Here’s what you need to know:
- China reports zero local infections, a major turning point.
- ICE says it will make only ‘mission critical’ arrests until the crisis passes.
- Trump signed a bill providing paid sick leave, free testing and other benefits.
- Two members of Congress test positive for the coronavirus.
- Coronavirus ravages seven members of a New Jersey family, killing three.
- Many hospitalized in the U.S. are younger adults.
- A promising treatment fails, and the W.H.O. announces international trial.
China reports zero local infections, a major turning point.
For the first time since the coronavirus crisis began, China on Thursday reported no new local infections for the previous day, a milestone in its costly battle with the outbreak that has since become a pandemic, upending daily life and economic activity around the world.
Officials said 34 new coronavirus cases had been confirmed, all involving people who had come to China from elsewhere.
In signaling that an end to China’s epidemic might be in sight, the announcement could pave the way for officials to focus more on reviving the country’s economy, which nearly ground to a halt after the government imposed travel restrictions and quarantine measures. In recent days, economic life has been resuming in fits and starts.
Coronavirus Map: Tracking the Global Outbreak
The virus has infected more than 211,200 people in at least 145 countries.
But China is not out of danger yet. Experts have said that it will need to see at least 14 consecutive days without new infections for the outbreak to be considered truly over. It remains to be seen whether the virus will re-emerge once daily life restarts and travel restrictions are lifted around the country.
“It’s very clear that the actions taken in China have almost brought to an end their first wave of infections,” said Ben Cowling, a professor and head of the division of epidemiology and biostatistics at Hong Kong University’s School of Public Health. “The question is what will happen if there’s a second wave, because the kind of measures that China has implemented are not necessarily sustainable in the long term.”
To contain the outbreak, the authorities shut schools and workplaces and imposed travel and quarantine restrictions on broad swaths of the population and many visitors from abroad. Since January, more than 50 million people in the central province of Hubei, including its capital, Wuhan, where the outbreak began, have been subjected to a strict lockdown.
ICE says it will make only ‘mission critical’ arrests until the crisis passes.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced on Wednesday that it would stop making arrests, except for those that are considered “mission critical,” until after the coronavirus crisis had passed.
Fear of an outbreak inside the agency’s detention centers is growing. At some facilities, detainees are being held in their cells for up to 21 hours a day, including during mealtimes — measures, according to officials, that are necessary to prevent the spread the coronavirus. But in other centers, requests for hot water or cleaning supplies are being denied because the items can be considered dangerous contraband.
No cases of the coronavirus have been reported in the detention centers and jails that house detained immigrants across the country. But 10 immigrant detainees at a contract detention center in Aurora, Colo., have been “cohorted” in an isolated dorm since Tuesday and were being closely monitored, the agency said.
The more than 37,000 people detained by the agency could be especially vulnerable if cases appear because of the tight living quarters, communal bathrooms and large, open cafeterias. And yet the measures intended to contain the virus have not only created greater discomfort in places where inmates say conditions are harsh in the best of times, but are also producing anxiety and fear.
At the Bergen County Jail in New Jersey, where ICE takes many immigrants it detains in New York City, fears of getting sick were stoked by the sight of an ill detainee who was removed by people in Hazmat suits last weekend, one inmate told his wife. The sick man was later returned to the unit without explanation. When ICE was continuing to make arrests, fears had been heightened by the arrival of newly detained men, another said on Wednesday.
Many ICE detainees say they feel like sitting ducks who will inevitably be infected. “The officials here have not said anything to us about what is happening outside, or any extra precautions that we should take,” said a 40-year-old man from the Congo who is detained in a Karnes City, Texas, facility.
Trump signed a bill providing paid sick leave, free testing and other benefits.
A relief package to provide sick leave, unemployment benefits, free coronavirus testing, and food and medical aid to people affected by the pandemic was signed into law by President Trump on Wednesday evening after the Senate passed it by a wide margin. It was approved by the House last week.
The Senate vote was 90 to 8, after the majority leader, Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, urged conservatives who disliked the bill to “gag and vote for it anyway.”
“This is a time for urgent bipartisan action, and in this case, I do not believe we should let perfection be the enemy of something that will help even a subset of workers,” Mr. McConnell said on the Senate floor Wednesday morning.
Lawmakers and the White House are already drafting another economic stabilization package that would send direct payments to taxpayers and provide loans to businesses.
“We are moving rapidly because the situation demands it,” Mr. McConnell said.
An outline of the new package, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, calls for a total of $1 trillion in spending, which would also include $50 billion for secured loans for the airline industry, and another $150 billion for secured loans or loan guarantees for other parts of the economy.
It would allow the Exchange Stabilization Fund, an emergency reserve account that is usually used for currency market interventions, to be tapped to cover those costs, and also temporarily guarantee money-market mutual funds. Lawmakers were moving swiftly to assemble those and other proposals into legislation, but the details remained far from complete.
The Treasury Department proposal calls for two rounds of checks sent directly to American taxpayers on April 6 and May 18. Payments would depend on the recipient’s income and family size, the summary said. Each round would disburse $250 billion.
Two members of Congress test positive for the coronavirus.
For the first time, the legions of infected Americans include sitting members of Congress: Representative Mario Diaz-Balart, Republican of Florida, who was on the House floor as recently as early Saturday morning, and Representative Ben McAdams, Democrat of Utah.
In a statement, Mr. Diaz-Balart said he had developed symptoms later Saturday and received a positive test result on Wednesday.
He has been working from his apartment in Washington in self-quarantine, he said, and did not plan to return home to avoid exposing his family. He said his wife, Tia, had underlying conditions “that put her at exceptionally high risk.”
“I want everyone to know that I am feeling much better,” Mr. Diaz-Balart said. “However, it is important that everyone take this extremely seriously and follow C.D.C. guidelines in order to avoid getting sick and mitigate the spread of this virus.
“We must continue to work together to emerge stronger as a country during these trying times.”
Mr. McAdams said in a statement that he developed cold-like symptons at home on Saturday night after returning from Washington, and isolated himself. He later developed a fever, dry cough and labored breathing, and learned Wednesday that his test results were positive. He said he would continue working from home until it was safe to end his self-quarantine.
Several other members of Congress have said they were in self-quarantine after interacting with people who tested positive for the coronavirus. They include Senator Ted Cruz of Texas; Senator Rick Scott of Florida; Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina; Representative Paul Gosar of Arizona; Representative Doug Collins of Georgia; Representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina; and Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida, all Republicans.
Coronavirus ravages seven members of a New Jersey family, killing three.
Grace Fusco — mother of 11, grandmother of 27 — would sit in the same pew at church each Sunday, surrounded by nearly a dozen members of her sprawling Italian-American family. Sunday dinners drew an even larger crowd to her home in central New Jersey.
Now, her close-knit clan is united anew by unspeakable grief: Mrs. Fusco, 73, died on Wednesday night after contracting the coronavirus — hours after her son died from the virus and five days after her daughter’s death, a relative said.
Four other children who contracted the coronavirus remain hospitalized, three of them in critical condition, the relative, Roseann Paradiso Fodera, said.
Mrs. Fusco’s eldest child, Rita Fusco-Jackson, 55, of Freehold, N.J., died on Friday with the virus. Her eldest son, Carmine Fusco, of Bath, Pa., died on Wednesday.
Mrs. Fusco, of Freehold, died after spending Wednesday “gravely ill” and breathing with help from a ventilator, unaware that her two oldest children had died, Ms. Paradiso Fodera said.
Nearly 20 other relatives are quarantined at their homes, praying in isolated solitude, unable to mourn their deep collective loss together. “If they’re not on a respirator, they’re quarantined,” Ms. Paradiso Fodera said. “It is so pitiful,” she added. “They can’t even mourn the way you would.”
Many hospitalized in the U.S. are younger adults.
American adults of all ages — not just those in their 70s, 80s and 90s — are being seriously sickened by the coronavirus, according to a report on nearly 2,500 cases in the United States.
The report, issued Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that — as in other countries — the oldest patients were at greatest risk of becoming seriously ill or dying. But of the 508 coronavirus patients known to have been hospitalized in the U.S., 38 percent were notably younger — between 20 and 54. And nearly half of the 121 sickest patients studied — those who were admitted to intensive care units — were adults under 65.
“I think everyone should be paying attention to this,” said Stephen S. Morse, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University. “It’s not just going to be the elderly. There will be people age 20 and up.”
Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the Trump administration’s coronavirus task force, appealed on Wednesday for people of the millennial generation to stop socializing in groups and to take care to protect themselves and others.
“You have the potential then to spread it to someone who does have a condition that none of us knew about, and cause them to have a disastrous outcome,” Dr. Birx said.
In the C.D.C. report, 20 percent of the hospitalized patients and 12 percent of the intensive care patients were between the ages of 20 and 44, basically spanning the millennial generation.
A promising treatment fails, and the W.H.O. announces international trial.
Antiviral drugs that held promise as a potential treatment for the coronavirus did not work in one of the first major studies in seriously ill patients, researchers from China reported on Wednesday. “No benefit was observed,” the researchers wrote in The New England Journal of Medicine.
The study tested Kaletra, a combination of two antiviral medicines, lopinavir and ritonavir, that are normally used to treat H.I.V.
There is no proven drug treatment for the new coronavirus, and doctors around the world have been desperately testing an array of medicines in hopes of finding something that will help patients, especially those who are severely ill.
While the results were disappointing, the researchers said that this one study was not the last word, and suggested that more studies might determine whether the drugs would work if given earlier in the illness or in combination with other medicines.
On Wednesday, the World Health Organization announced an international trial to figure out which antiviral drugs may be most effective.
The research, called the Solidarity Trial, will take place in hospitals in several countries, including Argentina, Bahrain, Canada, France, Iran, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland and Thailand. Other countries are expected to join; the United States is not yet among them.
Trump invokes the Defense Production Act to increase supplies of vital equipment.
President Trump moved Wednesday to send military hospital ships to areas hard-hit by the coronavirus, and invoked a law allowing the federal government to order American manufacturers to make critically needed medical equipment, like ventilators, respirators and protective gear for health care workers.
The Trump administration’s slow initial response to the global crisis left the United States facing shortages of test kits, equipment and available hospital beds. At a White House briefing, Mr. Trump said that he would invoke the law, the Defense Production Act, “just in case we need it.”
The president said he had dispatched two military hospitals ships to help with the crisis — one to New York, the other to the West Coast — but officials later said it would be weeks before the New York-bound one would arrive.
A federal plan to combat the coronavirus, which was shared with The New York Times, warned that shortages of medical supplies like protective gear and pharmaceuticals could occur, “impacting health care, emergency services, and other elements of critical infrastructure.” Hospitals around the country are warning of critical shortages of supplies.
Several states are building makeshift hospitals to meet the growing need for beds for coronavirus patients.
In Washington State, King County is turning a soccer field into a tented hospital with 200 beds. The actions are meant to preserve local hospital beds for the most severe cases, the county, which includes Seattle, said in a statement. “This is a rapidly evolving situation that requires quick and decisive action,” it said.
Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon said a 250-bed hospital would be set up on the state fairgrounds in Salem by Friday. State officials are also looking to identify 1,000 temporary hospital beds for recovering patients without the coronavirus, which would free up space for coronavirus patients.
“There is no single right protocol,” Ms. Brown said on Wednesday. “We are constantly getting new information, and constantly escalating decisions as infections rise.”
Social distancing doesn’t have to mean isolation. Let us help.
The regulations around social distancing have forced many friends and family to change the way they communicate and spend time together. It is important to stay connected during these stressful times. Here are some ideas that may help:
Rich and famous patients are getting tested while other Americans are being denied.
Politicians, celebrities, social media influencers and even N.B.A. teams have been tested for the new coronavirus. But as that list of rich, famous and powerful people grows by the day, so do questions about whether they are getting access to testing that is denied to other Americans.
Some of these high-profile people say they are feeling ill and had good reason to be tested. Others argue that those who were found to be infected and then isolated themselves provided a good example to the public.
But with testing still in short supply in areas of the country, leaving health care workers and many sick people unable to get diagnoses, some prominent personalities have obtained tests without exhibiting symptoms or having known contact with someone who has the virus, as required by some testing guidelines. Others have refused to specify how they were tested.
Such cases have provoked accusations of elitism and preferential treatment about a testing system that has already been plagued with delays and confusion, and now stirred a new national debate that has reached the White House — with President Trump being asked at a Wednesday news conference whether “the well-connected go to the front of the line.”
“You’d have to ask them that question,” he replied, suggesting that should not be the case. “Perhaps that’s been the story of life. That does happen on occasion, and I’ve noticed where some people have been tested fairly quickly.”
The question burst into public view this week after the Brooklyn Nets announced Tuesday that four of their players — including Kevin Durant, one of the biggest stars in the N.B.A. — had tested positive. Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York crictized the dynamic, writing on Twitter that while he wished the athletes “a speedy recovery,” he did not think the N.B.A. should be getting tests for its athletes while critically ill patients were kept waiting.
“Tests should not be for the wealthy, but for the sick,” he wrote.
Stocks drop and oil crashes as investor alarm persists.
Financial markets reeled again on Wednesday, as governments ramped up efforts to contain the virus and investors waited for lawmakers in Washington to take action on proposals to bolster the American economy.
It was one more in a daily series of extreme swings in sentiment on Wall Street. Stocks had jumped on Tuesday after the White House called for pumping $1 trillion into the economy.
News that the Senate approved a bill to provide sick leave, jobless benefits, free coronavirus testing and other aid stemmed some of Wednesday’s losses late in the day. But when all was said and done, the S&P 500 had fallen about 5 percent, stocks in Europe were sharply lower and oil prices cratered.
The American oil benchmark, West Texas Intermediate, dropped 24 percent to just over $21 a barrel, the lowest price since 2003. The global Brent benchmark fell to just above $25 a barrel, a level just below January 2016. Oil prices are more than 60 percent below where they were at the beginning of the year.
The American economy is poised for its worst quarterly contraction on record, with a sudden slowdown in economic activity that is more akin to what happened in wartime Europe than during previous American slowdowns like the financial crisis more than a decade ago or even the Great Depression.
Adding to the outbreak’s growing economic toll, G.M., Ford Motor and Fiat Chrysler said they were closing plants, idling tens of thousands of workers. The United Auto Workers pressed the automakers to take the step after reports on Wednesday that a worker at a Ford truck plant in Dearborn, Mich., had tested positive for the virus.
Russian coronavirus disinformation campaign is hitting Europe, E.U. says.
Russia and media outlets affiliated with the Kremlin have begun a “significant disinformation campaign against the West,” spreading misinformation about the coronavirus outbreak that has already had real-life consequences in Europe, according to an internal European Union document examined by The New York Times.
The report, dated March 18, said that Russia-backed misinformation has sparked rioting in Ukraine and has driven people to buy potentially dangerous bogus remedies. It said Russia was pushing a false narrative that the virus was being brought to Europe by migrants.
“The overarching aim of Kremlin disinformation is to aggravate the public health crisis in Western countries, specifically by undermining public trust in national health care systems — thus preventing an effective response to the outbreak,” the document said.
The Kremlin denied the allegations on Wednesday. The Kremlin spokesman Dmitry S. Peskov told reporters that they were “groundless accusations,” according to Tass, the Russian state news agency.
The E.U. report presents findings from strategic communications experts and researchers who have scoured the internet, social media and traditional news platforms for evidence of this type of coordinated action and for evidence that Russia is behind it.
Western intelligence officials have said for years that President Vladimir Putin of Russia uses propaganda and disinformation as a way to sow suspicion and undermine confidence in democratic institutions. Russia’s campaign has targeted American and European elections and alliances like NATO and the European Union.
As the virus spreads through the Middle East, concern rises about its potential toll.
As governments in the Middle East enact emergency measures to slow the spread of the virus, closing borders and grounding flights, many are bracing for what they fear could become a crisis in places wracked by war and instability.
Oil-wealthy Gulf countries with Western-style health care systems are best positioned to combat the virus. But the response will be curtailed by crumbling health services and weak economies in some countries; war and densely packed refugee camps in others.
Outside of Iran, which has one of the world’s worst outbreaks with more than 17,000 cases, a swath of countries stretching from Morocco to Oman have so far declared only a small percentage of the world’s cases.
The greatest concentration thus far is in wealthy Qatar, where the virus has swept through camps of migrant laborers, mostly from the Indian subcontinent, and the tally reached 442 cases on Wednesday.
In the most vulnerable parts of the Middle East, there are worries the virus has spread undetected. Iraq had confirmed 164 cases. War-torn Libya, Yemen and Syria have yet to declare a single case. But at least eight cases in Pakistan were linked to travel to Syria, according to Pakistani officials.
Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country, has 196 cases, double the figure on Friday. Last week, infections were mostly limited to a river boat in Luxor. But in recent days cases have occurred in the Nile Delta, as well as in Cairo.
Egypt and Algeria, which has 72 cases, will end all commercial flights on Thursday, although Egypt says that foreign tourists will be able to leave after that date on planes that arrive empty.
Elsewhere in the region, Israel, which has more than 430 cases, closed its borders to all foreign nationals on Wednesday, with some exceptions. The authorities stepped up efforts to enforce compliance with quarantine orders as lawmakers debated a mandatory lockdown.
The crossings to the Palestinian territories have generally been closed. The Palestinian Authority has reported 44 cases, most in the West Bank city of Bethlehem.
In Afghanistan, the American commander is stopping most U.S. and allied troops from entering and leaving the country for the next month, American and European officials said. The planning reflects growing concerns about the spread of the coronavirus there in recent days. The Taliban, which control large parts of the country, have started requiring Afghans traveling from Iran to prove that they have been screened before being allowed to return to their homes.
The Afghan Health Ministry has reported 22 cases of coronavirus, but officials worry there may be many more infections because so few people have been tested.
Reporting was contributed by Michael Cooper, Tracey Tully, Sarah Mervosh, Caitlin Dickerson, Annie Correal, Denise Grady, Knvul Sheikh, Miriam Jordan, Steven Erlanger, Katie Rogers, Ana Swanson, Emily Cochrane, Elisabetta Povoledo, Maria Abi-Habib, Zia ur-Rehman, Marc Santora, Megan Specia, Neal Boudette, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Heather Murphy, Damien Cave, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Ben Casselman, Sapna Maheshwari, David Yaffe-Bellany, Mark Landler, Stephen Castle, Ian Austen, Sarah Kliff, Adam Satariano, Jessica Silver-Greenberg, Nicholas Kulish, Nicholas Fandos, Katie Rogers, Lara Jakes, Catie Edmondson, Julian E. Barnes, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Michael D. Shear, Mikayla Bouchard, Farnaz Fassihi, Jenny Gross, Matt Apuzzo, Matina Stevis-Gridneff, Declan Walsh, Isabel Kershner, Raphael Minder, Patricia Mazzei, Aurelien Breeden, Amie Tsang, Alex Marshall, Anton Troianovski and Karen Zraick.