Global leader: The United States now has more confirmed coronavirus cases than any other country. As of mid-day Friday, there were more than 566,000 confirmed cases worldwide, and over 25,000 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins coronavirus tracker. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has tested positive for COVID-19, but said his symptoms are mild. Confirmed cases in the U.S. topped 92,000, with nearly 1,400 deaths. New York City has been hardest hit, with more than more than 23,000 confirmed cases and a death toll nearing 400. More than half of all deaths in the U.S. were in three states: New York, Washington and California. One victim was Kious Kelly, a 48-year-old nurse at a Manhattan hospital. After his passing, coworkers took to social media to complain about inadequate supplies of protective gear. “We do not have enough PPE [personal protective equipment], we do not have the correct PPE, and we do not have the appropriate staffing to handle this pandemic,” one nurse wrote. “And I do not appreciate representatives of this health system saying otherwise on the news.” A photo published by the New York Post showed nurses wearing garbage bags over their scrubs. A hospital spokeswoman disputed claims that the hospital had not furnished enough protective equipment, and told The New York Times that “the troubling photo circulating in the media specifically shows the nurses in proper P.P.E. underneath garbage bags.”
Record-shattering: Nearly 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment last week, after non-essential businesses around the country closed their doors to slow the spread of coronavirus. Economists say more than 40 million Americans could lose their jobs by April, Heather Long and Alyssa Fowers report for The Washington Post. The demand for unemployment benefits far surpasses anything the country has experienced before; during the Great Recession, for example, the worst week for jobless claims was 665,000. “We may well be in a recession,” Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said on NBC’s “Today” show. “The first order of business is to get the virus under control and then resume economic activity.”
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Stimulus bill: The House has approved a $2 trillion stimulus bill by a voice vote Friday. The bill was passed unanimously by the Senate Wednesday. According to Politico, the legislation provides for direct payments of $1,200 to individuals with incomes of $75,000 or less, with an extra $500 for each child; extra unemployment benefits of $600 week, on top of state unemployment benefits; $500 billion in loans to distressed industries, including $58 billion for airlines; $150 billion for state and local governments; $30 billion in assistance to schools; $25 billion additional for food stamps and child nutrition; $24 billion for farmers and ranchers; $10.5 billion to the Defense Department for deployment of troops to help state responders; and $10 billion in loans to the U.S. Postal Service. It also allows employers and the self-employed to defer Social Security tax payments.
- Also: The bill stipulates that the president and his family—as well as Vice President Pence, members of Congress, heads of federal departments and their families—are prohibited from receiving loans or investments from the relief funds, John Wagner and David A. Fahrenthold report for The Washington Post. “Those of us who write the law shouldn’t benefit from the law,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on CNN.
Equipment shortage: U.S. hospitals have approximately 160,000 ventilators in all, The New York Times reports. There are an additional 12,700 in the federal government’s National Strategic Stockpile, but experts say it is not nearly enough to deal with the expected wave of coronavirus cases. “In a worst-case scenario it would be very difficult to have a sufficient number,” Thomas R. Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during the Obama administration, told The Times. “Try getting it yourselves,” President Trump has advised state governors. A New York State task force several years ago estimated that during a flu pandemic, the state would be short by nearly 16,000 ventilators a week at the peak of the crisis, Brian M. Rosenthal and Joseph Goldstein reported for The Times. Across the country, health care providers are also confronting a severe shortage of masks, surgical gowns, and eye protection to shield them from the virus. Said a surgeon in Fresno, California: “We are at war with no ammo.”
Opportunity for the unscrupulous: Alexandra Tempus reports for FairWarning on the coronavirus-related scams and cons that have emerged during the crisis, from vaccine kits to magic bullet treatments and even coronavirus-fighting toothpaste. The Justice Department ordered U.S. attorneys to prioritize the issue and to appoint a coronavirus fraud coordinator, spurring announcements of legal crackdowns from Vermont to Louisiana, including a cease-and-desist order for rightwing conspiracist Alex Jones, the purveyor of the toothpaste.
- Also: The plastics industry seized the opportunity to denigrate reusable shopping bags as “petri dishes for bacteria and carriers of harmful pathogens” and to tout single-use plastics as the cure, Hiroko Tabuchi reported for The New York Times. Some states have already postponed plastic bag bans or outright prohibited the use of reusable bags at grocery stores. But, as Emily Atkin reported in her climate newsletter Heated, the studies the industry is using to buttress their claims about reusable shopping bags don’t actually say what the industry says they do. Moreover, a study published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the novel coronavirus is most stable on plastic surfaces—including single-use plastic bags.
Bad news for news: Many local newspapers and alt weeklies around the country are seeing a spike in readership amid the rise in COVID-19 cases. But these publications rely on advertising revenue from local businesses, and the ongoing public health crisis that has shuttered restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues across the country has also caused a crisis for local news. Tiffany Hsu and Marc Tracy report for The New York Times on the lay-offs and canceled print runs at local news organizations from St. Louis to D.C., and Las Vegas to Chattanooga, Tennessee. Steven Waldman, the co-founder of Report for America, and Charles Sennott, the CEO of The GroundTruth Project–two nonprofits that are fighting the spread of so-called ”news deserts”– opine in The Atlantic that “Keeping these news sources afloat needs to be part of the governmental and philanthropic response to the pandemic.”
Jessica McKenzie is an independent journalist. Find more of her work at jessicastarmckenzie.com.
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