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For millions of Americans left out of work by the pandemic, government assistance has been a lifeline preventing a plunge into poverty, hunger and financial ruin.
This summer, that lifeline could snap, reports Ben Casselman.
The $1,200 checks sent to most households are long gone, at least for those who needed them most, with little imminent prospect for a second round. The lending program that helped millions of small businesses keep workers on the payroll will wind down if Congress does not extend it. Eviction moratoriums that kept people in their homes are expiring in many cities.
And the $600 per week in extra unemployment benefits that have allowed tens of millions of laid-off workers to pay rent and buy groceries will expire at the end of July.
The latest sign of the economic strain and the government’s role in easing it came Thursday, when the Labor Department reported that millions more Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week. More than 40 million people have filed for benefits since the crisis began, and some 30 million are receiving them.
The multitrillion-dollar patchwork of federal and state programs hasn’t kept bills from piling up or prevented long lines at food banks, but it has mitigated the damage. Now the expiration of those programs represents a cliff they are hurtling toward, for individuals and for the economy.
“The CARES Act was massive, but it was a very short-term offset to what is likely to be a long-term problem,” said Aneta Markowska, the chief financial economist for the investment bank Jefferies, referring to the legislative centerpiece of the federal rescue. “This economy is clearly going to need more support.”
Even the possibility that the programs will be allowed to expire could have economic consequences, Ms. Markowska said, as consumers and businesses brace for the loss of federal assistance.
President Trump and other Republicans have played down the need for more spending, saying the solution is for states to reopen businesses and allow companies to bring people back to work. So despite pleas from economists across the political spectrum — including Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chairman — any federal action is likely to be limited.
The House voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to give businesses more time to use money borrowed under the Paycheck Protection Program, which offers forgivable loans to small businesses that retain or rehire their workers. The bill’s fate in the Senate is uncertain, but a deal seems likely to be reached.
One in 10 diabetic patients with Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, died within a week of being hospitalized, according to a study published on Thursday by French researchers in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes.
Another 20 percent were put on ventilators to assist with breathing by the end of their first week in the hospital. Just 18 percent were discharged within a week.
“I don’t want to scare people, but what is true is we did not expect to see such high mortality, with 10 percent of people admitted dying in the first seven days,” said Dr. Samy Hadjadj, a professor of endocrinology at the University of Nantes in France and one of the authors of the paper.
A majority of patients in the study had Type 2 diabetes. Many people with diabetes also have cardiovascular disease, which raises the risk of death in Covid-19 patients.
But the new study, which included 1,317 patients at 53 French hospitals, found that microvascular injuries — involving tiny blood vessels supplying the eyes, kidneys and peripheral nerves — were also linked to a higher risk of death.
Obstructive sleep apnea also raised the risk of early death in these patients, while obesity and advanced age were linked to a greater likelihood of severe disease, the study found.
“This is serious,” Dr. Hadjadj said. “If you have diabetes and are elderly or have complications, be very careful. Keep away from the virus. Go on with social distancing, wash your hands carefully, keep people away who can bring you the virus.”
Dr. Hadjadj added, “You are not the kind of person who can afford to disregard these rules.”
The guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is clear. The agency recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where it is difficult to maintain social distancing, mentioning grocery stores, pharmacies and gas stations as examples, even as it continues to emphasize how critical social distancing remains.
But masks have unexpectedly crossed over from public health measures to politically charged symbols, with many shops and restaurants banning customers who do not wear them — and a few others moving to ban customers who do.
In Kentucky, a gas station told customers that no one was allowed inside its convenience store if they had their face covered. In California, a flooring store near Los Angeles has encouraged hugs and handshakes but does not permit face masks or protections. And a bar in Texas taped a poster to its front door this week that said “sorry, no masks allowed.”
In New York, the hardest-hit state, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Thursday that he would issue an executive order authorizing businesses to deny entry to people who were not wearing face coverings.
“That store owner has a right to protect themselves,” Mr. Cuomo said. “That store owner has a right to protect the other patrons in that store.”
Dennis Townsend, a Republican supervisor in California’s rural Tulare County, said that as his conservative district reopened for business, masks had become an ongoing point of contention.
“People tell me, ‘OK, I’ll go to the stores, but they better be wearing masks in there.’ And then other people tell me, ‘OK, I’ll go to the stores, but they better not make me wear a mask,’” he said.
Mr. Townsend, whose county in the state’s Central Valley farm belt is represented in Congress by the Republican representatives Devin Nunes and Kevin McCarthy, said he was “not real big on wearing masks” himself but had done so when shopping.
“What I tell people is that with every freedom we have comes additional responsibility,” Mr. Townsend said. “We’ve had one freedom suppressed for a little while, but now it’s back, and that’s going to require additional personal responsibility on our parts.”
Some Republicans are trying to keep masks from turning into a partisan issue.
Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, said this week that there was “no stigma attached to wearing a mask.” And in North Dakota, Gov. Doug Burgum recently lamented that a “senseless dividing line” had arisen between Americans over the use of masks in public. Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio went as far as to tell CNN that wearing a mask was “about loving your fellow human being.”
The politics of government bailouts are always perilous, and Democrats are mobilizing to turn the $2 trillion effort that Mr. Trump is overseeing into a political liability going into his re-election campaign.
The attention has focused on a small business loan program that has been marred by glitches, changing rules and cases of big publicly traded companies receiving funds while smaller shops are left waiting.
Top Democrats, including the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Mr. Biden have seized on examples of rich executives getting money through the Paycheck Protection Program as indicative of corporate cronyism.
The Democratic National Committee and Democratic state parties in swing states held conference calls last week with reporters and other events highlighting stories of small business owners who did not get approved for loans.
Pacronym, a progressive super PAC that focuses on digital advertising, began running a $1.5 million ad campaign in five swing states — Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — that focused on struggling small businesses.
Some Republicans are embracing the program. Senator Susan Collins, a Maine Republican facing a tough re-election battle, has spent nearly $500,000 on ads that promote her role in “co-authoring” the program, according to data from Advertising Analytics, an ad tracking firm. And Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, spent $175,000 on an ad featuring small business owners and employees describing jobs and businesses that were “rescued” by Mr. McConnell’s efforts on the stimulus package.
The Trump administration has scrambled to rewrite the rules of the program on the fly as public backlash intensified. The Treasury on Thursday carved out $10 billion of money to be used for loans to underserved communities, satisfying a request from Senator Chuck Schumer of New York.
Wisconsin saw its highest single-day increase in confirmed cases and deaths this week, two weeks after the state’s highest court overturned a stay-at-home order and effectively removed all virus restrictions on May 13.
The state reported 599 new cases and 22 deaths on Wednesday, for a total of more than 16,000 cases and 539 deaths. New cases over all have been on the rise in recent days, though testing has also significantly increased.
Public health officials were closely monitoring the developments, careful not to make too much of a one-day jump in reporting that could be affected by a lag after Memorial Day but fearful that numbers would only rise further as residents returned to restaurants, bars and shops. While Milwaukee kept a stay-at-home order in effect, much of the state has been open since the court’s order.
“It worries us,” said Dr. Nasia Safdar, the medical director for infection prevention at the University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison. “We wonder if this is a trend in an unfavorable direction.”
The state is being closely watched after the conservative majority on the State Supreme Court sided with the Republican-led Legislature, overturning the stay-at-home order by Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat. The result could have major public health and political implications in a highly contested state that could help swing the presidential election in November.
It can take several weeks after changes in behavior — like the increased movement and interactions associated with the end of a stay-at-home order — for the effect on transmissions to be reflected in the data. Still, in Wisconsin, there were indications that the virus was still spreading at the time the order was lifted.
In Kenosha County, outside Milwaukee, officials expressed alarm over an increase in new cases, which they said had risen 20 percent in the first week after the order lifted. Officials also announced that at least seven employees from local restaurants or bars had tested positive on Wednesday, raising concerns about community spread.
“This is sort of the scenario that public health was afraid of,” Dr. Jen Freiheit, the Kenosha County health officer, said on a conference call. “We are still very much on the rise.”
The organizers of the Wisconsin State Fair said on Thursday that the event, scheduled for August, would be canceled. “The risks associated with hosting an event of this size and scope right now are just too great,” said John Yingling, the chairman of the Wisconsin State Fair Park Board.
Other states also continued to see increases. Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina said that Thursday saw one of the state’s highest numbers of hospitalizations and reported deaths since the crisis began.
“In North Carolina, our case count has continued to go up,” he said, adding that one reason was increased testing. North Carolina, where the Republican National Convention is set to take place in August, has 25,412 confirmed cases, with 708 people hospitalized.
Mr. Cooper, a Democrat, has refused to provide Mr. Trump with a guarantee that there will be no virus-related restrictions on the size of the event.
Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas said that starting Friday, sports fans could attend games at outdoor venues in most counties in Texas, so long as occupancy was limited to 25 percent. Fans cannot attend indoor sporting events.
Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia said amusement parks, traveling carnivals and water parks could open June 12. And in California, more than a dozen Indian casinos, asserting sovereignty, defied Gov. Gavin Newsom and reopened last week. The Viejas Casino and Resort in Alpine, Calif., vowed to impose strict limits on the number of people gambling at once. A majority of Indian casinos in the state have chosen to stay closed and are coordinating their reopening with the governor’s office, which has proposed a date in early June.
People under 40 make up an increasing share of those who have tested positive for the virus in Washington State. Researchers in Seattle said that policymakers might need to focus on younger people to limit the spread.
In a new analysis, the researchers said about half of new identified cases were among people under 40, up from one-third of infections earlier in the outbreak.
Younger people may be more likely to work or participate in social activities, especially as restrictions are eased. While they do not face as high a risk of serious complications from infections, they can expose other people they encounter who may be older or who have hazardous underlying conditions, the researchers said.
“Our findings indicate a justifiable concern regarding the phased reopening plan for Washington State in late May in light of the shift in Covid-19 incidence from older to younger age,” the researchers wrote in their report, posted on the preprint server medRvix.
The researchers said government leaders may need to pursue specific advisories for children, teenagers and young adults to warn them of the risks of social interaction.
Democrats in Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives on Thursday accused Republicans of keeping a lawmaker’s positive virus test a secret to avoid political embarrassment, even at the risk of exposing fellow legislators, Trip Gabriel reports.
A Republican House member, Andrew Lewis, confirmed on Wednesday that he received a positive test on May 20 and self-isolated. Mr. Lewis said that every lawmaker or staff member he was in contact with who “met the criteria for exposure” was notified.
But Democrats disputed that, saying none of their own members were alerted even though some were near Mr. Lewis in committee meetings.
The House Democratic campaign arm accused Republicans of hiding Mr. Lewis’s positive test “to protect their public talking points against science and facts.” Another Republican representative, Russ Diamond, who said he was notified of possible exposure through contact with Mr. Lewis, had previously spoken at a shutdown protest outside the Capitol and boasted on social media of not wearing a mask while shopping.
In an emotional Facebook video recorded in his office at the Capitol, Representative Brian K. Sims, a Democrat from Philadelphia, said Mr. Diamond had “apparently been quarantining himself for weeks” but “didn’t explain that to any of us when he was in committee, talking with us or walking up and down the aisles or bumping into us or letting us hold the door open for him.”
Mr. Lewis said he had kept his positive diagnosis private “out of respect for my family and those who I may have exposed.”
Representative Ryan Bizzarro, a Democrat, disputed that Mr. Lewis had quarantined himself after his diagnosis. “We have footage of him being here,” he said.
Mr. Bizzarro, who was tested on Thursday in Harrisburg, added: “The thing that was just infuriating about this whole situation is that we found out the Republican caucus leadership knew about this and tried to bury it.”
Some Democrats have called for the House speaker, Mike Turzai, to resign.
A spokesman for Mr. Turzai did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Trump administration will not issue a midyear update to its economic forecasts this summer, breaking decades of tradition during the uncertainty of a pandemic recession, administration officials confirmed on Thursday.
The decision will spare the administration from having to announce its internal projections for how deeply the recession will damage economic growth and how long the pain of high unemployment will persist.
When the administration last published official projections in February, it forecast economic growth of 3.1 percent from the fourth quarter of 2019 to the fourth quarter of 2021, and growth rates at or around 3 percent for the ensuing decade. It forecast an unemployment rate of 3.5 percent for the year.
The virus has rendered those projections obsolete. Unemployment could hit 20 percent in June, the White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett told CNN this week. The Congressional Budget Office said in April that it expects the economy will contract by 5.6 percent this year and end with unemployment above 11 percent.
The White House is required by law to issue both an annual budget and a midyear update to it, called a “mid-session review.” Updating economic projections in the mid-session review is optional, but it is a practice that administrations — including Mr. Trump’s — have widely followed since the review was mandated by Congress in 1970.
The review is required by law to give at least a partial window into how the administration expects the economy to perform this year and in the future: It must contain “any substantial changes to estimated receipts or expenditures” by the federal government, which includes the projected effects of cratering tax collections from lost economic activity and increased spending and tax cuts to combat it.
The decision not to release updated projections was first reported by The Washington Post.
Trump administration officials have in the past resisted updating their forecasts in the face of evidence that the economy was not growing as fast as they had projected. The budget they released in February officially conceded for the first time that growth in 2018 and 2019 had not reached 3 percent, as they had predicted.
The Federal Reserve is still scheduled to release its first summary of economic projections this year following its June 9-10 meeting. Central bankers release the forecasts for unemployment, growth, inflation and interest rates each quarter, but skipped the March edition amid virus uncertainty.
The Boston Marathon was canceled on Thursday for the first time in its 124-year history, Mayor Martin Walsh announced, as it became clear that earlier plans to postpone the race until September were too optimistic.
The race — the most prominent marathon in the United States — has been held annually since 1897, during world wars and periods of domestic tension and in snow and rainstorms. It regularly brings together hundreds of thousands of people, including a field of 30,000 runners and throngs of fans who cheer along the course from Boston’s western suburbs to its downtown.
President Trump on Thursday tweeted his condolences to the families and friends of those who had died.
Mr. Trump and his presumptive Democratic rival, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., have outlined two very different strategies for moving forward. Mr. Biden, who laid out his plan in a little-noticed Medium post, said he would he would set up testing through the federal government, with a public-private board to oversee test manufacturing and distribution, federal safety regulators enforcing testing at work, and at least 100,000 contact tracers tracking down exposed people.
The Trump administration released its new testing strategy over the weekend in an 81-page document, as it was required to do under the Paycheck Protection Program and Heath Care Enhancement Act. The plan would hold states responsible for carrying out all testing, though the federal government would provide some supplies.
Polls show that voters tend to favor a prominent role for the federal government. In a Pew Research survey released this month, 61 percent of Americans said coronavirus testing was mostly or entirely the responsibility of the federal government, not the states. A Fox News poll released last week found that 63 percent of registered voters viewed the “lack of available testing” as a “major problem.” Just 12 percent said it was not a problem at all.
Still, some say a one-size-fits-all program is not the right approach. Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, called Mr. Biden’s idea a “typical Democratic response.”
“There’s a big difference between what’s going on in Queens, N.Y., and rural Tennessee, and the governors know best what to do,” he said.
The New York City Council introduced legislation on Thursday, backed by the restaurant industry, to require Mayor Bill de Blasio to find a way to open streets, sidewalks and public plazas to outdoor dining.
“The restaurant and the food industry has been struggling just as much as any other businesses in our city,” Councilman Antonio Reynoso of Brooklyn said at the Council’s hearing, adding that the process would be “something that can be done very quickly and in a timely fashion.”
The executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, Andrew Rigie, said the idea was to require the mayor to establish a framework to identify appropriate places for restaurants to sell food and beverages outside and create a mechanism by which businesses and community boards could submit suggestions.
“Our hope is there may be areas where entire streets could be shut down for restaurant service,” Mr. Rigie said in an interview. “We really need to be creative.”
Last week, 24 Council members sent a public letter to the mayor urging him to create more space for outdoor dining, citing similar efforts in Tampa, Fla., and Cincinnati.
At the mayor’s daily briefing on Thursday, he noted that restaurants and bars were not among the businesses included in the state-permitted first phase of reopening. He said the city hoped to start reopening in early June, but had yet to meet state benchmarks on hospital beds and contact tracing.
When the city begins reopening, the mayor said that between 200,000 and 400,000 unemployed New Yorkers could head back to work, representing over 20 percent of the 885,000 private-sector jobs the city lost during the pandemic.
On Thursday, the state reported 74 more deaths, unchanged from the number reported the previous day.
Senator Tim Kaine, Democrat of Virginia and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 running mate, disclosed on Thursday that he had tested positive for virus antibodies.
Mr. Kaine is the second senator known to have had a confirmed case of Covid-19. Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, tested positive for the virus in late March, even as he continued to appear in person at the Senate facilities.
Mr. Kaine said in a statement on Thursday that he and his wife started experiencing flulike symptoms around that time, after the Senate had begun a prolonged recess. The senator’s doctor thought it could be the virus, but the couple did not get tested at the time because of scarcity, and their symptoms never became severe enough to seek additional treatment.
A recent antibody test came back positive. “While those antibodies could make us less likely to be reinfected or infect others, there is still too much uncertainty over what protection antibodies may actually provide,” said Mr. Kaine, who has returned to work on Capitol Hill. “So we will keep following C.D.C. guidelines — hand-washing, mask wearing, social distancing. We encourage others to do so as well.”
Fears about contracting the virus from contaminated surfaces have prompted many people to wipe down groceries, leave packages unopened and stress about touching elevator buttons.
But what is the real risk? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently tried to clarify its guidance: “It may be possible that a person can get Covid-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it, and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes, but this isn’t thought to be the main way the virus spreads.”
The bottom line, she writes, is that the best way we can protect ourselves from the virus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing our hands, not touching our faces and wearing masks.
Official case counts often substantially underestimate the number of infections. But in the new studies, which tested the population more broadly in an effort to estimate everyone who has been infected, the percentage of people who have been infected is still in the single digits. The numbers are a small fraction of the threshold known as herd immunity, when the virus can no longer spread widely. The precise herd immunity threshold for the virus is not yet clear, but several experts said they believed it would be higher than 60 percent.
Even in some of the hardest-hit cities in the world, the studies suggest, a vast majority of people still remain vulnerable to the virus.
As the British government prepares to roll out a large-scale track-and-trace system intended to head off a second surge in infections, other countries’ experiences offer case studies — and cautionary tales.
Starting Thursday, anyone in Britain who has potential symptoms will be tested and, if positive, asked to list all those with whom they have recently been in close contact for at least 15 minutes. Those people, in turn, will be contacted and asked to isolate themselves for 14 days.
It’s the latest national campaign that aims to prevent more infections and another test of how testing and tracing affect transmission of the virus. The results so far are mixed.
Rest and fluids are essential, but so is knowing when to call a doctor. Give yourself plenty of time to feel better.
Reporting was contributed by Mike Baker, Karen Barrow, Scott Cacciola, Ben Casselman, Emily Cochrane, Patricia Cohen, Michael Cooper, Catie Edmondson, Nicholas Fandos, Thomas Fuller, Trip Gabriel, David Gelles, Erica L. Green, Jenny Gross, Apoorva Mandavilli, Jennifer Medina, Sarah Mervosh, Talya Minsberg, Andy Newman, Nadja Popovich, Roni Caryn Rabin, Alan Rappeport, Dana Rubinstein, Margot Sanger-Katz, Anna Schaverien, Kaly Soto, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Vanessa Swales, Jim Tankersley and Katie Van Syckle.
Source: NY times