The death toll from the novel coronavirus in the United States surpassed 5,000 Thursday morning, with more than 243,000 infections have been reported across the country. Globally, more than 950,000 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19, with at least 195,000 of those having recovered from the virus, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.
Meanwhile, a record number of Americans filed for unemployment this week as the coronavirus pandemic continues to batter the American economy, which has been brought to a virtual standstill as people hunker down at home to avoid spreading the disease.
Here is your COVID-19 update for Thursday, April 2, 2020:
WHO "Deeply Concerned" by Rapid Escalation of Coronavirus Outbreak As Death Toll Surpasses 5,000 in U.S.
Speaking from their headquarters in Geneva, the head of the World Health Organization said Wednesday that he was "deeply concerned" over the "rapid escalation" of the coronavirus pandemic in the world as the death toll continued to increase and neared 50,000.
“Over the past five weeks, we have witnessed a near exponential growth in the number of new cases, reaching almost every country, territory and area,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesuss said during a virtual news conference on Wednesday.
“The number of deaths has more than doubled in the past week. In the next few days we will reach 1 million confirmed cases, and 50,000 deaths,” he added.
As of Thursday morning, more than 5,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the U.S. with more than 215,000 infections, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University. Nearly 2,000 deaths have occurred in New York state alone, after the death toll spiked 25 percent in just 24 hours.
Worldwide, the total number of people infected has surpassed 956,500 with the death toll reaching at least 48,300. While the U.S. has a higher number of infections in the world, Italy has seen the highest number of COVID-19-related deaths, with more than 13,000. Spain has also surpassed 10,000 deaths from the coronavirus.
U.S. Intelligence Suggests China Hid True Extent of the Coronavirus Outbreak
The Chinese government has repeatedly and deliberately underrepresented the number of COVID-19 infections and deaths, the U.S. intelligence community told the White House in a new report, Bloomberg reported this week.
Citing three senior U.S. officials, the report sent to the White House last week indicates that China's public reporting on the number of coronavirus cases and deaths in their country were intentionally incomplete. At least two of the officials Bloomberg spoke with considers the data concluded that the data coming out of China was fake.
During Wednesday's daily White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing, Trump told reporters that they had not received any intelligence reports that China had underreported its coronavirus numbers. However, Trump added that he thought China's numbers appeared "to be a little bit on the light side, and I'm being nice when I say that, relative to what we witnessed and what was reported."
According to data collected by Johns Hopkins University, China has reported at least 82,000 cases of COVID-19, about half of that seen in the U.S.
In an interview with CNN, Vice President Mike Pence said that "we could have been better off if China had been more forthcoming" about the outbreak in their country.
"What appears evident now is that long before the world learned in December that China was dealing with this, and maybe as much as a month earlier than that, that the outbreak was real in China," Pence said.
Florida, Texas, Eyed As Next Potential Hotspots for Coronavirus Outbreak
With more than 216,000 infections in the U.S., health experts say two states are "wild cards" in how fast and far the novel coronavirus will spread over the next two weeks.
In an interview with CNBC on Wednesday, former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said he was optimistic the U.S. still had time to "flatten the curve" and avoid the potential scenario of 100,000 to 240,000 coronavirus deaths in the U.S. if stricter stay-at-home measures were enacted across the country.
“I think the real wild card here, and the decision point on whether or not we’re going to have the bad outcome that Drs. Fauci and Birx talk about, is what populist states like Texas and Florida do,” Gottlieb said.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Deborah Birx, the coordinator for the White House coronavirus task force, talked this week about the potential for up to 240,000 deaths in the U.S. after a model predicting the course of the outbreak was released.
Florida is particularly vulnerable to a high number of deaths due to the high number of seniors and many nursing homes. The state is also populated with large urban areas with dense populations - ideal conditions for an epidemic to spread.
On Wednesday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis finally issued a stay-at-home order for the entire state, after weeks of pushing back against the need to close businesses and beaches amid the pandemic. DeSantis had previously ordered people in the southeastern parts of the state to stay-at-home, but Wednesday the entire state was told to stay home to help curb the spread of the virus.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbot also issued an executive order on Tuesday, implementing "essential services and activities protocols" for the state. The order directs Texas residents to "minimize non-essential gatherings and in-person contact with people who are not in the same household." It also warns people to avoid eating or drinking in bars or restaurants or visiting gyms and massage establishments.
Seniors Won't Have to File Tax Returns to Get Coronavirus Stimulus Check
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Wednesday that people who receive Social Security benefits and don't normally have to file a tax return, will also not be required to file one in order to receive a stimulus check.
"We want to ensure that our senior citizens, individuals with disabilities, and low-income Americans receive Economic Impact Payments quickly and without undue burden," said Mnuchin. “Social Security recipients who are not typically required to file a tax return need to take no action, and will receive their payment directly to their bank account.”
Instead, Treasury officials will use existing forms on file in order to send payments to seniors. Checks will be sent to those people who do not have a bank account on file with the IRS. People who receive Social Security retirement or disability payments are sent as SSA-1099 form from the Social Security Administration, which is what will be used by the government.
The stimulus directs one-time payments of $1,200 for individuals who make less than $99,000 and $2,400 for couples who earn less than $198,000.
People were initially confused by language on the IRS's website, which indicated that seniors and low-income individuals would need to "file a simple tax return to receive an economic impact payment" making no mention of the SSA-1099 form.
On Wednesday, the IRS updated its website to reflect the new guidelines set out by Mnuchin, saying "The IRS will use the information on the Form SSA-1099 or Form RRB-1099 to generate Economic Impact Payments to recipients of benefits reflected in the Form SSA-1099 or Form RRB-1099 who are not required to file a tax return and did not file a return for 2018 or 2019. This includes senior citizens, Social Security recipients and railroad retirees who are not otherwise required to file a tax return."
6.6 Million People Filed for Unemployment Last Week Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic that's brought the global economy to a virtual standstill has prompted a record number of Americans to file for unemployment benefits last week.
According to figures released by the Labor Department on Thursday, a record 6.6 million people filed for unemployment last week - shattering the previous record of 3.28 million jobless claims from the week before. However, because many people had difficulties accessing the system and filing a claim, the number could be much higher.
The Labor Department is scheduled to release unemployment figures for the month of March on Friday, with most economists expecting a loss of about 100,000 jobs bringing an end to more than ten years of consistent monthly job creation.
Last week, President Donald Trump signed the CARES act, a $2.2 trillion stimulus package that included extending unemployment benefits and expands the amount they receive every week. On Sunday, Trump announced that his administration was extending social distancing guidelines for another thirty days, and that Americans should continue to work from home if they can and avoid going out.
Lawmakers have already begun working on another stimulus package, which could come in the form of an infrastructure plan.
To keep up to date on the latest news about the coronavirus and to understand what you need to stay safe and healthy, check out the Coronavirus: Fact vs Fiction podcast from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
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