1/ Congressional negotiators signaled that they are nearing a bipartisan agreement on an estimated $2 trillion emergency stimulus package to address economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin all said they expected an agreement later Tuesday. The Senate bill would direct payments of $1,200 to most American adults and $500 to most children, create a $500 billion lending program for companies, states, and cities, and extend another $367 billion to help small businesses make payroll. White House officials agreed to allow an independent inspector general, and an oversight board to scrutinize the lending decisions after Trump said he would “be the oversight.” (Politico / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / New York Times)

  • U.S. stocks rallied on the news, posting one of their best days ever. The S&P 500 rose more than 9%, rebounding from its lowest level since 2016 – and the biggest one-day gain since October 2008. The Dow rose more than 11% – its biggest one-day gain since 1933. The Nasdaq notched gains of just over 8%. (Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / CNBC / NBC News / CNN / New York Times / Washington Post)

  • Nancy Pelosi unveiled a $2.5 trillion coronavirus aid package in the House. The “Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act” would increase the amount of money being offered to individuals from $1,000 to $1,500, and up to $7,500 for a family of five. It also waives $10,000 in federal student loan payments, allocates $150 billion to support hospitals and medical facilities, eliminates cost-sharing for coronavirus treatments and vaccines, provides $500 billion in interest-free loans for small businesses, and much more. (Axios)

  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned of “troubling and astronomical numbers” in the rate of coronavirus infections that are rising faster than expected. (The Guardian)

  • New York has 7,000 ventilators but needs 30,000. America’s essential personnel need an estimated 3.5 billion N95 masks. (Axios)

  • The Trump administration is set to use the Defense Production Act for the first time to procure about 60,000 coronavirus test kits. FEMA’s administrator said the federal government was also inserting “DPA language” into its contract for 500 million masks. Trump, however, said “We didn’t have to exercise or utilize the DPA in any way.” Trump has resisted calls to use the act, saying he is concerned about nationalizing American businesses and that his authorization of the DPA serves as enough “leverage” to compel companies to produce medical supplies without invoking the act to force them to start up production. (Wall Street Journal / CNN)

  • The White House coronavirus task force urged anyone who leaves New York City to self-quarantine for 14-days in order to stop the spread of COVID-19. (CNBC)

  • U.S. airlines are drafting plans for a potential voluntary shutdown of virtually all domestic flights. No final decisions have been made by the carriers or the White House. Airlines are also preparing for the possibility that contagion-driven staffing emergencies at air traffic control facilities could make it impossible to continue operating in parts of the country. (Wall Street Journal)

  • The Trump administration stopped collection on defaulted federal student loans amid the coronavirus pandemic “until further notice.” (Politico)

  • India’s prime minister ordered all 1.3 billion people in the country to stay inside their homes for three weeks. “There will be a total ban of coming out of your homes,” the prime minister, Narendra Modi, announced. “Every state, every district, every lane, every village will be under lockdown.” (New York Times)

  • There are at least 52,381 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States. At least 680 people have died. (CNN)

  • 💻 Live Blogs: Washington Post / New York Times / CNN / NBC News / CNBC / The Guardian / Bloomberg

2/ Trump’s patience with Dr. Anthony Fauci has reportedly started to wear thin as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has repeatedly corrected Trump’s falsehoods about the spread of the coronavirus. Dr. Fauci and Trump have publicly disagreed on how long it will take for a coronavirus vaccine to become available and whether chloroquine, an anti-malaria drug, could help. In an interview with Science Magazine, Dr. Fauci addressed Trump’s false statements, saying: “I can’t jump in front of the microphone and push him down. OK, he said it. Let’s try and get it corrected for the next time.” Dr. Fauci, the most credible U.S. infectious disease expert on the coronavirus outbreak, has been absent from White House events for three days after contradicting Trump. Meanwhile, Dr. Fauci said: “To my knowledge, I haven’t been fired.” (New York Times / Politico / ABC News / Washington Post / Bloomberg)

3/ Trump said he wants the nation “opened up and just raring to go by Easter” – less than three weeks away – after expressing outrage over having to “close the country” by shutting down businesses and implementing social distancing. Trump predicted that “there will be tremendous death” from shutting down the economy and job losses, suggesting there is “probably” more damage being done to the economy than the threat of the virus spreading further. Trump said that once the 15-day period of social distancing ends next week, “we’ll stay a little bit longer than that” but that he wants the effective shutdown of the country to end “very soon.” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, meanwhile, said that the state is expecting the height of coronavirus infections to come in two to three weeks. Trump’s Surgeon General Jerome Adams also said the pandemic is going to get much worse in the U.S. before it gets better. Trump’s comments also came hours after Mike Pence told conservative leaders that White House aides were discussing ways to encourage businesses to reopen and for healthy Americans to return to work at the end of the current 15-day period. “I think it’s possible, why not?” Trump said with a shrug. Health experts, however, point to overwhelming evidence from around the world that closing businesses and schools and minimizing social contact are crucial for avoiding exponentially mounting infections. Trump – again – compared coronavirus to the seasonal flu and auto accidents, despite warnings from his health advisers, including Dr. Fauci, that such analogies are a “false equivalency.” Nevertheless, Trump said: “The faster we go back, the better it’s going to be.” And, earlier in the day, Trump tweeted that “THE CURE CANNOT BE WORSE (by far) THAN THE PROBLEM!” (Washington Post / New York Times / Wall Street Journal / Politico / CNN / ABC News / NBC News / Bloomberg / Washington Post / Washington Post)

4/ Health officials want Trump to “double down, not lighten up” on social distancing restrictions, contending that the fallout will be worse if the White House eases up now. “Our country wasn’t built to be shut down,” Trump said during a Monday night briefing as the U.S. entered week two of trying to contain the spread of the coronavirus. “America will again and soon be open for business,” Trump said, “a lot sooner than three or four months that somebody was suggesting, a lot sooner.” Public health officials warn, however, that relaxing restrictions now could significantly increase the death toll from the virus. Trump’s comments on re-opening the economy came as the U.S. saw 100-plus fatalities and nearly 10,000 more confirmed coronavirus cases – in a single day. (Politico / New York Times / NBC News)

  • 🔥 U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams: “I want America to understand: This week, it’s going to get bad.” The disease is spreading, he said, because many people are not abiding by guidance to stay at home and practice social distancing. (Washington Post / NBC News / Today)

5/ Trump’s private businesses have shut down six of its top seven revenue-producing clubs and hotels because of restrictions meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The closures come as Trump is considering easing restrictions on social distancing. (Washington Post)

poll/ 57% of Americans say the nation’s efforts to combat the coronavirus are going badly, 51% call it a crisis, and 47% see a months-long process before it is contained. 88% trust medical professionals for information about the virus compared to 44% who trust Trump. (CBS News)

poll/ 49% of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing as president – up from 44% earlier this month. (Gallup)


👑 Portrait of a President

  • Trump confronts a crisis unlike any before. Trump is no stranger to crisis. He has spent a lifetime grappling with bankruptcy, fending off creditors, evading tax collectors, defending lawsuits, deflecting regulators, spinning reporters and dueling with estranged wives, usually coming out ahead, at least as he defines it. But these were crises of his own creation involving human adversaries he knew how to confront. Nothing in his background in business, entertainment or multiple marriages prepared him for the coronavirus pandemic now threatening America’s health and wealth. (New York Times)

  • Short-term thinking plagues Trump’s coronavirus response. Inside the Trump administration, officials are continuing to sort out which teams are responsible for elements of coronavirus response, part of an ever-shifting patchwork of alliances and strategy, while working to manage the president’s unpredictable requests. Five officials said that Trump had grown appropriately concerned about the coronavirus outbreak after weeks of ignoring or playing down the threat, but that the administration is now rushing to solve issues that could have been addressed months ago, like obtaining the necessary supplies for the nation’s emergency stockpile. (Politico)

  • Trump’s up-and-down command of a pandemic. All week, Trump reveled in his newfound character — that of a crisis commander steering his skittish nation through battle with what he called an “invisible enemy.” He parried questions, barked orders and stood stoically by as he accepted praise, day after day, from his underlings for his “strong leadership” and “decisive actions.” But on Friday, Trump faltered. He argued based on “just a feeling” that, despite no scientific evidence yet, an anti-malaria drug could cure the coronavirus. He complained that he has not been credited for fixing a nationwide testing system that clearly is still broken. And when asked what message he had for Americans who were scared, he lashed out. (Washington Post)

  • Trump struggles to adjust to crisis presidency. Now, as the coronavirus crisis threatens his presidency, and upends his campaign for reelection, Trump is rapidly losing patience with the medical professionals who have made the case day after day that the only way to prevent a catastrophic loss of life is to essentially shut down the country — to minimize transmission and “flatten the curve” so hospitals aren’t overwhelmed with critical patients. (Associated Press)

  • As the crisis escalates, Trump experiments with a pivot. With his “wartime president” posture failing to stop the slide and his presidency in the balance, Trump toys with reopening the economy early. (Vanity Fair)

  • Trump made 33 false claims about the coronavirus crisis in the first two weeks of March. Trump made 50 false claims from March 2 through March 8, then 21 false claims from March 9 through March 15. Of those 71 false claims, 33 were related to the coronavirus. (CNN)


Become a member.

Help keep WTF Just Happened Today going with a small contribution.
Learn more