The number of confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide is approaching 1 million, with no sign of the crisis abating soon.
In southern Europe, the Covid-19 virus continues to ravage Italy and Spain, and while there are some signs the lockdown is working in those countries, the worst is not yet behind them. Spain, on Wednesday, surpassed 10,000 deaths, recording its highest single-day death total of 950.
In the United States, confirmed cases surged past 216,000 as of April 2 — but this is only the beginning. Health care and other essential workers have been outspoken about the critical shortages in personal protective gear since the start of the outbreak, and now Department of Homeland Security officials are saying that the nation’s emergency stockpile is nearly depleted of such critical supplies.
The escalating public health crisis also exists alongside an economic one, with nearly 6. 6 million Americans filing for jobless claims last week. That doubles last week’s previous record of 3.3 million two weeks ago, revealing how deeply and swiftly the virus is devastating the US economy.
Here’s what you need to know today.
Jobless claims hit a record 6.6 million
Last week, 6.6 million Americans filed jobless claims, a truly astonishing number that doubles the record-setting number of unemployment claims (3.3 million) filed the week ending March 21. In two weeks, about 10 million Americans have filed for unemployment, a number that experts say is probably still undercounting the full total, given that some classes of workers don’t typically qualify for unemployment benefits and anecdotal data that suggests people are struggling to just get through to state unemployment offices.
It’s been clear for weeks now that the coronavirus was going to take a pretty substantial toll on the US economy, but these figures are unprecedented — rivaling Great Recession figures in a matter of weeks, not months. Congress passed a $2.2 trillion stimulus, which includes loans for businesses, cash payments to Americans, and expanded unemployment — but it may fall short of what the country needs before this crisis is over.
The national stockpile is running dry
Health care workers and state and local officials have repeatedly and consistently said they do not have enough vital equipment to fight the coronavirus. There is a lack of personal protective gear to guard front-line workers against infection and a shortage of tools like ventilators to help treat people with the virus.
Right now, states and local officials are competing with each other to access vital supplies, and the US is purchasing equipment from overseas, recently getting in a large shipment from Russia, which was then directed to New York, the currently the most-affected state.
This shortfall may get worse before it gets better. According to the Washington Post, the stores of protective equipment in the National Strategic Stockpile — the federal government’s emergency reserves — is nearly depleted. Price-gouging and hoarding, along with disruptions to supply chains, is exacerbating the problem, even as the US scrambles to get vital supplies.
According to the New York Times, FEMA has shipped 26 million surgical masks, 11.6 million respirator masks, and five million face shields. FEMA has shipped 7,000 ventilators to states, including 4,000 to New York, but the supply still falls well short of the demand. The Trump administration said it has about 10,000 ventilators in reserve, but states are demanding many times that number to meet the surge of patients. (New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said New York needs about 30,000 ventilators, though Trump has challenged that figure.) The need is urgent: New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio said they will run out of ventilators by Sunday.
Spain records its highest single-day death toll
Spain’s coronavirus crisis is still raging. On Wednesday, the country reached more than 10,000 coronavirus deaths, with 950 people succumbing to the virus in a single day.
Catalonia is Spain’s hardest-hit region, and the province known for its separatist movement took the unusual step of asking the Spanish government for military assistance to help with the outbreak there. That region alone has recorded more than 21,000 of Spain’s more than 110,000 confirmed cases, with more than 2,000 deaths, according to the Guardian.
And some good news
In case you’ve missed the memo about what you need to be doing during this pandemic, here’s Samuel L. Jackson to remind you.