NEW YORK -- Discouraging findings on a possible coronavirus treatment and fresh data showing one in six American workers have lost their jobs tempered relief Friday over the passage by Congress of a nearly $500 billion spending package to help businesses and hospitals.
In a trend seen around the globe, roughly 26 million Americans have filed for jobless aid in five weeks, pushing unemployment to levels last seen during the Great Depression of the 1930s and raising the stakes over how and when to ease shutdowns of factories and other businesses.
Dampening hopes for discovery of an effective treatment for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, results of a Chinese study on the antiviral drug remdesivir (rehm-DEHZ’-ih-veer), found no positive effect, though the sample size was too small to draw scientifically valid conclusions.
Anchoring the bill is $250 billion to replenish a fund to help small- and medium-size businesses with payroll, rent and other expenses. President Donald Trump said the bill “will help small businesses to keep millions of workers on the payroll.”
He was expected to sign the bill on Friday.
The coronavirus has killed more than 190,000 people worldwide, including more than 100,000 in Europe and nearly 50,000 in the United States, according to a tally compiled by John Hopkins University from government figures. The true numbers are undoubtedly far higher, and new cases are surging in Africa and Latin America as outbreaks subside in some places hit earlier.
In the U.S., the economic consequences of the shutdowns have sparked angry rallies in state capitals by protesters demanding that businesses reopen, and Trump has expressed impatience over the restrictions.
Some U.S. governors have begun loosening up despite warnings from health authorities that it may be too soon to do so without sparking a second wave of infections. In Georgia, gyms, hair salons and bowling alleys can reopen Friday. Texas has reopened its state parks.