Senate Passes $2 Trillion Stimulus As Coronavirus Deaths in U.S. Top 1,000
By R.J. Johnson - @rickerthewriter
March 26, 2020
The number of deaths from the novel coronavirus, COVID-19 topped 1,000 Thursday as the Senate passed a historic $2 trillion stimulus package aimed at helping workers and businesses across the country that have been hit hard by the outbreak.
Meanwhile, the global death toll surpassed 20,000, with more than 487,000 cases reported worldwide.
Here is your COVID-19 update for Thursday, March 26:
Senate Passes $2 Trillion Stimulus Package
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the American economy, lawmakers in the Senate overwhelmingly passed a massive $2 trillion stimulus late Wednesday meant to help cushion the economic blow dealt to the country by the virus.
The 880-page bill passed 96-0 late Wednesday contains several measures to help Americans and businesses, including direct cash payments to Americans, expanded benefits for unemployment insurance and forgivable bridge loans for struggling industries.
Under the plan, $1,200 checks would be sent to Americans who made up to $75,000 a year, with couples who make up to $150,000 receiving $2,400. Individuals and couples are also eligible for an additional $500 per child. Payments would be decreased for individuals making more than $75,000, with checks phasing out completely for those who make more than $99,000 per individual or $198,000 for couples.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that following the bill's passage, they would be able to send checks out within three weeks.
Other measures in the bill include about $100 billion has been set aside for hospitals, $350 billion in assistance for small businesses, $500 billion in aid for corporations, including airlines and cruise lines that have been hit hard by the outbreak. Another $150 billion has been set aside for state and local stimulus funds.
Unemployment benefits were also expanded for four months, by increasing payments and extending benefits to those who would otherwise not qualify. The bill increases the maximum unemployment benefit states give a person by $600 per week, helping to ensure that workers around the country would receive their full pay for at least the next four months.
The House is expected to vote on the bill by Friday, where it has strong bipartisan support, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said in a statement about the bill.
“Tonight, the Senate voted on legislation which, thanks to the leadership of Congressional Democrats, has been turned upside down from a Republican corporate focus to a Democratic workers-first focus," Pelsosi said.
Trump was also pleased to see the bill pass, writing on Twitter: "96-0 in the United States Senate. Congratulations AMERICA!"
Senate Majority Leader also said he was pleased to see both sides come together in passing the bill, just weeks after the Senate voted on the impeachment of President Trump.
"From arguably the most partisan, divisive thing you could possibly do to coming together entirely, 100 of us, to meet this challenge, I think, says a lot about the United States Senate as an institution, our willingness to put aside our differences and to do something really significant for the country," he said.
Following the bill's passage, the Senate adjourned until April 20.
Coronavirus Death Toll Passes 1,000 in the U.S. After Spike in Coronavirus Deaths
The death toll from the novel coronavirus in the United States surpassed 1,000 on Thursday, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University as the country experienced its deadliest day yet, with 223 deaths recorded.
Four days ago, the death toll in the U.S. was 326.
The majority of deaths have occurred in New York, where 366 have passed away from the disease. Nearly half of the cases in the U.S. have been confirmed in New York. Other states that have been hit hard by the virus, including Washington, California, and Louisiana, have all seen a significant death toll from the virus, where it has spread rapidly, even as officials issue stay at home orders and close nonessential businesses.
Officials in at least 21 states have issued stay-at-home orders. Nonessential businesses have been closed and gatherings and individuals are being asked to limit their outdoor activities and maintain at least six feet of distance between each other.
The enormous effort to combat the coronavirus has seen extraordinary measures being taken, including recruiting medical students and helping them graduate early to help reinforce staffs at beleagured hospitals across New York.
The U.S. Army has even reached out to retired medical personnel asking if they'd be willing to volunteer in combating the coronavirus. A spokesperson for the Army said they were requesting information for planning purposes only and did not want to interfere with civilian medical efforts, CNN reported.
World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a media briefing the world had an opportunity now to act and control the virus.
“This virus is public enemy number one,” Tedros said.
94 People at Senior Home in New Jersey Presumed to Have COVID-19
Officials say all of the residents living at a New Jersey nursing home are presumed to have been infected with coronavirus, after 24 of them tested positive for COVID-19.
While not every patient has been tested and not all results returned, officials said they have to assume the worst and that all 94 residents at St. Joseph's Senior Home in Woodbridge have been infected with the coronavirus.
The first positive result came back on March 17, with at least one positive test returning per day thereafter, John Hagerty, a spokesman for the city of Woodbridge told NBC News.
"This is the presumption," Hagerty told the outlet. "That all have been exposed and would be positive."
All 94 residents are being transferred to another nearby facility after the viral outbreak left St. Joseph's severely understaffed.
"Unfortunately, we’ve been monitoring the organization since Friday evening, and we are working with the sisters that own (the facility) and take care of the residents for an orderly transition," New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said Wednesday. "The sisters told us on Friday that 12 of their employees were home, feeling ill with respiratory symptoms. The sisters were working around the clock to take care of almost 90 residents. I don’t know how many were there, but when they called us, I can tell you that it was an extreme situation."
CareOne, which operates 32-post-acute nursing and assisted living facilities in New Jersey offered to bring the residents to a location that was free from COVID-19.
To make room for the 94 residents, CareOne moved 61 residents at the Whippany facility to other CareOne facilities. The COVID-19-positive patients will also be kept separate from the presumptive-positive patients.
Missouri Man Charged After Allegedly Licking Items at Walmart to Mock Coronavirus Fears
Police in Missouri say a 26-year-old man has been arrested and charged with making a terroristic threat after he allegedly filmed himself at a Walmart to mock fears over the coronavirus pandemic.
Cody Lee Pfister posted video to his social media account of himself licking a Walmart store's display of deorderants on March 11. Pfister reportedly used his tongue to lick the deoderants while asking, "Who's scared of coronavirus?"
According to the Warrenton Police Department, Pfister was taken into custody on Monday after they began receiving calls from local residents and even people overseas who'd seen the video online.
"This particular video, which won't be shared here, has gained some international attention and we have received numerous reports about the video from locals, nearby residents, as well as people from the Netherlands, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. We take these complaints very seriously and would like to thank all of those who reported the video so the issue could be addressed."
According to a criminal complaint obtained by NBC News, Pfister "knowingly caused a false belief or fear that a condition involving danger to life existed" after he posted the video online. Pfister appeared in court on Wednesday and is due to appear once again in May.
To keep up to date on the latest news about the coronavirus and to understand what you need to stay safe and healthy, check out the Coronavirus: Fact vs Fiction podcast from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
Photos: Getty Images