Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: April 10, 2020

Harold Maass
Masked volunteers hand unemployment paperwork to people in a row of cars.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images


Unemployment claims pass 17 million in 4 weeks

About 6.6 million Americans applied for jobless benefits last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday. The figure pushed the number of new claims in the past four weeks to more than 17 million. The unprecedented surge in people who have lost work due to the COVID-19 crisis has resulted in the worst unemployment in decades. Former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, one of the world's leading economists, estimated the unemployment rate had risen as high as 13 percent, while others said the figure was surely higher. "It looks like the unemployment rate is headed to 15 percent," said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at MUFG Bank, in a note to clients. "This isn't a recession, it's the Great Depression II." [The Washington Post]


Coronavirus toll rises but Trump pushes to reopen parts of economy in May

The COVID-19 death toll in the U.S. reached 16,686 people early Friday, with more than 469,000 confirmed cases. The number of new deaths fell to 1,783 on Thursday, after two consecutive one-day highs of 1,939 and 1,973 on Tuesday and Wednesday. In New York, the epicenter of the outbreak in the United States, the rate of new infections and hospitalizations continued to slow, suggesting the crisis there is plateauing. The virus remains an active threat, but the Trump administration is still quietly pushing to reopen parts of the economy around May 1. President Trump said Thursday the nation was "at the top of the hill" in the crisis. But health experts and economists warn that a return to normal too soon could result in a resurgence of COVID-19. [The Washington Post, The New York Times]


Democrats reject Senate small-business loan bill as too small

Senate Democrats on Thursday blocked a Republican bill seeking $250 billion in additional funding for loans to help small businesses weather the coronavirus crisis. Democrats want to double the size of the package to include aid for hospitals, state governments, and people needing food assistance. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) accused Republicans of orchestrating a "political stunt" to push legislation with no input from Democrats. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) accused Democrats of holding "Americans' paychecks hostage" by not accepting the GOP plan, saying: "Treating this as a normal, partisan negotiation could literally cost Americans their jobs." [Newsweek]


Biden courts Sanders supporters with Medicare, student loan concessions

Former Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday stepped up efforts to unify Democrats by adopting pieces of Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) presidential platform after Sanders suspended his 2020 campaign. Biden, who became the party's presumptive nominee when Sanders dropped out, announced in a blog post that he was proposing reducing the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 60. Sanders sought universal health care through his Medicare-for-all proposal. Biden also said he would push to "forgive all undergraduate tuition-related federal student debt from two- and four-year public colleges and universities for debt-holders earning up to $125,000." Sanders had called for canceling all student debt. Biden also thanked Sanders and is supporters for "laying the groundwork for these ideas." [The New York Times, Joe Biden]


Stocks gain after Fed unveils $2.3 trillion rescue plan

Wall Street gained Thursday for the third day in the last four after the Federal Reserve unveiled a $2.3 trillion plan to help local governments and businesses hurt by the coronavirus crisis. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 1.2 percent, while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite rose by 1.5 percent and 0.8 percent, respectively. The U.S. central bank said it would work with banks to get four-year loans for large companies, and also start buying bonds of big counties and cities to bolster their finances. "(The Fed's move) should give some confidence to investors, that the risks this time around are maybe not the same as the risks in the financial crisis," said Randy Watts, chief investment officer at O'Neil Global Advisors. [Reuters]


Boris Johnson out of intensive care as condition improves

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was transferred out of intensive care on Thursday but remained in a London hospital to continue receiving treatment after contracting the new coronavirus. Johnson will "receive close monitoring during the early phase of his recovery," a spokesperson for the prime minister's office said. "He is in extremely good spirits." Johnson is receiving supplemental oxygen but never needed a mechanical ventilator. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who has temporarily assumed Johnson's duties, did not say when Johnson would resume his normal work, or when Britain would be able to lift its coronavirus lockdown. "Is it time to ease up on the rules?" he said. "We're not done yet." [The Washington Post, The New York Times]


Report: U.S. COVID-19 coronavirus strain came from Europe

While the coronavirus outbreak started in Wuhan, China, in late 2019, most of New York's COVID-19 cases came from Europe, and the European mutation was spreading silently around the New York City area by mid-February, two groups of viral historians have determined. Teams of geneticists at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and the NYU Grossman School of Medicine studied the genomes of coronavirus samples from different groups of COVID-19 cases in New York, finding "a previously hidden spread of the virus that might have been detected if aggressive testing programs had been put in place," The New York Times reports. New York saw its first positive COVID-19 test on March 1, followed weeks later by a surge of cases. [The New York Times]


Powerful storms sweep across Midwest

Severe storms hit parts of the Midwest on Thursday with high winds, hail, and tornadoes causing a few injuries and cutting power to about 100,000 people. About 36,000 still had no electricity as of late Thursday afternoon. An EF-1 tornado with winds estimated at 100 miles per hour damaged buildings in Mooresville, Indiana, just southwest of Indianapolis. The storm demolished the second floor of a vacant two-story building and blocked streets with bricks and other debris. One woman was injured when a power line fell on her car, but the state's stay-at-home order due to the coronavirus pandemic kept most people out of the damaged area. "We have some small restaurants downtown here and folks would be in those under normal circumstances," said Division Chief John Robinson of the Mooresville Fire Department. "Luckily, because of the virus everyone was gone." [The Associated Press]


Georgia postpones primary elections for 2nd time

For the second time this year, Georgia on Thursday postponed its primary elections due to the coronavirus outbreak. The state pushed back the vote from May to June. It was originally scheduled for March 24. The decision for a second delay came on the same day New Jersey and Virginia postponed their primaries, joining at least 15 other states that have done the same amid the Covid-19 pandemic. On Tuesday, Wisconsin held its Democratic primary and some key state and local elections after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a last-minute order from Gov. Tony Evers (D) delaying in-person voting until June. [The Associated Press]


MAD magazine cartoonist Mort Drucker dies at 91

Mort Drucker, the beloved artist known for his work at MAD magazine, has died at 91. Drucker died Wednesday at his home in New York, his friend John Reiner confirmed. Reiner told CNN's Jake Tapper his death was not thought to be related to COVID-19. After joining MAD in 1956, Drucker's hilarious caricatures satirizing pop culture soon became iconic, and he illustrated more than half of the magazine's movie parodies from the 1960s through 2008. "The world has lost a not just an extraordinary talent but a shining example of kindness, humility and humor," the National Cartoonists Society said in a statement. [The New York Times]