The United States now leads the world in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases, and Congress is on the verge of action to relieve the outbreak’s economic toll.
As of late Thursday, a count by Johns Hopkins Medical Center shows more than 85,000 cases in the United States, followed by China with more than 81,000 and Italy with about 80,500.
New York state is the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, with New York City the hot spot. There were more 21,000 cases in the country’s largest city, with officials saying that number is growing by at least 3,000 a day.
On Friday, the U.S. House plans to pass the $2 trillion economic relief package that the Senate passed Wednesday night, and President Donald Trump has indicated he will sign it.
The centerpiece of the bill is direct cash payments to individuals who have lost their jobs and businesses forced to close their doors because of the outbreak.
Although the U.S. now has the largest number of cases, Trump said Thursday the government will be able to announce in the next two days what he calls good statistics and facts, “which will make your lives easier.”
He also plans to go to Norfolk, Virginia, to see the U.S. Navy hospital ship Comfort leave for deployment in New York Harbor.
Canada is balking at a U.S. proposal to deploy hundreds of Americans troops along the U.S.-Candian border, which is closed to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
“Canada is strongly opposed to this U.S. proposal, and we have made that opposition very, very clear,” Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said Thursday. “The public health situation does not require such action.”
In their first-ever remote vote, the EU Parliament members approved a $41 billion package of economic aid to members whose economies have also taken a beating because of the outbreak.
“From one day to the next, our lifestyles changed. Our streets emptied. Our doors closed. And we moved from a daily routine to the fight of our lives,” the head of the EU executive, Ursula von der Leyen, told the lawmakers. Nearly all of them were under lockdown across the 27-member bloc.
Italy and Spain have been particularly hard hit by the outbreak.
Elsewhere, a second U.S. soldier stationed in South Korea has tested positive for the coronavirus. Officials at Camp Humphrey said she is isolated as they clean all areas she was known to have visited. They are also trying to determine who else has been exposed.
China is temporarily closing its borders to all foreign visitors. Nearly all the new coronavirus cases in the past week in China have come from people arriving from overseas.
The outbreak appears to have eased in China, and authorities don’t want a resurgence.
South Africa and the Saudi cities of Riyadh, Medina and Mecca — the last are two of Islam's holiest cities — are the latest to go under lockdown.
And the Associated Press reports U.N. ambassadors from eight countries under United States sanctions — China, Cuba, Iran, Nicaragua, North Korea, Russia, Syria, and Venezuela — are asking Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to press the U.S. to lift the sanctions so they can effectively fight the outbreak. The ambassadors accused the U.S. of politicizing the pandemic.