Every aspect of modern life is being hit as sweeping measures are rolled out in an effort to stem the coronavirus pandemic. President Trump declared a national emergency Friday “to unleash the full power of the federal government.”
“No resource will be spared, nothing whatsoever,” the president said as stocks rose sharply, regaining some of their recent losses.
Hours later, the House overwhelmingly approved legislation to give direct relief to Americans impacted by the spreading virus. Central to the aid package are free testing and sick pay guarantee for Americans affected.
People who are sick with the virus and have to be treated or quarantined would qualify for the sick pay benefit, which requires employers to offer 14 days of sick leave at “not less” than two-thirds of an employee’s normal pay. Others who would qualify for paid sick leave are those who need to be home to care for a child whose school or childcare center has closed, and those who need to leave their jobs to take care of a family member infected with the virus.
The legislation offers three months of paid family and medical leave. And small and mid-sized employers would be reimbursed through tax credits.
Voting in the Senate is not yet set, but senators were scheduled to return Monday. Senate Leader Mitch McConnell said he expects most senators will want to “act swiftly.”
President Trump announced a range of actions including a new public-private partnership to expand coronavirus testing capabilities with drive-through locations. He also denied any responsibility for delays in making testing available. His administration has been criticized for being too slow to respond.
Amid the outbreak – and the mounting response — Disney World is closing. Broadway shut its doors. Schools are closing and large gatherings are being banned. The Boston Marathon and the Masters Tournament are now postponed. The NBA, NHL and Major League Soccer have suspended their seasons.
While about half of the more than 145,000 people who have had confirmed cases of COVID-19 have recovered, the toll in human lives is staggering. More than 5,400 people have died, including dozens of people in the United States — and it’s expected to get much worse before it gets better.
Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for detailed information on coronavirus treatment and prevention.
-Contributing: The Associated Press