Coronavirus Live Updates: Worldwide Toll of Confirmed Virus Deaths Nears 100,000
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Shuttered or short of cash, small businesses struggle to survive.
When the federal government began rushing trillions of dollars of assistance to Americans crushed by the coronavirus pandemic, the hope was that some of the aid would allow businesses to keep workers on the payroll and cushion employees against job losses.
But so far, a staggering number of Americans — more than 16 million — have lost their jobs amid the outbreak. Businesses continue to fail as retailers, restaurants, nail salons and other companies across the country run out of cash and close up shop.
There is a growing agreement among many economists that the government’s efforts were too small and came too late in the fast-moving pandemic to prevent businesses from abandoning their workers. Federal agencies, working in a prescribed partnership with Wall Street, have proved ill equipped to move money quickly to the places it is needed most.
Flooded by requests for help like never before, a federal program that was supposed to deliver emergency relief to small businesses in just three days has run low on funding and nearly frozen up entirely.
The initiative, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, is an expansion of an emergency system run by the Small Business Administration that has for years helped companies after natural disasters like hurricanes, floods and tornadoes. To speed billions of dollars in aid, the government directly funds the loans, sparing applicants the step of finding a lender willing to work with them.
But in the face of the pandemic, the loan program is drowning in requests. Many applicants have waited weeks for approval, and while the program is supposed to offer loans up to $2 million, many recent applicants said the S.B.A. help line had told them that loans would be capped at $15,000 per borrower.
Some businesses now face an existential threat. An analysis by University of Chicago economists of data from Homebase, which supplies scheduling software for tens of thousands of small businesses that employ hourly workers in dining, retail and other sectors, suggests that more than 40 percent of those firms have closed since the crisis began.
The pandemic could cost the United States a quarter of its restaurants, said Cameron Mitchell, who owns and runs a chain of restaurants. He has furloughed all but six of the company’s 4,000 workers.
“I’m not asking for a handout,” Mr. Mitchell said, but “we need some additional help, or else America’s not going to have a restaurant industry to come back to.”
California’s governor notes a drop in I.C.U. cases but warns that “one data point is not a trend.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom of California said he was encouraged by — but not drawing too many conclusions from — the state’s first drop in the number of coronavirus patients who were being treated in intensive care units.
He said there were 1,132 people receiving intensive care as of Thursday, a 1.9 percent decrease from the day before.
“One data point is not a trend,” Mr. Newsom warned. “One data point is not a headline, so I caution anybody to read too much into that one point of data, but nonetheless it is encouraging.”
California’s decision to ship hundreds of ventilators to other states this week has been met with alarm by some local officials.
Workers packed the equipment this week for sending to heavily hit states like New York and New Jersey and wrote messages of support on the boxes. Governor Newsom described the shipments as a loan.
But in places like Riverside County, east of Los Angeles, officials expressed concern about a “fragile” supply chain. Hospitals there were anxiously preparing for a shortage in ventilators, they said.
Riverside County has been among the hardest hit in California, with more than 1,100 cases, at least 32 deaths and an outbreak at a nursing home that forced evacuations this week after a beleaguered and sickened staff failed to show up two days in a row.
County officials said this week that the state had denied its request for ventilators, and that a second one was pending.
On Thursday, Mr. Newsom sought to allay those concerns and pushed back against the idea that the state was neglecting its own needs.
“It was the right thing to do, and it was the responsible thing to do as Americans,” he said. “We can’t just sit on assets when we could save lives in other states.”
In Ohio, the Amish help provide medical supplies for hospitals.
For centuries, the Amish community in central Ohio has been famously isolated from the hustle of the outside world. Homes still lack telephones or computers. Travel is by horse and buggy. Home-sewn clothing remains the norm. And even now, as the coronavirus rages in the country at large, there is resistance from people sustained by communal life to the dictates of social distancing that have brought the economy to a halt — in Amish country as everywhere else.
But as the virus creeps ever closer, the Amish community is joining the fight.
On April 1, John Miller, a manufacturer in Sugarcreek, Ohio, with deep connections to the Amish community of Central Ohio, got a call from Cleveland Clinic. The hospital system was struggling to find protective face masks for its 55,000 employees, plus visitors. Could his team sew 12,000 masks in two days?
Mr. Miller appealed to Abe Troyer, a leader in the Amish community. A day later, Mr. Troyer had signed up 60 Amish clothes makers who worked from home, and the Cleveland Clinic’s order was soon on its way.
The Amish are not immune to the virus’s rampage. As of Thursday, Holmes County, where the nation’s largest Amish community resides, had only three confirmed coronavirus cases, but the pandemic has idled hundreds of Amish craftspeople and artisans, and Amish people do not apply for federal unemployment benefits.
Almost overnight, however, a group of local industry, community and church leaders has mobilized to sustain Amish households by pivoting to making thousands of face masks and shields, surgical gowns and protective garments from medical-grade materials. When those run scarce, the Amish workers switch to using gaily printed quilting fabric and waterproof house wrap.
“We consider this a privilege that we can come in here and do something for somebody else who’s in need and do it right at home here, and do it safely,” said Atlee Raber, whose garden furniture business now makes protective face shields.
How many people have died from coronavirus in N.Y.? More than the official count.
In the first five days of April, 1,125 people were pronounced dead in their homes or on the street in New York City, more than eight times the deaths recorded during the same period in 2019, according to the Fire Department.
Many of those deaths were probably caused by Covid-19, but were not accounted for in the coronavirus tallies given by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo during his widely watched daily news conferences — statistics that are viewed as key measures of the impact of the outbreak.
On Thursday, Mr. Cuomo said 799 people in New York had died from coronavirus in a single 24-hour period — more than 33 an hour — bringing the state’s total to 7,067.
But epidemiologists, city officials and medical personnel say those numbers are likely to be far below the city’s actual death toll.
The data on deaths of people in their homes or on the street shows that the state’s statistics do not tell the whole story.
A huge number of people are dying at home with presumed cases of coronavirus, and it does not appear that the state has a clear mechanism for factoring those victims into official death tallies.
In the last three days, 766 people were found dead in their homes, bringing the total for the first eight days of April to 1,891, according to the city’s medical examiner’s office. It’s likely that many have not been counted in the current tally.
In Wisconsin, growing pains for voting by mail: ‘This has all the makings of a Florida 2000.’
Three tubs of absentee ballots that never reached voters were discovered in a postal center outside Milwaukee. At least 9,000 absentee ballots requested by voters were never sent, and others recorded as sent were never received. Even when voters did return their completed ballots in the mail, thousands were postmarked too late to count — or not at all.
Cracks in Wisconsin’s vote-by-mail operation are now emerging after the state’s scramble to expand that effort on the fly for voters who feared going to the polls in Tuesday’s elections. The takeaways — that the election network and the Postal Service were pushed to the brink of their capabilities, and that mistakes were clearly made — are instructive for other states if they choose to broaden vote-by-mail methods without sufficient time, money and planning.
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Reporting contributed by William K. Rashbaum, Ali Watkins, Marc Santora, Nick Corasaniti, Stacy Cowley, Stephanie Saul, Matt Stevens, Jim Tankersley and Elizabeth Williamson.