April 3, 2020

The number of global Covid-19 cases just surpassed 1M. But is that an undercount?

Daily Briefing

    The number of reported cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, surpassed 1 million on Thursday, as the pandemic continues to have severe economic effects—with a record number of Americans filing unemployment claims. 

    COVID-19 weekly webinar: What health care leaders need to know

    Global Covid-19 cases surpass 1M—but likely are underreported

    As of Friday morning, officials worldwide had reported more than 1 million cases of Covid-19  and 53,259 deaths linked to the new coronavirus. However, that tally likely is lower than the actual number of people worldwide who have contracted the virus, USA Today reports. According to USA Today, public health experts noted that officials haven't tested every patient who has died from symptoms of Covid-19, nor many who experienced less severe symptoms of the disease. In addition, some patients with Covid-19 show no symptoms at all, and therefore are unlikely to be tested for the disease.

    Steven Corwin, president and CEO of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, said, "The million (cases) is clearly way under what the actual number will be because of all the issues of testing and all the people with mild symptoms that haven't been tested."

    Corwin added that a lag in testing in the United States means the reported number of Covid-19 cases in the country also is lower than the number of actual cases. As of Friday morning, U.S. officials had reported  244,228 cases of Covid-19—up from 214,461 cases as of Thursday morning. The United States as of Friday morning had reported the highest number of Covid-19 cases of any country.

    U.S. officials as of Friday morning also had reported 6,257 U.S. deaths linked to the virus—up from 4,841 deaths as of Thursday morning.

    US unemployment claims soar

    The new coronavirus' spread in the United States and throughout the world has had severe economic effects, causing volatility in global stock markets and several countries to shut down businesses and implement strict lockdowns aimed at containing the virus' spread. In the United States, many states and localities have ordered bars and dining establishments to restrict their services to carry-out and delivery and have ordered entertainment, recreational, and retail facilities to close down completely. Several states have ordered all non-essential businesses to close, and 37 states have ordered their residents to stay home unless they're seeking essential services.

    As a result, many companies have laid off workers or scaled back workers' hours. On Thursday, the Department of Labor reported that 6.6 million Americans filed unemployment claims last week—more than double the number of claims filed the previous week. According to Politico, nearly 10 million Americans have reported job losses in the past two weeks alone. The Kaiser Family Foundation's latest Health Tracking poll—which researchers conducted from March 25 to March 30—found that 39% of U.S. residents said they lost their jobs or incomes because of the country's Covid-19 epidemic.

    Politico reports that the labor market in the coming weeks could see the number of job losses soar above the 15 million jobs lost during the Great Recession's peak. On Thursday, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) in an updated economic forecast projected that business closures and widespread joblessness amid the epidemic will cause the country's unemployment rate to surpass 10% during the second quarter of 2020 and to settle at about 9% by the end of 2021. CBO Director Phillip Swagel noted that those projections are "very preliminary" and might become worse.

    Trump invokes Defense Production Act to increase supplies of face masks, ventilators

    Meanwhile, President Trump on Thursday invoked the Defense Production Act to increase U.S. manufacturing of facemasks needed to protect health care workers against contracting the new coronavirus and ventilators needed to treat patients with Covid-19. The news comes as states and health care workers throughout the country are reporting severe shortages of personal protective equipment for health care workers and ventilators that are likely to worsen as the number of Covid-19 cases rises in the United States.

    Trump in an order issued Thursday mandated that the manufacturing company 3M must sell the Federal Emergency Management Agency as many N95 respirator masks as the agency requests.

    Trump also issued a memo directing HHS Secretary Alex Azar to help six companies—General Electric, Hill-Rom, Medtronic, Resmed, Royal Philips, and Vyaire Medical—access the supplies they need to manufacture ventilators.

    Trump said, "I am grateful to these and other domestic manufacturers for ramping up their production of ventilators during this difficult time. Today's order will save lives by removing obstacles in the supply chain that threaten the rapid production of ventilators" (Shumaker/Wallis, Reuters, 4/2; New York Times, 4/3 (1); New York Times, 4/3 (2); Stanglin, USA Today, 4/2; Calfas et al., Wall Street Journal, 4/2; Rainey/McCaskill, Politico, 4/2; Casselman/Cohen, New York Times, 4/2; Kaiser Family Foundation release, 4/2; DePass, Star Tribune, 4/3; Beech/Lambert, Reuters, 4/2).

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