By Bloomberg News
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she drafted a bill for testing and 14 days of sick leave. The Senate will vote next week. New York — with the most U.S. cases — won approval to do its own tests.
Germany pledged to spend billions, and the European Union is ready to allow fiscal stimulus as the bloc expects the economy to shrink.
- Cases rose to 138,166 worldwide, with deaths topping 5,100
- China’s new infections drop to single digits for the first time since January
- Colorado cases jump by 23, to 72
- Roche advanced after approval of a faster new test
- Hungary closes schools
- Seattle adds five deaths, pushing total to 32
- Australian minister who met Ivanka Trump tests positive
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Mass-Transit Service Cuts Loom (4:40 p.m. NY)
Transit agencies are weighing service cuts as demand declines and employees cope with school closures. New Jersey Transit, a key commuter line to New York City, may pare back schedules after an estimated 20% drop in riders, Governor Phil Murphy said.
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority said it will scale back bus and subway service starting Monday as system employees deal with closed schools in Maryland, Virginia and the District. Trains will run every 12 minutes Monday through Friday, less frequently than the typical five minutes, while buses run on a Saturday schedule.
Hungary Reverses Course, Closes Schools (4:35 p.m. NY)
Hungary will close schools nationwide from Monday in a bid to contain the coronavirus, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said.
The announcement, by Facebook video, is a reversal for Orban, who earlier in the day rejected demands of teachers to suspend classes immediately. Education should continue with distance-learning tools, he said.
Maryland Says New Testing Too Late (4:30 p.m. NY)
Maryland Governor Lawrence Hogan said the state isn’t counting on more testing to make a significant difference in combating the virus and is now focused on preparing the state’s health system for a sharp rise in cases.
“I don’t believe they can ramp up fast enough,” Hogan said of testing in a Friday MSNBC interview. “We’ve moved from a containment to mitigation, and quite frankly at sometime soon we’re probably not going to be able to test as much because the hospitals will be overwhelmed and not able to test as much.”
Trump Sets Emergency to Free Funds (4 p.m. NY)
President Donald Trump, using a federal law, declared a national emergency, opening the door to help local authorities fight the coronavirus with $50 billion in aid and powers to remove red tape.
The announcement, made in the Rose Garden, is a symbolic turning point for Trump, who has repeatedly compared the virus to the seasonal flu and insisted that the outbreak is under control.
Trump also waived interest payments on student loans held by federal agencies and told the Energy Department to buy “large quantities of crude oil” at low prices for the strategic reserve.
The president’s tone was somber. He warned the virus’s impact “could get worse,” adding that “the next eight weeks are critical.”
Pelsoi Unveils Democratic Plan (2:30 p.m. NY)
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House will pass a bill helping Americans deal with the spreading coronavirus. It was drafted without direct input from President Trump, though with one of his top aides, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said separately that the bill “incorporates nearly all of what the administration and Republicans have requested.”
In an email to House Democrats, Pelosi said the deal included free testing and 14 days of paid sick leave. The Senate would not take up any bill until next week.
Paris Landmarks Closed (2:25 p.m. NY)
Two of Paris’s landmarks are closed: The Eiffel Tower shut down on Friday, Agence France Presse reported. And the Louvre has not reopened since Sunday.
France banned any gathering of more than 5,000 people.
Cuomo Says State to Test on Own (2:03 p.m. NY)
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he spoke with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence and they agreed to let the state run its own testing.
The approval means that by next week, New York will be able to perform 6,000 tests per day, Cuomo said at a press briefing. To date, the state has tested about 3,200.
He also said New York now has the largest number of coronavirus cases in the nation, 421, with 154 in an increasingly shuttered New York City.
New Cases Top China at Peak (1 p.m. NY)
Europe has become the epicenter of the outbreak and the world is reporting more new cases of Covid-19 each day than China did when the disease peaked in that country, the head of the World Health Organization said at a briefing. Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said canceling sporting events can help slow the spread and he called on political and religious leaders to give more moral guidance. He said the 5,000 reported deaths is a “tragic milestone.”
“The virus will always get you if you don’t move quickly,” and social distancing, while not a panacea, can slow the spread, said Mike Ryan, head of the WHO’s health emergencies program. Countries shouldn’t abandon contact tracing, and blanket travel bans often don’t prevent the disease from crossing borders, he said. The WHO will speak more about ongoing clinical trials on therapies next week, he added.
The situation will worsen in many countries before it gets better, said Maria Van Kerkhove, a WHO epidemiologist. While the situation is improving in Asia, countries where the disease has peaked could experience relapses, she said.
Louisiana, London Postpone Votes (12:44 p.m. NY)
Louisiana has postponed its April 4 presidential primary over concerns about coronavirus, the first state to consider suspending voting since the outbreak began.
Prime Ministert Boris Johnson delayed U.K. local elections scheduled for May 7, including the London mayoral vote.
The European Union’s two highest courts, based in Luxembourg, will postpone all hearings that were scheduled for the next two weeks.