Editor’s note: This article was updated 2:20 p.m. Friday.
The number of Vermonters out of work and struggling to support their families continues to climb as the Vermont Department of Labor processed more than 6,500 jobless claims over the past week.
According to the department’s unemployment insurance claims report released Thursday, initial claims for the week ending April 18 totaled 6,598, which are on top of the 9,662 claims the week of April 11 and 16,474 claims in the week prior to that.
Past initial claims that have continued on in the most recent week reached 64,313, up from 31,204 during the week ending April 11. People collecting unemployment insurance must report their job status to the state on a weekly basis to continue receiving jobless benefits.
At the national level, 4.4 million Americans filed new applications for unemployment benefits, according to the U.S. Labor Department. Approximately 26.5 million people have lost jobs since governors began shutting down their state economies last month and issuing “stay home” orders to battle the coronavirus pandemic.
Number of deaths
While new cases of coronavirus have leveled off in the past week, 43 people have died from COVID-19, according to the Vermont Department of Health. State and federal guidelines allow doctors to list coronavirus as the cause of death with or without a positive lab test result.
Vermont health officials have administered 13,852 tests and confirmed 825 total cases. Twenty-one people are currently being monitored, and 821 individuals have completed monitoring. Nearly half of all cases — 395 — are located in Chittenden County.
Comparison with flu and pneumonia
For the three-week period ending April 11, Vermont had 34 people die of pneumonia. No one is reported to have died from seasonal flu in the same period, which marks a decrease in flu deaths compared to prior weeks. The weekly statistics are tracked by the National Center for Health Statistics Mortality Surveillance System.
U.S. COVID-19 deaths
The U.S. coronavirus death toll hit 44,575 Thursday, with 5,862 of those deaths being attributed to COVID-19 without a positive lab test result. Approximately 15,740 deaths — more than 35% of all U.S. coronavirus deaths — occurred in New York state. New cases, hospitalizations and deaths are now on the decline in the Empire State, the nation’s epicenter of the outbreak.
By comparison, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that between 24,000 and 62,000 Americans have died of seasonal flu since Oct. 1.
New study shows infection rate much higher, death rate much lower
On Monday, researchers from the University of Southern California in collaboration with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health released a scientific study that found COVID-19 infections may be 28 to 55 times higher than reported. While the news means more people have contracted coronavirus than originally thought, it also means the fatality rate is much lower than originally believed — about 0.1% to 0.2%, making COVID-19 about as deadly as regular seasonal flu.
Some states ready to open up again
Georgia, Florida, Texas, Tennessee, Oklahoma and South Carolina have begun opening up their respective economies this week after a month of stay-home orders and business shutdowns. In Vermont, Gov. Phil Scott has said small outdoor crews could get back to work in sectors like construction and landscaping, but restrictions on restaurants and other service industry jobs are still in place.
On Tuesday, U.S. Attorney General William Barr said the Department of Justice could take legal action against states with overly strict social distancing rules, saying “the idea that you have to stay in your house is disturbingly close to house arrest.”
He added that “when a governor does something that intrudes upon or infringes on a fundamental right or a constitutional right, they’re bounded by that. And those situations are emerging around the country to some extent.”
In the past six weeks, dating to the last week before the economic shutdowns began, the initial claims for unemployment for Vermont have been: