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Financial catastrophe looms for state and local governments

The impact of the fiscal crisis "will be even worse than the Great Recession — by a factor of at least two," warned one mayor.
Image: Las Vegas Strip
The Las Vegas Strip is deserted as casinos and other business are closed because of the coronavirus outbreak, on April 14, 2020.John Locher / AP

This live coverage has now ended. Continue reading April 23 coronavirus news.

State and municipal governments across the country are clamoring for the federal government to rescue them from what could quickly become a fiscal catastrophe, saying that they may need as much as three quarters of a trillion dollars as the coronavirus pandemic dries up many of their revenue sources.

Without the help, these governments will need to lay off or furlough workers, reduce benefits, cancel projects, defer construction and maintenance and more. The impact of the fiscal crisis "will be even worse than the Great Recession — by a factor of at least two," warned Nan Whaley, the mayor of Dayton, Ohio.

But state and local governments like Dayton's will have to wait until at least May before Congress considers further economic relief, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated. The House is set to vote Thursday on an interim round of coronavirus aid aimed at small businesses, and while Democrats sought to include roughly $150 billion in funding to shore up state and local budgets, the money didn't make it into the final bill because of objections from Republicans and the Trump administration.

Here's what to know about the coronavirus, plus a timeline of the most critical moments:

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NYC expanding testing, prioritizing residents in public housing, mayor says

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday said that as part of a plan to greatly expand testing for the coronavirus in the city, six new test sites will open in the next few days that will prioritize the approximately 400,000 residents in public housing. 

De Blasio said masks will also be provided to residents in the New York City Housing Authority, the nation’s largest public-housing system, and hand sanitizers will be given to those who are elderly.

Pelosi says Trump gets an 'F' on coronavirus: 'Delay, denial, death'

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., excoriated President Donald Trump Wednesday morning for what she called his lack of preparation and poor handling of coronavirus testing across the country.

Pelosi said in an interview with MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that "if you do not test, you cannot possibly know the size of the challenge," which she said is why testing is the key to reopening the U.S. economy.

"For our seniors in nursing homes and the rest, as you say, there's a big toll being taken there. But if we can test and contact and isolate people, we're on a very much better path," Pelosi said. "There's a Boy Scout saying, 'Proper preparation prevents poor performance.' Well, that is exactly where the president gets an F."

"He was not properly prepared, not with the truth, with the facts, or the admission of what was happening in our country — delay, whatever, delay, denial, death," she added. "And instead we'd like to see him insist on the truth and we must insist on the truth with him."

Read the full story here.

Trump to sign executive order limiting immigration due to coronavirus

President Donald Trump said in a tweet Wednesday morning that he would formally sign an executive order later in the day limiting immigration to the U.S. for the next 60 days due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump first tweeted about the order Monday night, vowing to "temporarily suspend immigration," and unveiled some details of the plan Tuesday.

He said his order would "pause" issuing green cards — a mandatory steppingstone to citizenship — for 60 days and would then revisit the policy depending on economic conditions.

Read the full story here.

NYC Fourth of July fireworks will go on in some fashion, mayor says

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday that he is working with Macy's, the sponsor of New York City's annual Fourth of July fireworks show, to find a safe way to celebrate the holiday. 

"We don't know exactly what it's going to look like yet," de Blasio said in a video he tweeted Wednesday morning. "There's a lot of things we're going to have to work through. But what we know for sure is, this wonderful show will go on."

The mayor announced this week the cancellation of June's Celebrate Israel and Puerto Rican Day parades as well as the Pride March for the first time in that event's half-century history.

Fire officials warn against microwaving masks to sterilize them

Fire departments around the country are warning people not to microwave their face masks to sterilize them, saying it will likely cause a fire. 

"There is a troubling trend in which people are microwaving masks in an effort to kill the germs. A lot of people don't know that there is metal inside the mask to help you shape it to your nose. Microwaving a mask could cause your microwave to catch fire!" said a statement from the fire department in Reading, Massachusetts.

In Tennessee, the Greeneville/Greene County, Tennessee, Office of Emergency Management also begged; "Please do NOT microwave your hand made masks."

Fire officials in Fairfax, Virginia; White County, Georgia; La Plata, Maryland; and the New Hampshire State Fire Marshal's Office also shared pictures of scorched masks, and warned people against the dangerous practice.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends cleaning cloth masks in a washing machine. 

Tackle pandemic and climate change together, Thunberg urges on Earth Day

The world needs to tackle the coronavirus pandemic and the climate crisis together, Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg said Wednesday. Speaking at an online Earth Day event, the teen activist emphasized that actions taken to tackle the pandemic did not mean the climate crisis had gone away. 

"Today is Earth Day and that reminds us that climate and the environmental emergency is still ongoing," she said, before stressing that the pandemic made it clearer than ever that we need to "listen to scientists and other experts." 

In a separate streamed event, the World Meteorological Organization urged the world to show the same "solidarity and science" demonstrated in fighting the pandemic to tackle the climate crisis.

Russian student returns home after four days in German airport

A student from Russia was forced to sleep in a transit terminal at Frankfurt Airport in Germany for four days due to coronavirus travel bans, a Federal Police official told NBC News on Wednesday.

The male student returned to his native Russia Tuesday night as a passenger on a freight plane after trying to enter Germany to take up a place at a university in Berlin. He had previously tried to enter the country in Berlin on March 20, but was turned away because of coronavirus restrictions, officials said.

"Anyone who travels to foreign countries at this time risks getting stuck at an airport," the police official said, adding that the transit area had showers, toilets, food facilities and some field beds, which were made available by the airline. Both Russia and Germany have flight restrictions in place to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Britain's lawmakers hold weekly Prime Minister's Questions on Zoom

Lawmakers in the U.K. made history on Wednesday, taking part in the first ever virtual Prime Minister's Questions — minus the usual loud jeering heard in the House of Commons. The coronavirus pandemic meant that no more than 50 members of parliament could sit in the chamber at one time, and tape was placed on the floor to help with social distancing. TV screens were installed to allow up to 120 external lawmakers to take part in the debates.

Lawmakers shared images of their new work-from-home reality, involving hastily rigged iPad stands, Zoom chatrooms, and in the case of Labour politician Andrew Gwynne, a much younger visitor.

Foreign Minister Dominic Raab stood in for Boris Johnson, who was still recovering following his hospitalization for coronavirus on earlier this month. Raab faced off against the new Labour Party leader, Sir Keir Starmer, who used his first PMQs to question the government on the rate of testing in the U.K.

NBC News' Richard Engel on today's coronavirus headlines

Companies give Yemen tens of thousands of test kits to ease shortage

A group of multinational companies said on Wednesday it was donating tens of thousands of coronavirus test kits and medical equipment to Yemen, where a five-year war has destroyed the health system and left millions vulnerable to disease.

Yemen, which has very limited testing capabilities, has reported only one laboratory-confirmed case of the novel coronavirus, announced on April 10. The United Nations and aid groups have warned of a catastrophic outbreak should the disease spread among an acutely malnourished population.

The International Initiative on COVID-19 in Yemen said in a statement that its first 34-ton shipment would reach Yemen next week and contained virus collection kits, rapid test kits, and other equipment, which the United Nations will distribute.

London Fashion Week moves online

London Fashion Week will shift online in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, the British Fashion Council said Tuesday. Taking on a new form as a digital-only event, it will run online from June 12 and it will be accessible to both trade and consumer audiences. 

"The current pandemic is leading us all to reflect more poignantly on the society we live in," said Caroline Rush, British Fashion Council's chief executive. "By creating a cultural fashion week platform, we are adapting digital innovation to best fit our needs today and something to build on as a global showcase for the future."  

The event, which will feature both men's and women's fashion, will offer content from designers as well as podcasts, webinars and digital showrooms, the organizers said.