BOSTON – Unemployment claims nationwide hit record levels, according to new data published Thursday, as the coronavirus pandemic shuttered wide swaths of public life and left millions out of work.
The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a $2 trillion aid bill late Wednesday night — the largest stimulus package in American history — after party leaders and the White House reached a deal. Eyes now turn to watch how quickly the House can take up a wide-ranging bill that includes direct payments to Americans, business relief, stronger unemployment benefits and an injection of health care spending.
In Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker plans his daily COVID-19 briefing for 2 p.m. On Wednesday, Baker ordered schools and child care centers to remain closed through at least May 4, a further extension indicating the state has not yet reached the peak of the outbreak.
Both the state House and Senate will return to session Thursday, where the Senate will act on a bill not popular in the House that empowers advanced practice nurses to practice without supervision during the emergency to address the potential for doctor shortages. The House, meanwhile, is still working through Baker’s proposal to allow restaurants to sell beer and wine to go as part of their takeout-only offerings during the outbreak.
The Senate is holding a “joint tele-caucus,” bringing together members of both parties remotely for private conversations starting at 10 a.m.
Rep. Mike Day announced Wednesday that he had tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday, making him the first state lawmaker confirmed to have the illness.
Congressman Seth Moulton announced that he and his wife would self-quarantine until they recovered from symptoms that mirrored the coronavirus, although he said they could not get tested. Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, meanwhile, is awaiting results for her own COVID-19 test after experiencing flu-like symptoms.
Driven in part by rapid increases in testing capacity, the number of confirmed cases in Massachusetts grew dramatically again from 1,159 on Tuesday to 1,838 on Wednesday, more than double what it was just two days ago. The state now has 15 deaths attributable to the illness, which is affecting all age groups despite warnings from public health officials that it poses higher risks to older adults. – Chris Lisinski