U.S. records deadliest coronavirus day of the summer

https://www.axios.com/1485-us-coronavirus-death-record-5ee493cc-df91-4549-8c9d-43a5fee0bd87.html

U.S. records deadliest coronavirus day of the summer - Axios

The U.S. reported 1,485 deaths due to the coronavirus on Wednesday, COVID Tracking Project data shows.

Why it matters: It’s the highest single-day COVID-19 death toll since May 15, when the country reported 1,507 deaths. The U.S. has seen a total of 157,758 deaths from the virus.

The big picture: Georgia reported 109 deaths on Wednesday — its second triple-digit day in a row.

Go deeper: 5 states set single-day coronavirus case records last week

 

 

 

 

The two sides of America’s coronavirus response

https://www.axios.com/us-coronavirus-vaccine-testing-science-b656e905-67d1-4836-863e-c91f739cfd1e.html

The two sides of America's coronavirus response - Axios

America’s bungled political and social response to the coronavirus exists side-by-side with a record-breaking push to create a vaccine with U.S. companies and scientists at the center.

Why it matters: America’s two-sided response serves as an X-ray of the country itself — still capable of world-beating feats at the high end, but increasingly struggling with what should be the simple business of governing itself.

What’s happening: An index published last week by FP Analytics, an independent research division of Foreign Policy, ranked the U.S. 31st out of 36 countries in its assessment of government responses to COVID-19.

  • That puts it below developed countries like New Zealand and Denmark, and also lower than nations with fewer resources like Ghana, Kenya and South Africa.
  • The index cited America’s limited emergency health care spending, insufficient testing and hospital beds and limited debt relief.

By the numbers: As my Axios colleague Jonathan Swan pointed out in an interview with President Trump, the U.S. has one of the worst per-capita death rates from COVID-19, at 50.29 per 100,000 population.

Yes, but: Work on a COVID-19 vaccine is progressing astonishingly fast, with the Cambridge-based biotech company Moderna and the National Institutes of Health announcing at the end of July that they had begun Phase 3 of the clinical trial.

  • Their efforts are part of a global rush to a vaccine, and while companies in the U.K. and China are jockeying for the lead, U.S. companies and the NIH’s resources and expertise have been key to the effort.
  • Anthony Fauci has said he expects “tens of millions” of doses to be available by early 2021, a little over a year after the novel coronavirus was discovered.
  • If that turns out to be the case, “the Covid-19 vaccine could take a place alongside the Apollo missions as one of history’s greatest scientific achievements,” epidemiologist Michael Kinch recently wrote in STAT.

So which is the real American response to COVID-19? The bungled testing policies, the politically driven rush to reopen, the tragic racial divide seen in the sick and the dead? Or the warp-speed work to develop a vaccine in a year when most past efforts took decades?

Be smart: It’s both.

The bottom line: It can often feel as if there are two Americas, and not even a virus that has spread around the world seems capable of bridging that gap.

 

 

 

 

U.S. doing a lot less coronavirus testing

https://www.axios.com/newsletters/axios-vitals-32689a40-e409-4547-8468-b03dc589c082.html

The two sides of America's coronavirus response - Axios

The U.S. is cutting back on coronavirus testing. Nationally, the number of tests performed each day is about 17% lower than it was at the end of July, and testing is also declining in hard-hit states.

Why it matters: This big reduction in testing has helped clear away delays that undermined the response to the pandemic. But doing fewer tests can also undermine the response to the pandemic.

By the numbers: At the end of July, America was doing more than 800,000 tests a day. This week, it’s hovered around 715,000.

  • Even as states with particularly bad outbreaks pull back on their testing, the proportion of tests coming back positive is still high — which would normally be an indication that they need to be doing more tests.
  • In Texas, 19% of tests are coming back positive, according to Nephron Research. In Florida, the rate of positive tests is 18%, and in Nevada, 17%.

Yes, but: Experts have said reducing the demand for testing may be the best way to alleviate long delays, which made tests all but useless. And that appears to be working.

Driving the news: The Department of Health and Human Services estimated this week that nearly 90% of all tests are being completed within three days — a big improvement from turnaround times that had been stretching well over a week.

  • Quest Diagnostics says its expected turnaround time is now 2–3 days, and less for priority patients. LabCorp announced a similar turnaround time last week.

The bottom line: The U.S. is averaging 50,000 new cases a day, and that high caseload is ultimately why the demand for testing is more than the system can handle.

  • We can’t get our caseload under control without fast, widespread testing, but we can’t achieve fast, widespread testing with such a high caseload.

 

 

 

 

US has averaged over 1,000 coronavirus deaths per day for 16 straight days

https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/12/health/us-coronavirus-wednesday/index.html?utm_source=nl&utm_brand=wired&utm_mailing=WIR_Science_081220&utm_campaign=aud-dev&utm_medium=email&utm_term=WIR_Science&bxid=5db707423f92a422eaeaf234&cndid=54318659&esrc=bounceX&source=EDT_WIR_NEWSLETTER_0_SCIENCE_ZZ

CCR - Who'll Stop The Rain song lyrics music lyrics | Great song ...

Coronavirus continues to spread at high rates across the US South, Midwest and West, even as the total number of new Covid-19 cases has declined since a summer surge.

Nationally, over the last seven days, the US is averaging just under 53,000 new cases of Covid-19 per day, down 11% from the week prior.
As a result of all those cases, deaths from the virus have remained high. The seven-day average of daily coronavirus deaths was just over 1,000 on Tuesday, the 16th consecutive day the US averaged over 1,000 deaths per day.
Adjusting for population, states in the Southeast are seeing the most new cases. Georgia and Florida — states led by Republican governors who have not issued face mask requirements — have the highest per capita new cases over the last seven days, followed by Alabama and Mississippi.
On Wednesday, Florida reported more than 8,000 new cases and 212 new deaths, according to data released by the Florida Department of Health.
Covid-19 causes worse outcomes for older people, but young people are not immune. In Florida, people under 44 make up about 57% of the state’s 545,000 cases, 20% of the state’s 31,900 hospitalizations, and 3% of the state’s 8,765 deaths, according to state data.
Robert Ruiz, 31 and the father of a 3-year-old, was one of the 265 people under 44 who died from coronavirus in Florida.
His sister, Chenique Mills, told CNN he was overweight and had seasonal asthma but otherwise did not smoke or drink and had no underlying health conditions.
“This is all really sudden, unexpected,” she said. “I (saw) him on Friday. I (saw) him on Saturday. He was fine, to say that he was up, and he was walking and he was eating. He was functioning. So for him to be gone on Sunday? It’s just a lot to take in.
“This virus is so serious. It really really is. And I think people (won’t) understand until it hits home, because I would be one to say that I took it really lightly until it hit home.”
The virus’s ongoing spread around the country has frustrated plans to safely reopen schools, forced college football conferences to postpone the lucrative fall season, and caused vast medical and economic pain.
And it will continue to rattle American society until people more seriously adopt recommended public health measures: social distancingavoiding large indoor gatheringshand-washingmask-wearingrapid testing and quarantining the sick.
“We have to figure out how to deal with this as a whole country because as long as there are cases happening in any part, we still have transit, especially now we have students going back to college,” said Dr. Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “Any cases anywhere really keep risk pretty high all across the entirety of the United States.”

 

 

 

‘A Smoking Gun’: Infectious Coronavirus Retrieved From Hospital Air

A Smoking Gun': Infectious Coronavirus Retrieved From Hospital Air ...

Airborne virus plays a significant role in community transmission, many experts believe. A new study fills in the missing piece: Floating virus can infect cells.

Skeptics of the notion that the coronavirus spreads through the air — including many expert advisers to the World Health Organization — have held out for one missing piece of evidence: proof that floating respiratory droplets called aerosols contain live virus, and not just fragments of genetic material.

Now a team of virologists and aerosol scientists has produced exactly that: confirmation of infectious virus in the air.

“This is what people have been clamoring for,” said Linsey Marr, an expert in airborne spread of viruses who was not involved in the work. “It’s unambiguous evidence that there is infectious virus in aerosols.”

A research team at the University of Florida succeeded in isolating live virus from aerosols collected at a distance of seven to 16 feet from patients hospitalized with Covid-19 — farther than the six feet recommended in social distancing guidelines.

The findings, posted online last week, have not yet been vetted by peer review, but have already caused something of a stir among scientists. “If this isn’t a smoking gun, then I don’t know what is,” Dr. Marr tweeted last week.

But some experts said it still was not clear that the amount of virus recovered was sufficient to cause infection.

The research was exacting. Aerosols are minute by definition, measuring only up to five micrometers across; evaporation can make them even smaller. Attempts to capture these delicate droplets usually damage the virus they contain.

“It’s very hard to sample biological material from the air and have it be viable,” said Shelly Miller, an environmental engineer at the University of Colorado Boulder who studies air quality and airborne diseases.

“We have to be clever about sampling biological material so that it is more similar to how you might inhale it.”

Previous attempts were stymied at one step or another in the process. For example, one team tried using a rotating drum to suspend aerosols, and showed that the virus remained infectious for up to three hours. But critics argued that those conditions were experimental and unrealistic.

Other scientists used gelatin filters or plastic or glass tubes to collect aerosols over time. But the force of the air shrank the aerosols and sheared the virus. Another group succeeded in isolating live virus, but did not show that the isolated virus could infect cells.

In the new study, researchers devised a sampler that uses pure water vapor to enlarge the aerosols enough that they can be collected easily from the air. Rather than leave these aerosols sitting, the equipment immediately transfers them into a liquid rich with salts, sugar and protein, which preserves the pathogen.

“I’m impressed,” said Robyn Schofield, an atmospheric chemist at Melbourne University in Australia, who measures aerosols over the ocean. “It’s a very clever measurement technique.”

As editor of the journal Atmospheric Measurement Techniques, Dr. Schofield is familiar with the options available, but said she had not seen any that could match the new one.

The researchers had previously used this method to sample air from hospital rooms. But in those attempts, other floating respiratory viruses grew faster, making it difficult to isolate the coronavirus.

This time, the team collected air samples from a room in a ward dedicated to Covid-19 patients at the University of Florida Health Shands Hospital. Neither patient in the room was subject to medical procedures known to generate aerosols, which the W.H.O. and others have contended are the primary source of airborne virus in a hospital setting.

The team used two samplers, one about seven feet from the patients and the other about 16 feet from them. The scientists were able to collect virus at both distances and then to show that the virus they had plucked from the air could infect cells in a lab dish.

The genome sequence of the isolated virus was identical to that from a swab of a newly admitted symptomatic patient in the room.

The room had six air changes per hour and was fitted with efficient filters, ultraviolet irradiation and other safety measures to inactivate the virus before the air was reintroduced into the room.

That may explain why the researchers found only 74 virus particles per liter of air, said John Lednicky, the team’s lead virologist at the University of Florida. Indoor spaces without good ventilation — such as schools — might accumulate much more airborne virus, he said.

But other experts said it was difficult to extrapolate from the findings to estimate an individual’s infection risk.

“I’m just not sure that these numbers are high enough to cause an infection in somebody,” said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University in New York.

“The only conclusion I can take from this paper is you can culture viable virus out of the air,” she said. “But that’s not a small thing.”

Several experts noted that the distance at which the team found virus is much farther than the six feet recommended for physical distancing.

“We know that indoors, those distance rules don’t matter anymore,” Dr. Schofield said. It takes about five minutes for small aerosols to traverse the room even in still air, she added.

The six-foot minimum is “misleading, because people think they are protected indoors and they’re really not,” she said.

That recommendation was based on the notion that “large ballistic cannonball-type droplets” were the only vehicles for the virus, Dr. Marr said. The more distance people can maintain, the better, she added.

The findings should also push people to heed precautions for airborne transmission like improved ventilation, said Seema Lakdawala, a respiratory virus expert at the University of Pittsburgh.

“We all know that this virus can transmit by all these modes, but we’re only focusing on a small subset,” Dr. Lakdawala said.

She and other experts noted one strange aspect of the new study. The team reported finding just as much viral RNA as they did infectious virus, but other methods generally found about 100-fold more genetic matter.

“When you do nasal swabs or clinical samples, there is a lot more RNA than infectious virus,” Dr. Lakdawala said.

Dr. Lednicky has received emails and phone calls from researchers worldwide asking about that finding. He said he would check his numbers again to be sure.

But ultimately, he added, the exact figures may not matter. “We can grow the virus from air — I think that should be the important take-home lesson,” he said.

 

 

 

 

60% of Sturgis residents were against a motorcycle rally that brings in thousands but the city approved it. Here’s why

https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/10/us/sturgis-motorcycle-rally-residents-decision

Steven J. Frisch on Twitter: "I'm fearful of what is to come, as ...

Before deciding on whether to hold the 80th annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, the local city council turned to its residents to get their take.

“There was a significant amount of discussion that the council had with residents, businesses and state health officials as well as local health officials,” Daniel Ainslie, the city manager, told CNN Sunday.
The city, home to fewer than 7,000, sent a survey to all households asking if they wanted the rally to proceed on its scheduled date. The massive event usually brings in crowds of about 500,000 over 10 days of drag races, contests and concerts. On its 75th anniversary, nearly three quarters of a million people showed.
A little more than 60% of people in the city voted against holding the event this week. But the city council approved it anyway.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/arts-entertainment/2020/08/10/smash-mouth-coronavirus-concert/?utm_campaign=wp_main&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook&fbclid=IwAR0EIjLLrhpAEXabcLb11uuVlYYSuluULzd13BPitPSQCW7m-KHfsL7ZNgE

 

 

 

The Health 202: Coronavirus keeps spreading. But at least we’ve learned more about it.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/08/11/health-202-coronavirus-keeps-spreading-least-we-learned-more-about-it/?utm_campaign=wp_the_health_202&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&wpisrc=nl_health202

Coronavirus: FI Strategy to Stop the Spread

Coronavirus infections are swelling in the United States, which hit 5 million cases over the weekend.

But so is the body of research on how the novel coronavirus spreads and affects people.

Dozens of studies have now been published in top medical journals, providing critical information to public health officials and medical professionals attempting to get a handle on the virus. More understanding of the virus is critical, as its aggressive spread around the country confounds President Trump’s efforts toward an economic rebound and threatens to keep schools and workplaces shuttered through the fall.

There’s a lot left to learn. But some of the blanks are starting to be filled in, now that researchers around the world have had six months to study it (check out The Post’s database of questions and answers about the pandemic).

Here are some things we learned about the virus over the summer — and some questions that persist:

 

Can asymptomatic people spread the virus?

Researchers are still trying to discover whether people without visible symptoms spread the virus at similar rates as those with symptoms. There’s been a considerable amount of confusion around this question, particularly after the World Health Organization appeared to suggest the virus isn’t spread asymptomatically — and then walked back its pronouncement the next day.

It seems clear that asymptomatic transmission does occur. People with no symptoms carry the same level of virus in their nose, throat and lungs as those with symptoms, according to a South Korean study of 303 people published last week in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The study was the first to distinguish between patients who didn’t develop symptoms initially and those who did develop symptoms later on — which can cause some confusion when looking at asymptomatic spread. Based on their observations, the researchers estimated that 30 percent of infected people never develop symptoms.

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said last week he thinks the figure is closer to 40 percent.

“The good news about covid-19 is that about 40 percent of the population have no symptoms when they get infected,” Fauci said, but he added that asymptomatic people “are propagating the outbreak, which means that you’re going to infect someone, who will infect someone, who then will have a serious consequence.”

Are some people immune to the virus without ever getting it?

There is some very early, tentative evidence suggesting a segment of the world’s population may have partial protection thanks to the immune system’s “memory” T cells, which are trained to recognize specific invaders.

People may derive this protection from standard childhood vaccinations or from previous infections by other coronaviruses, such as those that cause the common cold, my colleague Ariana Eunjung Cha reported.

“This might potentially explain why some people seem to fend off the virus and may be less susceptible to becoming severely ill,” National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins remarked in a blog post last week.

“On a population level, such findings, if validated, could be far-reaching,” Ariana wrote. “ … In communities in Boston, Barcelona, Wuhan and other major cities, the proportion of people estimated to have antibodies and therefore presumably be immune has mostly been in the single digits. But if others had partial protection from T cells, that would raise a community’s immunity level much higher.”

 

How many untested Americans have already had the virus?

The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated in June that there were roughly 10 times more coronavirus infections in the United States than had been confirmed through testing.

There were just 2.4 million confirmed cases when CDC Director Robert Redfield made that estimate — which, if accurate, would have translated to 24 million cases at the time. Confirmed cases have since doubled, to more than 5 million — meaning the virus may have swept through tens of millions of people.

Redfield based his estimate on the results of antibody tests, which examine a person’s blood for indicators that the body fought off an infection, Lena H. Sun and Joel Achenbach wrote.

 

How does the virus travel?

Scientists initially thought the virus easily spread on surfaces, similar to how other viruses operate. That’s why much of the initial public health advice centered around hand-washing and disinfecting surfaces.

Now public health experts think SARS-CoV-2 is primarily spread through person-to-person contact.

In May, the CDC updated guidance on its “How COVID-19 Spreads” website to say that “the virus spreads easily between people.” The agency also acknowledged the virus may spread other ways, such as through touching contaminated objects or surfaces, but clarified “this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.”

“The virus travels through the droplets a person produces when talking or coughing,” Ben Guarino and Joel wrote. “An individual does not need to feel sick or show symptoms to spread the submicroscopic virus. Close contact means within about six feet, the distance at which a sneeze flings heavy droplets. Example after example have shown the microbe’s affinity for density. The virus has spread easily in nursing homes, prisons, cruise ships and meatpacking plants — places where many people are living or working in proximity.”

 

Do children spread it?

Children only rarely get seriously ill or die of covid-19, the disease the virus causes; data on hospitalizations and deaths make that clear. But whether — and to what extent — they can spread the virus to others asymptomatically is still murky.

Studies are also conflicting on whether the age of children affects their likelihood of spreading the virus. One study conducted at a Chicago hospital found children younger than 5 with mild to moderate cases of covid-19 had much higher levels of virus in their noses than older children and adults — suggesting they could be more infectious, Ariana, Haisten Willis and Chelsea Janes reported.

But a study out of South Korea examining household transmission seemed to reach an opposite conclusion. It found children under age 10 did not appear to pass on the virus readily, while those between 10 and 19 appeared to transmit the virus almost as much as adults did, my colleagues wrote.

 

Which organs does Covid-19 attack?

The lungs appear most susceptible to the virus. Researchers have also found the pathogen in parts of the brain, kidneys, liver, gastrointestinal tract, spleen and in the endothelial cells that line blood vessels, along with widespread clotting in many organsAriana and Lenny Bernstein reported.

But researchers have been surprised to discover little inflammation on the brain, despite previous reports about neurological symptoms related to the coronavirus. The same goes for the heart. While physicians warned for months about a cardiac complication they suspected was myocarditis, autopsy investigators found no evidence of the condition.

 

Executive Order On Housing Doesn’t Guarantee An Eviction Moratorium

https://www.forbes.com/sites/advisor/2020/08/10/trumps-executive-order-on-housing-doesnt-guarantee-an-eviction-moratorium/?tid=newsletter-dailydozen&utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=dailydozen&cdlcid=5d2c97df953109375e4d8b68#3a33cbc3359a

After negotiations for another stimulus package hit a dead end in Washington last week, President Donald Trump signed executive orders to extend relief in the meantime. One order, according to the president, would extend the federal eviction moratorium. 

The original moratorium, included in the CARES Act, prohibited landlords or housing authorities from filing eviction actions, charging nonpayment fees or penalties or giving notice to vacate. It expired on July 24 and only applied to federally subsidized or federally backed housing.

But housing advocates are pushing back, saying Trump’s executive order to extend an eviction moratorium actually does nothing at all—and keeps struggling Americans at risk of losing their housing. 

 

Details on the Order

Trump’s order doesn’t actually extend the federal eviction moratorium. Instead, it calls on the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to “consider” whether an additional eviction ban is needed.

“The Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Director of CDC shall consider whether any measures temporarily halting residential evictions of any tenants for failure to pay rent are reasonably necessary to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 from one State or possession into any other State or possession,” reads the order.

Additionally, the executive order does not provide any new money to help struggling renters during the pandemic. Instead, it says the secretary of Treasury and the secretary of Housing and Urban Development—Steven Mnuchin and Ben Carson, respectively—can identify “any and all available federal funds” to provide temporary rental assistance to renters and homeowners who are facing financial hardships caused by COVID-19.

During a White House press briefing on Monday, Kayleigh McEnany said the president did “did what he can within his executive capacity…to prevent resident evictions.”At the time of publishing, officials mentioned in Trump’s executive order have not released guidelines on extending the federal eviction moratorium.

 

Housing Advocates React to Trump’s Eviction Order

Housing advocates have not reacted positively to Trump’s executive order, suggesting officials extend an eviction moratorium.

“The executive order that he signed this weekend is really nothing more than an empty shell that creates chaos and confusion, and it offers nothing more than false hope to renters who are at risk of eviction because that executive order does literally nothing to prevent or stop evictions,” Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said on Sunday during an MSNBC interview.

The House of Representatives included a more thorough plan to prevent evictions in its HEROES Act proposal. The proposal included $175 billion in rent and mortgage assistance and would replace the original federal eviction moratorium with a 12-month moratorium from all rental housing, not just federally subsidized ones. There also would be funds available to provide homeowners with assistance to cover mortgage and utility payments, property taxes or other resources to help keep Americans housed.

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) introduced the Coronavirus Response Additional Supplemental Appropriations Act as part of the GOP’s HEALS Act proposal. Shelby’s bill included significantly less money for housing assistance than the HEROES Act—$3.2 billion—and would be used for tenant-based rental assistance. Shelby’s proposal did not include any language about extending the CARES Act eviction moratorium. 

A recent report by a group of housing advocates finds there could be as much as 40 million renters at risk of eviction in the coming months. The U.S. unemployment rate currently sits at 10.2%. 

Individuals who are struggling to pay rent might have assistance options available. Some cities and states have implemented their own eviction moratoriums—you can learn more about them by visiting the Eviction Lab at Princeton University. There are also legal aid options, like Just Shelter, that will help tenants who are facing eviction for low-cost or free.

 

 

 

 

THE BIG DEAL—Five takeaways from the July jobs report

https://thehill.com/policy/finance/510987-july-jobs-report-unemployment-economy-coronavirus

July U.S. Job Gains Top Expectations

The Friday release of the July jobs report gave a clearer view into a labor market clouded by mixed signals from real-time data and concerns about rising coronavirus cases across the country. The U.S. recovered another 1.8 million jobs last month—a bit above economists’ expectations, but well below the gains of May and June — and pushed the unemployment rate down to 10.2 percent.

While the U.S. economy is continuing to recover from the shock of pandemic, the report is a bit more complicated than the headline numbers indicate. Here are five key points to make sense of the July jobs report.

 

The recovery is still going, but slowing: The story of the coronavirus recession is a story of declines of record-breaking size and speed. Between March and April, the U.S. lost roughly 10 years of job gains and followed it up with a 32-percent annualized decline in economic growth in the second quarter.

The U.S. made solid progress recovering part of the more than 20 million jobs lost to the pandemic with gains of 2.7 million in May and 4.8 million in June. But the 1.8 million jobs gained in July marks a notable slowdown in the pace of recovery.

Economists have warned since coronavirus cases began spiking in mid-June that the resurgence would hinder the pace of growth, even if states don’t reimpose business closures. Those warnings bore out in the July jobs report, reinforcing the need to control the virus before the economy can fully recover.

 

The report gives both sides ammo in stimulus talks: The state of the economy rarely fits into a neat political narrative and the July jobs report is no exception.

Democrats can point to the slowing pace of job growth and the long road to recovery to support their calls for another $3 trillion in stimulus.

“The latest jobs report shows that the economic recovery spurred by the investments Congress has passed is losing steam and more investments are still urgently needed to protect the lives and livelihoods of the American people,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) in a Friday statement.

But the White House and Republican lawmakers are seizing on the expectations-beating job gain and lack of increase in permanent layoffs to make the case behind a pared down bill focused on reopening the economy.

“The most responsible thing we can do is to take proactive measures to allow people to return to work safely, instead of continuing to lock down the economy,” said Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee.

 

The job market is still a long way from recovery: Despite three months of seven-figure job gains, the U.S. economy is still in a deeply damaged state. The July unemployment rate of 10.2 percent is roughly even with the peak of joblessness during the Great Recession of 10 percent in October 2009. And the true level of U.S. unemployment may be higher given how the pandemic has made it harder to define and track who is truly in the labor force.

It took a decade of steady economic recovery— the longest in modern U.S. history — for unemployment to drop to a 50-year low of 3.5 percent in February, so the nation remains a long way from where it was before the pandemic.

“At the current pace, it would take well into 2021 to recoup the 12.9 million jobs lost since February,” wrote Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton, in a Friday analysis of the jobs report.

 

The increase in government jobs is likely misleading: Employment in government — which includes public schools — rose by 301,000 in July.

At first glance, that’s a welcome sign of resilience as state and local governments face severe budget crunches driven by falling tax revenues and staggering unemployment claims. But economists warn that the rise is likely the result of a seasonal adjustment designed to account for the large numbers of teachers and school employees that roll off of payrolls during the summer before coming back to work in the fall.

Elise Gould, senior economist at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, noted that public sector employment is still 1 million jobs below its February level after loads of layoffs during the beginning of the pandemic.

“We’ve seen large reductions in state and local public sector employment — a sector which disproportionately employs women and Black workers — over the last few months,” Gould wrote.

“I’d warn data watchers to consider those gains with a grain of salt, and to look at the overall changes from February (pre-COVID-19) to July.”

Aid to state and local governments is one of the biggest obstacles to gathering GOP support behind another stimulus bill, so this rise could factor into the rhetoric around the negotiations.

 

The report poses hard questions for negotiators: Every monthly jobs report has about two weeks of lag between the time the data was compiled — around the 12th of that month — and the report’s release.

While economic conditions don’t typically change drastically in that time, July was an exception. The $600 weekly boost to jobless benefits and the federal eviction and foreclosure ban enacted in March both lapsed in between the jobs report survey period and release, and much of the money lent through the Paycheck Protection Program had been spent by the end of the month. That means lawmakers are looking at a glimpse of the economy with much more fiscal support than it currently has, posing tough choices about how much more is needed to keep the economy afloat.

Even so, economists are urging  lawmakers not to rest on their laurels as the U.S. faces a difficult road ahead.

“Any notion that the improvement in the top line provides a convenient excuse for policymakers to avoid hard decisions around a fifth round of fiscal aid aimed at the unemployed should be summarily dismissed,” wrote Joe Brusuelas, chief economist at tax and audit firm RSM, in a Friday analysis.

Talks on a new coronavirus relief package were going poorly before the report and collapsed hours after it was released. 

 

LEADING THE DAY

Trump embraces jobs report signaling slowdown: The White House is trying to capitalize on the latest jobs numbers, arguing they point to a strong economic recovery under President Trump even as millions remain out of work and states grapple with increases in coronavirus infections.

But the data nevertheless point to an economic slowdown, challenging the White House’s bullish predictions for a speedy V-shaped recovery. The figures also come amid collapsed talks between the Trump administration and Democratic leaders on a coronavirus relief package, which economists say is desperately needed to prevent a deeper recession.

“This is not a rocket ship,” said Martha Gimbel, senior manager of economic research at Schmidt Futures. “It’s really unclear if the economy is going to achieve escape velocity before the lack of government spending crashes down or before … we have to shut down again, which is a total possibility.”

The Hill’s Morgan Chalfant and I explain why here.

The White House view: White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow, who did the rounds on cable news Friday morning, declared that the numbers evidenced a “self-sustaining recovery” and predicted that the United States would see unemployment head into the single digits in the fall months.

“The worries that some partial shutdowns or some pausing shutdowns would wreck the jobs numbers did not pan out. I think that shows signs of strength,” Kudlow said on Fox Business.

The economists’ take: Economic analysts say that despite the jobs report, there remains a need for additional fiscal stimulus. Many point to an extension of the expanded unemployment benefits and additional aid to states as necessary steps to shepherd the economy through recovery until there is a vaccine for the coronavirus.

“This jobs number doesn’t change the undeniable need for additional federal support,” said Isaac Boltansky, director of policy research at investment bank Compass Point Research & Trading.