This is our daily update of breaking COVID-19 news for Thursday, August 13th, 2020. Previous daily updates can be found here, and up-to-date statistics are here.
New York City is in Phase 4 of reopening now, which includes zoos, botanical gardens, and professional sports (without fans). A look at preparing for the spread of coronavirus is here, and if you have lingering questions about the virus, here is our regularly updated coronavirus FAQ. Here are some local and state hotlines for more information: NYC: 311; NY State Hotline: 888-364-3065; NJ State Hotline: 800-222-1222.
Here's the latest:
Senate Adjourns With No Stimulus Deal In Sight
5 p.m. Unable to reach a compromise on another stimulus package to help the millions of jobless Americans, the U.S. Senate ended its session Thursday afternoon without a plan to return this month.
Democrats had initially proposed a $3 trillion bill but have since offered to go down to $2 trillion. But Republicans, who are bitterly divided over approving another round of economic aid, have signaled that they do not want to go above $1 trillion.
In an attempt to pressure Democrats, President Donald Trump this past weekend issued executive actions to provide an array of benefits, among them an extra $400 a week to address the lapse of the $600 weekly checks unemployed Americans have been receiving from the federal government on top of their state benefits.
But the president's actions drew criticism, in part from states who would be required to finance 25% of the payments.
Democrats said the measure, which bypassed Congress, was unconstitutional.
Meanwhile, neither side has showed signs of backing down.
According to Politico, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was asked on Thursday by reporters when she planned next to meet with Republicans, she replied: "I don’t know. When they come in with $2 trillion."
The Senate is not set to convene again until after Labor Day. They had remained in session for an extra week for bipartisan negotiations, although most members went home last week. The House is already in the midst of a six-week recess that is scheduled to go through the first two weeks of September.
Lawmakers in both chambers can return to vote should the leaders of both parties and the White House strike an agreement.
Fauci Expresses Concern Over Continuing Virus Spread
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, on Thursday warned about continuing surges of coronavirus across the country.
Although Sun Belt states like California, Arizona, Texas and Florida, are now beginning to see cases decline after reaching a dangerous peak, Fauci has said he is worried about other states in the south and midwest.
"This is the thing that's disturbing to me is that we're starting to see the inkling of the upticks in the percent of the tests that are positive, which we know now from sad past experience, that that's a predictor that you're going to have more surges," he said during an interview with National Geographic.
Fauci said the disparate public health response, in which some Americans refuse to socially distance and wear face masks, would contribute to the virus repeatedly going "up and down."
"Bottom line is, I'm not pleased with how things are going," he added.
There are now more than 5.2 million confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States, with over 166,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins' database.
Fauci, who has at times drawn the ire of President Donald Trump, has been on an aggressive media campaign, urging the public to heed public health guidelines.
On Thursday, he acknowledged that he has received death threats. He blamed the country's poor response to the pandemic on its political divisiveness.
"It has taken on a political tone like nothing I've ever seen," he said.
"It seems inconceivable," he added. "If you just think about it, take a deep breath and think about it, that when you're trying to promote public health principles to save people's lives and keep them healthy, that there's such divisiveness in the country that's interpreted to be so far from your own way of thinking that you actually want to threaten the person."
Weekly Job Losses Fall Below 1 Million For First Time Since March
The number of new jobless claims in the United States fell to 963,000 last week, dipping below one million for the first time since March but still reflecting historically high levels of unemployment, according to the Labor Department report.
In March, the number of Americans who filed for state unemployment benefits rose to a record high of nearly seven million. Prior to the pandemic, the peak had been 695,000.
The number of continuing claims, which count those currently receiving unemployment benefits, declined by 3.1 million to 28.2 million. The report also showed that another 489,000 people applied for benefits under the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which covers independent contractors, those who are self-employed like gig workers, and other who do not qualify fo regular state unemployment insurance. (Unlike the state claims, the number of federal claims is not seasonally adjusted.)
One economist observed that last week's decline was anticipated by reduced search in Google for the phrase "file for unemployment" over the week ending August 8th.
But in a foreboding sign for next week, searches for that phrase picked up again on Sunday and Monday.
Mirroring the national trend, the number of new jobless claims in New York state fell by 22,000 to 52,000, a drop of 30%.
There are now 1.4 million New Yorkers currently receiving state unemployment benefits, down by more than 109,000 or 7% from the prior week.
Still, some experts have warned that the ongoing job losses may take a long time to recover or could even be permanent as businesses rethink their strategies in a market that has been upended by the pandemic.
A Cornell University survey that came out this week found that as many as 31% of workers who went back to work after being initially laid off or furloughed following the shutdowns have been laid off a second time.
Moreover, another 26% of those who were hired have been told by their employer that they may be laid off again.