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

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
SUBSCRIBE

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:

Download the NBC News app for latest updates on the coronavirus outbreak.

U.S. death toll could rise by 100,000 if jail populations aren't reduced, ACLU says

The coronavirus could kill 100,000 more Americans than current projections show if its spread in jails is not curbed by freeing more inmates, according to a new model released Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union and academic research partners.

The group is advocating for a substantial reduction in jail populations across the country following reports of increasing rates of COVID-19 among inmates, and believes that recent models being used by the federal government that show fewer than 100,000 U.S. fatalities don't accurately account for the spread of the virus in jails.

"We are likely facing massive loss of life — both in jails and in communities around the country — if dramatic steps aren't taken to reduce the incarcerated population in this country," Udi Ofer, director of the ACLU's Justice Division, said in a statement.

The ACLU's model, done in partnership with university researchers from Washington state, Pennsylvania and Tennessee, also found that states that have begun to reduce jail populations are "quantifiably saving lives."

Tyson Foods suspends its largest pork plant amid Iowa outbreak

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Tyson Foods suspended operations Wednesday at an Iowa plant that is critical to the nation's pork supply but had been devastated by a growing coronavirus outbreak.

The company said that the indefinite closure of the Waterloo, Iowa, pork plant would deny a vital market to hog farmers and further disrupt the nation's meat supply. Tyson had kept the facility, its largest pork plant, open in recent days over the objections of the mayor and local elected officials.

More than 180 infections had been linked to the plant earlier this week and officials expect that number to dramatically rise. The company said that mass testing of its 2,800 workers would begin later this week.

Read the full story here.

Protesters hold drive-in rally to voice support for reopening Virginia

Senators call on HHS, FEMA watchdogs to investigate administration's COVID-19 response

A group of 10 Democratic senators is calling on the inspectors general for the Department of Health and Human Services and FEMA to investigate the Trump administration's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“This obfuscation underscores the need for clarity as to how decisions regarding the seizure and redistribution of supplies are being made, and whether or not they are tainted with political interference," the senators wrote in a letter to the watchdogs on Tuesday. 

The letter was signed by Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Tom Udall of New Mexico, Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Ron Wyden of Oregon, Kamala Harris of California, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland. 

Several of the senators also sent a separate letter to the accountability committee established by the last major coronavirus relief package to oversee the pandemic response, calling on it "to investigate the partisan and political nature of the White House's actions."

“Americans should not have to wonder whether their lives are being put at risk by the President's concern for his political prospects amidst a public health and economic calamity,” they wrote.

'Health Force' would recruit Americans into careers fighting coronavirus

In the United States' effort to stomp out the spread of the coronavirus, two Democratic senators are taking a cue from a national program launched during the Great Depression to galvanize today's workforce.

Proposed legislation announced Wednesday by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Michael Bennet, D-Colo., would create a "Health Force" that would recruit, train and employ Americans — ideally, pulling from among the millions now unemployed during the pandemic — into public health and health care careers.

The senators said the bill is a nod to the Works Progress Administration, or WPA, which was created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935 and put millions of Americans to work building roads, schools, water lines and other infrastructure.

Read more on this story here.

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.