As of Friday, April 24, there are over 2.8 million COVID-19 confirmed cases worldwide, with over 196,000 deaths and nearly 800,000 recoveries reported.
The United States remains the worst-hit country, recording over 925,000 cases and more than 52,000 deaths, with New York still largely the epicenter of the outbreak.
Three other states, Georgia, Oklahoma and Alaska, began loosening lockdown orders on Friday.
Several businesses – including salons, spas and barbershops – were permitted to reopen their doors while Alaska paved the way for restaurants to resume dine-in service and retail shops and other businesses to open their doors, albeit with limitations. However, some Alaska municipalities chose to maintain stricter lockdown measures.
This comes amid protests in state capitals and conflicts between President Trump and certain state governors on when the appropriate time is to reopen the nation.
Food banks squeezed
With over 26 million Americans reportedly out of work, food banks nationwide are facing unprecedented levels of demand.
According to the New York Mission Society, over a third of the city’s food banks have closed due to a lack of supplies, donations or volunteers who are now harder to recruit because of virus transmission fears.
Feeding America, a network of 200 food banks across the US and 60,000 partner food pantries, found that 95% of its food banks reported an average increase of 70% since the pandemic. The organization predicts an additional 17.1 million people will experience food insecurity if the virus continues.
Despite this, farmers are destroying produce, dumping milk and culling livestock because the pandemic has upended supply chains, making it impossible for many to get crops to market.
Suppliers are also struggling to shift from serving restaurants to serving grocers and retailers, as different packaging and distribution networks are required.
US deficit forecasts
According to congressional forecasts, the federal deficit is predicted to surge to US$3.7 trillion this fiscal year as the country continues to spend unprecedented amounts on stimulus packages to bolster the economy as businesses close. This deficit would be the largest according to its share of the economy since World War II.
Recently stimulus packages include a US$2 trillion aid package to help Americans and businesses as well as a US$484 billion coronavirus relief bill that was passed by the US House of Representatives on Thursday, April 23.
The US’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will fall an estimated 40% on an annualized basis in the second quarter, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The CBO also forecasts an economic resurgence in the second half of this year but expects unemployment to be at nearly 12% at the end of the year and remain in the double digits into next year.
Officials caution that, due to the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, these forecasts could very well change.
States have obtained more than 30 million doses of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine despite studies that show no evidence that the drug is effective against COVID-19 and that using it may result in potentially dangerous side effects.
According to the AP, at least 22 states as well as Washington, D.C. have secured shipments of hydroxychloroquine. 16 of those states were won by Trump in 2016.
This comes amid speculation that the drug is ineffective and a recently released study suggests that it is actually harmful to a person’s health.
When asked about the preliminary study, which has yet to undergo peer-review, Trump claimed to know nothing of the report.
Until recently, Trump and conservative media outlets have been touting the drug as a game-changer, with Fox News referencing the drug around 300 times in a two-week period. However, between April 16 and April 20 mentions of the drug on the network dropped by 77% compared to the previous five-day period.
On Wednesday, April 22, Rick Bright, the former director of the United States Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), said that he was launching a whistleblower complaint for being ousted from speaking out against the Trump administration’s desire to push hydroxychloroquine as a cure for COVID-19.