Coronavirus Live Updates: White House Seeks $850 Billion Stimulus and Urges Sending Checks to Americans Within 2 Weeks

As the growing economic toll of the coronavirus became clearer, the White House said Tuesday that it supported the idea of sending cash payments directly to Americans.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that the administration is talking to Congress about sending checks to Americans over the next two weeks to cushion the economic blow of the pandemic. “The president has instructed me we have to do this now,” he said at a briefing.

It was a shift in priority for the administration, which has been advocating a payroll tax cut, and it came as the coronavirus began to grind large swaths of the economy to a halt, cost an increasing number of people their jobs and continued to send the markets reeling.

Mr. Mnuchin said that the Trump administration favors making direct payments quickly, noting that the effects of a payroll tax cut that would take months to reach people.

Mr. Trump said that his administration was also working to expand testing and preparing to ask Congress to infuse about $850 billion in additional stimulus to prop up the economy.

“Today the Senate has taken up coronavirus legislation that includes free testing for those who need it,” Mr. Trump said, adding that he had directed Mr. Mnuchin to meet with senators on the additional stimulus package. “There’s tremendous spirit.”

“We want to have a big infusion as opposed to going through little meetings every couple of days,” Mr. Trump said about his administration’s aid request to Congress. “We’re going big, and that’s the way it’ll be.”

Mr. Trump, who spent his morning heckling individual state governors on Twitter, struck a tone of coordination and cooperation in the briefing room. Mr. Trump, who has been fixating on the fluctuating markets behind closed doors, emphasized that many of his administration’s actions have been taken in order to bolster the economy.

“The best thing we can do is get rid of the virus,” Mr. Trump said. “Once it is gone, it will pop back up like nobody has seen — that is my opinion.”

And he called for working to keep deaths downs. “You look at Italy and we do not want to be like that,” he said.

Mr. Mnuchin also said that Mr. Trump had instructed him to allow for the deferment of tax payments, interest free and penalty free for 90 days. People can defer up to a $1 million and corporations can defer up to $10 million in payments. The Treasury secretary said that this would inject $300 billion into the economy. He said that people who can file their taxes now should do so, because many will get refunds.

The Trump administration is also supporting a request for $50 billion in economic relief for the airline industry as part of the broader package. The industry’s lobbying group publicly made the request on Monday, asking for grants, loan guarantees and tax relief. The administration is also considering ways to support the cruise ship industry.

In the briefing room, the president reiterated an earlier request for Americans not to hoard food supplies, and again outlined the guidelines put in place by his administration on Monday, which include not congregating in groups over 10 and working from home when possible.

“By making sacrifices and temporary changes, we can protect the health of our people and our economy,” Mr. Trump said. “I think our economy will come back rapidly. If we do this right, our country and the world frankly, but our country can be rolling again pretty quickly.”

Mr. Trump announced an expansion in Medicare patient access to telehealth options, adding that the government would not be enforcing HIPAA penalties, a suggestion that federal government protections protecting patients’ confidential health information would could be made more porous as the outbreak continues.

Dr. Deborah Birx, who is coordinating the administration’s response to the coronavirus, emphasized that Americans without pressing medical issues should not be seeking care right now. “Things that don’t need to be done over the next two weeks, don’t get it done,” Dr. Birx said. “If you’re a person with an elective surgery, don’t go into a hospital right now.”

Asked about reports that the Covid-19 outbreak would peak in 45 days, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said “it’s possible.”

“From our standpoint, from the federal government, we’re talking about a range,” he said. “You don’t want to have to be wed to something and then have to back off.”

Mr. Trump, who repeatedly downplayed the contagiousness and lethality of the virus, also asserted that he “felt this was a pandemic long before it was a pandemic.”

The White House moved as the Federal Reserve announced Tuesday that it would try to keep credit flowing to households and businesses by buying up commercial paper, short term promissory notes companies use to fund themselves.

The program, enacted using the Fed’s emergency lending powers, pulls a page from the central bank’s financial crisis playbook. Putting it into action required the signoff of Mr. Mnuchin. Treasury will provide $10 billion of credit protection to the Fed, using Treasury’s Exchange Stabilization Fund.

“Commercial paper markets directly finance a wide range of economic activity,” the Fed said in a statement, noting that it supplies “credit and funding for auto loans and mortgages as well as liquidity to meet the operational needs of a range of companies.”

“This Fed facility ensures that companies can get the overnight funding they need to meet short-term obligations like payroll,” said Ernie Tedeschi, policy economist at Evercore ISI, calling it “obviously a positive step, obviously necessary.”

There were signs of support in Congress for the idea of sending direct payments. A group of Senate Democrats, led by Michael Bennet of Colorado, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Sherrod Brown of Ohio, had earlier proposed legislation to send as much as $4,500 to nearly every adult and child in the United States this year, as part of a sustained government income-support program to counter the economic slowdown from coronavirus.

At the briefing, Vice President Mike Pence asked construction companies to hand over the scarce N95 masks, also used by health workers, to hospitals and refrain from ordering new ones for now.

More than seven million residents in the San Francisco Bay Area have been ordered to mostly confine themselves to their homes, joining the ranks of Italy, Spain, France and China.

“It’s bad,” President Trump conceded, as financial markets tanked and economists warned of a steep recession that might already be underway.

We are at war,” President Emmanuel Macron of France told his people.

The enemy is invisible and insidious, gathering strength from the bonds of human connection. So public health officials were asking people the world over to sever those ties.

While nations, states and localities offered differing restrictions with varying degrees of enforcement, the message was coalescing around a simple if daunting challenge: Keep your distance.

In the United States, the Trump administration warned against gatherings of more than 10 people, and asked citizens to work from home if possible and avoid unnecessary travel. Bars and restaurants should be avoided, or closed in areas where the virus was rapidly spreading, officials said.

The guidelines apply for the next 15 days, but President Trump warned that the restrictions could grow more stringent and last well into summer. While the rate of infections has declined steeply in China, for instance, many of the harsh limits on movement there are still in place after more than six weeks.

The stepped-up action in the United States was driven, in part, by a report compiled by British researchers warning that 2.2 million people could die in the country in the absence of strong action by the government and individuals to slow the spread of the virus.

New Jersey residents have been asked not to leave their homes from 8 p.m. until 5 a.m. A curfew is being considered for New York City.

In Italy, the scale of the epidemic is evident in the bodies left behind. With the oldest population in Europe, the country has suffered more than 2,100 deaths, and hospitals and morgues are inundated.

The European Union proposed a 30-day shutdown of nonessential travel into the bloc from other countries — an urgent attempt to keep internal borders as open as possible to promote European solidarity. But on Tuesday, nations within the bloc continued to close themselves off from their neighbors.

After yet another devastating day on Wall Street on Monday, the Asian markets stabilized on Tuesday. But fears that the crisis could lead to a recession grew. The price of oil fell below $30 a barrel, its lowest level in four years.

Around the world, around 180,000 cases have been reported. More than 7,000 people have died. But more than 80,000 people have recovered.

Stocks were unsteady on Tuesday, as Wall Street attempted a rebound from its sharpest drop since the outbreak of the coronavirus while investors waited for lawmakers to act to protect the economy from a recession that may have already begun.

The early gains faded quickly, with the S&P 500 slipping back into negative territory soon after trading began. Stock benchmarks in Europe were mostly lower on Tuesday.

The S&P 500 had fallen 12 percent on Monday, in what was also its biggest decline since the stock market crash of 1987.

Financial markets have been reeling as investors sharply ratchet down their expectations for the economy and look to the White House and Congress to help businesses and workers threatened by efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

There are few historical parallels for the shock waves created by the outbreak. From still-closed factories in China to Western nations where millions of people are living in a state of semi-house arrest, most of the engines that keep the global economy aloft have simultaneously sputtered to a halt.

So far, the biggest measures have come from the Federal Reserve, which has slashed interest rates to near zero and announced other emergency measures to ensure the financial system keeps functioning.

But the Fed hasn’t calmed investors’ nerves, and Washington has yet to authorize a large-scale plan to help.

“The Fed has a lot of tools in its tool kit. A vaccine isn’t one of them,” said Rick Rieder, chief investment officer of global fixed income at BlackRock. “And I think the markets are realizing that it’s going to be uncertain for a period of time.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is expected to make a pitch to Republican senators for additional fiscal firepower on Tuesday, with the Trump administration preparing to ask for about $850 billion in additional stimulus to support the economy.

Mick Mulvaney, the outgoing acting White House chief of staff, is in self-quarantine in his home state of South Carolina, after his niece, with whom he shares an apartment in Washington, fell ill and is awaiting test results, according to four people familiar with the matter.

Mr. Mulvaney took a test for the coronavirus last week and the results were negative, according to one of the people familiar with the matter. But the results of the test that his niece, Maggie, took are not back yet, the person said.

Mr. Mulvaney’s niece is a professional fund-raiser who works on a team led by Kimberly Guilfoyle, the head of the Trump Victory finance effort. Ms. Mulvaney, Ms. Guilfoyle and others were all at Mar-a-Lago, President Trump’s private club, the weekend of March 6 for a series of events, including a Republican National Committee fund-raising retreat and Ms. Guilfoyle’s 50th birthday party.

The same weekend, President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil dined with Mr. Trump. One of Mr. Bolsonaro’s aides who was present has since tested positive for coronavirus.

Ms. Mulvaney fell ill soon after returning from the weekend, according to three of the people briefed on the matter. She was tested for the virus early last week, but the results still haven’t come back, people familiar with the matter said.

Ms. Mulvaney and people close to her had hoped to avoid her illness becoming a story until they knew the results. But senior White House officials let it be known on Tuesday that Mr. Mulvaney was in self-quarantine.

Voters did not go to the polls Tuesday in Ohio, where the presidential primary was postponed after state officials declared a public health emergency — but the primaries in Arizona, Florida and Illinois went ahead as scheduled.

And Maryland became the fifth state to postpone its primary election to prevent the spread of coronavirus: Gov. Larry Hogan announced on Tuesday that the April 28 primary would instead be held on June 2.

In states that went ahead with their elections — even after the White House urged people to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people — officials took steps to try to keep voters and poll workers safe. In Arizona, some counties offered curbside pickup outside precincts Tuesday so that voters could turn in their ballots without having to enter crowded polling sites.

Elections were not the only long-planned events upended by the outbreak.

St. Patrick’s Day parades in New York City, Boston and Dublin were canceled on Tuesday as well. In Ireland, people were encouraged to celebrate the day virtually on social media using the hashtag #StPatricksDayTogether. Bars and pubs in all three cities were ordered closed to try to curb the spread of the disease, shutting them down on what is traditionally one of their busiest days of the year.

Parents scrambled to find child care after the shutdown of the New York City public school system. Bar and restaurant owners worried about how they would survive what could be weeks or even months of being closed. One cultural institution after another has steadily shut down. And, as in the rest of the nation, people still reeling from the swift changes to their daily lives braced on Tuesday for what officials said would be harder days to come.

Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City said people should expect “several months” of hardship.

Appearing on CNN on Tuesday morning, the mayor pleaded for the federal government to provide cash aid to people whose livelihoods have been affected, directly or indirectly, by the virus.

He continued to liken the situation to the Great Depression.

“The federal government needs to put money back in the hands of people,” said the mayor. “We need direct income replacement at this point.”

For government officials, it was a two-front battle: slowing the spread of the virus — New York City was considering a curfew, echoing New Jersey, where residents have been asked not to leave their homes from 8 p.m. until 5 a.m. — and getting hospitals ready for a likely surge in patients needing urgent care.

Mr. de Blasio said that the city was rushing to add more hospital beds.

By canceling elective surgeries and dismissing patients from hospitals more quickly, the city could free up about 7,000 patient beds, the mayor said. Another 1,200 to 1,300 beds could be added by taking over unused space in hospitals and converting a newly built nursing home in Brooklyn that was not yet occupied.

As clocks around France stuck noon on Tuesday, the country’s interior minister ordered the French to keep their movements to a strict minimum.

“Staying at home today and in the coming days means saving lives,” the minister, Christophe Castaner, said at a news conference. “Behind each handshake, each kiss, each group meeting, there are more victims, there are more deaths.”

Mr. Castaner said that the fine for being in violation of the new rules would start at around $42, but that it would quickly be increased to $150.

But there were still signs that not everyone was following the government’s instructions. Ahead of the noon deadline, crowds rushed some supermarkets to stock up, even though there are no plans to close grocery stores in the near future. And in some market streets, few seemed to be respecting distancing rules.

The French government also announced a relief package that would include postponing or slashing taxes, a government guarantee of loans for companies, and more than $1.1 billion for small businesses and independent contractors.

The virus also continued to disrupt governments from within.

After Poland’s environment minister, Michal Wos, tested positive for coronavirus on Monday, 15 members of the government who came into contact with him in recent days have gone into quarantine and are awaiting test results, most of which came back negative.

As countries around the world continue to tighten borders, Germany raced to bring home thousands of its citizens, even as the nation struggles to get control over the coronavirus within its borders.

The government there is spending more than $55 million on logistics and flights to bring home its citizens as nations tighten their borders and travel of any kind becomes exceedingly difficult.

The situation in Spain continued to grow more dire, with both new cases and deaths continuing to surge. At least 491 people have died in the country and there have been 11,178 confirmed cases.

The death of Spain’s youngest known victim so far, Francisco García, 21, has struck a chord with the nation.

Mr. García, a soccer coach from Malaga, did not know he had an underlying condition when he went to the hospital. But he was soon hit with a double dose of bad news.

He was infected with coronavirus and he had leukemia. He died on Sunday.

The actors Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, have been released from an Australian hospital and will remain in self-isolation after being treated for Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, their son said in a video statement on Monday.

“They’re still self-quarantined obviously, but they’re feeling a lot better so that’s a relief,” their son Chet Hanks said in a video posted on Instagram.

Mr. Hanks and Ms. Wilson, both 63, said they had tested positive for the coronavirus last Wednesday. Mr. Hanks was in Australia filming a movie about the life of Elvis Presley.

Mr. Hanks, known for star-making turns in films like “Saving Private Ryan” and “Forrest Gump,” is the most prominent celebrity known to have contracted the virus.

“We felt a bit tired, like we had colds, and some body aches,” Mr. Hanks said last week. “We Hankses will be tested, observed and isolated for as long as public health and safety requires.”

Since then, a slew of public figures have said they have tested positive for the virus, including the actor Idris Elba and Masoumeh Ebtekar, an Iranian vice president.

A representative for the couple said they would remain in self-quarantine at a rented home in the northeastern state of Queensland.

Australia has experienced a rapid uptick in coronavirus cases. As of Tuesday, 375 people had tested positive including Peter Dutton, the country’s minister for home affairs.

There are many misunderstandings about social distancing. Can you leave your home? Can you go to the grocery store? We compiled some helpful hints about how to keep safe.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed indignation on Tuesday when asked about a tweet from President Trump referring to the epidemic as the “Chinese Virus.”

“The World Health Organization and the international community are clearly opposed to associating the virus with specific countries and regions, and against stigmatizing it,” a spokesman, Geng Shuang, said, without mentioning Mr. Trump by name. “We urge the U.S. side to immediately correct its mistakes and immediately stop its unjustified accusations against China.”

Last week another spokesman, Zhao Lijian, further soured relations with the United States when he circulated a conspiracy theory that the United States Army could have been the source of the virus, though there is no evidence for that.

The State Department announced on Monday that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had called Yang Jiechi, director of the Office of Foreign Affairs of the Communist Party of China, to complain about Mr. Zhao’s conduct. Mr. Pompeo has also repeatedly called the coronavirus the “Wuhan virus,” but the department’s statement did not, referring to the disease the coronavirus causes by its official name, Covid-19.

Residents of seven counties in Northern California were ordered to “shelter in place” for three weeks beginning on Tuesday to slow the spread of the coronavirus. They have been told to stay at home except for essential reasons, including buying food and caring for a pet.

The measures are the most restrictive in the country and were part of a broader call for Americans to limit their interactions with one another.

Though relatively few Americans have been tested for the coronavirus, at least 5,000 people have tested positive, and at least 86 have died.

The message from officials was that the virus would continue to spread. Scientists tracking the virus’s spread reported that for every confirmed case, there are most likely another five to 10 people with undetected infections.

California, America’s most populous state, with an economy bigger than the United Kingdom’s, has been remarkably resilient since the Great Recession, powered by technology, agriculture and Hollywood. No one knows how far the mounting toll from the virus will climb, but California is already one of the hardest-hit states, and stands as one of the places with the most to lose.

The shelter-in-place order goes into effect on Tuesday and is expected to disrupt life for millions of residents in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz Counties.

Over the past week, Greece has closed schools, cafes, bars and restaurants. When Greeks scrambled to the country’s beaches, the government closed them too. It will shut most shops from Wednesday.

But for days, leaders of the Greek Orthodox resisted calls to suspend services. So the government was forced to take action, despite the risks of challenging a powerful institution that is deeply tied to the nation’s sense of itself.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said there was no choice. “The protection of public health requires clear decisions,” he wrote on Twitter.

Four deaths have been attributed to coronavirus in Greece. The number of confirmed infections on Monday stood at 352, with cases centered in Athens.

Beyond the capital, there have been growing concerns over a possible coronavirus outbreak at camps on the five Aegean Islands that host some 50,000 migrants in intensely overcrowded conditions.

A 6-year-old girl died on Monday when a fire broke out at the notoriously cramped Moria camp on Lesbos.

Doctors Without Borders, known by its French acronym MSF, called for the evacuation of those living in the camps where whole families are packed tightly into confined quarters.

The international medical humanitarian organization warned that lack of adequate sanitation and limited medical care made the risk of the virus spreading extremely high.

Nearly two months after a coronavirus outbreak in central China escalated into a national emergency, the country’s daily count of new, local infections has approached tantalizingly close to zero.

Just one new locally originated infection was reported on Monday, according to the Chinese National Health Commission’s daily update of new coronavirus cases. The new case was in Wuhan, the center of the outbreak.

An additional 20 new cases were also recorded in China on Monday among travelers arriving from abroad.

Over the past two weeks, the daily count of infections in China has consistently fallen since the government implemented drastic measures to close cities and confine hundreds of millions of people to their homes.

By the end of Monday, China’s total infection count from the virus had reached 80,881. With 3,226 fatal cases, the country has suffered more deaths from the coronavirus than any other. But Italy, a much smaller country, was nearing this figure Tuesday with 2,470 recorded deaths.

China is already trying to restart commerce and industry, but even when new local infections hit zero, the government appears unlikely to proclaim full victory over the epidemic. A test is still to come as people return to work.

Also on Tuesday, Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, said the city would require all travelers to the territory to self-quarantine for 14 days, starting from Thursday.

Reporting was contributed by Michael Cooper, Katie Rogers, Karen Zraick, Steven Lee Myers, Alan Rappeport, Emily Cochrane, Melissa Eddy, Raphael Minder, Aurelien Breeden, Marc Santora, Megan Specia, Jonathan Martin, Richard C. Paddock, Maya Salam, Neil Vigdor, Nick Corasaniti, Stephanie Saul, Tiffany May, Patricia Cohen, Jeffrey Gettleman, Suhasini Raj, Karan Deep Singh, Kai Schultz, Niki Kitsantonis and Jim Tankersley.

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