Coronavirus news you can use
March 26, 2020

The Senate unanimously passed a massive $2.2 trillion coronavirus emergency rescue package late Wednesday, and among its many tools to bolster the economy amid the COIVD-19 pandemic is $290 billion set aside for direct payments to most Americans. Assuming the House passes the bill, expected to happen Friday, and President Trump signs it, most Americans will get a one-time payment of about $1,200 sometime in April, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says.

The payments will be based on tax returns from 2019 or 2018. Generally speaking, individuals with an adjusted gross income up to $75,000 will get $1,200 checks, or $2,400 for couples earning up to $150,000. Couples and "head of household" single parents will also get $500 per child. The checks taper off up to $99,000 in income per individual and $198,000 for joint filers with no children. The Washington Post has a calculator for estimating how much money your check should contain. Kiplinger also has a helpful stimulus calculator.

About 125 million people, or 83 percent of tax filers, will get checks, says Kyle Pomerleau at the American Enterprise Institute. "The main people excluded from receiving a payment are: the wealthy, nonresident aliens (i.e. foreigners who do not hold a green card), and 'dependents' who can be claimed on someone else’s tax return.," the Post reports.

Many Americans won't actually get a paper check. The first people to get funds from the program will be those who have direct deposit information on file with the Internal Revenue Service from 2019 returns, filed this year, or 2018 returns. If the IRS does not have your direct deposit information, it will send a check to the mailing address it has on file. "People who don't pay taxes, such as those with very low incomes, may be hard to reach the way the program is designed," Politico notes.

"The last time the U.S. government did anything like this, back in 2008," the Post reports, "the payments went out in batches and it took about eight weeks for the final people to receive their checks." Peter Weber

March 23, 2020

You, statically speaking, are unlikely to die or even get very ill from the COVID-19 coronavirus spreading around the world. So why should you put your life on hold and self-isolate, if you can? If the idea of flattening a curve seems too abstract, Gov. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) points out that "the penalty" for ignoring orders or requests to commit to social distancing is that "you might kill your grandparent." (Younger people get seriously ill and die from the disease, too, though in smaller numbers).

Prof. Hugh Montgomery, an intensive care specialist in Britain, drew on math, pointing out that one difference between the flu and this more contagious new coronavirus is that one person might infect 14 others with the flu in the same time a person with COVID-19 infects 59,000, with repercussions for an entire society. "If you are irresponsible enough to think that you don't mind if you get the flu, remember it's not about you — it's about everybody else," he told Channel 4's Dispatches program.

Tom Hanks, who is recovering from the coronavirus in Australia, had a gentler explanation.

Sometimes gentle doesn't cut it, as these Italian mayors and governor demonstrate.

The other, less-strenuous thing you can do to stop the spread of COVID-19 — for yourself and others — is to wash your hands often and for at least 20 seconds. And you are probably not doing a great job of washing your hands, as this tutorial shared by Canada's armed forces shows, with a nod to Robert Frost. The video is in Spanish, but in this case, language is no barrier.

"If we take care of each other, help where we can, and give up some comforts," Hanks writes, "this, too, shall pass." Peter Weber

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