Covid-19 update: US was ‘attacked’, Donald Trump says as layoffs and fatalities mount
The United States was “attacked”, President Donald Trump has said of the novel coronavirus epidemic has rendered 26.4 million Americans jobless since mid-March with 4.4 million more filing for unemployment benefits last week, according to new data released Thursday; and killed more than 46,000.
Economists assess unemployment rate to have climbed to somewhere between 15% and 20%, which is far higher than the Great Recession of 2008-2009, and briskly creeping up on 25% the peak reached during the Great Depression of 1929, which was the has been the worst slowdown in US history.
Businesses continue to shutter as frustration mounts and people take to the streets demanding the reopening the economy, despite pleas from experts to let current mitigation efforts run their course as it has been successful in keeping fatalities lower than it had been feared earlier.
US congress is set to pass later Thursday a legislation adding $480 billion to the $2.2 trillion passed earlier; the package includes $320 billion more in relief to small businesses, who account for 48% of the US workforce, under a government program to allow them to retain their employees.
“We were attacked,” President Trump told reporters at the daily briefing of the coronavirus task force Wednesday, when asked if he worries about the impact of the stimulus package on US national debt. “We had the greatest economy in the history of the world. We had the greatest economy -- better than China, better than any place.”
“And then one day, they came and they said,” he added, pointing to members of his coronavirus task force, “You have to close it.”
Most US states are under varying degrees of stay-at-home restrictions and lockdown. But pressure has been mounting on governors to ease restrictions, with protests taking place across the country, which have been backed and encouraged by Trump. He is just as keen to reopen the country, if not more.
South Carolina and Georgia, both Republican-ruled states, have already announced lifting of some restrictions that have been found worrying by public health officials around the who fear a rebound. President Trump himself weighed in Wednesday to urge Georgia to hold on to restrictions a little longer.
More states want to reopen their businesses as the situation has looked better in recent days with the country going past the peak in new infections, hospitalization rates dropping and the hotspots increasingly stabilizing. But numbers continued to grow as a grim reminder tat the crisis is not over.
New infections went up by 27,679 in the past 24 hours to 542,624 and fatalities by 2,139 to 46,785. The toll in New York state, the epicenter of the US epidemic that has stabilized lately, to 19,453; New York city accounted for most of them with 15,074.
But the exact extent of the US epidemic is still evolving, with “hidden outbreaks” that had previously escaped official counts. While New York city, Seattle, Boston, Chicago and San Francisco had reported only 29 confirmed cases between them by March 1, the actual number is projected to have been around 28,000, the New York Times reported citing a new model developed by researchers Northwestern University.
On Tuesday, officials in California had announced the death of two individuals of the coronavirus on February 6 and February 17, much earlier than on February 29, the previously first fatality.
The virus has also shown it can spread from humans to animals. The first case was of the infection of a lion at a New York zoo. Two cats in New York city became Wednesday the first pets to catch the infection.