On Wednesday, the U.S. reports highest number of covid-19 deaths in one day since mid-May: “On Wednesday, the country reported its highest number of deaths in a single day since mid-May, at nearly 1,500. The country has now seen its seven-day average of newly reported deaths remain above 1,000 for 17 consecutive days.”
Remember when Trump told his Tulsa campaign rally “Slow the testing down please?” Trump—After ‘Slow The Testing Down’ Remark—Will End Federal Funding For Testing Sites.
That is exactly what has happened. Axios reports, We’re doing a lot less coronavirus testing:
The U.S. is cutting back on coronavirus testing. Nationally, the number of tests performed each day is about 17% lower than it was at the end of July, and testing is also declining in hard-hit states.
Data: The COVID Tracking Project; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios
At the end of July, America was doing more than 800,000 tests a day. This week, it’s hovered around 715,000.
Even as states with particularly bad outbreaks pull back on their testing, the proportion of tests coming back positive is still high — which would normally be an indication that they need to be doing more tests.
[R]eductions in testing coupled with increasing positivity is disconcerting,” said Duke’s Marta Wosinska. “This means that a lot of viral activity is not being recorded just as we are trying to make critical decisions like whether to reopen schools.”
The bottom line: The U.S. is averaging 50,000 new cases a day, and that high caseload is ultimately why the demand for testing is more than the system can handle.
The Trump administration has been manipulating the data. As a result, America is flying blind on its coronavirus response:
A month after the Trump administration changed how hospital data is reported, the public release of this data “has slowed to a crawl,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
The Department of Health and Human Services last month ordered states to report coronavirus hospitalization data directly to the agency, rather than to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as they’d been doing.
- Now, important data, like the number of beds occupied by coronavirus patients, is lagging by a week or more.
- The implications go beyond tracking the virus. Hospitalization data is also used by agencies to determine where to send remdesivir and personal protective equipment.
“The transition has been a disaster,” Jeffrey Engel, senior adviser to the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, told the WSJ. “What HHS said was that the CDC was not nimble enough and couldn’t handle new data elements, and that’s simply not true.”
The bottom line: We’re doing a terrible job handling the pandemic, at least relative to other wealthy countries. The fact that we don’t have a good idea of what’s happening in real time – and it’s getting worse — is one of the major contributors to that failure.
The New York Times published an analysis of “excess deaths” which are likely attributable to the coronavirus pandemic but is not listed as the official cause of death on death certificates because the deceased was not tested for COVID-19. The True Coronavirus Toll in the U.S. Has Already Surpassed 200,000:
Across the United States, at least 200,000 more people have died than usual since March, according to a New York Times analysis of estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is about 60,000 higher than the number of deaths that have been directly linked to the coronavirus.
The “official” COVID-19 death count remains grim. “By Dec. 1, the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 could reach nearly 300,000. That’s the grim new projection from researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation — one of the more prominent teams modeling the pandemic. The new forecast projects that between now and December, 137,000 people will die on top of the roughly 160,000 who have died so far.”
And the flu season is coming. The CDC issued a dire warning for the fall:
A top federal health official is issuing a dire warning: Follow recommended coronavirus measures or risk having the worst fall in US public health history.
“For your country right now and for the war that we’re in against Covid, I’m asking you to do four simple things: wear a mask, social distance, wash your hands and be smart about crowds,” said Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“I’m not asking some of America to do it,” he told WebMD. “We all gotta do it.”
Without following the recommendations, this could be “the worst fall, from a public health perspective, we’ve ever had,” he said.
Then there is the economic impact of the Trump administration’s abject failure in handling the coronavirus pandemic. On Thursday, the Department of Labor reported the number of Americans applying for initial unemployment benefits dropped below 1 million last week for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak took hold in the U.S. five months ago, but layoffs are still running extraordinarily high. US jobless claims fall below 1 million but remain high:
Applications for jobless benefits declined to 963,000, the second straight drop, from 1.2 million the previous week, the government said Thursday. That signals layoffs are slowing, though the weekly figure still far exceeds the pre-outbreak record of just under 700,000, set in 1982.
Note: Before the coronavirus shut down major parts of the economy, the highest week for claims was 695,000 in 1982. The Great Recession high was 665,000 in March 2009.
The figures show that the crisis continues to throw people out of work just as the expiration of an extra $600 a week in federal jobless benefits has deepened the hardship for many — and poses another threat to the U.S. economy.
Axios reports U.S. already feeling effects of ending unemployment benefits:
Congress’ failure to renew enhanced unemployment measures at the end of July is already showing up in consumer spending patterns, holding down retail purchases and foot traffic, economists at Deutsche Bank say.
“The evaporation of these benefits highlights near-term downside risks to consumer spending, particularly for lower-income households, which have been a critical engine of the [temporary] recovery despite being disproportionately more likely to lose a job during the pandemic — a testament to the effectiveness of the income supplement.”
Huffington Post reports that the failure of the White House and Congress to extend the coronavirus economic relief measures risks a double-dip recession. White House, Congress Flirting With A Double-Dip Recession:
With the national unemployment rate still above 10%, more than a million people losing their jobs every week, and the coronavirus still claiming a thousand lives per day, lawmakers have left town.
That’s correct: The “Grim Reaper” Mitch McConnell has sent his Republican controlled Senate home until September without a coronavirus relief deal:
Senators will get at least 24 hours notice to return if congressional Democrats, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows are able to break the impasse and votes are scheduled. Otherwise, the Senate will formally reconvene on Sept. 8. The House already left town and isn’t expected to return until Sept. 14.
Republicans have claimed that the added $600 a week in unemployment benefits, which expired July 31, was doing more harm than good. With Republicans and Democrats unable to reach a sweeping deal to extend the benefits, Republicans are about to see if they were right to think the country’s economic problems will go away on their own.
But monthly job gains have been slowing down and economists warn that cutting benefits to force people back to their jobs won’t work.
″There is no more effective way to support an economy in a downturn than providing help to the hard-pressed unemployed, who spend any money they receive as quickly as they receive it,” Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, said in an email.
“If lawmakers don’t come through and quickly pass another fiscal rescue package, including more unemployment insurance, the economy is likely to backslide into recession,” Zandi said.
A University of Chicago analysis said in July that if Congress did nothing, unemployed people would cut their spending by a third. Since unemployment benefits represented about 15% of total wages, dropping the federal supplement “could cause substantial declines in aggregate demand and potentially negative effects on the macro-economy.”
But Republicans have been more concerned about employers than the broader economy, complaining that for many workers, the combined state-federal benefit amounted to more than their previous wage. With the federal portion gone, employers are able to keep wages low and force people back to work ― coronavirus be damned.
Further complicating matters, President Donald Trump has signed a memorandum ordering the Labor Department and Federal Emergency Management Agency to try to replace the lapsed benefit with a weekly $300 “lost wage assistance” payment. The proposed scheme would pay half of the previous benefit, and likely suffer from major logistical problems, but Trump has given Republicans cover to claim the unemployed are being taken care of.
The New York Times reports, $400 Unemployment Supplement Is Really $300, and Won’t Arrive Soon:
The federal aid to unemployed workers that President Trump announced last weekend looks likely to be smaller than initially suggested — and it remains unclear when the money will start flowing, how long it will last or how many workers will benefit.
In the meantime, states are scrambling to figure out how to carry out Mr. Trump’s plan, with unemployed workers wondering whether the money will arrive in time to prevent lasting financial harm.
[T]his week the administration offered new guidance: Rather than adding $100 a week on top of existing unemployment benefits, states could count existing benefits toward their share. In other words, unemployed workers would get an extra $300, not $400.
States still have the option of providing an extra $100, but few if any are expected to do so.
Under guidance released by the Labor Department on Wednesday evening, the new program will be available to people who certify that they are “unemployed or partially unemployed due to disruptions caused by Covid-19” — but only if they already qualify for at least $100 a week in unemployment benefits.
That provision would exclude roughly one million people, nearly three-quarters of them women.
[E]ven for those who qualify, it could be weeks or even months before they begin receiving any extra money. States will need to adjust to the new provisions when they are already overwhelmed by unemployment filings.
Arizona is four months into the COVID-19 pandemic, and some residents are still struggling to get basic unemployment benefits from the state. Arizona’s Unemployment Benefits System Is Still Riddled With Issues. Good luck.
And there’s this: “Mr. Trump’s executive action caps spending on the program at $44 billion, enough to cover five or six weeks of benefits, assuming all states sign up. That means the program could end almost as soon as it begins.”
Another round of stimulus checks for Americans and renewal of expired unemployment benefits for the millions left jobless by the corornavirus-induced recession aren’t likely to be approved until at least after Labor Day as lawmakers leave Washington for a summer break without agreement on a relief package.
And even after that, prospects for a deal look grim as each side blamed the other for the breakdown in negotiations. There haven’t been talks between congressional Democratic leaders and the White House since last week, when Trump administration officials walked away and then released four presidential orders that they said would provide enhanced unemployment, defer payroll taxes and halt evictions. The legality and effectiveness of those actions remained in doubt, however.
The Senate officially recessed Thursday until after Labor Day and the House left last week. There is little hope that leaders can hatch a deal in the coming days, but even if that happened, it would require lawmakers to return to Washington to hold votes.
And with the presidential political conventions beginning next week, leaders are unlikely to hold serious negotiations or call lawmakers back until early September.
Many in Washington are now eyeing the expiration of government funding as the next, best possibility to force action by attaching a coronavirus relief package to the must-pass spending bill. Funding for the government is set to run out Sept. 30 and neither party is likely to want to risk a government shutdown just weeks before the election.
[But] House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has resisted the idea of tying government funding to coronavirus relief, arguing that it is too long to wait. “We can’t wait until September 30th. … People will die,” she said, noting that 77,000 have died since the Democratic-led House passed its $3.4 trillion coronavirus relief response bill in May.
Laugh line: “Republicans accused Democrats of politicizing the stalemate to portray it as President Donald Trump’s fault.” It IS his fault!
The holdup in negotiations is because Donald Trump is opposed to three funding priorities in the House HEROES Act:
- Aid to cities and states that are going bankrupt, and having to lay off public workers. Trump’s rescue plan would let state and local governments drown in red ink.
- Funding for elections during the coronavirus pandemic. Kudlow dismisses funds for ‘voting rights’ as ‘liberal, left wish lists’.
- Funding for the U.S. Postal Service, which will run out of money on at the end of the fiscal year on September 30, at a time when A Record 76% of Americans Can Vote by Mail in 2020. Trump admits to blocking Postal Service funding to undercut voting by mail.
Americans are losing their jobs, they are going bankrupt, their families are going hungry, and they face eviction from their homes as the country slips into an economic depression, all a part of Trump’s “chaos theory” of creating enough disruption to suppress voter turnout that he may be able to sneak in a win in his lust for power. He is trying to steal an election. Americans are literally dying because of his evil plan. And Republicans in Congress are complicit.
Americans need to turn their anger on Republicans and take their revenge at the ballot box.