Wednesday's top stories

Christchurch mosque shooter changes plea to guilty over terrorist attack

Tributes to the twin mosque attack victims outside Christchurch Botanic Gardens Christchurch on April 5, 2019. Photo: Sanka Vidanagama/AFP via Getty Images

The Australian man who opened fire inside two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, has pleaded guilty to 51 charges of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and one count of engaging in a terrorist act.

Details: Brenton Tarrant entered his changed plea via video link from Auckland Prison Thursday morning local time. New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said in a statement sentencing would not take place until all victims who wish to attend the hearing can do so. "Due to the COVID-19 epidemic that will not be possible for some time," he noted.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Mar 25, 2020 - World

Senators threaten to delay coronavirus relief bill with last-minute objections

Sens. Tim Scott, Ben Sasse, Lindsey Graham and Rick Scott. Photo: Alex Edelman/AFP via Getty Images

The prospect of the Senate quickly passing the $2 trillion coronavirus relief deal that congressional leaders struck with the White House hit a speed bump Wednesday after a group of Republican senators demanded an amendment related to unemployment insurance.

The state of play: Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Tim Scott (S.C.), Ben Sasse (Neb.) and Rick Scott (Fla.) said Wednesday that they would object to fast-tracking the bill over a provision that would grant an extra $600 per week in unemployment benefits to low-wage workers who lose their jobs.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Mar 25, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Pennsylvania is latest state to delay primary due to coronavirus

Photo: Barbara Davidson/Getty Images

Pennsylvania's presidential primary is set to be postponed until June 2, AP reports, after the state's lawmakers voted on Wednesday to delay the election due to rising novel coronavirus cases.

Why it matters: 23 other states and the District of Columbia haven't held primaries yet. The White House is recommending, for now, that Americans practice social distancing and gather in groups of no more than 10 people — while 21 states have issued stay-at-home orders.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Mar 25, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Biden: "I think we've had enough debates"

Former Vice President Joe Biden at the Democratic primary debate in March. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden said during a virtual press briefing on Wednesday that he believes the Democratic Party has "had enough debates" and "should get on with this."

Why it matters: Bernie Sanders' campaign said yesterday that he plans to attend an April debate — signaling he has no plans of dropping out. Biden's delegate lead is essentially insurmountable, per FiveThirtyEight, and his comments highlight his lack of interest in continuing the primary race with Sanders as the coronavirus outbreak rages.

Exclusive: Elected city officials brace for fiscal blow

U.S. cities of all sizes are facing significant fiscal pressure as they try to fight the coronavirus. Many local elected officials expect that they'll have to curtail services, raise fees or draw down reserves to absorb the blow.

Where it stands: Congress and the White House reached a deal overnight to inject $2 trillion into the economy, with $150 billion set to be allocated to state and local governments, including $8 billion for tribal governments.

Cuomo projects apex of coronavirus hospitalizations will be in 21 days

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo shared projections on Wednesday that suggest the state can expect to reach its "apex" for novel coronavirus hospitalizations in 21 days.

Why it matters: The number of cases in New York is expected to continue surging for weeks, even as President Trump suggests that parts of the country should lift social distancing restrictions by Easter — 18 days away.

Go deeperArrowMar 25, 2020 - Health

Corporate America balks at potential strings attached in relief package

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Uncle Sam today will become Corporate America's lender of last resort, but it's still unclear if it also will become its activist shareholder.

Driving the news: We're still awaiting full text of the bipartisan deal struck last night between the White House and Senate leaders, including if there will be any straight equity or warrants tied to financial help for affected industries and companies.

Putin postpones constitutional referendum due to coronavirus

Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Wednesday that a referendum on a series of constitutional amendments — including one that would allow him to remain in power through 2036 — will be postponed due to coronavirus. He did not set a new date.

Where things stand: There has been suspicion in Russia and overseas about the country's relatively low number of confirmed cases — just 495 as of Tuesday, without a single confirmed fatality. Putin had insisted the situation was "under control," but he elevated his warnings today and said non-essential workers should stay home next week.

Go deeperArrowMar 25, 2020 - World

Why the U.S. won't deploy high-tech coronavirus trackers

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Governments around the world have turned to high-tech solutions like smartphone tracking and Bluetooth bracelets to slow the novel coronavirus' spread. For both practical and cultural reasons, however, the U.S. is unlikely to try such methods.

The big picture: The U.S. plainly needs more tools for slowing the spread of COVID-19. But a lack of testing supplies, the absence of nationwide strategies and policies, an individualistic culture, and concerns over civil liberties all stand in the way of adopting these techniques.

Coronavirus layoffs could cost startup employees their equity

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Silicon Valley may end up with large numbers of abandoned employee equity, as startups cut jobs amid the coronavirus-caused economic uncertainty.

Why it matters: Startup employees typically have just 90 days from the end of employment to either exercise their stock options, for which they must pay cash, or to let them go.

Economists say Trump's coronavirus reopening plan is dead wrong

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Trump's proposal to get business around the country back open by Easter Sunday, April 12, will do more harm to the economy if the coronavirus outbreak has not been contained, economists say.

Why it matters: Such a plan would sow uncertainty in markets and among customers and business owners and make the recession longer and harsher.

Prince Charles tests positive for coronavirus

Photo: Tim P. Whitby - WPA Pool/Getty Images

Prince Charles, 71, has tested positive for the coronavirus and is experiencing "mild symptoms but otherwise remains in good health," a royal spokesperson announced Wednesday.

Why it matters: The spokesperson also said that "it is not possible to ascertain" from whom the prince caught the virus, given the number of public events in which he took part recently — which could become a problem for other leaders across the globe.

Keep ReadingArrowMar 25, 2020 - World

How the coronavirus is changing Joe Biden's campaign playbook

Vice President Joe Biden holds a virtual campaign event in Chicago, Illinois. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

He built a TV studio at home, starts each day with three hours of medical and economic impact briefings, and checks in with congressional leaders. And, we're not talking about President Trump.

State of play: Joe Biden is overhauling his campaign — and standing up a shadow presidency of sorts — amid a national emergency that's eclipsed all other news.

The fight for New York

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

New York's fight against the novel coronavirus is also the nation's fight, as the state — and the city in particular — emerges with "astronomical numbers" of cases, to quote Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Why it matters: The Empire State has 5% of the world's COVID-19 cases and about 50% of the nation's. Its success — or failure — in fighting the virus, safeguarding citizens and treating the afflicted will tell us a lot about what can succeed in the rest of the U.S.

Go deeperArrowMar 25, 2020 - Health

SARS made Hong Kong and Singapore ready for coronavirus

A teacher in Hong Kong shows students hand hygiene during the SARS outbreak in 2003. Photo: Tommy Cheng/AFP via Getty Images

Despite their proximity to China, Hong Kong and Singapore have managed to keep COVID-19 infections and death extraordinarily low.

Why it matters: As coronavirus cases surge in parts of the U.S., it's natural to look at the examples of cities that have handled the disease better. But the single most important factor may be something the U.S. can't replicate: the experience of the SARS outbreak in 2003.

Go deeperArrowMar 25, 2020 - Health

We keep underestimating the coronavirus

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The United States keeps reacting too late to the coronavirus, prolonging its economic pain and multiplying its toll on Americans’ health.

Why it matters: The spread and impact of the coronavirus may be unfathomable, but it's not unpredictable. And yet the U.S. has failed to respond accordingly over and over again.

Go deeperArrowMar 25, 2020 - Health

China takes a page from Russia's disinformation playbook

Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Drew Angerer/Getty Images and Stringer/Getty Images

The Chinese Communist Party has spent the past week publicly pushing conspiracy theories intended to cast doubt on the origins of the coronavirus, and thus deflect criticism over China's early mishandling of the epidemic.

Why it matters: The strategy is a clear departure from Beijing's previous disinformation tactics and signals its increasingly aggressive approach to managing its image internationally.

Go deeperArrowMar 25, 2020 - World

White House, Congress reach deal on $2 trillion coronavirus relief package

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell leaves a meeting in the Strom Thurmond Room during negotiations in Washington, D.C. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

After days of intense negotiations, the White House and Republican and Democratic Senate leaders struck a bipartisan deal early Wednesday over a $2 trillion stimulus package designed to ease the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

Why it matters: The emergency legislation that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) promised to pass later Wednesday will deliver vital aid to workers, small businesses, corporations and health care providers under strain from the illness, which has infected more than 55,000 people in the U.S. and killed more than 800.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Mar 25, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Critically ill coronavirus patients can now be treated with survivors' blood

Blood and plasma samples used for the evaluation swabs for coronavirus research in Italy. Photo: Stefano Guidi/Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration announced Tuesday new emergency protocols allowing allowing the plasma of those who've recovered from the novel coronavirus to treat patients who are critically ill with COVID-19.

Why it matters: The number of coronavirus infections in the U.S. had risen to almost 54,900 and the death toll to 783 by Tuesday night. Per the FDA, it is possible that this treatment, convalescent plasma, "contains antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) might be effective against the infection."

Go deeperArrowMar 25, 2020 - Health