The Trump administration on Tuesday pursued a $1 trillion stimulus package to buttress an economy hit by coronavirus fears that could deliver $1,000 checks to Americans within two weeks, while New York said it might order residents of the most populous U.S. city to stay at home.
With the number of reported U.S. cases of the respiratory illness surging past 5,800 and deaths approaching 100, millions of Americans hunkered down in their homes instead of commuting to work or school as New York and other major cities escalated “social distancing” policies by closing schools, bars, restaurants and theaters.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said he would decide within two days whether to order residents to “shelter in place” to fight the spread of the virus. The move would largely confine people to their homes in the city of roughly 8.5 million but probably let them make necessary trips to the grocery or pharmacy.
“It’s a very, very difficult decision,” de Blasio said. “We’ve never been here before. I have never heard of anything like this in the history of New York City.”
Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker announced that state’s first coronavirus death and said 22 other people had been infected at a nursing home in suburban Chicago. In New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy closed amusement parks and indoor shopping malls as a record number of unemployment applications crashed state computer systems.
In Minnesota, the Mall of America, the nation’s largest enclosed shopping center, said it would close through the end of the month. Sheriff’s deputies in Los Angeles were ordered to write more tickets and make fewer arrests, to keep jail crowding to a minimum.
Vice President Mike Pence said the White House may have the U.S. military establish field hospitals in virus hot zones if requested by state governors, or use the Army Corps of Engineers to add capacity to existing hospitals.
New York, Washington state and California have the most confirmed cases of the highly contagious respiratory illness.
In one of the most restrictive policies already in place, officials ordered residents of the San Francisco Bay area, some 6.7 million people, to stay home beginning for all but the most crucial outings until April 7.
“It’s like living in a ‘Twilight Zone,’” said Rowan Oake, 36, during a jog through San Francisco’s Presidio Park. “You can feel the anxiety in the air.”
President Donald Trump said progress is being made against the fast-spreading pathogen and predicted the U.S. economy would “come roaring back” when it slows.
“It’s going to pop,” said Trump, who is seeking re-election on Nov. 3.
The Republican president’s tone on the coronavirus pandemic has changed sharply in the last few days. After initially playing down the threat and focusing on the stock market, his administration has begun pushing for urgent action to stem the disease’s economic and human toll.