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How state and city officials around the U.S. are preparing for virus surge

COVID-19 has now killed over 16,000 people in the U.S. and caused staggering economic damage. At least one in 10 Americans has lost their job in the past three weeks, putting overall unemployment at 17 million people. In response, the Federal Reserve announced more than $2 trillion in support loans for households and businesses to "provide some stability and some relief." William Brangham reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The coronavirus pandemic that is taking thousands of American lives has for now destroyed millions of jobs.

    A new economic report today told of staggering losses in the labor market. At the same time, the U.S. death toll passed 16,000.

    William Brangham has more, on this day's developments.

  • William Brangham:

    The economic damage from the COVID-19 pandemic has claimed new victims.

    For the second straight week, the number of Americans making jobless claims topped 6.5 million. That means at least one in 10 American workers lost their jobs in the last three weeks, putting overall unemployment at nearly 17 million people.

    To address this crisis, the Federal Reserve today announced its latest effort, more than $2 trillion in support loans for households and businesses, both small and large.

    Fed Chair Jerome Powell spoke on a Webcast hosted by the Brookings Institution.

  • Jerome Powell:

    Our role, as I mentioned in my remarks, is really to try to provide some stability and some relief during this period when the economy is partly shut down.

  • William Brangham:

    As the economy continues its sharp downward trend, cities across the country are still bracing for coronavirus infections to go up.

    Philadelphia is now a potential hot spot, as Mayor Jim Kenney warned this morning.

  • Mayor Jim Kenney:

    But we are still in a period where the numbers are climbing. So let this milestone of 5,000 confirmed cases be a reminder that we are not, by any means, out of this woods.

  • William Brangham:

    In New York City, still the epicenter of America's outbreak, Mayor Bill de Blasio called for more widespread testing to better understand the spread of the virus.

  • Mayor Bill de Blasio:

    We're going to need more testing. If we're going to use testing in any other strategic ways or pinpointed ways, we have got to have a bigger supply. This has been the underlying challenge from day one.

  • William Brangham:

    But New York state reported a sharp drop in hospitalizations.

  • Governor Andrew Cuomo:

  • Governor Andrew Cuomo:

    We're flattening the curve so far. We should all be concerned, especially New Yorkers, well, we're flattening the curve, that's good news. It is good news. Well, now I can relax. No, you can't relax.

  • William Brangham:

    At the same time, the daily number of deaths in New York reached a record high for a third straight day, hitting at least 799 today.

    Meanwhile, supplies of protective gear in the National Strategic Stockpile are dwindling. The Department of Health and Human Services says the reserve is nearly out of N95 respirator masks and other critical equipment.

    This all comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines last night for workers in essential industries like health care or food supply. It now says people who've been exposed to the virus may return to the job if they are asymptomatic, meaning showing no symptoms, if they take their temperature before work, and if they wear a face mask at all times.

    But adding to the confusing advice about masks, a new study from the National Academy of Sciences points out there's — quote — "limited indirect evidence that homemade fabric masks offer much protection." It calls for more research to be done.

    Overseas, no one could be found outside. The streets of Barcelona, Spain, remained largely empty, as the government today extended by two weeks its national stay-at-home order. The virus has hit Spain especially hard, but, today, the prime minister said new cases there may be leveling off.

  • Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez (through translator):

    After these weeks, when the battle has been agonizing, we are seeing that the fire that started the pandemic is starting to be put under control. We find ourselves near the beginning of the downward slope.

  • William Brangham:

    In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was moved out of an intensive care unit as his condition improves.

    Elsewhere, new hot spots seem to be emerging. Japan and parts of India are now among the places reporting spikes in new infections.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm William Brangham.

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