US Unemployment Rate Hits 14.7%

By The New York Times

(Suggestion by Petros Petrikkos)

The latest federal data revealed 20.5 million jobs lost in April, and unemployment rivaling the Great Depression. A program to provide loans to small businesses ran dry. President Trump will be tested daily after a valet fell ill.

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President Trump said during an interview with Fox News that he would commit to providing rapid coronavirus testing to his presumptive presidential opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

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Brooklyn on Thursday. The jobs report on Friday is likely to be grim.
Credit…Brittainy Newman/The New York Times

The U.S. economy shed 20.5 million jobs in April.

The Labor Department said Friday that the economy shed more than 20.5 million jobs in April, sending the unemployment rate to 14.7 percent as the coronavirus pandemic took a devastating toll.

The damage is the worst since the Great Depression, far exceeding the 8.7 million jobs lost in the last recession, when unemployment peaked at 10 percent in October 2009. The only comparable period is when unemployment reached about 25 percent in 1933, before the government began publishing official statistics.

Most forecasters expect the unemployment rate to remain elevated at least through 2021, and probably longer. That means that it will be years before workers enjoy the bargaining power that was beginning to bring them faster wage gains and better benefits before the crisis.

“Job seekers are going to have less leverage,” said Julia Pollak, a labor economist at the employment marketplace ZipRecruiter. “We’re no longer going to see mostly employed job seekers browsing and looking for better matches and higher pay. You’re going to see job seekers desperate to pay the bills.”

Low-wage workers, including many women and members of racial and ethnic minorities, have been hit especially hard. Many service jobs are impossible to do remotely and have been eliminated, and some workers have risked their health by staying on the job.

With jobless claims soaring by tens of millions in just a matter of weeks, unemployment offices have scrambled to hire more workers, upgrade computers and add call centers, but are still struggling to process the crush. Applicants complain that they have trouble just getting into the system. Many who filed successfully for benefits say that there are gaps in their payments, even if they certify their jobless status each week.

Patricia Cohen and Tiffany Hsu report that checks have also been slow in coming.

Alexander Talley, 28, filed for unemployment benefits almost eight weeks ago, immediately after he was furloughed on March 13 from his serving job at a high-end restaurant in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. He received nothing until April 28, when $1,300 in retroactive payments from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity appeared in his bank account.

So far, only 40 percent of the more than 1.2 million Floridians filing verified claims have begun to receive benefits.

“It was absolutely terrible,” Mr. Talley said of filing his claim and waiting for the payment. He didn’t have a laptop, so he had to conduct the process on his iPhone. Often, he said, he felt lost. “The only information I was able to find to keep myself from going absolutely crazy was Twitter and Facebook.”

Trump will be tested daily after a valet was found to have the virus.

President Trump said on Thursday that he and Vice President Mike Pence, as well as members of the White House staff, would be tested every day after a military aide who has had contact with the president was found to have contracted the coronavirus.

Asked by reporters about the aide, whom a senior administration official described as a personal valet to the president, Mr. Trump played down the matter.

“I’ve had very little contact, personal contact, with this gentleman,” he said. But he added that he and other officials and staff members at the White House would be tested more frequently.

A White House spokesman said that Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence had both tested negative for the virus since their exposure to the military aide. But the episode raised new questions about how well protected Mr. Trump and other top officials are as they work at the White House, typically without wearing masks, particularly in advance of a meeting on Friday with World War II veterans.

Eight of the veterans — each older than 95, an age group at high statistical risk for serious illness from the coronavirus — were scheduled to take part in a photo opportunity at the White House and an event at the World War II Memorial nearby to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the German surrender, known as V-E Day. The granddaughter of one of the veterans said she thought that asking them to travel across the country was “very irresponsible.”

Funding for small businesses has faltered. The Times tracked where some of the money has gone so far.

A government program offering low-interest loans and tiny grants to small companies harmed by the pandemic has stopped taking nearly all new applications because its funding is exhausted.

The initiative, known as the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, is an expansion of an emergency system run by the Small Business Administration that has for years helped companies after natural disasters like hurricanes, floods and tornadoes. To speed billions of dollars in aid along, the government directly funds the loans, sparing applicants the step of finding a lender willing to work with them.

But in the face of the pandemic, the loan program is drowning in requests. Many applicants have waited weeks for approval, with little to no information about where they stand, and others are being told they’ll get a fraction of what they expected.

The Small Business Administration has not disclosed how many applications have been received or how many loans have been approved. The program was supposed to fund loans of up to $2 million and grants of up to $10,000.

A different fund, the better-known Paycheck Protection Program, which is aimed at keeping workers employed, has also been plagued with problems. An analysis of government data by the Times reporters Karl Russell and Stacy Cowley shows how the earliest payouts most often went to parts of the country that were not as hard hit by the coronavirus, as well as to a small number of companies seeking millions in assistance.

California wanted to extend free school meals to hungry parents and guardians. The federal government said no.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture this week rejected a plea from California’s Education Department to allow parents or legal guardians of children who are eligible for free school meals to pick up meals for themselves as well as hunger spreads in the nation’s largest state.

California’s request for a waiver from rules under the federal school meals program, submitted last month, was being watched by other states hoping to use existing school meal distribution programs to feed hungry adults.

Kim Frinzell, the director of nutrition services for the California Department of Education, said she felt compelled to ask as desperation spreads.

“Food insecurity doesn’t stop with the children,” Ms. Frinzell said. “Everyone is struggling financially, and we wanted to make sure we had many opportunities for food access.”

The Agriculture Department, which administers the free and reduced-price meal program, has not formally responded to the waiver request, but a spokeswoman said the department “does not have the authority to reimburse adult meals through the summer meals program.”

Crystal FitzSimons, the director of school programs at the Food Research and Action Center, said school meal programs are not designed to provide food to adults unless they have disabilities and are receiving care from the school.

But, she added, “It is definitely a creative approach to make sure families have access to nutrition.”

Many schools across the nation have begun operating as community soup kitchens. But without federal reimbursement for meals to adults, school districts will have to rely on donations from philanthropic organizations, their own school district general funds, and grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Nearly 40 school nutrition groups have called on Congress to provide $2.6 billion in relief funds for those schools. “Funding must be provided to make programs financially solvent and to maintain the integrity of essential food security programs as the recovery process begins, with many more children relying on school meal programs,” the groups wrote.

Mayor de Blasio strips New York City’s Health Department of contact-tracing duties.

New York City will soon assemble an army of more than 1,000 disease detectives to trace the contacts of every person who tests positive for the coronavirus, an approach seen as crucial to quelling the outbreak and paving the way to reopen the hobbled city.

But that effort will not be led by the city’s health department, which for decades has conducted contact tracing for diseases such as tuberculosis, H.I.V. and Ebola, officials said on Thursday.

Instead, in a sharp departure from current and past practice, the city is going to put the vast new public health apparatus in the hands of its public hospital system, Health and Hospitals, city officials acknowledged after being approached by The New York Times about the changes.

The decision, which Mayor Bill de Blasio is preparing to announce as early as Friday, puzzled current and former health officials, who questioned the wisdom of changing what has worked before, especially during a pandemic.

The department conducted tracing of coronavirus cases at the start of the outbreak, and had been doing so again recently, in preparation for the expansion of those efforts.

Dr. Mary T. Bassett, a former city health commissioner under Mr. de Blasio and now the director of the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University, said that the three key elements of handling the coronavirus — testing, tracing and quarantine — have long been performed by the health department.

“These are core functions of public health agencies around the world, including New York City, which has decades of experience,” Dr. Bassett said in an email. “To confront Covid-19, it makes sense to build on this expertise.”

Back in session, state lawmakers are challenging governors’ authority.

Until recently, intergovernmental friction over individual state responses to the coronavirus and plans for restarting state economies has been dominated by skirmishes between executives, with tension between mayors and governors, and governors and the president.

But as more state legislatures reconvene, and as states take tentative steps toward some semblance of normalcy, lawmakers have increasingly asserted themselves, demanding to define a clearer role for the legislative branch and challenging governors who have become the face of their state’s response.

State lawmakers in Mississippi voted overwhelmingly last week to strip away the governor’s authority to spend more than $1.2 billion in federal funds. In Wisconsin, lawyers for Republican leaders there argued before the State Supreme Court their case for reining in the governor’s executive “safer at home” order.

And in Louisiana, plexiglass barriers separated masked lawmakers as they returned to work this week and jumped right into pushing back against Gov. John Bel Edwards’s decision to extend his stay-at-home order until May 15, even if it meant resorting to a petition to override his emergency declaration.

About a dozen states have returned to session or are scheduled to reconvene in the coming weeks. And as more state legislatures come back online, lawmakers will have to confront the enormous challenges that come with governing during a pandemic.

The economic damage has been devastating, eviscerating businesses, driving up job losses and unnerving voters whose lives and livelihoods have been upended. State and local governments are also anticipating enormous budget shortfalls as tax revenues have eroded.

The law provides vast authority to the governor during an emergency — “for good reason,” said Sharon Hewitt, a Republican state senator in Louisiana.

“But,” Ms. Hewitt added, “I also agree the Legislature should have more of a role.

Polls show Americans want the virus contained more than they want to reopen the economy.

Recent polling suggests Americans are heeding the advice of health officials and do not want a quick return to normalcy, despite skyrocketing unemployment because of the virus and President Trump’s cheerleading to reopen the economy.

Mr. Trump said this week that he was eager “to get our country open again,” adding, “People want to go back, and you’re going to have a problem if you don’t do it.”

But more than two-thirds of respondents said in a Pew Research Center poll released Thursday that they were more concerned that state governments would reopen their economies too quickly than that they might take too long — roughly on par with past responses to the same question.

And in a survey released late last month by The Associated Press and NORC, 68 percent of Americans said they had a great deal of trust in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to provide them with reliable information about the pandemic. That’s three times as much as the dismal 23 percent who said they definitely trusted Mr. Trump’s statements on the virus.

The virus’s effects are being felt most acutely in states with a high concentration of people in cities, and the six most-infected states per capita all trend Democratic politically. Black people and Latinos are showing some of the highest rates of infection: More than a quarter of all confirmed cases have been among Latinos, according to C.D.C. statistics, and even more have been among African-Americans.

According to a Quinnipiac University poll of residents in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut area — the epicenter of the virus in the United States — 71 percent of respondents said they wanted their state government to focus on controlling the virus, not on reopening.

Summer is coming, but a new study suggests warm weather does not slow the virus.

“Everybody hopes for seasonality” when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic, Peter Juni of the University of Toronto acknowledged. Maybe, just maybe, the summer will diminish the spread of Covid-19.

But a new study by Dr. Juni, an epidemiologist, and his colleagues in Canada and Switzerland, offers very little encouragement for such hopes. In countries around the world, his research found, variations in heat and humidity had little to no effect on the spread of the pandemic. Differences in how the disease spread were instead strongly associated with public health measures like social distancing and school closures.

Several other studies have found or projected modest effects of warmer climates or the increase of sunlight in diminishing the spread of the coronavirus, but all have emphasized the need for public health interventions.

One reason is that most of the world’s population has no immunity to the virus. “This means the virus doesn’t need favorable conditions” to spread, Dr. Juni said.

He and his colleagues did a forward-looking study in which they picked 144 countries or “geopolitical areas” around the world and established the conditions that prevailed from March 7 to March 13 in terms of temperature, humidity and public health measures.

“In our study,” the researchers wrote in the study, published Thursday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, “only public health interventions were consistently associated with reduced epidemic growth, and the greater the number of co-occurring public health interventions, the larger the reduction in growth.”

In New York, racial disparities are seen in social distancing arrests.

Tensions are flaring in black and Hispanic neighborhoods in New York over the enforcement of social distancing rules, leading some prominent elected officials to charge that the New York Police Department is engaging in a racist double standard as it struggles to shift to a public health role in the pandemic.

The arrests of black and Hispanic residents, several of them filmed and posted online, occurred on the same balmy days as other photographs showing police officers handing out masks to mostly white visitors at parks in Lower Manhattan, Williamsburg and Long Island City.

On Thursday, the Brooklyn district attorney’s office became the first prosecutor in the city to release statistics on social distancing enforcement. In the borough, the police arrested 40 people for social distancing violations from March 17 through May 4, the district attorney’s office said.

Of those arrested, 35 people were black, four were Hispanic and one was white. More than a third of the arrests were made in the predominantly black neighborhood of Brownsville, while no one was arrested in the more white neighborhood of Park Slope.

After The New York Times reported the numbers Thursday night, Mayor Bill de Blasio wrote on Twitter that while summons and arrests were tools for saving lives, “The disparity in the numbers does NOT reflect our values. We HAVE TO do better and we WILL.”

Times photographers document a world transformed.


Restaurants are receiving patrons into dining rooms partially cordoned off for social distancing, friends are seeking safe conversation in the sunshine and some people are trying to continue a productive path forward in isolation.

The patchwork of rules meant to slow the pandemic across the United States has continued to evolve, as many state and local governments lifted, shifted and let expire regulations that governed what businesses could be open, as well as how public areas could be used.

New York Times photographers explored how people are seeking a bit of normalcy as states wrestle with the shutdowns aimed at curbing the spread of the virus.

Latinos in many places are disproportionately affected by the virus.

Epidemiologists around the country are examining more and more evidence that the coronavirus is impacting Latinos, especially in certain states and communities, with particular force.

Other groups, including African-Americans, have also been hit hard. But for doctors like Eva Galvez, who works as a family physician for a network of clinics in northwestern Oregon, the disparity for Latinos has become alarming. In tests of low-income patients over the past several weeks, she said, Latinos were 20 times as likely as other patients to have the virus.

Oregon is just one of many states where Latinos are showing a disproportionate level of impact. In Iowa, Latinos account for more than 20 percent of coronavirus cases, though they are only 6 percent of the population. Latinos in Washington State make up 13 percent of the population but 31 percent of cases. In Florida, Hispanics are just over a quarter of the population but account for two of every five virus cases where the patient’s ethnicity is known.

Public health experts say Latinos may be more vulnerable to the virus as a result of the same factors that have put minorities at risk across the country. Many have low-paying service jobs that require them to work through the pandemic, interacting with the public. A large number also lack access to health care, which contributes to higher rates of diabetes and other conditions that can worsen infections. But the virus has not discriminated: its effects, experts said, had been seen among both immigrants and Latinos from multigenerational American families.

In Latino communities with a longer history in the United States — like those in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas — the differences are narrower, at least according to the official data reported by the states. Experts say one reason is that places with more established Latino communities have a wider spectrum of professional and middle-class families with more wealth, who can work from home or take advantage of other options for weathering the pandemic.

Reporting was contributed by Eileen Sullivan, Alan Blinder, Neil Irwin, Patricia Cohen, Tiffany Hsu, Michael D. Shear, Lola Fadulu, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Ashley Southall, Michael Levenson, Michael Crowley, Rick Rojas, Giovanni Russonello, Marc Santora, James Gorman, J. David Goodman, William K. Rashbaum, Jeffery C. Mays, Ben Casselman and Nelson D. Schwartz.


Source: Coronavirus Live News and Updates – The New York Times