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The numbers tell the real story of coronavirus in the U.S.

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: A federal medical station for up to 125 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patients is set up to ease strain at county hospitals, in Indio, California
A federal medical station for up to 125 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patients is set up to ease strain at county hospitals, in Indio, California, March 26, 2020.Lucy Nicholson / Reuters

WASHINGTON — Less than a month ago, on Feb. 29, the United States reported its first coronavirus death — plus 22 confirmed cases of the virus.

President Donald Trump remarked that day that the U.S. had fewer cases than the rest of the world. “[W]e’re the No. 1 travel destination anywhere in the world, yet we have far fewer cases of the disease than even countries with much less travel or a much smaller population.”

Eleven days later, on March 11, the U.S. had more than 20 deaths and 1,000 positive cases, per the COVID Tracking Project.

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Eighteen days later, on March 18, it was more than 100 deaths and 7,000 cases.

Twenty-four days later, on March 24, the numbers grew to more than 500 deaths and 50,000 cases.

And as of this morning, 27 days after that first U.S. fatality, the numbers are 1,268 deaths and 85,000-plus cases — more confirmed cases than in any other country, including China or Italy.

That’s all in less than a month.

The frightening question is where the country will be next month.

And the month after that.

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

85,968: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 17,610 more than yesterday morning.)

1,268: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 267 more than yesterday morning.)

About 540,000: The number of coronavirus TESTS that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project. (That’s about 56,000 more than yesterday morning.)

At least 216: That’s the number of House members who must be present in D.C. to vote on the stimulus package today if just one of them nixes a request to pass it by voice vote.

More than 3 million: That’s the number of Americans who filed for unemployment benefits last week, compared with just 282,000 the previous week.

A third: That’s roughly how many Americans say either they or someone in their household has either lost a job or taken a pay cut because of Covid-19, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

650: That’s the number of incidents of racism reported by Asian Americans over the past week.

How the coronavirus outbreak has changed Americans’ lives

Less than two weeks ago — before cities and states began their lockdowns — our NBC News/WSJ poll found 47 percent of American voters saying they’ve stopped attending large public gatherings; 36 percent saying they’ve canceled travel plans; and 26 percent saying they’ve stopped eating out at restaurants.

Now look at these numbers from the different Washington Post/ABC News poll:

“Roughly 9 in 10 say they are staying home ‘as much as possible’ and are practicing social distancing to lessen the risk of getting the virus. Nearly 9 in 10 say they have stopped going to bars and restaurants. About 6 in 10 say they have stockpiled food and household supplies at home,” the Post writes.

That’s quite a change in behavior.

The Post/ABC poll has Trump’s approval rating increasing slightly to 48 percent. But note this important point: “The rise in Trump’s approval rating, however, is far smaller than some other presidents have experienced in times of national crisis.”

Tweet of the day

The House might need to come back to D.C. to pass the relief bill

While the U.S. House of Representatives intends to vote on and pass the Senate’s $2.2 trillion coronavirus aid package today, the road to get there just got a bit trickier (with some extra traffic).

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer had told their conference that they expected the bill to pass by voice vote — meaning those who couldn’t travel back to D.C. wouldn’t have to worry about the bill not passing (essentially, if they were sick/at high risk, they could stay home).

Now that plan might be up in the air, literally, per NBC’s Capitol Hill team.Our Hill team reports that House leadership is concerned that at least one Republican will demand a recorded vote on the bill on Friday morning — that means the House needs at least 216 of its members to show up and vote to form a quorum, or half of its membership. Hoyer wrote in an advisory, “Members are advised that it is possible this measure will not pass by voice vote,” he added, “Members are encouraged to follow the guidance of their local and state health officials, however if they are able and willing to be in Washington D.C. by 10:00 a.m. tomorrow, members are encouraged to do so with caution.”

The bill is ultimately still likely to pass, but if a recorded vote is demanded it won’t be passed until 216 members find their way to D.C. — which could increases the time it takes to get to President Trump’s desk.

Talking policy with Benjy

What’s really in that $2.2 trillion bill? The most discussed headline item in the big relief bill might be its onetime $1,200 check for most Americans, but it’s not the policy that most directly addresses the jobs crisis we’re seeing unfold this week, NBC’s Benjy Sarlin reports.

The $2.2 trillion bill’s most immediate aid for the unemployed is a major increase in unemployment benefits — $600 per week on top of typical benefits, which average around $400, for up to four months.

Just as importantly, the bill expands benefits to far more types of workers: For the first time, contractors and gig economy workers like Uber drivers and freelancers will be eligible. People who were forced to quit due to the pandemic, instead of being officially laid off, will also qualify.

"For those workers losing jobs, by far the most important component is the [unemployment insurance],” Arindrajit Dube, a labor economist at UMass Amherst, told NBC News.

For some low-wage workers, it means they might receive more in benefits than their usual wages. Republican Senators tried to pass an amendment to prevent this scenario by capping benefits, but were unsuccessful.

In an effort to keep companies from going under or shedding workers, the bill includes over $350 billion in federal loans to small businesses and additional support if they maintain payrolls. There’s also a $500 billion fund that can be used to back up companies affected by the outbreak. Other features include a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, allowing students to defer student loan payments without accruing interest, and aid to states to help further weather the crisis.

It’s still a question whether that’s enough to weather the storm — we don’t know what things will look like in four days, let alone four months — but it’s a lot more than just $1,200 checks. That said, definitely read our explainer on whether you qualify for those checks and how much.

2020 Vision: Team Trump vs. Priorities USA

Begun, the ad wars have — at least between the Trump campaign and the Democratic super PAC Priorities USA, per NBC’s Ben Kamisar.

This week, Priorities launched an ad hammering Trump on the response to coronavirus, splicing together Trump’s comments about the virus over the past few months and laying those comments over a graphic showing the number of cases in America increasing exponentially to argue Trump isn’t meeting the moment.

The Trump campaign is calling on television stations not to run the ad, arguing that the ad took Trump’s comments out of context.

But Priorities is holding firm despite that criticism, and on Thursday, announced an expansion of the ad into Arizona, backed by an initial $600,000 investment.

The Lid: Yes, the disease is worse than the cure

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we looked at new polling that shows widespread agreement that the measures taken to slow the virus’s spread have been necessary.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

The New York Times looks at how both Biden and Trump have older voters as a key bloc of supporters.

Bernie Sanders thinks that this moment will underscore the logic of his big ideas. But is it too late?

Why exactly isn’t Congress already virtual?