4.17.2020

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Need to Know
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22 Million Unemployed
Editor's note: We typically run three top stories, but have focused Fridays on the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Below is our summary of the key events.

More than 5.2 million Americans made initial unemployment claims last week, lower than the record-breaking totals of the previous two weeks but enough to bring the total number of newly unemployed workers to a whopping 22 million people. The figure reflects the spread and breadth at which the coronavirus has ravaged the US economy; more than one in 10 working-age Americans have lost their job in the past four weeks.

The one-week record for jobless claims before the coronavirus was 695,000, set in October 1982, and the past month's job losses have erased nearly all the gains made since the 2009 recession. States like Hawaii, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Nevada, and Kentucky have seen nearly 20% of their workforce laid off since mid-March (state-by-state breakdown here). 

Meanwhile, the $350B small business loan program included in the recent stimulus bill ran out of money yesterday. The Paycheck Protection Program is meant to prevent layoffs, and the funds can be forgiven if applied by companies to payroll expenses. Congress has haggled over a $250B extension of the program, but the Senate adjourned for the week without reaching an agreement. 

In Washington, DC, the White House released guidelines to help states relax social distancing policies, with President Trump saying he would largely leave it up to states to decide when to begin ending restrictions. Governors in the Midwest said they would coordinate reopening the regional economy, taking a cue from their colleagues on the West Coast and in the Northeast, who announced similar plans earlier this week.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, one of the first to implement a stay-at-home order, said the state would target May 1 to begin reopening. New York, where officials believe they have passed the peak of the outbreak, extended its stay-at-home order to May 15, as did Los Angeles and DC. Wisconsin extended its order to May 26. 

The US has reported more than 671,000 cases, with 33,300 deaths, as of this morning (stats here), with its highest daily death toll coming yesterday (4,591 deaths). Preliminary data on racial disparities are bleak, with predominantly black counties showing death rates six times higher than predominantly white counties. 

Finally, the US intelligence community is reportedly investigating the possibility the coronavirus outbreak began from a lab in Wuhan, China, though not as a bioweapon. The news follows the revelation of State Department cables from two years ago warning of lax safety standards in a Wuhan lab studying coronaviruses in bats. Conspiracy theories have suggested the virus was engineered; they have been debunked, with genetic analysis showing the virus is of natural origin (though not precluding a lab accident).  

You can access the huge library of resources available to congressional staff on the pandemic. We've posted a link to the archive on our coronavirus resource page, along with a state-by-state guide to school closures and other great resources.
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In the Know
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Sports, Entertainment, & Culture
> Golf's PGA Tour becomes first major sports league to announce plans to return, with the first four tournaments to be played without fans beginning June 8 (More)
> Tony- and Golden Globe-winning actor Brian Dennehy dies of natural causes at age 81 (More)
> WNBA draft kicks off tonight (7pm ET, ESPN); New York Liberty expected to take Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu with the No. 1 pick (More) | Long-awaited 10-part Michael Jordan docuseries “The Last Dance” premieres Sunday, April 19 (9pm ET, ESPN) (More)
Science & Technology
> South Korean company Seoul Viosys demonstrates high-power LED device that can kill 99.9% of the coronavirus on a surface using UV-C light (More)
> Einstein's theory of general relativity confirmed (again) by daisy flower orbit of nearby star moving around a supermassive black hole; data took 27 years to compile (More) | What is spacetime? (More)
> Facebook's Libra cryptocurrency to be scaled back from global digital currency to localized coins backed by the currencies of each country it's offered in (More)
Business & Markets
> China sees quarterly GDP decline for first time on record, falling 6.8% over last year (More)
> US stock markets up (S&P 500 +0.6%, Dow +0.2%, Nasdaq +1.7%) as Netflix and Amazon continue surge to all-time highs (More) | Gilead Sciences stock pops more than 16% after coronavirus vaccine shows promising results (More)
> Payment technology giant Stripe raises $600M at $36B valuation (More) | Online trading firm Robinhood raising $200M at $8B valuation (More)
Politics & World Affairs
> Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro fires health minister after clashing over how to fight the coronavirus, calls for the country to begin reopening its economy (More)
> Israel prime minister candidate Benny Gantz misses deadline to form unity government; Israel President Reuven Rivlin gives parliament 21 days to choose a prime minister before another national election is triggered (More)
> EPA loosens Obama-era restrictions on the emissions of mercury and other toxic air pollutants from coal power plants (More) | Read rule change here (More)
Weekend Reads
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What Does COVID-19 Do to the Brain?
Wired | Megan Molteni. Some coronavirus patients - but not all - report loss of smell, headaches, and even seizures or strokes. Scientists are racing to understand the neurological links between the disease and the brain. (Read)
Tainted Treatments
Washington Post | Michael Ruane. A defective version of the polio vaccine that sickened 40,000 children and left dozens paralyzed in 1955 provides an example of how difficult drug development and production can be - and why it can't be rushed. (Read, $$)
The Theory of Everything
Wolfram Physics Project | Stephen Wolfram. If he wasn't one of the world's most accomplished computer scientists, he'd be laughed out of the room. Here's why Stephen Wolfram thinks he's found a path to discovering the holy grail of physics. (Read)
 
 
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All returns current as of April 14, 2020
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Etcetera
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Historybook: RIP Benjamin Franklin (1790); Bay of Pigs Invasion begins in Cuba (1961); Apollo 13 returns safely to Earth (1970); HBD Victoria Beckham (1974); RIP Barbara Bush (2018).
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