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Coronavirus epicenter could shift back to East Asia, expert warns
The epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak may return back to its starting point in East Asia, a Singaporean public health expert said Thursday. Although the US is now considered the epicenter of the pandemic — with more than 200,000 cases — “in a month’s time, the epicenter will shift,” Teo Yik Ying, dean of the...
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nypost.com
‘The Magicians’ star Hale Appleman dishes on Eliot’s surprise ending
Appleman also talks about saying goodbye to the Syfy show.
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nypost.com
Coronavirus live blog: Dr. Tom Frieden, former CDC director, answers your questions
Former CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden is here to answer your coronavirus questions.
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foxnews.com
Performers are among the most vulnerable victims of our newly shuttered world
“This came out of nowhere and it came quickly,” says local actor Evan Casey.
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washingtonpost.com
The Evil Tucked Into the $2 Trillion Coronavirus Stimulus Bill
On Friday President Trump signed a third bill to address the COVID-19 crisis. The largest relief package in U.S. history, this $2 trillion bill provides direct cash payments to tens of millions of Americans, immediate relief to small businesses, and expanded unemployment benefits for some of those who are out of work while much of…
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time.com
New York City hospital worker who caught coronavirus returns to treat patients
New Yorkers have a reputation for being tough and resilient – and Raeburn Fairweather is a shining example of that. 
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foxnews.com
Suspended defensive lineman Aldon Smith says he's signed deal with Cowboys
Suspended defensive lineman Aldon Smith said Wednesday he signed a contract with the Dallas Cowboys.
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foxnews.com
LSU coach Ed Orgeron files for divorce from wife Kelly of 23 years
LSU football coach Ed Orgeron and his wife Kelly, who have been married since 1997, are divorcing. Orgeron filed for divorce on Feb. 26.        
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usatoday.com
Patriots' plane flying medical masks to Boston from China
NFL team's owner, Robert Kraft, helped arrange the flight to bring 1.2 million N95 masks for use in the battle against the coronavirus pandemic.
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cbsnews.com
The Finance 202: Trump administration is struggling to distribute coronavirus stimulus money to people and small businesses
Turns out it’s not so easy to give away $2.2 trillion.
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washingtonpost.com
Diarrhea May Be First or Only Coronavirus Symptom in COVID-19 Patients Experience, Study Suggests
Common symptoms include a fever, cough, and shortness of breath, according to the CDC.
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newsweek.com
Feds: Man intentionally derailed train near hospital ship
A train engineer intentionally drove a speeding locomotive off a track at the Port of Los Angeles because he was suspicious about the presence of a Navy hospital ship docked there to help during the coronovirus crisis, federal prosecutors said Wednesday. KCBS reports Eduardo Moreno, 44, was charged with one federal count of train wrecking, which carries a potential sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison.
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cbsnews.com
Jennifer Lawrence asks fans to demand to vote from home amid the coronavirus pandemic
Jennifer Lawrence called for her fans to demand the ability to vote at home amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic as the 2020 election draws near.
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foxnews.com
Police: Man shot pregnant woman while playing with gun
Authorities say a Virginia man who shot a pregnant woman while playing with a gun was charged with multiple felonies
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washingtonpost.com
Inside L.A.'s scramble to open shelters and find hotel rooms for coronavirus patients
As L.A. prepares for coronavirus cases, efforts to get homeless people off the streets and to secure hotel rooms for patients are off to an uneven start.
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latimes.com
Victor Davis Hanson: US leads coronavirus fight — world looks to America now and for recovery
A current global myth alleges that America under the Trump administration is not leading the world fight against the coronavirus in its accustomed role as the postwar global leader.  
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foxnews.com
Video: Mark Coleman recalls the night he became the first UFC heavyweight champion
A night for the history books.       Related StoriesMichelle Waterson still wants to fight Carla Esparza, hopes UFC events return soonMMA Junkie Q&A replay: Khabib vs. Ferguson canceled again, Jon Jones arrest fallout, moreWatching Joe Rogan and the UFC commentary teams go crazy over knockouts never gets old 
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usatoday.com
Goldman to aid small business
Brace for jobless claims — Fed loosens capital requirements
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politico.com
The coronavirus is straining government services. So these neighbors are stepping up to help
Want to help your neighbors during the coronavirus crisis? Here is what some communities are doing.
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latimes.com
Tenants fed up with noise, dust, and water shutoffs from renovations amid coronavirus
Some tenants have been alarmed that vacant apartments are continuing to be renovated in apartment buildings during the COVID-19 pandemic, questioning why such work is being permitted to proceed.
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latimes.com
Is coronavirus God's will? Jewish, Christian and Muslims leaders debate tough questions amid pandemic
Faith leaders are fielding questions about whether coronavirus is God's will, if God created it and if it's some sort of punishment for sin.        
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usatoday.com
This telescope could help us explore the heavens, but it's stuck in coronavirus limbo
The Webb Space Telescope could help us understand the origins of all we know. But it could be set back by the need to survive the here and now.
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latimes.com
Jimmie Johnson sees 'opportunity' to delay retirement following NASCAR's coronavirus suspension
"One more time" again?
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foxnews.com
This day in sports: Angels beat Dodgers in walk-off in first meeting between teams
A look at what happened today in sport history.
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latimes.com
What $900,000 buys in three L.A. County communities
Take a look at what roughly $900,000 buys in Sherman Oaks, Pasadena and Woodland Hills in L.A. County.
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latimes.com
California hospitals desperate for safety supplies as coronavirus wave hits
California is fighting to supply hospitals with needed personal protective equipment, or PPE. Fierce competition and a lack of central coordination is hampering efforts.
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latimes.com
The best (virtual) things to do while quarantined at home in the D.C. area
Virtual trivia nights, poetry slams and theater performances offer an escape for everyone staying at home.
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washingtonpost.com
Editorial: School shutdowns threaten to worsen the achievement gap
It would be grossly unfair to allow disadvantaged students to languish during a long gap in schooling while students whose families have more resources forge ahead.
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latimes.com
The federal government should be the one to allocate ventilators. It’s failing.
On the brink of a critical shortage, the feds are flat-footed.
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washingtonpost.com
Social Distancing Is Hard When You Live With Roommates
Somewhere between two weeks and 1 million years ago, when it first became clear that the coronavirus pandemic would require a significant lifestyle change, the inhabitants of my four-person Washington, D.C., apartment convened a meeting. We would try to wash our hands more, we agreed, and make ample use of our nice-smelling disinfectant spray. But beyond that, we struggled to reach a consensus on how our household would stay safe. Two of us don’t own desks, and there isn’t enough space to work together at the dining-room table. Three of us wanted to take the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines very seriously and begin social distancing right away. The other one didn’t. “I’m still going out this weekend,” this roommate insisted. “I’m not going to stop living!”How is this going to work? I thought, feeling a combined pang of frustration and dread. Living with roommates and navigating their schedules, personalities, and relationships is hard enough at the best of times. Living with roommates in the middle of a pandemic threatens to be excruciating: What people are being asked to do now—avoid others, keep things extremely clean, isolate if you’re sick—is a serious challenge when you live in a house teeming with people, without familial bonds to make the household feel like a united front. Now, as D.C. and other cities across America have instructed their citizens to stay home as much as possible, roommates nationwide are asking the same question I am: How, exactly, are we supposed to manage this?“A test of relationships,” said Amy Canevello, a psychology professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, “is what we’re doing here.”[Read: How not to tank your relationship in quarantine]To stay safe in this pandemic requires being on the same page as everyone else in your household. As I have learned, this is very difficult when the adults living alongside you perceive the severity of the situation in different ways and at different speeds. In all things, but especially in effective pandemic response, communication is key. “There’s a lot of gray area there when you’re living in this roommate situation,” Elizabeth Carlton, an environmental epidemiologist at the Colorado School of Public Health, said. In a time of great uncertainty, “having plans in place can help make people feel like they have some control.” The best place for roommates to start, experts told me, is to have a conversation about three things: cleanliness, illness preparedness, and social-circle size.In order to help prevent the spread of the virus, public-health experts advise Americans to keep frequently touched surfaces squeaky clean—and they’ve stressed that people should do their grocery shopping only when absolutely necessary, to avoid exposure. But work-from-home life in a shared apartment means that common spaces like kitchens and bathrooms will be getting much dirtier, much faster. And if every roommate shops for themselves, that can add up to multiple grocery-store trips per week.Experts say there are best practices to follow. Don’t share hand towels with roommates, and regularly disinfect often-used surfaces like counters, faucets, remotes, and refrigerator handles, Jessica Justman, an epidemiology professor at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, told me. When you’re moving from a communal space to another room, wash your hands. “Wash your hands more times than you think would be possible.” For anyone, but particularly for those living with roommates, experts recommend designating a landing spot in your apartment for shoes, coats, shopping bags, and other outside gear to help keep your living area clean. Take turns grocery shopping every week for the whole house, or implement a food-sharing system.[Read: Grocery stores are the coronavirus tipping point]If someone contracts the coronavirus—or even if they start to cough or run a temperature—the CDC advises that they self-isolate. Cordoning yourself off, though, is nearly impossible when you share a cooking, eating, and living space with other human beings. This is made more difficult if those human beings are not related to you, and may not be that invested in gently nursing you back to health. Housemates need to have a plan for if and when someone in the group becomes symptomatic. Ideally, the sick person would stay in their bedroom and have their own bathroom. If the bathroom is shared, they should clean it after each use. When they leave their room, they should wear a mask and gloves, if possible. “People can bring them food and take care of them,” Carlton said, but those people should also wear masks and gloves.The most crucial piece of the pandemic-response puzzle is implementing social distancing. All adults maintain a complex web of relationships, and more adults living in a household means more webs intersecting and more opportunities for the virus to spread. But it’s difficult to stop your roommate from seeing a friend or inviting his girlfriend over or stopping by a house party.[Read: The dos and don'ts of 'social distancing']This has been a frustrating issue for Amy, a 25-year-old physical therapist who lives in an apartment with two roommates in Oregon, a state that has confirmed at least 690 cases of the coronavirus and 18 related deaths as of this writing. A repairman was scheduled to visit their apartment two weeks ago to fix a broken drawer in the refrigerator. Amy, who asked to be identified by only her first name to protect her privacy, wanted to cancel the appointment, but her roommates had the repairman come anyway. The three of them fought about it. Amy told me that she said some things she didn’t mean. “But I don’t think they really see the scope of how this is impacting other people,” she said.It will help to lay down some ground rules, experts say, and roommates should do it before the health situation in their city gets worse. This starts with agreeing, as a household, to follow CDC guidelines and stay six feet apart—yes, even in your own house! It would be smart, in other words, to stagger your cooking times to avoid a scenario in which four people are crammed in the kitchen following different Alison Roman recipes. Then, roommates should “sit down and have a full discussion” about who’s coming and going and where, Keith Renshaw, the director of psychology at George Mason University, told me. “Ask: ‘How strict does everybody want to be about social distancing?’ Recognize that you’re probably going to need to work [toward] the strictest level.” Many people are now working completely from home, so their interactions with others are limited. But if someone in a shared house still has to go to the office every morning, experts recommend treating them as though they’ve been exposed to the virus. Constantly “monitor [them] for symptoms and do as much of the physical distancing as you can,” Justman said.Does one roommate have a boyfriend she keeps traveling across town to see? The couple should either agree not to see each other in person or stay together in one place for the time being, Justman said. Don’t go back and forth, because “if you have four or five people in each house, then, in effect, you’ve got 10 people who are all exposed to each other,” she told me.Obviously, this kind of distancing, while necessary to prevent the spread of the virus, has a major downside: People are going to get very tired of their housemates. I, for example, almost came unglued yesterday when my roommate turned the oven to 450 degrees to bake a single beet. And this will be especially bad for people who already dislike their roommates, or who are shacking up with a handful of strangers they found on Craigslist. Many Americans are already living in a heightened state of anxiety, and being sequestered with just a few people—likely not even your favorite people—is likely to make things worse.[Read: The strange, unique intimacy of the roommate relationship]Charlotte, a 23-year-old researcher living in D.C. with seven other roommates, told me that the new policy of social sequestration was already getting to her. “Different group houses develop different house cultures … Unfortunately, mine has trended toward the more passive-aggressive side of things,” she told me last week, also requesting that I use only her first name for privacy concerns. “It can be difficult if we’re all working from home not to drive each other nuts.”But there are ways to stay sane. “Do a lot of checking in: ‘How is everybody doing?’” Canevello said. Communicate your frustrations kindly. “Keep in mind there’s an internal struggle there that you don’t know about and have compassion for that when they’re starting to get on your nerves.” It might help, she said, to think about the situation in a different context. “Maybe [don’t] treat it as though you’re living with your roommate, but [as though] you are traveling,” Canevello said. On a trip, “there’s a lot of uncertainty and [you’re] navigating challenges together.”Retreating to a private place will help, too, said Nance Roy, a psychologist at the Jed Foundation, a nonprofit organization promoting emotional health among young people. Taking 20 or 30 minutes by yourself to do yoga or use a mindfulness app can relieve pent-up frustrations, she told me. Many colleges and universities are still offering remote mental-health services, and therapists across the country have gone virtual, too. Take a walk outside if you can. Relax with an art project, or binge-watch a Netflix show. It’s okay to veg out if you need to, Renshaw said: “We’re all just trying to muddle our way through.”Things will be difficult in the days and weeks to come. But one possible outcome of this harrowing period is that at the end of it all we might feel a lot closer—or, at the very least, we might surprise ourselves with our own resiliency. It might help, when things get especially tough, to remember Canevello’s mantra: We’re all on this trip together.
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theatlantic.com
Don’t Believe the COVID-19 Models
Editor’s Note: The Atlantic is making vital coverage of the coronavirus available to all readers. Find the collection here. The Trump administration has just released the model for the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic in America. We can expect a lot of back-and-forth about whether its mortality estimates are too high or low. And its wide range of possible outcomes is certainly confusing: What’s the right number? The answer is both difficult and simple. Here’s the difficult part: There is no right answer. But here’s the simple part: Right answers are not what epidemiological models are for.Epidemiologists routinely turn to models to predict the progression of an infectious disease. Fighting public suspicion of these models is as old as modern epidemiology, which traces its origins back to John Snow’s famous cholera maps in 1854. Those maps proved, for the first time, that London’s terrible affliction was spreading through crystal-clear fresh water that came out of pumps, not the city’s foul-smelling air. Many people didn’t believe Snow, because they lived in a world without a clear understanding of germ theory and only the most rudimentary microscopes.In our time, however, the problem is sometimes that people believe epidemiologists, and then get mad when their models aren’t crystal balls. Take the United Kingdom’s drastic COVID-19 policy U-turn. A few weeks ago, the U.K. had almost no social-isolation measures in place, and according to some reports, the government planned to let the virus run its course through the population, with the exception of the elderly, who were to be kept indoors. The idea was to let enough people get sick and recover from the mild version of the disease, to create “herd immunity.”[Read: How the pandemic will end]Things changed swiftly after an epidemiological model from Imperial College London projected that without drastic interventions, more than half a million Britons would die from COVID-19. The report also projected more than 2 million deaths in the United States, again barring interventions. The stark numbers prompted British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who himself has tested positive for COVID-19, to change course, shutting down public life and ordering the population to stay at home.Here’s the tricky part: When an epidemiological model is believed and acted on, it can look like it was false. These models are not snapshots of the future. They always describe a range of possibilities—and those possibilities are highly sensitive to our actions. A few days after the U.K. changed its policies, Neil Ferguson, the scientist who led the Imperial College team, testified before Parliament that he expected deaths in the U.K. to top out at about 20,000. The drastically lower number caused shock waves: One former New York Times reporter described it as a “a remarkable turn,” and the British tabloid the Daily Mail ran a story about how the scientist had a “patchy” record in modeling. The conservative site The Federalist even declared, “The Scientist Whose Doomsday Pandemic Model Predicted Armageddon Just Walked Back the Apocalyptic Predictions.”But there was no turn, no walking back, not even a revision in the model. If you read the original paper, the model lays out a range of predictions—from tens of thousands to 500,000 dead—which all depend on how people react. That variety of potential outcomes coming from a single epidemiological model may seem extreme and even counterintuitive. But that’s an intrinsic part of how they operate, because epidemics are especially sensitive to initial inputs and timing, and because epidemics grow exponentially.[Peter Wehner: NIH director: ‘We’re on an exponential curve’]Modeling an exponential process necessarily produces a wide range of outcomes. In the case of COVID-19, that’s because the spread of the disease depends on exactly when you stop cases from doubling. Even a few days can make an enormous difference. In Italy, two similar regions, Lombardy and Veneto, took different approaches to the community spread of the epidemic. Both mandated social distancing, but only Veneto undertook massive contact tracing and testing early on. Despite starting from very similar points, Lombardy is now tragically overrun with the disease, having experienced roughly 7,000 deaths and counting, while Veneto has managed to mostly contain the epidemic to a few hundred fatalities. Similarly, South Korea and the United States had their first case diagnosed on the same day, but South Korea undertook massive tracing and testing, and the United States did not. Now South Korea has only 162 deaths, and an outbreak that seems to have leveled off, while the U.S. is approaching 4,000 deaths as the virus’s spread accelerates.Exponential growth isn’t the only tricky part of epidemiological models. These models also need to use parameters to plug into the variables in the equations. But where should those parameters come from? Model-makers have to work with the data they have, yet a novel virus, such as the one that causes COVID-19, has a lot of unknowns.For example, the Imperial College model uses numbers from Wuhan, China, along with some early data from Italy. This is a reasonable choice, as those are the pandemic’s largest epicenters. But many of these data are not yet settled, and many questions remain. What’s the attack rate—the number of people who get infected within an exposed group, like a household? Do people who recover have immunity? How widespread are asymptomatic cases, and how infectious are they? Are there super-spreaders—people who seemingly infect everyone they breathe near—as there were with SARS, and how prevalent are they? What are the false positive and false negative rates of our tests? And so on, and on and on.To make models work, epidemiologists also have to estimate the impact of interventions like social isolation. But here, too, the limited data we have are imperfect, perhaps censored, perhaps inapplicable. For example, China underwent a period in which the government yanked infected patients and even their healthy close contacts from their homes, and sent them into special quarantine wards. That seems to have dramatically cut down infections within a household and within the city. Relatively few infected people in the United States or the United Kingdom have been similarly quarantined. In general, the lockdown in China was much more severe. Planes are still taking off from New York, New Jersey, and everywhere else, even as we speak of “social isolation.” And more complications remain. We aren’t even sure we can trust China’s numbers. Italy’s health statistics are likely more trustworthy, but its culture of furbizia—or flouting the rules, part of the country’s charm as well as its dysfunction—increases the difficulty of knowing how applicable its outcomes are to our projections.A model’s robustness depends on how often it gets tried out and tweaked based on data and its performance. For example, many models predicting presidential elections are based on data from presidential elections since 1972. That’s all the elections we have polling data for, but it’s only 12 elections, and prior to 2016, only two happened in the era of Facebook. So when Donald Trump, the candidate that was projected to be less likely to win the presidency in 2016, won anyway, did that mean that our models with TV-era parameters don’t work anymore? Or is it merely that a less likely but possible outcome happened? (If you’re flipping a coin, you’ll get four heads in a row about one every 16 tries, meaning that you can’t know if the coin is loaded just because something seemingly unusual happens). With this novel coronavirus, there are a lot of things we don’t know because we’ve never tested our models, and we have no way to do so.So if epidemiological models don’t give us certainty—and asking them to do so would be a big mistake—what good are they? Epidemiology gives us something more important: agency to identify and calibrate our actions with the goal of shaping our future. We can do this by pruning catastrophic branches of a tree of possibilities that lies before us.Epidemiological models have “tails”—the extreme ends of the probability spectrum. They’re called tails because, visually, they are the parts of the graph that taper into the distance. Think of those tails as branches in a decision tree. In most scenarios, we end up somewhere in the middle of the tree—the big bulge of highly probable outcomes—but there are a few branches on the far right and the far left that represent fairly optimistic and fairly pessimistic, but less likely, outcomes. An optimistic tail projection for the COVID-19 pandemic is that a lot of people might have already been infected and recovered, and are now immune, meaning we are putting ourselves through a too-intense quarantine. Some people have floated that as a likely scenario, and they are not crazy: This is indeed a possibility, especially given that our testing isn’t widespread enough to know. The other tail includes the catastrophic possibilities, like tens of millions of people dying, as in the 1918 flu or HIV/AIDS pandemic. The most important function of epidemiological models is as a simulation, a way to see our potential futures ahead of time, and how that interacts with the choices we make today. With COVID-19 models, we have one simple, urgent goal: to ignore all the optimistic branches and that thick trunk in the middle representing the most likely outcomes. Instead, we need to focus on the branches representing the worst outcomes, and prune them with all our might. Social isolation reduces transmission, and slows the spread of the disease. In doing so, it chops off branches that represent some of the worst futures. Contact tracing catches people before they infect others, pruning more branches that represent unchecked catastrophes.At the beginning of a pandemic, we have the disadvantage of higher uncertainty, but the advantage of being early: The costs of our actions are lower because the disease is less widespread. As we prune the tree of the terrible, unthinkable branches, we are not just choosing a path; we are shaping the underlying parameters themselves, because the parameters themselves are not fixed. If our hospitals are not overrun, we will have fewer deaths and thus a lower fatality rate. That’s why we shouldn’t get bogged down in litigating a model’s numbers. Instead we should focus on the parameters we can change, and change them.Every time the White House releases a COVID-19 model, we will be tempted to drown ourselves in endless discussions about the error bars, the clarity around the parameters, the wide range of outcomes, and the applicability of the underlying data. And the media might be tempted to cover those discussions, as this fits their horse-race, he-said-she-said scripts. Let’s not. We should instead look at the calamitous branches of our decision tree and chop them all off, and then chop them off again.Sometimes, when we succeed in chopping off the end of the pessimistic tail, it looks like we overreacted. A near miss can make a model look false. But that’s not always what happened. It just means we won. And that’s why we model.
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theatlantic.com
11 questions about the coronavirus economic crisis, answered
Jennifer Wittlin prepares for dinner takeout orders in Providence, Rhode Island, on March 25, 2020. | David Goldman/AP From how to think about the stock market to what to do if you lose your job, here’s what you need to know about coronavirus and the economy. The American economy seems to have transformed in a matter of weeks as the coronavirus has brought activities across the country to a grinding halt. Not only did the US fail to anticipate the public health crisis caused by coronavirus, but it appears to be unprepared for the economic consequences of getting the pandemic under control. Most Americans already know they are in a very different economic reality than they were in February. Restaurants are closed or only doing takeout or delivery. Clothing boutiques are shuttering. Americans across the economy have lost their jobs. Even workers whose jobs might be more stable probably don’t want to look at their 401(k)s. Government officials have made a conscious decision to lock down parts of the economy and implement strict social distancing guidelines to try to better respond to the pandemic. President Donald Trump initially said he’d like to reopen the economy by Easter to avoid further damage — perhaps thinking it’s better to just keep the economy going and let the chips fall where they may — but people aren’t going to be falling over themselves to go to restaurants if there’s a deadly virus spreading. Trump ultimately backed off, and extended social distancing measures to the end of April. After all, the point of the economy is to serve people, not for people to serve it. “There seems to be a segment of society that’s lost track of the purpose of markets,” said Aaron Klein, the policy director at the Center on Regulation and Markets at the Brookings Institution. “Humanity created markets to efficiently distribute goods and services to serve humanity; markets did not create humanity to efficiently serve the will of the markets.” We’re stuck in dual crises for the foreseeable future — one that’s health-related, and one that’s economic. Eventually this will end, but there’s no telling when. It’s a confusing time, including when it comes to the money-related end of things. So here are some answers to questions about the economic crisis that you were perhaps too embarrassed — or too afraid — to ask. 1) What is an economic crisis? An economic crisis is a steep and sudden downturn of the economy. In terms of data, it shows up in a lot of places — GDP growth, unemployment numbers, productivity, and more. Data often lags behind real-time events, but what we already know paints a dire picture: an enormous spike in jobless claims and an economic contraction projection of disturbing proportions. The US is definitely in an economic crisis right now, albeit a distinct one from crises past, including the one in most recent memory: the financial crisis and Great Recession in the late 2000s. “The prior recession started in the financial markets and affected the real economy; this will start in the real economy and affect the financial markets,” said Klein. The problem right now isn’t subprime mortgages and banks and hedge funds making bets they shouldn’t — it’s that the US in the midst of a global health crisis and is taking extreme economic measures in an effort to protect the public’s well-being. Public officials have ordered shut wide swaths of the economy, including restaurants, travel, and hospitality, and it’s had a severe and immediate effect. Jobless claims hit 3.3 million during a single week in March; during the Great Recession, the highest week of losses was about 600,000, and 8.7 million total jobs were lost over the course of many months. Factories across the country have shut down, businesses are shuttered, and not only do people have less money to spend, but they have fewer ways to spend it. Christina Animashaun/Vox “Everything this time is happening bigger and faster,” Jason Furman, who served as an economic adviser to President Barack Obama, told Vox’s Li Zhou and Ella Nilsen recently in a piece laying out the differences between the 2008 crash and now. The question now is if and when the US is able to get the virus under control so that the economy can start to open back up. “What we need is for everybody to stay home and not go broke doing it,” said Cecilia Rouse, an economist at Princeton and former member of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers. “The faster we can get this pandemic under control, the faster we can snap back.” The longer the crisis goes on, the more challenging the recovery becomes, and the longer it will take. 2) What’s the difference between a recession and a depression? There’s a well-known line among economists that a recession is when your neighbor loses their job, but a depression is when you lose yours, which perhaps gets at the air of difference between the two: A recession feels bad, a depression feels very bad. But the line between recession and depression can be a little fuzzy. Traditionally, a recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth, but the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) has a broader definition of a “significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy” that lasts for more than a few months and shows up in places like GDP, income, employment, production, and retail sales. In the US, a group within the NBER is officially charged with “calling” when a recession starts and ends — and it usually takes them some time after a recession begins for them to say it’s happening. A depression, on the other hand, is a more severe and prolonged version of a recession. The Great Depression that lasted from 1929 to the early 1940s included not one but two major economic downturns — one from 1929 to 1933, and another from 1937 to 1938. Output fell sharply. Bettmann Archive via Getty Images Striking miners and their families in 1931 in West Virginia, where 600 miners and their families faced eviction from company-owned homes. Hulton Archive/Getty Images The Brooklyn Daily Eagle front page on October 24, 1929. The coronavirus recession could indeed become a depression. The US is in uncharted territory in what’s going on in the economy — Americans have stopped working, stopped producing, and stopped consuming almost at the drop of a hat. The stock market is volatile, and business investment is slowing. Much of the country has been ground to a halt. Whether or not the US slips into a depression depends in large part how well Americans are able to weather the storm while the coronavirus portion of the crisis gets figured out. Officials don’t want the economy to become so broken that it can’t be fixed. “Ultimately, the economy will rebound when the pandemic is under control. The question is, how many businesses will be able to weather the storm, and how many workers will be able to?” Klein said. “The longer the shutdown goes on, the greater effects on the economy, particularly if businesses can’t reopen.” It’s also important to note that, whatever you call it, not everyone will experience the economic fallout in the same ways. For some people, it will be catastrophic. For others, it will be an inconvenience. Older, low-income, and homeless people and those in other vulnerable communities will also likely experience the economic crisis in more harmful ways, regardless of how the downturn is defined formally. 3) What does the stock market have to do with any of this? The stock market has been all over the place amid the coronavirus crisis. Major indexes plunged as the gravity of the situation began to take hold in February and March, and stocks have become pretty volatile. But does it matter what the stock market does? Well, yes and no. The stock market right now is signifying underlying turmoil in the economy. It can also be a leading indicator, albeit a noisy one, of where the economy might be headed, and amid coronavirus, its take appears to be ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. As stocks plunged at the takeoff of the crisis in the US, a lot of investors appear to have pulled out their money and parked it in cash, and uncertainty has created an enormous amount of volatility. The stock market will likely start to recover before the economy does — that’s what happened after the financial crisis, when it turned up in March 2009 and the recession ended three months later in June — but we won’t know if or when that will be. What happens in the stock market can have a “wealth effect” as well that is largely behavioral — consumers spend more in a bull market. A small majority of Americans own stocks, but the richest Americans own most of the stocks. Xinhua/Wang Ying via Getty Images The New York Stock Exchange on March 25, 2020. But the average person shouldn’t focus too much on what’s going on in the markets, especially in the short term. There’s a saying from legendary investor Benjamin Graham that the market is a voting machine in the short run but a weighing machine in the long run. A stock’s particular price might be up or down on a given day, but ultimately, the underlying fundamentals of a business are what matters. “What we know about anything that is bought and sold is that price is dictated by price and demand. What helps determine stock prices over the long run, of course, is earnings, it’s fundamentals, but in the short run, panic can create very significant mispricing,” said Kristina Hooper, chief global market strategist at Invesco. There have also been questions about whether the US could halt stock market trading altogether, beyond the temporary “circuit breaker” stops that are triggered when stocks drop too much. Greg Daco, an economist at Oxford Economics, told me that theoretically it could — after all, there are stock market holidays — but that wouldn’t necessarily solve the volatility problem. “The question is, what happens when it reopens?” he said. “You close the market, reopen it, and it falls by 30 percent, was it worth it?” 4) If I have investments, like a 401(k), what should I be doing? The best advice right now on what to do on your investments, per finance experts, might also be the hardest to follow: Do nothing. “Most people are horrible at making long-term investment decisions generally, and that’s exacerbated when they try to make decisions under emotionally intense circumstances,” said Zach Teutsch, a financial adviser at Values Added Financial. While it may be tempting to look at your 401(k) or stock portfolio right now, it might not paint a pretty picture and could prompt you to make decisions you might later regret. That’s part of what happened in 2008, Hooper said, when average Americans paid too much attention to the stock market, pulled their money out, and then missed out when stocks started to come back. “One of the biggest mistakes in the financial crisis was that the average American did focus on it, and many of them changed their asset allocations as a result,” she said. Remember, before the current crisis, Americans were in the midst of the longest economic expansion in US history and a multi-year bull market. To be sure, the advice around this changes with age — people who have years before they plan to retire can wait out the recovery, while those close to or in retirement might not be able to. The experts I spoke with said older people have hopefully shifted their investments toward less risky places — more bonds than stocks, for example — with age. (There’s a reason your 401(k) investment plan often has a target retirement date attached to it.) For younger people, or those with some money to spare, down markets can be a good time to get in. If you can afford tokick up your 401(k) contributions, consider it. Or if you have cash on hand, a lot of stocks might be trading at a discount. “If you needed to buy a new pair of shoes and all the shoes in the world were 40 percent off, you wouldn’t say, oh, no, there’s a terrible shoe crisis, you’d say, terrific, I can get the shoes I need for cheaper?” Teutsch said. “Young people make a fortune on stock market crashes, because they’re adding every couple of weeks in bad markets at lower prices; you just don’t get to see it or appreciate it until years down the line,” said David Bahnsen, a portfolio manager and financial commentator. It’s important to remember investing has inherent risks, there are no guarantees, things could get much worse before they get better, and the market is next to impossible to time — Warren Buffett once bet the S&P 500 would outperform a basket of hedge funds for a decade. And he won. 5) How does unemployment insurance work? The first thing to know about unemployment insurance is that it’s a state-federal program that provides cash benefits, but in terms of administration, it goes through the state. In other words, it’s pretty patchy. So to apply, you need to go through your state unemployment agency, and guidelines for who qualifies and what benefits are awarded vary. You can find information about your state’s requirements and processes here. First, we’ll go through the typical scenario for unemployment insurance, and then through the changes in the pandemic and how the stimulus package fortifies the program. If you have been laid off or fired by an employer and have a “substantial history” of working, then you can apply to collect unemployment insurance benefits on a weekly basis. Once you start the application process online or by phone, the unemployment insurance office contacts your employer to confirm that your explanation of why the job ended matches up. If the explanations for the separation are in agreement, then the claim generally moves forward quite quickly. If not, then there’s a dispute, and the state makes a judgment of what happened. It is worth noting that people who quit their jobs can also file for unemployment — for example, in cases of sexual harassment — but those workers are likelier to lose in the dispute. “When there are disputes over what happened, if people are laid off, they collect benefits 70 percent of the time. If there’s a dispute and they quit, they get benefits about 25 percent of the time,” said Wayne Vroman, a labor economist at the Urban Institute. The amount you’re eligible to receive is calculated based on what you were earning at your job, and maximum and minimum amounts vary by state. Many states allow you to collect benefits for a maximum of 26 weeks, but again, that varies. Vroman estimates that the average across the system is about $385 a week. Across 52 weeks, that would add up to about $20,000 under the pre-stimulus system — in other words, it’s not a replacement for a full-time job, plus you can’t use it for a full year anyway. Typically, there are limits on how much you can earn while you’re collecting benefits. In other words, no side gigs or freelancing. Unemployment insurance is funded through payroll taxes paid by employers, and when there are a lot of claims, states can run out of money to pay benefits out. During the last recession, three dozen states wound up having to borrow from the federal government to cover unemployment insurance. Because so many people are filing for unemployment amid coronavirus, doing so is extra challenging right now, and many state offices are overwhelmed. That may translate to delays for those filing. The late March stimulus package puts unemployment insurance on steroids. It includes a $600 per week increase in unemployment benefits on top of state benefits for four months. It also expands unemployment to people who aren’t usually covered — gig workers, freelancers, contractors, the self-employed, and workers who are furloughed or have reduced hours — and allows for 13 weeks to be tacked on to each state’s maximum. “If you lose your job, if your hours are cut, and even if it doesn’t feel like you’ve lost your job but you’ve been put on a zero-hour schedule, you can still apply for unemployment benefits even if your employer tells you you can’t,” said Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation. Vox’s Dylan Matthews has an explainer on how the stimulus bill changes unemployment insurance. 6) How do I pay for health care if I’m laid off? In the United States, health coverage is tied to employment. Now, large parts of the economy have been shut down in order to respond to a health crisis, resulting in millions of Americans losing their jobs in the middle of said health crisis and, therefore, many of them losing their health insurance. “The joy of picking — or keeping — your health insurance is really predicated on you having a job,” said Mike Konczal, a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. Linda Blumberg, a health system expert at the Urban Institute, talked Vox through what to do if you are laid off and lose your employer-based insurance. The first step for people who can afford it is to look into the potential for getting COBRA coverage, which basically means you get to hold on to your insurance but pay for it yourself. But COBRA can be expensive and translate to thousands of dollars in premiums. For people whose incomes have fallen significantly, and especially for those who live in Medicaid expansion states, Medicaid is another place to look. You can see if you qualify for Medicaid in your state based on your income here. For children, you can look into CHIP as well. People who lose their jobs can also enroll in the Affordable Care Act marketplaces for a certain period, because losing your health insurance, as well as having a baby or getting married, is considered a “qualifying event.” And there, you may be eligible for subsidies, too. Blumberg cautioned people should be thorough in looking for options for enrollment, and they should presume their loss of income is going to persist when inputting information into the system. “If for some reason they get their job back or their hours come back up, they can then report that at the time and have the subsidy reduced,” she said. Even if you’re not eligible for a subsidy, it’s an especially critical time to have health insurance, given the coronavirus outbreak. Blumberg warned against nongovernment, non-marketplace plans and “short-term, limited-duration” plans allowed under the Trump administration. “Those other policies, it’s very difficult, often, to figure out what’s excluded from them,” she said. “Be very cautious of something that looks too good to be true.” For those who are uninsured already, it’s worth noting that some states have reopened their marketplaces in light of the crisis, so you may be able to get insurance now. “Debt is better than dead,” Blumberg said. Vox’s Dylan Scott has an explainer on health insurance amid coronavirus and the different mechanisms for coverage. He also notes that the CDC said in a statement to Vox that the agency believes it has the legal authority to cover Covid-19 testing and treatment, in collaboration with other federal and local agencies. In a separate statement, a CDC spokesperson told Vox that there are “provisions that allocate funding for testing and treatment of the uninsured, which will continue to be announced” and noted that federally qualified health centers are an important resource for those who lack insurance. 7) What other mechanisms are there to help me if I can’t pay my bills? Beyond unemployment and health insurance, there are other ways out there to help people make ends meet. For example, there are multiple options for food assistance, including SNAP benefits (more commonly known as food stamps) and specific services for pregnant or postpartum women and children and seniors. In the case of food stamps, they’re managed by the states, and you can find a directory here. Food stamps, like other assistance programs, are pegged to your income. “It’s possible that you have, even with unemployment insurance, an income that’s low enough that you would be eligible for SNAP,” Vroman said. You can also find an outline of government benefits here. SOPA Images/LightRocket via Gett Members of the Ohio National Guard help pack food and supplies for those in need on March 30. Stettner advised that people should start signing up for benefits and assistance programs as soon as they can. “Start the process, because it can take some time. Don’t wait around to the last minute to reach out for help,” he said. He added it’s also worth reaching out to utility companies in the case of hardships to see if they’ll work with you on a plan to pay your bills. (The same may apply for rent payments or mortgages, too.) Unfortunately, a lot of the safety net in the US has been whittled down over the years. “It’s for the most needy people in our society, so we don’t have a lot of room for people just getting by,” Rouse said. 8) How does the stimulus work, and what else is the government doing to help the economy? On March 27, the president signed a $2.2 trillion stimulus package, the CARES Act, to help stabilize and boost the American economy in the time of coronavirus. Vox’s Li Zhou and Ella Nilsen have a full explainer of what’s in the bill, and here’s a brief overview: A $500 billion loan program for businesses to be administered by the Treasury Department. Basically, a bailout fund for big business. Boosted unemployment insurance that increases benefits by $600 a week per four months and expands who can apply for and collect benefits Funds for hospitals, medical equipment, and protection for health care workers totaling $150 billion, $1 billion of which will go to hospitals, $1 billion to the Indiana Health Service, and the rest to increased medical equipment capacity Roughly $150 in aid to state and local governments, including $5 billion for tribal governments About $377 billion in small business loans The other plank of the stimulus, which has gotten perhaps the most attention is the direct payments to be sent to Americans across the country — in other words, those checks from the government you’ve probably been hearing about. (Vox’s Dylan Matthews has an explainer on the stimulus checks.) Single adults who make up to $75,000 annually will get a one-time $1,200 check, and married couples who make up to $150,000 will receive $2,400. The government will also distribute $500 per child. The payments decrease as incomes go up and phase out by $99,000 for singles and $198,000 for couples. The calculations will be made using 2019 taxes for those who have filed (the deadline is now July 15) and 2018 taxes for those who have not. There are several calculators online you can use to figure out how much you’ll receive. For those who don’t file taxes because they earned so little they weren’t required to, collecting the cash will be more complex. The IRS says people will need to file a “simple tax return” with basic information to collect money, and low-income taxpayers, older people, Social Security recipients, some veterans, and individuals who otherwise don’t need to file a tax return will not owe tax. Note that people in households with members who are unauthorized immigrants may be ineligible for the direct payments. Alex Edelman/AFP via Getty Images Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, flanked by Reps. Kevin McCarthy and Steny Hoyer, displays the signed $2 trillion stimulus bill on March 27. Beyond the stimulus bill, Congress has passed two other coronavirus-related pieces of legislation, and the Federal Reserve has taken steps to help stabilize markets and the economy. Democrats are pushing for a fourth coronavirus bill, but thus far, it’s not clear how much buy-in there is from Republicans. As for what else the government could be doing, the answer is plenty, if there’s political will. Americans are facing a health and economic crisis of staggering proportions, and the greater risk is doing too little than in doing too much. Vox’s Matt Yglesias recently laid out some possibilities: The US needs to take the analogy of wartime mobilization that’s been used by many leaders much more seriously and deliver trillions more in tax cuts and spending increases to stimulate demand. Much of that spending should be aimed at mobilizing workers and industry to provide the goods and services the US needs to continue coping with a virus that, even if successfully contained, is not going to vanish soon. To cope with the twin crises of economics and public health, the US will need substantial investment in the production of personal protective equipment for health care workers, but may also need production of masks and gloves for the public. It will need a huge infusion of funds to state and local governments so they can continue to provide — even expand — needed services. It will need medical research in spades, and we’ll need income support for households and businesses as they struggle to adapt to a new world of doing things in less efficient, more socially distant ways. And to support it all, the US needs a creative and flexible Federal Reserve willing to adopt a wartime mentality to finance. “Does anybody regret how much debt we went into to win World War II?” said Betsey Stevenson, an economist at the University of Michigan and former Obama administration official. “People rarely complain about how much Congress is spending to fight a war, and they need to be thinking about that right now as we fight this pandemic.” 9) Which industries are being hit hardest by this? Not every person — or every sector — is being impacted equally by the coronavirus crisis. “This recession is going to be, for some people, more devastating than the financial crisis, for some less,” Klein said. “This one is going to start further down on the income spectrum.” Restaurants, bars, stores, and nonessential businesses have been forced to close across much of the country. Airlines have seen an enormous decline in business, as has the travel and hospitality industry across the board. Schools have been shut down and live entertainment brought to a stop. The stimulus bill is meant to bring some relief to both small businesses and major corporations, which both got bailout funds as part of the $2.2 trillion package. But, again, it really depends how long this lasts to see how hard the economy to be hit. Ultimately, businesses and industries translate to people, as in, workers, and the workers who will be hardest hit by layoffs and shutdowns are those who can’t afford it. According to estimates from the US Private Sector Job Quality Index, more than 37 million jobs in the US are vulnerable to layoffs in the near term, 35 million of which are considered low-income. Christina Animashaun/Vox There will likely also be disparities by race and ethnicity. “We know that blacks, Latinx, and native people, in terms of race and ethnicity, they have lower levels of reserves, and we also know that their employment is more precarious than that of white people,” said Darrick Hamilton, the executive director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University. 10) How can I spend money to help? If you have extra cash on hand right now and aren’t concerned about parting ways with it, there are plenty of things to do with it to try to help — order delivery from local restaurants and grocery stores, or buy gift certificates for local businesses that you can use at a later date. Amazon is one company notworried about its business right now, so maybe get toilet paper from the market down the street instead. Tip the delivery person generously. Instead of ordering through a delivery app, try calling the restaurant instead. Lower-wage service workers are going to be the ones hurt the most the fastest. “A lot of small businesses that tend to work on fairly small margins to begin with are going to be very hard hit,” Rouse said. If you employ people, such as a child care provider or cleaning service, you can always keep paying them, even if you ask them not to come. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images San Francisco restaurant owner David Nichol carries a takeout order to the curb on March 27. There are plenty of charities willing to take your money, including GiveDirectly, which is providing cash assistance to families. You can also contact local food banks and other social service organizations to figure out how you can help. Another grim reality is that there are plenty of GoFundMe accounts set up to provide economic and medical aid. But the fact of the matter is, there is only so much that private individuals can do. “Fundamentally, this needs to be a government solution. Individual acts of charity or trying to keep the economy afloat are not sufficient at this moment,” Konczal said. “The recession is ultimately a collective problem, and the government will be the one who determines what happens to small business, self-employed people, and so on down the line.” 11) When will things get better? Is there a chance any of this brings about positive change to the economy? At the moment, the likeliest scenario is that the economy gets better when the coronavirus crisis gets better, and unfortunately, nobody knows when that will be. As Dartmouth College economist Bruce Sacerdote put it, “It’s all about getting the damn virus under control.” There has been some debate about whether the “cure” — as in the economic shutdown — is worse than the disease that is coronavirus. And some people have suggested government officials open the economy back up and start to ease restrictions on social distancing even before the health plank of this is under control. But is it really worth sacrificing tens of thousands of people so that the Dow Jones Industrial Average will go back up? And is it really likely that with a deadly virus spreading, people are going to be eager to go eat at the diner down the street? Billionaire Bill Gates recently weighed in: “It’s very tough to say to people, ‘Hey, keep going to restaurants, go buy new houses, ignore that pile of bodies over in the corner. We want you to keep spending because there’s maybe a politician who thinks GDP growth is all that counts.’” Vox’s Ezra Klein also recently did a deep dive: You can suppress the virus now and deal with a terrible economy six months from now, or you can wait two more months to suppress the virus, find yourself forced into yet more extreme quarantine measures because the virus is pervasive and the death toll overwhelming, and find yourself in an even more horrendous economy on the other side. So for now Americans are in a waiting game with the virus, and once that’s under control, the recovery will depend on the mitigation measures the US has taken and will take. “The debate is if we end up in a V-shape or a U-shape recovery, and anyone who pretends to have the answer to that is wrong,” Bahnsen said. Noam Galai/Getty Images A temporary hospital in New York City’s Central Park set up to combat the coronavirus pandemic, on March 31. As to whether this will bring about positive change in the economy, it’s hard to tell. On the one hand, policies and government actions that would have seemed almost unimaginable just weeks or months ago — a check going out to nearly every American household, expanding unemployment insurance — are now a reality. And in such a scenario where so many Americans are losing health coverage in the time they need it most, it has to make some at least think about the value of Medicare-for-all, or at the very least, a public health insurance option. The Great Depression resulted in a dramatic expansion of the social safety net. “We’re considering this use of public power to address our calamity in ways that the public imagination didn’t consider in the past. The sobering reality is that it’s not enough,” Hamilton said. “You can’t tell people that this stuff is impossible, because it happened.” This could also foster a discussion about how Americans treat and think about the workers deemed “essential” during times of crisis, which includes not only doctors and nurses but also home health care workers, grocery store clerks, and service staff. On the other hand, there’s always a tendency to revert to the mean, and recessions and economic crises don’t usually make Americans more generous. “In general, recessions make people very zero-sum and very hesitant to want to collectively provide security. We saw that in the Great Recession,” Konczal said. “We should not understand this as an obviously political moment.”
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