Wednesday morning news – March 25, 2020

Senate reaches deal on $2 trillion coronavirus bill » Senate leaders and the White House have reached a deal on a $2 trillion coronavirus response bill. 

After days of wrangling and late night negotiations, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made the announcement just before 2 a.m. He said the bipartisan bill will help see the country through this crisis. 

MCCONNELL: It will rush new resources onto the front lines of our nation’s healthcare fight, and it will rush trillions of dollars of cash into the economy   as fast as possible to help American workers, families, small businesses and industries make it through this disruption and emerge on the other side ready to soar. 

McConnell confirmed that the plan will include sending checks to most Americans. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer followed with remarks of his own, touting help for those who lose their jobs amid the pandemic. 

SCHUMER: Unemployment compensation on steroids. Every American worker who is laid off will have their salary remunerated by the federal government so they can pay their bills. 

Schumer also touted more than $130 billion for hospitals and other medical facilities.  

Neither leader confirmed the total price tag, but Schumer called the bill “the largest rescue package in American history.” 

The Senate will reconvene at noon today and is expected to pass the bill today. Members of the House are in their home districts at the moment and are now deciding how they’ll vote on the Senate bill.

Trump hopes to see economy begin return to normalcy by Easter » Earlier Tuesday, President Trump expressed optimism that a major coronavirus relief package will pass soon. 

He also made headlines when he said he hopes to to start rolling back coronavirus measures to let the U.S. economy begin returning to normal operations by Easter Sunday. 

TRUMP: That would certainly be—I think that’s a goal that perhaps can happen, or at least for a very large portion of our country. 

But health experts say that’s highly unlikely as the peak of the coronavirus crisis in the United States still lies ahead. And Easter is less than three weeks away.

But the president said that while April 12th is his hope and his goal, he will defer to his top health officials.

TRUMP: I will be guided very much by Dr. Fauci and by Deborah and by some of the other professionals.  

Dr. Deborah Birx is the White House coronavirus response coordinator and Dr. Anthony Fauci is the head of infectious diseases at the National Institutes for Health. Fauci told WMAL radio that despite reports to the contrary, the president has listened to him and other top health officials. 

FAUCI: When I have made recommendations he has taken them. He’s never countered or overridden me. 

And Fauci said he told the president with regard to his Easter Sunday goal, that he must remain very flexible and be prepared to dig in much longer if need be.

NY facing accelerating coronavirus crisis » Speaking at the White House Tuesday, Fauci also addressed the rapidly mounting coronavirus crisis in New York. 

There are more 25,000 confirmed cases of the virus in the state, mostly in New York City, which is quickly becoming a global hotspot for the virus. And the infection rate there is doubling about every three days. With that in mind, Fauci said many New Yorkers are fleeing the area. 

FAUCI: They’re going to Florida. They’re going to Rhode Island. They’re going to different places. The idea, if you look at the statistics, it’s disturbing. About one per thousand of these individuals are infected. That’s about 8 to 10 times more than in other areas. 

The White House is asking anyone who leaves New York to self-quarantine for 14 days. 

Meantime, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said New York could be as close as two weeks away from a crisis that sees 40,000 people in intensive care.

Such a surge would overwhelm hospitals, which now have just 3,000 intensive care unit beds statewide. Cuomo told reporters…

CUOMO: One of the forecasters said we were looking at a freight train coming across the country. We’re now looking at a bullet train, because the numbers are going up that quickly.

Cuomo said hospitals may need to more than double their capacity to provide for a peak need of 140,000 beds. 

To deal with a shortage of medical staff, Cuomo is asking former nurses and doctors to rejoin the workforce, and is offering “recertification on an emergency basis.”

India implementing world’s largest lockdown to slow virus spread » India will begin the largest coronavirus lockdown in the world today. WORLD’s Kristen Flavin has more. 

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the emergency measure in a television address Wednesday. He said “To save India and every Indian, there will be a total ban on venturing out.” He acknowledged the 21-day lockdown would be a major blow to the economy, but he said the alternative could set the country back 21 years.

He warned citizens to stay inside or risk inviting the pandemic into their homes. He also pledged $2 billion to bolster the country’s strained healthcare system.

The announcement set off panic in many neighborhoods as people rushed to markets to stock up on supplies. 

Indian health officials have reported nearly 500 active cases of COVID-19, and 10 deaths. Officials insist there’s no evidence yet of localized spread, but there has been very little testing within India. In a country where tens of millions live in dense urban areas with irregular access to clean water, experts have said local spreading is inevitable.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kristen Flavin. 

Summer Olympics postponed » The Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo will not happen this year.

Yoshori Mori is president of the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee. He held a conference call Tuesday with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and officials with the International Olympic Committee. 

MORI (translated): We agreed that there is no choice but to postpone the games. 

The International Olympic Committee said as the world fights the coronavirus pandemic, there’s simply no way to hold the games in July as scheduled. IOC executives said the games “must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020, but not later than summer 2021.”

Other Olympics—in 1916, 1940, and 1944—have been canceled because of war, but this is the first time the games have ever been postponed.

(AP Photo/John Minchillo) New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference against a backdrop of medical supplies at the Jacob Javits Center that will house a temporary hospital in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Tuesday, March 24, 2020, in New York. 

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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