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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

For months now, American workers, families and small businesses have been saying they can't keep up their socially distanced lives for much longer. We've now arrived at "much longer" — and the pandemic isn't going away anytime soon.

The big picture: The relief policies and stopgap measures that we cobbled together to get us through the toughest weeks worked for a while, but they're starting to crumble just as cases are spiking in the majority of states.

Next week, the extra $600 per week in expanded unemployment benefits will expire. And there's no indication that Congress has reached a consensus on extending this assistance or providing anything in its place.

  • But nearly half of the U.S. population is still jobless, and millions will remain jobless for the foreseeable future. There are 14 million more unemployed people than there are jobs, per the Economic Policy Institute.
  • Nearly a third of Americans missed a housing payment in July — and that was with the additional $600. Plus, most Americans have already spent the stimulus checks they received at the beginning of the pandemic.
  • "We should be very concerned about what’s going to happen in August and beyond" — starting with a spike in evictions, Mathieu Despard, a faculty director at the Social Policy Institute at the Washington University in St. Louis, tells Axios.

Expect more furloughs and layoffs as more small businesses are pushed off the pandemic cliff.

  • By economists' estimates, more than 100,000 small businesses have permanently closed since the pandemic began.
  • For those that are hanging on, loans from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) have not been enough, and the back and forth between re-opening and then closing again as states deal with new case waves has been devastating. In fact, rates of closure have started increasing, the New York Times reports, citing Yelp data.
  • The big firms aren't immune either. Just last week, behemoths like United Airlines, Wells Fargo, Walgreens and Levi's either cut jobs or told workers their jobs were at risk, Axios' Dion Rabouin writes.

And the question of whether schools will reopen looms.

  • Since schools sent kids home in March, and most summer camps didn't open their doors for the summer, working parents have been dealing with a child care crisis — attempting to do their jobs, care for their kids and homeschool all at once — and hoping that the stress will be temporary.
  • The situation is more dire for low-income families with kids who rely on school lunches or for single parents who are juggling work and parenting without any help.
  • Now the public heath crisis hasn't abated, and school districts are running out of time to figure out what the fall will look like. Some, starting with Los Angeles, have already decided to go online.

The bottom line: "It’s the uncertainty that is anxiety-inducing," says Despard. "If you give people a time horizon and say, 'Look you have to get through these next 8 weeks of extreme shutdown,' they'll do it. Now it’s like, 'How much longer?'"

Go deeper

Updated 15 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: Fauci: "Confident" Omicron cases will peak in February — FDA OKs antiviral drug remdesivir for non-hospitalized COVID patients — Walensky: CDC language "pivoting" on "fully vaccinated".
  2. Vaccines: Annual COVID vaccine preferable to boosters, says Pfizer CEO — Team USA 100% vaccinated against COVID ahead of Beijing Olympics.
  3. Politics: Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates — Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: Beijing Olympic Committee lowers COVID testing threshold ahead of Games — Beijing officials urge COVID-19 "emergency mode" before Winter Olympics — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker
Oct 27, 2020 - World

Putin mandates face masks as Russia combats second COVID-19 wave

Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo: Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday instituted a nationwide mask mandate, as the nation tries to combat a second spike of COVID-19 cases, according to an order published by Rospotrebnadzor, the federal health watchdog agency.

By the numbers: Russia currently has the fourth-most coronavirus cases in the world, with 1,537,142, according to Johns Hopkins data, behind the U.S., India and Brazil. Russia has reported 26,092 deaths to date.

Oct 27, 2020 - Economy & Business

The pandemic is pushing people to switch careers

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Many Americans who have been out of work for months and hold jobs in struggling industries like travel and hospitality are thinking about switching careers entirely.

The big picture: It's not so easy. Jumping into new roles and new fields requires training, which can be too costly or difficult to come by. And even after training, starting all over again usually means a huge pay cut, experts say.