CORONAVIRUS UPDATE… The number of deaths in the U.S. due to the coronavirus rose to at least 928 yesterday as 223 fatalities were reported. More than 65,000 Americans have now tested positive test for the virus, with nearly half in New York. Medical experts expect the numbers will rise dramatically as more tests are administered and analyzed.
SENATE APPROVES STIMULUS PACKAGE… The Senate voted unanimously last night to approve a $2 trillion stimulus package aimed at providing relief from the coronavirus pandemic. The largest emergency aid package in U.S. history is now heading to the House for a vote. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer indicated yesterday that the House will begin considering the relief package at 9 a.m. tomorrow. The Senate proposal includes $250 billion for direct payments to individuals and families, $350 billion for small business loans, $250 billion for unemployment insurance benefits and $500 billion in loans for distressed companies.
TRAVEL HALTED FOR U.S. TROOPS… Defense Secretary Mark Esper has ordered a halt to travel for 60 days for all U.S. troops, their families and civilian employee to limit the spread of coronavirus. The move will affect 90,000 troops scheduled for deployment, according to the Pentagon. Exceptions will be made for medical purposes and for those aboard ships that are deployed for 14 days. In addition, it will not affect the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.
JUDGE ISSUES ORDER OVER DAKOTA ACCESS PIPELINE… A federal judge yesterday ordered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a full environmental review of the Dakota Access pipeline. The order comes nearly three years after the controversial pipeline began carrying oil. U.S. District Judge James Boasberg wrote that a more extensive review is necessary than the environmental assessment that was done. Boasberg ordered both parties to submit briefs on whether the pipeline should continue operating during the period of the new environmental review.
AMERICAN HOSTAGE IN IRAN DEAD… The family of retired Drug Enforcement Agency and FBI agent, private investigator and part-time CIA consultant Robert Levinson announced that he has died after being held hostage in Iran. Family members said they made the announcement based on information received from U.S. officials. Levinson had traveled to Kish Island, Iran, in 2007 to investigate cigarette smuggling and was meeting with U.S. fugitive Dawud Salahuddin when Iranian security officials detained them both. Salahuddin later said he never again saw Levinson after they were released. In 2014, Levinson’s family filed suit against Iran.
TONY AWARDS POSTPONED… The Tony Awards has become the latest cultural event to be postponed due to the coronavirus. The awards ceremony was scheduled to air live on CBS on Sunday, June 7, from New York City. The show will be rescheduled, but a new date will not be determined until Broadway reopens.
ELTON JOHN TO HOST LIVING-ROOM CONCERT… Elton John has signed on to host a living-room concert for coronavirus relief special broadcast this Sunday. Billie Eilish, Mariah Carey, Billie Joe Armstrong and Alicia Keys are among performers who have agreed to take part in delivering at-home performances. Each performance was filmed using the artists’ personal cell phones, cameras and audio equipment. The hour-long iHeart Living Room Concert for America will air commercial-free on Fox.
BASEBALL PLANS COMEBACK… Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said during an ESPN interview yesterday that “nothing’s off the table” in terms of plans to return. Manfred said he’s hopeful the sport can begin preparing for a season at some point in May but there’s no way of knowing for certain when the sport will return. For the past couple weeks, MLB executives and the MLB Players Association have exchanged proposals over salary and service-time issues, as well as the proper way to return.
NFL PLAYER TRACKER (source: ESPN)
The Dallas Cowboys have agreed to a one-year deal with tight end Blake Bell.
The Kansas City Chiefs have re-signed defensive tackle Mike Pennel and fullback Anthony Sherman to one-year deals.
The Minnesota Vikings have signed free-agent wide receiver Tajae Sharpe to a one-year contract.
The New York Jets have agreed to terms with former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Patrick Onwuasor on a one-year contract.
The Philadelphia Eagles have agreed to a one-year deal with Cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman.
The Pittsburgh Steelers signed defensive tackle Cavon Walker, offensive tackle Jarron Jones and safety Tyree Kinnel from the XFL yesterday.
The Washington Redskins have agreed to terms with wide receiver Cody Latimer. Details were not announced.