Trump presses for $1.4 trillion coronavirus stimulus
US President plans to send $1,000 direct payments to Americans
WASHINGTON: The Trump administration pressed for enactment of a US$1 trillion (S$1.4 trillion) stimulus package, possibly with $1,000 direct payments to individual Americans, to blunt the economic pain from a coronavirus outbreak that has killed over 100 people in the country.
With cases of the respiratory illness reported in all 50 states and the total number of known US infections surging past 6,400, millions of Americans hunkered down at home instead of commuting to work or going to school.
New York City said it might order its 8.5 million residents to "shelter in place" at home, as cities escalated "social distancing" policies by closing schools, restaurants and theatres to curb the spread of the virus.
"It's a very, very difficult decision," New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said. "We've never been here before."
The state's governor, Mr Andrew Cuomo, told CNN he did not think it would work.
About 6.7 million people in the San Francisco Bay area have already been ordered to stay home for all but the most crucial outings until April 7.
Eateries were shut down except for carry-out orders and deliveries, and bars were closed, but marijuana dispensaries were allowed to stay open as the drug was deemed an "essential medicine" by health authorities.
"It's like living in a 'Twilight Zone'," said Mr Rowan Oake, 36, during a jog through San Francisco's Presidio Park. "You can feel the anxiety in the air."
Kentucky and Illinois recorded their first coronavirus deaths, driving the nationwide toll to at least 108.
Authorities said 22 people had been infected at a nursing home in suburban Chicago.
In Washington state, where 52 people have died, Governor Jay Inslee signed legislation approving US$200 million for homeless aid and other measures to fight the virus. California's governor signed off on US$1 billion, and Georgia's governor approved US$100 million.
In New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy closed indoor shopping malls while a record number of unemployment applications crashed state computer systems. The nation's largest indoor shopping centre, Minnesota's Mall of America, said it would close.
Kansas shuttered schools through the end of the academic year.
Sheriff's deputies in Los Angeles County were ordered to write more citations and make fewer arrests, to keep jail crowding to a minimum.
Vice-President Mike Pence said the White House may direct the US military to establish field hospitals in virus hot zones if requested by state governors, or enlist the Army Corps of Engineers to add capacity to existing hospitals.
Roughly half of all Americans want the US government to act more aggressively to slow transmission of the coronavirus, such as banning large public gatherings and shutting down all overseas flights, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Tuesday.
Mr Trump also made the startling assertion that he knew it was a pandemic all along.
"This is a pandemic," he told reporters. "I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic." - REUTERS