TNM: April 13 - 17
The easiest way to stay informed
Let's break down what happened in the news this week.
1. Global Coronavirus Cases Top 2 Million
2. Trump Proposes Guidelines For Reopening America
+ GetSmart (Russia sold Alaska to the U.S.?)
1. WHO Funding Freeze: President Trump placed “a hold on all funding to the WHO [World Health Organization] while its mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic is investigated.” The White House statement listed what it judged to be
The WHO’s missteps during the pandemic response.
The WHO’s “dangerous bias toward the Chinese government.”
The need for structural reform within the WHO.
The U.S. contributes some 15% of the entire WHO budget, compared to roughly 3% from China. (One page White House statement here, President Trump’s press conference here). 2. Relief Checks Arrive: Millions of Americans have already received relief checks by direct deposit this week, while over 70M are still waiting to receive physical checks in the mail. With over 22M unemployment claims filed in the last month, the $1,200 check can’t come soon enough for millions of Americans. In an unprecedented move, the Treasury asked that President Trump’s name be printed on the IRS checks in the bottom left corner. The Washington Post reported the decision will cause delays, while the Treasury claimed “there is no delay whatsoever.”
3. Historic Unemployment: 5.2 Million more Americans filed for unemployment insurance last week, bringing the total number to 22 million, (~13% of the entire labor force) in the last four weeks alone.
The surge in unemployment is second only to the levels experienced during the Great Depression in American history, and rolls back almost all of the jobs gained in the last decade after the 2008 financial crisis.
Unemployment filers are eligible for the $600 weekly supplement (on top of state benefits) passed as part of the $2.2 trillion stimulus package. Overwhelmed with unprecedented amounts of requests, states are slowly beginning to deliver the payments (at least 33 states have begun distributing them). 3. Google & Apple Unite: Two of the world's tech titans have teamed up to add contact tracing into smartphones to help battle the spread of the coronavirus. The system, which would be a voluntary opt-in, would use Bluetooth tracking to alert those who have come into close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. The technology could be a breakthrough for slowing the virus’ spread, as well as future pandemics. However, some are concerned about personal privacy infringements, as the service would track users’ every location. (Graphic of how it works). 4. U.S. Retail Sales 📉: U.S. retail sales plunged a record 8.7% in March from the previous month, marking the biggest drop in nearly three decades. Best Buy said it will furlough 51,000 of its hourly workers, as the timetable for when Americans will return to work and feel comfortable congregating in malls and retails stores again remains uncertain.
Clothing stores have seen the largest drop in sales at over 50%.
5. Small Business Loans Run Out: The Small Business Administration’s $350 B Paycheck Protection Program, passed as part of the $2.2 trillion stimulus package, have run out after issuing over 1.5 million loans to businesses (see how many loans each state received here). As a result, scores of businesses in need have been waitlisted for loans. In response, Congress is seeking to add another $250 B to the program.
The bill is currently stalled in the Senate as Democrats have demanded that any further funding include assistance for state and local governments, as well as loans targeted to businesses owned by women, minorities, families, and veterans.
6. Medical Supplies From China Facing Delays: U.S. companies that are shipping critical medical equipment from China are facing delays due to recent export restrictions imposed by China. The restrictions, which Beijing says are meant to control the quality of goods leaving China, were imposed after some shipments of medical equipment to European nations turned out to be faulty.
China is an essential player in the supply chain of medical equipment, supplying over 40% of the world’s personal protective equipment.
Trump Releases Guidelines for Reopening Economy
Number of Cases: +2,169,022, up from 1,600,000 last week.
Number of Deaths: +146,000 up from 95,700 last week.
Here is a map from the John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center showing the number of cases and death by country.
What’s Happening in the U.S.?
There are over 662,000 cases and 29,000 deaths in the U.S., up from 466,000 cases (~42% increase) and 16,686 deaths (~73% increase) a week ago.
The U.S. recorded its highly daily death toll on Thursday at 4,591, almost double the previous daily high.
While the number of new cases appeared to be flattening over the weekend into the start of the week, the last three days have seen consecutive increases in the number of new cases.
See a map of the number of cases in each state, and the list of states with stay-at-home orders. New York New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said that New York appears to have passed the peak intensity of the virus in his state, following weeks of strict quarantine measures. Meanwhile, Gov. Cuomo signed an executive order on Wednesday making it mandatory for New Yorkers to wear masks when interacting with people in public. He indicated civil fines could be issued to enforce compliance. Tensions in Michigan Amid frustration over the continued closure of the economy, thousands of vehicles jammed traffic in downtown Lansing, Michigan on Wednesday to protest Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s extended state restrictions. Among other things, Whitmer’s new restrictions banned the sale of gardening seeds, home-to-home visits and the use of fishing boats. Protestors say they are losing their constitutional rights, while Whitmer says they are only delaying the process of recovery further. Global Situation
The UK extended its lockdown measures for at least another three weeks.
Italy’s lockdown measures are scheduled until at least May 3.
Japan instituted a nationwide lockdown as it experiences an increase in cases and deaths.
Germany began lifting economic restrictions on Wednesday, although it warned its people they should be ready to live with the virus until a vaccine and treatments are developed.
China has resumed the bulk of its economic activity. China’s economy contracted by 6.8% in Q1, the first time contraction since 1992 when data publication began.
Trump Releases Guidelines for Reopening Economy
Context Since the early moments of the coronavirus lockdown, questions arose about when and how to reopen sectors of the economy. The record surge of U.S. unemployment claims in the past three weeks (22M) has made the decision even more urgent. President Trump said it was "The biggest decision of my life" in a daily press conference last week. Despite President Trump saying he had “total authority” to reopen states in Monday’s daily press conference, the official White House guidelines leave the decisions to state governors while providing advice and guidelines on when and how to begin restarting their economies. What’s in the proposal? In a daily press conference on Thursday, President Trump said, “We’re starting our life again,” adding that it will be a “gradual process.” The Opening Up America Again plan seeks to provide a roadmap for state governors to decide how to open their economies, especially in areas where the virus’ spread is slowing.
The guidelines have three distinct phases that would be implemented gradually.
Phase I Individuals The first phase urges all vulnerable Americans to continue sheltering in place. All individuals should continue practicing social distancing in public, avoid social gatherings of 10 or more people, and minimize non-essential travel. Employers Employers should encourage telework wherever feasible, bring employees back to work in phases, and close common areas in the workplace where groups congregate. They are also encouraged to minimize non-essential travel and to strongly consider special accommodations for vulnerable employees.
For Specific Employers
Large venues such as sporting stadiums, dine-in restaurants, and places of worship can gather under strict social distancing protocols.
Schools and daycares that have already closed should remain closed.
Bars should remain closed.
Gyms can be opened under strict social distancing and sanitation protocols.
Elective surgeries may resume, as clinically appropriate.
Phase II States that meet the criteria for moving forward, meaning they are not showing signs of a resurgence in Covid-19 cases, can move to Phase II.
In phase II, non-essential travel may resume, and schools, gyms and bars can be reopened under moderate social distancing and good hygiene protocols. The vulnerable population should continue to shelter in place. Phase III Phase three would be a return to “life as usual,” although it recommends that the vulnerable population continue social distancing in public. (Official White House Guidelines Here). States Band Together Meanwhile, coalitions of state governors across the U.S. have already begun to coordinate how to reopen economic regions.
East Coast: New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Delaware, and Massachusetts have formed a council to re-open the economy within their region given that their economies work closely together.
West Coast: California, Oregon, and Washington have formed a pact to reopen their economies.
Midwest: Governors from Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky will work together to reopen the swaths of the economy in America’s heartland.
💵 Russia Sold Alaska to the U.S. for 2 Cents an Acre
In 1867, Russia sold America’s now largest state, Alaska, for a total of $7.2M, which is equivalent to $120M in today's money, or roughly 2 cents per acre. Alaska has a current population of 731,000 people and 665,384 square miles of land, teeming with oil, wildlife and natural beauty.