10 things you need to know today: March 25, 2020

1.

Senators and the White House reached an agreement early Wednesday on a $2 trillion package to rush government aid to families and businesses to help them get through the coronavirus crisis. “We have a deal,” said Eric Ueland, the White House legislative affairs director. The deal includes $1,200 checks for many individuals and new jobless benefits, as well as money for states and businesses facing huge costs and plummeting income due to restrictions on public activity imposed to slow the spread of the pandemic. The legislation was delayed as Democrats pressed Republicans for stronger worker protections and greater oversight of a $500 billion bailout fund for businesses. Congress is expected to pass the legislation within days. [The New York Times]

2.

President Trump said Tuesday that he hopes to revise national social-distancing guidelines by Easter, April 12, so U.S. businesses can resume operations. The U.S. is a week into a two-week effort to dramatically cut back on public movement and events to slow the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. “We’ll give it some more time if we need a little more time, but we need to open this country up,” Trump said. “We have to go back to work, much sooner than people thought.” Many public health officials said the country should tightening restrictions rather than phasing them out. The number of confirmed infections in the U.S. reached more than 54,000 on Tuesday, with about 800 deaths. [The Associated Press, CNBC]

3.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) warned Tuesday that the rate of coronavirus in his state is doubling every three days. Cuomo has established a cordial tone toward President Trump as he requests more federal help addressing the crisis, but he said the Trump administration isn’t sending enough ventilators to handle all of the people becoming infected. “One of the forecasters said to me ‘We were looking at a freight train coming across the country. We’re now looking at a bullet train,’ because the numbers are going up so quickly,” Cuomo said. New York has become the epicenter of the outbreak in the United States, and the World Health Organization said the U.S. could soon be the center of the pandemic globally. [The Washington Post, The New York Times]

4.

China announced Tuesday that it would start lifting the mandatory lockdown in the city of Wuhan, where the global coronavirus pandemic started, on April 8. China started barring Wuhan residents from leaving the city on Jan. 23, and within days had expanded the restrictions to the surrounding province of Hubei. The restraints on movement in much of the province will be lifted starting Wednesday, although anyone traveling outside Hubei will have to have documentation proving they are healthy. Even within Wuhan, some local businesses are starting to reopen, with two car factories are restarting their production lines on Monday. Wuhan had its first day with no new infections last week. [CBS News]

5.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rocketed up by more than 11 percent on Tuesday, its biggest one-day gain since 1933. The gains came as investors cheered the brewing Senate deal on a massive coronavirus rescue package for American families and businesses. The S&P 500 closed up by 9.4 percent, its best day since October 2008. The Nasdaq Composite gained 8.1 percent. The surge came after the three main U.S. indexes hit their lowest levels since President Trump took office as businesses curtailed operations to fight the new coronavirus. U.S. stock index futures rose another 2 percent early Wednesday. Christopher Murphy, co-head of derivatives at Susquehanna Financial Group, warned that such rallies aren’t necessarily a sign of health, because “one day pops are not uncommon in a down market.” [CNBC, Reuters]

6.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a national lockdown amid the novel coronavirus pandemic Tuesday. India’s 1.3 billion people — who account for nearly one-fifth of the world’s population — will be ordered to remain in their homes for the next three weeks as the country, like the rest of the world, looks to curb the virus’ spread. “To save India and every Indian, there will be a total ban on venturing out of your homes,” Modi said. He also pledged $2 billion to aid the country’s health care system and increase testing. So far, India’s confirmed COVID-19 cases remain relatively low at just over 500, but there’s a sense that a lack of testing is behind the figure, and fears persist that the number could increase rapidly without protective measures. [CNBC]

7.

Boko Haram militants killed 92 Chadian soldiers and wounded 47 more in an attack on an island village in the Lake Chad area in the western part of the country, President Idriss Deby said late on Tuesday. It was the deadliest attack the country’s military has ever faced. “I have taken part in many operations,” Deby, who has ruled Chad since 1990, said in a visit to the site, “… but never in our history have we lost so many men at one time.” The militaries of Chad, Nigeria, and Niger have been fighting Boko Haram since the Islamist insurgency erupted in Nigeria eleven years ago. It has killed more than 30,000 people and driven 2 million from their homes. [Reuters]

8.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Tuesday that due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, he proposed a one-year delay for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach agreed. This move looked increasingly likely, and International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound said Monday a postponement had been decided. A joint statement from the IOC and the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee said Tuesday that Abe and the IOC have agreed the Olympics “must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021, to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community.” CNN writes the Olympics have previously been canceled during world wars, but they’ve “never been rescheduled in peacetime.” [The New York Times, CNN]

9.

A small study found that hydroxychloroquine, a malaria medicine President Trump has hailed as a coronavirus treatment, was no more effective than regular care for COVID-19. The report published by the Journal of Zhejiang University in China found that patients given the drug were not more likely to recover from the novel coronavirus than those who weren’t. The study involved just 30 patients, however, so it wasn’t statistically significant. The results contradicted another small study, involving 40 patients in France, that found that the drug appeared to help clear the virus from most of the patients who received doses that were given along with the antibiotic azithromycin. [Bloomberg]

10.

Four-time Tony Award-winning playwright Terrence McNally died Tuesday in Florida from complications related to the novel coronavirus. He was 81. McNally wrote Love! Valour! Compassion!, Master Class, and the musicals Kiss of the Spider Woman and Ragtime. He had survived lung cancer, and had chronic inflammatory lung disease. Broadway notables, including Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, expressed condolences and praise for McNally. “Heartbroken over the loss of Terrence McNally, a giant in our world, who straddled plays and musicals deftly,” Miranda tweeted. “Grateful for his staggering body of work and his unfailing kindness.” [Deadline]

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