As 1.5 million more U.S. workers file for unemployment, Congress is divided on extending aid.
Another 1.5 million U.S. workers filed state unemployment claims last week, according to a Labor Department report issued Thursday, as Republicans and Democrats in Congress remained at odds over whether to extend federal jobless benefits that are set to expire July 31.
Lawmakers in both parties and administration officials appear to agree that Congress should consider some form of assistance to workers as part of another round of coronavirus aid that is likely to be debated in the coming weeks.
Democrats want to extend federal weekly payments of $600 beyond July to supplement state unemployment benefits. But Republicans and the White House are resisting, citing a recent unexpected improvement in jobs numbers and arguing that extending the payments could discourage people from returning to work because, in some cases, the checks were more than what people were earning.
The debate reflects a broader divide between Democrats, who favor enacting another round of stimulus aimed at helping individuals suffering financially because of the pandemic, and Republicans, who are eyeing a narrower package that seeks to incentivize reopening the country as the key component in any recovery. Some lawmakers in both parties are trying to find a middle ground, proposing a back-to-work bonus that would reward people who returned to the work force.
Here’s a look at what is going on with the U.S. economy:
The 1.5 million new state unemployment claims filed last week were the fewest since the crisis began, but still far above normal levels. A further 700,000 workers who were self-employed or otherwise ineligible for state jobless benefits filed new claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federal aid program. The government reported that jobs rebounded last month and that the unemployment rate fell unexpectedly to 13.3 percent. But it later added a note to the report saying that the actual rate could be closer to 16.4 percent — still lower than in April, but higher than at any other point since the Great Depression.
Stocks on Wall Street were heading for their sharpest daily drop since early April, retreating after a heady rally as investors considered grim economic forecasts and a worrisome uptick in new cases in parts of the United States. The S&P 500 fell as much as 4 percent.
The Federal Reserve and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development both issued grim economic projections on Wednesday and Thursday. Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, warned that the first wave of virus cases was not yet over. “It’s not a second wave,” Dr. Gottlieb said in an interview with The New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin on the CNBC program “Squawk Box.” “They never really got rid of the first wave.”
Whether companies should be liable if their workers and customers contract the virus has become a key question as businesses seek to reopen, with business pushing Congress for temporary legal protections. Republicans support the idea, seeing it as key to getting the economy running again. But the idea has engendered stiff opposition among congressional Democrats and labor unions, who say that such a shield would help companies that fail to take adequate steps to ensure safety.
Arizona is among the emerging hot spots in the United States, with 28,296 confirmed cases and 1,070 known deaths as of Tuesday.
A jump in cases this month is fueling concerns of a potential increase in community spread, as the state saw several days in June with more than 1,000 newly reported cases, up from daily increases in the several hundreds.
While state officials have contended that the rising numbers were expected and reflected expanded testing, epidemiologists and some local health departments say Arizona is undoubtedly experiencing increasing local transmission.
The authorities are bracing for what comes next. Dr. Marjorie Bessel, the chief clinical officer at Banner Health, the state’s largest hospital system, said that the network’s I.C.U. units treating Covid-19 patients were growing so busy that Banner would soon need to exercise a “surge plan” to expand capacity. (About 50 percent of patients hospitalized with Covid-19 in Arizona are in Banner Health facilities.)
Hospital beds across the state are at a premium, with only 17 percent available as of Monday, according to data from the state. On Wednesday, test results showed a 20 percent positive rate, the state reported.
Still, health officials seem to be sending different messages to people in the state. Jessica Rigler, the state Health Department’s assistant director, told The Arizona Republic this week, “We don’t want people to be in crisis mode, thinking that everything is all bad in Arizona with the cases.”
Arizona’s handling of the pandemic has vexed some epidemiologists and public health officials. Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, moved energetically to reopen the state in May.
KEY DATA OF THE DAY
The number of cases in Africa has doubled in the last 18 days, rising to more than 200,000, the W.H.O. says.
The virus took 98 days to reach 100,000 cases in Africa — but only 18 days to double from that figure, the World Health Organization announced on Thursday.
While the numbers may have risen so significantly in part because of increased testing, the agency said in a statement that more than half of the 54 countries on the continent were experiencing community transmission. Ten countries were driving the rise in numbers and accounted for nearly 80 percent of all cases, it said. South Africa has a quarter of the total cases.
Of the 5,600 deaths recorded, a majority were in just five countries: Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa and Sudan.
“For now, Africa still only accounts for a small fraction of cases worldwide,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the agency’s regional director for the continent. “But the pace of the spread is quickening. Swift and early action by African countries has helped to keep numbers low, but constant vigilance is needed to stop Covid-19 from overwhelming health facilities.”
The statement noted the “considerable socioeconomic cost” of lockdowns that were put in place to slow the spread of the virus, particularly on poor and marginalized communities. Many developing countries have begun to relax such measures even as infections surge.
“The need to balance between saving lives and protecting livelihoods is a key consideration in this response, particularly in Africa,” Dr. Moeti said.
But the agency warned that the easing of restrictions must be coupled with widespread testing and vigilance until a vaccine or treatment is widely available. Dr. Michael Ryan, the executive director of the W.H.O., told reporters on Wednesday that the fatality rate in Africa was about 1 percent, which is lower than in most continents, but he said that experts were not certain that trend would hold.
President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa said this week that his country’s lockdown — which has now been relaxed, with most people back at work — had achieved the goal of giving hospitals time to prepare. That assertion may be tested in the coming days. Eyewitness News reported on Thursday that at least 20 schools in the Western Cape that had reopened were forced to close again, after 98 teachers tested positive for the virus.
Citing upticks in virus cases in some parts of the United States, a top health adviser to the governor of Maryland publicly pushed back against the state’s latest plans to ease more restrictions on indoor gatherings.
While its rate of new cases has been decreasing in recent weeks, the state reported more than 500 new cases on Wednesday. “We can’t let hundreds of cases a day become our new normal,” said Dr. Tom Inglesby, the director of the Center for Health Security at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and an adviser to Gov. Larry Hogan.
Dr. Inglesby’s comments, made in a series of Twitter posts on Thursday, come a day after Mr. Hogan announced plans to expand reopenings in the coming weeks to include indoor dining, gyms, casinos and outdoor amusement parks, with restrictions. Mr. Hogan, a Republican, is the chairman of the National Governors Association, and has won praise for his handling of the virus.
Here are some other key developments around the country:
An outcry grew after an Ohio lawmaker, State Senator Stephen A. Huffman, a Republican and a doctor, asked at a hearing Tuesday if the high rate of virus cases among African-Americans was because “the colored population” did not wash their hands as well as other groups. State Senator Hearcel F. Craig, a member of the Legislative Black Caucus, called the remarks an example of “systemic racism.”
A young woman whose lungs were destroyed by the virus received a double lung transplant last week at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, the hospital reported on Thursday, the first known lung transplant in the United States for Covid-19.
Arkansas, which is set to move into its second phase of reopening on Monday, could face a shortage of I.C.U. beds in hospitals across the state, with only 32 percent currently available and cases on the rise, according to Covid Exit Strategy, a group tracking states’ steps to contain the virus. The state saw 288 new cases on Wednesday, according to New York Times data.
As the number of virus cases in Texas continues to climb, with 2,500 new cases added on Wednesday, virus-related hospitalizations are also up. The state has thousands of hospital beds available, but it is running low on its I.C.U. beds, with 70 percent already in use, according to Covid Exit Strategy. The rate of positive tests was nearly 7 percent as of Tuesday, according to Texas data.
Biden unveils a plan to reopen the U.S. economy.
Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, on Thursday unveiled an eight-part plan for reopening the economy and faulted President Trump for his handling of the matter.
“Trump has basically had a one-point plan: Open businesses, just open,” Mr. Biden said at a round table event in Philadelphia. “But it does nothing to keep workers safe and keep businesses able to stay open. And secondly, it has done very little to generate consumer confidence.”
Mr. Biden’s plan calls for the federal government to provide regular testing for everyone who returns to work and ensure the availability of personal protective equipment.
It would guarantee paid sick leave for all workers who get Covid-19, and it calls on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to set up and enforce a temporary standard for protecting workers.
The plan also addresses issues like contact tracing, protecting people who are most susceptible to the virus, supporting small businesses and reopening schools.
The U.N. predicts that global trade will plunge 27 percent compared with this quarter last year.
In a new sign of the economic meltdown caused by the virus, global trade is expected to plunge 27 percent in the April-June quarter compared with the same period last year, the United Nations said Thursday.
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, an agency known by its acronym UNCTAD, made the prediction in a quarterly update on trade trends. In April alone, it said in the report, preliminary data showed trade in energy products fell 40 percent and automotive products fell 50 percent.
For the year, the agency predicted global trade would fall by 20 percent compared with 2019.
While trade was already slowing before the pandemic, the agency said “the economic and social disruptions brought by Covid-19 are resulting in a dramatic decline.”
China, where the novel coronavirus originated, appeared to have performed better than other major economies, with a 3 percent growth in April exports, the agency said, but the improvement could be fleeting because both imports and exports fell 8 percent in May.
The agency’s assessment added to a chorus of sobering measurements about the impact of the pandemic. On Wednesday the Federal Reserve, in its first projections of 2020 economic performance for the United States, predicted years of high unemployment in what its chairman called “the biggest economic shock, in the U.S. and the world, really, in living memory.”
NEW YORK ROUNDUP
N.Y.P.D.’s policy says officers should wear masks in public, but many are refusing.
The official New York Police Department policy is that officers should wear masks when interacting with the public, but the widespread absence of masks on the city’s police is striking. While officers may forgo masks for different reasons, the images have fueled a perception of the police as arrogant and dismissive of protesters’ health.
“If you’re out here to protect the public, it starts with you,” said Chaka McKell, a carpenter who recently attended a protest.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Police Department dismissed the criticism about the lack of masks as petty.
“Perhaps it was the heat,” the department’s press office said in a statement. “Perhaps it was the 15 hour tours, wearing bullet resistant vests in the sun. Perhaps it was the helmets. With everything New York City has been through in the past two weeks and everything we are working toward together, we can put our energy to a better use.”
On Thursday, Mr. de Blasio said that while legitimate reasons exist for officers to remove their masks, such as to take a drink of water, the city remains “in the middle of a pandemic.”
“It is so important that the people of the city see the people they look to to enforce the law actually abiding by the same rules as the rest of us,” the mayor said. “That has to happen to the absolute maximum extent possible among our police officers.”
The city is still reporting hundreds of new cases each week. As of May 29, 901 uniformed members — about 2.5 percent — were out sick, down from 19.8 percent in April. As of that same date, 5,627 members of the Police Department had returned to work after testing positive.
Here are some other important developments in New York:
Five regions of upstate and central New York can move into Phase 3 of reopening on Friday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said. That allows indoor restaurant dining to resume and nail salons and massage parlors to operate, all with limits.
The state will allow local municipalities to open public pools and playgrounds if officials judge it is safe and follow best practices.
Roughly 851,000 people rode the subway on Wednesday, up slightly from Monday and Tuesday, New York City Transit’s interim president said. Bus ridership was also ticking up, and 92 percent of riders have worn masks. “People are sort of taking their time, but approaching the system with confidence,” she said. “They’re ready to come back.” The overnight closures for cleaning would continue through the pandemic, she said.
The city’s first lady announced that the city would invest $3 million into a restaurant revitalization program meant to provide support to unemployed and underemployed workers.
Statewide, there were an additional 36 virus-related deaths, Mr. Cuomo said Thursday. In New Jersey, there were 70 more deaths, Gov. Philip D. Murphy said.
A number of public health agencies have offered tips for dating and sex during the pandemic, but the New York City health department has recently updated its Safer Sex and Covid-19 fact sheet with more detailed and descriptive advice for those without an exclusive sex partner at home. That includes wearing a mask and avoiding kissing.
The Senate’s top Democrat on Thursday accused Mr. Trump of being “too quick to sideline” his coronavirus task force, as infections spike around the country.
Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, called for the White House to allow Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, and other members of the task force to brief Democrats next week on the state of the pandemic.
“The president was too quick to sideline the coronavirus task force, too eager to pretend that everything was back to normal and better than ever,” Mr. Schumer, said in a speech on the Senate floor.
Though coronavirus infections are up in more than 20 states, Washington appears to have moved on to focus on other issues. Mr. Trump abandoned his daily coronavirus briefings more than a month ago, and Dr. Fauci — once a steady presence on Americans’ television sets and mobile devices — is rarely seen. Mr. Schumer also called for Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the president’s coronavirus response coordinator, to join Dr. Fauci in a briefing. Whether Mr. Trump will allow them to speak to Senate Democrats is unclear.
“We need to understand why these spikes are happening and how to adapt our national response,” Mr. Schumer said.
Smaller classes, masks, slashed budgets: Educators look toward an altered landscape.
Across the United States, school leaders are beginning to roll out plans to welcome more than 50 million students back in the fall, including procuring millions of masks; flooding schools with nurses, aides and counselors; and staggering schedules to minimize class size.
But the expensive demands to meet public health guidelines and increasing pressure to make up for setbacks that have disproportionately affected low-income students, students of color and those with disabilities could cripple some schools’ budgets.
On Wednesday, educators told a Senate panel that without a large federal investment in public schools, districts hit hard by the virus will struggle to meet the needs of their pupils this fall as they try to reopen. “We must double down for those who have been most impacted by the Covid crisis if we are to deliver on the promise of education to create a more equitable society,” said the superintendent of Denver Public Schools.
It is impossible to know what the time away from school will mean for children, but some studies paint a bleak picture. As our reporter Dana Goldstein wrote last week, new research suggests that by September, most U.S. students will have fallen behind where they would have been if they had stayed in classrooms, with some losing the equivalent of a full school year’s worth of academic gains.
As states start reopening after the coronavirus lockdown, thousands of people are still trying to solve a dilemma: Should they get pregnant during a pandemic with so many unknowns, or delay the decision and potentially give up on their dream to grow their family?
Much of what we know about how the virus affects pregnant women and children is based on limited data, and the potential long-term effects are unclear. Add to this economic uncertainty and an unemployment rate worse than in any previous postwar recession, and the choice to conceive becomes even more fraught. Those who are undecided might consider waiting, experts advised, but for some families — especially older individuals — that could prevent them from ever carrying a child.
The Times spoke with six households about how the threat of the coronavirus changed their approach to family planning. Some were determined to conceive, pushing aside worries about the pandemic, while others took a more cautious approach. But all of them had one thing in common: They struggled with their decision and hoped they made the right call in the end.
The drugmaker Regeneron said on Thursday that it was beginning a clinical trial of an antibody cocktail that it has developed to prevent and treat Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus.
Regeneron, based in Tarrytown, N.Y., is one of a handful of companies trying to develop treatments that work similarly to the antibodies that people develop naturally when they contract the virus. If the treatments work, they might provide a bridge to a vaccine, and possibly a temporary protection to people like health care workers who are at high risk.
The company said it would begin testing its product in four groups: hospitalized Covid-19 patients; those infected and symptomatic but not hospitalized; groups at high risk of infection; and people exposed to someone with Covid-19.
Drug trials are highly unpredictable, even if they have shown early promise in the lab. Still, the company has said that if the cocktail is successful, it could be ready to produce thousands of doses for preventive use by the end of the summer, before vaccines are available.
Other companies working on antibody treatments include Eli Lilly, which recently began early-stage trials of its treatment, and Vir Biotechnology, which is working in partnership with GlaxoSmithKline.
Xie Yiyi, who is American-educated, lost her job last Friday, making the 22-year-old Beijing resident one of millions of young people in China left unmoored and shaken by the coronavirus. So that same day, heeding the advice of one of China’s top leaders, she decided to open a barbecue stall.
Street vendors are seen by many Chinese people as embarrassing eyesores from the country’s past, when it was still emerging from extreme poverty. In many Chinese cities, uniformed neighborhood rule enforcers called chengguan regularly evict and assault sidewalk sellers of fake jewelry, cheap clothes and spicy snacks.
But Li Keqiang, China’s premier, has publicly called for the country’s jobless to ignite a “stall economy” to get the country’s derailed economy back on track. In the process, he laid bare China’s diverging narratives after the coronavirus epidemic. Is China an increasingly middle-class country, represented by the skyscrapers and tech campuses in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen? Or is much of it still poor and backward, a country of roadside stalls in back alleys?
Here are some other developments from around the world.
Indonesia, the world’s fourth-most-populous country, is experiencing a sustained spike in coronavirus cases, roughly three weeks after millions of people began crisscrossing the country at the end of Ramadan. This week, Indonesia has recorded three consecutive days of about 1,000 new infections each day, with a total of 35,295 cases and 2,000 deaths as of Thursday afternoon.
Concerned about the economic impact on tourism and universities, the European Union is recommending that all member countries in the bloc open their borders to one another by Monday. The European Commission, the executive branch of the bloc, is recommending a gradual opening to outsiders starting in July.
In Canada, commentary on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s unruly mane has become a national sport. With barber shops and salons set to reopen in Ottawa on Friday, the question is: Will he get a haircut, or will he refrain in solidarity with Canadians in areas still under lockdown?
Local authorities in Beijing confirmed what appeared to be the first locally transmitted case in weeks, Chinese state media reported on Thursday. The broadcaster CGTN reported that the patient, a 52-year-old man, said that he had not left the city for the past two weeks and had no contact with people from outside the city.
Reporting was contributed by Hannah Beech, Christina Caron, Michael Cooper, Nick Corasaniti, Jacey Fortin, Rick Gladstone, Michael Gold, Dana Goldstein, Denise Grady, Erica L. Green, Tiffany Hsu, Thomas Kaplan, Patrick Kingsley, Raphael Minder, Claire Moses, Tara Parker-Pope, Monika Pronczuk, Alan Rappeport, Simon Romero, Kaly Soto, Matt Stevens, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Ana Swanson, Eileen Sullivan, Katie Thomas, Laetitia Vancon, Daniel Victor, David Waldstein, Michael Wilson, Michael Wines, Li Yuan and Karen Zraick.