjacent Illinois and Ohio.
Angela Merkel negative in 1st coronavirus test
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman said Monday that the German leader has tested negative for the new coronavirus.
Spokesman Steffen Seibert told news agency dpa “the result of today's test is negative” but that “further tests will be conducted in the coming days.”
Merkel went into quarantine at home on Sunday evening after being informed that a doctor who had administered a vaccination to her had tested positive for the new coronavirus. She received the precautionary vaccination against pneumococcal infection on Friday.
Michigan issues stay-at-home order
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has issued a statewide stay-at-home order to curb the spread of the coronavirus, with an exemption for certain workers, outdoor exercise and trips to the grocery store or hospital.
The order, which will take effect at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, will allow essential employees necessary to sustain and protect life to continue going to work.
Minnesota governor to self-quarantine
Minnesota governor Tim Walz said Monday morning that he will be self-quarantining after learning he had contact with someone who tested positive for coronavirus.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar's husband tests positive for COVID-19
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar announced her husband recently tested positive for the new coronavirus.
"I love him and not being able to be by his side is one of the hardest things about this disease," the senator wrote in a tweet.
In a statement on Medium, Klobuchar said her husband started feeling sick while she was in Minnesota and he was in D.C. Her husband quarantined himself, and when his symptoms got worse he was tested and checked into a hospital in Virginia. Klobuchar said her husband now has pneumonia and is on oxygen but not a ventilator.
Because Klobuchar and her husband were in different states when he became ill and she is outside the 14-day period for getting sick, the senator said she would not be tested for the disease. "As everyone is aware, there are test shortages for people who need them everywhere and I don’t qualify to get one under any standard," she said in a statement.
Surgeon General urges people to stay home, says "it's going to get bad" this week
Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams spoke with NBC's "TODAY" show Monday morning and reiterated the need for the public to stay home and mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
“I want America to understand this week, it's going to get bad,” he said.
Adams said despite warnings, people are still flocking to beaches and national attractions. The crowds were mostly young people, according to Adams. He warned that young people could still contract the disease and require hospitalization.
"Everyone needs to act as if they have the virus right now. So, test or no test, we need you to understand you could be spreading it to someone else. Or you could be getting it from someone else. Stay at home,” he said.
Dollar General to hire up to 50,000 new employees
Dollar General has announced it will double its hiring rate and hire up to 50,000 new employees to keep up with the demand for household essentials during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We are proud to serve as one of America’s essential retailers, and we believe our customers are relying on us now more than ever to provide an affordable, convenient retail option,” said Kathy Reardon, Dollar General’s senior vice president and chief people officer in a statement. “The Dollar General family continues to do its part in helping our customers and neighbors during these unprecedented times.
Michigan governor to issue stay-at-home order
As of 1:15 a.m. ET Monday, Johns Hopkins University reports 339,041 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide. The United States has 35,211 confirmed cases, the third-most in the world behind China and Spain.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will announce a statewide stay-at-home order to curb the spread of the coronavirus, with an exemption for certain workers, a government official told The Associated Press on Monday.
The order, which will take effect at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, will allow “essential" employees necessary to sustain and protect life to continue going to work, said a high-ranking administration official who had direct knowledge of the measure. The person was not authorized to speak publicly before the Democratic governor's scheduled 11 a.m. Monday news conference.
Lansing-based political publication MIRS first reported on the planned order Monday.
Michigan has more than 1,000 cases of COVID-19, the disease called by the virus. Nine deaths have been reported.
For most people, the 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.
CVS to hire 50,000, give bonuses in response to virus
CVS has announced it will be awarding bonuses to employees, launching new benefits and hiring 50,000 new employees in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Bonuses will range from $150 to $500. The positions open will be full-time, part-time and temporary. The roles include stores associates, prescription delivery drivers, ,distribution center employees and member/customer service professionals.
“Our colleagues have demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to providing essential goods and services at a time when they’re needed most,” said Larry J. Merlo, President and CEO, CVS Health in an emailed statement.“As they continue to be there for the individuals and families we serve, we’re taking extra steps to provide some peace of mind and help them navigate these uncertain times.”
Global COVID-19 cases top 350,000 and death toll passes 15,000
COVID-19 has infected more than 350,000 people worldwide and killed more than 15,000, according to a John Hopkins University tracker. More than 100,000 people have recovered from the disease.
The majority of people who have the new coronavirus, which causes the disease known as COVID-19, will get better without any long-term effects, according to an Oregon doctor.
A majority of cases tend to be mild. In these cases, symptoms diminish over five to seven days, although people are still capable of transmitting the disease. But there are many people with a higher risk of having a more severe disease if they are diagnosed with coronavirus, including those with heart disease, diabetes, asthma and other vascular disease problems. Also, most children who get it have mild symptoms.
Federal Reserve to lend up to $300B to businesses, cities
In a series of sweeping steps, the Fed will lend to small and large businesses and local governments as well as extend its bond buying programs.
It's all part of the Fed's ongoing efforts to support the flow of credit through an economy ravaged by the viral outbreak. The Fed said Monday that it will set up three new lending facilities that will provide up to $300 billion by purchasing corporate bonds, buying a wider range of municipal bonds, and purchasing asset-backed securities.
It also says it will buy an unlimited amount of Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities in an effort hold down interest rates and ensure those markets function smoothly.
U.S tourist is second virus fatality in Puerto Rico
The second death from COVID-19 in Puerto Rico is a tourist from the United States.
The Health Department says the victim is a 73-year-old man who was vacationing in the U.S. territory with his wife and had other health problems.
The island has 31 confirmed coronavirus cases and at least 69 pending test results. Police have detained and cited more than 200 people for violating a two-week curfew imposed last week.
Former Olympic swimming champion has the virus
Former Olympic swimming champion Cameron van der Burgh of South Africa says he has contracted the coronavirus
Van der Burgh retired from competitive swimming but says he has been struggling for two weeks with the illness. He is also adding his voice to concerns for the well-being of current athletes if the Tokyo Olympics are held as scheduled
in July and August. Van der Burgh says athletes are “exposing themselves to unnecessary risk” by continuing to train because they are unsure if the games will go ahead. The IOC has announced it is considering postponing the Olympics.
Two who tested positive on Diamond Princess cruise ship die
Japan's health ministry said Monday that two former passengers of a cruise ship died, becoming the ninth and 10th fatalities from the Diamond Princess.
The two men had tested positive for the virus while on board and were treated at hospitals. The ministry didn't disclose the direct cause of their deaths.
Japan now has 1,801 confirmed cases, including 712 from the ship. The death toll now totals 51, including 10 from the ship.
China slams US for 'scapegoating' over virus
China's foreign ministry says the U.S. is "completely wasting the precious time" Beijing had won in attacking the global coronavirus outbreak that originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a daily briefing Monday that the U.S. has attempted to “discredit others and look for a scapegoat to shift its responsibilities.”
He added that the U.S. should “stop politicizing the epidemic, stop stigmatizing and defaming China and other countries.”
China's health ministry says Wuhan has now gone five consecutive days without a new infection, showing the effectiveness of draconian travel restrictions that are slowly being relaxed around the country.
At the same time, China is stepping up measures to prevent the virus from being brought back from overseas, requiring international flights into Beijing to first stop at airports outside the capital for inspection.
New Zealand prepares four-week lockdown
Office workers are hauling computers and plants to their cars and shoppers are stripping shelves bare of coffee, flour and toilet paper before New Zealand starts a four-week lockdown.
"I know it will feel daunting," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, but she said the move was meant to save lives.
People must stay home and all non-essential businesses and activities cease when the lockdown begins late Wednesday night.
Japan to begin quarantining all visiting from US
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Monday that Japan will require a 14-day quarantine to all visitors from the United States, including the Japanese and Americans, effective Thursday and until the end of April.
Japan on Sunday raised a travel advisory for the U.S., urging the Japanese citizens not to make nonessential trips to the U.S.
Abe said the U.S. recently took similar measures and urged Americans not to make nonessential trips to Japan, requiring a 14-day quarantine for entrants.
Congress hopes to vote Monday on rescue package
The latest economic rescue package being negotiated in Washington is now nearly $2 trillion. But the Senate has yet to agree on the parameters of the package, voting against advancing the measure to a full vote. Talks were continuing Sunday night on Capitol Hill with the goal a new vote on Monday.
Democrats say the draft package is insufficient, arguing it was tilted toward corporations and did too little to help workers and health care providers. Republicans returned to the negotiating table.
President Donald Trump weighed in earlier in the day, saying “it's not very complicated” and that workers must be helped and companies saved.
Canada, Australia announcements push likelihood for Olympics postponement to 2021
The Tokyo Olympics are going to happen — but almost surely in 2021 rather than in four months as planned. This seems clear after the International Olympic Committee said it was considering a postponement.
Major Olympic nations like Canada and Australia are adding pressure by making it clear they will not go if the games are staged this year.
IOC President Thomas Bach sent a letter to athletes explaining the decision and why it might take so long, while also acknowledging the extended timeline might not be popular. He said a final decision was likely to come in four week.
US futures point to another bad day on Wall Street
U.S. futures have declined and Australia's share benchmark plunged 8.5% as work on more stimulus for the U.S. economy hit snags in the U.S. Senate. Shares also dropped in Hong Kong and South Korea early Monday.
However, Japan's Nikkei 225 index held steady, gaining 0.5% after the International Olympic Committee said it plans to discuss potentially changing the timing of the Tokyo Games, due to begin in July.
Troubled cruise ship arrives in Honolulu
A cruise ship that had to cut short its trip because of the coronavirus and mechanical problems docked Sunday in Honolulu's harbor.
The Norwegian Jewel, which carried about 2,000 passengers, docked in the evening, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported. The Hawaii Department of Transportation says the ship has problems with its propulsion, which will be repaired at Honolulu's harbor.
The ship had to scuttle its 23-day cruise of Australia and French Polynesia because many ports were closed due to the coronavirus.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.