the coroanvirus crisis
January 28, 2021

The U.S. economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic just had its worst year in over seven decades.

The Commerce Department on Thursday said the U.S. economy shrank by 3.5 percent in 2020, resulting in the worst year for growth since 1946, The Washington Post reports. This was also the U.S. economy's first yearly contraction since 2009 amid the Great Recession.

The report represented a "major disappointment and hit to the nascent recovery in the domestic economy," RSM economist Joseph Brusuelas said, per Axios. It also "showed the recovery from the pandemic losing steam" late in 2020, Reuters reports, with GDP increasing at only a 4.0 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter.

The numbers came on Thursday morning at about the same time the Labor Department reported that another 847,000 Americans filed new jobless claims last week, a decline from the week before but still a historically high number.

"The virus is in the driver's seat — there's no getting around it," Glassdoor senior economist Daniel Zhao said, per The Wall Street Journal. "Until we control the pandemic, we can't hope for a full recovery economically." Brendan Morrow

May 14, 2020

The number of Americans who have filed initial unemployment claims during the coronavirus crisis has now reached more than 36 million.

The Labor Department on Thursday said another 2.98 million Americans filed initial jobless claims last week, which brings the eight-week total to about 36.5 million. Thursday's number was worse than the 2.7 million economists were expecting, CNBC reports.

The 2.98 million claims represents a decline from the previous week's 3.17 million, but it's still significantly higher than the record for weekly unemployment filings prior to the coronavirus pandemic: 695,000 in October 1982. The peak for weekly jobless claims during the Great Recession was 665,000.

The April jobs report released last week showed the unemployment rate soared to 14.7 percent, the worst since the Great Depression, with 20.5 million jobs lost. On Wednesday, economists from Goldman Sachs forecasted the unemployment rate will peak at 25 percent and take several years to return to its pre-coronavirus level. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell also revealed Wednesday a Fed survey shows that among Americans who were working in February, almost 40 percent in households making less than $40,000 a year lost a job in March. Brendan Morrow

April 28, 2020

JetBlue starting next week will become the first U.S. airline to require passengers wear face coverings.

Starting on May 4, JetBlue Airways has announced passengers must wear masks or face coverings of some kind on flights, USA Today reports. JetBlue had already required flight attendants wear masks, and other airlines like Delta have been recommending that passengers wear them.

"This is the new flying etiquette," JetBlue President and COO Joanna Geraghty said. "Onboard, cabin air is well circulated and cleaned through filters every few minutes but this is a shared space where we have to be considerate of others. We are also asking our customers to follow these CDC guidelines in the airport as well."

Geraghty also described this as not just about "protecting yourself" but about "protecting those around you."

JetBlue said the masks will be required during check-in, boarding, on flights, and while deplaning, and passengers will receive a reminder about the new policy through email and via announcements before flights. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended wearing face coverings in public settings where it's difficult to maintain social distancing.

Airlines had faced pressure to make masks a requirement for passengers, and Association of Flight Attendants international president Sara Nelson in a statement to USA Today urged others to "follow JetBlue's lead." Brendan Morrow

April 16, 2020

Facebook has announced a new policy surrounding coronavirus misinformation on its platform after applying warning labels to tens of millions of posts last month alone.

The social media platform on Thursday said that in March, it put warning labels on roughly 40 million posts containing coronavirus misinformation based on ratings from fact-checkers. "When people saw those warning labels, 95 percent of the time they did not go on to view the original content," Facebook said. Additionally, Facebook disclosed that it removed "hundreds of thousands of pieces of misinformation that could lead to imminent physical harm," such as "harmful claims like drinking bleach cures the virus."

Going forward, Facebook will start showing messages in the Facebook feeds of users "who have liked, reacted or commented on harmful misinformation about COVID-19 that we have since removed." Users will be directed toward information about myths surrounding COVID-19 that have been debunked by the World Health Organization.

"We want to connect people who may have interacted with harmful misinformation about the virus with the truth from authoritative sources in case they see or hear these claims again off of Facebook," said Guy Rosen, Facebook's vice president of integrity.

An example screenshot shows a news feed where a user is encouraged to share a link to the WHO website with a list of common coronavirus rumors. A Facebook spokesperson told Axios the company is still testing different possible versions of what the notifications to users who engaged with misinformation could look like.

This announcement, Politico notes, comes after a campaign group said more than 40 percent of misinformation it found related to the coronavirus on Facebook was remaining on the platform even after being debunked. The new policy of informing users who have engaged with misinformation will take effect over the next few weeks. Brendan Morrow

March 27, 2020

The House of Representatives passed a $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package, sending it to President Trump's desk.

The House on Friday approved the relief package responding to the coronavirus pandemic after the Senate took the same step. The bill, which includes stimulus checks for most Americans, was passed in a voice vote.

One lawmaker, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), tried to force a roll call vote rather than a unanimous voice vote on the bill. The House had been hoping to avoid asking members to unnecessarily travel and gather together in Washington amid the coronavirus pandemic, but was required to form a 216-member quorum to overrule Massie; "scores of lawmakers" had to "begrudgingly" return to the Capitol, The Washington Post writes.

Massie drew bipartisan criticism with this move. President Trump slammed him as a "third rate grandstander" and called for him to be kicked out of the Republican Party, while former Secretary of State John Kerry called him an "a--hole." Trump is expected to sign the stimulus bill, tweeting Friday that "workers and small businesses need money now in order to survive." Brendan Morrow

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