About 1 in 4 American workers have filed for unemployment since March.
More than 40 million people — the equivalent of one out of every four American workers — have filed for unemployment benefits since the pandemic began to upend life across the nation in mid-March.
The latest additions — the 2.1 million people who filed state unemployment claims last week — may be a result not only of new layoffs but also states working their way through some of the choking backlog. State unemployment offices that manage and distribute benefits have been stretched by the scale of the layoffs.
And some of the federal aid meant to cushion the blow is set to expire over the summer. The federal virus relief package gives eligible unemployed workers an extra $600 per week on top of their state benefits, but that aid is set to end on July 31.
Laid-off workers who have not applied for benefits and those who have left the labor force entirely are not included in the claims numbers. Nor are any of the eight million undocumented workers who lost their jobs but are not eligible for any benefits.
Nor are new graduates just entering the labor force, like Matthew Wilson, 24, who lost his barista job in Philadelphia but was turned down because he had been working in the state for less than a year.
“It doesn’t make any sense. I moved, and now I’m magically not qualified for unemployment?” said Mr. Wilson, who relocated to Pennsylvania after graduating from Tufts University in Massachusetts last year. He appealed the decision and heard last week that his claim had been approved, but he has not received any money, The Times’s Patricia Cohen reports.
Overcounting in some places and undercounting in others has made it difficult to precisely measure the number of layoffs caused by the pandemic — and devise policy responses — as shutdowns lift and state and local economies start to reopen.
The number of people receiving state jobless benefits dropped by about 3.8 million, to 21.1 million for the week ending May 16.
While rehiring certainly accounts for a chunk of that decline, it also reflects workers who have exhausted their weekly state benefits.
Shelter-in-place orders and business restrictions have been lifting across the country, and some workers have been called back to work. But the reopenings remain bumpy and incomplete, and flare-ups of the virus continue to disrupt business.
U.S. stocks pushed higher on Thursday, a third day of gains that has brought the S&P 500 to its highest level in nearly three months. The benchmark index was up less than 1 percent but added to back-to-back gains that have come as bullish investors looked past the immense economic damage from the pandemic toward signs of recovery.
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 House passed a bill to give small businesses more time and flexibility to use pandemic relief loans.
The House on Thursday overwhelmingly approved legislation that would relax the terms of a federal loan program to help small businesses weather the pandemic, allowing companies more time and flexibility to use the money.
The measure would alter the Paycheck Protection Program to allow small businesses 24 weeks instead of eight weeks to spend the loan funds and extend the period of eligibility to apply for a loan under the program from June 30 to Dec. 31. Without congressional action, that eight-week period is set to begin expiring within a few days.
But the bill’s fate is uncertain in the Senate, where a bipartisan group last week unveiled their own revisions that have some differences, including a shorter, 16-week time period for spending the loan money.
The bill’s near-unanimous passage in the House was a rare bit of bipartisanship in a debate that has turned bitterly partisan over what the next round of federal relief should look like, pitting Democrats pressing for quick action to provide trillions more in spending against Republicans who want to wait and consider a far leaner package.
House Democrats’ decision to expedite the bill reflected a growing sense of urgency among some moderates to put aside that broader dispute and find areas of agreement with Republicans where possible.
House Democrats this month pushed through a $3 trillion pandemic relief package over Republican opposition, but that bill is doomed in the Senate and faces a veto threat from President Trump.
The small business measure, however, saw bipartisan support that was strong enough that it was considered on Thursday under faster procedures reserved for noncontroversial bills, passing 417-1. Representative Thomas Massie, Republican of Kentucky, was the lone “no” vote.
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.”
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, has 25,412 confirmed cases, with 708 people hospitalized.
Pennsylvania House Democrats say Republicans hid a lawmaker’s positive virus test.
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 went into self-isolation. 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 in proximity to Mr. Lewis in committee meetings.
The House Democratic campaign arm accused Republicans of keeping Mr. Lewis’s positive test a secret “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 an anti-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 has “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 went for a test 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 White House won’t update its economic projections this summer.
The Trump administration will not issue a midyear update to its economic forecasts this summer, breaking decades of tradition amid the uncertainty of a pandemic recession, administration officials confirmed on Thursday.
The decision will spare the administration from having to reveal 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, even amid world wars, 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.
The majority of runners qualify for the race by running fast enough to meet a standard for their age group, and a strong elite field includes many international runners. The race brings more than $200 million to the city.
As nations loosen lockdown restrictions, countries are turning their focus to testing and contact tracing to contain outbreaks. Starting Thursday, Britain will start mass testing and tracing. In the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus originated, the government undertook a mass testing program to prevent a resurgence. In two weeks, it says it has been able to test nearly 6.5 million people.
In a tweet, Mr. Trump offered his condolences to the families and friends of those who died, a number reached a day earlier.
Mr. Trump and his presumptive Democratic rival, 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 needed for the tests.
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 isn’t the right way to go. 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.
Mr. Biden’s plan, though, shows what a national strategy could entail, including a “Pandemic Testing Board” to oversee “a nationwide campaign” to increase production of diagnostic and antibody tests, coordinate distribution, identify testing sites and people to staff them, and build laboratory capacity.
Testing, he and his advisers wrote, “is the springboard we need to help get our economy safely up and running again.”
The City Council in New York City planned to introduce 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 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.
The bill would also require the city to set health and safety requirements for such operations.
“Our hope is there may be areas where entire streets could be shut down for restaurant service,” Mr. Rigie said in an interview. “Other places you may be able to extend the sidewalk, while keeping a lane of cars and bike lanes. Other places, you may be able to use pedestrian plazas. We really need to be creative.”
Last week, 24 councilmembers sent a public letter to the mayor urging him to create more space for outdoor dining, citing similar efforts in Tampa and Cincinnati.
“New York City faces urgent crises on many fronts — but we must make sure that our bars and restaurants are able to survive and recover,” they wrote.
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. The city hopes to start reopening in early June, but has yet to meet state benchmarks on hospital beds and contact tracing. The first phase means construction and manufacturing can resume, along with nonessential retail sales for curbside or in-store pickup only.
“I’m hopeful that the outdoors can be a big part of the solution,” the mayor said referring to when restaurants and bars come online.
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 a virus case, but because of testing scarcity, the couple did not get tested at the time and their symptoms never became bad 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.”
Also on Thursday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, of California, said at her weekly news conference that she had not been tested for the virus or its antibodies.
Fears about catching the virus from contaminated surfaces have prompted many people to spend the past few months wiping down groceries, leaving packages unopened and stressing about touching elevator buttons.
But what’s 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 so far is still in the single digits. The numbers are a small fraction of the threshold known as herd immunity, at which 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, the vast majority of people still remain vulnerable to the virus.
Viewed together, the studies show herd immunity protection is unlikely to be reached “any time soon,” said Michael Mina, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
“We don’t have a good way to safely build it up, to be honest, not in the short term,” Dr. Mina said. “Unless we’re going to let the virus run rampant again — but I think society has decided that is not an approach available to us.”
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.
What does it feel like to have Covid-19 and not need hospitalization?
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 Karen Barrow, Scott Cacciola, 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, Alan Rappeport, Dana Rubinstein, Margot Sanger-Katz, Anna Schaverien, Kaly Soto, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Vanessa Swales, Jim Tankersley and Katie Van Syckle.