US Economy

This week's most important reads: Job losses mount and rescue loans run out as coronavirus testing remains short

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People who lost their jobs wait in line to file for unemployment following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at an Arkansas Workforce Center in Fayetteville, Arkansas, April 6, 2020.
Nick Oxford | Reuters

The devastation inflicted by coronavirus continues to mount, with at least 37,079 Americans now dead and more than 706,000 infected in a public health crisis that has crippled the nation's economy. 

Nearly all the job gains achieved since the last great economic crisis in 2008 are now gone after more than 22 million Americans filed for unemployment during the past month. 

With the economic pain mounting, small businesses tapped out a federal rescue program worth hundreds of billions of dollars in a matter of days. Republicans and Democrats in Washington are now bickering over how to get more money out the door. 

President Donald Trump, perhaps sensing a threat to his re-election chances as workers are hit particularly hard in key swing states like Michigan and Pennsylvania, is pushing for the economy to reopen. He has expressed support for people demonstrating against stay-at-home orders in Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia. 

But health experts and businesses are warning against moving too quickly. Reopening business prematurely could lead to even greater human and economic devastation as new waves of infection could hit the U.S., they say. It will likely take months — at least until the fall — to ramp up coronavirus testing to the level needed just to keep essential workers safe, not to mention everyone else in America.  

There is some reason for hope. Details leaked from Gilead Sciences' clinic trials of the drug remdesivir show promising results in treating the virus. The Dow jumped 700 points on the news, closing at its highest level since March.

Here are the most important reads of the week: 

The US economy has erased nearly all the job gains since the Great Recession

Small business rescue loan program ran dry after $349 billion

The Small Business Administration's rescue loan program hit its $349 billion limit on Thursday and is now out of money as the nation's top Republicans and Democrats struggle to agree on how to restore its funds.

The SBA website reads that it is "unable to accept new applications for the Paycheck Protection Program based on available appropriations funding. Similarly, we are unable to enroll new PPP lenders at this time."

The US economy can't reopen without widespread coronavirus testing. Getting there will take a lot of work and money

Health experts and several top business leaders warn that the country — which might not see a coronavirus vaccine for 18 months or more — should not reopen on a broad scale unless there is a huge increase in the relatively small number of tests currently being done for Covid-19 infection.

Experts say that millions of people will have to be tested each day, even as many as 20 million to 30 million people, before the nation can return to a semblance of economic normality.

Apple and Google have an ambitious plan to help officials track coronavirus — here's what needs to happen now

Rival tech giants Google and Apple have teamed up to create technology to help health officials trace who's been infected by Covid-19, and are building it directly into iOS and Android, the two operating systems that power almost 100% of the world's smartphones. 

But digital contact tracing is not a magic bullet, and there are a lot of steps that still need to happen before digital contact tracing apps start slowing the spread of the coronavirus around the world

Gilead stock pops 8% after report says coronavirus drug trial shows encouraging early results

Gilead Sciences shares popped by more than 8% on Friday after details leaked of a closely watched clinical trial of the company's antiviral drug remdesivir, showing what appears to be promising results in treating Covid-19.

The University of Chicago's phase 3 drug trial found that most of its patients had "rapid recoveries in fever and respiratory symptoms" and were discharged in less than a week, health-care publication STAT News reported Thursday. 

How the biggest companies in the world are preparing to bring back their workforce

How the U.S. will go from widespread quarantine to some semblance of normal is still a giant unknown. But returning to work will almost certainly happen in waves, driven by consumer demand and employer desperation, said Erik Gordon, a professor at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business. 

Coronavirus clobbers workers in 2020 swing states Michigan and Pennsylvania

The coronavirus pandemic has ravaged workers in Michigan and Pennsylvania, two of the states President Donald Trump most needs to win to earn another term in the White House. 

More than 22 million Americans applied for unemployment insurance over the latest four weeks as the outbreak forced businesses to close, according to Labor Department data released Thursday. The two 2020 election battlegrounds took a bigger hit than nearly all other states

Doctors worry the coronavirus is keeping patients away from US hospitals as ER visits drop: 'Heart attacks don't stop'

Emergency room and other doctor's visits at the 51 hospitals run by Providence Health & Services are way down, reflecting a broader trend across the U.S. as people steer clear of hospitals for sometimes necessary and emergency care, even for mild heart attacks.

Physicians worry that patients with severe illnesses may suffer permanent damage by avoiding the ER.