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Wake Up To Politics - April 2, 2020

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP world headquarters in my bedroom. It’s Thursday, April 2, 2020. 215 days until Election Day 2020. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.

Jobless claims soar above 6 million in one week, a record

More than 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, the Labor Department announced this morning, setting a new record for the second consecutive week.

With the new figures, the two-week total of Americans who sought jobless benefits is nearly 10 million, a staggering sign of the economic collapse due to the coronavirus pandemic. Before the current crisis, the most unemployment filings in one week was 695,000 in 1982.

As unemployment has risen, the stock markets have tanked in recent days: on Wednesday, "the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 973 points, or 4.44 percent, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite both fell 4.41 percent," according to Fox Business News, after President Donald Trump and his advisers revealed their best-case scenario for the pandemic on Tuesday: 100,000 to 240,000 deaths in the United States. As Trump was speaking, the Dow ended its worst quarter since 1987, having plummeted 23 percent in three months.

"What usually takes months or quarters to happen in a recession is happening in a matter of weeks," Michelle Meyer, the chief U.S. economist for Bank of America Merrill Lynch, told the New York Times. The Times reported Wednesday that the economic downtown "could be far more punishing and long lasting than initially feared — potentially enduring into next year, and even beyond."

Here's what else you need to know about the coronavirus today:

--- The global count of coronavirus cases (currently 961,448) is expected to reach one million today, while the global death toll (currently 49,163) is likely to top 50,000. In the United States, the number of confirmed cases (currently 215,362) surged past 200,000 while the number of deaths from coronavirus (currently 5,113) surpassed 5,000 on Wednesday, as the U.S. became the first country to record 1,000 deaths from the virus in a single day. (Statistics via Worldometer, as of 9:45 a.m. Eastern Time)

The United States remains the country with the most reported cases of coronavirus, although the U.S. intelligence community has concluded that "China has concealed the extent of the coronavirus outbreak in its country, under-reporting both total cases and deaths it’s suffered from the disease," according to Bloomberg News.

--- After weeks of resistance, Florida's Ron DeSantis became the latest governor to announce a "stay at home" order for his state's residents on Wednesday. DeSantis relented in issuing the order only after speaking with President Trump and other White House officials, according to ABC News. In addition, Florida saw its number of coronavirus cases increase by more than 1,000 the day before; the state has now recorded 7,773 infections, more than all but four states. Per the New York Times, 38 states have now issued orders telling their residents to remain homebound.

Dr. Jerome Adams, the U.S. surgeon general, told NBC's "Today" on Wednesday that the CDC's coronavirus guidelines should be considered a "national stay-at-home order," despite President Trump's statement earlier this week that a nationwide order was "pretty unlikely."

--- Democrats and Republicans in Congress are sparring over a potential "phase four" coronavirus response package. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi outlined her proposal on Wednesday: according to Roll Call, she is calling for a bill "states, directing President Donald Trump to use the Defense Production Act to mandate manufacturing of personal protective equipment, implementing emergency worker protections for first responders, expanding paid and family medical leave and investing in infrastructure, among other priorities." Pelosi has called for negotiations over the package to begin immediately, so the legislation is ready when Congress returns to Washington on April 20.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell takes a different view: "She needs to stand down on the notion that we’re going to go along with taking advantage of the crisis to do things that are unrelated to the crisis," he told the Washington Post, calling her comments about a fourth phase of coronavirus relief "premature."

--- Meanwhile, the 2020 presidential campaign continues to be shaken by the coronavirus pandemic: likely Democratic nominee Joe Biden said Wednesday that his party's nominating convention will likely "have to move into August." According to CBS News, Democratic leaders across the country are urging the party to "curtail, postpone, or dramatically rethink" their July convention. (Republicans are still plunging ahead with plans to hold their convention as scheduled.) Biden has yet to clinch the Democratic nomination, although his rival Bernie Sanders faces growing pressure to withdraw.

--- More news stories from a country in crisis: "Protective gear in national stockpile is nearly depleted, DHS officials say" (Washington Post)... "A Ventilator Stockpile, With One Hitch: Thousands Do Not Work" (New York Times)... "Pentagon Confirms It’s Seeking 100,000 Body Bags in Virus Crisis" (Bloomberg News)...  "Documents show backlog of 160,000 coronavirus tests at just one lab company" (CNN)

"The scramble for the rapid coronavirus tests everybody wants" (WaPo)... "If You Have Coronavirus Symptoms, Assume You Have the Illness, Even if You Test Negative" (NYT)... "D.C. leaders fear an outbreak that cripples the country" (Politico)... "Los Angeles mayor says everyone should cover their faces while outside to fight coronavirus" (Fox News)... "Some Coronavirus Patients Show Signs of Brain Ailments" (NYT)

--- Some positive news: "Malaria Drug Helps Virus Patients Improve, in Small Study" (NYT)... "Social distancing works. The earlier the better, California and Washington data show." (WaPo)


President Donald Trump has no public events scheduled.

Vice President Mike Pence will participate in a call with conservative leaders on coronavirus response at 1 p.m. and lead a meeting of the White Hosue Coronavirus Task Force at 2 p.m.

The White House Coronavirus Task Force will hold a press briefing at 5 p.m.

The House and Senate are on recess.

The Supreme Court has no conferences or oral arguments scheduled.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden will hold a virtual press briefing and participate in a virtual fundraiser.

*All times Eastern

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