The onslaught brought on by the coronavirus in America has stretched its healthcare system to the limit and ground the economy to a halt. Economic managers are warning that unemployment will continue to increase. Meanwhile, health officials are warning that hundreds of thousands of Americans could die before the end of the year.
According to a survey by Challenger, Gray & Christmas conducted from March 20 to March 26, almost half of all U.S. companies say that they will be laying off more people in the following months. Meanwhile, federal public health officials have told the White House have called the outbreak one of the nation’s worst public health crises, stating that up to 240,000 Americans could succumb to the coronavirus.
Since the global coronavirus pandemic hit U.S. shores, 27 states have enforced “stay-at-home” orders to slow down the spread of the coronavirus. However, the move, along with extended social distancing measures, has effectively sent the economy to a halt, with people unable to people go out and spend.
The economic standstill has caused these businesses to either lay off or furlough their employees. Of the 250 companies surveyed, 50 percent stated that they were at least “somewhat likely” to start laying off people within the next three months. In addition, 37 percent of the companies surveyed had already decided to implement a hiring freeze.
“Millions of Americans filed for unemployment last week, so it is clear companies across the country are instituting very real and difficult cuts. Employers are wary of letting their workers go right now after fighting so hard to find and retain them during one of the tightest labor markets in recent history,” said senior vice president Andrew Challenger.
At the time when the survey was conducted, the U.S. only had 18,000 cases of coronavirus and states such as California, New Jersey, Connecticut and New York were just beginning to implement “stay-at-home” orders. Now, over a week later, the country has over 200,000 cases of the coronavirus and over 5,000 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
As the coronavirus continues to spread, people are starting to turn to desperate measures to try to secure necessities during this time of crisis. In some places in the U.S., people unable to pay for food and supplies are now turning to barter to get by. Social media networks Facebook and Nextdoor are being flooded with posts from people asking to trade goods such as toilet paper for food.
The situation has gotten some business owners nervous. Across the U.S., businesses are boarding up their storefronts fearing that the current situation may soon lead to social unrest and riots.
In Philadelphia, a man who lost his job to the pandemic shot his girlfriend in the back, before taking his own life.
The biggest threat to American lives right now is still the coronavirus. In a White House briefing on Tuesday, the president’s top advisers for the coronavirus projected that between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans can still die from the coronavirus outbreak, even with social distancing measures. However, White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said that this number could have been as high as 2.2 million had these measures not been set in place.
Following these projections, President Donald Trump announced that social distancing guidelines will be extended to April 30. These guidelines were originally meant to end on Easter, April 12, in a bid to reopen the economy as soon as possible.
“Our country is in the midst of a great national trial,” President Donald Trump said Tuesday in response to the numbers. “We’re going to go through a very tough two weeks.”
The president’s advisers, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, stated that the predictions could still change as they are influenced by how seriously Americans took social distancing and other measures meant to slow the spread of the virus.
As part of this, Fauci stated that they were seriously considering guidance that Americans wear masks to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. However, he admitted that there would be issues with this as the nation is currently facing a shortage of masks and other personal protective equipment. This situation is already putting the many health care workers at the front line of the pandemic at risk. (Related: Doctors, nurses report dire shortage of protective gear — it’s like going to war with no weapons.)
“The idea of getting a much more broad, community-wide use of masks outside of the health care setting is under very active discussion at the task force. The CDC group is looking at that very carefully,” he added.
“The thing that has inhibited that a bit is to make sure that we don’t take away the supply of masks from the health care workers who need them,” Fauci continued. “But once we get in a situation where we have enough masks, I believe there will be some very serious consideration about more broadening this recommendation of using masks.”