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U.S. states, cities beg for Coronavirus help; Fed tries to shield economy

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. governors and mayors pleaded for help from the federal government and even from private citizens to fight the Coronavirus outbreak as the U.S. Federal Reserve launched an extraordinary array of initiatives to mitigate the pandemic’s economic impact.

They sounded the alarm as U.S. Senate Democrats and Republicans tried to hammer out an economic relief bill on Monday, aware that failure could have a devastating effect on states, cities and businesses, and could trigger further heavy losses in U.S. stock markets.
”I want to appeal to everyone in the House and Senate, you have got to help cities, towns, countries, states, public hospitals, private hospitals. You’ve got to get all of them direct relief,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told CNN.
With the addition of Maryland, Indiana, Michigan and Massachusetts on Monday, 13 out of 50 U.S. states have imposed restrictions on people’s movements to curtail the virus, putting the country on a track similar to those of the most devastated European countries such as Italy and Spain. The affected states have a joint population of more than 140 million people.
The mayor of the most populous U.S. city broadened his appeal for ventilators and medical equipment to private citizens. “Anyone out there who can help us get these supplies, we have only days to get them in place. That is the reality,” de Blasio said.
About 1,800 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 in New York City, with about 450 of those in intensive care units, Mark Levine, the chairman of the City Council’s health committee, said on Monday.

The number of cases nationwide topped 40,000 as of Monday morning, 481 of whom have died.

New programs launched by the U.S. central bank on Monday backstopped an unprecedented range of credit for households, small businesses and major employers.

”The Fed is proving that it can and will do anything in its power to support the economy,” said Steve Chiavarone, portfolio manager and equity strategist at investment management firm Federated Hermes.

U.S. stock futures rose more than 3% after the Fed’s moves but the market still slipped on opening. The Dow was down 0.4% at midday after briefly falling past 4% down in late morning.

Stay at home

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams pleaded with Americans to heed official warnings to stay at home.

”This week it’s going to get bad,” Adams told NBC’s “Today” show. “Everyone needs to be taking the right steps right now: stay home.”

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he had ordered New York City to come up with a plan by the end of the day on Monday to reduce density in its parks and among young people still gathering. “The greatest density control issue right now is in New York City,” Cuomo said.

The Senate was due to reconvene at noon ET (1600 GMT) to consider the bill, which Democrats argue favors corporate interests at the expense of healthcare workers, hospitals and state and local governments. Republicans in turn accused them of obstructing a badly needed stimulus in the midst of a national emergency.

Independent experts have suggested far more than 15 days will be needed to halt the spread. President Donald Trump issued guidelines a week ago that he said aimed to slow the spread of the disease over 15 days.

A lack of coordinated federal action was causing chaos for states and municipalities, and even putting them in competition with each other for resources, the governors of New York, New Jersey and Illinois said.

The states “are all out looking for the same thing,” New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy told CNN on Monday.

Leaving states to fend for themselves has put them in bidding wars with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, other U.S. states and even against other countries, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker said.

”We’re competing against each other on what should be a national crisis where we should be coming together and the federal government should be leading, helping us,” Pritzker told the “Today” program.

Cuomo called on Washington to put in place the federal defense production act to eliminate this “adhoc” system.

Trump on Sunday defended his decision to hold off using this power, on the grounds that nationalizing businesses “is not a good concept.”

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin urged businesses, especially the small businesses most immediately affected by the crisis, to try to hold on.

”We are encouraging small businesses: Make sure you hire people back. If you haven’t let people go, don’t let people go,” Mnuchin told Fox Business Network.

But it was unclear how long businesses could cope with the unprecedented disruptions and sudden loss of revenues without relief.

General Electric Co’s aviation unit will cut its total U.S. workforce by about 10%, Chief Executive Officer Larry Culp said on Monday, as airlines delay purchases because of the pandemic’s effect on travel.

The Gold Star Beer Counter in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, was able to say open because it is licensed as a marketplace. But bartender Will Dube, 27, said the problem was the distribution from breweries was slowing.

”Breweries themselves are having a harder time supplying the marketplace because so many people are consuming and overbuying,” he said, but added: “We’re going to keep doing this as long as possible.”

To keep up-dated on the latest news and information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic impact, and the government’s response, at Thomson Reuters’ COVID-19 Resource Center, and you can follow or the Reuters App.

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