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    The outbreak of the coronavirus has dealt a shock to the global economy with unprecedented speed. Following are developments this weekend related to the global economy, the work place and the spread of the virus. ______ SEAWORLD FURLOUGHS: SeaWorld Entertainment is furloughing 90% of its workers because the novel coronavirus had forced the company to close its 12 theme parks. The employees will be paid through the beginning of next week. After next week, the workers will be off without pay for an uncertain time, the Orlando-based company said Friday in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. SeaWorld's annual report says that as of December 31, 2018, it employed about 4,700 full-time employees and approximately 12,000 part-time employees. During peak season in 2018, the company hires more than 4,000 additional seasonal workers, many of whom are high school and college students. None of the company's employees are covered by a collective bargaining agreement. EXTENDED STORE CLOSINGS: Victoria's Secret parent L Brands is joining the growing list of retailers extending their two-week temporary closings as the coronavirus crisis escalates in the U.S. L Brands, which also operates Bath & Body Works, said on Friday that it's extending its initial March 29th deadline but declined to predict when stores will reopen. It also said it was furloughing most of its store workers, in addition to those who are currently not working in the online business or can't work from home starting April 5 until further notice. Furloughed workers will continue to receive benefits. Nordstrom said Wednesday that it would extend its temporary closures in the U.S. and Canada through at least April 5. It also said it would be furloughing a portion of its workforce starting April 5 for the next six weeks. Lululemon CEO Calvin McDonald said it's expecting its stores in the U.S. to remain shuttered longer than the two-week period in China. As stores remain closed, retailers will be forced to do more furloughs, which would likely lead to permanent layoffs as they try to preserve cash. Coresight Research, a global research firm, already predicts that 15,000 stores will close this year, setting a new record and nearly doubling its forecast of 8,000 store closings earlier this year. SATELLITE START-UP BANKRUPTCY: A satellite-internet startup backed by Japanese tech conglomerate SoftBank has filed for bankruptcy, citing failure to secure needed financing as the coronavirus pandemic slams the world economy. OneWeb, which is also backed by Virgin founder Richard Branson and U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm, announced Friday that it had made the Chapter 11 filing in New York. The company said it would pursue a sale of the business. OneWeb said negotiations to fully fund the company through its commercial launch fell apart because of market turmoil related to the coronavirus outbreak. The company said it was petitioning to use its current cash collateral to continue to fund existing operations, as well as negotiating debtor-in-posession financing. OneWeb said it has reduced its workforce but did not provide details. The start-up is one of several companies competing in a fledgling industry to send satellites into orbit capable of providing internet to the Earth's most remote places.
  • Russia's Rosneft has transferred its assets in Venezuela to a company fully owned by Vladimir Putin's government, a move apparently intended to shield Russia's largest oil producer from U.S. sanctions while Moscow continues showing support for Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in the wake of a U.S. narcotics indictment. The sale, announced Saturday, follows the recent sanctioning of two Rosneft subsidiaries in an effort to cut a critical lifeline that Russia extended to Maduro after the U.S. government made it illegal for Americans to buy crude from Venezuela. Rosneft, led by longtime Putin associate Igor Sechin, said its move means “all assets and trading operations of Rosneft in Venezuela and/or connected with Venezuela will be disposed of, terminated or liquidated.” It did not name the new company that would take over the assets, which include multiple joint ventures, oil-field services companies and trading activities. The move comes at a critical time for Maduro's government. The spread of the coronavirus threatens to overwhelm Venezuela's already collapsed health system while depriving its crippled economy of oil revenue on which it almost exclusively depends for hard currency. Maduro said later Saturday during a call to a state television program that Putin had assured him of Moscow's 'comprehensive, strategic support' to Venezuela 'in all areas.” He said the message was relayed by Russia’s ambassador to Caracas. Amid the pandemic, which has claimed two victims and infected 118 others in Venezuela, the U.S. is stepping up pressure to remove Maduro. On Thursday, it made public indictments against the socialist leader and several top aides for allegedly leading a narcoterrorist conspiracy that converted the Venezuelan state into a platform for violent drug cartels, money launderers and Colombian guerrillas who sent 250 metric tons of cocaine a year to the U.S. Francisco Monaldi, a Venezuelan oil expert at Rice University in Houston, said Rosneft's move would provide protection from U.S. retaliation against the company and its two largest minority shareholders, BP and the government-run Qatar Investment Authority. “They didn’t want to lose those assets right now,” Monaldi said. “It seems like a logical step.” But Russ Dallen, head of Caracas Capital Markets brokerage, cautioned that it was too early to know for sure whether the move was intended to bolster Maduro. “We don't know whether the new state entity is a cemetery corporation, where companies go to die, or whether the Russians are simply doing it to take Rosneft, which is their crown jewel and provides a large portion of Russia's income, out of the way of sanctions and Putin will use the new company to continue to help Maduro,” he said. In February, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on a Rosneft subsidiary based in Geneva that sells crude to European customers. U.S. authorities vowed to keep applying pressure, and hit a second Rosneft subsidiary with sanctions earlier this month. Rosneft spokesman Mikhail Leontyev said that the company's decision was aimed at “protecting the interests of our shareholders' and that he expects the U.S. will now waive sanctions against its subsidiaries. 'We really have the right to expect American regulators to fulfill their public promises,” he added in remarks carried by Russia's Tass news agency. Konstantin Kosachev, the Kremlin-connected head of the foreign affairs committee in the upper house of the Russian parliament, reiterated that Russia's view is that “unilateral U.S. sanctions against Venezuela are unlawful and inhumane.” 'Moscow and Caracas will remain partners amid the U.S. sanctions against Venezuela,' he told the Interfax news agency. The U.S. was first among nearly 60 nations to recognize opposition leader Juan Guaidó a year ago as Venezuela's rightful leader. The international coalition considers Maduro illegitimate after 2018 elections widely deemed fraudulent because the most popular opposition candidates were banned from running against him. Russia's support has helped Maduro to face down U.S.-backed efforts to unseat him. ___ Associated Press writer Vladimir Isachenkov reported this story in Mosow and AP writer Joshua Goodman reported from Miami. AP writer Scott Smith in Caracas, Venezuela, contributed to this report.
  • The coronavirus pandemic has upended the lives and finances of millions. A federal relief package aiming to provide payments to distressed consumers passed Friday — but that money is not likely to land for a number of weeks. While you'll have to wait for whatever money you might be eligible for, now is the time to prep your finances and plan. The best use of this money depends on your individual circumstances. Here’s how to think it through. DO THIS PREP WORK, REGARDLESS OF YOUR SITUATION This is the time to examine your money situation and build savings, if possible. The fallout from the pandemic may continue for some time. Taking even small steps can help you feel empowered and less stressed. First, take stock of your regular expenses, such as housing costs, car loans and credit card or other debt payments. A budgeting worksheet can help account for everything and show what’s going to needs, wants and savings and debt. Once you see the big picture, consider trimming where you can because of the current uncertainty. “We’re all operating on a limited cognitive load right now,” says Kristen Holt, CEO of the nonprofit credit counseling agency GreenPath Financial Wellness. “Writing everything down and thinking it through first before you spend any of the money out the door would be a good idea.” IF YOU’VE LOST YOUR JOB, DON’T WAIT TO ACT Those who’ve lost jobs might feel like the floor has fallen out from under them. Money from the government will provide a much-needed boost, but it might be weeks or even months before you get it. And you’ll likely need to supplement and stretch it. “The amount of these checks is not going to go very far for paying people’s regular bills,” says Carol Fabbri, principal at Fair Advisors, a Colorado-based financial planning firm. “They need to reduce their bills as much as they possibly can, then think about Maslow's hierarchy of needs — you need to eat, you need shelter — and focus your spending there.” With that in mind: TAKE ADVANTAGE OF ALL SOURCES OF HELP: Pick up the phone and call your creditors. Explain your situation and work out a way to either delay payments for a few months or work out new minimum payments. Given the unprecedented nature of this moment, many creditors are offering ways to make payments more manageable for consumers. For homeowners, there are mortgage assistance programs you can tap if you can’t pay your mortgage. Explore resources to help manage and minimize expenses. File for unemployment if you’re eligible and use any resources your former employer may offer. Calling 211 will connect you with local health and social services organizations. MAKE A PLAN FOR THE MONEY YOU GET: Focus on necessities, like housing and food, to ensure your basic needs are met. If you have anything left over, you might be tempted to throw this money at debts. But saving should take priority right now, says Diane Pearson, a financial adviser at Pearson Financial Planning in Pennsylvania. “We don’t know how long this situation might last and there might be a need for this money down the road,” Pearson says. IF IT’S STILL NOT ENOUGH: For many people, this money won’t cover all of their expenses, even after all governmental and nonprofit resources are tapped. In that event, accruing debt to cover expenses may be a last-resort option but can be done strategically. Many of the “rules” about using credit cards don’t apply right now. “If you're going to get further in debt, do it with a plan and make sure you’re utilizing the best available options for you,” Holt says. “Don’t assume there aren’t options.” She suggests exploring loan options from local credit unions, for example, and steering clear of high-interest loans like payday loans. IF YOU STILL HAVE YOUR JOB, BUILD SAVINGS For those who still have a regular income but not much in the bank, a government payment is a chance to build financial resilience. BUILD SAVINGS: If you don’t have an emergency fund or you’ve exhausted it already, starting one with this government money would be a good idea. “An emergency fund is more essential right now than it has been in all of our lifetimes,” Fabbri says. “We’re all vulnerable in this economic situation.” Fabbri suggests putting your money in a high-yield account, like an online savings account, so you can earn more interest than you would in a traditional checking account. Designate your emergency fund for exactly that — a cash crunch. The economic impact of the pandemic is likely to last, so conserve cash as a safeguard for whatever headwinds you encounter. IF YOU’RE FINANCIALLY SOUND, CONSIDER HELPING If you’re still employed and have some emergency funds, consider yourself fortunate. If you qualify for a government payment, think about using it as stimulus, not relief. Consider donations to charities — avoid scams by navigating directly to known and trusted organizations — or patronize small businesses that are hurting. “If you’re in the lucky place where you have protected yourself already, then it’s a wonderful time to give,” Fabbri says. “Get a gift certificate for a nail salon or restaurant that you typically go to. If you can afford to do that, it’s a great way to support your community.” ___ This article originally appeared on the personal finance website NerdWallet. Sean Pyles is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: spyles@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @seanpyles.
  • The coronavirus pandemic is defining for the globe what's “essential” and what things we really can't do without, even though we might not need them for survival. Attempting to slow the spread of the virus, authorities in many places are determining what shops and services can remain open. They're also restricting citizens from leaving their homes. Stay-at-home orders or guidance are affecting more than one-fifth of the world's population. This has left many contemplating an existential question: What, really, is essential? Whether it is in Asia, Europe, Africa or the United States, there's general agreement: Health care workers, law enforcement, utility workers, food production and communications are generally exempt from lockdowns. But some lists of exempted activities reflect a national identity, or the efforts of lobbyists. In some U.S. states, golf, guns and ganja have been ruled essential, raising eyebrows and — in the case of guns — a good deal of ire. In many places, booze is also on the list of essentials. Britain at first kept liquor stores off its list of businesses allowed to remain open, but after reports of supermarkets running out of beer, wine and spirits, the government quickly added them. 'Recent events clearly demonstrate that the process of designating 'essential services' is as much about culture as any legal-political reality about what is necessary to keep society functioning,' said Christopher McKnight Nichols, associate professor of history at Oregon State University. Countries including India and U.S. states are listing the information technology sector as essential. The world's dependency on the internet has become even more apparent as countless people confined to their homes communicate, stream movies and play games online to stave off cabin fever. Several states where marijuana is legal, such as California and Washington, deemed pot shops and workers in the market's supply chain essential. For some, the emphasis is on medicinal uses, not enabling cooped-up people to get stoned. “Cannabis is a safe and effective treatment that millions of Americans rely on to maintain productive daily lives while suffering from diseases and ailments,” Erik Altieri, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said in an email. “It is the very definition of essential that these individuals can still access their medicine at this time.” Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont added gun shops to his list of essential businesses, generating shock and dismay among families of gun violence victims. His spokesman Max Reiss said Lamont is trying not to overly disrupt commerce or interfere with legal rights. Newtown Action Alliance, a group formed after a gunman killed 26 people in 2012 at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, urged Lamont to reconsider, noting a recent surge in gun and ammunition purchases. The group predicted an 'increased number of deaths due to unintentional shootings, homicides and suicides.” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a legal opinion Friday saying emergency orders in his state can't restrict gun sales. 'If you have a break down in society, well then our first line to defend ourselves is ourselves, so I think having a weapon ... is very important for your personal safety,” Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick told a radio interviewer. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf on Tuesday quietly allowed gun shops to reopen, but only by appointment during limited hours if customers and employees comply with social distancing and other protective measures. There is a lot of variation across the United States because a national stay-at-home order has not been issued, said Benjamin Clark, associate professor of planning, public policy and management at the University of Oregon. “We end up with places making up the rules that are culturally or geographically specific,” Clark said. “This is why we see so much variation, and potential risk.” In Europe, the current epicenter of the pandemic, Italy has the most stringent rules, with only essential businesses such as food shops and pharmacies remaining open. The manufacturing sector was ordered shut down on Thursday, though factories that make needed products like medical supplies will continue to operate after making conditions safer for employees. Britain, which was initially reluctant to shut down business, has issued orders to close nonessential operations. Restaurants and eateries must be shut, but Britons can still get fish and chips and other meals, as long as they’re carry-out. In France, shops specializing in pastry, wine and cheese have been declared essential businesses. In a nod to Israel’s vibrant religious life, people can gather for outdoor prayers — with a maximum of 10 worshipers standing 2 meters (2 yards) apart. Demonstrations — also allowed — have occurred outside parliament and the Supreme Court, with participants maintaining social distance. “In times of uncertainty, institutions and practices that are central to the cultural identities can become really important touchstones — material markers of certainty, comfort, and mechanisms to persist,” said Aimee Huff, marketing professor at Oregon State University, specializing in consumer culture. In China, authorities closed most businesses and public facilities beginning in late January but kept open hospitals, supermarkets and pharmacies. Truck drivers delivering food, disinfectant and medical supplies to locked-down cities were hailed as heroes. Now, the ruling Communist Party is relaxing restrictions to revive the economy after declaring victory over the outbreak. For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing conditions, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death. In the United States, lobbyists have been trying to influence what gets on lists of essential services, so their clients' businesses can remain open. “They were absolutely earning their pay” in Connecticut, said Reiss, the governor's spokesman. He noted lobbyists for manufacturers and the golf course industry were particularly active. Despite their efforts, golf wasn't deemed essential in Connecticut. But Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey included golf courses on his list. Officials in Phoenix encouraged the city's 1.7 million residents to “get outside, get exercise and practice responsible social distancing” in golf courses, parks and trails. Mayors of five other Arizona cities pushed back, telling Ducey that including golf courses and payday lenders was taking the definition of essential too far. In California, construction executives and others lobbied state officials to get construction exempted from the stay-at-home mandate, the Sacramento Bee reported. State health officials responded by including all construction as essential. If construction in America's most populous state stalls — as it it did during the Great Recession — it would be difficult to restart, said Erika Bjork of the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, which advocated for the industry. “We need to keep this engine humming, so when we come out of this we have housing,” Bjork said. Like Britain, some U.S. states allowed liquor stores to remain open, including New Mexico, which routinely ranks first in alcohol-related deaths per capita. State health officials were concerned that shutting them down would result in people with alcoholism seeking emergency medical attention, taking resources away from the coronavirus, said Tripp Stelnicki, a spokesman for New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. In New Hampshire, Gov. Chris Sununu said flower shops are among the essentials. Asked why, spokesman Ben Vihstadt said they provide essential services for funeral homes. ___ Associated Press reporters Susan Haigh in Hartford, Connecticut; Joe McDonald in Beijing; Carlo Piovano and Jill Lawless in London; Angela Charlton in Paris; Josef Federman in Jerusalem; Josh Hoffner in Phoenix; Morgan Lee in Santa Fe, New Mexico; and Michael Casey in Concord, New Hampshire contributed to this report. ___ Follow Andrew Selsky on Twitter at https://twitter.com/andrewselsky
  • Salvador Calzadillas isn't worried about catching the coronavirus when he's picking mandarin oranges in the trees in central California. But he said the mere act of getting to the groves each day puts him and his wife, also a farmworker, at risk, and there’s nothing they can do to change that. Farmworkers, after all, can't work from home. Calzadillas and his wife are among half a dozen workers who crowd into a car or van to get to the groves a 40-minute drive away. There, they are huddled in a group to get daily instructions — without regard for social distancing, he said. “There’s been no changes so far, everything is the same,” Calzadillas said. “Many of my co-workers say it’s like we’re immortal, we’re working just the same. There’s no prevention, and we keep working.” The 31-year-old is one of many workers on farms operating as essential businesses in the heart of California's farm-rich Central Valley, supplying food to much of the United States even as schools, restaurants and stores have closed down because of the virus. More than a third of the country's vegetables and two-thirds of its fruits and nuts are grown in California, whose farms and ranches brought in nearly $50 billion in 2018, according to the state Department of Agriculture. Agriculture groups and union leaders are urging employers to take extra precautions to prevent the outbreak from spreading among California's farmworkers, who are already in short supply. Workers getting sidelined by illness could jeopardize crop yields and disrupt the food supply. Some farms are heeding the call, union officials and growers say. But it can be difficult to separate workers by 6 feet (2 meters) as recommended because of the way certain crops are grown, said Dave Puglia, president of Western Growers, a group representing family farmers in California, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico. And efficiency is also critical, he said, with farmers facing pressure to restock grocery shelves. “You would have to stagger the workers who are harvesting,” Puglia said. “That is a very inefficient and a very, very costly way to operate, and most farmers wouldn't be able to do it. They would be losing way too much money.” Western Growers said many members have added sanitation stations in the fields and required hand-washing before and after work as well as spaced out workers in packing facilities. United Farm Workers is using the moment to push for longstanding requests, including removing the need for a doctor's note and other hurdles to getting sick pay. In a letter to the agriculture industry, the union said workers should be able to wash their hands frequently and be encouraged to stay home if they are sick. 'What we're finding is that most growers are not communicating with their employees to even share the basics: how to practice best practices (like) washing your hands' and keeping distance from others, said Armando Elenes, secretary treasurer at United Farm Workers, which represents up to 27,000 seasonal workers. Joe Pezzini, president of vegetable grower Ocean Mist Farms, said his office and sales staff are working remotely wherever possible. He said the company, which operates in California's Coachella Valley and Central Coast, had workers use gloves and sanitized equipment to ensure food safety long before the virus appeared. “One of the biggest changes is just in the training and education,” he said, including encouraging workers to keep a safe distance from each other, even on breaks. “Partly for personal safety, but it’s also for, ‘Hey, we’re feeding the nation. We’re creating food the nation needs right now.’” The coronavirus crisis has drawn fresh attention to farmers' critical role, with residents finding some supermarket shelves cleaned out by people stocking up and then hunkering down in their homes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the threat of contracting COVID-19 from food or food packaging is low. Farmers and workers are mostly concerned about passing it to each other. For most, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. As of Friday, more than 90 people have died of the virus in California and over 4,600 have tested positive, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. Most cases are in the San Francisco Bay Area and around Los Angeles. Leti Martinez, who picks mandarin oranges, said her employer told her little about the virus except to explain that the farm is allowed to keep operating. The 31-year-old said she wears gloves to prevent her hands from getting cut and wraps a cloth around her face to keep out the dust. But she is worried about her commute with other workers and said they sometimes face a shortage of running water in the bathrooms once they’re there. Another concern is conditions for foreign workers in the U.S. on temporary agricultural visas, known as H-2As. They often live in close quarters, sometimes with bunk-style beds or in motels provided by their employers, and commute together in vans and buses. A coalition of farmworker advocates has asked U.S. officials to require employers to provide at least 6 feet between beds for such workers and that they be tested for the virus before entering the country. A Labor Department spokesman said this week that there were no announcements about changed working conditions for H-2A workers. Those workers account for a small percentage of farm labor overall but are significant in Colorado, which has a shorter growing season, and for certain crops, like berries, said Puglia of Western Growers. To address conditions at the thousands of farms that the California Farm Bureau Federation represents, its president, Jamie Johansson, said he has told farms to have workers go out in smaller groups “when possible.” His organization also says hand-washing on farms is routine for food safety reasons. Some small farms are taking extra measures. Heringer Estates, a 152-year-old family-owned vineyard and winery in Clarksburg, has 30 workers growing its grapes. Steve Heringer said workers now have more hand sanitizer and already use their own gloves for field work. “If they're working in rows, (we) have them working back to back” to maximize distance, he said. “It's had pretty little impact on the vineyard side, but we have a heightened awareness.” ___ Taxin reported from Orange County, California.
  • Stocks rallied this week as Washington acted to provide $2.2 trillion of relief to an economy shocked by the coronavirus outbreak, leaving some on Wall Street cautiously optimistic that the panicky selling that had gripped the market earlier may have come to an end. Even after a loss on Friday, the S&P 500 had its best weekly percentage gain since March 2009. The Dow Jones Industrial Average posted its biggest weekly rally since 1938. The gains came after two brutal weeks that conjured memories of the market’s sell-off in 2008 as the government and the Federal Reserve scrambled to contain the financial crisis. “The takeaway from this week is the initial down phase has probably run its course,” said Willie Delwiche, investment strategist at Baird. “Investors can get out of the duck-and-cover mode and start to figure out what they need to do. But it doesn't mean that we've gotten an all-clear signal.” The S&P 500 remains 25% below the record highs it set in February, however, after nearly relentless selling earlier this month. Strategists like Delwiche know the outlook is still uncertain, at least until more progress can be made fighting the pandemic and the number of new cases level off and start dropping. This week the U.S. passed China as the country with the most virus cases and the numbers continue to accelerate. A lot will depend on how badly the coronavirus outbreak stalled the U.S. economy. The government reported a historic spike in applications for unemployment benefits this week and more grim numbers are expected in the weeks ahead. Wall Street has been slashing its estimates for company profits even as the companies themselves say little publicly about the impact on their bottom lines. “The key at this point is getting a handle on the spread of the virus so that then we can start to think about what (economic) growth looks like for the remainder of the year,” Delwiche said. Some economists are predicting the U.S. economy will contract as much as an astonishing 30% in the second quarter as the full impact of business and factory closures, layoffs and the dramatic halt to Americans’ daily routine takes effect. On Friday, the S&P 500 fell 3.4%, erasing some of the rally from the previous three days. The index still finished with a gain of 10.3% for the week. The Dow closed with a weekly gain of 12.8%, led by a rebound in shares of Boeing. The Chicago-based airplane maker was one of the blue-chip companies investors rushed to buy this week after the stock has fallen to a nearly seven-year low. It gained 70.5%, yet is still down 41% in March. Besides the chance to buy companies seen as oversold, the overall downturn in the markets in recent weeks is creating good opportunities for investors to buy into sectors of the market that will be “prevalent” for the next decade, said Solita Marcelli, deputy chief investment officer, Americas, at UBS Global Wealth Management. That includes e-commerce and technology companies that focus on things like gene therapies. That said, Marcelli cautioned that the next few weeks will be challenging for investors, who should refrain from any drastic action. “Investors have to keep bracing for volatility,” she said. “This is not a time to make a complete portfolio makeover.” Much of this week's rally was driven by enthusiasm over a historic $2.2 trillion financial rescue package that was signed into law by President Donald Trump Friday. It includes direct payments to households, aid to hard-hit industries like airlines and support for small businesses. The push to deliver financial relief took on more urgency as the outbreak widened. The number of cases in the U.S. has surpassed those in China and Italy, climbing to more than 104,000 known cases, according to Johns Hopkins University. The worldwide total has topped 607,000, and the death toll has climbed to more than 28,000, while more than 130,000 have recovered. For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death. Investors have yet to get a clear picture of exactly how badly the crisis has hurt corporate profits, the ultimate driver of stock prices. Many companies have simply withdrawn the profit forecasts they issued earlier in the year. At the start of this year, analysts expected S&P 500 companies' earnings would grow 4.4% in the January-March quarter. They now expect earnings will be down 4.1%, according to FactSet. That may not fully reflect the size of the potential earnings declines this year, with only 15% of analysts having adjusted their estimates within the past couple of weeks, according to a report by Credit Suisse. Earnings for airlines, which have been hit by lost bookings as businesses and individuals canceled travel plans to minimize their risk of contracting the virus, are expected to be terrible. Wall Street’s estimate for Delta went from an expected 2.2% decline to a 108% plunge. Darden Restaurants, parent of Olive Garden and Longhorn Steakhouse, rose 43% this week, but is still down 43% for the month and 49% for the year. Analysts now expect the company to lose $1.46 per share in the fiscal fourth quarter ending in May, whereas back in February they expected a profit of $2.01, according to FactSet. Energy markets are also feeling the impact of the virus outbreak. The price of crude oil slid 4.8% to close at $21.51 a barrel. Goldman Sachs has forecast that it will fall well below $20 a barrel in the next two months because storage will be filled to the brim and wells will have to be shut in. That's sure to cause even more trouble for energy companies, which are lagging far behind the rest of the market. The price of oil has plunged recently, in part due to a price war that broke out early this month between Saudi Arabia and Russia. The energy sector of the S&P 500 has lost half its value this year. Shares of Exxon Mobil are down 47% so far this year. Shares of Continental Resources, which drills for oil in North Dakota and Oklahoma, have dropped 75%.
  • Republicans who have spent the past decade howling about the danger of ballooning deficits embraced the coronavirus rescue package approved by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump, shrugging off past concerns about spending in the face of a public health crisis. In many cases, the conservatives who backed the $2 trillion bill — the largest economic relief measure in U.S. history — were the very same who raged against the nearly $800 billion economic stimulus package backed by the Obama administration. But facing the unprecedented threat of a global pandemic — and working under a Republican president who has largely brushed off concerns about debt and deficits — the GOP was willing to overlook an unprecedented flood of taxpayer spending. Leading budget hawk Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., who insisted in 2009 that government cannot spend its way out of a recession, this week joined a unanimous Senate majority that approved what he described as “the biggest government intervention in the economy in the history of the world.” “This is a response to an invasion,' he told reporters. “This is the kind of thing you’d have to do if we were at war.” Like other conservatives, he noted that much of the nation's current economic distress was caused by the government's social distancing orders, while the Obama stimulus was in response to a crisis created by the private sector. Failing to take dramatic action now, Toomey said, 'would be a wildly imprudent thing, and it would probably result in such a severe recession — it might very well be a depression — and it could take decades to come out of this.” Even before the health crisis struck, the Republican-aligned fiscal conservative movement had dramatically diminished under Trump, who has pushed the nation's budget deficit to heights not seen in nearly a decade. That's prompted arguments that the GOP is hypocritical when it comes to government spending. Mick Mulvaney, Trump's outgoing chief of staff and a former Republican congressman aligned with the tea party, told a private audience last month that the GOP only worries about deficits “when there is a Democrat in the White House,” according to a report in The Washington Post. For the first time in the modern era, Republicans are on record supporting direct cash payments to most American adults — a government-backed measure more likely to be found in socialist countries. While a 2008 stimulus package offered tax rebates to many taxpayers, the 2020 legislation offers all Americans making less than $100,000 grants of up to $1,200 each with an additional $500 for each child. Also in the bill: a massive expansion of unemployment benefits, $500 billion in loans to businesses and local governments, and tens of billions more for the airline industry, hospitals and food assistance. David McIntosh, president of the Club for Growth, Washington's preeminent fiscal conservative watchdog, which Toomey previously led, raised the possibility that the coronavirus package could push this year's budget deficit to $4 trillion. The largest annual deficit in U.S. history was $1.4 trillion in 2009. “The spending is just outrageously high,” McIntosh said in an interview. “But on the short-term basis, we’re pleased.” He opposed the direct payments to Americans but was satisfied that a significant portion of the taxpayer-funded package consists of loans likely to be repaid. He added that Congress rejected what he called the Democrats' list of unrelated “political goodies.' “Yes, it's too much, and we’re worried about overall spending, but we recognize something has to be done,” McIntosh said. “That’s the kind of comment I’m hearing from conservatives who would normally oppose big spending bills.” What remains of the tea party movement, which sprang up early in Barack Obama's presidency to oppose government spending, has largely been silent. One major exception: Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., who upset congressional leaders — and Trump himself — on Friday by unsuccessfully trying to force a formal House vote on the historic legislation. Massie tweeted that the $2 trillion rescue package, in addition to $4 trillion in stimulus from the Federal Reserve and Treasury Department, would create roughly $17,000 in new debt for every American citizen. “Not a good deal,” he wrote. Trump, in a rare public rebuke of another Republican, punched back on Twitter: “Throw Massie out of the Republican Party.” The Congressional Budget Office reported weeks before the coronavirus outbreak that the national debt was already on track to reach nearly 100% of the gross domestic product in just 10 years. The current package, and a subsequent round of government intervention already being discussed, will substantially escalate that timeline. The budget office did not release specific projections on the fiscal impact of the legislation before it passed. Not including the rescue package, the current national debt exceeds $23.5 trillion, which is $3.5 trillion more than when Trump took office. The coronavirus spending surge will put heightened pressure on lawmakers to cut the social safety net in the coming year, including Social Security and Medicare. Trump and leading Democratic rival Joe Biden have both promised not to touch the popular entitlement programs, yet they consume a disproportionate share of government spending. “The future will be more painful,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. Still, she added: “This is definitely not the time to worry about the deficit. This is the time to be borrowing as much as we need to deal with the huge health crisis.” Grover Norquist, one of Washington's most notorious fiscal hawks, praised a series of temporary deregulations in the legislation that he hopes might permanently eliminate bureaucracy controlling such things as medical professionals' ability to work in other states, the use of health savings accounts and liquor store deliveries. He predicted that the rescue package could actually lead to a “more open society with more freedom.' “There's no permanent damage,' Norquist said. “On balance, it seems to have been the best you could do under the circumstances.”
  • Kathy Payne has a routine: She wipes down the trays holding the mail she’s about to deliver. She puts on gloves to sort the letters and packages, then a new pair when she climbs into her vehicle. As she fills people’s mailboxes throughout the day, she constantly cleans her steering wheel, fearing the coronavirus. “We don’t know where they come from, who's touched them,' she said of the envelopes. “It’s scary not knowing.' Payne, a postal carrier for 30 years in Rockwood, Tennessee, is among those making deliveries who are trying to protect themselves from the virus, whether it's no longer requiring signatures for packages or knocking on doors instead of ringing the doorbell. Health experts say the risks are very low that COVID-19 will remain on envelopes or packages and infect anyone who handles them. They say, however, to avoid touching your face and wash your hands after handling any deliveries, which have become more important as Americans stay home to reduce the spread of the virus. Payne, who delivers to more than 800 mailboxes a day in a town about 70 miles (113 kilometers) north of Chattanooga, said her post office constantly wipes down door handles and has provided plenty of gloves. But “our biggest thing is the post office can’t get hand sanitizer, can’t get any supplies,” she said. That sent one co-worker to a Walmart to stock up on 12 canisters of sanitizing wipes, Payne said. Without the Postal Service providing much disinfectant, Payne brings a can of Lysol to spray down the surfaces she touches. Tests led by U.S. government scientists found that the virus can live on cardboard for up to a day, but that was in a controlled lab situation and does not reflect what might happen in daily life or with other materials, such as envelopes, said Julie Fischer, a microbiologist at Georgetown University's global health security research center. In the real world, packages and envelopes face varying weather conditions that affect how long the virus can live on them, she said. Even if the virus was on the mail, it would need to make its way to your mouth or nose to cause infection. 'As long as you wash your hands thoroughly and regularly after opening it and don't touch your nose and mouth ... that mail itself, that package, poses very little risk,' Fischer said. But 'postal workers are at risk because they are coming into contact with each other and the public,' she said. 'The biggest risk is still exposure to an infected person.' For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The U.S. Postal Service is keeping post offices open but ensuring customers stay at least 6 feet (2 meters) apart. It also is requiring appointments for passport applications. The agency said it is following guidance from public health experts, although there is no indication that COVID-19 is being spread through the mail. Shipping giants FedEx and United Parcel Service have stopped requiring signatures for packages. The National Association of Letter Carriers has advised its union members to avoid ringing doorbells and instead knock on doors — avoiding areas likely to have been touched by someone else — and to practice social distancing. In a letter to its members Wednesday, union president Frederic Rolando said 51 postal employees had tested positive for COVID-19 so far and that nearly 2,000 were in quarantine. One postal carrier, a 50-year-old from New York, died of complications related to the virus, though it was not clear if he was infected on the job. In hard-hit Italy, the postal service has scaled back services that require face-to-face interaction with customers but continues to deliver mail during the country's lockdown. Many post offices have reduced their opening hours or shut down temporarily to reduce the risk of the virus spreading among customers and staff. In the U.S., a Phoenix resident was so concerned about her mail carrier that she taped a bag with plastic gloves and a face mask to her mailbox, with a note saying, “Thank you for working!” B. Jefferson Bolender said she saw him wearing a hat, sunglasses and a large bandanna over his face as well as work gloves. 'And I was thinking he’s worried about having some protection, and then when I saw the work gloves, I thought, ‘Oh no,'” Bolender said.
  • Pacific Gas & Electric is warning its elaborate plan for getting out of bankruptcy might collapse if the utility can’t pay for its crimes in a deadly Northern California wildfire by taking money away from a fund set up to compensate thousands of victims for their losses. The latest twist in an already complicated saga emerged this week after PG&E disclosed it will plead guilty to 84 felony counts of involuntary manslaughter for neglecting to properly maintain equipment that ignited a 2018 wildfire that destroyed three towns in Butte County. PG&E will pay a $4 million penalty as part of the plea agreement, but plans to do so by drawing upon a $13.5 billion settlement that it reached with wildfire victims as part of its bankruptcy case. Although the $4 million represents a tiny fraction of the $13.5 billion fund, the notion that PG&E may be siphoning away any money earmarked for fire victims to pay for its criminal behavior is provoking more outrage about a company already widely unpopular for its role in other catastrophic wildfires, a malfunctioning gas line that blew up a neighborhood, and its bungling of power outages. “It is my sincere hope that PG&E finds another way to pay the penalty because it's not what I want, and it certainly doesn't look good for PG&E in terms of the public relations or the overall optics,' Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey told The Associated Press. Ramsey, though, said he has no control over over where PG&E gets the money to pay the fine. PG&E also says its hands are tied by a clause included in the settlement with wildfire victims that won bankruptcy court approval three months ago. The provision requires all fines and other penalties arising from the wildfires that drove PG&E into bankruptcy last year be paid from the victims' fund. If PG&E doesn't abide by the settlement terms, the company said it could cause other deals reached in its complex case to unravel. In addition to the victims' fund, PG&E has negotiated another $12 billion in settlements with insurers and government agencies, and also has lined up commitments to raise tens of billions of dollars through stock sales and loans to help the company continue to operate after it gets out of bankruptcy. PG&E also expects to pay $1.6 billion to the lawyers, bankers and other specialists that help it put together its bankruptcy deals. Any revisions to its past settlements “risks investors walking away from their commitments to provide the funding essential to the company’s ability to make payments to victims,' PG&E said in a statement Friday. But PG&E already has made several other changes to its plan since reaching the settlement with wildfire victims. The latest, reached with Gov. Gavin Newsom, came just a week ago. PG&E left the crack open for making a change that would allow it to pay its criminal penalty without tapping into the victims' fund if it can get “the necessary consents.' U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Dennis Montali has made it clear throughout the case that he is unlikely to approve any plan that doesn't pay the wildfire victims as much as possible. The judge could still prevent PG&E from using the victims' fund to pay its criminal fine. Some of the more than 81,000 victims who filed claims in PG&E's bankruptcy case already have been raising doubts about whether the $13.5 billion will be enough to pay everyone for the losses of loved ones and property in a series of 2017 and 2018 fire that killed nearly 130 people and destroyed more than 25,000 homes and other buildings. Two of the victims, Kirk Trostle and Adolfo Veronese, recently resigned from a 11-person committee overseeing people's claims in the bankruptcy case because of their misgivings over the settlement with PG&E.
  • If you are a U.S. worker who has recently lost your job, you may be in need of the safety net provided by the unemployment insurance system. Filing for unemployment insurance is a sometimes complicated, but necessary, step for an American worker who is without income. It is not a benefit for people who quit, resign or get fired. Instead, it is for employees who lose a job through no fault of their own, like a business closing or laying off workers. Because of this, money expert Clark Howard wants to assure you that there is no shame in applying for unemployment insurance. Any perceived stigma surrounding “taking money from the government” doesn’t really apply to this insurance, which actually is funded by employers through a tax. “Employers pay premiums over time during the good years to provide for those who get laid off in lean times. It’s not beneath you to accept this insurance money,” Clark says. So as you decide whether or not you need the aid of this insurance, Team Clark has answers to some of the questions that may be at the top of your mind. 9 Things to Know Before You Apply for Unemployment What is Unemployment Insurance? Do I Qualify for Unemployment Insurance? How Do I Apply for Unemployment Insurance? Do I Have to Wait Until I Can Apply for Benefits? How Long Until I Receive My First Unemployment Check? How Much Will My Unemployment Check Be? What Do I Have to Do to Keep My Unemployment Benefits? How Long Can I Receive Unemployment Benefits? Will I Owe Taxes on My Unemployment Check? Team Clark called upon the expertise of retired unemployment benefits expert John Marcinko. He spent more than 30 years working for the State of Georgia’s Department of Labor and Department of Revenue, including helping workers through the Great Recession of the early 2000s. Note: The coronavirus pandemic has put a strain on the American economy and may cause a significant shift in the way that unemployment benefits are handled. We will do our best to keep the applicable changes to policy due to the COVID-19 virus accurate in this article. However, you may want to visit the United States Department of Labor’s official website for the most current information. 1. What is Unemployment Insurance? Unemployment insurance is intended to serve as a short-term and temporary income replacement for Americans who have lost their jobs. It is a program that is funded by employers through unemployment taxes that are levied and collected primarily by each state’s government (in accordance with federal guidelines). According to the United States Department of Labor, the Federal-State Unemployment Insurance Program “provides unemployment benefits to eligible workers who are unemployed through no fault of their own (as determined under State law), and meet other eligibility requirements of State law.” Each state’s department of labor is responsible for reviewing cases and administering unemployment benefits to workers who are impacted in their state. 2. Do I Qualify for Unemployment Insurance? Each state has eligibility requirements that you must meet prior to qualifying for unemployment benefits, but there are some overarching federal guidelines that are followed by everyone. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the following are general guidelines for qualifying for unemployment that apply to most states: You must be unemployed by no fault of your own. That means people who quit their job, tender resignation or are fired for cause likely are not going to qualify. The term “lack of available work” is used as a valid reason for departure, which would apply to financially-driven layoffs. You need to meet work and wage requirements. This is in reference to whether or not you were employed long enough to be considered for the benefits, and also if your income was within the range for receiving benefits. These can vary by state, but the U.S. Department of Labor offers the following as a rough guideline: “In most states, this is usually the first four out of the last five completed calendar quarters before the time that your claim is filed.” Ultimately, you’ll want to check with your local unemployment office after separation from your employer to inquire about the qualifications for your state’s program. What if I Quit or Am Fired From My Job? If you have quit, resigned or were fired from your place of employment, you typically are not going to be eligible to collect unemployment benefits. You must lose your job “through no fault of your own” in order to qualify for these benefits. Marcinko says there are “very, very rare circumstances” where some exceptions could be made for the above scenarios, but that likely would involve an appeal. And in states where it is employ at-will, he notes that “an employer can separate you at any time for any reason or for no reason at all.” That could make winning an appeal tough in those states. If you apply for unemployment and feel you are wrongly denied, you should contact your state’s labor office to begin the appeal process. Coronavirus implications: Per Career One Stop, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, the following adjustments have been made at the federal level that could impact eligibility for unemployment insurance: “The federal government is allowing new options for states to amend their laws to provide unemployment insurance benefits related to COVID-19. For example, federal law allows states to pay benefits where: An employer temporarily ceases operations due to COVID-19, preventing employees from coming to work An individual is quarantined with the expectation of returning to work after the quarantine is over An individual leaves employment due to a risk of exposure or infection or to care for a family member In addition, federal law does not require an employee to quit in order to receive benefits due to the impact of COVID-19.” The federal government is also, for the first time ever, extending the potential to collect benefits to gig-economy, freelance and furloughed workers. That means, depending on your role, you may be able to collect a federally-backed unemployed insurance without actually losing your role permanently. 3. How Do I Apply for Unemployment Insurance? Unemployment is often a national discussion, so you may be surprised to learn that it actually is a process that is handled by individual states. That means you’ll need to check in with the department of labor for the state in which you reside to apply for benefits. Team Clark has a handy guide for getting started on your application with any of the 50 states. You can apply in-person at unemployment offices, but you can also check with your state to see if there is an online application option during times of required social distancing. Each state’s requirements for personal information will be a little bit different, but here are some things you should have prepared to provide before contacting your state: Full name and date of birth Social Security Number Personal contact information: Address, phone number, email address Employment history: States may want things like contact information for former employers, occupational history, and salary information Marcinko notes that the point of contact at your local unemployment office will guide you through the process of gathering all the necessary information required by your state as they help you through the application process. 4. Do I Have to Wait Until I Can Apply for Benefits? In most states: No! In fact, Marcinko says it was not uncommon to see workers coming into an unemployment office the same day they were separated from their employer. Others can take weeks to apply if they are trying to work out a way to stay on with their employer or if there is a state-mandated waiting period. Marcinko’s recommendation is that you contact your local unemployment office as quickly as possible after receiving news of employment separation. After all, the sooner you get approved, the sooner you’ll see your first check. That leads us to the next question that’s probably on your mind… 5. How Long Until I Receive My First Unemployment Check? According to the U.S. Department of Labor, you can expect to see your first benefit check 2-3 weeks after successfully filing your claim. Coronavirus implications: If you’re worried about potential delays in the application process due to high volumes of potential layoffs during the COVID-19 pandemic, Marcinko’s recollection of handling high volumes through the Great Recession may calm your nerves. Marcinko says that there was not usually a backlog in terms of processing applications during the Great Recession, noting that it is a fairly automated process once the local unemployment office submits your information to the state. He recommends getting in contact with your local unemployment office as quickly as possible to ensure the application process gets started quickly. “Let the system work,” he says. “This situation we’re in right now is not permanent. In fact, it may have a very short lifespan. The most important piece of advice I can give you is to work within the system as best you can as long as it is not being unreasonable or giving you something outside what you think you should qualify for.” 6. How Much Will My Unemployment Check Be? The short answer: It depends on quite a few factors. The U.S. Department of Labor offers the following guideline: “In general, benefits are based on a percentage of an individual’s earnings over a recent 52-week period — up to a State maximum amount.” There are formulas involved in the calculations, which include things like your wages for the previous year, amount of experience on the job and local economic factors. These vary state by state, but the takeaway you need is that you’re likely only to see a fraction of the amount of income you may have been earning while employed. “Unemployment is not going to replace your salary,” Marcinko warns. “Nor anything close to what your total compensation was.” Marcinko says you will receive a statement of benefits from your state before you start receiving payments, so you should be able to accurately map out the amount of money you’ll be receiving beforehand. Coronavirus Implications: In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States Congress enacted the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act on March 27, 2020. This legislature significantly boosts both the amount of money available and people eligible for unemployment claims. In an unprecedented move, the federal government is making this unemployment money available to furloughed workers, freelancers and gig economy workers (1099 employees), in addition to employees who have been laid off by their employer as a result of COVID-19. If you fall into one of those categories, you could be eligible to receive $600 per week in unemployment for up to four months. This money, which is provided by the federal government, would be in addition to the unemployment benefits you may qualify for on the state level. 7. What Do I Have to Do to Keep My Unemployment Benefits? Once you are approved through the unemployment application process, there still is work to do on your part. After all, this is supposed to be a temporary solution. Marcinko says you can next expect to start communicating with the “employment” side of your state’s labor office. Their goal is to help you get back into the workforce as quickly as possible. During his time with Georgia’s Department of Labor, Marcinko says, the state required those on unemployment to seek job interview opportunities on a weekly basis as part of the terms to continue receiving unemployment checks. Failure to participate in this part of the program could result in at least a temporary loss of benefits. “That is the main thing as far as being able to continue to qualify for unemployment benefits. You have to demonstrate a willingness to go back to work. And that’s the thing that keeps unemployment from being an automated process. You have to talk to potential employers and you have to show that you are at least theoretically willing to go out and find work,” Marcinko explains. In conjunction with requiring a job search, states may also provide resources and training to help you prepare for interviews, find job leads and develop new marketable skills. U.S. Department of Labor on Continued Eligibility The U.S. Department of Labor offers the following guidance on things states may require for continued eligibility for unemployment benefits: “You must file weekly or biweekly claims (after the week(s) has ended), and respond to questions concerning your continued eligibility. You must report any earnings from work you had during the week(s). You must also report any job offers or refusal of work during the week. These claims are usually filed by mail or telephone; the State will provide filing instructions.” You may also be required to attend regularly scheduled in-person meetings at your unemployment office, with the state holding the right to pull benefits if you fail to attend. Coronavirus Implications: While each state may handle this differently, Marcinko does note that scheduling in-person job interviews may present a challenge with this pandemic. Strategies like social distancing have forced many businesses into temporarily closing their doors. Most businesses have also temporarily halted travel and may also be considering hiring freezes. Contact your local unemployment office to see if there will be alterations made to required employment searches as a result of COVID-19. 8. How Long Can I Receive Unemployment Benefits? The standard length of an unemployment benefit is 26 weeks in most states, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. However, there can be special exceptions made during times of high unemployment. If you gain employment prior to completing your full benefit, you will no longer be eligible to draw a check from the unemployment office. It also is worth noting that you could be ruled ineligible for benefits prior to the end of your 26-week term due to some of the following: Refusing a job offer Failing to seek work Not being available to start work if it becomes available Knowingly making false statements about your job search Each of these would be open to appeal, if necessary. 9. Will I Owe Taxes on My Unemployment Check? Yes, most likely. The money you receive through state-sponsored unemployment insurance is considered taxable income and must be reported to the federal government. Pending your earnings for the year during which you received the benefits, that makes it likely that you could owe on the money you receive through this benefit. It may be possible to request that your state withhold applicable federal taxes from the unemployment checks you receive to avoid owing money at the end of the fiscal year. More Coronavirus Advice From Clark.com: Coronavirus: 7 Things You Can Do to Prepare Your Finances Today Follow These 3 Steps to Prepare Now for a Recession Coronavirus Pandemic: Should You Still Buy or Sell a Home in 2020? This article was originally published on Clark.com The post 9 Things to Know Before You Apply for Unemployment appeared first on Clark Howard.

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  • UPDATE [7 p.m.]: The Georgia Department of Public Health on Friday night reported one more death due to COVID-19 since noon, bringing the state’s toll to 65. The state had topped 2,000 cases at noon, and the DPH recorded an additional 197 cases since then, bringing the total to 2,198. Of those patients, 607 are hospitalized, which is about 27.6% of all cases. Friday’s update was the first time the DPH had released data on where people died. Dougherty County led the count with 13 deaths, followed by Fulton with 12 and Cobb and Lee each with five. Nearly 10,000 tests have been conducted across the state. About 22.2% of those returned positive results. Chattahoochee and Hart counties recorded their first cases Friday, bringing the number of counties affected to 104. Habersham had its only case removed, and it’s unclear whether that was a false positive or if it was moved to a different county’s count. Fulton County saw the largest increase in new cases with 40, followed by DeKalb at 38 and both Cobb and Gwinnett with 19. Fulton still leads the state in cases with 347. As of 7 p.m. Thursday, there were 219 cases in DeKalb, 163 in Cobb, 121 in Gwinnett, 107 in Bartow, 53 in Clayton, 50 in Cherokee, 44 in Henry, 32 in Douglas, 30 in Hall, 22 in Fayette, 21 in Forsyth, 16 in Rockdale, 15 in Newton and 13 in Paulding. Patients between the ages of 18 and 59 make up the majority of cases at 56%, while those 60 and older make up 34% of cases. The DPH does not release compiled data on how many patients have recovered. For the full update, click here. ORIGINAL STORY [noon]: The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Georgia surpassed 2,000 Friday as the death toll continues to climb. At 2,001, the cases reported by state health officials have increased 150% since the start of this week. On Monday, the number of confirmed cases across the state was fewer than 1,000. At least 64 Georgians have died as a result of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, according to the latest data from the Georgia Department of Public Health. Eight more deaths were reported since late Thursday night.   Of those infected, less than one-third are hospitalized across the state, according to health officials.  » COMPLETE COVERAGE: Coronavirus in Georgia For most, COVID-19 causes only mild or moderate symptoms. Older adults and those with existing health problems are at risk of more severe illnesses, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover in a matter of weeks. » DASHBOARD: Real-time stats and charts tracking coronavirus in Georgia » MORE: Map tracks coronavirus globally in real time The virus has now affected two-thirds of the counties in the state, with the greatest impact to those in metro Atlanta. Georgia ranks 10th nationally in number of confirmed cases. It is sixth in number of deaths caused by COVID-19, according to the latest available data. About 3.2% of Georgians who have tested positive have died. » AJC IN-DEPTH: In hard-hit Georgia, virus expected to linger Habersham County reported its first case Friday and Upson reported its first two, further widening the gap between counties affected by the virus and those untouched. Only 56 of Georgia’s 159 counties do not currently have coronavirus cases.   The situation in Dougherty County is worsening. The southwest Georgia county of about 90,000 people reported 29 new cases since late Thursday night, according to health officials. Its total of 193 confirmed cases falls behind the much larger Fulton County but ahead of all other metro Atlanta counties. Considering the latest figures, Dougherty has the state’s highest concentration per capita of patients known to be infected with COVID-19.  » MORE: City under siege: Coronavirus exacts heavy toll in Albany Of the metro Atlanta counties, there are now 307 cases of the virus in Fulton, 181 in DeKalb, 144 in Cobb, 102 in Gwinnett, 98 in Bartow, 55 in Carroll, 46 each in Cherokee and Clayton, 40 in Henry, 27 in Douglas, 24 in Hall, 16 in Rockdale, 15 in Newton and 12 in Paulding. The number of confirmed cases has multiplied rapidly as the virus spreads and testing capacity has ramped up. As of Friday, nearly 10,000 tests had been conducted across the state, and about 20% of those returned positive results.  As numbers balloon, Gov. Brian Kemp has renewed his call for Georgians to stay home and practice social distancing. At a town hall broadcast Thursday night, Kemp urged residents to heed directives to avoid more restrictive measures, like a statewide stay-at-home mandate. » RELATED: Kemp urges Georgians to heed virus warnings but balks at drastic steps Bars and nightclubs remain closed across the state, many public gatherings are banned, and the elderly and medically fragile are ordered to shelter in place. » PHOTOS: Metro Atlanta adjusts to shifts in daily life amid coronavirus crisis Many Georgia cities, including several in metro Atlanta, have issued their own stay-at-home orders to residents, shutting down nonessential businesses and imposing curfews. On Thursday, Kemp extended the closure of public schools into late April. » MORE: Georgia families brace after Kemp extends closure of schools Those who believe they are experiencing symptoms or have been exposed to COVID-19 are asked to contact their primary care doctor or an urgent care clinic. Do not show up unannounced at an emergency room or health care facility. Georgians can also call the state COVID-19 hotline at 844-442-2681 to share public health information and connect with medical professionals.  — Please return to AJC.com for updates.
  • The University of North Georgia says it will adopt a distance-learning model for the remainder of this year’s spring semester classes.   From the UNG website… The University System of Georgia (USG) has determined that all 26 institutions, including UNG, will move to online instruction for all courses for the remainder of the semester with extremely limited exceptions. This action comes following last week’s decision to suspend instruction for two weeks to ensure business and instructional continuity, and to allow further state assessment of COVID-19. In the end, we want to ensure that our faculty, staff and students are safe; that we do our part to help stem the spread of the coronavirus in Georgia; and that we fulfill our mission to graduate our students even in the face of these challenging times.  Based on the March 16 announcement from the USG                  , students will not be allowed to return to campus until they receive permission from the university, which will be forthcoming soon. Additionally, residence halls will be closed, with minimal exceptions for students unable to return home or who cannot find housing elsewhere. We will make every effort to accommodate those students who are unable to depart campus.  We will send specific instructions to students regarding when they can return to campus to retrieve their belongings from residence halls. Students will be expected to follow those instructions. We will provide additional information on refunds for housing, dining, and other services, as we receive additional guidance from the USG. Students should wait for university officials to contact them.  The university will remain open, with minimal staff physically on-site, to ensure continuity of certain services.  We know that students, faculty and staff will have many questions based on this announcement. We will be providing more detailed information to you frequently in the days ahead. 
  • With schools in Athens and around the state not re-opening until April 27 at the earliest, the Clarke County School District continues to provide meals for students.  From the Clarke Co School District… The CCSD will provide free meals for students beginning Tuesday, March 17. Meals will be available for pick up during weekdays at two locations (Hilsman Middle and Oglethorpe Ave. Elem) and delivered to select neighborhoods via school bus (along existing bus routes).  Click here to view community food resources. Pick-up Locations (Hilsman Middle and Oglethorpe Ave. Elementary) Meals will be available for pickup between 8:00 a.m. – Noon at the following locations:  Hilsman Middle School – 870 Gaines School Rd, Athens, GA 30605  Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary School – 1150 Oglethorpe Ave, Athens, GA 30606 Bus Delivery Routes to Select Neighborhoods (along existing bus routes) - Updated 3/26/20 Following are links to the delivery schedule to select neighborhoods. A CCSD school bus will make scheduled stops to deliver meals. Click on a neighborhood location to view the bus delivery routes:  Route 1: BETHEL HOMES, PARKVIEW, ROCKSPRINGS & BROAD ACRES  Route 2: VINE & HERMAN ST., NELLIE B., SPRING VALLEY ESTATES, HALLMARK MHP  Route 3: HIGHLAND GREENS MHP, PINEWOOD MHP, & COUNTRY CORNERS MHP  Route 4: PINEWOOD APTS, CLARKE GARDEN APTS, TOWNE VIEW PL  Route 5: ATHENS GARDEN, DEER PARK, FIREWOOD, & BIG OAK CIR  Route 6: KNIGHTS BRIDGE MHP, STONEHENGE, CREEKSIDE MANOR, INTOWN SUITES, & OGLETHORPE ELEM  Route 7: COLUMBIA BROOKSIDE, UNIVERSITY GARDENS, SYCAMORE DRIVE  Route 8: SOUTH RIDGE, ROLLING RIDGE, & KATHWOOD  Route 9: HIGHLAND PARK & COLLEGE GLEN  Route 10: WESTCHESTER & TALLASSEE  Route 11: KNOLLWOOD APTS, OLD HULL RD. & FOURTH ST.  Route 12: SPRING VALLEY MHP, SARTAIN DR,& WINTERVILLE RD  Route 13: GARNETT RIDGE, CHATHAM PARK, VINEYARD  Route 14: BURKLAND DR, DANIELSVILLE RD., FOREST ACRES, FREEMAN DR.  Route 15: CREEKSTONE, NORTH BLUFF, SLEEPY HOLLOW MHP  Route 16: CAMPBELL DR., NELLIE MAE DR. Service Guidelines To ensure the safety of all our students, we request the following guidelines be followed:  Students must be present to get their meals.  At this time, adult meals are not available for purchase.  Students must take the entire meal – choices will not be provided.  Follow the directions of the meal service monitor. Be patient as a line may develop, but we will serve students in a timely and safe fashion.  Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.  Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.  Avoid close contact with people who are sick.  Cough or sneeze into an elbow or use a tissue and place immediately in the trash.
  • Athens-Clarke County has been served the lawsuit filed by Athens gun shop owner Andrew Clyde. Clyde, who is a candidate for Congress in Georgia’s 9th District, has filed suit seeking an injunction of enforcement of a 24-7 shelter in place order issued by Athens-Clarke County Commissioners last week. His attorney says the coronavirus-inspired measure is vague and overly broad and, even though it does not appear to order the closure of gun shops, is adversely impacting Clyde’s business on Atlanta Highway in Athens. Attorney Mo Wiltshire says lawyers are trying to arrange a hearing via video conference, and he says other Athens business owners are also expressing concerns about the County’s coronavirus ordinance. 
  • The latest numbers from the state Labor Department do not reflect the impact of Athens’ coronavirus-inspired economic lockdown: the February jobs report shows a 3.3 percent unemployment rate for Clarke, Oconee, Oglethorpe, and Madison counties. The metro-Athens jobless rate was 3.1 percent in January. From the Ga Dept of Labor… According to preliminary data, the four-county metropolitan statistical area (MSA) also showed a jump in employment for the month and the year.    In Athens, the unemployment rate increased 0.1 percentage points in February, reaching at 3.3 percent. A year ago, the rate was 3.7 percent.    The labor force increased in February by 967 and ended the month with 100,244. That number is up 510 when compared to February of 2019.    Athens ended February with 96,600 jobs. That number increased by 700 from January to February, but went down by 300 when compared to the same time last year.    Athens finished the month with 96,973 employed residents. That number increased by 889 over the month and is up by a significant 883 when compared to the same time a year ago.    The number of unemployment claims went down by about 25 percent in February. When compared to last February, claims were up by about 41 percent.   The four-county MSA includes Clarke, Madison, Oconee, and Oglethorpe counties.

Bulldog News

  • ATHENS Georgia quarterback D'Wan Mathis was back in his home state of Michigan over spring break when the coronavirus pandemic began to take effect. Some of the Bulldogs' players would end up staying home when UGA suspended and then canceled face-to-face spring semester classes. But not Mathis. 'D'Wan came back on spring break and told me he loves where he is from, but that he needed to go back to Georgia,' Terence Mathis told DawgNation on Friday. 'He said, Daddy, I love you, but I'm leaving.' 'For us, we're just happy he was granted the exemption to stay near campus where they have the best doctors in the world keeping up with him.' The former Ohio State quarterback commit from metro Detroit has had a challenging rehabilitation period after an emergency brain surgery procedure last May 23 put him in the ICU unit at Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center. 'I want the public to know this, please write this: Georgia could have given up on my son,' Terence Mathis said. 'But instead, Kirby and his staff have treated D'Wan as though he was their own son. They've used every possible resource to stay behind him and keep him engaged with the team after saving his life.' RELATED: Georgia saved my son's life, medical director Ron Courson praised Indeed, Coach Kirby Smart made it clear last May that Georgia would not rush Mathis' comeback, and they planned for a complete recovery. 'We are expecting a full recovery, and the timeline is the least of our concerns,' Smart said at SEC spring meetings. Mathis' comeback has come in stages. He was cleared to run and lift last July. By the start of the 2019 season, he was participating in limited drill work. By last November, Mathis running the scout team offense and playing with such passion that coaches and doctors had to reel him in and remind him to use some restraint. Mathis was cleared to go through spring football drills, though it's important to note he's not yet been cleared for game action. There's an MRI test scheduled for May that could provided the all-important clearance for total contact (UGA doesn't tackle its quarterbacks in spring drills). More good news came on Friday, when the SEC added some provisions for coaches to instruct players. Mathis, along with fellow Georgia football quarterbacks Jamie Newman, Caron Beck and Stetson Bennett, has the benefit of chalk talks starting at 1 p.m. next Monday. RELATED: SEC moves toward resuming football preparations Terence Mathis maintains the football will take care of itself. He said the most important thing to the Mathis family is how D'Wan has been accepted into the Georgia football community. 'I'm indebted to Georgia, they have extended this incredible opportunity to D'Wan,' Terence Mathis said. 'Especially during these tough times, and you know it's bad up here in Michigan. 'It means everything to us as a family for him to now have the opportunity to be involved with the football planning while still pursuing academics. 'Coach (Todd) Monken has reached out to me and let me know that D'Wan is having positive progress.' Mathis' upside was obvious to all who watched last year's G-Day Game. The 6-foot-6, 205-pounder was 15-of-28 passing for 113 yards and provided one of the biggest highlights of the Georgia football spring game. Mathis, who ran a 10.8-second time in the 100 meters in high school, showed his speed when he caught a double-reverse pass from Matt Landers for a 39-yard touchdown. TRICK PLAY ALERT #GDay #GoDawgs pic.twitter.com/3Qc6Opb85L Georgia Football (@GeorgiaFootball) April 21, 2019 'D'Wan, he's explosive,' Jake Fromm said of his former understudy. 'I think he converted three or four first downs in a row with his legs. 'The guy can run the ball, he can throw it 70 yards, he's going to be a great player.' The strong performances in spring drills kept Mathis going during the dog days of last summer and into the season. But there were also frustrating times when D'Wan Maths didn't know what to do without football, unable to travel to away games. That's when Georgia came up biggest, according to his father. 'As frustrated as he got, the more they wrapped their arms around him,' Terence Mathis said. 'Those coaches could have said they were too busy trying to win the SEC East again and play for another league title. But they didn't say that. 'They believed in D'Wan, and they have stayed behind him, and the DawgNation fans have stayed behind him, too.' There is no timetable for college football to return at the time of this publication (March 28). The coronavirus has put all group activities around the world on hold. But Terence Mathis said his son will remain in Athens. 'That's what he considers his home now,' he said, 'and it's where we believe he belongs.' DawgNation D'Wan Mathis stories Mind Game: D'Wan Mathis ready to compete for starting job Mathis tipped by social media Ohio State misled him on Justin Fields D'Wan Mathis recovering after emergency brain cyst surgery Jake Fromm shares observations of D'Wan Mathis The post Georgia quarterback D'Wan Mathis continuing comeback home' in Athens, granted exemption appeared first on DawgNation.
  • DawgNation has four staffers who cover Georgia football from every angle: Beat, live streams, photos, podcasts, recruiting, etc. The 'Cover 4' concept is: 1) Present a topic; 2) Offer a reasoned response; 3) Share a brisk statement on that opinion. 4) Pepper the page with photos for the big picture. For this edition, we discuss what Georgia fans would have been talking about now had COVID-19 not put our way of life on hold. DawgNation continues with the 'Cover 4' concept. The focus is always a timely look with each of our guys manning the secondary on a pertinent topic. We're looking at our now useless Georgia spring practice schedule from earlier this year. It makes us wince. Poof. All of that is gone. But football will return. Someday. Hopefully soon. That schedule says the 2020 Bulldogs would have been six practices deep into their spring drills after today. What would have DawgNation been talking about right now? We closed our eyes and imagined what that would have looked like. It resulted in another 'Cover 4' discussion of four different aspects of the team. It was fun to do amidst a time of great renewal for the Georgia program. Well, except for a salty defense which should be the best of the Kirby Smart era in Athens. The quick in-and-out game remains. The Cover 4 is designed to come out as quick as everyone is to try to maintain their social distancing these days. What would have been the big Georgia football spring practice storyline right now? Brandon Adams: Jamie Newman The 'why' from 'DawgNation Daily' here: 'The quarterback is almost always the biggest story, and this certainly would've been the case with Newman. The absence of spring practice only increases our anticipation to see Newman's debut this fall .' Mike Griffith: The offensive line The 'why' from 'On the Beat' here: 'This is the area Kirby Smart is most concerned about, and he'll say it. There will be discussion about different players lining up in different places, and injury updates . ' Connor Riley: Todd, Todd, Todd Monken The 'why' from 'Good Day UGA' here: ' Between Smart and some offensive players, we'd have gotten to hear more about working with the new offensive coordinator and what he brings to the table, as well as the working dynamic with Smart.' Jeff Sentell: The need for more playmakers at receiver. Again. The Intel here: 'Kirby Smart made it clear last spring he didn't have enough playmakers at receiver. He wanted to see what Dominick Blaylock, Lawrence Cager and George Pickens could add to the unit. It would have been the same chorus this year. The only differences between the receivers practicing last spring would have been the subtraction of veterans J.J Holloman and Tyler Simmons and the addition of Pickens and Justin Robinson. The Bulldogs will again await the arrival of Jermaine Burton, Marcus Rosemy, Ladd McConkey and Arian Smith with great anticipation. When they hit the field, that's when we will get a glimpse of where Monken's new offense can take Georgia this fall.' The post Georgia football: What would have been the talk of spring practices by now? appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS Georgia and its new quarterback will be among the favorites when college football resumes, per the latest online odds from sportsbetting.ag. Wake Forest graduate transfer Jamie Newman is ranked fifth among the Heisman Trophy contenders without having even taken his first snap for the Bulldogs. To boot, Newman along with the rest of SEC players has just now gotten approval to receive online 'chalk talk' instruction from quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Todd Monken starting at 1 p.m. on Monday. Former Georgia quarterback Justin Fields is the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy at Ohio State (+450), followed by Clemson's Trevor Lawrence (+475), Oklahoma's Spencer Rattler (+1000), Texas' Sam Ehlinger (+1200) and then Newman (+1400). Other SEC quarterbacks among the favorites include Florida's Kyle Trask, who is tied for ninth with USC QB Kedon Slovis (+2500), Alabama QB Mac Jones and North Carolina QB Sam Howell. Tailback Zamir White is tied for 25th among the Heisman Trophy contenders listed (+6600). But White, like Newman, has yet to secure the starting spot at his position entering into what will be a unique yet still very competitive offseason. SEC teams are currently suspended from any on-campus activities and are social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic. Once play resumes, Georgia figures to be in as good as shape as any program in the nation. RELATED: 4 reasons why Georgia football set for title run in 2020 The Bulldogs, as a team, rank fourth among the national championship contenders, per the online odds. Clemson is the favorite to win the national championship (+275), followed by Ohio State (+350), Alabama (+550) and then Georgia (+900). LSU is No. 5 on the preseason odds list (+1000), with Florida No. 6 (+1200), Oklahoma No. 7 (+2000) and Auburn, Notre Dame, Oregon, Penn State, Texas and Texas A&M tied at No. 8 (+2500). Georgia football offseason reads WATCH: Monty Rice shows proof of 'invisible progress' at Georgia The post Georgia football, Jamie Newman stand tall among preseason favorites in updated odds appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS SEC administrators took the first step toward resuming football-related activity, giving the OK for online instruction beginning at 1 p.m. (EDT) on Monday. It's a small step, but it shows the intent for preparation leading into the 2020 season, even as some have become skeptical amid the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic. 'What they will be allowed to do now is what they could have been doing in campus football meetings, from an instruction standpoint,' Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity told DawgNation on Friday. 'Coaches are obviously not able to provide any physical delivery of information, or conduct any physical activity,' McGarity said, referring to the current SEC policy which runs through April 15. 'But if you want to sit down online with a group of wide receivers and show vide0, and teach and have chalk talks, all that is fine.' Big for Georgia Obviously it's key for Georgia football, which has a new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in Todd Monken and is replacing three-year starter Jake Fromm at quarterback. Wake Forest graduate transfer Jamie Newman is the favorite to assume controls of an offense that will have RPO and Pro Style principles. The modification for online instruction applies to all sports. There remains a strong likelihood the SEC's ban on team activities on campus will be extended beyond April 15, with schools finishing their spring academic courses online. The Big Ten announced on Friday itwill extend the previously announced suspension of all organized team activities through May 4. Student-athletes who have not yet enrolled in school will not be eligible for the online chalk talk interaction, per the modifications' stipulations. Georgia true freshman quarterback Carson Beck was an early enrollee, so he will be eligible. AJC.com reported on Friday there have been 2001 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Georgia, including 29 in Clarke County, home to the University of Georgia. RELATED: Coronavirus dashboard, real-time stats in Georgia of cases Timeline in place? Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said on ESPN that he considers July 1 a deadline of sorts, as far as getting the players engaged in physical activity leading into the season. 'There's going to be a day where we all, as college football administrators and coaches, come up with a date where, from a player safety standpoint, we have to say this is the date that we can live with to get these young men physically ready to go into camp,' Kelly said earlier this week on SportsCenter. 'If you can't start training your football team by July 1 .the realistic goal is minimum of four weeks of conditioning before you put them in camp,' Kelly said. 'College football is going to be affected if we're not playing in 90 days, in terms of the conditioning element and getting these young men ready.' Georgia coach Kirby Smart has yet to issue a public statement on his thoughts about the return to football, other than a video. RELATED: UGA Kirby Smart releases coronavirus-related video SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said the league meetings and annal SEC Media Days remain on schedule. RELATED: Greg Sankey full steam ahead' approach amid coronavirus uncertainty SEC Memo The new allowance permitting the 'online chalk talks,' so to speak, comes with stipulations outlined in an SEC memo first obtained by 247Sports and confirmed by McGarity: 1. All required physical athletic activities (e.g., strength and conditioning workouts, sport- specific workouts) shall be prohibited. This prohibition includes both in-person involvement, and any virtual involvement by institutional staff such as remotely watching, directing, or reviewing physical workouts. 2. Required virtual film review, chalk talk, etc. that does not include physical activity shall be permissible. Any required activity of this nature shall be limited to two (2) hours of activity per week in all sports, shall be scheduled in accordance with the institution's established Time Management Policy, and shall not interfere with required class time for online instruction. These activities may not include a review by or live monitoring of film/video of a student-athlete engaging in workouts or physical activity occurring after March 13, 2020. Institutions may not suggest or require a student-athlete to make film/video of his/her workouts or physical activity available by other means (such as social media). 3. Prospective student-athletes may not be involved in any way in such required, countable activities conducted by the institution. 4. Only countable coaching staff members may be involved in providing technical or tactical instruction to student-athletes as part of such virtual activity. 5. Student-athletes may continue to be provided strength and conditioning workouts and/or sport-specific drills; however, coaches and other athletics staff may not observe the activity (virtually or in-person). Student-athletes may not be required to workouts and/or drills, nor may they be required to report back on such activity to any athletics staff member. 6. These modifications shall be effective as of 12:00 pm Central/1:00 pm Eastern on Monday, March 30. 7. Further assessment of off-season and/or summer activities will occur in the coming weeks. 8. Athletics programs are expected to comply with public health directives governing workplace activity and limitations on gatherings. This policy does not impact the Conference's earlier statement that you may continue to 'provide student-athletes with care and support in the areas of academics; medical care; mental health and wellness; and housing, as needed.' Consistent with normal practice, violations of this SEC policy are to be reported to the Conference office and will be subject to penalties at the discretion of the Commissioner. If you have any questions, please contact our office. In the meantime, Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning made it clear the Bulldogs' assistant coaches will continue to spend time with family, practice social distancing and encourage fans and players to wash their hands. Hunker Down! #GoDawgs @GeorgiaFootball pic.twitter.com/30tCcYlLVw Dan Lanning (@CoachDanLanning) March 27, 2020 The post SEC steps toward resuming football preparations, approves online chalk talks appeared first on DawgNation.
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