CORONAVIRUS:

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National Govt & Politics
Biden calls for 'meticulous oversight' of virus aid package
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Biden calls for 'meticulous oversight' of virus aid package

Biden calls for 'meticulous oversight' of virus aid package
Photo Credit: Biden for President via AP
In this image from video provided by the Biden for President campaign, Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a virtual press briefing Wednesday, March 25, 2020. (Biden for President via AP)

Biden calls for 'meticulous oversight' of virus aid package

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said Wednesday that the congressional aid package addressing the coronavirus outbreak “goes a long way,” but he said it requires “meticulous oversight” and isn't all-encompassing.

“We’re going to need to make sure the money gets out quickly into peoples' pockets and to keep a close watch on how corporations are using the taxpayers funds that they receive, to make sure it goes to help workers, not rich CEOs or shareholders,” the former vice president said during a video news briefing from his Delaware home. “And we have to figure out what to do to help the folks that this bill leaves out, including young people."

But Biden said the agreement could have gone beyond what the government is doing in some instances. While students have been granted a short-term suspension of loan payments and interest accrual, Biden proposed “forgiving at least $10,000 of student loan debt now," and he took issue with the deal for not making coronavirus treatment free.

Biden criticized the agreement for leaving out gig workers, but the intensely negotiated package includes $260 billion in emergency unemployment insurance, some of which would cover part-time, self-employed and gig economy workers.

Biden holds a commanding lead in the primary over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has given livestreamed addresses and conducted interviews about the coronavirus as the 2020 campaign enters a new phase due to the outbreak. Biden has largely shifted his focus toward President Donald Trump, accusing him of being slow to respond to the crisis and making inaccurate statement about the pandemic.

On Wednesday, Biden said Trump has “downplayed the seriousness of this crisis for weeks" and delayed mobilizing U.S. industry to help provide overstretched medical workers with needed supply.

“And as a result, this virus will hit all of us harder than it otherwise might have hit us, and it's going to take us longer to recover,” he said.

Reacting to Trump's call to lift stay-at-home orders by Easter, Biden said that would endanger lives and do economic damage over the long term.

Biden said if he were president, he would use the Defense Production Act, a law that's been invoked by commanders in chief in times of national emergencies, to direct banks to prioritize small businesses. Biden has previously focused his discussion of that law on increasing the manufacture of medical supplies such as ventilators, gloves and masks.

In a notable shift, Biden focused some of his remarks on young people, Biden urged them to do their part in stopping the spread of the virus by staying home, even if that meant missing spring break celebrations and graduations. But he also emphasized the need for a federal response to address the economic fortunes of this group, which long has favored Sanders.

“We must not allow this pandemic to rob our young people of the futures and the economic opportunities that they've been working so hard to build," he said.

Aides have said Sanders, despite his long odds in the primary, plans to participate in the next debate, though it's in a holding pattern due to the pandemic.

“I think we've had enough debates. I think we should get on with this,” Biden said.

Biden's remarks came during his first ever videoconference news briefing. He has shifted his campaign largely online in response to the national move toward social distancing, and has set up a home studio with a high-speed internet line. On Tuesday, he appeared on ABC’s “The View,” CNN and MSNBC to speak on Trump’s coronavirus response.

Biden said he was "learning a lot more” about how to break into the news cycle.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

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Barrow reported from Atlanta.

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This story has been corrected to reflect that Biden took issue with the deal for not making coronavirus treatment free, rather than testing; an earlier aid bill made testing free.

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The Latest Headlines You Need To Know

  • More than 1.4 million people worldwide -- including nearly 400,000 people in the United States – have been infected with the new coronavirus, and the number of deaths from the outbreak continues to rise. Officials are attempting to contain the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. as hospitals brace for unprecedented patient surges. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tracking cases in the U.S. here. Live updates for Wednesday, April 8, continue below:      Tesla plans pay cuts, furloughs amid coronavirus crunch Update 5:22 a.m. EDT April 8: Electric carmaker Tesla announced plans late Monday to cut pay for all of its salaried employees and furlough hourly employees until production resumes May 4, multiple media outlets reported. The pay reductions are slated to remain in place until the end of the second quarter, CNBC reported. The news comes one week after Tesla informed staffing agencies it was halting all contract work indefinitely, resulting in the immediate dismissal of hundreds of temporary workers, CNBC reported. Fauci bobblehead raises $100,000 for American Hospital Association as coronavirus crisis deepens Update 4:54 a.m. EDT April 8: Sales of a bobblehead likeness of Dr. Anthony Fauci have raised more than $100,000 to provide protective masks for healthcare workers, The Washington Post reported. Five dollars from each $25 sale of the infectious disease expert’s bobblehead will fund the American Hospital Association’s 100 Million Mask Challenge. Fauci, who has served as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984 and has become the public face of the U.S. response to the mounting novel coronavirus crisis, has also broken a record in the process. Phil Sklar, co-founder of the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum, said the more than 20,000 pre-orders placed in less than one week, means the polyresin likeness of Fauci will “dethrone” that of Jean Dolores “Sister Jean” Schmidt, whom the Post described as “the court-side superstar and now-100-year-old chaplain of the Loyola University of Chicago men’s basketball team, which powered improbably to the NCAA tournament’s Final Four in 2018.” UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in stable condition amid coronavirus treatment, junior health minister says Update 4:13 a.m. EDT April 8: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson remains hospitalized in stable condition following a worsening of his novel coronavirus symptoms, junior health minister Edward Argar told Sky News. “I understand the Prime Minister is in a stable condition. He’s comfortable and in good spirits. He has, in the past, had some oxygen, but he’s not on ventilation,” Argar told the network. On Tuesday, Johnson’s spokesperson told CNN the prime minister is receiving “standard oxygen treatment” and is breathing without assistance, a day after he was transferred to intensive care. More than 1K Veterans’ Affairs health workers test positive for coronavirus Update 3:50 a.m. EDT April 8: At least 1,000 health care workers who service veterans through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, have tested positive for the novel coronavirus. According to Task and Purpose, a military and veteran-focused digital media company, 1,007 Veterans’ Health Administration employees have contracted the virus and have been placed in isolation. Read more here. California governor brokers deals for 200M masks per month to fight coronavirus Update 3:15 a.m. EDT April 8: Gov. Gavin Newsom laid out plans Tuesday for his state to acquire more than 200 million protective masks per month for health care workers battling the novel coronavirus. Newsom, who discussed the plans while appearing on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show,” said action needed to be taken at the state level. 'In the past 48 hours, we have secured through a consortium of nonprofits and manufacturers here in the state of California upwards of 200 million masks on a monthly basis that we’re confident we can supply the needs of the state of California and potentially the needs of other western states,” Newsom said, adding, “We inked a number of contracts in the last few days that give me confidence in being able to say that.” Specifically, he told Maddow he expects to receive more than 150 million N95 masks and more than 50 million surgical masks per month. 2nd US coronavirus vaccine trial administers first dose Update 1:40 a.m. EDT April 8: The first dose of a second experimental novel coronavirus vaccine was administered this week to a subject at the University of Pennsylvania. Biotechnology firm Inovio began its Phase 1 clinical trial with the first dose delivered Monday and the trial expected to enroll as many as 40 healthy adult volunteers in Philadelphia and Kansas City, Missouri, according to a news release.  Dr. Pablo Tebas, an infectious disease specialist at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and the study’s principal investigator, said in the release his team anticipates “rapid enrollment” in the early-stage trial, expected to continue through late summer.  “There has been tremendous interest in this vaccine among people who want to do what they can do to help protect the greater public from this pandemic as soon as possible,” Tebas said in the release.  Meanwhile, biotechnology firm Moderna launched its Phase 1 coronavirus vaccine testing in March. US coronavirus deaths hit 12,895, total cases near 400K Published 12:28 a.m. EDT April 8: The number of novel coronavirus cases in the United States surpassed 398,000 early Wednesday morning across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, there are at least 398,809 confirmed U.S. cases of the virus, which have resulted in at least 12,895 deaths. U.S. cases now nearly triple the 141,942 reported in Spain and the 135,586 confirmed in Italy. Of the confirmed U.S. deaths, 5,489 – or roughly 43 percent of the nationwide total – have occurred in New York, 1,232 in New Jersey and 845 in Michigan.  In terms of diagnosed cases, New York remains the hardest hit with at least 139,876 confirmed cases – more than three times the next-closest state – followed by New Jersey with 44,416 and Michigan with 18,970. Six other states have now confirmed at least 13,000 novel coronavirus cases each, including: • California: 17,585, including 450 deaths • Louisiana: 16,284, including 582 deaths • Massachusetts: 15,202, including 356 deaths • Florida: 13,629, including 250 deaths • Pennsylvania: 14,956, including 296 deaths • Illinois: 13,553, including 380 deaths Meanwhile, Texas and Georgia each has confirmed at least 9,000 novel coronavirus infections, followed closely by Washington state with 8,696 cases and Connecticut with 7,781 cases; Indiana and Colorado each has confirmed at least 5,000 cases; Ohio, Maryland and Tennessee each has confirmed at least 4,000 cases; Virginia, North Carolina and Missouri each has confirmed at least 3,000 cases; and Arizona, Wisconsin, South Carolina, Alabama and Nevada each has confirmed at least 2,000 cases. Click here to see CNN’s state-by-state breakdown.
  • Sandra Starling spotted the young man sitting on the curb outside of the Subway restaurant in Starke, which is about 130 miles North of Orlando. When she asked if he was trying to do homework, he answered “yes,” that his father works out of town and with the current economic crisis, internet at home was not a priority. Starling posted his photo on her Facebook stating that this is a reminder that  “students have a lot going on in their lives. School is only a small part of some students struggle!” She also noted that internet reception is not always the best in the rural county and that her fellow teachers should keep in mind that not everyone is working from  home.  Her post has been shared by more than 14,000 people. Administrators at Bradford High School took note of the post and reached out to the young man. She updated the story by saying “his determination will take him far and I wish him the best!” App users click here to see the post. 
  • At least 10 people have died from the coronavirus at one nursing home in Athens, Georgia, officials confirmed Tuesday. The patients were residents at PruittHealth Grandview. WSB-TV′s Justin Gray talked to a nurse who said she was fired for not going back while still symptomatic for COVID-19. She said she got the virus from a patient who died from the illness. She was one of multiple nurses who talked to Gray, but most wanted to remain anonymous to protect their jobs. Nurse Myesha Moore first tipped off Gray to the coronavirus outbreak at Grandview after she was fired. She said the patients at the nursing home were like family to her. “I’m devastated,” Moore said. “I’m a nurse, and I’m a new nurse at that. I thought I was there to take care of people and protect them and be an advocate for them, and yet I’ve been terminated for being an advocate.” Gray reached out the PruittHealth at their Norcross headquarters. The company said in a statement: “We are saddened to share that 10 patients of PruittHealth Grandview who were previously tested presumptive positive for COVID-19 have passed away in the past few weeks. PruittHealth Grandview continues to operate at an alert code red status and has been strictly following enhanced infectious disease protocol.” Moore said she feels terrible for the victims and their families. “I love them, I really do,” Moore said. “And it hurts. It really does hurt.” PruittHealth denies terminating Moore, and said she is still on the payroll and even scheduled to earn hazard pay. They also said they are restricting staff at Grandview to only essential personnel right now.
  • A Florida man is facing allegations that he intentionally coughed on a store employee and said social distancing is “getting out of hand,” according to the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office. Christopher Canfora, 49, of DeBary, was arrested just before 3 p.m. at his home and taken to Volusia County Jail. He is being charged with assault with intent to commit a felony and is being held on $5,000 bond. Deputies responded to the Harbor Freight Tools store on Enterprise Road in Orange County. The employee said Canfora allegedly approached her at the cash register just after 9 a.m. and commented on the social distancing measure the store was taking. Tape markers were on the store to ensure customers stayed six feet apart. The employee told deputies that Canfora said “this is all getting out of hand” and intentionally coughed on her and the register. He then told her he does the same thing to people wearing masks when he sees them, and planned on going to Winn-Dixie and doing the same thing there, deputies said. Deputies said they were able to identify Canfora through a customer rewards system in the store’s database, according to the arrest affidavit. When they arrived at Canfora’s home, he denied coughing on anyone and told them he did not have any symptoms associated with COVID-19, deputies said. Canfora also told deputies that he didn’t expect anyone to understand his sense of humor, and that he couldn’t remember exactly what he said at Harbor Freight, authorities said.
  • This is week is National Wildlife week, difficult to celebrate with most of America under stay at home orders and practicing social distancing. Naturalist David Mizejewski, with the National Wildlife Federation, tells News 96.5 WDBO, it’s important for people to take the time to get out into nature, even if only in their backyard.  Mizejewski suggests, planting a tree or cultivate a garden to support bees, butterflies, and birds. “The idea is just to focus on nature as a way that we can get a little relief from all the stress that we’re all experiencing right now,” he said.  The federation also created the #MyWildlife challenge, encouraging people to post photos of nature at nwf.org. Winners of the photo contest will receive a prize packet when the pandemic is over.  The National Wildlife Week webpage also has resources for kids. In the APP Click here for resources for kids

Washington Insider

  • With the scope of the economic downturn from the Coronavirus growing each day, the Trump Administration has asked top leaders in Congress to approve another $250 billion this week for a new small business emergency loan program, as GOP leaders in the Senate said they would vote on the plan as early as Thursday. 'I urged them at the President's request that they get us another $250 billion approved,' said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, telling reporters the $349 billion emergency loan program had received an 'incredible response' so far. 'Jobs are literally being saved as we speak,' said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. 'But it is quickly becoming clear that Congress will need to provide more funding or this crucial program may run dry.' McConnell said he would press the Senate to approve extra money on Thursday - even though most Senators will not be on Capitol Hill because of the Coronavirus threat. 'Congress needs to act with speed and total focus to provide more money for this uncontroversial bipartisan program,' McConnell said in a written statement. At a White House photo op with President Trump on Tuesday afternoon, Mnuchin repeated his request, saying he wants the money approved Thursday in the Senate, and on Friday in the House. 'We want to assure the workers that if you don't get the loan this week, there will be plenty of money next week,' Mnuchin said, sitting at a table with the President and his daughter Ivanka. Mr. Trump heartily endorsed the move, saying it was proof that his economic rescue plan was working. 'We'll be running out of money pretty quickly,' President Trump said on Tuesday - about a program which only started handing out money last Friday. During a conference call with leaders of major financial institutions, the President urged banks to funnel as much loan relief to U.S. businesses as possible - as fast as possible - to help offset the virus outbreak.