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Here's the latest:
12:00 Amid widespread reports that some New Yorkers are still facing agonizing wait times for their COVID-19 test results, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday that the issue had largely been "resolved," thanks to an innovative new strategy from local labs.
According to the mayor, the city now has the capacity to conduct 50,000 daily tests, with a median turnaround time of just two days before results come back. "It's now getting much better," he assured reported during his daily briefing.
The rosy picture painted by the mayor comes as many city residents report waiting a week or longer to receive their diagnoses — making the tests essentially useless for those who may have already been infected by the virus.
De Blasio acknowledged the delays on Thursday, which he blamed on a nationwide surge in cases that overwhelmed labs used by the city.
But the issue, he said, had been solved through a new strategy known as "pooling" — in which samples from multiple patients are bundled into a single test, allowing doctors to clear the entire group if the sample turns up negative.
Quest Diagnostics, one of the city's biggest commercial labs, received authorization for the new strategy over the weekend. Previously, the lab was reporting an average of seven days to return results to patients.
The pooling method has already cut the city's wait times in half since last week, according to health officials.
"It was working overwhelmingly until we hit this glitch," the mayor said of the city's testing regime. "But we’re telling you now that in many ways that has been resolved and people can have confidence in better turnaround times, particularly if they go to NYC Health & Hospitals."
Dr. Ted Long, who is overseeing the city's Test and Trace Corps, announced on Thursday that the program had identified more than 17,000 cases across the city, and prevented an estimated 5,000 new infections. Sixty-four percent of those called by tracers have completed the intake process and are being monitored — about ten percent less than the goal, he said.
Dr. Long also addressed reports of excessive wait times, which he called "unacceptable."
"There are still some labs that are not yet using pooling, where their turnaround times are much, much higher," Long acknowledged. "It's true there is a lot of variation."
U.S. Jobless Claims Increase After Months Of Decline
An additional 1.4 million workers were added to the nation's jobless rolls last week, marking the first time that the weekly total grew in more than three months.
For the last two weeks, the number of new unemployment claims has come in at around 1.3 million.
Economists have been bracing themselves for uptick in unemployment as businesses across the country have been forced to shut down again due to virus outbreaks and as employers run out of federal funds designated for payroll costs.
Betsey Stevenson, an economics professor at the University of Michigan who has been closely following unemployment trends, warned that the latest data was a sign that the economy will not recover as quickly as some, including President Donald Trump, said it would.
"The weekly UI claims show a disturbing pattern of rising permanent job loss and slowing recalls from layoff," she tweeted.
In New York, the number of new claims filed last week was more than 88,000, down by roughly 3,000 from the prior week. But the number of people currently receiving benefits rose by 21,000 to 1.54 million, an indication that gains in employment are being offset by ongoing job losses.
In contrast, many states have seen the total pool of unemployed go down in recent weeks. In New Jersey, for example, the tally of people receiving unemployment benefits last week was more than 474,000, a decline of nearly 17,000 from the prior week.
Thursday's report comes at what many experts say is a critical moment for workers and the economy: An extra $600 a week in unemployment benefits intended to supplement state unemployment benefits is set to end this week.
Republican lawmakers have been at an impasse over whether to extend the benefit. Those opposed to the plan, including Senator Marco Rubio, of Florida, have argued that the additional money disincentivizes people from returning to work.
But some economists have rejected that idea, saying it places a priority on employers' perspectives.