Morning virus brief: US spending falls by record 13.6 percent; Europe's social welfare net fraying
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Morning virus brief: US spending falls by record 13.6 percent; Europe's social welfare net fraying

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U.S. consumer spending plunged by a record-shattering 13.6% in April as the viral pandemic shuttered businesses, forced millions of layoffs and sent the economy into a deep recession.

Last month's spending decline was far worse than the revised 6.9% drop in March, which itself had set a record for the steepest one-month fall in records dating to 1959. Friday's Commerce Department figures reinforced evidence that the economy is gripped by the worst downturn in decades, with consumers unable or too anxious to spend much.

Meanwhile, Europe’s extensive social welfare net is showing signs of fraying under economic strain from the coronavirus, as protests erupted for a second day in Spain on Friday against layoffs by French carmaker Renault, while Italy’s chief central banker warned that “uncertainty is rife.”

Here's an update on all developments. Scroll or swipe further for in-depth coverage.

  • A debate in Congress over whether to extend $600 a week in federally provided benefits to the unemployed looks sure to intensify with the number of people receiving the aid now topping 30 million — one in five workers.
  • South Africa says it has a backlog of nearly 100,000 unprocessed tests for the coronavirus, a striking example of the painful shortage of testing kits across Africa as cases steadily rise.
  • In Brazil, couples have begun turning to drive-thru marriage to avoid the coronavirus. At a notary on the western outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, 15 couples were married on Thursday alone.
  • The pandemic has upended international travel, and some organ and human tissue transplant services are being forced to find creative solutions to get their deliveries to patients on time.
  • For Orthodox Christians, the use of a shared spoon by a priest to distribute Holy Communion is a tradition that dates back thousands of years. Contrary to science, the Greek Orthodox Church insists is impossible for any disease, including the coronavirus, to be transmitted through Holy Communion.
  • Alabama's sparsely populated Lowndes County has the sad distinction of having both the state’s highest rate of COVID-19 cases and its worst unemployment rate.
  • The Spanish soccer league is contemplating adding virtual crowds to the television broadcast of matches that will be played in empty stadiums because of the coronavirus pandemic.

For more summaries and full reports, please select from the articles below. Scroll further for some good news and the latest maps tracking the virus.

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Good news

Massachusetts woman, 103, beats coronavirus, celebrates with Bud Light

WILBRAHAM, Mass. — She was the first in her nursing home to test positive for coronavirus — and the first to recover.

So Jennie Stejna, a 103-year-old great-great-grandmother and hard-core Boston sports fan known for listening to Red Sox games on the radio, celebrated with a cold Bud Light.

Stejna contracted coronavirus a few weeks ago and, family members told the Easton Journal, was not expected to survive. Family members had already called Stejna at Life Care Center of Wilbraham, Mass., to say goodbye after her condition had worsened, Shelley Gunn, Stejna’s granddaughter, told the Journal.

But on May 13, she had a turnaround. Read the full story here:

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