Agreement elusive on U.S. coronavirus relief as bipartisan group releases plan details

By Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Wednesday that lawmakers were still striving for agreement on COVID-19 aid, as a bipartisan group released details of their proposal and the U.S. House of Representatives prepared to vote on a one-week funding bill to provide more time for a deal.

With agreement elusive, the House was poised to vote on Wednesday afternoon on a measure to prevent federal programs from running out of money on Friday at midnight (0500 GMT on Saturday) by extending current funding levels until Dec. 18.

The move gives Congress seven more days to enact a broader, $1.4 trillion “omnibus” spending measure, to which congressional leaders hope to attach the long-awaited COVID-19 relief package – if they can reach a deal on both fronts.

The bipartisan group of lawmakers from the House and Senate released a summary of their $908 billion plan aimed at breaking the months-long stalemate between the parties over more coronavirus relief.

The proposal would extend for 16 weeks pandemic-related unemployment insurance programs due to expire at the end of the month. The measure would also provide an extra $300 a week in supplemental unemployment benefits for 16 weeks, from the end of December into April.

“We are literally on the five-yard line now,” said Democratic Representative Josh Gottheimer, a member of the bipartisan group. “We have no choice but to get this done.”

The summary said there was agreement in principle on two thorny issues: liability protections for businesses desired by Republicans and $160 billion in aid to state and local governments sought by Democrats. Lawmakers said they were still working on details.

On Tuesday evening, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin weighed in for the first time since before the November election, saying he had presented a $916 billion relief proposal to Pelosi that includes money for state and local governments and liability protections for businesses.

But Pelosi and Schumer said they viewed the bipartisan negotiations as the best hope for COVID-19 relief.

Other Democrats also reacted cautiously to Mnuchin’s proposal, asking why it lacked supplementary benefits for the unemployed while including direct checks of $600 for all individuals.

“How can anybody say that I’m gonna send another check to people that already have a paycheck and job, and not send anything to the unemployed? It doesn’t make any sense to me at all,” said Senator Joe Manchin, a member of the bipartisan group, told reporters.

After the vote Wednesday on the stopgap funding measure in the Democratic-run House, the Republican-led Senate is expected to follow by the end of the week, then send the measure to President Donald Trump to sign into law.

Congress approved $3 trillion in aid in the spring to mitigate the effects of shutdowns to curb the spread of the coronavirus, but legislators have not been able to agree on any additional help since.

The pandemic has roared back to levels surpassing those seen early in the crisis, with more than 200,000 new infections reported each day and fresh shutdowns in some areas. More than 287,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 so far, and millions have been thrown out of work.

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell, David Morgan and Richard Cowan; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall, Peter Cooney, Jonathan Oatis and Cynthia Osterman)

Airlines set to lose $157 billion amid worsening slump: IATA

By Laurence Frost

PARIS (Reuters) – Airlines are on course to lose a total $157 billion this year and next, their main global body warned on Tuesday, further downgrading its industry outlook in response to a second wave of coronavirus infections and shutdowns afflicting major markets.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), which in June had forecast $100 billion in losses for the two-year period, said it now projects a $118.5 billion deficit this year alone, and a further $38.7 billion for 2021.

The bleak outlook underscores challenges still facing the sector despite upbeat news on development of COVID-19 vaccines, whose global deployment will continue throughout next year.

“The positive impact it will have on the economy and air traffic will not happen massively before mid-2021,” IATA Director General Alexandre de Juniac told Reuters.

Passenger numbers are expected to drop to 1.8 billion this year from 4.5 billion in 2019, IATA estimates, and will recover only partially to 2.8 billion next year. Passenger revenue for 2020 is expected to have plunged 69% to $191 billion.

“That’s by far the biggest shock the industry has experienced in the post-World War Two years,” IATA Chief Economist Brian Pearce said.

The forecasts assume significant re-opening of borders by the middle of next year, helped by some combination of COVID-19 testing and vaccine deployment.

IATA reiterated its call for governments to replace travel-stifling quarantine regimes with widespread testing programs.

“We are seeing states progressively coming to listen to us,” de Juniac said, citing testing initiatives underway in France, Germany, Italy, Britain, the United States and Singapore.

While some governments and airlines such as Australia’s Qantas say passengers are likely to require vaccination for long-haul travel, the approach is unlikely to work everywhere, de Juniac said.

“It would prevent people who are refusing (the vaccine) from travelling,” the IATA chief said. “Systematic testing is even more critical to reopen borders than the vaccine.”

Air cargo, a rare bright spot for the industry as the grounding of flights pushes freight prices higher, will likely see global revenue rise 15% to $117.7 billion this year despite an 11.6% decline in volume to 54.2 million tonnes, IATA said.

Some $173 billion in government aid has left recipients with debts that threaten to hobble future investment, it warned, and more bankruptcies are likely. Norwegian Air became the latest casualty on Nov. 18, when it filed for bankruptcy protection in Ireland.

The average airline now has enough liquidity to survive another 8.5 months, while some have just weeks, Pearce said. “I think we will get consolidation through some airline failures.”

(Reporting by Laurence Frost; Additional reporting by Johnny Cotton; Editing by Mark Potter and David Evans)

Global luxury goods sales set for largest ever fall in Bain forecast

MILAN (Reuters) – Sales of luxury goods worldwide are set to fall by 23% to 217 billion euros ($258 billion) this year, their largest ever drop and first since 2009, due to the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, consultancy Bain said on Wednesday.

The expected decline, despite a strong sales recovery in China, is at the lower end of a 20% to 35% range which Bain’s closely followed industry forecast had predicted in May.

That is due to a bigger than expected rebound during the summer, when lockdown measures were lifted or eased across the world and stores selling high-end handbags, clothes, jewelry and watches were reopened.

However, a resurgence of the pandemic in Europe and the United States since October has led to new restrictions and shop closures while uncertainty linked to the U.S. elections also weighed on consumer sentiment.

The only bright spot is China, where sales have surged since it began to emerge from the health crisis in the spring. Sales in mainland China are seen growing by 45% at current exchange rates to 44 billion euros this year.

“We have a two-speed world, with Europe and the U.S. strongly hit by the second wave and by social and political uncertainty, while China is relentlessly accelerating day after day,” Federica Levato, a partner at Bain, said.

Fourth-quarter sales are expected to drop by 10%, although the decline could be bigger depending on how much the new shutdowns hit the crucial Christmas season.

Revenues for the likes of Louis Vuitton owner LVMH, Hermes and Prada should partly recover in 2021, although Bain says it will take until the end of 2022 or even 2023 to return to 2019 levels.

The coronavirus crisis has accelerated three trends, Bain said, with purchases online almost doubling from 12% in 2019 to 23% in 2020, and e-commerce set to become the leading channel for luxury purchases by 2025.

International travel curbs have led to people buying more in their home countries, while shoppers born from 1981 onwards now account for almost 60% of total purchases.

($1 = 0.8425 euros)

(Reporting by Silvia Aloisi and Claudia Cristoferi; Editing by Alexander Smith)

George Floyd protests recall earlier tensions, promises of economic change

By Howard Schneider

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – In November 2015, the shooting death of Jamar Clark by Minneapolis police touched off a debate on race and economic inequality that challenged the city’s progressive image and led local corporate leaders to back efforts at better sharing the spoils of a booming Midwestern state.

Five years later, the killing of George Floyd has reopened those wounds and highlighted a growing concern nationally: The last few years of economic growth saw gains for lower-income families, but any hope for a durable narrowing of economic gaps may have been short-circuited by the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent economic crash falling heavily on minorities.

Floyd’s death in police custody in Minneapolis last week may have been a catalyst for an anger that has spawned protests nationwide, but it was in effect the third major shock to hit in as many months, said Tawanna Black, chief executive of Minnesota’s Center for Economic Inclusion (CEI), a group that grew out of those corporate promises of five years ago.

Before the recent surge in joblessness, “we saw the employment gap closing rapidly,” Black said. But “you were connecting people to low-wage jobs, and now you have displaced them. … What I am hopeful of is that we not just solve for criminal justice, but what’s required to get economic and social justice.”

It is complex, to be sure. Tension over police treatment of blacks has simmered through good economic times and bad. But for the economy, the course of the pandemic and the financial fallout highlights how little has changed over a decade of growth that seemed to hold out at least the possibility of progress on narrowing racial economic divides.

Median family income growth finally started rising in 2015, but median family income for blacks remains about 61% that of whites. In Minneapolis, it is even lower at about 44%.

A 2009-2020 bull market for stocks and rising home values have done little to improve overall wealth among African Americans, who comprise around 13% of the U.S. population but account for 4.2% of household net worth, according to Federal Reserve data. The figure in 1989 was 3.8%.

For Hispanics, it is even worse, with more than 18% of the U.S. population holding just 3.1% of household wealth.

(Graphic: Race gaps persist – )

‘NO PROGRESS’

Both groups have suffered an outsized blow from layoffs triggered by business closures meant to control the spread of the coronavirus and the crash in demand among consumers holed up

at home.

According to federal data from February to April, Hispanic employment fell by more than 25%. For blacks, the figure was 17.6%, more modest but still above the 15.5% for whites.

It is part of a “last-hired, first-fired” dynamic familiar to labor economists and considered one of the reasons behind the lack of progress in narrowing wealth and income gaps. In this case, it is also driven by the skewed nature of the coronavirus economic shock, which hit hardest among lower-paid service jobs in the restaurant and hospitality industry where minorities form a larger share of the workforce.

The shock has been no different in Minnesota from in parts of the Deep South, according to a Reuters comparison of federal employment data by race alongside demographic information on unemployment claimants submitted by the state in April.

African Americans made up about 5.7% of Minnesota’s employed workforce in 2019 but more than 8% of those who filed for unemployment in April.

Still predominantly white, with a self-effacing culture captured by writer Garrison Keillor’s “Prairie Home Companion” former radio show, the demographics around Minneapolis, the state’s largest city, have shifted quickly in recent decades. It

has for example opened itself to refugees from Somalia. The city is now about 20% black and 10% Hispanic.

Minnesota’s rural areas voted heavily in 2016 for Republican Donald Trump, while the state as a whole went for Democrat Hillary Clinton owing to strong support in the Minneapolis area.

That city is also home to a healthy list of large U.S. companies, many of them homegrown national brands like Target Corp, that are known for their civic boosterism and support for efforts like the one spearheaded by CEI’s Black.

The question now is whether the dislocation caused by the coronavirus, rising joblessness and the death of Floyd prompts lasting change.

Those firms will be central to deciding the pace of the economic recovery, and the nature of the jobs available in the economy that emerges.

After the last recovery did so little to change wealth and income dynamics, and the coronavirus showed the gulf between workers who were buffered from the crisis and those who were not, Black said it was time to think about the nature of the labor market that will emerge from here.

Many of the jobs “will not come back. Do we train people for tech jobs? Automation-resilient jobs?” she said. Over the last decade, “we made no progress.”

(Reporting by Howard Schneider; Editing by Dan Burns and Peter Cooney)

Facing meat shortages, some Americans turn to hunting during pandemic

By Andrew Hay

TAOS, N.M. (Reuters) – David Elliot first thought of shooting an elk to help feed family and friends back in January when the United States reported its first novel coronavirus case.

Elliot, emergency manager at Holy Cross Hospital in Taos, New Mexico, had always wanted to go big-game hunting and, with the pandemic spreading, there seemed no better time to try to fill his freezer with free-range, super-lean meat.

So for the first time in his life, despite not owning a rifle or ever having hunted large animals, he put his name in for New Mexico’s annual elk permit draw.

With some U.S. meat processors halting operations as workers fall ill, companies warning of shortages, and people having more time on their hands and possibly less money due to shutdowns and layoffs, he is among a growing number of Americans turning to hunting for food, according to state data and hunting groups.

“I understand some people might be driven by like antlers or some sort of glory. I don’t want to do that,” said Elliot, 37, who received a prized permit to shoot a female elk in an area of Taos County where herds of the animal graze in vast plains studded with extinct volcanoes.

Elliot plans to borrow a rifle and maybe even a horse to carry the elk back to his vehicle after the hunt in November. “I want to make sure it’s a clean, humane shot, as much as possible, and get a bunch of food.”

Game and fish agencies from Minnesota to New Mexico have reported an increase in either hunting license sales, permit applications, or both this spring.

Indiana saw a 28% jump in turkey license sales during the first week of the season as hunters likely had more time to get out into the woods, said Marty Benson, a spokesman for the state’s Department of Natural Resources.

Firearm manufacturers have reported sales increases, and the FBI carried out 3.74 million background checks in March, a record for any month.

That followed a decline of 255,000 in the number of hunters between 2016 and 2020, based on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service license data, a 2% fall, as fewer young people took up the activity, hunting advocates say.

Hank Forester of Quality Deer Management Association expects a resurgence after many Americans saw empty meat shelves at the grocery store for the first time during March and April.

“People are starting to consider self-reliance and where their food comes from,” said Forester of the hunter research and training group. “We’re all born hunters.”

‘MENTAL CLEANSE’

Teachers Brian Van Nevel and Nathaniel Evans get up at 4 a.m. to try to be first into the forests around Taos to hunt wild turkey.

Evans, a middle-school teacher, has seen a lot more people stalking birds this year.

A town councilor as well, he is hunting not just for food but to reconnect with himself at a time when he is guiding Taos’ response to the pandemic as well as teaching online classes.

“Its been so important for me, being able to go out and kind of cleanse my mental card and just go and be present, you really have to be present, and quiet and listening,” said Evans, 38, who in April shot a 17-pound (7.7-kg) bird.

Some states such as Washington and Illinois closed state lands as the virus spread, prompting the National Rifle Association to lobby governors to keep them open to allow people to hunt for food.

Officials in Washington issued 10 poaching charges between March 25 and April 26 compared with three in the year-earlier period, the state’s Fish and Wildlife Department reported.

‘A GOOD IDEA’

Nina Stafford, 42, a building contractor from Fayetteville, Georgia, killed her first deer in January. She described the experience as “thrilling, exciting and remorseful for the deer.”

“The coronavirus has only made me want to go and do it more so that I don’t have that scared feeling of where’s my next meal going to come from,” said Stafford, who also grows vegetables and fruit.

To be sure, stocks of species like wild turkey can only sustain so many hunters. Wildlife ecologists Michael Chamberlain and Brett Collier fear the turkey’s existing population decline will steepen this spring.

Turkey hunter numbers in wildlife management areas in Georgia increased 47% this year from 2019, while turkeys killed during the first 23 days of the season rose 26%, despite no recent increase in bird numbers, the ecologists, respectively with the University of Georgia and Louisiana State University, wrote in a report, citing state department of natural resources preliminary data.

Not all states have reported an increase in hunting license applications, with both California and Florida seeing declines.

Still, big game such as deer could see similar pressure in the autumn as hunters have more time to max out “bag limits,” which in the case of Georgia is 12 animals, the ecologists said.

Elk hunts in most states are limited to a single animal per hunter who draws a permit in an annual lottery. Elliot sees no downside to paying $60 for a tag that could allow him to get close to 200 pounds (91 kg) of meat, if he can get a cow elk.

“It’s not just because what’s going on in the world right now. Frankly I don’t make that much money, so like this is just a good idea anyway,” said Elliot.

(Reporting by Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico; Editing by Bill Tarrant, Daniel Wallis and Peter Cooney)

Wary of public transport, coronavirus-hit Americans turn to bikes

By Timothy Aeppel

(Reuters) – Add fear to the list of reasons people ride bikes.

“I’m 51 and healthy, but I don’t want to get on the subway,” said John Donohue, a Brooklyn-based artist who bought a bike two weeks ago. Donohue, who doesn’t own a car, says he’s not sure when he’ll be comfortable on mass transit again.

The coronavirus pandemic has sparked a surge in bike sales across the United States, according to a major manufacturer and a half dozen retailers interviewed by Reuters.

Many of the purchases are by people looking for a way to get outside at a time of sweeping shutdowns and stay-at-home orders aimed at containing the virus: Even the worst affected states are allowing people out to exercise.

Still, a portion of the sales, especially in urban areas, are to people like Donohue who also want to avoid the risk of contagion on buses or subways.

He plans to use his new 24-gear hybrid for journeys such as regular visits to a printing shop across town that he normally travels to by subway. A key feature, he said, was the bright red panniers he added to carry his artwork.

To be sure, bikes remain well down the list of U.S. commuting preferences.

About 870,000 Americans, on average, commuted to work by bicycle in the five years through 2017, or about 0.6% of all workers, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The rate was higher in urban areas, at about 1.1%, and about 20 cities with at least 60,000 residents had rates of about 5% or more.

A more recent survey, though, showed a higher percentage of U.S. workers using a bike to get to work. Private research firm Statista Inc.’s 2019 survey showed 5% rode their own bike, while another 1% used a bike share service, an increasingly common option in larger cities.

RUNNING OUT OF STOCK

The government has declared bicycles an essential transportation item, so many bike shops remain open despite the widespread business shutdown. Many, though, have modified how they operate, no longer letting buyers test bikes and handing them over on the curb rather than inside the store.

According to the National Bicycle Dealers Association, roughly three-quarters of U.S. bike sales are through big box stores. While many of the outlets of large specialty sporting goods chains are closed, general merchandisers like WalMart Stores Inc, the largest seller of bikes, remain open. Walmart did not respond to a request for comment.

Kent International Inc., which imports bikes from China and also makes them at a plant in South Carolina, said sales of its low-priced bikes had surged over the past month.

Kent is already out of stock on five of its top 20 models and expects that to rise to 10 by the end of the month, chief executive and chairman Arnold Kamler said. He noted supplies were flowing in from China, which has reopened much of its manufacturing base over the past month.

Kamler said sales at most of the major retailers he supplies were up 30% last month and are up over 50% so far in April, with the surge in demand forcing him to change shipping arrangements.

He normally imports bikes to ports on both the East and West Coasts. But with many retailers asking for more bikes, he’s now directing all shipments into West Coast ports, then transporting them across the country. That adds to freight costs, he said, but can cut weeks off delivery times.

LOW PRICES

Mark Vautour, who manages a bike store near the Boston University campus, said he had sold bikes to anxious commuters – including at least one medical worker who wanted an alternative to using the subway.

“We’ve joked for years that trains are like a petri dish,” Vautour said.

Mostly, though, his sales have been children’s bikes, “because parents don’t know what to do with their kids.”

One indication that people are buying bikes for more utilitarian uses like commuting is that many of the purchases are low-priced bikes, several bike retailers said.

Joe Nocella, owner of 718 Cyclery & Outdoors in Brooklyn, said his normal “sweet spot” was bikes that sell for $1,500 to $2,000, used by city dwellers for touring.

“Now the average bike has turned to $500 to $800,” he said.

Those lower prices are one reason many bike retailers are struggling, despite strong sales.

Andrew Crooks, chief executive of NYC Velo, a three-store chain in the New York area, said the drop in average selling prices meant revenues had fallen at a time when he was still paying rents, salaries and other costs.

“So we could keep our doors open and still end up with a business that’s not viable,” he said.

Still, some new buyers say they are switching to bikes for the long term.

Having been stuck at home in Baltimore, Kaitlyn Lee bought a $550 bike this weekend so she could get outdoors safely and avoid public transport when she gets a job.

Lee will finish a graduate degree in public health at the University of Maryland this spring and has applied for jobs at the Centers for Disease Control and the Health Resources and Services Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Her plan is to commute by bike to a future job, if possible.

“I mean, it’ll never completely vanish,” she said of the coronavirus. “Rather we will learn how to live alongside of it, just like with other viruses.”

(Reporting by Tim Aeppel; Editing by Dan Burns and Mark Potter)

Factbox: Retailers close stores around globe to curb coronavirus spread

Factbox: Retailers close stores around globe to curb coronavirus spread
(Reuters) – Retailers have been closing stores around the globe to reduce the risk of transmission of the coronavirus, which has killed over 6,500 and infected more than 174,000 while disrupting supply and production chains.

AB FOODS

The British diversified food processing and retailing company shut 74 of its Primark fashion stores across Italy, France, Spain and Austria in mid-March.

APPLE

Apple said on March 14 it is closing all its retail stores, except those in Greater China, for two weeks.

FNAC DARTY SA

The France-based retailer of cultural, leisure and technological products closed all its stores in Spain starting from March 14.

GAP INC

Clothes retailer said on March it was temporarily reducing store hours for all U.S. and Canadian locations, and closing over 100 stores.

H&M

The world’s second-biggest fashion retailer said in mid-March it was temporarily closing stores in 12 more markets, as it reported a 24% quarterly sales slump in China.

INDITEX

Zara owner Inditex temporarily closed its stores in Spain from March 14, Europa Press said, citing company sources.

IKEA

Ikea said on March 12 it would temporarily close its stores and shopping centers in Italy.

KINGFISHER

The home improvement group has closed its 221 Castorama and Brico Dépôt stores in France until April 14, while its 28 stores in Spain have also shut until March 29.

LULULEMON

The sportswear company closed its stores in North America and Europe from March 16 until March 27.

NIKE INC

The U.S. maker of athletic footwear and accessories will close all of its stores across the U.S., Canada, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand by March 27, it said on March 15.

PANDORA

The Danish jeweler said in early March it had shut 30 of its 148 shops in Italy, its third largest single market.

T-MOBILE US INC

The company said it would temporary close stores located in a shopping mall starting March 16.

UNDER ARMOUR

Under Armour shuttered all North America stores from March 16 for about two weeks.

URBAN OUTFITTERS <URBN.O>

The apparel retailer which owns brands including Anthropologie and Free People, closed all its stores worldwide until at least March 28.

VERIZON COMMUNICATIONS INC

The company temporarily closed a number of its U.S. stores to expand its work from home policy to some of its retail employees.

VF CORP

North Face owner closed all owned retail stores across North America from March 16 to April 5.

(Reporting by Sarah Morland and Zuzanna Szymanska in Gdansk; editing by Josephine Mason)

Life upended for Americans as U.S. scrambles to contain coronavirus threat

By Jonathan Allen and Steve Holland

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – From Disneyland to the U.S. Supreme Court, from Wall Street to Dodgers Stadium, nearly every facet of American life fell into turmoil on Thursday as the coronavirus outbreak caused sweeping closures and economic disruption.

As concern grew over a rapid spread of the sometimes-fatal COVID-19 respiratory illness caused by the virus, the U.S. stock market cratered anew, professional and college sports leagues suspended play, Broadway theaters went dark and many schools from Ohio to Texas shuttered.

The unprecedented cascade of shutdowns reflected growing fears that the outbreak of the highly contagious pathogen, which has already killed at least 40 people in the United States, could race out of control unless authorities squelch large public gatherings.

As companies locked their offices and sent employees to work from home, fears of a recession rose in step with the number of U.S. infections, which jumped to more than 1,300 on Thursday. The concerns were reflected in U.S. stock markets, with major indexes now in bear-market territory – down at least 20% from their recent high.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a state of emergency, granting him new powers as the number of confirmed cases rose to 95 in the nation’s most populous city.

“We are getting into a situation where the only analogy is war and a wartime dynamic,” de Blasio said, referring to an expected surge in demand for hospital beds.

From California to New York, officials banned large gatherings and closed museums and other institutions without saying how long the directives would stay in place, compounding the uncertainty.

After the Trump administration imposed sweeping restrictions on air travel between the United States and Europe, Gabriella Ribeiro, a Wayne, New Jersey-based travel consultant, said she was fielding a flood of panicked calls from customers.

“We call it the ‘C’ word,” Ribeiro said of coronavirus. “We’ve been through Ebola and SARS, but I haven’t seen this level of panic among travelers since 9/11.”

CANCELED: MARCH MADNESS AND BASEBALL

With cancellations hitting everything from Little League baseball to school fairs, the rituals of American life started to grind to a halt.

The NCAA canceled its annual “March Madness” college basketball tournament. Professional hockey and basketball seasons were halted indefinitely. Major League Baseball ended spring training and suspended the first two weeks of the season.

“Opening day is religion around here,” said Frank Buscemi, a self-described sports junkie and Detroit Tigers baseball fan. “It makes sense, and you’ve got to err on the side of caution – we get that. It doesn’t make it any easier and it doesn’t make it any more fun.”

Officials in hard-hit areas, including New York and Washington states, sought to balance the need to protect the public without crippling economic activity.

New York state banned gatherings of more than 500 people beginning on Friday, Governor Andrew Cuomo told reporters. California placed the cap at gatherings of 250 people.

Hollywood postponed the release of several movies and theaters around the world closed over the health crisis.

The Walt Disney Company shuttered their large U.S. properties, including Disneyland in California and Disney World in Florida.

In Washington, D.C., officials closed the U.S. Capitol complex to the public after a staffer for a senator from Washington state tested positive for the coronavirus. [L1N2B50S4] The Supreme Court closed to the public indefinitely, and the Kennedy Center canceled all performances.

Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks and at least one player in the National Basketball Association announced that they had tested positive for the coronavirus.

“WE’RE NOT SET UP”

The patchwork of state and local directives to stem the tide of infections came as U.S. health officials struggled to expand the country’s limited testing capacity.

“The system is not really geared to what we need right now,” Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. official on infectious diseases, said at a congressional hearing. “The idea of anybody getting it (testing) easily the way people in other countries are doing it, we’re not set up for that.”

Two U.S. senators, Rick Scott and Lindsey Graham, opted for self-quarantine after interacting with a delegation led by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in Florida. One of Bolsonaro’s team has tested positive for the virus.

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence also met the Brazilian delegation, but White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said both of them had “almost no interactions with the individual who tested positive and do not require being tested at this time.”

Republicans initially balked at a sweeping coronavirus economic aid package crafted by Democrats in the House of Representatives. After a day-long negotiating session, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said late Thursday that they were close to a deal with the administration.

The Senate canceled a scheduled recess and will return next week to work on legislation.

The Trump administration spelled out details of new rules on U.S. citizens and permanent residents’ returning from Europe under restrictions that ban most Europeans from entering the United States.

“Americans coming home will be funneled through 13 different airports, they’ll be screened, and then we’re going to ask every single American and legal resident returning to the United States to self-quarantine for 14 days,” Pence said.

Trump defended his decision, which goes into effect at midnight on Friday and lasts for 30 days. He said the ban could be lengthened or shortened.

The restrictions will heap pressure on airlines already reeling from the pandemic, hitting European carriers the hardest, analysts said.

American Airlines Inc <AAL.O> and Delta Air Lines Inc <DAL.N> said they were capping fares for U.S.-bound flights from Europe amid reports of exorbitant pricing as U.S. citizens flocked to European airports trying to return home.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen and Steve Holland; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey, Lisa Lambert, Patricia Zengerle, David Morgan and Richard Cowan in Washington and Maria Caspani, Michael Erman and Dan Burns in New York, Steve Gorman in Culver City, California; Writing by Ginger Gibson and Paul Simao; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall, Cynthia Osterman, Leslie Adler and Daniel Wallis)