Amazon: Amid exploding demand due to the Coronavirus, Amazon is seeking to hire 100,000 workers to keep pace. While in quarantine, more consumers are turning to Amazon to buy goods such as Clorox wipes and toilet paper, both of which are currently sold out. The company is also giving employees a $2 hourly pay raise until the end of April which includes warehouse workers, WholeFoods employees, and delivery workers all of whom make at least $15 an hour.
Volunteer Vaccine Tests: In London, more than 20,000 people opted in to get sick and test the Coronavirus vaccine in exchange for £3,500 ($4,480). Experiments are said to play a crucial role in determining a valid vaccine to fight the Coronavirus, of which there is no proven vaccine at this point. Meanwhile, in the U.S., the first citizen received an experimental vaccine shot on Monday in Washington state, administered by U.S. researchers. Regardless of how tests go, widespread use of such a vaccine is likely to be 12-18 months out in the U.S.
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World Quarantines as Covid-19 Pandemic Batters Europe, U.S.
The Current Situation
Number of Cases: +244,000, up from ~127,800 last week.
Number of Deaths: +10,000, up from ~4,700 last week.
U.S. Response Efforts
Cases have now been confirmed in all 50 states. The total number of cases is nearing 10,500 with some 150 deaths. The NYTimes is providing a great visual map of the number of cases in each state. While the U.S.’ testing capacity is still inadequate, production has finally picked up this week (spurred in large part by state and private labs), leading to a balloon in diagnosed cases. New York state has been the hardest hit with over 4,000 cases.
Medical Supply Shortages
Hospitals are facing severe shortages of medical equipment such as protective gowns, masks, respirators, gloves, and hospital beds. Although private production is ramping up (sometimes in creative ways) and the Pentagon said on Tuesday that it would release 5 million respirators, it is unclear when the shortages will be alleviated.
Addressing the scarcity of testing and medical equipment, White House Coronavirus expert Dr. Anthony Fauci told Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday during a live stream call that the government should have worked sooner with “the private sector, the heavy-hitting companies that do this for a living who can give you high throughput testing in the tens of millions as opposed to something that's a little bit more constrained.”
In the most aggressive action to date in the U.S., the California governor imposed an Italianesque shutdown on Thursday, closing bars, restaurants, and retail stores, and telling its ~60 million residents to “stay at home” apart from essential errands.
Unemployment Claims Skyrocket
According to federal data, there were 281,000 unemployment insurance claims across the country last week, up from 211,000 the week before. A substantial increase in the unemployment rate (dire predictions say it could be as high as 20%) and a massive contraction in GDP is expected in the coming months.
Congress, Trump Pass $100 B Covid-19 Relief Package
The relief deal includes free Coronavirus testing, increased unemployment, and food stamp benefits, and requires small businesses to provide 2 weeks of paid sick leave.
Massive Stimulus Package Nears Completion
Apart from the relief package, Congress and the WH are furiously debating an additional Coronavirus stimulus package that could reach $1 trillion. The details of the plan are being debated, but is expected to include some version of the following:
Financial aid for hotels and airlines, primarily in the form of loans.
Financial aid for small businesses.
Direct cash payments to Americans. The amounts would vary based on family size and income but could top $1,200 for each individual, and $2,400 for married couples.
Food Supply is “Sufficient”
While many grocery store shelves have recently been empty, the problem is not a lack of food, but rather logistical challenges. Companies are having to adapt on the fly in order to transport food to grocery stores most in need. Despite these challenges, the CEO of Tyson Foods said on Thursday that America’s “food supply is sufficient,”
Stock Markets Have Volatile Week
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) is down some 20% this month alone, and around 30% for the year. Markets opened higher this morning (Friday), but are posed for another volatile day.
Tax Deadline Extended to July 15
The deadline for filing individual U.S. tax returns was extended until July 15 this year.
Global Response Efforts
The virus has now reached at least 168 countries (out of 195 total countries). Here is a visual map showing the locations and number of cases worldwide. In rapid succession, countries have been closing their borders and ramping up response efforts.
Italy: Total Deaths Surpass China
The total number of deaths in Italy surpassed 3,400 on Thursday, compared to ~3,250 deaths thus far in China. The number of cases surpassed 41,000 in Italy.
E.U. Votes to Seal Borders For 30 Days
The measure essentially bans external travel into the E.U. for 30 days. France and Spain both implemented full quarantine measures this week (matching Italy’s policy), as the number of cases and deaths in the two countries have ballooned this week. After initially taking a less restrictive approach, the U.K. has also moved toward full quarantine measures.
Wuhan Records No New Cases
Meanwhile, in Wuhan, the pandemic’s origin, the number of registered new cases was 0 on Wednesday, and China as a whole had no new domestic cases (although they had 34 new cases from people re-entering the country).
Some Asian Countries Face 2nd Wave of Cases
South Korea and Singapore are facing a series of new imported cases. S. Korea and Singapore have adopted a markedly different approach than most nations, allowing the economy to stay open while aggressively testing, tracking and isolating infected individuals. Now, they face the challenge of monitoring people re-entering the country from abroad.
People Unite Amid Coronavirus Quarantines
Israelis cheer outside their balconies for the nurses and doctors who are saving peoples’ lives. (video)
After being married that same day, a couple from Crown Heights New York drove around the neighborhood and asked people to sing and dance from their homes, given they couldn’t attend the wedding and reception (video).
At 6:00 PM every day, Italians emerge on apartment rooftops and balconies to dance, sing, and play music as a show of national unity (video from David in Rome).
Two Italian men have invented a new style of ping pong outside their windows from their skyrise apartments (video).
In heroic efforts to alleviate the shortages of medical equipment, some carmakers are making ventilators, a bluejeans maker is churning out face masks, hotels have become makeshift quarantine centers and alcohol distilleries are making hand sanitizer.
Developments are happening all the time and affecting countless areas of life. If you want to stay updated throughout the week, see the WSJ’s comprehensive guide.
3 More Primary Wins Give Joe Biden Clear Path to Nomination
The Democratic race for the presidency has taken an unconventional route amid the Coronavirus pandemic. Campaign rallies have been canceled, the most recent debate had no audience, and their opponent President Trump is engaged in the greatest challenge of his presidency. A string of major victories on Super Tuesday and on March 10th has given Joe Biden a clear path to the nomination, barring a dramatic, unforeseen change.
Will Bernie Drop Out?
Bernie returned to his home state of Vermont on Tuesday to “reassess” his campaign. Democratic strategists are waiting to see if Bernie will seek to unite his voter base behind Biden.
Primary contests in Ohio, Louisiana, Georgia, Kentucky, and Maryland have all been postponed. The next scheduled primaries are for April 4, although the status of those is very tenuous. One thing is certain, the run-up to the Democratic Convention in July will be increasingly complicated and sporadic due to Coronavirus quarantine measures.
China to Expel Americans Journalists Working For 3 Major U.S.
As part of a more aggressive campaign by President Xi Jinping and China’s Communist Party to crack down on free speech and the press, three Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reporters were expelled from China on February 19th in retaliation for what it deemed to be an offensive opinion column published in the WSJ. The column was titled “China is the real sick man in Asia,” a reference to the Coronavirus pandemic. It marked the first time in 20 years that China had expelled a credentialed foreign correspondent.
In response, President Trump at the beginning of March took action to reduce the number of reporters working for Chinese state-run media companies in the U.S. (Many of the companies are seen as propaganda outlets, according to the NYTimes.)
What happened This Week?
In an unprecedented crackdown, China announced on Tuesday it would expel American journalists working for the WSJ, the NYTimes and the Washington Post, affecting at least 13 correspondents. The order also restricts the journalists from working in the semiautonomous region of Hong Kong. Journalists working for these newspapers that are not U.S. citizens (for example, a Chinese local) are presumably not subject to the new regulation.
In its statement, China’s foreign ministry said, “What the US has done is exclusively targeting Chinese media organizations, and hence driven by a Cold War mentality and ideological bias.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addressed the decision, saying he regretted China’s decision “to further foreclose the world’s ability to conduct the free press operations that, frankly, would be really good for the Chinese people in these incredibly challenging global times where more information, more transparency, are what will save lives.”
The tightening restrictions come at a time when foreign journalists, especially those at the WSJ, have diligently covered sensitive stories in China, including the democracy protests in Hong Kong, the Coronavirus outbreak and subsequent government efforts to conceal it, and criminal allegations into the cousin of President Xi Jinping.
🐿️ City In Washington Has a Bridge for Squirrels
Titled the “Nutty Narrows”, Longview County has bridges around the county that assist squirrels and other animals in crossing the street. (video)