National News, Friday – Trump Signs $2 Trillion Stimulus Package for Americans and American Business

News stories from across the nation from Washington D.C. to the west coast, from

FRIDAY, MARCH 27, 2020

The House finally passed the stimulus bill and Friday afternoon in the Oval Office of The White House, President Trump signed a roughly a $2 trillion stimulus package into law.  

House lawmakers hustled back to the Capitol to pass the aggressive response to the coronavirus pandemic that has staggered the U.S. economy.   Now the real work begins as money will work its way to Americans and American businesses across the U.S.

The bill is the largest relief package in U.S. history and extends aid to many struggling Americans through direct payments and expanded unemployment insurance.  The package provides loans and grants to businesses, augments drained state coffers and sends additional resources to sapped health-care providers.

“I want to thank Democrats and Republicans for coming together and putting America first,” President Trump said in remarks Friday in the Oval Office. He added, in a nod to the size of the package: “I never signed anything with a T on it.”

The measure passed the Senate 96-0 earlier in the week and had overwhelming support in the House as well.

But it needed to clear one last hurdle on Friday after Rep. Thomas Massie (R., Ky.) tried to force a recorded vote, arguing it would be irresponsible to use a voice vote on such a large bill.  This angered almost all in Congress, who said making them show up in person risked spreading coronavirus and would needlessly stall aid to Americans.

To prevent a delay, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi worked with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer to assemble a flotilla of rank-and-file legislators to stop Mr. Massie.

Many Democrats and Republicans boarded red-eye flights back to Washington or took long road trips to reach the quorum—216—needed to outflank Mr. Massie.  His maneuver would have succeeded only if the House lacked a quorum or if he had support from one-fifth of the lawmakers to insist on a roll call. Neither was the case.

“We have our differences, but we also know what is important to us,” Mrs. Pelosi said when she joined Mr. McCarthy at a press conference after the vote. “America’s families are important to us.”

The vote came as the Capitol is awash in anxiety over the novel coronavirus. Two additional members of the House—Rep. Mike Kelly (R., Pa.) and Joe Cunningham (D., S.C.) said Friday they tested positive for the illness.   In all, at least five lawmakers have contracted Covid-19, including one, Rep. Ben McAdams (D., Utah), who is on oxygen support in the hospital.

For safety reasons, House lawmakers who attended the vote sat several seats away from each other on the chamber’s floor and were scattered throughout the galleries typically reserved for the public.  They were under orders to use hand sanitizer when entering and leaving the chamber. Should there have been a roll-call vote, lawmakers would have voted in groups no larger than 30, in alphabetical order.

In the most dramatic moment of the floor debate, Rep. Haley Stevens donned pink latex gloves as she delivered an impassioned plea to pass the bill, talking beyond her one minute of allotted time and shouting when her own leader, Mr. Hoyer, urged her to suspend so he could extend her more time, while some Republicans jeered.

“To our doctors and our nurses, I wear these latex gloves to tell every American: do not be afraid!” said Ms. Stevens, who drove back to Washington from Michigan a day earlier to be present for the vote.

Other lawmakers made similar treks. Republican Rep. Tom Reed left his home in Corning, N.Y., at 3 a.m. to make it to the Capitol by the time the debate started. His wife and daughter joined him, driving so that he could get work done.

President Trump ordered General Motors Co. to please ramp up the production of ventilators to treat coronavirus patients, turning to a wartime presidential power that he had been reluctant to use.

Mr. Trump on Friday invoked the Defense Production Act which dates back to the Korean War and gives the president powers to require and provide incentives to businesses to produce goods tied to national defense.  For weeks he had said that the threat of invoking the DPA was sufficient.  

GM was already working toward wide-scale ventilator production through a collaboration struck last week with medical-device firm Ventec Life Systems.

On Friday, the Detroit auto maker said, “Ventec, GM and our supply base have been working around the clock for over a week to meet this urgent need.”

The most severely ill patients infected with the new coronavirus have such trouble breathing that they are put on a ventilator, an invasive therapy that involves inserting a tube into the patient’s windpipe.

With the number of cases of Covid-19—the disease caused by the new coronavirus—topping 100,000 in the U.S. on Friday, worries about a ventilator shortage have grown all the more urgent.

President Trump also tweeted that Ford Motor Co. needed to “get going on ventilators, fast!!!”   Ford this week said it would work with General Electric Co. to increase ventilator supply but didn’t offer specifics.  Toyota Motors said Friday that it is finalizing terms with two ventilator makers to help increase their capacity.

The U.S. surpassed 100,000 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus Friday, led by a continued jump in infections in New York and in new hotspots across the country.

Last Friday, the number of confirmed infections in the country exceeded 16,000, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. By Tuesday, that figure was 55,000. Two days later, it had surpassed all other countries’ reported totals, with just over 85,000.

The pandemic has swiftly reverberated across the U.S., shutting schools, businesses, arenas and parks and silencing once-busy thoroughfares.

A record 3.28 million workers applied for unemployment benefits last week. Hospital capacity in places like New York and Seattle has already passed a tipping point even as the health crisis continues to unfold.

Authorities around the world have stepped up enforcement of measures designed to help slow the spread of the virus, which has now infected more than 590,000 people and killed nearly 27,000, according to Johns Hopkins data.

But national leaders continue to face risks even as they meet face-to-face in emergency sessions to plot ways to curb the contagion, with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson testing positive for the virus on Friday.

The U.S. and Italy have both now overtaken China as the nations with the most confirmed infections. Italy, which has the highest death toll of any country at 9,134, had nearly 86,500 confirmed infections; China, where the outbreak originated late last year, had 81,897.

New York remains the center of the pandemic in the U.S., with more than 44,870 confirmed cases, but states including Michigan, Illinois, California and Louisiana are poised for a jump in cases as the rate of infection—and of testing—continues to grow.

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said cities including Detroit, Chicago and New Orleans are expected to have a worse week next week.

“The virus and the local community are going to determine the timeline. It’s not going to be us from Washington, D.C.,” Dr. Adams said to reporters on Friday afternoon. “People need to follow their data. They need to make the right decisions based on what their data is telling them.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti warned residents on Thursday of the city’s growing threat.

“It’s the most haunting images any leader could see, and it’s difficult for me to imagine that it won’t happen here,” Mr. Garcetti said.

Roughly 80% of Covid-19 cases tend to be mild or moderate, and more than 130,800 people globally have recovered. But those who are older or have underlying health conditions, such as heart disease, lung disease or diabetes, are at a higher risk.

Across the world, governments have closed schools, shut down nonessential services, told people to work from home and urged that they avoid going out as much as possible.  Travelers arriving in many countries have also been subject to quarantines requiring them to remain in their homes, hotel rooms or government centers for 14 days.

Some people who ignored the isolation and quarantine measures have been arrested, fined or charged with offenses.  Chinese authorities on Thursday said they had indicted 18 people for defying contagious-disease control measures and had arrested an additional 14.

New York Gov. Cuomo speaks to the state and nation regarding the state’s nearly 45,000 coronavirus cases and 519 deaths as of Friday, March 27th.

In New York, Governor Cuomo said at his daily briefing Friday afternoon that the number of deaths to the coronavirus stands at 519, from 385 a day earlier. Overall, the state has 44,635 cases. There are 6,400 people in the hospital and 1,500 in ICU.

New York City has 29,515 people tested positive, including 6,900 new cases. The state has done more than 16,000 new tests.

Cuomo outlined his plan for the next weeks to increase hospital capacity. Next week, the Javits Center will open with 1,000 beds and the USNS Comfort will dock in lower Manhattan with another 1,000 beds. Hotels and dorms are getting cleaned and retrofitted to serve as temporary hospitals as well.

He expects to open select hotels and dorms the week of April 6. The following week the Army Corps of Engineers will complete its first phase of field hospital building.  The governor also identified four additional new temporary hospitals within the five boroughs, including Aqueduct Racetrack.

Cuomo says hospitalizations are doubling every four days. It was doubling every 2.5 days earlier this month. He is halting all non-essential construction work in the state, although Cuomo did not specifically address what that means for the new Islanders arena at Belmont Park. New York City schools are closed until at least April 20.

Apple has secured 10 million masks for U.S. health care workers and is donating millions more to countries globally as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread and strain manufacturing chains for the medical supplies.

Tim Cook, the tech giant’s CEO, announced the news in a video tweeted out Wednesday afternoon. The video was filmed from Cook’s home.

… Cook said, “Apple has sourced, procured and is donating 10 million masks to the medical community in the United States.” Cook also encouraged everyone to follow instructions from public health officials by staying home if possible and keeping at least six feet between themselves and anyone else if they must leave the house.

Should it be Physical Distancing or Social Distancing? 
The government and media organizations have all embraced the term “social distancing” when discussing how to stem the coronavirus pandemic. But Daniel Aldrich, a professor of political science and public policy at Northeastern University, is concerned that the term is misleading and that its widespread usage could be counterproductive. The World Health Organization has come to the same conclusion.

Last week, it started using the term Aldrich prefers: “physical distancing.” Aldrich says efforts taken to slow the spread of the coronavirus should encourage strengthening social ties while maintaining that physical distancing. In a tweet, he complimented young people running errands for elderly neighbors for practicing “social connectedness with physical distance.”

… Aldrich has been reaching out to his colleagues and decision-makers about his concern regarding the usage of social distancing, and he said some public health authorities and nongovernmental organizations are shifting their language accordingly.

… The WHO independently started using the term “physical distancing” last week. A WHO spokesperson said, “We’re changing to say ‘physical distance,’ and that’s on purpose because we want people to still remain connected.”

Covid-19 misconceptions is large.
As we’ve learned over the last few weeks it’s very easy for people to form misconceptions about COVID-19 based on things they read in social media posts. A recent Stanford survey of people in both the United States and the United Kingdom identifies common perceptions and misconceptions held by the general public.

… For example, most respondents (79.8% U.S., 84.6% UK) know that cough, fever and shortness of breath are the common symptoms of the disease. Some people, however, think that nosebleeds, rash, constipation or frequent urination are other symptoms of coronavirus (25.5% U.S., 18.7% UK), which they are not.

… The vast majority of people (74.8% U.S., 81.2% UK) also know the most common way the disease is transmitted: droplets of saliva from an infected person when they sneeze or cough.

… When it comes to limiting the spread of the disease, the majority of people (92.6% U.S., 86% UK) correctly identified frequent hand-washing, avoiding close contact with people that are sick, and avoiding touching the face as appropriate methods to prevent catching an infection. However, a good number of people (43.5% U.S., 36% UK) think that the myths from the WHO can also help: using an electric hand dryer, taking antibiotics, rinsing the nose with saltwater regularly, or gargling mouthwash.

… The survey also shows that a significant number of people (37.8% U.S., 29.7% UK) still believe that wearing a common surgical mask is a very effective way to protect themselves from getting infected with the coronavirus. Hand-washing and social-distancing are much more effective at preventing the spread of the disease than face masks.

… Many people think that Asians are more likely to be infected with the coronavirus, especially if they are seen wearing a face-mask. Over one-quarter from both surveys (25.6% U.S., 29.6% UK) think it’s wise to even refrain from eating Chinese food entirely. And a significant number (29.7% U.S., 40.8%) say that if they were Uber drivers they would reject rides requested by people with Asian-sounding names or appear Asian in their profile picture.

Airbnb is giving back to healthcare workers and first responders around the world during the coronavirus pandemic.

The company announced a new initiative on Thursday, which aims to provide free or subsidized housing for 100,000 workers who are working on the frontlines fighting the spread of the coronavirus. Airbnb hosts will be able to participate in the program through Airbnb’s Open Homes platform, and if a homeowner is unable to commit to hosting for free, the company will waive all fees.

The U.S. Army wants you to help fight the novel coronavirus.
Defense Finance and Accounting Services, which processes and dispenses retiree pay, asked troops who had previously served in specific health care specialties to consider “re-joining the team” to address the current pandemic crisis.

The Indianapolis 500 has been postponed from May 24 to August 23 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

… Since its inception in 1911, the Indy 500 has never taken place outside of the month of May and has only been canceled six times outright during World War I and World War II.

… Qualifying for the Indy 500 will take place on the weekend of August 15.

Miller Lite is donating $1 million to laid-off bartenders after bars and restaurants around the country were forced to shut down in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The beer company tweeted: “Taps are off. But tips are needed. Click to donate to the millions out of work. We’ll start with $1,000,000.”

… The tweet included a link to the United States Bartenders Guild (USBG) National Charity Foundation, which set up a “virtual tip jar” to help bartenders during the coronavirus crisis.

Target will no longer accept in-store returns.
Just about a week after Costco announced they would no longer accept returns on high-demand items, Target is following suit. The retail giant will not be accepting in-store returns for at least the next three weeks.

… Effective immediately, Target employees will also no longer handle reusable bags. Paper and plastic bags will be available at checkout, and your local store will waive any corresponding fees associated with using them. Furthermore, checkout lanes will be cleaned after each guest interaction, and “dedicated team members will guide guests in line while that happens. For the foreseeable future, our stores will rotate the use of our check lanes to allow those not in use to be deep-cleaned.”

A survey out of Canada suggests that women are significantly more concerned about COVID-19 than men, with only a quarter of young men ages 18-29 reporting that they are extremely concerned about the pandemic. Almost half of the women polled — 47 percent — said they were extremely concerned, while only 32per cent of men answered the same.

With millions of kids at home, parents are looking for ways to entertain and educate their kids. Now State Troopers and police are helping out by reading kids books out loud while seated in their patrol cars.

Search #BooksandBadges and #TrooperTales on social media to watch with your kids. • VIDEOVIDEO

A Missouri man who filmed himself licking products at a Walmart was reportedly charged with making terrorist threats.

In the video which went viral on social media, Cody Pfister asks, “Who’s afraid of the coronavirus?” before proceeding to lick several items. Pfister’s antics prompted anger across the globe, with people from several countries in Europe calling into the Warrenton, Missouri, police department to report the heinous act.

There are some hero nurses battling coronavirus on the front lines in New York City — and around the world.

The Instagram account @covid_nurses is showing health care pros clad in goggles, face masks and head-to-toe protective gear as they fight against COVID-19, which has infected a half million people worldwide. • IMAGES

Older adults have been portrayed as grumpy, unreasonable, and generally angry in countless movies and television shows. However, according to a new study, perhaps those depictions should show the elderly inviting the neighborhood to their lawn for a BBQ instead.

That’s because researchers (Duke and Vanderbilt) have concluded that older adults are generally quite happy, more emotionally stable, and better equipped to resist life’s many temptations.

… People between the ages of 20 and 80 took part in the research. Each participant was pinged on their cell phone three times each day for a total of 10 days. These pings asked the participants to describe how they were feeling using a five-point rating system. More specifically, eight emotional states were surveyed, including relaxation, sluggishness, enthusiasm, and contentment. Additionally, participants were asked if they were craving or desiring anything throughout the day. Substances and activities like sex, alcohol, cigarettes, social media, shopping, and sleep were surveyed. For each ping, participants could report up to three desires.

… All in all, they found that older adults are much more stable emotionally and “less volatile in their emotions.” It also appears that with old age comes the ability to resist day-to-day temptations like that fourth beer or extra cigarette.

It may be worth dusting off the fitness tracker when you head out on your stroll because researchers have found higher step counts are associated with a lower risk of early death.

While the figure of 10,000 steps a day is a popular goal, researchers have long criticized the fact it has its roots in a Japanese marketing campaign, rather than scientific research.

… Now researchers say step monitoring in more than 4,800 adults 40 or over has shown that higher step counts are associated with a lower chance of death from any cause over a 10-year period. And individuals do not need to hit 10,000 steps a day to start seeing a benefit.

… Dr. Charles Matthews of the US National Cancer Institute, a co-author of the study, said any type of activity is good and that doing more is better. If you’re only doing about 4,000 or 5,000 steps a day now, data shows you can get substantial benefit from increasing to 8,000 steps a day. Those already reaching 8,000 steps a day benefit from doing even more steps.

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