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Economic fallout mounts, worldwide cases top 1 million

A view of a temporary field hospital set at Ifema convention and exhibition of in Madrid, Spain, Thursday, April 2, 2020. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

Note: Below is Thursday’s Coronavirus Task Force briefing from the White House.

Members of the Coronavirus Task Force have a briefing at the White House.

Posted by WISH-TV on Thursday, April 2, 2020

NEW YORK (AP) — The coronavirus outbreak has thrown 10 million
Americans out of work in just two weeks, the swiftest, most stunning
collapse the U.S. job market has ever witnessed, and economists warn
unemployment could reach levels not seen since the Depression, as the
economic damage piles up around the world.

The bleak news Thursday
— a record-shattering 6.6 million new unemployment claims on top of
last week’s unprecedented 3.3 million — came as the competition for
scarce ventilators, masks and other protective gear seemed to grow more
desperate and deaths mounted with alarming speed in Italy, Spain and New
York, the most lethal hot spot in the nation, with nearly 2,400 lives

Worldwide the number of confirmed infections hit another
gloomy milestone — 1 million, with more than 50,000 deaths, according to
the tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. But the true numbers are
believed to be much higher, because of testing shortages, many mild
cases that have gone unreported, and suspicions that some countries are
covering up the extent of their outbreaks.

The mounting economic
fallout almost certainly signals the onset of a global recession, with
job losses that are likely to dwarf those of the Great Recession more
than a decade ago.

“My anxiety is through the roof right now, not
knowing what’s going to happen,” said Laura Wieder, laid off from her
job managing a now-closed sports bar in Bellefontaine, Ohio.

half of all working Americans report some kind of income loss affecting
them or a member of their household because of the epidemic, and poor
people and those without college degrees are especially likely to have
lost a job, according to a poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center
for Public Affairs Research.

With over 240,000 people infected in
the U.S. and the death toll topping 5,800, sobering preparations were
under way. The Federal Emergency Management Agency asked the Pentagon
for 100,000 body bags because of the possibility funeral homes will be
overwhelmed, the military said.

The Democratic Party pushed its
nominating convention back a month, to mid-August. Federal authorities
proposed a $611,000 fine against the Seattle-area nursing home connected
to at least 40 coronavirus deaths, accusing it of infractions that
included failure to report and rapidly manage the outbreak. And a
days-long standoff in Florida was resolved when passengers aboard two
cruise ships that have had several coronavirus cases and four deaths won
permission to come ashore.

Elsewhere around the world, the number
of people applying for welfare benefits in Britain increased nearly
tenfold to almost 1 million in the past couple of weeks. At least a
million in Europe are estimated to have lost their jobs over the same
period, and the actual number is probably far higher. Spain alone added
over 300,000 to its unemployment rolls in March.

But the job
losses there appear to be far smaller than in the U.S. because of
Europe’s greater social safety nets, including government programs to
reduce workers’ hours without laying them off, in the hope of bringing
them back quickly once the crisis passes.

With its health care
system in dire shape, Spain reported a record one-day number of deaths,
950, bringing its overall toll to about 10,000, despite signs that the
infection rate is slowing.

Italy recorded 760 more deaths, for a total of 13,900, the worst of any country, but new infections continued to level off.

recorded a running total of about 4,500 deaths in hospitals, 471 just
in the past day. But officials expect the overall toll to jump
significantly because they are only now starting to count deaths in
nursing homes and other facilities for older people. More than 880 such
deaths have been tallied.

The competition for ventilators, masks and other vital supplies was cutthroat.

New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned that the state could run out of
breathing machines in six days. He complained that the 50 states are
competing against each other for protective gear and breathing machines,
or are being outbid by the federal government, in a competition he
likened to being on eBay.

At FEMA, the agency tasked with
coordinating the federal response to the outbreak, about 9,000
additional ventilators are on hold as officials seek to determine where
they are needed most urgently. States have been warned not to expect any
shipments until they are within 72 hours of a crisis.

In France,
a top health official in the country’s hard-hit eastern region said
American officials swooped in at a Chinese airport to spirit away a
planeload of masks that France had ordered.

Nine leading European
university hospitals warned they will run out of essential medicines for
COVID-19 patients in intensive care in less than two weeks.

shipment of nearly 5,900 medical masks that Alabama’s Montgomery County
received from the U.S. government stockpile was unusable because of dry
rot, the emergency management director said. The masks had a 2010
expiration date, according to the city of Montgomery.

The Trump
administration was formalizing new guidance to recommend that Americans
wear coverings such as non-medical masks, T-shirts or bandannas over
their mouths and noses when out in public, while reserving medical-grade
masks, particularly the short-in-supply N95 variety, for those dealing
directly with the sick.

Trump invoked the Defense Production Act
on Thursday in hopes of boosting production of medical-grade masks by
Minnesota-based 3M to assist first responders.

Washington is also
trying to crack down on a growing black market that is driving up the
price of protective medical supplies, Defense Production Act policy
coordinator Peter Navarro said.

For most people, the coronavirus
causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for
others, especially older adults and people with health problems, it can
cause severe symptoms like pneumonia. Over 200,000 people worldwide have
recovered, by Johns Hopkins’ count.

With large portions of
America under lockdown, job losses for the world’s biggest economy could
double to 20 million and unemployment could spike to as high as 15% by
the end of the month, many economists have said. Unemployment in the
U.S. hasn’t been that high since the tail end of the Depression, just
before the U.S. entered World War II.

Roughly 90% of the U.S.
population is now under stay-at-home orders, and many factories,
restaurants, stores and other businesses are closed or have seen sales

Laid-off workers can tap money made available in the $2.2
trillion rescue measure passed by Congress. It adds $600 a week to
unemployment benefits, extends eligibility to 39 weeks and for the first
time wraps in part-timers and workers in the so-called gig economy,
such as Uber drivers.

Achsa Febrero, a Subway worker at a rest
stop Fairfield, Conn., is among the millions laid off and now waiting
for unemployment benefits to kick in, which could take weeks. She said
she is on a payment plan to keep her phone connected and unsure how
she’ll pay for groceries — and deeply frustrated at the billions
benefiting corporations in the federal bailout.

“These companies are getting government relief, government relief,” Febrero said. “They could afford to pay us more than what we’re getting. They could support us through this time, and they’re not. We’re human. What makes them better than us?”

Hinnant reported from Paris. Sherman reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Susan Haigh in Fairfield, Connecticut, and writers around the world contributed.