Coronavirus cases near 44,000
COVID-19 cases in the United States surpassed 43,660 Monday, according to the pandemic tracker maintained by Johns Hopkins University, while the number of deaths rose to 557. Of those deaths, 99 were in New York City, now, by far, the area of the country where the situation is the most dire.
The number of reported cases nearly doubled from before the weekend. Much of that increase, though, reflects the ramp-up in testing over the past few days.
Massive economic relief package stalled by Democrats
Senate Democrats blocked the advancement of a GOP-authored $2 trillion economic relief bill that members of both parties had hoped to have on President Trump’s desk by Monday in order to get aid quickly to the millions of workers facing job losses and small businesses trying to survive the rapid shutdown of parts of the economy. The two sides were still negotiating Monday night.
Democrats said they wanted the bill to include more funding for unemployment insurance benefits, more money for states, and more strings attached to loans given to big businesses to help them weather the shutdowns imposed by the pandemic.
As the day ended, the two sides claimed progress but seemed to be drifting further apart, with tensions growing. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, rather than working with Senate Republicans on their bill, released her own 1,000-page-plus bill Monday, which the GOP slammed as “a liberal wish list.”
Trump says it’s time to lift economic restrictions
Trump changed his rhetoric regarding the crisis Monday, emphasizing the enormous toll imposed on the economy by restrictions on business and social life meant to slow the transmission of the coronavirus. During a two-hour press conference Monday evening, he repeatedly warned that he now thinks the cure could be worse than the disease.
“You have tremendous responsibility,” he said. “We have jobs. We have … people get tremendous anxiety and depression, and you have suicides over things like this when you have terrible economies. You have death probably in far greater numbers than the numbers we are talking about with regard to the virus.”
Trump stopped short of saying that he thinks that the lockdowns and other restrictions in place over the past week need to be lifted, or that the danger of the virus is overstated. Instead, he insisted that the country is capable of doing two things at once: Preventing the transmission of the virus and allowing people to go back to work.
He said that officials have learned much about the pandemic from the first eight days of the administration’s “15 Days to Slow the Spread” program, and suggested that the new guidance will be more permissive.
“We’re going to be opening up our country,” he said, in a matter of weeks rather than months.
His attitude was a marked shift from the tone he used a week ago Monday when he suggested that the economic and health problems faced by the country were the same, rather than opposed.
“The market will take care of itself. The market will be very strong as soon as we get rid of the virus,” he said, predicting that the economy would come roaring back once the spread of the virus was halted.
Meanwhile, the United Kingdom is moving in the opposite direction
While Trump was talking about easing restrictions on movement and gatherings, Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom was tightening restrictions. On Monday, his government imposed a near-total lockdown on the country. “From this evening, I must give the British people a very simple instruction: You must stay at home,” Johnson said.
The order bans gatherings of more than two people from outside the same household.
Just weeks ago, Johnson had pursued a course of action much less aggressive than that of other countries, such as Italy, on the expectation that extreme lockdowns and social distancing would be impossible to maintain for the length of time that would be needed for them to be effective. That strategy has now been abandoned as the number of deaths has risen rapidly into the hundreds.
New York City becomes a coronavirus hotspot
New York City has a coronavirus infection rate five times that of other U.S. cities, according to coronavirus task force response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx. During Monday’s White House press briefing, Birx said that she believes the virus has been “circulating” throughout the city for weeks, leading to the massive outbreak that New Yorkers are experiencing.
“The New York metro area of New Jersey, New York City, and parts of Long Island have an attack rate close to 1 in 1,000,” Birx said. “And through the lab investigations, we are finding 28% of submitted specimens are positive from that area, where it’s less than 8% in the rest of the country.”
About 20,000 people in New York have tested positive for the coronavirus, the majority of whom live in New York City.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, even as he is imposing a lockdown on the state and marshaling state and federal resources to shore up the hospital system for an expected explosion of virus cases, followed Trump Monday in entertaining the idea of trying to reopen businesses amid the pandemic. “How do you restart or transition to a restart of the economy?” he asked.
“We all have to now confront that that is a new reality,” he said. “That is not going to change.”
Good news from Italy
The death toll in Italy Monday was 602, the second consecutive decline in daily deaths after a high of 793 on Saturday. The total number of deaths is 6,077.
Still, Italy’s death toll is the highest in the world, in part because of the country’s large elderly population. People who have died had a median age of 80, according to Italy’s national health service. The Italian government has issued a stay-at-home order for the entire country, but people in most regions are still allowed to go outdoors as long as they abide by social distancing guidelines. In Italy’s hardest-hit Lombardy region in the north, the duration of time someone can spend outside is limited, and violators are subject to a fine of over $5,000, according to the Associated Press.