5.1.2020

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Need to Know
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30 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 3.8 million Americans made initial unemployment claims last week, bringing the total number of newly unemployed workers to more than 30 million over the past six weeks. The record-shattering numbers have declined each week since peaking near 6.9 million claims for the week of March 28 (see data). The total number of Americans unemployed as a result of the pandemic represents more than 18% of the US labor force. 

Florida led the way with more than 430,000 jobless claims, marking the first week a state other than California turned in the most job losses (though an improvement in the state's processing systems may have led to a surge in claims). States like Hawaii, Washington, Nevada, Kentucky, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island have seen claims exceed 25% of their labor force since mid-March. 

The White House let federal guidelines on social distancing expire. A number of states transitioned their stay-at-home orders to advisories, letting certain businesses open under operating restrictions. Others, particularly those with high-population density metro areas, are considering (or have already) extended restrictions. See a state-by-state breakdown here.  

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said a shipment of coronavirus test kits delivered directly from South Korea was being held by the National Guard at an undisclosed location, partly out of fear that they would be confiscated by the federal government.  

Overseas, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin tested positive for the coronavirus, and said he would self-isolate. He becomes one of the highest-ranking world leaders to contract the disease.

In a rare public statement, US intelligence agencies said they supported the scientific consensus that the virus was not manmade or genetically modified (see statement). The news followed a report that the White House was pushing agencies to investigate whether a lab in Wuhan, China was the origin point of the virus - including the possibility of a lab accident. Read a profile on the researcher leading the Wuhan lab here

Finally, the White House is planning "Operation Warp Speed," an effort to have enough doses of a vaccine for most Americans by the end of the year. While a specific vaccine has yet to be identified by researchers, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top adviser on the crisis, said the ambitious goal was conceivable by next January. 

The US has reported almost 1.1 million cases as of this morning, with 63,019 deaths (see data). The number of patients who have recovered from the disease topped 1 million worldwide yesterday. 

From real-time maps and the current state of testing to where different vaccines stand, our PhD experts have curated everything you need to know about the crisis on our coronavirus resource page.
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In the Know
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Sports, Entertainment, & Culture
> NASCAR announces its return May 17 at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina; the race will be held without fans in attendance (More)
> The Recording Academy, the group behind the Grammys, hires Valeisha Butterfield Jones as its chief diversity and inclusion officer following a year of misconduct allegations against execs at the organization (More)
> Little League World Series, originally scheduled Aug. 20-30, is canceled for first time since the tournament began in 1947 (More) | NBA league officials vetting several sites to complete season including Disney World and Las Vegas (More)
Science & Technology
> Modeling of the Spinosaurus tail suggests the large predator was a river dweller; theory would make the species the first known aquatic dinosaur (More) | Background here (video, Watch)
> Elon Musk's SpaceX, Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin, and lesser-known Dynetics each win contracts to build lunar spacecraft to land astronauts on the moon during 2024 mission; NASA will select a final design in 2021 (More)
> Space-based laser measurements reveal melting glaciers resulted in a half-inch sea rise between 2003 and 2019; data from the highest-resolution mapping of Antarctica to date (More)
Business & Markets
> US stock markets down (S&P 500 -0.9%, Dow -1.1%, Nasdaq -0.3%) as April closes up 12.7%, S&P 500’s largest monthly gain since 1987 (More) | US consumer spending down 7.5% in March, largest drop on record since recording began in 1959 (More)
> Amazon sees strong revenue growth amid pandemic, warns it could see first unprofitable quarter as it forecasts $4B in potential Q2 pandemic spending, shares down 5% (More) | Apple sees slowing growth, will not provide Q2 guidance due to pandemic, shares down 2% (More)
> Macy’s to begin reopening 68 stores Monday in five states (GA, OK, SC, TN, TX), one of the first major retailers to do so (More)
Politics & World Affairs
> Joe Biden to comment on sexual assault allegations made by former staffer Tara Reade today; Reade alleges Biden assaulted her in the basement of a Capitol Hill office building in 1993 (More)
> Documents reveal internal deliberations about FBI prosecution of national security adviser Michael Flynn (More)
> Reports say President Trump threatened to cut military support to Saudi Arabia unless it cut oil production in an attempt to stop free-falling oil prices; call came in early April during a price war between the Saudis and Russia (More)
Weekend Reads
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How the Coronavirus Mutates and Spreads
NYT | Jonathan Corum, Carl Zimmer. This fascinating, infographic-heavy review traces how the virus has changed since its first emergence in Wuhan, China. (Read)
The Death of the Office
1843/The Economist | Catherine Nixey. Coronavirus-induced social distancing has proven a vast number of jobs can be done remotely. What was the office even for, anyhow? (Read)
A Bargain With the Devil
Wall Street Journal | Tripp Mickle, Preetika Rana. Entranced by seemingly never-ending revenue streams, many entrepreneurial Airbnb owners took out loans to finance portfolios of short-term rental properties. Now they're left holding the bag. (Read, $$)
The Hollywood Vigilante
Marie Claire | Erika Hayasaki. Away from the Hollywood set, actress Marisol Nichols steps into a different role, one with real-world consequences: hunting child predators. (Read)
 
 
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Etcetera - Best of April 2020
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Editor's note: More than a million monthly clicks can't be wrong. Here are the most popular, non-coronavirus focused stories we ran in April. Enjoy!

(4/17/20) This site sums up your entire life in statistics.

(4/7/20) Incredibly excited dolphins meet a sloth for the first time.

(4/8/20) Missed April's pink supermoon? See photos here.

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(4/15/20) Mapping where the world's ultrawealthy live.

(4/6/20) A massive faux staircase pulls together this cleverly designed Tokyo apartment.

(4/16/20) Melting glacier reveals long-lost Viking relics.

(4/9/20) Online jokesters take advantage of Queen Elizabeth's green screen outfit.

(4/14/20) A 64-year-old man accidentally ejects himself from a fighter jet.

(4/21/20) This seemingly impossible street art pops off the wall.

(4/7/20) Ranking America's friendliest cities.

(4/21/20) IKEA shares its world-renowned meatball recipe.

(4/16/20) Stunning finalists of Nikon’s Surf Photo of the Year.

(4/10/20) NASA's Juno spacecraft snaps stunning photos of Jupiter.

(4/27/20) The Hubble Telescope celebrates its 30th anniversary with a stunning shot.

(4/23/20) Clickbait: When you leave stuntmen alone with nothing to do.
Historybook: HBD Calamity Jane (1852); Dwarf planet Pluto is named (1930); Empire State Building opens in NYC (1931); The polio vaccine is first made available to the public (1956); HBD Tim McGraw (1967).
You made it. Have a great weekend.
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"The reward for work well done is the opportunity to do more."
- Jonas Salk, developer of one of the first successful polio vaccines
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