President Donald Trump signed the historic stimulus package into law, U.S. infections roared past 100,000, and Disney parks throughout the nation will be closed indefinitely as the coronavirus plants itself even deeper into the American landscape.
Among the hardest-hit states is New York, at the forefront of the nation's death count with nearly 400. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced school closures will be extended until at least April 15 and said hospitals will soon have an overwhelming need for respirators.
The road home for other Americans got a little easier this week as nearly 300 U.S. citizens stranded in Central America have returned to the U.S. aboard jets used by U.S. immigration authorities that are normally used in deportations.
The U.S. counted more than 105,000 cases of coronavirus early Saturday, with at least 1,700 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard. More confirmations are expected as the U.S. ramps up testing.
More than 600,000 people are known to have been infected globally, and roughly 27,000 have died.
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Trump signs historic relief package into law
A bipartisan $2 trillion aid package was approved by the House of Representatives and signed by President Donald Trump on Friday, as the nation wrestles with unemployment and health threats from the coronavirus.
The stimulus provides $1,200 to most Americans along with funds for small businesses and unemployment insurance.
"I want to thank Democrats and Republicans for coming together and putting America first," Trump said at the signing.
While the president’s signature ended the legislative effort on Capitol Hill, it marked a beginning to the government’s work managing the crisis. Now the Trump administration must rapidly pump hundreds of billions of dollars into the economy in the form of direct payments, loans and grants to hard-hit industries such as the airlines.
– Christal Hayes
Last-minute revision allows more low-income Americans to get $1,200 checks
Americans with little or no tax liability will now be able to receive $1,200 ($2,400 for joint tax returns) under the historic, $2 trillion economic recovery package.
The original legislation had directed that one-time payments of up to $1,200 be made to most Americans who file individual tax returns but included a $2,500 minimum income threshold to earn any rebate. That meant that individuals with little income tax liability would have gotten a minimum of $600 ($1,200 for joint filers).
But a subsequent version of the bill – approved by the Senate on Wednesday and the House on Friday – dropped the minimum income threshold so that all low-income individuals will now be eligible for the full $1,200 ($2,400 for joint returns).
A caveat: To qualify, they must have filed tax returns in either 2018 or 2019 or receive Social Security or veterans’ benefits so the Internal Revenue Service can calculate their rebate, said Garrett Watson of the Tax Foundation, a Washington-based think tank. Read more here.
- Michael Collins
New Yorkers pulled over in Rhode Island over quarantining
The welcome mat is not out for New Yorkers. Goernors in Texas, Florida, Maryland and South Carolina this week ordered people arriving from the New York area – including New Jersey and Connecticut – and other virus hot spots to self-quarantine for at least 14 days upon arrival.
Connecticut officials have also pleaded with New Yorkers and others from out of state to avoid visiting unless absolutely necessary.
But, in the most dramatic steps taken to date, Rhode Island State Police on Friday began pulling over drivers with New York plates so that National Guard officials can collect contact information and inform them of a mandatory, 14-day quarantine.
The state police are setting up a "welcome center" to make sure that they get information for tracking people in cars with New York license plates. Police are patrolling the beach. Meanwhile, the ACLU is warning this it's not constitutional to stop cars simply because they have New York plates.
Gov. Gina Raimondo ratcheted up the measures Friday afternoon, announcing she’ll also order the state National Guard to go door-to-door in coastal communities starting this weekend to find out whether any of the home’s residents have recently arrived from New York and inform them of the quarantine order.
– Providence Journal
Dozens of most popular stores say they will be closed for weeks – or more
Some of America's most iconic stores that temporarily shut down are now saying closures will last for many weeks – and possibly indefinitely.
The latest casualties from the coronavirus economic deluge include Apple, Express, Urban Outfitters and Guess? stores, all of which are closed "until further notice." Nike, meanwhile, says company stores "will remain temporarily closed in multiple countries around the world."
L Brands, parent company of Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works, announced Friday it "is not currently able to predict the timing of store reopening."
Nordstrom extended its two-week closures "for at least one week, through April 5," the department store chain said March 25. Kate Spade and Coach stores will stay closed an "additional two weeks" through April 10 while Men's Wearhouse locations are closed "until at least May 4."
– Kelly Tyko
Stranded Americans brought home on US immigration jets
Nearly 300 Americans stranded in Central America due to the spread of the virus have returned to the U.S. this week aboard flights used by U.S. immigration authorities to deport people back to their home countries.
The Americans have been brought back to the U.S. on the return legs of three separate removal flights to Central America, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said. Those return flights usually are empty except for pilots and staff.
Since Sunday, 273 Americans have flown back to the U.S. on removal flights, said Mary Houtmann, an ICE spokesperson.
The total includes 128 Americans flown back from Honduras to Alexandria, Louisiana on Sunday, 81 Americans flown back from El Salvador to San Antonio, Texas on Tuesday and 64 Americans flown back from El Salvador to Mesaon Wednesday.
– The Arizona Republic
More coronavirus news, tips and information from USA TODAY
• A secretive cache of medical supplies to save Americans from deadly disasters for years lacked the funding to prepare for a pandemic, former managers of the stockpile told USA TODAY.
• Quarantine TV: Our list of 100 shows to watch.
• Looking for diapers? Here's where you can still get them.
• Americans are suffering today because officials botched the rollout of testing, derailing containment. Federal officials misled scientists about problems with their test, wasting weeks before letting others fix. Hospitals and labs are paying the price. Read our investigation.
Disney parks to stay closed indefinitely
Citing an "increasingly complex crisis," Disneyland and Disney World are going to stay closed "until further notice" due to the pandemic, the Walt Disney Company said Friday.
The decision dashes hopes that the theme parks would reopen by next month, as had been previously announced. Earlier this week, Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood announced they were extending their closures through April 19.
"The safety and well-being of our guests and employees remains the Walt Disney Company’s top priority," Disney said in a statement.
The company said the decision was "in line with direction provided by health experts and government officials."
– Bryan Alexander and Chris Woodyard
British PM Boris Johnson is self-isolating after testing positive
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is self-isolating after announce he tested positive for the coronavirus on Friday. He's the first world leader to contract COVID-19.
Johnson, 55, said he developed mild symptoms over the last 24 hours. "I am now self-isolating, but I will continue to lead the government’s response via video-conference as we fight this virus," he said.
Prince Charles, Queen Elizabeth II's son and heir to the British throne, tested positive for the coronavirus this week and was self-isolating in Scotland, according to his office. He only displayed mild symptoms, his office said.
– Kim Hjelmgaard
Mayors report acute shortage of face masks, test kits, ventilators
A nonpartisan survey of U.S. mayors found an overwhelming number said they did not have an adequate supply of face masks for their first responders and medical personnel nor enough coronavirus test kits.
The survey by U.S. Conference of Mayors between last Friday and Tuesday involved 213 cities in 41 states and Puerto Rico, ranging from towns of 2,000 people to 3.8 million.
Among those mayors responding, more than 90% noted the lack of enough face masks and test kits, while 85% said they do not have enough ventilators for their hospitals.
In other categories, 88% said they did not have an adequate supply of personal protect equipment (PPE) other than face masks to protect police, fire, emergency medical responders and medical personnel.
The survey found that the cities cumulatively needed 5 million face masks, 4 million PPE items, 9 million test kits, and 139,000 ventilators.
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