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The White House and congressional leaders from both parties reached a $2 trillion stimulus deal early Wednesday that will include direct payments to most Americans and an unprecedented amount of money to small businesses that have been pushed to the brink amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we are done. We have a deal,” White House legislative affairs director Eric Ueland told reporters around 1 a.m.

Later, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters: “We have bipartisan agreement on the largest rescue package in history.”

The unprecedented economic relief bill would give direct payments to most Americans, expand unemployment benefits and provide a $367 billion program for small businesses to keep making payroll while workers are forced to stay home.

Full details of the stimulus bill are expected later Wednesday.

The agreement caps five days of negotiations.

The deal also comes after President Donald Trump said he hoped to “open up” the nation as soon as Easter, which is April 12. “Our country has to get back to work,” Trump said.

Still, the 2020 Summer Olympics were officially postponed, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned of a dire situation that’s about to consume the city and experts said ending social distancing measures early could have significant lethal consequences.

Confirmed cases in America, now over 55,200, have been climbing at an exponential rate — especially in New York — and more are expected as the U.S. increases testing. Globally, almost 19,000 people have been killed by the virus according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard.

The U.S. death toll was at 802 early Wednesday after eclipsing 600 on Tuesday.

Our live blog is being updated throughout the day. Refresh for the latest news. More headlines:

As colleges send students home, Liberty University invites them back

Most of them won’t attend classes in person, but thousands of Liberty University students will return to the evangelical Virginia campus amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Most of the students are not at-risk because of their age, President Jerry Falwell Jr. argued in an interview with the News and Advance in Lynchburg. The president of the private, Christian college is a prominent supporter of President Donald Trump. 

Liberty’s move is remarkable as the coronavirus spreads across the United States. Hundreds of universities have closed their campuses and asked students to leave crowded dorms. Some have allowed students who can’t move back home – international students or those without secure housing – but most campuses are becoming emptier, not fuller. 

– Chris Quintana

Fever charting shows social distancing is slowing the spread of coronavirus

Early evidence suggests closing bars, restaurants and other businesses to keep people apart in places including New York City, has slowed the incidence of fevers that are an early indicator of coronavirus, according to a new analysis of fevers and symptoms across the U.S.

Data from health technology company Kinsa, which did the analysis using its digital thermometers, show the number of people with flu-like illness — atypical fever and symptoms — began dropping almost immediately after mandatory social distancing measures were implemented in some areas.

The company downloads fever readings from more than 1 million thermometers in use around the U.S. It predicted the 2018 spread of the flu and bad colds that were often mistaken for the flu last winter.

“When you shut down schools and businesses, you are breaking the chain of infections,” said Kinsa CEO Inder Singh. “The data are showing it is working and the clusters of fever we were seeing are leveling off and diminishing within days.”

– Jayne O’Donnell

Following Dow Jones’ historic surge, Asian stocks jump on Wednesday

Shares advanced in Asia on Wednesday after the Dow Jones Industrial Average surged to its best day since 1933 as Congress and the White House neared a deal on injecting nearly $2 trillion of aid into an economy ravaged by the coronavirus.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index jumped 5.3%, while Hong Kong added 3% and Sydney climbed 3.6%. Markets across Asia were all up more than 2%.

Tokyo share prices were boosted by the decision to postpone the 2020 Olympics to July 2021 in view of the coronavirus pandemic, which has brought travel almost to a standstill and is leaving many millions of people ordered to stay home to help contain the outbreaks.

That followed a stunning 11.4% surge in the Dow overnight. The more closely followed S&P 500 index leaped 9.4% as a wave of buying around the world interrupted what has been a brutal month of nearly nonstop selling.

Been in New York recently? Plan to self-quarantine, White House says

Members of the coronavirus task force are advising anybody who has been in the New York metropolitan area recently to self-quarantine for two weeks to avoid spreading the virus.

Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said recent visitors may have been exposed to the virus and should take measures to avoid infecting others.

“This will be very critical, that those individuals do self-quarantine in their homes over these next 14 days to make sure they don’t pass the virus to others based on the time they left New York,” Birx said. “So if they are four days out, it is just 10 more days.”

That applies not only to New York tourists but also to those who live there and have left recently, perhaps to get away from the U.S. epicenter of the pandemic.

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said people in the New York City metro area have been infected at a rate eight to 10 times higher than elsewhere.

– Erick A. Smith

NYU will graduate medical students early, put more doctors in field

New York University will offer senior medical students an opportunity to graduate a few months early — provided they’ve met all their requirements and have all their credits — to put more doctors in the field to fight the coronavirus.

Students were told Tuesday night via email that details were still being worked out, but that they might be able to start working as soon as April.

NYU’s Grossman School of Medicine has made the offer to students “in response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s directive to get more physicians into the health system more quickly,” the school said in a statement, according to media reports.

New York state could be just two weeks from seeing 40,000 patients requiring intensive care in facilities equipped for only 3,000, Cuomo warned.

“We are not slowing it. And it is accelerating on its own,” he said in New York City. “We are now looking at a bullet train.”

– Lindsay Schnell

More coronavirus news, tips and information from USA TODAY:

Ending social distancing early could cost millions of lives, expert says

Dr. Tom Inglesby, director of the Center for Health Security of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, warned in a series of tweets that curbing social distancing could cost millions of lives. Inglesby said the U.S has been seeing exponential growth in coronavirus cases and that health officials are just beginning to understand how pervasive it is.

“Anyone advising the end of social distancing now, needs to fully understand what the country will look like if we do that,” he tweeted. “COVID would spread widely, rapidly, terribly, could kill potentially millions in the yr ahead with huge social and economic impact across the country.”

Alaska, Hawaii, Florida mandate quarantines amid coronavirus

Alaska and Hawaii are the first two states to mandate a 14-day quarantine for all visitors and residents arriving at state airports. Alaska’s order goes into effect Wednesday and will be reviewed by April 21. Hawaii’s order is effective Thursday.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis also issued an executive order requiring anyone flying to Florida from New York, New Jersey or Connecticut to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival. That mandate took effect Tuesday.

– Nicquel Terry Ellis

How many cases of coronavirus in US?

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Contributing: The Associated Press.

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