Senate Stumbles on Aid; Trump Declares Disasters: Virus Update

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Democrats blocked the U.S. Senate from advancing a massive aid package as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the measure fell short of her goals. President Donald Trump declared disasters in three states hardest hit by the outbreak.

As death tolls rose around Europe, Germany, Italy and Greece added limits and Sweden may take new measures. More U.S. states issued stay-home orders.

A regional Fed president said second-quarter unemployment may hit 30%. S&P 500 futures dropped 5% and hit limit down as the death toll surged.

Key Developments:

  • Cases topped 329,000, deaths near 14,500: Johns Hopkins data
  • Italy fatalities climb by 651, less than Saturday, to 5,476
  • Spain deaths rise 30% to 1,720
  • Emirates to suspend most passenger flights
  • Germany cases rise to 24,254, deaths climb to 81
  • New York halts elective surgeries to free beds
  • U.S. infections top 31,000, France fatalities rise to 562

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Senate Unable to Advance Aid Measure (6:45 a.m. HK)

Democrats blocked a procedural Senate vote to advance the coronavirus economic rescue package after congressional leaders disagreed on how to spend nearly $2 trillion. This complicates Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell’s plan for the Senate to pass the bill Monday.

Both parties want immediate and extensive relief for an economy ravaged by the coronavirus. But they continue to differ on key sections, including a $500 billion chunk of the bill that could be used to help corporations, including airlines, or state and local governments.

Asked about the Senate vote at the White House, the president said: “We’ll see what happens. I think we’ll get there. To me it’s not very complicated. We have to help the worker, we have to save the companies. As soon as we’re finished with this war our country is going to bounce back like you’ve never seen before.”

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Trump to Sign Emergency Declarations (6:10 a.m. HK)

President Donald Trump said he will issue disaster declarations for California, Washington and New York — the three states hardest-hit by the pandemic. The action lets the states deploy the National Guard to respond to the crisis.

As part of the response, the U.S. Navy hospital ship Mercy is heading to Los Angeles to provide more beds to help reduce pressure on the city’s hospital system now treating Covid-19 cases. The ship should arrive in the city within a week, officials said.

The Navy’s hospital ship Comfort, which is undergoing maintenance, will be dispatched to New York City within the next three weeks to help ease pressures on the hospitals, Trump said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also will build medical stations with 1,000 beds in New York, 1,000 in Washington state and 2,000 in California, Trump said.

Three states account for more than half of the nation’s cases.

Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Peter Gaynor said medical supplies are en route to the three states.

The president also praised International Business Machines Corp., Google Inc. and Inc. for helping in the fight against Covid-19.

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More Senators in Quarantine After Paul (6 a.m. HK)

Two Republican U.S. senators said they’ll go into self-quarantine after Rand Paul of Kentucky announced that he’d tested positive for Covid-19.

The decisions by Senators Mike Lee and Mitt Romney of Utah have thrown a wrench into efforts by the Senate to pass a massive coronavirus economic stimulus package by Monday.

Two other Republicans, Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado and Senator Rick Scott of Florida, have also been in self-quarantine in response to possible exposure to the virus from other infected individuals.

Paul, who voted against two emergency coronavirus spending bills this month, tested positive for the virus and is in quarantine, according to a post on his Twitter account on Sunday.

Australia State Signals More Steps to Come (5:30 p.m. NY)

Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews warned the stringent controls announced by the Australian government over the weekend were almost certainly not the last steps to be taken to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

He said the measures including closure of non-essential services such as cafes, bars and Melbourne’s Crown Casino would begin to take effect from noon Monday until at least April 13.

“There are many Victorians who are acting selfishly. They are not taking this seriously,” Andrews told reporters at a press conference in Melbourne Monday.

The school holidays, scheduled to start Friday in Australia’s second-most populous state, will be moved forward to Tuesday to allow teachers time to plan for online lessons if required.

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U.S. Acts Against Covid-19 Fraud (5:10 p.m. NY)

The Justice Department acted to block the operators of a website offering access to coronacvirus vaccine kits, the first U.S. action to combat fraud related to the pandemic.

The operators of claimed to offer access to the World Health Organization vaccine kits in exchange for a shipping charge of $4.95, to be paid on the website, the department said in a statement.

U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman issued a temporary restraining order requiring action to block public access to the site, the department said.

“We will use every resource at the government’s disposal to act quickly to shut down these most despicable of scammers, whether they are defrauding consumers, committing identity theft, or delivering malware,” said Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt.

Pelosi Cites ‘Big Difference’ on Aid (4:45 p.m. NY)

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the U.S. House is finalizing its version of the next round of fiscal stimulus, even as Republican and Democratic senators try to resolve disputes over the Senate bill.

“There is at this time a big difference between the Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act and what the Senate Republicans are proposing,” Pelosi said in a letter to colleagues.

If the House doesn’t take up the version passed in the Senate, it will take longer for the bill to get to President Donald Trump for his signature. Negotiations in the Senate continue, since Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell would need Democratic support to pass his bill.

De Blasio Says Crisis ‘Beginning’ (4:40 p.m. NY)

New York City has 9,654 confirmed cases and 63 deaths, or about a third of the cases in the U.S., Mayor Bill de Blasio said. No one 44 years old or younger has died of the virus in the city. About a third of patients in the hospital are over 70 years old, he said.

“This is the beginning of the crisis,” de Blasio said. “It’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better. The next 10 days are going to get harder and harder, and we desperately need resupply.”

New York Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said 70 uniformed officers and 28 civilians have tested positive. The sick rate is approaching double the normal rate for the department, he said.

The city also released 23 low-risk inmates who each will be monitored and supervised. An additional 200 inmates are being reviewed for potential release.

More States Issue Stay-Home Orders (4:30 pm.)

Louisiana and Ohio are joining California, Illinois and New Jersey in mandating that all residents stay at home to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s stay-at-home order will be in effect until April 6, when it will be re-evaluated. The order excludes essential activities, including taking care of others and essential businesses, he said.

“We are certainly at war,” DeWine said at a press conference in Columbus. “In a time of war, we have to make sacrifices.”

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards issued a stay-at-home order that takes effect Monday.

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Philips Accelerates Ventilator Output (4:30 p.m. NY)

Royal Philips NV is ramping up production of ventilators to double output within eight weeks, and is targeting a fourfold increase by the third quarter to meet demand from hospitals overwhelmed by patients suffering from the coronavirus.

The most-needed products are vital-signs monitors, portable ventilators and medical equipment to treat respiratory conditions, the Dutch company said in a statement. It’s hiring more employees, adding lines and increasing shifts.

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Balenciaga, Saint Laurent Make Masks (4:25 p.m. NY)

Luxury fashion conglomerate Kering SA said it would switch to producing surgical masks at the French workshops of its Balenciaga and Saint Laurent brands as part of the effort to fight the virus.

Both brands will start making the masks for French hospitals as soon as they have the approval of health authorities, Kering said in a statement. In the meantime, the group will donate 3 million masks ordered from China.

Luxury giant LVMH switched to producing sanitizing hand gel in factories that normally make its Christian Dior and Givenchy cosmetics and perfume.

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Carrefour Pays Bonuses to Workers (4:20 p.m. NY)

French retailer Carrefour is paying a 1,000 euros ($1,072) bonus to its employees in France for their efforts in facing “really difficult work conditions” during the pandemic, Chief Executive Officer Alexandre Bompard said in an interview on the France 2 TV channel.

The company has taken steps to protect the health and safety of clients and employees and will continue adding measure to make its stores and warehouses increasingly secure, Bompard said.

Court Rejects Total Confinement Request (3:40 p.m. NY)

France’s highest administrative court refused to order total confinement of the population to stop the coronavirus outbreak, but said the government should review whether its rules are strict enough.

The Conseil d’Etat ruled on a request made Friday by doctors’ unions, which wanted total confinement or least stricter rules, including a national curfew and a prohibition on leaving home to exercise.

Fed President Sees High Jobless Rate (3:20 p.m. NY)

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard predicted U.S. unemployment may hit 30% in the second quarter from virus-related shutdowns. The gross domestic product could plunge 50%.

Bullard called for a powerful fiscal response to replace $2.5 trillion in lost income in the quarter to ensure a strong eventual U.S. recovery. The Fed would be poised to do more to ensure markets function during a period of high volatility.

“This is a planned, organized partial shutdown of the U.S. economy in the second quarter,” Bullard said by phone Sunday from St. Louis.

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U.K. Warns of Tougher Steps (3:10 p.m. NY)

Boris Johnson warned his government will impose “tougher measures” if people continue to ignore calls to stop social gatherings and non-essential travel.

The U.K. newspapers reported Britons are meeting in parks and making trips to coastal towns after the government last week ordered pubs and restaurants to close. The prime minister said while he wanted to avoid the stringent measures taken by other countries, the U.K. may be forced to act, and will consider options in the next 24 hours.

“We need to think very carefully now about how we take steps to correct that,” Johnson said in a televised press conference.

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IOC Rules Out Canceling 2020 Games (2:45 p.m.)

The International Olympic Committee will study a possible postponement of the Summer Games in Tokyo, which are set to begin July 24. The IOC said cancellation is not on the agenda, despite mounting pressure to call off the event amid the outbreak.

“A cancellation of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 would not solve any of the problems or help anybody,” the committee said in a statement.

The committee’s executive board will step-up scenario-planning, consulting with the Tokyo organizers, the Japanese government, various international and national athletic bodies along with broadcasters and sponsors.

“Our basis of information today is that a final decision about the date of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 now would still be premature,” IOC President Thomas Bach wrote to athletes.

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Dutch Consider Further Measures: Report (2:15 p.m. NY)

The Dutch government is mulling the closure of all non-essential stores after residents largely ignored recommendations for social distancing by gathering in large groups, according to the Telegraaf paper, which cites government sources.

The Dutch cabinet sent an emergency alert to mobile phones urging residents to keep a safe distance as people gathered in large numbers at beaches, parks and markets over the sunny weekend.

Deaths in the Netherlands rose by 43 to 179 but the pace of new cases slowed to a 15% increase overnight, bringing confirmed cases to 4,204.

Paris Mayor Seeks Tougher Limits (2:05 p.m. NY)

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo is among officials calling for a stricter lockdown after leaders of Mediterranean cities including Nice and Perpignan imposed curfews, fueling speculation such measures would be imposed nationwide.

“There are still too many people who go out for things that aren’t essential,” government spokeswoman Sibeth Ndiaye said in a French television interview Sunday. “We’re ready to tighten the rules of the lockdown if its necessary, but let’s keep trying to get everyone to respect the measures already in place.”

Opera’s Domingo Has Illness (2 p.m. NY)

Spanish opera singer Placido Domingo, 79, said on Facebook he has tested positive for Covid-19 and is in self isolation with his family. He urged people to “stay home if you can.”

“We are all in good health but I experienced fever and cough symptoms therefore deciding to get tested and the result came back positive,” he said in the post.

“Together we can fight this virus and stop the current worldwide crisis, so we can hopefully return to our normal daily lives very soon.”

Belgium Lockdown May Last 8 Weeks (2 p.m. NY)

The national lockdown in Belgium that took effect four days ago will probably last at least another eight weeks, Belgian Health Minister Maggie De Block said in an interview with De Zondag newspaper. Belgium reported coronavirus cases rose by 586 to 3,401, with deaths increasing by eight to 75.

Senator Paul Infected, in Quarantine (1:45 p.m. NY)

Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky said on Twitter that he tested positive for Covid-19 and is in quarantine. He is the first U.S. senator to become infected.

The 57-year-old lawmaker said he was tested out of an abundance of caution due to his extensive travel and events.

He said he is feeling fine. He was not aware of any direct contact with any infected person, according to the tweet.

Merkel in Quarantine After Contact (1:40 p.m. NY)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is in quarantine at home after coming into contact with an infected doctor, her spokesman said.

The doctor gave Merkel, 65, a precautionary immunization against bacterial pneumonia on Friday and the chancellor decided to self-isolate once she learned of his positive test, government spokesman Steffen Seibert said in an emailed statement.

“My life has also changed fundamentally and consists mainly of telephone and video conferences,” she said, when ask how she is delaing with the situation.

— With assistance by Steve Geimann, Jason Scott, Keshia Clukey, Rodrigo Orihuela, Jasmina Kuzmanovic, Ellen Proper, Stuart Biggs, Lucille Liu, Albertina Torsoli, Spencer Soper, Arne Delfs, Phil Serafino, Jonathan Stearns, and Laura Litvan

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