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We’re covering the federal government’s efforts to address the coronavirus pandemic, a promising milestone in China, and accusations of preferential treatment in testing in the U.S. And, lest we forget, today is the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere.
President Trump broadens response to pandemic
The Trump administration asked Congress on Wednesday for $500 billion for direct payments to taxpayers and $500 billion in loans for businesses, as the federal government ramped up its efforts to address the fallout from the coronavirus epidemic.
Mr. Trump, who until this week had played down the outbreak, also invoked a wartime law that would let the government press American industry into service to make more medical supplies.
The Senate approved a separate relief package passed last week by the House that would provide paid leave, enhanced unemployment benefits and free testing as well as food and health care aid. The president quickly signed the bill, which early estimates suggest could cost hundreds of billions of dollars.
In other developments:
For the first time since the crisis began, China today reported no new local infections for the previous 24 hours. Experts have said at least 14 straight days without new infections are needed for the outbreak to be considered over.
New C.D.C. data showed that nearly 40 percent of hospitalized patients in the U.S. were aged 20 to 54. But the risk of dying was significantly higher in older people.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement said it would stop making arrests, except for those considered “mission critical,” until the crisis ends.
As school systems shut across the U.S., administrators are pleading for guidance from the federal government.
The virus has now infected and killed more people in Europe — over 82,000 cases and more than 3,400 dead — than it has in China. “This is serious,” Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany said in a televised address on Wednesday. “Take it seriously.”
Australia will bar all foreign visitors starting Friday. Canada and New Zealand have made similar orders.
Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan have kept the number of cases down with some success, but the virus continues to spread rapidly in most of the world. Our charts show the trajectory of the pandemic in various places.
Russia has limited personal freedoms in ways that mirror recent moves by Western democracies, but the measures also let President Vladimir Putin show an uneasy public the effectiveness of a strong, centralized state. Russia, which announced its first coronavirus death today, has reported 147 confirmed coronavirus cases, but many Russians believe the real total is far higher.
“The Daily”: Today’s episode is about a New York suburb with a particularly large clusters of infections.
Another angle: The U.S. Navy has given officers discretion to temporarily relax guidelines on hair length to help maintain social distancing.
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Weighing the size of a bailout
As entire sectors of the U.S. economy shut down, lawmakers are considering options that would dwarf the federal government’s response to the 2008 financial crisis.
That meltdown, which sent unemployment to 10 percent, centered on foreclosures and the banking sector, but this crisis is springing from dozens of places. As a result, Washington is discussing proposals that could top $2 trillion.
Global markets were mixed today. Here’s the latest.
Go deeper: To understand what form the coronavirus bailouts might take, our senior economics correspondent looked at the rationales for past programs.
Related: The Federal Reserve said on Wednesday that it would offer emergency loans to money market mutual funds. Calls abound for the central bank to do more.
Closer look: A photographer in New York has been documenting the anxious purchase of emergency supplies, and other virus-related economic activity.
Another angle: The Times has a new information hub for questions about your money, including financial strategies and information on government benefits and free services.
Need a test? It helps to be an A-lister
With testing in short supply in the U.S., politicians, celebrities and N.B.A. teams have obtained coronavirus tests without exhibiting symptoms or having known contact with an infected person, leading to accusations of preferential treatment.
On Wednesday, it was announced that two U.S. House members had tested positive: Mario Diaz-Balart, Republican of Florida, and Ben McAdams, Democrat of Utah.
Another angle: Seven members of a family in New Jersey contracted the virus. Grace Fusco, 73, died on Wednesday, hours after her son died and five days after her daughter, a relative said.
Advice: The world has changed a lot in the past few weeks. We have answers to common questions about daily life, health, money, politics, science and travel.
If you have some time, this is worth it
Reflecting on African-American art
Over the past 20 years, a vanguard of black artists has helped define the 21st century.
The Times asked 35 creators from film, art, TV, music, books and more to talk about work that has inspired them. Included are essays by Kerry Washington on Beyoncé, Ta-Nehisi Coates on Kendrick Lamar, and Oprah Winfrey on Toni Morrison.
Here’s what else is happening
Dwindling path for Sanders: As some Democrats call for Bernie Sanders to end his presidential campaign, the Vermont senator hasn’t said when he will make an announcement about his future. He suggested on Wednesday that his sole focus should be the pandemic.
Earthquake in Utah: With a magnitude of 5.7, the quake was the strongest to hit the state since 1992. Salt Lake City’s mayor called it “the last thing we need right now.”
China’s confidence: Western media once served as a useful tool for Beijing. But China is now seeking to shape its own narrative, expelling journalists and further distancing itself from the world, our columnist writes.
Snapshot: Above, a picture of the moon taken in 1971 by Alfred Worden. While his fellow Apollo 15 crewmen roamed the lunar surface, Major Worden spent three days in orbit operating a pair of cameras, to map the moon’s terrain. He died on Wednesday at 88.
What we’re looking at: The Twitter feed from the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, which follows the adventures of Edward and Annie, rockhopper penguins who were allowed to explore the empty aquarium. “The pitter-patter of their feet wandering around the exhibits is just the break from the news I needed,” says Remy Tumin of the Briefings team. (Other aquariums and zoos are also reaching out on social media.)
Now, a break from the news
Cook: The key to this black bean soup is to season generously and purée sparingly. A batch makes 10 servings. (In her guide to stocking your pantry, Melissa Clark recommends keeping both dried and canned beans on hand.)
Watch: Our critic recommends 12 true-crime documentaries on Netflix.
Smarter Living: Can I go to the supermarket? (Yes.) Can I eat at a restaurant? (Please don’t.) Can friends and relatives visit me? (Maybe.) We answered your questions about social distancing.
And now for the Back Story on …
California’s ‘shelter in place’ order
We spoke with Thomas Fuller, our San Francisco bureau chief, about the “shelter in place” order in the Bay Area, which requires people to stay at home except for essential activities.
Why is the Bay Area the first place in the U.S. with such tight restrictions?
The health officers here got together, because they saw the cases accelerating. I think there was a real fear that if they didn’t do this now, they would miss any opportunity to mitigate the severity of the outbreak.
What exactly does “shelter in place” mean?
It’s a lot more sweeping than the California restrictions before, which were guidelines by the governor allowing schools to be open, to be decided at a local level. They had closed bars, nightclubs and wineries, but not restaurants. And they didn’t close businesses or offices.
This restriction means: Everyone stay home, unless you’re doing something essential.
You used to be based in Southeast Asia. How does this compare with controls there?
The U.S. is a very individualistic society, built on the idea of these individual rights. So, this is a big test not only for the San Francisco Bay Area, but for America — the question being: Will people in America sacrifice individual liberty for the good of the community?
Asian societies are more based on the group, the collective. Which is why these kinds of measures are more accepted there.
How is California taking care of its homeless populations?
The homeless have a horrible double vulnerability. There’s a study out of Washington State that found that 30 percent of homeless people have lung disease before any discussion of coronavirus, so they’re very vulnerable. Second, we’ve reported that at some shelters on the West Coast, beds are less than two feet apart. Experts have recommended being six feet away from people.
That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.
Mark Josephson, Eleanor Stanford and Chris Harcum provided the break from the news. Melina Delkic, on the Briefings team, wrote today’s Back Story. You can reach us at [email protected].
• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Today’s episode is about a cluster of coronavirus cases near New York City.
• Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Wheelchair-accessible path (four letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
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