Headlines: April 30, 2020
The US’s weekly Labor Department statistics have just been released and show that another 3.8 million Americans signed up for unemployment benefits last week, bringing the rough toll of job losses since the pandemic to 30 million. Economists are pointing out that the impact of the virus has decimated the new jobs created since the Great Recession. According to the Washington Post, “There is no precedent for figures like this in modern American history.” Meanwhile a study by the Economic Policy Institute earlier in the week pointed out that even the 30 million figure might be a serious underestimate as states grapple with overwhelming demand for leaving government agencies unable to handle the flood of unemployment claims. According to EPI, “an additional 8.9–13.9 million people could have filed for benefits had the process been easier.” An analysis of the newly unemployed shows that in the early weeks of the pandemic, so-called “full contact” industries suffered the most job losses, followed by producers, those working in the supply chain, and white collar workers. Now, even public sector jobs are being lost – at a time when there is the greatest need for public services. The Labor Department’s figure came on the same day that the Commerce Department announced that consumer spending decreased by a whopping 7.5%.
As states attempt to fund the growing needs of their residents, school districts around the country are struggling to make ends meet and warn they may have to lay off thousands of teachers. More than 60 school superintendents signed on to a letter to Congressional lawmakers demanding that any future federal stimulus bill earmark school funding for states. Trump has threatened to withhold funding to those states that have pledged non-cooperation with federal immigration law enforcement saying that as a condition of aid, “We’d want certain things also, including sanctuary-city adjustments.” New York Attorney General Letitia James slammed the move saying in a statement, “President Trump’s threat to hold coronavirus funding hostage to cities and states across the country are the latest in his efforts to push a sinister political agenda that only aims to punish us all—citizens and non-citizens alike.” And, as economic woes continue to plague the nation, on Friday May 1st workers around the nation are planning walk outs to demand their labor rights. The May Day actions will involve employees of Amazon, Walmart, Target, Instacart, FedEx and more.
Deaths linked to the coronavirus in the US surpassed 60,000 this week. As a comparison, China, with the world’s largest population, has reported a total of about 4,600 Covid-related deaths. And in a macabre story in New York City, the world’s coronavirus epicenter, police on Wednesday found a number of large vehicles including a rented U-Haul truck holding dozens of rotting corpses outside a Brooklyn funeral home. Nearby residents alarmed by the stench called police to investigate. More than 17,000 people have died in New York City alone. Incarcerated Americans are also on the frontlines of the virus’ spread with news that 70% of those tested in federal prisons are found to have been infected. That does not necessarily mean all inmates were tested. Family members of those stuck inside prisons have been demanding their release. One bright spot is that Los Angeles became the first major city in the US to begin offering free Covid testing to all its residents regardless of symptoms. While those with symptoms will be given priority for testing, all residents are now able to schedule a free test at dozens of locations in and around the city and in LA County.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the US’s top infectious diseases expert in an interview announced that he expects a vaccine to be developed and ready for use by next January. He explained that the effort he is part of has been called “Operation Warp Speed,” and that, “We want to go quickly, but we want to make sure it’s safe and its effective…I think that is doable if things fall in the right place.” But in a lengthy New York Times exploration of how long vaccines take to develop, August 2021 appears to be the very earliest a vaccine could become available for wide use, and that is if everything goes right. Dr. Fauci also announced that a new anti-viral experimental drug called remdesivir, shows promise in treating the worst coronavirus symptoms. He said during the President’s press briefing on Wednesday, “The data shows that remdesivir has a clear-cut, significant, positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery.” Dr. Fauci’s agency, The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is overseeing a study of 1,000 patients using the new drug but preliminary results showed that the use of the drug allowed Covid patients to be discharged from the hospital after an average of 11 days instead of 15 – hardly a huge improvement.
A new poll by Associated Press/NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that a majority of Americans – about 60% – get information about the virus from the news media. However, “While the news media is the most frequented source of information about the virus, it is one of the least trusted.” The most trusted sources of information are the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and personal doctors. Only 23% trust information about the virus from President Trump. Meanwhile the federal government’s social distancing guidelines are set to expire on Thursday April 30th, the day before President Trump’s announced reopening of the US economy. Even though Dr. Fauci and other federal government scientists are not recommending that quarantines be lifted, Trump said he would not extend the guidelines explaining that, “They’ll be fading out because now the governors are doing it.” Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner have both hailed the White House’s virus response as “a great success story” in spite of all evidence to the contrary.
Democratic Presidential candidate and presumptive nominee Joe Biden has reportedly reached a deal with Senator Bernie Sanders to allow him to keep hundreds of delegates in a bid to unite the party ahead of November’s elections. But Biden’s campaign is facing a new challenge – of a sexual assault allegation by his former Senate staffer Tara Reade that has recently been newly corroborated by several sources. Biden has in recent days remained silent on the issue but several prominent women in the party have come to his defense. Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams has said she believes Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she was “satisfied” with how the Biden campaign responded to Reade’s accusation. Biden has said he would choose a female running mate and has reportedly formed a group of allies to help him decide.
News emerged that President Trump lashed out at his campaign after internal polling showed him losing to Biden. His campaign has apparently urged him to stop his daily White House press briefings as Trump’s embarrassing performances are hurting him politically. Trump dismissed the concerns in public saying to Reuters in an interview, “I don’t believe the polls.” The President’s newest avenue for reelection now appears to be linking China to the emergence of the coronavirus even more aggressively. He said to Reuters that, “China will do anything they can to have me lose this race.” A Chinese foreign minister spokesman said, “The U.S. presidential election is an internal affair, we have no interest in interfering in it,” He added, “We hope the people of the U.S. will not drag China into its election politics.” The Washington Post reported that, “Senior Trump administration officials have pushed American spy agencies to hunt for evidence to support an unsubstantiated theory that a government laboratory in Wuhan, China, was the origin of the coronavirus outbreak.” The conspiracy theory is popular with some sectors of the far right. But the office of the Director of National Intelligence said in a statement on Thursday, “The intelligence community … concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the Covid-19 virus was not manmade or genetically modified.”