Senate approves stimulus bill as COVID-19 cases top 487,648, over 69,000 in the US

March 26, 2020

The US Senate voted to approve the country's largest-ever stimulus relief bill, meant to inject $2 trillion into the US economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill promises relief for many US households and small businesses, which have suffered shutdowns and furloughs in the wake of shelter-in-place orders. It is expected to be voted on by the House and President Trump is expected to sign the bill by the end of the week, Reuters reported.

Included in the stimulus is $150 billion for hospitals treating coronavirus patients, Vox reported. Of that, $100 billion will go to hospitals, $1 billion will go to the Indian Health Service, and the rest will be used to increase medical equipment capacity, Vox said.

The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reported global cases this morning top 487,648, and over 69,000 in the US.

The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) pledged $100 million to US healthcare systems as they prepare for an influx of COVID-19 patients.

"We cannot beat the COVID-19 pandemic without getting America's healthcare workers the training and resources they need to respond to this novel threat, and these funds secured from Congress by President Trump will help make that happen," said HHS Secretary Alex Azar in a press release.

In New York, which has become the epicenter of US COVID-19 activity, Governor Andrew Cuomo said there were some small signs that virus transmission was slowing following stringent social distancing mandates. During his daily briefing, Cuomo said state models showed Sunday that hospitalization rates would be doubling every 2 days, but last night the doubling rate was at 4.7 days.

He also showed encouraging data from Westchester County, which was the first area in the US deemed a "containment zone" in light of several coronavirus cases. "We have dramatically slowed what was an exponential rate of increase," Cuomo said. "That was the hottest cluster in the United States of America. We closed the schools, we closed gatherings, we brought in testing, and we have dramatically slowed the increase."

New York University is allowing qualified medical students to graduate three months early and begin practicing medicine in an effort to add more healthcare workers to the state's rosters.

Also in Los Angeles yesterday, Mayor Eric Garcetti said he will shut off power and water to nonessential businesses that are refusing to close in the face of the state's shelter-in-place mandate, which was put in place last week. Garcetti also said he expects Los Angeles to peak in cases in 6 to 12 days and warned citizens the situation will be bad.

Meanwhile both Georgia and Louisiana reported another increase in case counts, as both Atlanta and New Orleans struggle with an influx of COVID-19 patients. Both states crossed the 1,000-case milestone in the past two days.

Louisiana officials have reported 1,795 coronavirus cases and 65 deaths, with more than 800 cases in New Orleans. Some reports on Twitter suggest at least half of the emergency medical services staff in that city are currently quarantined after exposure to cases. The state of Louisiana is under a shelter in place mandate.

Moderna reportedly told investors that its mRNA-1273 vaccine against the novel coronavirus could be ready to be used on frontline health workers this fall but would not be ready for wide commercial distribution until 2021. Moderna's vaccine launched its phase 1 human trial last week in healthy adults in the Seattle area.

CIDRAP has the story.

More COVID-19 coverage HERE.