Thursday morning news – March 26, 2020

Senate passed $2.2 trillion economic rescue package » The U.S. Senate last night approved an unprecedented $2.2 trillion economic rescue package. 

AUDIO: On this vote, the yays are 96. The nays are zero. The 60-vote threshold having been achieved, the bill is passed. 

The vote passed unanimously, with several senators still absent in self-quarantine, after Kentucky Senator Rand Paul tested positive for COVID-19. 

After the vote, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the bill is designed to accomplish several critical goals. 

MCCONNELL: To save American individuals, small businesses, large businesses, and to provide considerable funding for the healthcare workers and the scientists and doctors who are trying to solve this pandemic. 

The nearly 900-page measure is the largest economic relief bill in U.S. history. McConnell said he anticipates the bill could keep the economy afloat for 3 months, but added, “Hopefully, we won’t need this for three months.” 

The bill provides a $367 billion program for small businesses to keep making payroll while workers are forced to stay home. And it provides conditional loans for large companies hurt by the virus. 

The package would also give direct payments to most Americans and expand unemployment benefits.

Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Wednesday… 

SCHUMER: I say to the American people, help is on the way, big help, quick help. 

The bill now heads to the Democratic-controlled House, which will most likely pass it Friday.

Florida requires travelers from NYC region to self-quarantine » The United States now has more than 55,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and nearly half of them are in New York state. And most of those cases are in New York City

With the New York City region now an epicenter of the coronavirus, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis this week signed an executive order. 

It states that anyone flying into his state from an area with substantial community spread must—quote—“isolate or quarantine for a period of 14 days.” The order specifically mentions the New York Tri-State Area (Connecticut, New Jersey and New York). DeSantis told reporters Wednesday …

DESANTIS: We have National Guard and some other health folks at the airports. All these folks are having to provide information. They have to provide a place where they’ll be self-isolating. And that is enforceable under the executive order so they could face adverse consequences. 

Florida is not among the states requiring everyone to shelter in place, but another state is joining that list. 

Idaho Governor Brad Little issued a statewide stay-at-home order on Wednesday. 

LITTLE: We’re sticking with where we’ve been all along, which was the CDC guidance was when you have community spread—and initially we just had it in Blaine County—when you have community spread, then you have to go to the next level, and that’s what we’re doing. 

Eighteen states have general stay-at-home orders in place and have closed non-essential businesses. 

Doctors, researchers prepare new tests to fight COVID-19 » A network of U.S. hospitals is waiting on permission from the FDA to begin large studies of a century-old treatment used to fight off the flu and measles in the days before vaccines. They’re hoping it might work on COVID-19. WORLD’s Leigh Jones reports. 

LEIGH JONES, REPORTER: Doctors want to test transfusions—giving plasma from survivors of COVID-19 to newly ill patients.

When a person gets infected by a particular germ, the body starts making antibodies to fight the infection. After the person recovers, those antibodies float in survivors’ blood—specifically plasma—for months or even years.

Doctors dusted off the old-fashioned approach during the SARS outbreak of 2002 and used it against Ebola in 2014. The Journal of Clinical Investigation stated that while strict studies of the technique were not done, there are clues that it helped. 

Meantime, Reuters reports that several companies and academic labs are working to make blood tests. Those tests would “quickly identify disease-fighting antibodies in people who already have been infected but may have had mild symptoms or none at all.” That could help identify people who have some level of immunity, at least temporarily, against the disease. 

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Leigh Jones. 

Canada enacts mandatory quarantine for incoming travelers » Canada has announced that it is invoking the nation’s Quarantine Act. That will impose mandatory self-isolation for any traveler entering the country. The measure is in effect as of this morning. 

There are some exceptions, though. Healthcare workers, truck drivers, and other essential workers will be allowed to cross the border without quarantine. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also announced on Wednesday benefits for workers losing their paychecks due to the virus. 

TRUDEAU: The Canada emergency response benefit will provide $2,000 a month for the next four months for workers who lose their income as a result of COVID-19. 

Meantime in Britain, a reminder that the virus is no respecter of persons. Prince Charles has tested positive. The 71-year-old Prince of Wales is reportedly displaying mild symptoms, but a spokesman said he “otherwise remains in good health.” 

ISIS attacker kills dozens at Sikh house of worship » A lone ISIS terrorist rampaged through a Sikh house of worship in Afghanistan Wednesday, killing dozens. WORLD’s Kristen Flavin reports.

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: The attacker burst into the building in Kabul, lobbed grenades and fired on the crowd with an automatic rifle—killing at least 25 people.  

He held many of the worshippers hostage for several hours as Afghan special forces and international troops tried to clear the building. They managed to save 80 worshippers trapped inside the building. 

Within hours, ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack.

An ISIS media arm identified the gunman as an Indian national. It said he carried out the attack to avenge the plight of Muslims living under harsh restrictions in Indian-ruled Kashmir. 

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kristen Flavin.

(Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press via AP) Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses Canadians on the COVID-19 and coronavirus situation from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. 

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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