👋 Away Message: Hi there! Matt is currently out on parental leave. He'll return August 30th-ish. More details can be found here. In the meantime, Joe (the voice of the newscast/podcast) will be publishing an abridged version of WTF Just Happened Today? every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. You can expect 5-7 news items covering a slightly wider range of political news in about two sentences each. We'll return to our regularly scheduled WTFJHT programming when Matt returns in late August.
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1/ A record 3.28 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week – the largest number of unemployment claims ever recorded for a single week since the government began collecting data in 1967. The number shatters the Great Recession peak of 665,000 claims in March 2009 and the all-time mark of 695,000 in October 1982. As a result, the U.S. unemployment rate has likely already risen to 5.5% from 3.5% in February – a level not seen since 2015. A similarly large number of initial unemployment claims is expected next week when the Labor Department releases its report on claims filed this week. In the prior Labor Department report, for the week ended March 14, initial claims totaled 282,000. (NPR / CNBC / Washington Post / CNN / New York Times / Politico / Bloomberg)
U.S. death toll hit 1,000. (Washington Post)
The U.S. leads the world in confirmed coronavirus cases with at least 81,321 people known to have been infected. (New York Times)
Nearly 1.5 million N95 respirator masks are sitting in a U.S. government warehouse in Indiana, but authorities have not shipped them because they are past their expiration date. (Washington Post)
“We may well be in a recession.” –Fed Chairman Jerome Powell
Trump’s cabinet pastor blamed the outbreak on those who have “a proclivity toward lesbianism and homosexuality.” Ralph Drollinger wrote that the U.S. is “experiencing the consequential wrath of God” because the “forsaken,” which includes environmentalists and members of the LGBTQIA+ community, have “given over” to their “degrading passions.” Betsy DeVos, Mike Pompeo, Ben Carson, and Rick Perry all regularly attend Drollinger’s bible study sessions, with Perry describing him as a “brilliant, knowledgeable bible instructor.” (NBC News / Independent)
🔥 Read This: How the pandemic will end. The U.S. may end up with the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the industrialized world. This is how it’s going to play out.(The Atlantic)
2/ U.S. stocks had their best three-day rally since 1931. Over the past three days, the Dow is up more than 20% and has emerged from the bear market it fell into on March 11. The S&P 500 posted its first three-day rally since February, closing up 6.2%. The Nasdaq rose 5.6%. (CNBC / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / CNN)
3/ The Senate passed an emergency $2.2 trillion relief package to address the economic impacts of the coronavirus. The bill passed unanimously and includes direct payments to individuals making less than $99,000 per year — which could be sent out as early as April 6 — $250 billion to bolster unemployment insurance, $500 billion for hard-hit industries and states, $50 billion for airlines, $350 billion in loans for small businesses that are eligible for loan forgiveness if companies use them to keep workers on payroll, $130 billion in aid to hospitals, and $150 billion to help state and local governments. The bill now heads to the House, where lawmakers are expected to vote on it Friday morning. (Washington Post / New York Times / The Guardian / CNBC / NBC News / CNN)
- The Senate will recess after passing the stimulus package and not return until April 20. Senators were scheduled to go on a two-week recess starting on March 31, but will now cancel next week’s scheduled session and leave town for a total of three weeks. (The Hill)
4/ The Trump administration ignored a White House playbook that was created in 2016 to help fight back against a potential pandemic. The National Security Council playbook lays out strategies and recommendations that an administration should take, including moving swiftly to fully detect potential outbreaks, securing supplemental funding and considering invoking the Defense Production Act, and making sure there are sufficient personal protective equipment available for healthcare workers. The NSC created the guide — officially titled the “Playbook for Early Response to High-Consequence Emerging Infectious Disease Threats and Biological Incidents” but known colloquially as “the pandemic playbook” — in 2016 and the Trump administration was briefed on it in 2017, but administration officials ignored it and it never became official policy. (Politico)
- Internal CDC emails show how public health officials fumbled communication and underestimated the threat of the coronavirus as it gained a foothold in the United States. (ProPublica)
5/ The Trump administration fired more than two-thirds of the staff working at a key U.S. public health agency operating in China leading up to the coronavirus outbreak. Staff at the CDC’s Beijing office was slashed from roughly 47 people to 14 people since Trump took office. The CDC has worked in China for the last 30 years. The National Science Foundation and the USAID office, which helped China monitor and respond to outbreaks, also shuttered their Beijing offices on Trump’s watch. (Reuters / New York Times)
6/ The Trump administration blocked a joint statement from G-7 countries on the coronavirus by insisting that the U.N. Security Council refer to the pandemic as “the Wuhan virus.” The U.S. repeatedly tried to insert references to “the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Wuhan, Hubei province in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in November 2019” into the joint statement. China, meanwhile, has consistently vetoed those efforts and accused the U.S. of “irresponsible practices” and of “politicizing the outbreak and blaming China.” (NBC News / Washington Post)
7/ The Department of Homeland Security requested that military forces be deployed to the U.S.-Canada border to provide additional security between entry points. There has been no final decision on whether or not to approve the request. Canada, meanwhile, has told the U.S. that it is strongly opposed to the proposal, saying it would damage relations between the two allies. (ABC News / Global News / Politico)
8/ The Justice Department announced narco-terrorism and other criminal charges against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and senior leaders from his government. Charges brought by federal prosecutors in New York’s Southern District, Miami and Washington, DC, allege that the leaders of the Venezuelan regime manage a drug cartel and coordinate with the Colombian rebel group FARC to traffic cocaine to the U.S. Maduro’s government is “plagued by criminality and corruption,” Attorney General William Barr said in announcing the charges. (New York Times / CNN / Miami Herald)
poll/ 33% of Americans said the coronavirus outbreak has caused them or an immediate family member to lose their job. 51% said they’ve had their hours or pay cut. 92% said a recession is likely. (Washington Post)
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