Pen­tagon or­ders halt to over­seas move­ment for US mil­i­tary

US death toll rises to 1,000, cases near 70,000

The Korea Times - - FRONT PAGE -

WASH­ING­TON (Reuters) — De­fense Secretary Mark Esper has is­sued a stop move­ment or­der to the U.S. mil­i­tary, halt­ing travel and move­ment abroad for up to 60 days in an ef­fort to limit the spread of the coro­n­avirus through the ranks, the Pen­tagon chief told Reuters, Wed­nes­day.

The mea­sure is by far the De­fense Department’s most sweep­ing to date and will af­fect forces around the world.

Esper said in an in­ter­view that the or­der ap­plied to all U.S. troops, civil­ian per­son­nel and families, but noted that there would be some ex­cep­tions.

“The pur­pose is to make sure that we’re not bring­ing the virus back home, in­fect­ing oth­ers, that we’re not spread­ing it around the mil­i­tary,” Esper said.

Esper said one ex­cep­tion to the or­der would be the draw­down un­der way in Afghanista­n, which will con­tinue.

The United States has said it is committed to re­duc­ing the num­ber of its troops in Afghanista­n to 8,600 from 13,000 within 135 days of sign­ing the deal with the Tal­iban last month.

A full with­drawal of all U.S. and coali­tion forces would oc­cur within 14 months of the deal get­ting signed, if the Tal­iban holds up its end of the deal.

“That (stop move­ment or­der) should not im­pact that,” Esper said of the with­drawal.

The stop move­ment or­der il­lus­trates the Pen­tagon’s in­creas­ing con­cern about the rapid spread of the virus, which has al­ready in­fected 227 U.S. troops — a fig­ure that has climbed by about 30 per­cent in just the past day.

WASH­ING­TON (AFP) — The U.S. Se­nate unan­i­mously passed the na­tion’s largest-ever res­cue pack­age late Wed­nes­day, a $2 tril­lion life­line to suf­fer­ing Amer­i­cans, crit­i­cally de­pleted hos­pi­tals and an econ­omy all rav­aged by a rapidly spread­ing coro­n­avirus cri­sis.

The mea­sure cleared the Se­nate 96-0 af­ter days of tu­mul­tuous, some­times bit­ter ne­go­ti­a­tions and debate, as the U.S. death toll for the pan­demic soared past 1,000, with 68,000 con­firmed in­fec­tions.

Out­breaks have grown na­tion­wide, but with par­tic­u­lar fear that New York could be the next epi­cen­ter of the coro­n­avirus pan­demic.

“Let us tell them tonight that help is on the way, that they are not truly alone, that this coun­try, that this Se­nate, that this govern­ment is here for them in a time of dire need,” top Se­nate Demo­crat Chuck Schumer said mo­ments be­fore the vote.

“Let us mar­shal this govern­ment into ac­tion.” The mea­sure now heads to the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, where a Demo­cratic leader said he ex­pected it to pass by voice vote Fri­day be­fore it goes to Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump for his sig­na­ture.

The monster pack­age, thrashed out be­tween Repub­li­cans, Democrats and the White House, pro­vides di­rect cash pay­ments to mil­lions of hurt­ing Amer­i­can tax­pay­ers, amount­ing to $3,400 for an aver­age Amer­i­can fam­ily of four.

It pro­vides some $500 bil­lion in grants and loans to small busi­nesses and core in­dus­tries, in­clud­ing as much as $50 bil­lion for strained air­lines and their em­ploy­ees.

It also surges $100 bil­lion of des­per­ately needed re­sources for hos­pi­tals and other health fa­cil­i­ties in dire need of med­i­cal equip­ment, and dra­mat­i­cally ex­pands un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fits to help work­ers sick­ened by coro­n­avirus or laid off dur­ing the cri­sis.

The United States has the third-high­est num­ber of in­fec­tions glob­ally be­hind China and Italy. About half are in New York state.

“We still have the tra­jec­tory go­ing up,” said New York Gov­er­nor An­drew Cuomo, ad­ding that about 12 per­cent of the peo­ple who test pos­i­tive re­quire hos­pi­tal­iza­tion.

Cuomo said health of­fi­cials an­tic­i­pate about 120,000 coro­n­avirus pa­tients com­ing into New York’s hos­pi­tals, which have a ca­pac­ity of 50,000 beds.

The state has around 30,000 con­firmed cases, he added, with 285 deaths.

But the gov­er­nor pointed to ev­i­dence sug­gest­ing New York’s strict stay-at-home or­ders and so­cial dis­tanc­ing mea­sures have slowed the hos­pi­tal­iza­tion rate.

“The ar­rows are headed in the right di­rec­tion,” Cuomo told re­porters.

The in­ten­sity of the cri­sis caught the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion by sur­prise, and by Wed­nes­day Trump and his top lieu­tenants were de­mand­ing the Se­nate quicken the pace and pass the leg­is­la­tion.

“We need to get this money into the Amer­i­can econ­omy and (to) Amer­i­can work­ers,” Trea­sury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.

Over half the U.S. pop­u­la­tion is now un­der some form of lock­down as au­thor­i­ties na­tion­wide seek to stem the out­breaks.

Birm­ing­ham, Alabama and Charlotte, North Carolina have be­come the lat­est ma­jor U.S. cities to or­der res­i­dents to stay in­doors.

Wall Street stocks closed mixed Wed­nes­day as the mar­kets awaited a vote on the res­cue pack­age, the third of its kind in the past month, but by far the largest.

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell has hailed the “wartime level of in­vest­ment” in the na­tion.

It dwarfs the bailouts of 2008, when a world­wide fi­nan­cial cri­sis sent the U.S. econ­omy into a tail­spin.

With in­fec­tions ris­ing, the Se­nate bill’s in­jec­tion for hos­pi­tals could be among the bill’s most ef­fec­tive el­e­ment in fight­ing the pan­demic, as it will help fa­cil­i­ties re­stock pro­tec­tive gear, in­ten­sive care beds and ven­ti­la­tors and other med­i­cal equip­ment.

AFP-Yon­hap

Work­ers and mem­bers of the Na­tional Guard build a makeshift morgue out­side of Belle­vue Hospi­tal in New York City, Wed­nes­day.

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