CHN’s COVID-19 Watch: Tracking Hardship February 19, 2021


February 19, 2021

COVID-19 HardshipFebruary 19, 2021

The economy won’t fix itself edition. At first glance, reasons for optimism abound. New COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths all are down sharply. This week’s wintry weather caused a hiccup in vaccine distribution, but 12.7 percent of all Americans – 42.3 million and counting – have now received at least the first vaccine. After January, the pandemic’s deadliest month, It is now possible to believe the worst is behind us. 

But several new studies out this week show how much we have suffered and how far we have yet to go in order to restore our economy and address racial inequity. Hot off the press is a new report suggesting that 20 percent of business travel won’t come back, and 20 percent of workers will work from home indefinitely. That will cost us millions of jobs at hotels, restaurants, and downtown shops, in addition to ongoing automation of office support roles and factory jobs. These millions of workers will need to be retrained – and that will take money. 

Too, we learned this week that Americans’ life expectancy plummeted by an entire year during the first six months of 2020 due to COVID-19 deaths. But again, like everything associated with this pandemic, the decline exposed racial inequity – the drop was much more precipitous for Black Americans than for white Americans. 

Given that we have an economic downturn that is punishing Black, Latinx, and lower-income workers more than others, and an economy that will not fully recover on its own, we need help from Congress. Thankfully, President Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan is progressing in Congress and could be voted on by the full House as early as late next week. 

That plan would expand and extend unemployment benefits, expand the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit, continue nutrition assistance, expand health coverage, increase housing assistance, provide fiscal aid for states, territories, tribes, and localities, provide funding for K-12 schools, and offer emergency funds to families facing hardship. Please tell your House member and Senators to cut child poverty in half by expanding the Child Tax Credit here. 



The number of new COVID-19 cases and deaths reported in the U.S. on Thursday, February 18. That’s a 44 percent drop in cases and 39 percent drop in deaths over the previous two weeks. Tweet this.


1 year/2.7 years 

The average life expectancy for Americans dropped one year from 2019 to the first six months of 2020 due to COVID-19 deaths. For Black Americans, the drop was even more acute – 2.7 years. The drop was 0.8 years for whites. Tweet this.



Pacific Islanders were 2.7 times as likely to have died from COVID-19 than whites, as of February 4; Latinx were 2.4 times as likely. For Indigenous people, that number is 2.2 times; for Blacks, 2.1 times. Tweet this.



5 percent of all white people in New York City have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, compared to 3 percent of NYC’s Latinx and 2 percent of NYC’s Black people.  Given the likelihood that Latinx and Black people are heavily represented in frontline jobs, this shows a troubling disparity. Tweet this.


1.37 million 

The number of new unemployment claims filed last week, up from the previous week. That includes 861,000 state UI claims and 516,000 Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims. Economists had anticipated a drop in the claims this week. The fact that the decline did not occur is further evidence of a sluggish economy. Tweet this.



The percent of unemployed Americans nationwide who were actually getting benefits, according to a January survey. 

1.3 million 

The number of additional Americans who could receive coverage under the Affordable Care Act marketplaces if the American Rescue Plan becomes law in its current form.



The lowest-paying industries accounted for 31 percent of all jobs in February of 2020, but 57 percent of all jobs lost since then – stark evidence that the pandemic has devastated low-income workers in particular.


27 million 

The number of children in families with low or no income who would benefit from an expanded Child Tax Credit.


7-11 million 

Between 7 and 11 million children live in households where the children did not have enough to eat in the past seven days. That compares with 1.1 million children in December of 2019. The current figure includes 28 percent of children in Black and Latinx households, compared to 10 percent in white households.