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COVID hospitalizations and deaths surge as economic crisis deepens

By Masao Suzuki |
November 13, 2020
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San José, CA - Within a week of the election, the pandemic in the United States has turned the corner, just as President Trump said. But instead of fading away, there has been a surge in new infections. For five straight days there has been more than 100,000 cases a day, the latest being more than 145,000 - another record high. Trump has been uncharacteristically quiet on the pandemic, instead focusing on spreading lies and filing lawsuits to try to throw out people’s votes in a losing attempt to overturn President-elect Biden’s election victory.

While not yet at records, COVID hospitalizations and deaths are again rising quickly from coast to coast, with the Midwest being hardest hit. People have slowed their movements according to tracking data, and some stores are seeing signs of panic buying that was widespread when the pandemic first hit hard in March. More and more states, counties and cities have begun to reimpose restrictions as their hospitals fill up with no sign of a slowdown in the pandemic.

While the economy is not as bad off as in April, there were still more than a million new applications for unemployment aid in the week ending November 7. A total of more than 21 million people were getting unemployment aid (in latest week for this data) ending October 24. This is almost 15 times as many people who were receiving government unemployment assistance before the recession hit.

Another sign of economic weakness was the Department of Labor’s report on inflation for October. On average, consumer prices did not rise at all. While the last thing that workers need is higher prices, this also is a sign that more and more people are pulling back on spending as the pandemic spreads across the country for the predicted third wave.

Many households have also lost their economic lifeline from the government and see no relief in sight. In fact the future looks grim with two federal government benefits - the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for self-employed and gig workers, and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation for the long-term unemployed who have been timed out of their regular state unemployment insure or UI payments - set to end the last week of December.

The end of the year also will mark the end of the Student Loan forbearance program which has helped millions of former college students to extend payments on their loans. The Center for Disease Control moratorium on evictions also will expire early in the new year, putting tens of millions of tenants behind on their rent in danger of being thrown into the street.

Despite the dire need for even more aid to try to support people whose livelihoods have been lost because of the pandemic and recession, the Republicans in the Senate are pushing austerity. They are opposing more support for the Federal Reserve Bank’s lending programs to state and local government and businesses. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader of the Senate, still has not called for a vote on more aid and is looking for $500 billion in additional spending, only half of what the Trump administration had been offering.