Waiting for the Next Historic Number: Global Economy Week Ahead

As the true economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic becomes clear, economists seeing unprecedented data releases on an almost daily basis are gearing up for even worse to come.

In the U.S. and the rest of the world, reports showing historic spikes in joblessness and declines in activity have been accompanied with warnings that even more concerning data will follow once the full impact of the lockdown in much of the world becomes clear.

This week the focus will once again rest on the U.S. labor markets, and the weekly release of jobless claims data that has jumped by almost 10 million across the last two reports. The Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank are also both scheduled to release minutes which may include details of their thought process as they injected waves of emergency stimulus into the economy.

Here’s what happened last week and below is our wrap of what else is coming up in the world economy.

33,264 in U.S.Most new cases today

-26% Change in MSCI World Index of global stocks since Wuhan lockdown, Jan. 23

-1.​138 Change in U.S. treasury bond yield since Wuhan lockdown, Jan. 23


    Central banks in Australia and South Korea meet, though after their emergency actions in mid March, it’ll be a quieter affair. On the data front, China consumer and factory prices for March will be scrutinized for any signs of how the coronavirus is impacting supply chains and demand.

    • For more, read Bloomberg Economics’ full Week Ahead for Asia

    Europe, Middle East and Africa

    After dismal PMIs last week, the Bank of France’s business sentiment index on Wednesday is predicted to fall to the lowest since the financial crisis. Meanwhile, industrial production numbers for Germany, France and Italy for February will provide pre-pandemic data and the U.K. is also due to release growth figures from February, which will give a sense of the strength of the economy going into the lockdown.

    The Swiss National Bank said last month it was stepping up currency interventions to stem the franc’s advance and data on Tuesday will provide insight into how much the it spent to keep that pledge.

    Israel’s central bank may cut its benchmark interest rate to 0.1% from 0.25% on Monday, its latest move to respond to the economic havoc wreaked by the coronavirus pandemic, after earlier committing to purchasing 50 billion shekels ($13.8 billion) of government bonds from the secondary market. Serbia and Poland also have rate decisions and Czech lawmakers are expected to approve a new law on the central bank, which will give it an option to start asset purchases.

    In South Africa, Wednesday’s data will probably show business confidence deteriorated in March, a picture that’s likely to get worse due to the nationwide lockdown in April. Car sales data from Russia on Monday will be one of the first indications of how hard consumers there have been hit by the virus fallout and the ruble’s crash.

    • For more, read Bloomberg Economics’ full Week Ahead for EMEA

    U.S. and Canada

    Expect investors to focus Wednesday on the release by the Fed of meeting minutes -- which are expected to include details on their decisions to slash interest rates and support the economy. On Thursday, eyes will turn to the latest data on jobless claims, which have surged to record levels as the public health crisis intensified.

    Meanwhile, Canada’s jobs report on Thursday will will be the first data point on how deeply the pandemic has impacted the nation’s labor market.

    • For more, read Bloomberg Economics’ full Week Ahead for the U.S.

    Latin America

    Mexico has so far been Latin America’s odd man out compared to the spending packages other governments are rolling out against the coronavirus pandemic. Adamantly opposed to any response that adds to government debt, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Sunday is slated to release his plan to address the crisis. If Lopez Obrador keeps a lid on fiscal stimulus, data out Tuesday showing inflation well within the target range and slowing would give the central bank room for additional monetary stimulus.

    • For more, read Bloomberg Economics’ full Week Ahead for Latin America

    — With assistance by Benjamin Harvey, Malcolm Scott, Peggy Collins, Michael Winfrey, Robert Jameson, and Theophilos Argitis

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    Your Weekend Reading: The Crisis of Our Time

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    Four months. More than 1 million people infected. The menace that is Covid-19 continues to ravage the world. Singapore will close schools and most workplaces, the U.S. is trying to rescue small businesses and the U.K.—a country passionate about its health system and whose prime minister remains in isolation—announced its deadliest day yet. When, and how, will it end?

    Bloomberg is mapping the pandemic globally and across America. For the latest news, sign up for our Covid-19 podcast and daily newsletter.

    What you’ll want to read this weekend

    President Donald Trump shook up oil markets with a single tweet— “performance art,” Liam Denning calls it in Bloomberg Opinion. The OPEC+ cartel is pressing to form an unprecedented global coalition to cut production, but there’s another rift between Saudi Arabia and Russia.

    The virus knows no borders as it spreads to the unhealthiest part of the U.S.: the South. Blue-collar America is braced for another recession, the barter economy is back and mortgage firms are teetering. A bleak jobs report for March is a harbinger of the deluge to come.

    Supply lines know no borders either. There’s still a heap of food out there, but trucking bottlenecks are one reason it’s not getting from farm to table. Brazil’s coffee growers are worried they won’t have enough fieldhands for the harvest, and U.S. farmers are even dumping milk.

    U.S. intelligence contends China concealed the extent of the outbreak in its country, three officials told Bloomberg. China says the Trump administration is trying to deflect from its own mistakes. Speaking out about a lack of gear can come at a high cost for America’s doctors, while a literal about-face on masks may be underway.

    Colleges are dropping the SAT, law deans are proposing this year’s class be allowed to skip the bar and universities are stepping in to sustain local businesses. Bloomberg Businessweek has some tips for those parents moonlighting as home-school teachers. Remember the concept of limiting kids’ screen time? How quaint.

    What you’ll need to know next week

    • OPEC+ is planning to meet but it could be delayed.
    • Keep an eye out for WTO trade projections.
    • China is set to lift the lockdown of Wuhan.
    • FOMC minutes come out following a drastic March.
    • World Health Day, Passover and Good Friday arrive.

    What you’ll want to read in Bloomberg Pursuits

    What Would Have Been 2020’s Hottest New Cars

    The pandemic and its attendant recession may be the worst time to launch a car since, well, since we’ve had cars. Here are some of most needle-moving whips rolled out in years—all for a pre-coronavirus world. With would-be buyers now focused on the terrible crisis at hand, this is less a preview of automaker glory than a wistful look at what might have been.


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    Decoding COVID-19 – Some Known Questions, Some Unknown Answers

    As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to sweep the globe, researchers, drug companies and world leaders are ramping up the fight against the novel coronavirus. An outbreak of a mysterious pneumonia which was first identified and confined only to the Chinese city of Wuhan, last December, is now a global pandemic, with a death toll nearing 60,000 and an unprecedented economic damage.

    1. What is the infectious agent behind the ongoing pandemic?

    The COVID-19 pandemic is caused by a virus named SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2). This pathogen belongs to the genera “Coronaviruses”, which are single-stranded RNA viruses.

    2. Are there other coronaviruses that have infected humans?

    Yes. Including the novel SARS-CoV-2, seven coronaviruses have infected humans.

    Four coronaviruses, namely HCoV 229E, NL63, OC43, and HKU1 are common in humans and they are associated with mild to moderate upper-respiratory tract illnesses, like the common cold.

    Two other coronaviruses – MERS-CoV that causes MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) and SARS-CoV that causes SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) – are more virulent and have proven fatal in many cases.

    The SARS-CoV-2, the causal agent behind the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, is proving to be deadlier of the lot.

    3. What does corona in the name “coronavirus” mean?

    First identified in the mid-1960, the viruses were named coronaviruses because of the crown-like spikes on their surfaces when viewed under an electron microscope.

    4. What is so novel about this coronavirus SARS-COV-2?

    Although all coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they originated from animals, mostly bats, the pathogenicity (ability to cause disease) seems to be increasing with each evolving strain.

    While the four common human coronaviruses (229E, NL63, OC43, and HKU1) are considered mild pathogens as they cause only common cold, SARS-CoV, the virus implicated in the 2002-2003 SARS epidemic and MERS-CoV, the virus that caused an outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome in 2012, are considered highly pathogenic.

    Even deadlier than SARS-CoV, and MERS-CoV, is SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

    5. From where did SARS-CoV-2 originate?

    As mentioned above, all coronaviruses are zoonotic.

    While SARS-CoV originated in bats and was transmitted to people through infected civets, MERS-CoV originated in bats and spread through infected dromedary camels (Arabian camels) to people.

    The source of origin of the SARS-CoV-2 has been widely debated, some claiming that it originated in bats, and some suggesting that it is from the scaly, anteater-like animals called pangolins. What is also still not confirmed is through which intermediate host SARS-CoV-2 spread to people.

    A recent study in ACS’ Journal of Proteome Research suggests that the SARS-CoV-2 could have been transmitted from bats to humans through pangolins.

    The Ribonucleic Acid (RNA) of the SARS-CoV-2 has been found to be 80% similar to SARS-CoV and 96% identical to a bat coronavirus. The RNA contains genetic information about the virus.

    6. How does the SARS-CoV-2 spread?

    The SARS-CoV-2 spreads through sneeze/cough-induced droplets of infected persons. Say, when infected people cough or sneeze without covering their mouth or nose, the virus-laden droplets may fall on persons standing near them and the virus may get into their body through mouth or eyes or nose. Sometimes, people can also contract the virus by touching infected surfaces and unknowingly touch their mouth or eyes or nose with the hand contaminated with the virus.

    That’s the reason why washing of hands with soaps/sanitizers is recommended.

    7. Is the COVID-19 virus airborne?

    The World Health Organization says that according to current evidence, the COVID-19 virus is primarily transmitted between people through respiratory droplets and contact routes. In an analysis of 75,465 COVID-19 cases in China, the airborne transmission was not reported. But under certain conditions in hospital settings where procedures that generate aerosols are performed, the airborne transmission may be possible.

    Tuberculosis, measles, and chickenpox are examples of airborne transmission of the virus.

    Recently, the National Academy of Sciences, quoting certain studies, suggested that the SARS-CoV-2 virus could be spread via bioaerosols generated directly by asymptomatic patients’ exhalation, say through normal breathing or speech.

    In the light of such findings, it is better to use a face mask when stepping out.

    While updating guidelines for slowing the spread of the coronavirus, the CDC recently recommended the use of simple cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, i.e. in grocery stores and pharmacies. The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators as they are critical supplies, reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders.

    8. How long can SARS-CoV-2 survive outside the body?

    SARS-COV-2 needs a living host to survive and multiply. Until it finds a susceptible host, the virus can linger in the air or remain on surfaces for a certain period of time without losing its viability. A study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that the SARS-COV-2 can survive on plastic and steel surfaces for up to 72 hours, on cardboard for 24 hours and on copper for four hours.

    9. What is the death rate for COVID-19?

    On March 3, 2020, the WHO announced that globally, about 3.4% of reported COVID-19 cases have died. The seasonal flu generally kills far less than 1% of those infected.

    According to experts, it is very difficult to calculate the case fatality rate during a rapidly expanding pandemic.

    10. How does the death toll due to COVID-19 compare against SARS and MERS, which are also caused by a coronavirus?

    The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases is 1,098,762 and the death toll is 59,172 as of this writing. During the SARS pandemic, there were 8,098 reported cases and 774 deaths. The MERS outbreak, which is still ongoing with sporadic flare-ups, has had 2,519 cases and 866 fatalities.

    11. How is coronavirus detected?

    Diagnostic tests, done on samples collected as swabs from a person’s nose and throat or as sputum, and sometimes on blood collected from them, help to identify if a person is infected with the virus or not. The collected samples are sent to a testing lab where it is processed. Most of the diagnostic tests take 4 hours to come out with the results.

    Abbott’s ID NOWCOVID-19 rapid test, which was recently rolled out under emergency use, delivers results in as little as 5 minutes.

    12. Why is coronavirus infection comparatively lower in Japan?

    Despite being densely populated and having a higher percentage of senior citizens, Japan has recorded comparatively fewer COVID-19 cases. Critics say that it is only due to limited testing of people that the exact proportion of infection is not revealed. However, some experts say that the Japanese culture and etiquette like wearing masks or greeting others with a bow instead of shaking hands could be the reason for the slow spread of the pandemic.

    The number of confirmed cases in Japan is 2,617, with 63 fatalities, as of this writing. (Source: Worldometer).

    13. Can a person who has recovered from COVID-19 be re-infected with SARS-CoV-2?

    It is only natural to assume that patients who have recovered from COVID-19 may not contract that virus again, at least not immediately. But there have been instances in some countries, say China and Korea, where patients who seem to have recovered from COVID-19, re-testing positive for the virus after discharge.

    Is a re-infection really possible immediately after recovery or does it have anything to do with the quality of the tests? More research is required.

    14. Are there any treatments or vaccines for COVID-19?

    Currently, there are no treatments or vaccines for COVID-19. A number of companies are racing to find a treatment or vaccine for the same.

    Recently, the FDA gave emergency use authorization for Chloroquine and Hydroxychloroquine to be prescribed to adolescent and adult patients hospitalized with COVID-19 as appropriate. Besides malaria, the two drugs are used in the treatment of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

    However, the European Medicines Agency has allowed the two drugs only to be used in clinical trials or emergency use programs in the indication of COVIS-19.

    In India, the Indian Council of Medical Research’s National Task Force has recommended Hydroxychloroquine as a preventive medicine against SARS-CoV-2 infection for high-risk population such as asymptomatic healthcare workers involved in the care of suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 and asymptomatic household contacts of laboratory-confirmed cases.

    15. What is the latest by which a vaccine for COVID-19 will be available?

    Although a number of companies are engaged in the development of a vaccine for COVID-19, leading the pack are Moderna Inc. (MRNA), which began a phase I trial of its vaccine candidate mRNA-1273 in mid-March, and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), which is planning to advance its experimental vaccine into phase I study by September of this year.

    Moderna hopes to have its coronavirus vaccine for emergency use this fall while Johnson & Johnson is aiming to achieve emergency use authorization for its vaccine by early 2021.

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    Trump Rejects Voting-by-Mail Amid Virus, Citing Fraud Concerns

    President Donald Trump said he doesn’t support mail-in voting as a way to limit the spread of the coronavirus, arguing that sending ballots increases the likelihood of fraud.

    “I think a lot of people cheat with mail-in voting,” Trump told reporters Friday at the White House. “I think people should vote with voter ID. I think voter ID is very important. The reason they don’t want voter ID is they intend to cheat.”

    “All kids of bad things can happen,” he added without citing examples.

    More than a dozen states have postponed their presidential primaries because of concern that voters get too close one another and spread the coronavirus. Trump said Friday he still expects the general election to be held on Nov. 3.

    32,133 in U.S.Most new cases today

    -26% Change in MSCI World Index of global stocks since Wuhan lockdown, Jan. 23

    -1.​138 Change in U.S. treasury bond yield since Wuhan lockdown, Jan. 23

    Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, a Democrat, has asked his state’s Republican-controlled State Legislature to call a special session and vote to allow an all-mail election before planned primaries next week.

    There’s no indication fraud has swayed elections in states where residents already vote by mail. Those states include Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Utah, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

    Democrats have long resisted Republican efforts to increase voter identification requirements. GOP lawmakers have cited instances of voter impersonation, while Democrats have argued stricter ID requirements disproportionately harm low-income voters who may have a harder time getting a driver’s license.

    Trump has raised concern that making it easier to vote would hurt the GOP. In an interview on “Fox & Friends” last week, he criticized a coronavirus-related funding proposal from Democrats that would have provided more money for mail-in voting.

    “The things they had in there were crazy,” Trump said. “They had things -- levels of voting that if you ever agreed to it you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she plans to seek $2 billion to $4 billion in the next coronavirus relief bill to give Americans a safer way to vote in the upcoming general election. The $2.2 trillion stimulus bill signed by Trump late last month included $400 million for voting by mail.

    Pelosi said the initiative was crucial “so that people have access to voting and not be deterred, especially at this time, by the admonition to stay home.”

    Trump, who is registered to vote in Florida, has requested a vote-by-mail ballot in that state’s primary, according to the Palm Beach Post.

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    3M CEO on Trump coronavirus production claims: ‘False, nothing can be further from the truth’

    3M CEO: Narratives on coronavirus supply manufacturing are ‘just not true’

    3M CEO Mike Roman, in a wide-ranging interview, on manufacturing medical supplies, price gouging and exporting to foreign countries.

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    Under fire from the White House for exporting much-needed coronavirus protective masks to other countries, 3M Chairman and CEO Mike Roman said the idea that 3M is not doing everything possible for America “is false, nothing can be further from the truth.”

    Ticker Security Last Change Change %
    MMM 3M COMPANY 133.79 -4.12 -2.99%

    Roman, in a wide-ranging interview with Maria Bartiromo on FOX Business' “Wall Street Week,” also said allegations against 3M for not fighting price gouging is “absurd.”

    Charges of 3M shipping the protective equipment abroad to countries that offered to pay a higher price than the U.S. have been leveled against the company, but Roman was quick to deny there was any “bidding” process involved.

    “We manufacture respirators," said Roman. "We sell them through authorized distributors and we sell directly to governments and the distributors take those to customers that have the greatest needs and we’ve been working with FEMA in the U.S. to make sure we are prioritizing those with the greatest need.”


    Roman admitted that even though 3M had ramped up production for the coveted N95 masks in the United States, the company did have humanitarian obligations with other countries. “A small percentage, less than 10 percent of our respirators in the United States are exported to Canada and Latin America to support their health care workers,” explained Roman. “We are often the sole provider of those respirators in those countries.”


    “As we've been telling the administration for days and days,” said Roman, “We're happy to ship our overseas production to the U.S. However, there are consequences on a humanitarian level and that includes stopping exports to Canada and Latin America.”

    On Friday, President Trump blasted 3M again, one day after invoking the Defense Production Act, ordering 3M to prioritize orders N95 masks for the federal government’s national stockpile.

    “We’re not happy with 3M, we’re not happy and the people that dealt with it directly are not at all happy with 3M,” said Trump during his daily coronavirus task force briefing.  After the mandate was made Thursday, both the president and Peter Navarro, one of his top advisers overseeing the enactment of the DPA, criticized 3M publicly.

    The words sparked concerns across U.S. borders. Doug Ford, the premier of Ontario in Canada, expressed concern for what this could mean for the “health and well-being of our frontline workers” and stressed that the U.S. and Canada should work together during this crisis.

    The Minnesota-based company normally produces between 16 to 20 million respirators a month in the U.S., and Roman said 3M has doubled its production during the crisis. In addition, masks are being imported from supplies in China at the rate of 10 million a month.


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    Coronavirus forces Delta Air Lines to burn $60M per day as flights are grounded

    Lawmakers pressure airlines to refund passengers for coronavirus cancellations

    Some lawmakers are pressuring airlines to issue cash refunds to customers who have canceled trips due to coronavirus. FOX Business’ Hillary Vaughn with more.

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    Delta Air Lines is burning through cash and expects to post a massive shortfall in revenue in the second quarter after the coronavirus pandemic brought its business to a standstill, CEO Ed Bastian said in a letter to employees on Friday.

    Bastian said the airline is losing more than $60 million in cash every day and “we still haven’t seen the bottom.” Financial relief for U.S. airlines included in the $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package helped airlines avoid initial layoffs but aren’t a sufficient check against the industry’s bleak short-term outlook, he added.


    “We appreciate the decisive action of our nation’s leaders to protect our people,” Bastian said in the letter. “But those funds are not nearly enough. We are expecting our revenue in the second quarter to be down 90 percent. Without the self-help actions we are taking to save costs and raise new financing, that money would be gone by June.”

    Delta shares sank nearly 7 percent in after-hours trading. The airline’s stock is down more than 60 percent so far this year.


    Ticker Security Last Change Change %
    DAL DELTA AIR LINES INC. 22.48 -0.20 -0.88%

    In the letter, Bastian said the embattled carrier will operate a schedule at roughly 80 percent below expected capacity in April due to sweeping flight restrictions in the U.S. and abroad.


    The stimulus package included $25 billion in funds to assist U.S. airlines with payment of employee salaries and benefits and $25 billion toward loans and additional tax relief measures. As a result, Delta employees won’t face pay cuts or furloughs before September 30.

    Bastian said more than 30,000 Delta employees had taken voluntary unpaid furloughs. Other employees are operating on reduced schedules, while top executives have taken pay cuts.

    “My deepest thanks goes to every single one of you,” Bastian said regarding the employees who took voluntary unpaid furloughs. "That is the most important action you can take to support our company. We continue to need more volunteers, and this week announced longer-term opportunities of leaves lasting six, nine and 12 months. Please consider whether a short- or long-term leave makes sense for you and your family at this time."


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    Making coronavirus ventilators: A post-pandemic production blueprint

    GM exec: Coronavirus safety measures will remain for future car production

    General Motors is keeping employees safe while pivoting to ventilator production to help the coronavirus fight. FOX Business’ Grady Trimble with more.

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    When General Motors employees return to making automobiles, their workplaces will be “vastly different” from the ones they left just three weeks ago.


    The Big 3 automakers, Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler, halted vehicle production amid the coronavirus pandemic. Since then, GM and Ford have partnered with companies that make ventilators and repurposed existing auto factories to ramp up production of the life-saving devices.

    Ticker Security Last Change Change %
    GM GENERAL MOTORS COMPANY 17.91 -0.28 -1.57%
    F FORD MOTOR COMPANY 4.21 -0.15 -3.44%

    “We’re installing equipment right now, and our hope is to start moving parts and start building ventilators this weekend,” Jim Glynn, GM’s head of global workplace safety, told FOX Business.

    United Auto Workers’ members who offered to help are getting a glimpse of what the new normal will be at automotive and other manufacturing facilities when work eventually resumes.

    They fill out a health questionnaire, their temperature is taken, they clean their workstations regularly, they wear masks and there are markers to delineate proper social distancing.


    “Frankly, that’s going to be our standard across our whole system,” Glynn explained. “As the pandemic kind of eases up and we bring people back to work, every facility we have will be at this protocol level.”


    Before the Big 3 decided to close their factories, the United Auto Workers pushed back on the companies, arguing members weren’t safe making cars amid the coronavirus outbreak. When workers return, Glynn hopes these changes will put them at ease.

    “Two weeks ago, we didn’t understand how this virus propagates and how it can infect people, and so there was a lot of unrest,” he said.

    The company plans to copy what it’s learned while restarting factories in Asia, which were forced to close long before the virus was rapidly spreading in the United States and are now back open. GM is also working with its Big 3 rivals, Ford and FCA, to share safety protocols in what Glynn calls “a team effort.”

    It remains unclear when North American factories will reopen, but the automakers will have a health and safety blueprint when they do.


    For now, GM is focusing on face mask production at its Warren, Michigan, facility and ventilator production in Kokomo, Indiana. In partnership with Ventec Life Systems, GM aims to produce 10,000 of the machines per month once it reaches scale.

    “The people that have raised their hands to do this, they are fired up,” Glynn said. “From a phone call to reality in literally weeks is pretty amazing.”


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    Dr. Fauci: ‘I Don’t Understand’ Why The Entire Country Isn’t Under Stay-At-Home Orders

    Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said he doesn’t know why the United States hasn’t instituted a nationwide stay-at-home order amid the spread of COVID-19, saying the country “really should be” doing so to protect American lives.

    “I don’t understand why that’s not happening,” Fauci, one of the leading scientific voices behind the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, told CNN on Thursday. “The tension between federally mandated versus states’ rights to do what they want is something I don’t want to get into. But if you look at what is going on in this country, I do not understand why we are not doing that. We really should be.”

    Fauci’s comments come amid increasingly dire figures related to the pandemic: At least 245,000 Americans have been infected and more than 6,100 have died. In New York, the state hardest hit so far, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said health workers would run out of ventilators in six days if stockpiles aren’t resupplied.

    And those numbers are expected to grow. Fauci warned earlier this week that between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans could die of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, even if social distancing guidelines are maintained.

    In the past few weeks, many states and counties around the country have instituted some form of stay-at-home orders, encouraging residents to stay inside except for essential activities, including grocery shopping and exercise. The New York Times noted that about 297 million people in 38 states and a bevy of cities are under such guidelines, although some states have not yet announced any such measures.

    Many lawmakers have encouraged President Donald Trump to issue a directive, but he has so far resisted instituting a nationwide order, saying such decisions required a “little flexibility.”

    “If you have a state in the Midwest, or if Alaska, for example, doesn’t have a problem, it’s awfully tough to say close it down,” Trump said on Wednesday. “We have to have a little bit of flexibility.”

    The president did extend nationwide social distancing guidelines — which he initially hoped to lift by Easter — until at least the end of the month amid the sobering predictions of death rates in the country. Surgeon General Jerome Adams told NBC’s “Today” this week that those guidelines should be interpreted as stay-at-home orders.

    • Stay up to date with our live blog as we cover the COVID-19 pandemic
    • How long are asymptomatic carriers contagious?
    • The coronavirus worker revolt is just beginning
    • Heads up: Not all your tax deadlines have been postponed
    • I just got out of a COVID-19 ICU. Here’s how I made it through.
    • How to make a no-sew coronavirus face mask
    • What to do if you live with someone with COVID-19
    • There’s a simple game that can stop a tantrum cold
    • The HuffPost guide to working from home
    • What coronavirus questions are on your mind right now? We want to help you find answers.
    • Everyone deserves accurate information about COVID-19. Support journalism – and keep it free for everyone – by becoming a HuffPost member today.

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    As Coronavirus Cases Exceed 1 Million, Colorado Springs GOP Wonders If It’s Even Real

    While President Donald Trump furiously backpedals from his own monthslong campaign to downplay the coronavirus “hoax,” it seems Republicans at the county level missed the message.

    This, after the Republican Party of El Paso County ― home to Colorado Springs, Colorado ― wondered aloud on Facebook Wednesday if coronavirus is actually a “PSYOP,” or “psychological operations,” campaign.

    “Hello El Paso County! Do you believe that the Coronavirus is a PSYOP (Psychological Operation)?” The post read. “Post your answer … the definition of (PSYOP) is below.”

    The definition read: “Psychological operations (PSYOP) are operations to convey select information and indicators to audiences to influence their emotions, motives, and objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of governments, organizations, groups, and individuals.”

    The post was deleted soon after it went live, under pressure from Republican officials at the state level. But El Paso County party chair Vickie Tonkins told Colorado Politics she doesn’t see what the big deal is.

    “I posted a question. I’m sorry people couldn’t answer it,” she told the newspaper. “Don’t get all offended.”

    She elaborated in a followup post on Facebook: 

    “I put a post on our Facebook earlier today to see what people thought!” Tonkins wrote, in part. “I am sorry a few of you were offended by a definition, that was NOT the intention. I did not give an opinion I just asked what people’s thoughts as we have asked your thoughts on other issues.”

    El Paso County has one of the nation’s highest death rates from coronavirus. A senior citizen who posthumously tested positive for the diease attended at least six bridge games at the Colorado Springs Bridge Center while infectious, potentially exposing up to 300 other people. Separately on Wednesday, Jeff Hopkins, a 41-year-old El Paso County sheriff’s deputy, died of COVID-19.

    As of April 1, there have been 3,342 confirmed cases of the virus and 80 deaths in the state. The number of cases of COVID-19 around the world surpassed 1 million Thursday, with 236,000 confirmed cases in the U.S. — the most known infections of any country.

    • Stay up to date with our live blog as we cover the COVID-19 pandemic
    • How long are asymptomatic carriers contagious?
    • The coronavirus worker revolt is just beginning
    • Heads up: Not all your tax deadlines have been postponed
    • I just got out of a COVID-19 ICU. Here’s how I made it through.
    • How to make a no-sew coronavirus face mask
    • What to do if you live with someone with COVID-19
    • There’s a simple game that can stop a tantrum cold
    • The HuffPost guide to working from home
    • What coronavirus questions are on your mind right now? We want to help you find answers.
    • Everyone deserves accurate information about COVID-19. Support journalism – and keep it free for everyone – by becoming a HuffPost member today.

    Source: Read Full Article

    Republicans Are Bragging About An Unemployment Boost They Voted Against

    A core part of lawmakers’ job is to make sure their constituents have access to government programs that are designed to help them.

    To that end, many members of Congress are pointing to expanded unemployment benefits they authorized last week as part of a massive coronavirus pandemic response bill, which will boost weekly benefits by $600. 

    Among the lawmakers touting the additional $600: Senate Republicans who voted against it.

    “This package that we passed will provide $600 a week on top of the Montana benefit if you’re unemployed,” Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) told a local TV station the day after the bill passed. “That’s very significant. It more than doubles what the state of Montana pays. That’s taking care of those Montanans who’ve lost their jobs.”

    But Daines, like most of his other GOP colleagues, supported an amendment to the bill offered by Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) that would have capped unemployment benefits and denied some people the extra $600. The Senate rejected the amendment before ultimately passing the bill last week.

    A spokesperson for Daines said the senator “worked to include nearly full wage unemployment insurance in the coronavirus economic recovery bill. The senator did not think that unemployment insurance should pay more than the job a person lost.”

    Sasse argued the added benefits would incentivize workers to stay unemployed.

    “This bill, as currently drafted, creates a perverse incentive for men and women who are sidelined to then not leave the sidelines to come back to work,” Sasse claimed on the Senate floor. 

    His amendment, which all but two Senate Republicans voted for, would have directed state unemployment agencies not to give claimants the full $600 per week if it would exceed their prior wage when combined with their regular benefit allotment. 

    Democrats had initially wanted state agencies to precisely match wages of workers losing their jobs due to the economic downturn caused by the spread of the coronavirus. They said that Trump labor secretary Eugene Scalia argued that it would have been too much of a burden on state agencies, which have been crushed by an unprecedented surge in unemployment claims. 

    Negotiators ― including the Trump administration and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) ― came up with $600 because it’s roughly the difference between the average unemployment payment of about $360 and the average weekly wage of about $980. The extra cash will remain available for only four months.

    Nevertheless, Sasse, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) decided to make a stink about the increased benefits on the Senate floor. Sasse’s amendment, targeting the $260 billion unemployment portion of the $2 trillion bill, was the only amendment debated on the floor. The debate was purely symbolic as the amendment stood no chance of clearing the 60 vote threshold needed for adoption. 

    The last-minute push to lower unemployment benefits didn’t stop some GOP senators from highlighting the ultimate provisions in the bill after its passage, however.

    “It also expands unemployment insurance eligibility, and provides an extra $600 a week in federal unemployment benefits. When it comes to covering bills and navigating this uncertainly, that money is a lifeline,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) wrote in a Dallas Morning News op-ed.

    In a press release titled “McSally Secures COVID-19 Relief for Arizona Families, Small Businesses,” Sen. Marthy McSally (R-Ariz.) noted that the average unemployment benefit in Arizona “will increase to $850 per week,” up from $240 per week.

    Sen. Tim Scott, who spoke in favor of the Sasse amendment on the Senate floor, also touted the extra $600 in a press release.

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) took a whack at Republicans who opposed the added unemployment benefits in a conference call on Thursday.

    “Republicans voted against $600 for people who are out of work. Fortunately, that wasn’t the majority. But Sen. McConnell voted for that,” she said.

    State workforce agencies are only just beginning to implement the changes ― which also expand eligibility for the first time to include gig workers and the self-employed ― as more than 10 million Americans have filed for benefits in just the past two weeks.

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