Coronavirus live updates: $1,200 checks almost in the mail as Senate negotiates stimulus; Trump offers N. Korea help

A bipartisan deal appeared imminent Sunday on a ballooning stimulus package, President Donald Trump offered assistance to North Korea, and Chicago residents were “Livin’ on a Prayer” as the nation lurched through another day under coronavirus siege.

The stimulus package aims to pump life into a national economy staggered by shutdowns and quarantines. The deal, now estimated at $1.4 trillion, includes $1,200 checks for most U.S. adults and hundreds of billions to assist businesses ground almost to a halt by the pandemic.

“We are poised to deliver the significant relief that Americans need with the speed that this crisis demands,” Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.

The U.S., which confirmed more than 26,000 cases and 346 deaths, trailed only Spain, Italy and China in reported infections. Confirmed cases, however, are a function of testing. Worldwide cases of confirmed coronavirus surpassed 316,000, and there were more than 13,500 deaths as of Sunday, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard.

The gloomy news was not enough to silence Chicagoans, however, who shared in a citywide “Livin’ on a Prayer” singalong Saturday night. Jennifer Gorny Carlson and her 6-year-old daughter danced on their lawn.

“We just came out of the house for the first time in two weeks to dance with friends – from a safe distance – so it truly was joyful,” Carlson said.

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Stimulus: $1,200 checks for people; help for businesses, too

Your $1,200 check could be in the mail very soon. President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said a deal was “very near”  to help Americans. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer expressed confidence a deal could be struck. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, sounded a positive note on Twitter: “Ever think you’d hear the phrase ‘Congress to the rescue’? Senate Republicans now bending on funds to states. Negotiating on terms, size of funding. Good news.”

McConnell’s plan would provide a $1,200 check for most individuals making up to $75,000 annually; there would be smaller checks for people making more and no checks for those making in excess of $99,000. Schumer called for “unemployment insurance on steroids,” giving workers who lost their jobs checks approximating what they were making before they were let go.

Critical condition: Supply of equipment for health care workers

The scramble for vital gear needed to protect health care workers continues to intensify. Hospitals in Detroit put out a plea for donations of disposable face masks, N95 respirators, eye protection including face shields and safety goggles and other safety equipment. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he was sending 1 million N95 masks to New York City and purchasing 6,000 ventilators.

FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor told CNN that requests are coming in from every state “looking for the exact same things … We are trying to make sure we focus our efforts on the hot spots that need it he  most. And then if you don’t it right away you will be a little further down the list, but we will get to you.”

NYC mayor says outbreak will ‘get a lot worse’

The coronavirus outbreak “is going to get a lot worse” in April and May, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio warned, urging President Donald Trump to send medically trained military personnel to hot spots such as New York. De Blasio, making the round of news shows, told NBC  News he would use the NYPD to “break up large congregations where people are gathering.” He also echoed the call of many state and local leaders for federal help in obtaining equipment vital for an expected onslaught of sick people.

“We’re not getting the stuff we need. If we don’t get ventilators in the next 10 days people will die who don’t have to die, it’s as simple as that’” de Blasio told CNN. “And the one force that can do that, the federal government through the military, is not acting.”

– Lorenzo Reyes

Trump offers North Korea help with COVID-19

President Donald Trump has sent a letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un offering to help the secretive, communist nation’s fight against the coronavirus, the White House confirmed Sunday. The letter, which also expresses a desire to improve diplomatic relations, shows the strong “personal relations” between Trump and Kim, said Kim Yo-jong, Kim’s sister and first vice department director of the Central Committee of the North’s Workers’ Party, in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency. The letter came after North Korea again tested short-range ballistic missiles over the weekend, drawing protests from South Korea.

– David Jackson

21 TSA officers across nation test positive, 5 at JFK

At least 21 Transportation Security Administration officers across the nation have tested positive for the coronavirus, including a fifth officer at New York’s JFK International Airport, the TSA said.

TSA said the airport’s security screening checkpoints remain open, and the agency is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and city public health officials “to monitor the situation as well as the health and safety of our employees and the traveling public.” Workers have tested positive at several airports, among them New York’s LaGuardia, Washington Dulles, Orlando International, Newark Liberty and Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, TSA said.

– Curtis Tate

Hawaii, New Jersey enact strict measures 

Hawaii’s governor will institute a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine starting for all people traveling to the state and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy ordered residents to stay at home as more states tightened restrictions aimed at curtailing the outbreak.

Murphy also canceled gatherings of any number, including parties, weddings and religious ceremonies. Said Murphy: “We have to change our behaviors.”

Illinois required residents to stay home as much as possible. New York plans to ban all nonessential travel beginning Sunday evening, following California’s lead, which began Friday. Connecticut and Oregon were preparing to do the same. Hawaii Gov. David Ige said his order applies to returning residents as well as visitors. It applies to all arrivals at Hawaii airports.

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In Chicago, ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’

Under stay-at-home orders amid the coronavirus outbreak, people scattered throughout the Chicago metro area belted out Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On A Prayer” at 7 p.m. Saturday night, standing at windows, in yards and on balconies in freezing weather. Chicagoans shared dozens of videos capturing the citywide sing-along to social media. At least one Chicago radio station played the song at the designated hour. The song’s co-writer,Jon Bon Jovi, gave Chicago a shout-out on Instagram. “Sing it out, baby. We’re all going to come through this together. Be strong,” Jon Bon Jovi said in a post.

David Bryan, Bon Jovi keyboardist and a Tony Award-winning composer, said he tested positive for the coronavirus but is “feeling better each day.”

– Grace Hauck

Fund providing $75 million for NYC social service nonprofits

A group of foundations, corporations and individuals banded together to provide a NYC COVID-19 Response & Impact Fund to support New York City-based social services and arts and cultural organizations struggling with the coronavirus crisis. The $75 million fund will provide grants and interest-free loans to small and mid-size nonprofits to help them respond to emerging needs, the group said in a statement.

“The coronavirus pandemic threatens to cripple New York City’s nonprofit organizations and the vitally important services they provide,” said Patricia E. Harris, CEO of Bloomberg Philanthropies. She said the join initiative will “help ensure that many of our city’s nonprofits can withstand this crisis and continue to serve all New Yorkers.”

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