Thursday's top stories
The nationwide shortage of medical equipment to fight the coronavirus pandemic seems like a breakthrough opportunity for 3D printing technology. But in this urgent crisis, its uses are limited.
Why it matters: America needs to manufacture tens of thousands of ventilators and billions of face masks and other protective gear in the next few weeks, and then distribute them in a hurry to hospitals around the country to ward off the worst-case public health scenarios.
The United States on Thursday reported the most coronavirus cases in the world for the first time, over China and Italy with at least 82,404 infections and more than 1,000 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins.
Why it matters: From the beginning, the U.S. — with a population of more than 325 million — has repeatedly underestimated and reacted slowly to the coronavirus, prolonging its economic pain and multiplying its toll on Americans’ health.
It's the most stunning chart of this crisis yet — the number of people filing for unemployment spiked to 3.3 million last week, a number unprecedented in U.S. history.
Why it matters: This is a picture of what happens when a huge swath of the economy comes to a very sudden stop. But it tells us very little about how bad this recession is turning out to be. We're not going to get useful data on that for another month or so.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) announced Monday that her husband, John Bessler, has been released from the hospital after testing positive for coronavirus.
The latest: "Thanks to all who sent kind words and prayers for my husband John," Klobuchar said in a statement. "He has coronavirus and has been in the hospital for pneumonia and low oxygen. He took a good turn, was just released and is now recovering at home. Thanks to those who cared for him and for all front line health care workers."
U.S. stocks shrugged off news of a record-breaking 3.3 million unemployment claims last week, closing higher for the third straight day as Congress moved closer to passing a $2 trillion coronavirus relief package.
Driving the news: Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that she expects the House to pass the Senate's rescue bill — the largest of its kind in U.S. history — on Friday, before moving on to a potential "Phase 4" package.
The Trump administration is developing a plan to label counties across the country as "high-risk, medium-risk, or low-risk" areas for the spread of the coronavirus, President Trump said in a letter to the nation's governors on Thursday.
Why it matters: Against the warnings of health experts, Trump is pushing for parts of the country to lift social distancing restrictions over the next few weeks and months, believing that the economic toll of an extended quarantine will be more damaging than the virus itself.
In a dramatic reversal, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's chief rival, Benny Gantz, has agreed to join forces in an "emergency government" to deal with the coronavirus crisis.
Why it matters: This is a big step toward ending Israel's year-long political deadlock and a victory for Netanyahu, who will stay on as prime minister for at least another 18 months even as his corruption trial gets underway.
We've gone on holiday by mistake. And we're going to have to stay here for a while.
The big picture: During normal, scheduled holidays — the period between Christmas and New Year's, for instance, or all of August in France — GDP plunges to well below normal levels, no one much minds, and then economic activity bounces happily back again.
China will temporarily suspend entry for foreign nationals with visas or residence permits beginning at midnight on March 28 in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced Thursday.
Why it matters: It's a sign that China, where the coronavirus outbreak originated, is seeking to curb the number of imported cases in order to stop its epidemic from flaring up again. Diplomatic visas will not be affected.
The U.S. unsealed drug trafficking charges Thursday against President Nicolás Maduro and other senior Venezuelan officials.
Why it matters: It's a highly unusual indictment of a head of state that comes 14 months after the U.S. recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela's president. Maduro remains in power, even as the U.S. has insisted he step down and said all options were on the table if he did not.
The Senate late last night passed a $2.2 trillion safety net for the American people and American businesses. But not all businesses were included. The package left out thousands of small companies owned by private equity firms.
Details: The legislation includes $350 billion in small-business loans for companies with fewer than 500 employees. That's a liberalization of typical SBA rules, which are more industry-specific in terms of employee number and revenue.
Nintendo's Animal Crossing: New Horizons, released in the U.S. last week, has quickly emerged as a runaway hit pastime for a population trapped in their homes.
The big picture: Success in the video game industry often requires not only a great story and gameplay, but perfect timing. Nintendo's cartoonish simulation game, which allows players to create their own island getaways, appears to have pulled off all three.
Today should have been Opening Day, but like seemingly everything else in the world, those plans have been scrapped due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Why it matters: Football and basketball might be more popular sports, but the baseball season is perhaps the most engrained in American life, with the 162-game campaign providing a certain rhythm to the spring and summer months.
Perhaps the most important thing about the $2.2 trillion stimulus bill the Senate passed late Wednesday night is that it is not a stimulus bill at all.
- It is not intended to stimulate growth and spending to offset a potential downturn; it is designed to prevent mass homelessness, starvation and a wave of business closures not seen since the height of the Great Depression.
Even if you’re able to get tested for the coronavirus, it’ll still take about a week to get the results back — which means the U.S. still doesn’t have a real-time handle on the number of infected people.
Why it matters: We need to know where the virus is spreading in order to get a lid on those outbreaks before they become catastrophic.
The Senate passed the largest rescue package in modern history on Wednesday to alleviate economic pressure caused by the novel coronavirus, which has killed more than 1,000 people in the U.S. and over 21,000 people globally.
Why it matters: The roughly $2 trillion COVID-19 relief package includes thousands of dollars in direct payments to most Americans — millions of whom face unemployment related to the spread of COVID-19 — as well as a $500 billion loan fund for large corporations and a $367 billion loan program for small businesses.
Congress' $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package is the rare legislative agreement that will have an immediate — and lasting — impact on ordinary citizens across the country.
Why it matters: The 883-page bill, titled the "CARES Act," includes thousands of dollars in direct payments to most Americans, and huge loan packages designed to help keep small businesses and corporations afloat.
If President Trump follows through on his statements that he wants to "open" the U.S. up again, an already patchwork shield of state "stay at home" orders could look like even more of a patchwork.
The big picture: As of Wednesday night, just 21 states have ordered people to stay at home, and most of those are states with Democratic governors. Only six — Ohio, Indiana, Idaho, West Virginia, Massachusetts and Vermont — have Republican governors.
President Trump's daily White House novel coronavirus task force briefings are attracting record viewership, but some critics say TV news networks shouldn't air them because he and administration officials have dispensed misinformation about COVID-19.
Why it matters: Live briefings can be difficult for networks to fact-check in real time. Critics argue that airing the press events unfiltered on a daily basis will mislead the public about the pandemic, putting Americans' health and safety at risk.
After several days of intense negotiations and an 11th-hour standoff over a key provision, the Senate has released the final legislative text for its $2 trillion bill to combat the novel coronavirus.
Why it matters: The bill is the largest rescue package in modern history, and it offers thousands of dollars in direct aid to American families, billions in emergency loans to small businesses and industries hardest hit by COVID-19, and desperately needed resources to hospitals.