It’s probably not good for your mental health to spend too much time looking at the Johns’ Hopkins coronavirus map that tracks ongoing cases on a country-by-country basis, but it’s also hard to avoid. And watching the U.S. count tick ever higher—on Friday alone it felt like we were adding a few thousand cases at a time, rushing right past the 100,000 mark—helps put into perspective some of the other big numbers we had to deal with this week.
First, unemployment: Jobless claims were at an off-the-charts 3.28 million. The previous record? In 1982, 695,000 people made claims in one week.The other big number came out of Congress, which managed—after overcoming a few hurdles—to pass a $2 trillion economic relief package (we’re trying not to call it a “stimulus” package; I’ll let Jonah explain why) that provides expanded unemployment benefits, loans for businesses large and small, and cash for most Americans.
These times are testing America in a way that few of us have been tested. It’s easy to be angry about the way the federal government’s various failures have gotten us where we are. But there is something else I keep coming back to, and that is the way that most Americans have taken all of this in stride and with good spirits.
Think about it: Imagine a fortune teller told you in January that kids would be home from school for months, that there would be no March Madness, no Opening Day, and no Olympics this summer. That our movements would be limited such that we couldn’t go out to dinner with our spouses, meet a friend for a drink, or take the kids to a movie or even the playground. That governors would be issuing orders closing businesses. Would you envision riots? Streets filled with police?