Monday morning news – March 23, 2020

Senate stimulus plan fails to move forward » The Senate failed on Sunday to move forward on a massive bipartisan stimulus plan to prop up the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the $1.4 trillion bill skimped on spending in critical areas and that it had many other problems. 

SCHUMER: At the top of the list, it includes a large corporate bailout with no protections for workers and virtually no oversight. Also very troubling in the bill were significant shortfalls of money that our hospitals, states, cities and medical workers desperately needed. 

But GOP Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania said loans to companies afloat in a time of crisis is a form of protection for workers. 

TOOMEY: When we’re able to go back to work and go back to producing and living normally, it’d be really nice if these employers still exist. The minority leader derisively called that a bailout. 

Schumer also said the increased unemployment benefits in the bill don’t go far enough. But Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio said the unemployment insurance provisions in the bill came “from the Democratic side of the aisle.” 

PORTMAN: It adds eight times more funding into the unemployment system for the rest of this year than is currently being spent. 

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell complained that four separate bipartisan working groups largely came to agreements—until Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi got involved. But Democrats countered that McConnell is wasting time by not involving House leaders in the talks from the start. 

If lawmakers can come together, a congressional stimulus bill, coupled with measures by the Federal Reserve could pump $2 trillion into the U.S. economy.

Kentucky Sen. Paul tests positive for COVID-19 » Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is the first member of the U.S. Senate to test positive for COVID-19. Multiple congressmen have tested positive. 

Paul said in a tweet Sunday that he was feeling fine and is in quarantine. Paul said he has not had symptoms and was tested out of an abundance of caution due to his extensive travel and events. He said he was not aware of any direct contact with any infected person.

And an unnamed member of Vice President President Mike Pence’s staff has also tested positive. Pence announced on Saturday that while he had no reason to think he’d been exposed…

PENCE: Given the unique position that I have as vice president, and as the leader of the coronavirus task force, both I and my wife will be tested for the coronavirus this afternoon. 

Both tests came back negative for COVID-19.   

Fauci: More COVID-19 tests on the way » But while elected officials can easily get access to COVID-19 tests, not everyone can. Dr. Anthony Fauci has called that a “failure.” He is head of infectious diseases at the National Institutes for Health.  

But on Sunday, he told NBC’s Meet the Press that will begin to change very soon now that private industry is working to help produce the tests

FACUI: So I would expect that very soon and when I say soon I’m talking about days to a week where you’re going to see it go up like this. Not everybody tomorrow is going to be able to get a test, but pretty soon you’re going to see a major escalation of capability and implementation. 

Fauci said if you’re experiencing symptoms, such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath, do not go to the hospital. Instead, health officials say you should self-isolate and call your primary care provider. That gives providers a chance to limit exposure to the virus. If your symptoms become severe, call 911.

Hawaii, New Jersey announce new measures to fight spread of virus » Hawaii’s governor is taking new steps to try and keep the virus from spreading on the islands. Governor David Ige has announced a 14-day self-quarantine starting Thursday for all people traveling to the state.

The order applies to returning residents as well as visitors. It applies to all arrivals at Hawaiian airports from the continental U.S. and international destinations.

Also over the weekend, New Jersey became the latest state to issue a shelter in place order. Governor Phil Murphy said “we can no longer maintain a sense of business as usual during this emergency.” 

MURPHY: This means no weddings, in-person services, or even parties. This decision is not an easy one, and it pains me that important life moments will not be celebrated in the way that we are accustomed to. 

He said “ALL gatherings are cancelled,” and “ALL non-essential retail businesses must indefinitely close their physical stores to the public.”

Italy tightens restrictions amid coronavirus devastation » Italy is tightening restrictions once again to try and get a handle on the pandemic. 

The government is slowing industrial production nationwide. And in its hardest-hit region of Lombardy, outdoor exercise is now banned, except on personal property. And the government has set distance limits on dog-walking.

Authorities in Lombardy also raised fines for violators to 5,000 euros—that’s more than $5,300.

Italy’s death toll rose by 651 on Sunday. In total, more than 5,000 Italians have died from the coronavirus. Italy has about 24,000 confirmed cases. 

(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House, Saturday, March 21, 2020, in Washington. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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