As millions more Americans join the jobless rolls, even more economic pain is in the forecast.
Another 3.2 million people filed for first-time unemployment benefits last week, in the latest evidence of the economic devastation from the coronavirus pandemic.
The U.S. government report released Thursday brings the total tally over seven weeks to more than 33 million. The weekly numbers have declined since reaching a peak of 6.9 million claims in late March. But the data remains shocking: In many states, more than a quarter of the work force is jobless.
Economists expect the monthly jobs report from the Labor Department, due Friday, to show that the unemployment rate in April was 15 percent or higher, a Depression-era level. The figure will almost certainly understate the damage.
The current economic picture is, in a word, bleak. But even in the longer term, many economists warn, the outlook is far from promising, and the quick rebound that President Trump predicts may not materialize.
“We don’t know what normal is going to look like,” said Martha Gimbel, an economist and a labor market expert at Schmidt Futures, a philanthropic initiative. “It’s just too early to tell.”
The decline has been so sudden and so widespread, and consumers are so frightened, that the road back to the economy of 2019 looks more like a slog than a leap.
More than half of states have begun to reopen their economies or plan to do so soon. But most fail to meet criteria recommended by the Trump administration to resume business and social activities.
The White House’s nonbinding guidelines suggest that states should have a “downward trajectory” of documented cases or of the percentage of tests that come back positive. Public health experts have criticized the metrics because they don’t specify a threshold for case numbers or positive rates and do not define a downward trajectory.
Still, most states that are beginning to open for business fail to adhere to even those recommendations: In more than half of states easing restrictions, case counts are trending upward, positive test results are on the rise, or both, raising concerns among public health experts. Governors in a majority of these states are Republicans.
“With so many places opening up before we see indicators of meaningful, sustained transmission declines, there is substantial risk of resurgence,” said Kimberly Powers, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The Associated Press reported on Thursday that a set of detailed documents created by the United States’ top infectious disease experts to give local leaders advice on how to reopen safely had been shelved by the Trump administration.
The 17-page report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, titled “Guidance for Implementing the Opening Up America Again Framework,” was supposed to be published last Friday and was more detailed than the guidelines released by the White House, according to The A.P.
But Peter Baker writes that Mr. Trump’s cure-can’t-be-worse-than-the-disease logic is clear: As bad as the virus may be, the cost of the virtual national lockdown has grown too high. With at least 30 million people out of work and businesses collapsing by the day, keeping the country at home seems unsustainable. With the virus still spreading and no vaccine available until next year at the earliest, though, the president has decided that for life to resume for many, some may have to die.
“Hopefully that won’t be the case,” Mr. Trump said on Wednesday when asked if deaths would rise as a result of reopening, but he added, “It could very well be the case.”
“But we have to get our country open again,” he continued. “People want to go back, and you’re going to have a problem if you don’t do it.”
The research indicates that a wave of infections swept from New York through much of the country before the city began setting social-distancing limits. That helped to fuel outbreaks in Arizona, Louisiana, Texas and as far away as the West Coast.
The findings by geneticists were drawn by tracking signature mutations of the virus, travel histories of infected people and models of the outbreak by infectious-disease experts.
The central role of New York’s outbreak shows that decisions made by state and federal officials — including waiting to impose distancing measures and to limit international flights — helped shape the trajectory of the outbreak and allowed it to grow in the rest of the country.
During crucial weeks in March, New York’s political leaders waited to take aggressive action, even after identifying hundreds of cases, giving the virus a head start. And by mid-March, when President Trump restricted travel from Europe, the restrictions were essentially pointless, the data suggest, as the disease was already spreading widely within the country.
Acting earlier would most likely have blunted the virus’s march across the country, researchers say.
“It means that we missed the boat early on, and the vast majority in this country is coming from domestic spread,” said Kristian Andersen, a professor in the department of immunology and microbiology at Scripps Research. “I keep hearing that it’s somebody else’s fault. That’s not true. It’s not somebody else’s fault, it’s our own fault.”
The United Nations on Thursday more than tripled the size of its humanitarian aid appeal to help the most vulnerable countries threatened by the coronavirus pandemic to $6.7 billion, from the $2 billion initially sought just six weeks ago.
The enormous expansion of the appeal, announced by Mark Lowcock, the top humanitarian aid official at the United Nations, reflected what he described as an updated global plan that includes nine additional countries deemed especially vulnerable: Benin, Djibouti, Liberia, Mozambique, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sierra Leone, Togo and Zimbabwe.
While the peak of the pandemic in the poorest countries is not expected until somewhere between three and six months from now, “there is already evidence of incomes plummeting and jobs disappearing, food supplies failing and prices soaring, and children missing vaccinations and meals,” the United Nations said in a statement.
“Unless we take action now, we should be prepared for a significant rise in conflict, hunger and poverty,” Mr. Lowcock, who heads the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said. He added that “the specter of multiple famines” loomed if the help fell short.
Even as the 193-member organization announced the new target for humanitarian fund-raising, it was still facing challenges in fulfilling the earlier $2 billion goal set by the secretary general, António Guterres, on March 25. About $1 billion has been raised.
That money, the United Nations said, has gone to funding for hand-washing stations in vulnerable locations such as refugee camps, the distribution of gloves and masks, and the training of more than 1.7 million people, including health workers, on virus identification and protection measures.
Mr. Lowcock’s office projected recently that the long-term cost of protecting the most vulnerable 10 percent of people in the world from the worst impacts of the pandemic was approximately $90 billion. That amount is equivalent to about 1 percent of the current economic stimulus packages announced by the world’s most affluent countries.
The nation’s cities are peppered with places just like Botanical Heights, the St. Louis neighborhood once known mostly as a spot to buy illegal drugs but more recently for its restaurant boom.
Earlier this year, you could stand in the parking lot of Olio, the Italian kitchen that came first, and see a French pastry shop, a Mexican place and a new omakase restaurant that has already won national attention.
The businesses are still there today, but now their doors are locked or their hours are slashed. As St. Louis begins cautious discussions about reopening, no one is sure how many of these food businesses will survive the coronavirus pandemic, and what will happen to Botanical Heights if they do not.
“Restaurants are extremely valuable to cities,” said Andrew Salkin, a founding principal of Resilient Cities Catalyst, a nonprofit focused on strengthening cities. “The benefit of having good restaurants outweighs just their tax benefits. They are the anchors of communities.”
The danger facing restaurants, which thrive on crowded rooms and get by on razor-thin margins, poses a special threat to small cities and large towns where a robust food culture plays an outsize role in the economy.
In places that had been hollowed out by poverty and suburban flight, like parts of Indianapolis, Cleveland and Detroit, they are engines of growth. In other cities with a national reputation for good food that is out of proportion to their population, like Providence, R.I., or Asheville, N.C., dining is both a tourist attraction and a key part of their identity.
Already, restaurant closures have damaged urban economies in ways that are still being calculated. Of the 701,000 nonfarm jobs lost in the United States in March, nearly 60 percent came from food services and drinking places, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
A team of scientists has developed an experimental prototype for a relatively quick, cheap test to diagnose the coronavirus that gives results as simply as a pregnancy test does.
“We’re excited that this could be a solution that people won’t have to rely on a sophisticated and expensive laboratory to run,” said Feng Zhang, a researcher at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Mass., and one of the pioneers of Crispr technology.
On Tuesday, Dr. Zhang and his colleagues posted a description of their device on a website dedicated to their project, but their method has not yet been tested by other scientists, nor have their findings been published by a scientific journal that subjected them to scrutiny by independent experts.
Two other teams of researchers, one in Buenos Aires and the other in San Francisco, are also working to devise new tests to detect the virus using gene-editing technology.
“I miss breathing in the air.” “Sometimes the city is like a dreamy, slowed-down version of itself.” “I close my eyes and listen to the waves.”
They wrote of stepping outside of their homes, outside of their deepening anxieties, outside of the sense that time is now measured against job losses, infections and death. They told us about waving to train conductors, like a child; about a flower’s flash of color and its scent on the breeze, filtered through the fabric of a mask; and about the realization “that there are some things that survive.”
As the United States and other countries start to ease lockdown restrictions, sports are slowly awakening from a two-month hiatus.
Soccer teams in Germany, Italy and Spain have resumed training in the hopes of restarting their seasons, professional golfers are looking at a return to competition soon, and touring tennis pros learned this week that an altered version of a team season is in the works. Professional baseball began again in South Korea on Tuesday, some N.B.A. training facilities may open on Friday, and the Ultimate Fighting Championship and NASCAR plan to hold events this month.
But any return will be uneven. In the United States, 50 states may produce 50 different sets of regulations for what kind of activity is allowed, complicating each athlete’s individual efforts to get back into competitive shape.
Still, the timeout has left fans thirsting for games and athletes desperate to compete.
“Just the very fact that we’re trying to figure out ways for sports to continue without fans shows you how much we deeply want and need sports,” said the sports psychologist Mary Jo Kane. She spoke by telephone after finishing a nine-hole round of golf, a part of her weekly routine that she said she missed when courses near her home in Minnesota were closed.
Bored? Take a craft trip back to the 1800s.
In the midst of quarantine, flower pressing, natural dyeing and other traditional activities have made a comeback. Here are some “new” old-timey projects to try:
Follow the news from our international correspondents.
In India, a gas leak that poisoned hundreds may have resulted from the rush to reopen a chemical plant after weeks of lockdown.
Reporting was contributed by Benedict Carey, James Glanz, Keith Collins, Lauren Leatherby, Ben Casselman, Jennifer Steinhauer, Pete Wells, Marc Santora, Patricia Cohen, Tiffany Hsu, Peter Baker, Carl Zimmer, Rick Gladstone, Karen Crouse, Matthew Futterman, Tariq Panja and Nicholas Fandos.