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Trump Pitches Zero Percent Payroll Tax Rate as Coronavirus Cases Rise

President Trump pitched a zero percent payroll tax holiday while meeting with Senate Republicans on Capital Hill to discuss options for an economic stimulus plan countering the effects of rapidly coronavirus outbreak as the number of infections continues to swell.

Investors liked the idea as the Dow Jones Industrial Average spiked up 1,100 points when word of Trump’s plans surfaced. The Dow has had a roller-coaster ride over the past week as investors panicked over the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., and was hit again on Monday by an oil price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia.

Sources on Monday said Trump was planning economic measures to bolster the economy, but by close of business Tuesday, no details of a definitive plan emerged, though the president was planning a press briefing early Tuesday evening.

Walmart, Target

Meanwhile, Walmart Inc. on Tuesday disclosed an emergency employee leave program that would provide two weeks’ pay if workers are under quarantine, but also allows for up to 26 weeks’ worth of pay if the employee is ill with the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.

Walmart also echoed a report by Target Corp. detailing new store cleaning and sanitizing protocols. Target has been shipping more cleaning products, medicine and pantry stock-up items to its stores as consumer shopping behavior indicates that the stockpiling trend continues, behavior that has prompted other merchants to impose quantity limits on certain items.

New York update

Meanwhile, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters on Tuesday that public officials are having a hard time keeping up with the number of new infections. “They’re coming in so intensely now that being able to give you a detailed case breakdown [is something] we’re not in [a] position to do that at this moment,” he said. So far there are 36 confirmed cases in America’s largest city, 16 new infections since Monday and 11 new ones since 7 a.m. Tuesday, he said, adding that there are nearly 2,000 N.Y.C. residents in voluntary isolation in addition to 30 under mandatory quarantine.

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There are more than 173 confirmed cases in New York State, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo, who said 108 are centered in Westchester County. Over the weekend, he declared a state of emergency, which enables the state to request federal funding to combat the virus. By Tuesday mid-day, the governor deployed the National Guard to New Rochelle, where the cluster in Westchester is centered. He also ordered a one-mile radius in the community as a containment area for a period two weeks, including the closure of public places and schools. The National Guard will help with cleaning public spaces and with food delivery.

Cuomo announced a new state policy that mandates that any school where a student or teacher tests positive for the coronavirus must immediately close for 24 hours while officials assess the situation and determine if an extended closure is warranted.

The N.Y. governor added that the number of infections in New York is artificially low because the state hasn’t been able to conduct enough testing, which would identify more cases of the virus.

Across the U.S.

Nationwide, confirmed cases surpassed 1,000 as of Tuesday night, according to Johns Hopkins University, and at least 27 people have died from the outbreak. New Jersey just reported its first death from the coronavirus. While there are 34 states that now have at least one infection, New York, Washington and California have confirmed more than 100 cases apiece

A number of universities across the U.S., including Harvard, have decided to suspend in-person classes, moving them online instead. Remote instruction either has already begun, or will shortly.


Italy on Tuesday began a lockdown of the country, extending the containment measure already in place for northern Italy. The country is reeling from 10,000 confirmed cases, and the death toll has risen to more than 630 people.

Schools and universities in Greece and the Czech Republic are slated to close, while Spain has closed education centers in the area surrounding Madrid. Most countries have put in place stringent travel regulations and guidelines.

So far France and the U.K. are not yet in lockdown mode, but could be over the next few weeks.

Coronavirus update

The coronavirus has spread to more than 100 countries, infecting upwards of 113,000 people. The World Health Organization (WHO) continues to refrain from calling the epidemics around the globe a pandemic, a term generally defined as the worldwide spread of a new disease.

“Now that the coronavirus has a foothold in so many countries, the threat of a pandemic has become very real,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s director-general, said in a press briefing, adding that “[i]t would be the first pandemic in history that could be controlled. The bottom line is we are not at the mercy of the virus.”

The focus on containment and that it can still be contained is why the WHO declines to call the virus a pandemic at this point in time. WHO officials point to the success of containment measures in China and Singapore. China in the past few weeks has reported a significant decline in new virus cases. Currently, the number of infections outside of China is far higher than the number inside China.

WHO also is hoping to curtail public reaction to the word pandemic so as not to spark panic. “Unlike flu, we can still push this back,” Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s Hewalth Emergencies Program, said. “The issue is what the reaction to the word [pandemic] will be.” hile the current stage doesn’t rise to the level of a pandemic yet, “we’re reaching that point,” Ryan said.

So far there is no vaccine yet for the virus, although human trials are expected shortly. Even then, procedures requires an approval process, which could trim the timing for a market-ready vaccine to one year if current trials show promise. While there’s no vaccine to attach the current outbreak, one might be available later on if the virus were to resurface seasonally.

Companies and individuals should check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for updates at Health officials continue to emphasize that washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds and covering your mouth when sneezing and coughing remain strong ways to prevent infection.