Record 16.6 million have sought US jobless aid since virus

With a startling 6.6 million people seeking jobless benefits last week, the United States has reached a grim landmark: Roughly one in 10 workers have lost their jobs in just the past three weeks.

Posted: Apr 9, 2020 7:21 AM
Updated: Apr 9, 2020 9:33 AM

NEW YORK (AP) — A staggering 16.8 million Americans have been thrown onto the unemployment rolls in just three weeks, underscoring the terrifying speed with which the coronavirus outbreak has brought world economies to a near standstill.

Meanwhile, world leaders and health officials are fervently warning that hard-won gains in the fight against the scourge must not be jeopardized by relaxing social distancing during Easter weekend, and authorities across Europe banned holiday travel and set up police roadblocks

A spike in deaths in Britain and New York and surges of reported new infections in Japan and in India’s congested cities make it clear the battle is far from over.

Numbers released Thursday by the world's largest economy showed that 6.6 million American workers applied for unemployment benefits last week, on top of more than 10 million in the two weeks before that. That means more than 1 in 10 U.S. workers have been forced out of a job since the crisis took hold.

The real numbers could be even higher because the surge of jobless claims has overwhelmed state unemployment offices around the country, and some people have been unable to get through by telephone or website. And still more job cuts are expected.

The U.S. unemployment rate could hit 15% — a number last seen at the tail end of the Depression — when the figures for April come out.

The aid organization Oxfam International warned of a looming spike in global poverty, estimating that around half a billion people worldwide could be pushed into poverty if wealthier nations do not take urgent action.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top American infectious-diseases expert, said the epidemic will demand permanent changes in people’s behavior until a vaccine is developed. He said people should be constantly washing their hands and those who are sick should not go to school or work.

“Don’t anybody ever shake hands again,” he said. “I mean, it sounds crazy, but that’s the way it’s really got to be until we get to a point where we know the population is protected.”

He also shot down hopes that warmer spring weather would bring an end to the crisis.

“One should not assume that we are going to be rescued by a change in the weather,” he said. “You must assume that the virus will continue to do its thing.”

The U.S. has by far the most confirmed infections with over 430,000, three times the number of the next three countries combined. New York state on Wednesday recorded its highest one-day increase in deaths, 779, for an overall death toll of almost 6,300. New York has more than 40% of the U.S. death total of around 15,000.

“We are flattening the curve because we are rigorous about social distancing,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “But it’s not a time to be complacent."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel emphasized that “even short trips inside Germany, to the seaside or the mountains or relatives, can’t happen over Easter this year.”

New Zealand police warned people not to drive to vacation homes over Easter and risk arrest, while Lithuania moved to lock down major cities. Portugal halted commercial flights at the country's five international airports and set up checkpoints on major roads to stop Easter visits.

Greece also tightened restrictions ahead of next week’s Orthodox Easter, increasing roadblocks along highways, doubling fines for lockdown violations and banning travel between islands.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei suggested mass gatherings may be barred through the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which runs from late April through most of May.

Khamenei urged the Shiite faithful to pray at home. Shiites typically pray together and communities often share meals, especially during Ramadan. Iran has reported over 66,000 infections and over 4,100 deaths, although experts suspect those numbers under-report the country's outbreak.

Indonesia’s president banned civil servants, police officers, military personnel and employees of state-owned companies from returning to their hometowns to celebrate the end of Ramadan. The annual event usually involves tens millions of Indonesians crisscrossing the archipelago of 17,000 islands.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johonson spent a third night in intensive care with COVID-19 infection. His spokesman said Thursday he was continuing to improve. Britain posted its highest death toll in a single day Wednesday, with 938 virus-related deaths.

Japan reported more than 500 new cases for the first time Thursday, a worrisome rise since it has the world’s oldest population and COVID-19 can be especially serious in the elderly.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has declared a state of emergency, but not a lockdown, in Tokyo and six other prefectures. Companies in the world’s third-largest economy have been slow to embrace working from home, and many commuters jammed Tokyo’s streets as usual Thursday.

New infections, hospitalizations and deaths have been leveling off in hard-hit Italy and Spain, which together have more than 32,000 deaths, but the daily tolls are still shocking. Spain reported 683 more deaths Thursday, bringing its total to more than 15,200.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez acknowledged authorities were caught off guard by the crisis and failed to provide hospitals with critical supplies, including virus tests and protective clothing for medical workers.

“Europe reacted late. All of the West reacted late, and Spain is no exception,” Sánchez said.

Worldwide, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has climbed to nearly 1.5 million, with nearly 90,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. The true numbers are much higher, because of limited testing, different rules for counting the dead and the efforts of some governments to conceal the extent of their outbreaks.

For most, the virus causes mild to moderate symptoms like fever and cough. But for some, especially older adults and the infirm, it can cause pneumonia.. More than 330,000 people have recovered.

___

Perry reported from Wellington, New Zealand and Becatoros from Athens, Greece. Associated Press journalists around the world contributed.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 481831

Reported Deaths: 6518
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin999721578
Ramsey42807796
Dakota35912384
Anoka33081383
Washington21896253
Stearns18695200
St. Louis14668262
Scott13159107
Wright12447114
Olmsted1172088
Sherburne866673
Carver759940
Clay685386
Rice665391
Blue Earth588035
Kandiyohi577474
Crow Wing516280
Chisago494744
Otter Tail479670
Benton441890
Winona414849
Mower400731
Douglas391068
Nobles385847
Goodhue383768
Polk341362
McLeod337049
Beltrami335751
Morrison322446
Lyon311543
Itasca309946
Becker308141
Isanti304153
Carlton298744
Steele298211
Pine281216
Freeborn278023
Nicollet253141
Todd244930
Brown241537
Le Sueur231520
Mille Lacs225847
Cass218224
Waseca207317
Meeker206534
Martin187528
Wabasha18553
Roseau178917
Hubbard160140
Houston156714
Dodge15144
Renville148040
Redwood146427
Fillmore13648
Chippewa135735
Cottonwood133620
Wadena129220
Pennington127816
Faribault122016
Aitkin118133
Sibley116610
Rock115613
Watonwan11568
Kanabec107019
Pipestone100824
Yellow Medicine97617
Murray9428
Jackson92610
Swift87318
Pope7935
Marshall77015
Stevens7368
Lake73018
Clearwater71714
Lac qui Parle68216
Wilkin66610
Koochiching61711
Big Stone5123
Lincoln5032
Grant4898
Norman4658
Unassigned45468
Mahnomen4407
Kittson40821
Red Lake3564
Traverse3015
Lake of the Woods2131
Cook1190

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 360369

Reported Deaths: 5380
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk57811545
Linn20555312
Scott18229205
Black Hawk16205287
Woodbury14896211
Johnson1376873
Dubuque13494194
Dallas1128090
Pottawattamie10724141
Story1014845
Warren551172
Clinton541683
Cerro Gordo531980
Webster516786
Marshall494872
Sioux492369
Buena Vista471436
Des Moines455261
Muscatine448591
Wapello4279108
Jasper407565
Plymouth393377
Lee373551
Marion357369
Jones293854
Henry292335
Carroll284648
Bremer277354
Crawford272435
Boone258830
Washington253547
Benton251154
Mahaska222946
Jackson220938
Dickinson216538
Tama212064
Kossuth207354
Clay193125
Hamilton191541
Delaware188739
Winneshiek187126
Fayette184334
Buchanan183630
Page181919
Hardin180239
Wright179631
Harrison178869
Cedar176222
Clayton167853
Butler165631
Mills162720
Floyd162339
Madison153618
Cherokee153535
Poweshiek153430
Hancock146429
Lyon145641
Iowa143823
Allamakee143745
Appanoose138547
Grundy138330
Jefferson137632
Winnebago137530
Calhoun133111
Cass132548
Mitchell130240
Louisa127741
Union126131
Chickasaw124613
Sac123718
Emmet120940
Shelby120033
Franklin118319
Humboldt117125
Guthrie116228
Palo Alto104321
Montgomery103936
Howard102921
Clarke99820
Keokuk97729
Unassigned9320
Monroe92928
Adair91726
Ida90732
Pocahontas85219
Davis82223
Monona81426
Greene76610
Lucas72921
Osceola70014
Worth6927
Taylor66312
Fremont5889
Decatur5739
Van Buren55818
Ringgold51720
Wayne48721
Audubon4819
Adams3254
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