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A Record 3.28 Million Americans Filed for Unemployment Last Week. Are We in a Recession?

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  • Last week, a staggering 3.28 million people applied for unemployment in the United States.
  • The number beats the previous 1982 record and weekly claims during the 2008 Recession by millions.
  • However, economists say the new wildly high unemployment numbers are more akin to what is seen in times of natural disaster rather than “typical recessions.”
  • In an extremely rare televised interview, Federal Reserve Chair said the economy may already be in a recession, but he appeared optimistic that the country could possibly bounce back quickly once the virus is under control and businesses reopen.

Unemployment Claims All-Time High

More than 3.28 million people filed unemployment claims last week, according to the Labor Department. 

The number is a stunning indication of just how rapidly and how extensively businesses like restaurants, hotels, gyms, movie theaters, etc. have shut down as the COVID-19 pandemic batters the United States.

By contrast, this new number shattered the previous record (695,000 claims in 1982) for the highest number of unemployment claims filed in a single week. It also greatly surpassed any week of the 2008 Recession, which capped at 665,000 during a single week.

However, comparing the coronavirus’ economic impacts to “typical” recessions isn’t quite accurate. This is because those recessions generally play out over a series of months or years. 

For instance, while the 2008 Recession never saw weekly unemployment hit the millions, unemployment was higher than average for five years. In fact, if you added together all of the weeks of above-average unemployment, you’d get a total of about 26 million claims filed.

With the coronavirus, however, while the U.S. might see extremely high unemployment rates, many economists only expect it to last for a matter of weeks. Since the two circumstances are so wildly different, that can also make it difficult to use “typical” recessions to predict what will happen in the U.S. economy even a month or two from now. 

Still, many economists predict that unemployment could climb as high as 40 million people by April, so while it may not be like “typical” recessions, this already is and will likely continue to affect millions of people.

On top of that, many trying to file for unemployment have recounted horror stories of websites crashing and being on hold for hours, many only to be told once they finally reach someone that they don’t qualify.

Treating the Coronavirus Like a Natural Disaster

Many economists are telling people to view the coronavirus pandemic less like the 2008 financial crisis and more like a natural disaster, which can cause the immediate shutdown of an entire economic region.

One big example is Louisiana and Hurricane Katrina. On average, about 4,000 unemployment claims are filed each week in Louisiana. When Katrina hit in 2005, there was a massive, yet momentary spike in unemployment claims. 

That spike is similar to the nearly 73,000 people who filed unemployment claims in Louisiana last week. Of course, now, it’s not just Louisiana that’s experiencing a rapid surge in unemployment.

Just about every state in the country has seen a significant rise, with states like California, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, and Texas all boasting some of the largest numbers. It should be noted, however, that these are all highly populated states and the average unemployment rate for each state varies.

  • California
    • Weekly Average: 52,200
    • Claims Filed Last Week: 186,809
  • Massachusetts
    • Weekly Average: 8,000
    • Claims Filed Last Week: 147,995
  • Michigan
    • Weekly Average: 15,000
    • Claims Filed Last Week: 129,298
  • New Jersey
    • Weekly Average: 11,000
    • Claims Filed Last Week: 155,454
  • Ohio
    • Weekly Average: 187,784
    • Claims Filed Last Week: 13,000
  • Texas
    • Weekly Average: 16,900
    • Claims Filed Last Week: 155,657

By far, the biggest spike in unemployment claims was in Pennsylvania, where nearly 380,000 people filed for unemployment. That’s up from an average weekly filing of 21,000 claims.

Are We In A Recession?

Thursday morning, in an extremely rare televised interview, Jerome Powell, Chair of the Federal Reserve, spoke with Savannah Guthrie on The TODAY Show. Prompted by a question from Guthrie, Powell said the country “may well be in a recession.”

But I would point to the difference between this and a normal recession,” he added. “There is nothing fundamentally wrong with our economy. Quite the contrary. The economy performed very well, right, through February. We’ve got a fifty year low in unemployment in the last couple of years, so we start in a very strong position.”

“This isn’t something that’s wrong with the economy. This is a situation where people are being asked to step back from economic activity, close their businesses, stay home from work, so in principle, if we get the virus spread under control fairly quickly, then economic activity can resume. ” 

Powell went on to say that once the country is able to get this virus under control, it could see that rebound. Notably, Powell also stressed that it is still unknown how quickly that could happen.

One of the biggest ways the government is trying to hold up the economy is through a $2 trillion dollar stimulus package. Wednesday night, the Senate unanimously passed that 96-0. It now goes to the House, which is expected to vote on it tomorrow morning.

If it passes without any revisions, it would then head directly to President Trump, who’s said he would sign it immediately.

News of the bill’s passage through the Senate led to favorable reactions in the stock market. Between that news and the announcement that Senate Democrats and Republicans were working with the White House to make such a deal, both the Dow Jones and the S&P 500 posted their first back-to-back gains for the first time since February.

In February, the Dow was posting an all-time high of 29,000. By Monday, when Senate Democrats shot down a previous version of the stimulus package, the Dow Jones had sunk to 18,000 points. Notably, it hadn’t been that low since 2016.

By Thursday morning, the Dow was back up to 22,000 points.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Wall Street Journal) (CNN)

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Texas Students Created Snapchat Group To ‘Slave Trade’ Black Classmates

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  • Freshmen at a Texas high school set up a Snapchat group to pretend to sell their Black classmates. 
  • A screenshot showed the group name being changed from “Slave Trade” with emojis of a Black man, a gun, and a white police officer to “[racial slur] Farm” and then “[racial slur] Auction.”
  • That image also shows a person saying they would spend $100 on a peer while a second student said they would spend $1 on another, adding “would be better if his hair wasn’t so bad.”
  • The school faced backlash for initially describing it as “an incident of cyberbullying and harassment,” without acknowledging the racism. The district later issued a stronger condemnation and said the students were disciplined but did not list specific consequences.

Racist Snapchat Group

Aledo high school students at Daniel Ninth Grade Campus in Northern Texas are making headlines for setting up a Snapchat group to pretend to sell their Black classmates. 

A screenshot reviewed by several local news outlets showed the group name being changed from “Slave Trade” with emojis of a Black man, a gun, and a white police officer to “[racial slur] Farm” and then “[racial slur] Auction.”

That image also shows a person saying they would spend $100 on a peer. A second student said they would spend $1 on another, adding “would be better if his hair wasn’t so bad.”

Screenshot of group chat message via KXAS

At least one student who was mentioned as being “sold” in the chats was later sent screenshots of the conversations.

According to a report from the Star-Telegram reported last week, when the issue was brought to Principal Carolyn Ansley, she sent parents an email that didn’t mention the Snapchat group but only cited “an incident of cyberbullying and harassment.”

That caused frustrations because parents felt the issue of racism wasn’t being addressed or acknowledged.

Mark Grubbs, a father of three former students, told KXAS he was sickened by the students’ actions. Grubbs, who is Black, also said he had taken his children out of the district over other racist incidents in the past.

“My son being called out of his name and what not and it got to the point he didn’t mind fighting and that didn’t sit right with me and my wife. My son was never a fighter,” he said.

District Responds

After the incident garnered media attention, the Aledo Independent School District issued a statement.

The district said it learned of the incident more than two weeks ago and started an investigation that involved law enforcement.

“There is no room for racism or hatred in the Aledo ISD, period,” it added. “Using inappropriate, offensive and racially charged language and conduct is completely unacceptable and is prohibited by district policy.”

District officials spoke with the students responsible as well as their parents, saying they “made it clear that statements and conduct that targets a student because of his or her race is not only prohibited but also has a profound impact on the victims.”

The district also said it assigned disciplinary consequences, though it did not explicitly state what those consequences were or state how many students were involved.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (ABC) (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

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What You Need To Know About the Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Pause

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  • The CDC and the FDA have issued a joint recommendation to pause distribution of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine amid reports that six women experienced “extremely rare” blood clots after receiving the single-dose shot.
  • The vast majority of the 6.8 million Americans who were given the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have reported minor to no side effects, and no direct link has been established between the vaccine and blood clots at this time. 
  • The two agencies are expected to release updated guidance in the coming days.
  • Several states and cities are now automatically giving the two-dose Pfizer vaccine to people who were scheduled to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week. 

CDC and FDA Recommend J&J Vaccine Halt

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the Food and Drug Administration, released a statement Tuesday recommending a pause on the use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine.

So far, 6.8 million people in the U.S. have been vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine, most with zero or only mild side effects.

The updated guidance comes after six women, all between the ages of 18 to 48, experienced what both agencies described as “extremely rare” blood clots six to 13 days after being vaccinated. One of those women has died and another is in critical condition.

Neither the CDC nor the FDA has confirmed that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is the cause of these blood clots; rather, they said this guidance comes “out of an abundance of caution.”

That’s also in line with Johnson & Johnson itself, which said it’s aware of the reports but added that “no clear causal relationship has been established between these rare events.” As a precaution, Johnson & Johnson has also now delayed the rollout of its vaccine in Europe. 

What Happens From Here?

Principal Deputy Director of the CDC Anne Schuchat said further recommendations will come quickly.

FDA Acting Commissioner Janet Woodcock echoed that statement, saying, “We expect it to be a matter of days for this pause.”

Wednesday, a CDC committee will convene to discuss the cases and assess their potential significance.

When asked if the government was overreacting to just six cases out of nearly 7 million vaccinations (a criticism made by some online), Schuchat said the CDC pulled its recommendation specifically because the type of blood clots seen in these 6 women requires special treatment, so “it was of the utmost importance to us to get the word out.”

In the meantime, both agencies are urging Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients to contact their doctors if they experience any combination of severe headaches, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath. 

What If I Had A J&J Appointment?

Both agencies, as well as other health officials, are still urging unvaccinated people to take the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines when available in their area.

The White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator has said that 28 million doses of those vaccines will be made available this week. Notably, that’s more than enough for the country to continue giving 3 million shots a day. 

If you had an appointment scheduled to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you’re likely not completely out of luck.

For example, while D.C. vaccination sites are canceling all Johnson & Johnson appointments between Tuesday and this Saturday, the health department there has said it’ll send out invitations on Wednesday to reschedule.

Similar situations were reported in Virginia and Maryland, though some vaccination sites in Maryland are still honoring existing appointments by automatically giving people Pfizer instead. That’s also a process that is now being conducted in places like New York State and Memphis.

See what others are saying: (Associated Press) (NBC News) (The Washington Post)

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Minnesota Protests Continue for a Second Night Over Police Killing of Daunte Wright

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  • Protests continued in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, on Monday over the death of Daunte Wright, who was fatally shot by a police officer who allegedly thought she was using her Taser.
  • Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at demonstrators violating the 7 p.m. curfew, as well as others who threw projectiles back at the officers. Several incidents of looting were reported, though law enforcement officials said they were minimal.
  • That same evening, police officials identified the officer involved in Wright’s death as Kimberly Potter, a 26-year veteran of the force, prompting many experts to flag numerous reasons an officer with her experience should have known not to confuse her weapon with a stun gun.
  • Wright tendered her resignation on Tuesday, as did Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon.

Second Night of Demonstrations 

Demonstrators clashed with police for the second night in a row Monday after an officer shot and killed 20-year-old Daunte Wright during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota.

Much like protests the day before, the events reportedly started out peaceful, with hundreds attending a vigil on the street where Wright was killed. Hundreds more gathered outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department.

The situation started to escalate after 7 p.m. when the curfew instituted across all four Twin City metro-area countries went into effect. According to reports, police began to warn people that they were in violation of the curfew, and shortly before 8 p.m., officers began firing rounds of tear gas, rubber bullets, and flash grenades. 

Some protesters reportedly retaliated by throwing water bottles, fireworks, and other projectiles. Later, police in riot gear pushed groups of demonstrators who had regrouped away from the police station.

Looters also broke into several businesses at a strip mall close by, including a Dollar Tree, where flames were reportedly later spotted, though law enforcement officials described the looting as limited.

During a press briefing just after midnight, officials said that 40 people had been arrested at the Brooklyn Center protest.

Officer Identified

Late Monday, state officials identified the officer who fatally shot Wright as Kimberly Potter, a 26-year veteran of the force. BCPD Chief Tim Gannon had previously said that the officer, who he refused to name, had intended to use her Taser, but accidentally used her gun.

Many social media users and experts questioned how someone with 26 years of experience could mix up a Taser and a gun, including one retired sergeant with the Los Angeles Police Department, who told The New York Times, “If you train enough, you should be able to tell.” 

The Times also noted that it is not common for officers to mix up their Tasers and guns, that most police forces — including BCPD — use a variety of protocols to prevent this from happening

Tasers are usually designed with specific features to distinguish them from guns, such as bright color-coating and different styles of grips. According to The Times, the BCPD manual cites three different pistol models as standard-issue, all three of which “weigh significantly more than a typical Taser.”

Those pistols also have a trigger safety that can be felt when touching them, while the Tasers do not. The outlet additionally noted that BCPD protocol requires officers to wear guns on their dominant sides and Tasers on the opposite to prevent exactly this kind of confusion.

Beyond that, Potter’s actions may have violated department policy even if she had used her Taser because the manual says it should not be used on people “whose position or activity may result in collateral injury,” including those “operating vehicles.” 

It also says that officers should make “reasonable efforts” to avoid using the stun gun on people in the “head, neck, chest and groin,” but Wright was shot in the chest. 

On Tuesday afternoon, it was reported that Potter and Chief Gannon have resigned from the force. The resignations come after Brooklyn Center leaders dismissed the city manager, a decision that could potentially give Mayor Mike Elliot the ability to fire the chief or officers in the department.

The resignations also come amid reports that Potter had been involved in another police-involved shooting in 2019, where she had been “admonished by investigators for allegedly attempting to conceal evidence after a police shooting that left a 21-year-old autistic man dead,” according to The Daily Beast.

Misinformation Spreads

As more information comes out surrounding the traffic stop that led to Wright’s death, several pieces of misinformation have also continued to spread on social media.

Most of the false information centers around the warrant for Wrights’ arrest that prompted police to attempt to detain him.

According to reports, court records show that a judge issued the warrant earlier this month after he missed a court appearance for two misdemeanor charges he was facing from last June for carrying a pistol without a permit and running from officers. 

Notably, Wright does have a number of past charges filed against him, including two for attempted sale of Marijuana and aggravated robbery. Despite claims by many social media users, those charges were for separate incidents, and the warrant was specifically for failing to appear in court for the June charge.

There has also been a viral video circulating Twitter and TikTok claiming court records show that the hearing notification was sent to the wrong address, seemingly in reference to a piece of mail that had failed to be delivered in his court records.

The mail, however, was actually for a different case and is not connected to the notification for the hearing he missed. While that video is incorrect and county officials maintain that they did send him notification, Wright’s public defender, Arthur Martinez, told reporters his client had never received the notice and that the court had not informed him either.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Minneapolis Star Tribune) (The Daily Beast)

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