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The Internal Revenue Service plans to send electronic payments April 9, as part of the $2 trillion coronavirus law, which is a week sooner than expected, according to a plan circulated internally on Wednesday.

But $30 million in paper checks for millions of other Americans won’t start being sent out until April 24, as the government lacks their banking information, some of which won’t reach people until September. The news comes as unemployment in the U.S. soars, with more than 10 million claims filed in March.

Here are some significant developments:

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3:49 a.m.
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‘Smoke and mirrors’: Critics lambast Navy hospital ship sent to New York for treating only 20 patients

Such were the choice words many on social media had Thursday for the U.S.N.S. Comfort, a much-hyped Navy ship sent to Manhattan to relieve the city’s overburdened hospitals as they grapple with the coronavirus.

Yet of 1,000 available beds aboard the vessel, the New York Times revealed, only three patients had actually been allowed onboard. Strict rules were meant to keep coronavirus patients — or people with one of 49 other medical conditions — from being treated onboard, where an outbreak could spread quickly.

Later in the afternoon, a spokeswoman for the Navy told the Times that more patients had been moved to the ship. But by then, it was too late to stem the criticism.

By late Thursday night, “it has 3 patients” was trending on Twitter, as critics emerged to lambaste the ship.

“So the Comfort, sent with such hoopla to NYC a few days ago, is taking care of all of three patients,” wrote political commentator Bill Kristol. “But not to worry! Navy brass is on the job!”

Some targeted President Trump, who had traveled to Norfolk to see the ship off. Others went after the Navy, which had on Thursday also removed the captain of a virus-stricken aircraft carrier.

“A floating metaphor for Trump’s handling of #Corona,” wrote Norm Eisen, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “In fact, for his presidency...no, make that his entire career...”

Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, pointed out that a nearly identical situation played out after Hurricane Maria. The Comfort, sent to relieve the U.S. territory’s hospitals, only treated a few patients daily.

“We know this story too well,” she tweeted. “This happened in Puerto Rico right after María. The exact same thing.”

2:56 a.m.
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Federal small business loan program faces rocky start as bankers pump the breaks

The day before the scheduled launch of the federal government’s massive new small business lending program, banks being tapped to dole out the money questioned whether it was ready to launch.

The $349 billion program, known as the Paycheck Protection Program, is a key element of the $2.2 trillion economic rescue package passed by Congress last week. Administration officials have said money from the emergency loan fund would start flowing to small businesses affected by the coronavirus outbreak Friday, delivering a sharply streamlined, same-day approval process unheard of in the history of federally backed small business lending.

But JPMorgan Chase, the country’s largest lender, said Thursday it did not expect to begin accepting applications for the program Friday, as scheduled. Other banks said they were accepting applications but didn’t expect to process or approve them until after the Treasury Department and Small Business Administration finalized rules for the program.

Some banking officials have warned that the abbreviated review process ― which allows borrowers to attest to their own eligibility without the government’s approval ― will make the program a magnet for fraud. Although the SBA will be able to audit lenders and borrowers later, it will fall primarily to private bankers to make decisions about who should receive taxpayer-backed loans.

Read more here.

1:35 a.m.
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‘I just don’t understand why we’re not doing that’: Fauci endorses nationwide stay-at-home orders

Anthony S. Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, said Thursday on CNN that he thinks the entire country should be under stay-at-home orders.

“If you look at what’s going on in this country, I just don’t understand why we’re not doing that,” he told the network’s Anderson Cooper. “We really should be.”

Cooper had asked Fauci, who’s quickly become a familiar face as he advises on the White House’s coronavirus response, if it makes sense to him that some states have yet to issue stay-at-home orders.

“I mean, whether there should be a federally mandated directive for that or not — I guess that’s more of a political question — but just scientifically, doesn’t everybody have to be on the same page with this stuff?” Anderson asked.

Fauci agreed, though he said he did not want to “get into” the “tension” between a federal mandate and states’ rights.

President Trump maintained at Thursday’s coronavirus task force briefing that he would leave the decision about stay-at-home orders up to the states, rather than issue a blanket national one. He argued that many states have issued such policies on their own and many have kept the spread of covid-19 low.

Deborah Birx, the doctor coordinating the task force, urged Americans Thursday to do more social distancing — to which Trump countered that Americans should be “thrilled” with how well most states had done at keeping their case counts down.

Fauci also said on CNN that it’s “not a bad idea” for people to wear face coverings in public, as the White House is expected to advise in a reversal. He said the issue is “being discussed really very actively” and will be on the coronavirus task force’s agenda Friday.

“We say six feet away from each other, but when you go out … there’s going to be times where unwittingly you’re going to be closer than that,” Fauci said, adding that covering to one’s face would protect others — especially since people without symptoms can transmit the virus.

12:56 a.m.
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White House coronavirus task force missing 50 percent of coronavirus testing data

Dr. Deborah Birx said Thursday that the White House coronavirus task force is missing about 50 percent of the data from coronavirus testing nationwide.

Birx, the response coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, said that while there have been 1.3 million tests administered, only 660,000 have been reported.

“The bill said you need to report and we are still not seeing 100 percent of the tests,” Birx said at Thursday’s news briefing. Vice President Pence had announced last week that all state and hospital labs were required by law to report their coronavirus test numbers to the CDC.

“We appreciate the groups that are reporting, [but] not everyone is reporting yet," Birx said. “... [but] what we are seeing finally is testing improving, more testing being done and still a high level of negative in states without hotspots, allowing them to do more of this surveillance and containment.”

12:54 a.m.
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Birx cautions against false sense of security from wearing a face covering

White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx cautioned Thursday that masks are no substitute for social distancing, as The Post reported that the White House is expected to urge Americans to begin wearing cloth masks or face coverings in public.

“The most important thing is the social distancing and washing your hands,” Birx said at the coronavirus task force briefing. “And we don’t want people to get an artificial sense of protection.”

President Trump said at the briefing that he does not expect any mandate to wear face coverings: “If people want to wear them, they can." Birx said later that when the advisory on the issue comes out, “it will be an additive piece … rather than saying this is a substitute for.”

Her words came as some state and local leaders have begun to issue their own guidance on face coverings — urging their use while grocery shopping, for example — while warning similarly against a false sense of security or taking much-needed medical-grade masks from health-care workers.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said at his Thursday news conference that statewide guidance issued Wednesday would not mandate mask-wearing in public in part because of concerns that would just intensify shortages.

“If individuals want to have face coverings that is a good thing and a preferable thing in addition to the physical distancing,” he said.

Earlier this week, CDC Director Robert Redfield confirmed in an interview with NPR that the agency’s guidance on mask-wearing was “being critically re-reviewed, to see if there’s potential additional value for individuals that are infected or individuals that may be asymptomatically infected.”

The World Health Organization, which has also not recommended masks for the general public, is also reconsidering its guidance, officials said.

12:50 a.m.
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Zaandam, Rotterdam cruise ships arrive at South Florida port with plan for most passengers to leave by Friday night

After spending more than two weeks searching for a port that would allow its passengers — some of whom are sick with the novel coronavirus — to disembark, Holland America Line’s Zaandam cruise ship pulled up late Thursday afternoon in Port Everglades, Fla.

It was accompanied by Rotterdam, a sister ship that took on hundreds of passengers last weekend off Panama. Between the two ships, 250 guests and crew have reported flu-like symptoms since March 22. Four people died on Zaandam, including two who tested positive for the coronavirus; nine people in total have confirmed cases, a Carnival executive said this week.

Thursday’s arrival followed days of negotiations, reluctance from Florida’s governor and intervention by President Trump — as well as intense pressure from those with loved ones or constituents on board and South Florida residents who wanted the vessels to find safe harbor in someone else’s backyard.

According to a plan that parent company Carnival Corp. worked out with a group of federal, state and local authorities, most passengers are expected to be off the ship by late Friday night. Priority to disembark on Thursday was going to 14 people in need of immediate care at local hospitals; the company paid for private ambulances to take them to the facilities in Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

Another 26 passengers were still showing symptoms, according to the repatriation plan, and will stay on the ship in isolation until they recover enough to travel.

“It’s all going to be done in ways that are not going to expose the people of Florida to any of the illnesses that may be on there,” Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) told Fox News Thursday. “Obviously you’ve got to be safe when you’re doing this stuff.”

Read more here.

11:55 p.m.
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Trump tests negative for coronavirus for second time

President Trump on April 2, announced that he had taken a second coronavirus test and that the results had come back negative for coronavirus infection. (Reuters)

The White House announced that Trump took a second coronavirus test and once again tested negative.

This was the new rapid test that is administered in about a minute and produces the results in about 15 minutes. It wasn’t clear exactly why Trump took the test; he suggested there wasn’t immediate concern, but that he took it just to try it out.

“I think I took it really out of curiosity to see how quickly it worked and fast it worked,” Trump said. “And it’s a lot easier. I’ve done both. And the second one is much more pleasant — I can tell you that. Much more pleasant.”

These speedier tests are not available to most Americans, but Trump said more of them are being made.

Deborah Birx said that right now the government is prioritizing “the presidential 15-minute test” in remote, rural areas without access to more sophisticated testing, like Indian reservations, and in places that require more surveillance, like nursing homes.

11:50 p.m.
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Navy removes captain who raised alarm about covid-19 on USS Theodore Roosevelt

The Navy on Thursday removed the captain of an aircraft carrier crippled by the coronavirus, two days after a blunt letter the officer wrote warning the service of the need to get more sailors off the vessel created a furor.

Navy Capt. Brett Crozier, the commanding officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, was relieved of command at the direction of acting Navy secretary Thomas Modly.

11:36 p.m.
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White House considering direct payments to hospitals to cover coronavirus treatments for uninsured Americans

Vice President Pence announced Thursday that the White House was considering direct payments to hospitals to cover coronavirus treatment costs for uninsured Americans.

Pence said the administration is considering using some of the $100 billion allocated for hospitals in the stimulus package to go toward the cost of treating the uninsured.

“We don’t want any American to worry about the cost of getting a test or the cost of getting treatment,” Pence said. “We’ve expanded coverage through Medicaid, we’ve expanded coverage through Medicare.”

“We will find a way to pay for your coronavirus treatment,” he said.

President Trump also reiterated Thursday at his briefing that he will not reopen HealthCare.gov, the website for the Affordable Care Act health plans, to help more Americans buy insurance during the coronavirus crisis. Instead, he said they are “doing better than that.”

“We are going to try to get a cash payment to the people and we are working out the mechanics of that with legislature,” Trump said. “We are going to try to get them cash payments because just opening it up doesn’t help as much.”

Pence said the proposal would be brought to Trump on Friday from the White House coronavirus task force, with an expected announcement also to occur Friday.

11:31 p.m.
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Resistance to stay-at-home orders remains widespread

A growing number of states and cities are restricting Americans’ movements in response to a fast-spreading pandemic likely to claim hundreds of thousands of lives worldwide.

But government and private-sector leaders across a large swath of the country remain defiant that the devastation unfolding in New York and other seemingly faraway cities should not curtail life in their own communities.

In some cases, skeptics have been slow to acknowledge the science behind the spread of the novel virus. In others, such as Florida, politicians took heed of demands from the business community, which lobbied DeSantis as recently as a Monday webinar to balance medical imperatives with economic needs. Elsewhere, adamance about local autonomy was pronounced. Some, meanwhile, maintained that it was religious authority that mattered.

11:27 p.m.
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Experts, Trump’s advisers doubt White House’s 240,000 deaths estimate

Leading disease forecasters, whose research the White House used to conclude 100,000 to 240,000 people will die nationwide from the coronavirus, were mystified when they saw the administration’s projection this week.

The experts said they don’t challenge the numbers’ validity but said they don’t know how the White House arrived at them.

White House officials have refused to explain how they generated the figure — a death toll bigger than the United States suffered in the Vietnam War or the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. They have not provided the underlying data so others can assess its reliability or provided long-term strategies to lower that death count.

11:17 p.m.
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Florida’s new stay-at-home orders do not restrict worship services. Local officials are pushing back.

With calls to take stronger action against the coronavirus mounting, Florida on Wednesday joined the majority of states ordering residents to stay at home.

But the statewide regulations have set off confusion and dismay among some local leaders who say they don’t go far enough. The governor placed no restrictions on worship services, a flash point as Tampa-area law enforcement brought charges against a megachurch pastor earlier this week.

“Our hospitals better get ready, that’s all I gotta say,” said Hillsborough County Commission Chairman Lesley Miller on a teleconference meeting Thursday, after the county’s lawyers concluded that they would no longer be able to mandate that worshipers stay six feet apart.

Hillsborough County is where the Rev. Rodney Howard-Browne stands accused of flouting social-distancing rules when hundreds flocked to the River at Tampa Bay Church this past weekend.

Then, at a Thursday news conference, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) seemed to back off a second executive order that had said his new rules would “supersede” any “conflicting” rules at the local level — the stipulation that had Hillsborough officials worried.

“What we’re doing is setting the floor, and they can’t go below the floor,” DeSantis clarified.

At the same time, DeSantis emphasized his support for continued worship services, saying churches could not be shut down but that local leaders could work with them on social distancing.

“In times like this, I think the service that [houses of worship] are performing is going to be very important for people,” DeSantis said, adding later, “The constitution doesn’t get suspended here.”

The governor’s office did not immediately respond to clarifying questions from The Washington Post on Thursday.

In a statement Thursday, Howard-Browne, the arrested pastor, said his congregation will not meet this Sunday “because of the publicity, the vitriol and death threats that have been directed at us and the church.”

But he said hasn’t decided what he will do for Easter — and will fight his “unlawful arrest.”

11:12 p.m.
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Trump uses Defense Production Act to compel 3M to provide more masks

In his second such announcement of the day, Trump said Thursday that he had again invoked the Defense Production Act, this time to compel 3M to provide more N95 face masks for use by medical workers in the United States.

“We have signed an element of the act against 3M, and hopefully they’ll be able to do what they are supposed to do,” Trump said.

Last week, Trump used the Korean War-era law to press General Motors to prioritize manufacturing ventilators to meet the demand from covid-19 patients.

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, who is overseeing the president’s DPA orders, said there had been issues with 3M making sure its products were coming back to the United States. He said the crisis has shown how dependent the United States is on the global supply chain for medical supplies.

“With that order … we’re going to resolve that issue with 3M probably by tomorrow, close of business, because we can’t afford to lose days or hours or even minutes in this crisis,” Navarro said.

The decision is especially noteworthy given how the Trump administration had been deferential to 3M, one of the nation’s largest mask manufacturers, as The Washington Post reported Thursday in a piece published hours before the president’s announcement. 3M did not immediately return a request for comment.

Vice President Pence visited the company’s headquarters in Minnesota on March 5, praising the company and its executives for their efforts to speed the production of masks for health-care workers. The White House also worked on the company’s behalf to resolve concerns it had over potential legal liability for repurposing industrial masks for use in health-care settings, including lobbying Congress for 3M.

But people in the health-care field criticized 3M, saying it was not getting the masks to the people who need them most. Andy Slavitt, a health-care expert who worked in the Obama administration, asked followers on Sunday to tweet 3M and “ask them how many of their masks are going to US medical community or other countries with shortages vs others? We can’t needlessly lose health care workers. They must make this public. And then change.”

Correction: A previous version of this post said this was the second time Trump invoked the Defense Production Act. It was the second time on Thursday. This post has been updated.

10:52 p.m.
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Trump sends scathing letter to Schumer, says senator should have had New York better prepared for pandemic

The White House late Thursday released a two-page letter Trump sent Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.) in which the president lashed out at the Democrat, calling him “missing in action,” railing against the “impeachment hoax” and saying the senator should have had New York better prepared for the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’ve known you for many years, but I never knew how bad a senator you are for the state of New York, until I became president,” Trump wrote.

Schumer spent more than a week negotiating with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on a $2 trillion emergency relief package that Trump signed into law on Friday.

Trump took issue with Schumer’s call earlier in the day for a military czar to oversee the production and distribution of medical equipment. Trump said Adm. John Polowczyk fills that role.