Americans warned Covid pandemic will worsen in coming weeks

Group of bipartisan politicians unveil $900bn Covid-19 stimulus proposal

A pedestrian wearing a protective mask carries shopping bags across Fifth Avenue in New York, U.S., on Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. With sparse crowds and none of the stampedes of holidays past, some retail watchers started to refer to Black Friday as Blase Friday instead -- and that was even before the virus hit. Photographer: Gabriela Bhaskar/Bloomberg
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Americans are urging legislators to pass a Covid-19 relief bill before Congress shuts down for the holidays.

Relief bill discussions have been tabled since the US election but on Tuesday, a group of more than a dozen bipartisan politicians unveiled a $908 billion stimulus proposal.

The bill would provide respite for Americans struggling with rising unemployment and a downturned economy, but it is unknown whether an agreement can be reached.

Previous iterations of the relief bill have been stalled by a deadlocked Congress, which could break for the rest of the year, placing more pressure on members to reach an agreement quickly.

The proposal includes about $300bn for small businesses, while state and local governments would receive about $240bn, including money for schools, Bloomberg reported.

Another $180bn would go to extending pandemic unemployment benefits, providing an extra $300 a week for four months.

Transport, including airlines, airports, transit and Amtrak, would receive $45bn in funding.

Vaccines, testing and tracing would receive $16bn and healthcare providers $35bn.

About $25bn would go to rental assistance, $26bn for nutrition and agriculture, $10bn for the US Postal Service, $10bn for child care, $10bn for broadband and $5bn for opioid treatment.

The proposal includes a short-term moratorium on Covid-19-related lawsuits.

The liability protection has been a contentious point during talks, with Democrats refusing the measure that would protect businesses from Covid-19 litigation.

The Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who have been the two main negotiators on stimulus packages, are expected to discuss the proposal on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump’s special adviser on the coronavirus pandemic, Dr Scott Atlas, formally resigned his post on Monday.

Dr Atlas, who was largely sceptical of safety measures and restrictions advised by public health officials, represented the hands-off approach the Trump administration has taken to a pandemic that has overwhelmed health systems in many US cities.

He is a Stanford University neuroradiologist, who had no formal experience in public health or infectious diseases.

Dr Atlas sparred with other members of the coronavirus task force, including Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Dr Deborah Birx.

Dr Fauci said the coming weeks could bring “a surge superimposed on the surge we are already in".

His comments follow the Thanksgiving holiday, for which Americans crossed the country to celebrate with family, giving airports their busiest weekend since March.

As a result, the Covid-19 pandemic in the US is expected to worsen in December, Dr Fauci said.

The US is struggling with the world's worst Covid-19 outbreak, with more than 14 million infections and 276,000 deaths.

“We're entering into what's really a precarious situation,” Dr Fauci said.

"I don't want to frighten people except to say it's not too late at all for us to do something about this."

In a call with state governors on Monday, Vice President Mike Pence hinted that the emergency vaccine approval process overseen by the Food and Drug Administration could happen quickly.

“We strongly believe the vaccine distribution process could begin the week of December 14,” Mr Pence told the governors.

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