More grim job losses as US hits record high on new Covid-19 cases

Kentucky residents wait outside the Kentucky Career Centre for help with their unemployment claims on June 19, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - As the number of new coronavirus cases in the United States rose to a single-day record, fresh government data on Thursday (July 9) showed another 1.3 million Americans filed for jobless benefits, highlighting the pandemic's devastating impact on the economy.

More than 60,000 new Covid-19 infections were reported on Wednesday and US deaths rose by more than 900 for the second straight day, the highest since early June.

Florida on Thursday announced nearly 9,000 new cases and 120 new coronavirus deaths, a record daily increase in lives lost.

Positive test rates reached a new daily high of 18 per cent, up from 12 per cent to 13 per cent two weeks ago. California and Texas, the most populous states, announced record increases in Covid-19 deaths on Wednesday.

The grim US numbers come on top of extraordinarily high jobless figures, although they came in lower than economists had forecast.

Initial unemployment claims hit a historic peak of nearly 6.9 million in late March. Although they have gradually fallen, claims remain roughly double their highest point during the 2007-09 Great Recession.

With coronavirus cases rising in 41 of the 50 US states over the past two weeks, according to a Reuters analysis, many states have had to halt and roll back plans to reopen businesses and lift restrictions.

From California to Florida, beaches and bars have been ordered to close. Restaurants in Texas have been told they can have fewer diners.

Earlier this week, President Donald Trump criticised his health agency's recommendations for reopening schools in the fall as too expensive and impractical, insisting that all schools must open for classroom instruction.

Vice-President Mike Pence said on Wednesday the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention would issue a "new set of tools" next week.

Many Americans cannot return to work if schools do not open for in-person learning, as they are a major source of childcare in the country.

The CDC's director Robert Redfield on Thursday defended the guidelines but gave no details on what the CDC was changing.

"It's not a revision of the guidelines. It's just to provide additional information to help the schools be able to use the guidance that we put forward," he told ABC's Good Morning America programme. "Our guidelines are our guidelines."

Officials in New Jersey and New York, the hardest-hit states at the outset of the US outbreak, are trying to preserve the progress they made in curtailing the spread of the virus in the face of the resurgence elsewhere, especially the South and West.

New Jersey adopted a stringent coronavirus face-mask order on Wednesday, and New York City unveiled a plan to allow public school students back into classrooms for just two or three days a week.

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