Virus Outbreak California Testing

Aubrey Mondragon and her dog "Papy" wait for more than hour in their vehicle lined up outside the Crenshaw Christian Center before it opens as testing site for COVID-19 in South Los Angeles, Wednesday, March 25, 2020. With California virus cases surging, Gov. Gavin Newsom said his stay-at-home order for 40 million Californians may stay in place into May. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

WASHINGTON — The White House and Senate leaders of both parties announced agreement early Wednesday on unprecedented emergency legislation to rush sweeping aid to businesses, workers and a health care system slammed by the Coronavirus pandemic.

The urgently needed pandemic response measure is the largest economic rescue measure in history and is intended as a weeks- or months-long patch for an economy spiraling into recession and a nation facing a potentially ghastly toll.

Top White House aide Eric Ueland announced the agreement in a Capitol hallway shortly after midnight, capping days of often intense haggling and mounting pressure. It still needs to be finalized in detailed legislative language.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we are done. We have a deal,” Ueland said.

The unprecedented economic rescue package would give direct payments to most Americans, expand unemployment benefits and provide a $367 billion program for small businesses to keep making payroll while workers are forced to stay home.

One of the last issues to close concerned $500 billion for guaranteed, subsidized loans to larger industries, including a fight over how generous to be with the airlines. Hospitals would get significant help as well.

“After days of intense discussions, the Senate has reached a bipartisan agreement on a historic relief package for this pandemic,” said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., a key negotiator. “It will rush new resources onto the front lines of our nation’s health care fight. And it will inject trillions of dollars of cash into the economy as fast as possible to help Americans workers, families, small businesses and industries make it through this disruption and emerge on the other side ready to soar.”

At the White House on Tuesday, even as the public-health crisis deepened, President Donald Trump expressed eagerness to nudge many people back to work in coming weeks and held out a prospect, based more on hope than science, that the country could be returning to normal in less than a month.

“We have to go back to work, much sooner than people thought,” Trump told a Fox News town hall. He said he’d like to have the country “opened up and just raring to go” by Easter, April 12. But in a White House briefing later, Trump said that “our decision will be based on hard facts and data.”

Medical professionals say social distancing needs to be stepped up, not relaxed, to slow the spread of infections. At the White House briefing, the public-health authorities said it was particularly important for people in the hard-hit New York City metropolitan area to quarantine themselves for 14 days, and for those who have recently left the city to do the same.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, said pointedly at the briefing, “No one is going to want to tone down anything when you see what is going on in a place like New York City.”

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