Newsletter: The fight over a $1.8-trillion lifeline

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to reporters after a meeting on an economic rescue package to deal with the effects of the coronavirus.
(Drew Angerer / Getty Images)

Clashes along party lines have stalled a relief bill aimed at getting the U.S. through the coming weeks of the coronavirus crisis.


The Fight Over a $1.8-Trillion Lifeline

As experts warn that the full effects of the public health and financial emergencies stemming from the new coronavirus are only beginning to be felt in the U.S., congressional leaders and the Trump administration say that urgent action must be taken to pass an enormous financial rescue package. But over the weekend, they struggled to find agreement.

The bill, which totals about $1.8 trillion, is intended as a bridge to get the country through the worst of the crisis over the next eight to 10 weeks, with the possibility of further spending later if the emergency continues.


But several key issues have proved to be sticking points, including how much money to provide state and local governments and how much authority to give administration officials to decide which major businesses to bail out.

Job losses are rapidly growing, and after big declines in U.S. financial markets, investors’ nerves are raw. In addition, lawmakers are facing yet another pressure toward quick action: concerns about their own health. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) announced that he had tested positive for the coronavirus, although he said he felt fine. By Sunday afternoon, four Republican senators had announced they were self-quarantining because of their contact with Paul or others with the virus. Their announcements threatened to wipe out the Republican majority in the Senate. Congress does not allow members to vote remotely but has recently revisited that idea.

Meanwhile, state governors are making pleas for more robust federal intervention.

In Louisiana, Gov. John Bel Edwards issued a stay-home order and closed nonessential businesses, saying the state risked becoming “the next Italy,” which currently has the worst COVID-19 death rate. Louisiana has the third-highest per capita rate of cases after New York and Washington state. In New York City, which has the nation’s highest concentration of cases, Mayor Bill de Blasio warned that the crisis could last months.


Nationwide, “we’re going to get hit, there’s no doubt about it,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious-disease specialist. But Fauci said in a TV interview that the drastic steps being taken across the country — school closings, business shutdowns, shelter-in-place orders — would pay off by helping to slow the virus’ spread.

Declaring a Major Disaster in California

President Trump has approved a request from Gov. Gavin Newsom to declare a major disaster in California to help the state respond to the pandemic with “mass care,” emergency aid, unemployment assistance and disaster legal services, among others. Trump said the Federal Emergency Management Agency would be shipping mobile hospital units to the state within the next 48 hours — eight of them for a total of 2,000 beds — with New York and Washington states receiving 1,000 beds each.

Trump said the Navy hospital ship Mercy, which is based in San Diego, will be deployed to Los Angeles. FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor added that the ship can be stationed in L.A. in “a week or less” and will not be used to treat COVID-19 patients; rather, it will accept other patients in an attempt to relieve the burden on hospitals.


Trump also announced that he has signed paperwork to have the federal government pay for National Guard deployments in those three states. The National Guard will remain under the control of state governments.

Meanwhile, Newsom and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti have been urging people to stay at home. Garcetti announced the closure of the city’s golf courses, parking lots at Venice Beach and organized group sports at city parks because they — along with many other open spaces in Southern California — have continued to attract throngs of people.

Want a Test? Money and Connections Help

Faced with a crush of patients and lack of test kits, L.A. County health officials last week advised doctors to test patients only if a positive result could change how they would be treated. But some private physicians and “concierge” doctors are offering tests to their patients at a price. One Santa Monica pediatrician, who offered tests at $250 regardless of whether people had symptoms, acknowledges that his offer underscores inequities in the healthcare system: “There’s no way in hell it should be so. This represents a massive failure of the federal government, of the healthcare system.”

More Top Coronavirus Stories


City dwellers are fleeing to California’s deserts and mountains, but that could lead to terrible consequences.

— As teachers scramble to adjust to an entirely new world of education, they are coming up against many obstacles.

Michael Levitt, a Nobel laureate and Stanford biophysicist, predicts a quicker coronavirus recovery than most. But social distancing is key. “This is not the time to go out drinking with your buddies.”

— How do you become infected with the coronavirus? The short answer: droplets.


— Beware the scams: colloidal silver, herb remedies and fake test kits.

Plus, here are some practical tips on getting through the days ahead. For more, sign up for Coronavirus Today, a special edition of The Times’ Health and Science newsletter that will help you understand more about COVID-19. As with all our newsletters, it’s free:

— Help yourself and others by practicing social distancing. If you absolutely must be out in public, maintain a 6-foot radius of personal space.

Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds! Here’s a fun how-to video.


— What you should know about wearing gloves and more if you can’t work from home.


On this date in 1994, Wayne Gretzky of the L.A. Kings became the greatest goal scorer of them all, surpassing Gordie Howe’s record for the most goals in National Hockey League history. He did it in a 6-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood.

“The sellout crowd of 16,005 at the Forum erupted, Gretzky threw his arms in the air and the first player to hug him was [Luc] Robitaille,” The Times reported the next day. “Photographers mobbed Gretzky and there was a 15-minute on-ice ceremony with Gretzky’s parents, Walter and Phyllis, his wife Janet as well as King owner Bruce McNall and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.


“A jubilant Gretzky took the microphone, saying: ‘I’ve played here six years and I hope I play here another six.’”

But when the Kings fell on hard times two years later, Gretzky was traded.

March 23, 1994: Wayne Gretzky scores goal No. 802 to break Gordie Howe's record.
Wayne Gretzky scores goal No. 802 to break Gordie Howe’s record March 23, 1994.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)


— In Los Angeles County, home to the nation’s busiest court system, the continuing public health crisis is threatening to cause a lengthy case backlog and force police and prosecutors to drastically scale back enforcement for the time being.


— “It’s just too much”: Asian Americans confront xenophobia, economic devastation and the coronavirus.

— The first inmate within the state prison system has tested positive for coronavirus.

— These eerie drone photos reveal the new stay-at-home landscape.

Enjoying this newsletter?

Subscribe to the Los Angeles Times.



— For the small-capacity, independent nightclubs that form the backbone of L.A.’s local music scene, the coronavirus is an existential threat.

Late-night hosts such as Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Samantha Bee, Trevor Noah and David Spade are still doing their job by sheltering in place.

Kenny Rogers, who died Friday at age 81, may be best remembered for introducing a global pop audience to the homespun charms of country music. But he dabbled freely in other sounds and styles. Here are 10 of his best songs.

— What’s it like to walk off the “The Walking Dead”? An actor shares some thoughts. (And if you haven’t seen last night’s episode, don’t click here.)



— Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has arrived in Kabul on an urgent visit to try to move forward a U.S. peace deal signed last month with the Taliban.

— Trump sent a letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, seeking to maintain good relations and offering cooperation in fighting the coronavirus outbreak.

— After 10 days stranded on a cruise ship off the coast of Brazil as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, 103 U.S. citizens and two permanent residents have been evacuated and flown to Dallas.

— Brazilians turn against President Jair Bolsonaro for his government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.


— German Chancellor Angela Merkel has gone into quarantine at home in her central Berlin apartment after coming into contact with a doctor who later tested positive.

— In the end, a Holocaust survivor couldn’t outlast the virus, becoming Israel’s first COVID-19 fatality.


— Although cities such as Boston have halted most construction of housing, that hasn’t been the case in California.

— A happy little miracle in dark times: The plant nursery business is booming.



— Four days in March, three games at Staples Center and trying to answer the unanswerable about where eight coronavirus infections originated.

— The International Olympic Committee will look at postponing the Tokyo Olympics during four weeks of talks amid mounting criticism by athletes and sports officials. The Canadian Olympic Committee says it won’t send athletes unless they’re postponed for a year.


— Columnist Steve Lopez on how to pull together while standing 6 feet apart.

Expelling foreign journalists is a bad idea for China and the United States.



— Some lupus patients are struggling to get a crucial medication after Trump touted it as a coronavirus treatment, which it has not been proved to be. (ProPublica)

— “When you’re dealing with the White House, sometimes you have to say things 1,2,3,4 times, and then it happens”: Dr. Anthony Fauci on what happens before and after the daily briefings. (Science)


Vin Scully has been out of the Dodgers broadcast booth for three seasons, but the sound of his voice still soothes. That’s why columnist Bill Plaschke gave him a call in these trying times. Yes, Scully is hunkered down, just like the rest of us. (You are social distancing, yes? If not, get going.) But he has a message of hope.

“It’s the life of the world, the ups and downs, this is a down, we’re going to have to realistically accept it at what it is and we’ll get out of it, that’s all there is to it, we will definitely get out of it,” he says. Listen to him for yourself.


Comments or ideas? Email us at