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We’ve reached a horrible place, where dead bodies are being transported to Philadelphia’s medical examiner in the back of an open pickup truck.
More than 47,000 have now died of coronavirus in the US. Even if we assume we’re at the top of the curve, tens of thousands more will die. By this time next week, it seems very possible that more people will have died in the US of Covid-19 than the the 58,000 who died in nearly of decade of fighting in Vietnam. We’re already far past the more than 35,000 who died in Korea.The country was much smaller during those conflicts. But everyone, it seemed, had a story. The same will be true now. Even if you don’t know someone who has died of this disease, you can be sure the death toll includes relatives of people you’ve heard of. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s brother died and Rep. Maxine Waters’ sister is dying, we learned Thursday. (Read this moving tribute by a former CNN colleague to his father, who died at 69 after 28 days on a ventilator in New York.)
We know so little. And there’s more new data suggesting many more people have been infected than previously thought. Northeastern University researchers suggest that by March 1, when the first coronavirus case was confirmed in New York, more than 10,000 were already infected in the city. The same was true in other American population centers.
The country continues to try to figure out how to process tragic human loss on a wartime scale with the continued and unfathomable economic loss necessary to make sure fewer people die.
A shocking percentage of Americans are now unemployed. More than 4.4 million Americans filed for first-time unemployment benefits last week – about 26.5 million claims over the past 5 weeks.
A full 16.2% of the US labor force is suffering from layoffs, furloughs or reduced hours, CNN Business calculated. The highest the unemployment number went in 2009 was 10%. In 1933, during the Great Depression, it hit 24.9% – but that was years after the stock market crash that set that disaster in motion. We’ve gone from historic unemployment lows to this in a little more than a month.
The numbers make you want to sit down. Large corporations aren’t revising earnings estimates. They’re removing them altogether. Nobody knows what’s going to happen.
The local reckoning looming ahead
People need their local and state governments now more than ever. They’ll need the services their taxes pay for and they’ll need the guidance of their local leaders, which is so important in a massive country of more than 300 million people.
But states and cities are about to get hit hard by a tax base being pulled out from under them by the Covid shutdown.
Personal income taxes, capital gains, corporate profits, sales taxes and gas taxes, as well as gaming, tourism and oil revenue, are all expected to decline, writes CNN’s Tami Luhby.
While the federal government can essentially print money, states cannot. Cities and states have already begun furloughs as they approach a new fiscal year. You know who might wind up bearing the brunt of cuts? First responders and other essential workers who have kept going through the shutdowns.
Could your state go bankrupt? Not currently. Sen. Mitch McConnell, who controls the Senate floor with an iron fist, has suggested states can simply declare bankruptcy, although that’s not currently allowed in federal law.
He sees the requests for money as, in part, an attempt to fix pension fund problems.
Here’s what’s in the latest stimulus
Congress is up to its fourth rescue package. As CNN’s Jeanne Sahadi and Tami Luhby write, this new stimulus has no new money for local governments or for individual Americans, but focuses instead on businesses. It includes:
$310 billion for additional Paycheck Protection Program loans (An initial $349 billion in forgivable loans ran out in less than two weeks, so this is probably another Band-Aid).
$60 billion for small lenders and community banks to make loans.
$10 billion for Economic Injury Disaster Loan grants. After an earlier stimulus, nearly every small business owner CNN Business spoke to in the past few weeks said they had applied for a disaster loan early but many had not received any money from it yet, and in some cases had not even gotten confirmation that their applications had been received.
$75 billion for hospitals and health care providers to reimburse them for coronavirus-related expenses.
$25 billion to expand coronavirus testing capacity.
This is not Rock, Paper, Scissors
I completely understand the desire to open the country and states back up and you should too.
The hardships created by all of this are going to be long-lasting.
You can see all of that in this interview Anderson Cooper conducted Wednesday night with Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, who showed a distinct lack of concern about public health given that she is the leader of a major American city. This interview was bonkers.
Seeing both sides. President Donald Trump is on both sides of this as he is on so many things. He both privately praised Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp for moving to open his state and then publicly criticized him. Chris Cillizza rightly called that Trump throwing Kemp under the bus.
The problem we’ll all run into is that everyone’s actions are affecting everyone else in this. No one gets to be an island.
Rock, Paper, Scissors. Yesterday I asked a colleague whether any of the inalienable rights mentioned in the Declaration of Independence – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – takes precedence over the other.
She said she’s never viewed inalienable rights as rock, paper, scissors.
But that’s what it can feel like right now – pitting many lives against many many more livelihoods. That’s without even accounting for the people who will die from the economic effects. There will be suicides because of this. People will fail to go to the hospital. There will be deaths of despair.
CNN’s Daniel Burke, who covers religion, writes a very good long read about the utilitarian idea of sacrificing for the greater good. That’s dangerous, he writes, in part because the sacrifice won’t be felt equally across society. But also, “one of the biggest problems with utilitarianism is the ease with which it treats individual lives as mere means for social ends.”
So: Should life – just that – trump liberty and the pursuit of happiness? We’re all trying to answer that question right now.