The U.S. economy continues to look bleak after more than 3 million workers filed for unemployment benefits for the first time last week, according to federal labor data released Thursday.
Although that figure is down slightly from the week before, over 33 million Americans have now filed for initial jobless claims as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, which has routed some industries to Depression-era levels.
Yet even as the economy begins to slowly fire up again state by state, economists expect unemployment levels to continue rising — and to extend across a broader swath of industries.
Meanwhile, the debate over state reopenings goes on — and coronavirus cases show no sign of slowing down. As of Thursday evening, the death toll in the U.S. is over 76,000 and there are more than 1.2 million confirmed cases, according to NBC News' count.
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Recruits with COVID-19 history will be rejected by military, says memo
A Pentagon memo that says a COVID-19 diagnosis “permanently” disqualifies recruits from joining the military is actually “interim guidance” and recruits who have recovered from the disease may still be able to get a waiver that lets them sign up, according a defense official.
The official did not say how long the interim guidance would be in place.
The memo from the U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command says that a “history of COVID-19, confirmed by either a laboratory test or clinician diagnosis, is permanently disqualifying.” The memo was issued Wednesday and was first reported by The Military Times.
Pence delivers protective equipment to a nursing home - without a mask on
Vice President Mike Pence delivered boxes of personal protective equipment outside a nursing home with COVID-19 patients in Virginia on Thursday - without wearing any himself.
Pence put a box of equipment on the doorstep of the Woodbine Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center in Alexandria and waved inside before wheeling over more boxes and helping unload them. He was not wearing a mask or gloves while handling the packages. Other officials who were with him were also not wearing masks.
Pence made headlines last week when he toured the Mayo Clinic, a hospital with a strict mask policy, without a face covering. Pence defended the decision afterward, telling reporters that he's confident he doesn't have the coronavirus because he and other White House officials are tested it for it regularly and he felt healthy.
Dr. Vin Gupta told NBC News last week, "The vast majority of individuals that we think are likely transmitters of the disease have no symptoms."
Pence said during a Fox News town hall on Sunday night that not wearing a mask at the facility was a mistake. Pence's Thursday delivery came as the White House said President Donald Trump's personal valet has tested positive for the virus. A White House spokesman said Pence has tested negative since the revelation.
White House returned CDC guidelines for reopening economy, requesting revisions
The White House sent back guidelines it received from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month on how businesses, schools and other organizations should reopen with a request for revisions, two administration officials said.
The White House coronavirus task force, which is headed by Vice President Mike Pence, viewed the CDC’s advice as overly restrictive and in some cases thought it undercut the White House’s three-phase guidelines for opening up the country, released in mid April, the official said.
The White House's guidelines on reopening and easing social distancing are broad and leave much of the decision-making to governors. Those guidelines say states should see a 14-day decrease in coronavirus cases before reopening but do not set a specific timeline for doing so.
"Issuing overly specific instructions — that CDC leadership never cleared — for how various types of businesses open up would be overly prescriptive and broad for the various circumstances states are experiencing throughout the country," a task force official told NBC News, noting that the White House guidelines advise states to open up in safe and responsible ways based on their own data and response efforts.
New York coronavirus death toll tops 20,000
The official New York state death toll from coronavirus has now topped 20,000, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday.
The number reached 20,597 because of 231 new deaths and because past fatalities from nursing homes and other adult care facilities have now been confirmed as caused by coronavirus and added to the state total.
The total of new deaths announced each day continues to decline, though the 231 new deaths announced Thursday are just one less than the number reported Wednesday. The governor called the state's gradual decline in new fatalities "slow" and "painful."
The governor also released more results from the state's ongoing antibody testing program, and said indications so far are that health-care workers are less likely to be infected than the general public.
He said that in New York City, 19.9 percent of those tested for coronavirus antibodies have come back positive. but for the healthcare worker population that number was 12.2 percent, with a similar pattern in the city's suburbs.
South Carolina parents celebrate their son's dissertation defense on a billboard
Brandon Truett's parents surprised him with a celebratory billboard near his South Carolina hometown, congratulating him for finishing his University of Chicago PhD in English.
"My dad was thinking of ways to celebrate because he knew the graduation was canceled," Truett said. "I always think I'm the extra one, but he really topped me on this one."
Truett said he defended his dissertation, the last assignment before becoming a PhD, on a video conference, which allowed his parents to watch. He said his father, who rented the billboard in South Carolina, would not have been able to attend his defense because of his demanding work schedule.
"My dad has always been supportive, but this is the culminating gesture," said Truett, who added his father is currently reading his 250-page dissertation on visual art and the Spanish Civil War.
Trump's personal valet tests positive for coronavirus, president ‘not happy’
One of President Donald Trump’s personal valets at the White House has tested positive for the coronavirus and the president was “not happy” when he found out on Wednesday, a White House official said.
The valet works in the West Wing and serves Trump his meals, among other duties. Valets do not wear masks, the official said.
N.Y. to bring products from 2,100 farms to food banks to feed an estimated 20,000 families
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday announced the state has launched a program to buy excess agricultural products in the state and donate them to food banks.
"At a time when people are hungry, it makes no sense for food or milk to go to waste," Cuomo said. "We will bring products from 2,100 upstate farms to 50 food banks, providing 20,000 households with food."
N.Y. Gov. Cuomo extends moratorium on evictions
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday said the state is extending its moratorium on evictions for people facing coronavirus-related hardship for an additional 60 days — until at least Aug. 20.
The state is in addition banning fees for late or missed payments during the moratorium period, he said.
"We are also allowing renters facing COVID-related hardship to use their security deposit as payment and repay the deposit over time," the governor said.
Photos: Lonely graduation in Illinois
Graduates at Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School received their diplomas in a nearly-empty auditorium Wednesday. Friends, family and relatives were not allowed to attend because of the state's social distancing mandates.
Texas governor changes coronavirus orders to eliminate jail punishment for violators
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott today eliminated jail confinement as a punishment for people who violate his coronavirus executive orders.
In a statement, Abbott said the change is retroactive to April 2 and supersedes local orders.
He said the revision should lead to the release of Shelley Luther, who was arrested and sentenced to seven days in jail for opening her salon in violation of coronavirus shutdown orders.
“Throwing Texans in jail who have had their businesses shut down through no fault of their own is nonsensical, and I will not allow it to happen,” Abbott said in the statement. “As some county judges advocate for releasing hardened criminals from jail to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it is absurd to have these business owners take their place.”
Luxury retailer Neiman Marcus files for bankruptcy
The luxury department store chain Neiman Marcus filed for bankruptcy on Thursday, the second major retailer after J.Crew to seek reorganization this week as the industry buckles under widespread store closures.
“Like most businesses today, we are facing unprecedented disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has placed inexorable pressure on our business,” said Geoffroy van Raemdonck, chairman and CEO of Neiman Marcus Group, in a statement.
Leading up to the pandemic, the company reported a loss of $31.2 million in July, compared with a net loss of $19.9 million the previous year.
Market conditions have been brutal for the retail industry over the last several weeks. Like other retailers, Neiman Marcus stores have been closed since mid-March as state governors issued stay-at-home orders to stem infections. The company furloughed almost all of its 14,000 employees on March 30.