The U.S. may end up with the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the industrialized world. This is how it’s going to play out.
As Washington lawmakers push through a $2 trillion stimulus bill, many Americans can expect to receive checks of up to $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for married couples.
How much you receive varies based on your marital status and adjusted gross income.
Here's who qualifies, and who may be excluded, from the payouts the government plans to send "as rapidly as possible."
As Congress pushes through a $2 trillion stimulus bill, some Americans can expect checks from the government to help them cope with the economic devastation stemming from the coronavirus crisis.
Those payments are expected to be $1,200 for individuals, or $2,400 for those who are married and file income taxes jointly. It also includes $500 per child.
But you have to meet certain qualifications in order to be eligible for the money, based on your adjusted gross income in your latest tax returns. If you earn more than $75,000 as an individual, $112,500 as the head of household or $150,000 if you are married and filing jointly, the amount of those checks starts to get reduced.
Checks will be reduced by $5 for every $100 exceeding those thresholds. It completely phases out at $99,000 in income for individuals, $146,500 for head of household filers with one child and $198,000 for joint filers with no children.
However, you are still eligible for a check if you have no income or if you rely solely on non-taxable government benefit programs like Supplemental Security Income benefits, or SSI, from Social Security.
You also must have a valid Social Security number in order to receive the funds.
If you didn't yet file a 2019 return, the government will use your 2018 information if it has it. It also may use a 2019 Social Security benefit statement, or Form SSA-1099, or the Social Security Equivalent Benefit Statement, or Form RRB-1099.
Some individuals are specifically excluded from receiving payments. That includes nonresident aliens, individuals whose deductions can go to another taxpayer, and estates or trusts.
The legislation calls for sending out the payments "as rapidly as possible." Eligible individuals will receive the funds electronically if they previously authorized refunds to be delivered to them that way. Otherwise, they will be sent out via postal mail.
Congress' coronavirus relief bill would also significantly expand unemployment benefits for Americans who lose their jobs due to the country's recent economic contagion.
Self-employed workers, those seeking part-time work, and workers who quit their job or can't reach their place of work as a result of COVID-19 are among those eligible for benefits.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.
Mixed messaging from all levels of government is putting Americans at risk and will speed the spread of the coronavirus. No matter what politicians say, public health experts agree. Stay home, even if you feel fine.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City temporarily closed, effective Friday, to reduce the spread of COVID-19. (Cindy Ord/Getty Images)
On Saturday afternoon, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz took to Twitter to ask his followers to heed the advice of public health officials and politicians on the other side of the aisle:
“If you can stay home, stay home,” the Texas Republican wrote. “And wash your hands.”
Hours later, the Republican governor of Oklahoma tweeted from a packed restaurant in Oklahoma City showing that he is performatively not doing this. “Eating with my kids and all my fellow Oklahomans at the @CollectiveOKC. It’s packed tonight! #supportlocal #OklaProud”
He deleted the tweet an hour later.
On Sunday morning, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, told CBS’ “Face the Nation,” “Right now, personally, myself, I wouldn’t go to a restaurant.”
Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, a California Republican, spoke on Fox News and said, “If you’re healthy, you and your family, it’s a great time to just go out, go to a local restaurant, likely you can get in easy. Let’s not hurt the working people in this country ... go to your local pub.”
Stay Home, Even if You Feel Fine
The discordant messages underscore the immense challenges conveying common messages during a public health crisis, one that has happened time and again as the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has swept across the country.
“The most important thing is for people to change their daily routines and really reduce their social interactions,” said Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, a former federal and state health official who is now vice dean for public health practice and community engagement for the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University.
“I don’t think it is the consistent message from all health and political officials. If people are going to change the way they live their lives, they need to hear about the need to do that from every credible source of information they have because if they get mixed messages it’s easy to lapse back to not changing.”
From the availability of testing to the need to avoid handshakes, from where patients should go if they develop symptoms to whether to touch your face, the messages — and the actions by the public officials and even sometimes the doctors delivering those messages — have been contradictory.
Go to the ER; Don’t Go to the ER
One day last week, for example, a New York City allergy practice sent patients an email telling them what to do if they suspect they have symptoms consistent with infection with COVID-19.
“As you may be aware, there is a shockingly low number of available tests, and all testing now is done through local emergency departments in the area,” the note read.
Hours later, the advice was retracted: “It has been brought to our attention that the recommendation to visit the ED if one suspects COVID19 is incorrect. One should call their primary care provider to be screened and whether a visit to a lab or emergency department is necessary. … We are sorry for the confusion.”
While the government’s inability to get coronavirus tests in the hands of doctors and local health departments has been roundly criticized for preventing leaders from understanding how the virus is spreading, the mixed messages being given by leaders and others throughout this outbreak threatens to have a continuing effect.
“In some places, at least, there’s an advice vacuum and that leaves a lot of people trying to figure out what’s available and what to do,” Sharfstein said.
Conflicting Information Causes Real Harm
Accurate information is the coin of the realm in public health emergencies such as this one. Setting expectations and sharing accurate information is vital, experts say.
At all levels of government and medicine, that hasn’t happened.
During a visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this month, President Donald Trump said: “Anybody that wants a test can get a test. That’s what the bottom line is.” In fact, tests were not available. And public health officials told doctors and patients seeking them that they didn’t qualify.
The failure to provide clear answers has continued regarding the availability of ventilators in the event hospitals are overloaded. Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, was asked on Fox News whether hospitals could run out in a crisis. Several times, she didn’t answer the question. “Well, that’s why we have an emergency preparedness system,” Verma responded. “We’re used to dealing with disasters.”
On ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday morning, Fauci was more direct when asked whether the federal ventilator stockpile would be enough: “That may not be enough if we have a situation where we really have a lot of cases.”
The gap between government messages and reality applies to travel as well. Trump restricted travel from Europe and imposed additional health checks on Americans returning from European countries to protect Americans from the virus.
“This president is going to continue to take every step necessary to protect the American people and put the health of the American people first,” Vice President Mike Pence said Saturday.
Yet, hours later, airports in Dallas, Chicago and Washington, D.C., were teeming with crowds waiting to get through the immigration checks. Some lamented that they were being exposed to others who may have the virus, the exact opposite of the stated reason for the additional checks.
Mark Morgan, acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, tweeted on Sunday morning that his agency is “aware of the reports of increased wait times at some airports across the nation. CBP along with medical personnel are working diligently to address the longer than usual delays. Nothing is more important than the safety, health and security of our citizens.”
Hours later, Morgan wrote another tweet, calling the waits at some airports “unacceptable.”
Do as I Say, Not as I Do
It goes beyond that. Public health officials have repeatedly called for members of the public to stop shaking hands, but the president has been resisting that advice, at least so far. “Shaking hands is not a great thing to be doing right now, I agree,” Trump said Saturday. “But people put their hand out. Sometimes I’ll put the hand out. You don’t think about it. People are thinking about it more and more. We have to think about it; it’s important.”
Public health officials also have told the public to avoid touching their faces, but sometimes those same officials have touched their faces. A public health official in California held a press conference to tell the public to avoid touching their faces, during which she licked a finger to turn a page in her remarks. (As this reporter has learned, it’s nearly impossible to stop touching your face.)
In a column in The Washington Post, two experts say communication is key, and sports and cultural icons should be brought in to reinforce important messages.
“A communications failure in the face of a pandemic amounts to not just a political problem; it is a public health problem,” wrote Lorien Abroms, a professor and associate dean at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University, and Kenneth Baer, a communications consultant and former associate director of communications at the White House Office of Management and Budget.
“Communications can also be the solution: What is needed to help mitigate the severity of the coronavirus epidemic is a few, simple messages delivered by the right messengers. We need a whole-of-culture response — not just political leaders, but also the most influential athletes, actors, social media influencers, singers and personalities using every medium at our disposal to encourage Americans to change their behavior and inspire us to stick with it.”
The Tough Days AheadIn the days ahead, consistent public health messages will be crucial, Sharfstein said, particularly if the virus continues spreading and places a burden on hospitals. Patients will need to know who to call if they get sick and when and where to seek medical care. Doctors will need to know where to send their patients.
In most cases, the answer is to avoid sending patients to the emergency room if they are showing mild or moderate symptoms of the virus. Those who become sicker or develop trouble breathing should follow up immediately with doctors or seek emergency care.
“A test itself is not treatment,” Sharfstein said. “A test illuminates what’s going on a little bit better. The response may just be to stay at home and monitor yourself. While it’s better to have more testing capability, we’re not powerless because the major response is just going to be to stay at home.”
Cities Under Lockdown
By mid-February, at least 150 million people in China were under restrictions affecting when they could leave their homes, and more than 760 million — about 10% of the world’s population — lived in communities under some form of travel restriction.2 Most global airlines cancelled service to and from China, disrupting tourism and business travel.3
The Chinese government enacted restrictions around the time of the Lunar New Year celebration, during which many businesses were closed, lessening the immediate impact. However, as factories and other businesses remained closed after the holiday, the loss of Chinese production and consumer spending began to take a toll on global businesses.4
Lost Supply and Demand
Many U.S. technology companies have manufacturing operations in China while also selling to Chinese businesses and/or consumers. Companies with substantial exposure to the slowdown in China include big tech brands such as Apple, Dell, Hewlett Packard, Intel, and Qualcomm, as well as many smaller tech businesses.5–6
Vehicle manufacturers throughout the world rely on Chinese-made parts, and many have plants in China. General Motors (which sells more cars in China than in the United States), Ford, Toyota, BMW, Honda, Nissan, Tesla, and Volkswagen all suspended operations in China, while Hyundai and Renault closed plants in South Korea, and Fiat Chrysler closed a plant in Serbia, all due to parts issues.7–9
Global retailers including Apple, Ikea, Levi Strauss, McDonald’s, KFC, and Starbucks temporarily closed stores in China.10–11
In addition to disruptions in the global supply chain and Chinese consumer market, the tourism industry in the United States, Europe, and other Asian countries may be hard hit by the absence of Chinese tourists. One estimate suggests a loss of almost $6 billion in U.S. airfares and tourist spending.12
Although it is too early to measure the full effect on global business, a private report released on February 21 indicated that U.S. business activity had slowed in February to the lowest level in six years, with the biggest hit to the service sector, where travel and tourism are major components. The report also indicated a sharp drop in Japanese business due to lost tourism and export orders. Exports were down in Germany, but the initial impact on the eurozone was minimal.13
China is the world’s largest importer of crude oil, and Wuhan is a key center of its oil and gas industry. The prospect of lower demand drove oil prices into bear-market territory — defined as a drop of 20% from a recent high — in early February. Prices rose later in the month but dropped again with news that the virus may be spreading. Natural gas prices have also been hit by the prospect of lower growth in Asia. While lower prices may be good for U.S. consumers, oil-exporting nations, including the United States, will face lower revenues, and energy companies that are already on rocky ground may struggle.14–17
In late January, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 3.7%, due in large part to concerns about the virus.18 The market bounced back quickly, setting new records in mid-February, but weak business news and a rash of cases outside China sent the Dow into correction territory (a decline of 10% from a recent high) on February 27.19 This suggests that the market may be volatile for some time, and future direction might depend on the progress of disease control and emerging information on the impact of the virus on U.S. and global businesses.
Global Growth Outlook
Anything that affects China, the world’s second-largest economy, can have a powerful ripple effect around the globe. An early February report by Moody’s Analytics estimated that every 1 percentage point reduction in China’s real gross domestic product (GDP) will reduce global GDP outside China by 0.4%. The report projected that disruption caused by the virus would cut more than 2 percentage points off China’s GDP growth in the first quarter of 2020 and result in a loss of 0.8% growth for the year. This in turn would cause a loss of about 0.3% in annual global GDP growth outside China and about 0.15% in the United States. Moody’s lowered its projection for 2020 global growth from around 2.8% to 2.5%.20
In a February 16 forum, Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, was more optimistic, suggesting that the virus might shave only 0.1% to 0.2% off the IMF’s 2020 global growth projection of 3.3%. Georgieva cautioned that there was still a “great deal of uncertainty” and emphasized that the extent of the economic damage depends on the length of the disruption. If the disease “is contained rapidly,” she said, “there can be a sharp drop and a very rapid rebound.”21
Although it’s natural to be concerned about the virus — on a human level as well as its potential effect on the global economy -- it is important not to overreact to short-term market swings. A well-balanced portfolio appropriate for your long-term goals and risk tolerance could help you weather the current volatility.
All investments are subject to market volatility and loss of principal. Investing internationally carries additional risks such as differences in financial reporting, currency exchange risk, as well as economic and political risk unique to the specific country. This may result in greater share price volatility. Shares, when sold, may be worth more or less than their original cost.
1) South China Morning Post, February 29, 2020
2) The New York Times, February 18, 2020
3–4, 20) Moody’s Analytics, February 2020
5) The Wall Street Journal, February 18, 2020
6, 10) Los Angeles Times, February 4, 2020
7) Forbes, February 12, 2020
8) Car and Driver, February 4, 2020
9) The Wall Street Journal, February 14, 2020
11–12, 14–15, 18) The Wall Street Journal, February 3, 2020
13) The Wall Street Journal, February 21, 2020
16) Bloomberg, February 27, 2020
17) The Wall Street Journal, February 7, 2020
19) The Wall Street Journal, February 27, 2020
21) Bangkok Post, February 17, 2020
This information is not intended as tax, legal, investment, or retirement advice or recommendations, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek advice from an independent tax or legal professional. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Broadridge Advisor Solutions. © 2020 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc.
Research shows the annual shift disrupts sleep and leads to a higher immediate risk of heart attacks and strokes...
Early Sunday morning, most people in America will spring forward and move their clocks one hour ahead to daylight-saving time.
It is good news for those who enjoy more daylight in the evening. But experts say a growing body of evidence shows that the annual time shift is bad for our health, disrupting our circadian rhythms and sleep and leading to a higher immediate risk of heart attacks, strokes, atrial fibrillation and potentially car accidents.
One thing is clear: A majority of Americans and states want to stop the tradition of moving clocks an hour ahead in spring and an hour back in the fall. A 2019 survey by the Associated Press and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 28% of people polled are happy with the status quo. Meanwhile, 31% would like to be on daylight-saving time year-round, while 40% would prefer sticking solely with standard time.
‘The acute effect of daylight-saving time in the days after the change are an increased risk of heart attack and stroke, studies show.’
More states are passing legislation to stay on daylight-saving time permanently though the change can’t be made without congressional action. In the past three years, nine states have passed measures to stay on daylight-saving time year-round and many more are considering legislation.
But many health experts say the switch should be to permanent standard time and are calling for an end to daylight-saving time. Studies have compared the rate of heart attacks and strokes immediately after switching to daylight-saving time to other times of the year. Such studies are retrospective so they show an association between daylight-saving time and certain health conditions but don’t prove that it causes them. Comparison studies haven’t been done in countries that don’t observe the time change, such as Colombia.
Clock changes affect our internal circadian clocks, which are located in every cell in our body and influence our biological workings, from hormone levels to blood pressure. All our biological functions oscillate daily with our circadian rhythm and disrupting this internal clock can affect our health.
The Society for Research on Biological Rhythms published a study last year calling for abolishing daylight-saving time. Till Roenneberg, professor emeritus at the University of Munich in Germany and president of the World Federation of Societies for Chronobiology, was lead author of the article and a follow-up study published in the journal Frontiers of Psychology. “Most of our physiology is governed by a circadian clock,” Dr. Roenneberg said. “This body clock synchronizes to the sun time.”
When you travel to a different time zone your circadian clock adjusts to a new darkness-sunlight cycle in a few days. In daylight-saving time, the dark-light cycle doesn’t change but the time does. So there is a discrepancy between your biological clock and social clock, which researchers refer to as “social jet lag,” Dr. Roenneberg said. Permanent standard time is closer to the sun’s natural time so social jet lag is reduced, he added.
“Daylight-saving time means that we virtually live in another time zone without changing the day-light cycle,” Dr. Roenneberg said. “The problem is the misalignment. The circadian clock is trying to optimize our physiology. Now suddenly we have to do things which are not at the biologically appropriate time.”
“It’s a general stress of the physiology,” he added.
The acute effect of daylight-saving time in the days after the change are an increased risk of heart attack and stroke, studies show. The risk is usually in the days following the switch, and not long term, raising questions about whether the time change is triggering heart attacks that would have happened anyway.
Beth Ann Malow, a professor of neurology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., wrote in an opinion piece in JAMA Neurology that switching between daylight-saving time and standard time is bad for the brain. “Going back and forth is ridiculous and disruptive, it makes no sense,” said Dr. Malow, who believes permanent standard time would be healthier for all.
A survey conducted by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine reported that 55% of Americans report feeling tired after the transition to daylight-saving time. The group’s health advisory says studies show that moving into or out of daylight-saving time can adversely affect sleeping and waking patterns for five to seven days.
Some people have a harder time. “A lot of people think it’s like traveling from Chicago to New York, you get used to it within a day,” she says. “It’s very different than that. It’s kind of like a permanent thing, where for the next eight months you’re an hour off.”
Mary Beth O’Connor, a 57-year-old professor who has a circadian rhythm sleep disorder, knows the feeling. Melatonin tests show that the time her body naturally falls asleep is about 6 a.m. “Your body knows what time it’s supposed to be and when they change the time, people—such as myself—with sleep disorders have a seriously hard time adjusting,” she said.
“As soon as the clock changes, it messes everything up,” said Ms. O’Connor, who lives in a suburb of Chicago and is treated for the disorder at Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s circadian medicine clinic. “It throws my entire system off. I get headaches, stomachaches. Everything feels so off to me.”
Muhammad Adeel Rishi, a pulmonologist and sleep physician at the Mayo Clinic Health System in Wisconsin, is the lead author of a daylight-saving time position statement that the American Academy of Sleep Medicine intends to publish this year.
About half-a-dozen studies have found a 5% to 15% increased risk of having a heart attack during the days after shifting to daylight-saving time. “It’s a preventable cause of cardiac injury,” Dr. Rishi said. One study found the opposite effect during the fall, in the days after the transition back to standard time. “So maybe the risk stays high throughout the time when we are on daylight-saving time,” he said.
The evidence in strokes is less abundant, with one 2016 study showing an increased in the two days after the transition to daylight-saving time, said Dr. Rishi. Other studies have found an increased risk of atrial fibrillation, as well as more emergency-room visits and an increased risk of depression and suicide.
Jori Ruuskanen, a neurologist at Turku University Hospital in Finland, was first author of a stroke study that found an 8% increase in the rate of strokes in the two days following the shift to daylight-saving time but no increase over the whole week. He speculates that the transition triggered strokes a bit earlier than they would have occurred otherwise.
Hitinder Gurm, a professor of interventional cardiology at the University of Michigan, is senior author of a 2014 study that found a 24% increase in heart attacks in the day after the daylight-saving time change but not when looking at the whole week. Dr. Gurm and his colleagues subsequently repeated the same study with the most recent five years of data and found no statistically significant effect. The latter study’s findings haven’t been published. Dr. Gurm speculated that the change may be due to better care of cardiac patients or perhaps the proliferation of mobile phones, making people less anxious about remembering to change their clocks.
Andrew Krumerman, a professor of medicine at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, is senior author of a study published in January in the journal Sleep Medicine showing an increase in atrial fibrillation admissions following the transition to daylight-saving time but not after the fall time change. “People really need to pay attention to healthy sleep habits especially around this period of time,” Dr. Krumerman said.
Findings on the effect of time changes on car accidents are mixed. One study published last month in the journal Current Biology found a 6% increase in car accidents in the week after the switch to daylight-saving time. Céline Vetter, director of the Circadian and Sleep Epidemiology Lab at the University of Colorado Boulder and senior author of the study, says the researchers looked at fatal car accidents during the fall and spring time changes and found a significant effect only in the spring.
The 6% effect is small, Dr. Vetter said, but affects “many, many individuals so we still think it’s something that has quite a public health impact.”
Tips from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine for shifting to daylight-saving time:
• Get at least seven hours of sleep before and after the transition.
• Gradually adjust sleep and wake times two to three days before the change by shifting bedtime 15 to 20 minutes earlier each night.
• Go outside and get exposure to morning sunlight on Sunday to help regulate your internal clock.
• Exercise caution during activities that require alertness in the week after the transition.
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