3h ago / 12:52 AM UTC
President Donald Trump on Sunday approved a major disaster declaration for California in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the White House said.
The declaration provides extra federal assistance to the state, where nearly 1,500 cases of the disease have been confirmed and 27 people have died.
The funding will cover virus-related crisis counseling. The White House said direct federal assistance is also available. A major disaster declaration for Washington state was declared earlier Sunday.
Allan Smith, Haley Talbot, Julie Tsirkin and Josh Lederman
3h ago / 12:46 AM UTC
Senate fails to pass stimulus package
A vote to advance the massive coronavirus stimulus bill failed on Sunday night in the Senate, as negotiations so far had yet to produce a deal on the more than trillion-dollar aid package.
Republicans, who needed 60 votes to move forward on the bill, weren’t able to win over any Democrats to proceed, meaning that no aid will flow to the economy — including checks to individuals, help for small businesses and bailouts for big corporations — until a deal is reached.
Democrats said they dissatisfied with worker protections in the bill, which was written by Republicans, and say the rules on corporate bailouts are too lax.
Medical volunteers step up to help
4h ago / 11:50 PM UTC
Website selling phony test kits shut down, DOJ says
A federal court in Texas temporarily shut down what prosecutors said was a fraudulent website claiming to offer coronavirus test kits, authorities said Sunday.
The Department of Justice said the site, “coronavirusmedicalkit.com,” claimed to provide access to vaccine kits from the World Health Organization. Customers would pay a $4.95 shipping charge for that access.
“In fact, there are currently no legitimate COVID-19 vaccines and the WHO is not distributing any such vaccine,” the DOJ said in a statement.
The site’s operator, which wasn’t named in a criminal complaint, faces civil charges of wire fraud. A federal court judge issued a temporary restraining order in response to the department’s complaint, blocking public access to the site, the DOJ said.
4h ago / 11:28 PM UTC
Tito’s vodka to make hand sanitizer
Tito’s Handmade Vodka is the latest liquor company to announce it will be using its distillery as a production facility for hand sanitizer. The company said it has enough supplies to make 24 tons of hand sanitizer over the next couple of weeks, and it plans to make more “as needed.”
“Currently, we are testing our formula, procuring necessary components of supplies and packaging, and preparing for production as we wait for the additional required ingredients to be delivered to the distillery,” the company said in a statement.
Tito’s joins the list of major liquor production companies and local distilleries converting their factories into facilities for producing hand sanitizer. Pernod Ricard USA, which oversees Absolut Vodka and Kahlua among other major alcohol brands, said on Wednesday it is planning to use all of its manufacturing sites to produce hand sanitizer. Several local distilleries are pitching in to do the same.
While we advise that you cannot use our vodka as a hand sanitizer, our distillery has been working hard to get all of the pieces in place to begin production on 24 tons of hand sanitizer that adheres to industry and governmental guidance. Please see attached for more information. pic.twitter.com/c5pTzVOvv1
— TitosVodka (@TitosVodka) March 22, 2020
5h ago / 10:47 PM UTC
Trump activating National Guard in California, New York, Washington state
President Donald Trump on Sunday announced he would activate the federal National Guard to assist Washington, California and New York, three of the states hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic.
He added that those three states have either been approved or will soon be approved for major disaster declarations to allow the federal government to more seamlessly provide supplies.
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Trump said there are large quantities of masks, respirators, gowns, face shields and other items currently en route to those states, due to arrive within days. He added that he has ordered the government to set up large federal medical stations in each of the states.
The Sunday evening announcement came as governors clamored for more assistance from the federal government in combating COVID-19, which is expanding its reach across both the U.S. and the world. Much of the United States is now under some level of economic shutdown.
4h ago / 12:05 AM UTC
U.S. axed CDC expert job in China months before outbreak
WASHINGTON – Several months before the coronavirus pandemic began, the Trump administration eliminated a key American public health position in Beijing intended to help detect disease outbreaks in China, Reuters has learned.
The American disease expert, a medical epidemiologist embedded in China’s disease control agency, left her post in July, according to four sources with knowledge of the issue. The first cases of the new coronavirus may have emerged as early as November, and as cases exploded, the Trump administration in February chastised China for censoring information about the outbreak and keeping U.S. experts from entering the country to help.
“It was heartbreaking to watch,” said Bao-Ping Zhu, a Chinese American who served in that role, which was funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 2007 and 2011. “If someone had been there, public health officials and governments across the world could have moved much faster.”
6h ago / 10:10 PM UTC
Supercomputers rallied to combat coronavirus
The country’s most powerful supercomputers will soon be available to researchers to run sophisticated calculations in epidemiology, bioinformatics and molecular modeling in an effort to accelerate the development of coronavirus treatments and vaccines.
IBM along with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the U.S. Department of Energy are offering the computers under the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium. The consortium includes a slate of 16 supercomputers housed at labs across the country including Los Alamos National Laboratory, the National Science Foundation, NASA, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
The Consortium partners will evaluate proposals from researchers around the world and select projects that are likely to have the most immediate impact.
6h ago / 9:55 PM UTC
New York couple get married as friend officiates through apartment window
Despite bans on gatherings and social distancing becoming the norm during the coronavirus pandemic, a New York City couple still found a way to celebrate their love with a surprise wedding.
Reilly Jennings, 28 and Amanda Wheeler, 38, got married on Friday as their friend, Matt Wilson, officiated from his fourth floor apartment window in the Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights.
The couple had originally planned to get married in October, but fearing their venue would be closed and travel restrictions becoming more severe, they decided to move up their nuptials. Jennings also told NBC News that the couple was worried about the financial cost of a wedding as the gym where Wheeler works had to close due to the pandemic.
6h ago / 9:49 PM UTC
Sens. Mitt Romney, Mike Lee self-quarantine after Sen. Rand Paul tests positive
Two U.S. Senators said Sunday that they are in self-quarantine after Sen. Rand Paul tested positive for COVID-19.
Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah and Sen. Mike Lee of Colorado, both Republicans, said in separate statements that they are undertaking the measures because of their exposure to the Kentucky lawmaker.
After consulting with a congressional doctor, Lee said he would not take a test for the disease. Romney, who said he sat next to Paul for extended periods, said he will be tested. Neither are showing symptoms of COVID-19.
Another lawmaker, Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., said Paul had acted irresponsibly after going to the Senate gym while waiting to find out if he’d contracted the disease. “You cannot be near other people while waiting for coronavirus test results,” Sinema tweeted. “It endangers others & likely increases the spread of the virus.”
6h ago / 9:19 PM UTC
White House declares ‘major disaster’ in Washington state
President Donald Trump on Sunday approved a major disaster declaration in Washington State in response to the coronavirus outbreak, the White House said.
In a statement, the White House said the approval frees up extra federal funding for the hard-hit state, where nearly 1,800 cases of the disease have been confirmed and 94 people have died.
The funding will be available for virus-related crisis counseling, the White House said.
The statement added that funding is also available for emergency protective measures like direct federal assistance.
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