Senate passes rescue bill amid US virus victims topping 1,000

David Gardner
A man talks on the phone near the Statue of Liberty replica at a mostly empty Alki Beach Park in Seattle, Washington, U.S. March 25, 2020: REUTERS

Coronavirus deaths in America topped 1,000 today as the Senate passed the biggest economic stimulus bill in US history in an attempt to cope with the fallout from the epidemic.

Lawmakers finally mustered the votes to fast-track the $2 trillion rescue package after days of partisan bickering, with President Donald Trump tweeting: “Congratulations AMERICA!”

The latest official US coronavirus figures show more than 250 infected people dying in a single day, taking the national death toll to at least 1,035.

The rescue bill — passed unanimously by the Senate but still to be ratified by the House of Representatives and signed into law by Mr Trump — includes $1,200 for every taxpayer on less than $75,000 a year, with $500 for each child.

It also increases unemployment benefits for the millions made jobless during the outbreak, a $367 billion programme to help small businesses pay staff they have had to lay off and $500 billion to keep companies afloat.

A $150 billion cash injection for the hospital system should also provide more beds for those seriously ill with the virus. “It’s been a long hard road with a remarkable number of twists and turns, but for the sake of millions of Americans, it will be worth it,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said.

In New York, the worst-hit US state, Governor Andrew Cuomo said there were signs that social distancing was paying off. Hospital admissions from coronavirus in the state are now doubling every five days rather than every two, and Westchester County, which had the first cases in New York, has shown a significant decrease in new infections.

“The evidence suggests that the density control measures may be working,” said Mr Cuomo. But he added: “We’re still on the way up the mountain.”

Amid fears of a surge in victims in New York City, workers were today putting up rows of white tents as a makeshift morgue outside Bellevue Hospital. The US has the third-largest number of confirmed coronavirus cases after Italy and China, with 68,572.

Last night, President Trump attacked the media for questioning his plan to loosen US social distancing efforts. “The real people want to get back to work ASAP. We will be stronger than ever before!” he tweeted.

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