corona virus

By Shereen Siewert

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin jumped from 281 to 381 on Sunday, according to the latest tally posted by the state Department of Health Services.

Marathon County remains at one confirmed case, though the number of pending tests in the area is unclear.

Statewide, four people have died, while the death toll continues to climb nationwide. The global coronavirus pandemic has surpassed 13,600 people worldwide and sickened more than 318,000. Leaders in the U.S. are hammering out a rescue package that could be worth $1.4 trillion or more, while the death toll in Italy soared yet again.

In national news, Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky tested positive for the coronavirus, his office said Sunday. He is quarantining himself as he recovers.

Paul’s office said the senator is “feeling fine” and will return to Washington, D.C., after his quarantine period ends.

“He is asymptomatic and was tested out of an abundance of caution due to his extensive travel and events. He was not aware of any direct contact with any infected person,” his office wrote in a pair of tweets.

A stunned economy

Never before has the U.S. economy screeched to such a sudden, violent stop. Its shutdown has inflicted a case of whiplash on Americans who had enjoyed a decade-plus of gains from the job market, the stock market and a steady economic expansion. The economy is cratering into what looks like a deep recession. Millions will likely lose jobs by summer.

“The economy has never gone from healthy to disaster so quickly,” said Jason Furman, who was President Barack Obama’s top economic adviser and is now a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School.

“In the financial crisis,” Furman noted, “the housing bubble burst in 2006, the first financial tremors were in 2007 and the major financial events were spread out from February through September of 2008. What would take years in a financial crisis has happened in days in this health crisis.’’

Since the Great Recession ended in 2009, the economy has risen for a record 11 years. It hasn’t exactly been a boom. Annual growth has averaged a decent but unspectacular 2.3% since 2010. Yet the expansion has been solid and durable. Employers have added jobs for 113 straight months, the longest such streak on record.

Just two weeks ago, the government delivered a blockbuster employment report: A healthy gain of 273,000 of jobs in February. A 3.5% unemployment rate, a 50-year low.

What’s more, public confidence was up. Consumers were spending. Incomes were rising. Layoffs were rare.

In just a couple of weeks, it’s all ended with the shutdown of most business activity nationwide, and a destructive recession seems inevitable. Goldman Sachs expects the economy to shrink at a sickening 24% annual rate in the April-June quarter. That would be, by far, the worst quarterly drop on record. Just days before, Goldman had projected a 5% annual drop in that period.

This week, economists say the government could report that up to 3 million people applied for unemployment benefits last week, which would easily set a record. IHS Markit predicts 7 million job losses from April to June and for unemployment to shoot to 8.8% by late this year. Other economists see joblessness going much higher than that.

As investors have grasped the depth of the crisis, panic selling has set in. Since Feb. 12, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has plunged 35%, wiping out vast household wealth and likely undermining people’s confidence and willingness to spend.

“I’m not sure that anyone honestly has any sense of how this ultimately resolves and on what sort of timetable,? said Daniel Feldman, a former U.S. diplomat who counsels corporations for the law firm Covington & Burling.

What you need to know now

For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover.

Here are the symptoms of the virus compared with the common flu.

One of the best ways to prevent spread of the virus is washing your hands with soap and water. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends first washing with warm or cold water and then lathering soap for 20 seconds to get it on the backs of hands, between fingers and under fingernails before rinsing off.

You should wash your phone, too. Here’s how.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.