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Coronavirus update: PPP rife with fraud, investigators say

Many of the pandemic’s lost jobs haven’t returned

Paycheck Protection Program concept with money
Photo (c) ogichobanov - Getty Images
COVID-19 ‌tally‌ ‌as‌ ‌‌compiled‌‌ ‌by‌ ‌Johns‌ ‌Hopkins‌ ‌University.‌ ‌(Previous‌ ‌numbers‌ ‌in‌ ‌parentheses.)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 79,999,187 (79,954,968)

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 978,059 (976,705)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 482,602,737 (481,121,555)

Total ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 6,128,763 (6,124,475)‌

PPP led to ‘biggest fraud in a generation,’ investigators say

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck two years ago, Congress responded with a number of emergency measures. One of those measures was the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which rewarded businesses for retaining employees as the economy shut down. Two years later, investigators claim that the program produced the “biggest fraud in a generation.”

Investigators and other public officials told NBC News that fraudsters made bogus claims and collected millions of dollars that they spent on houses, cars, and travel. Investigators say fraudsters collected as much as $80 billion from the $800 billion program.

According to Justice Department officials, the structure of the program made it easy to abuse. They say the Small Business Administration required very little verification from applicants.

Most of the pandemic’s lost jobs haven’t returned, report finds

Layoffs and resignations have been a hallmark of the COVID-19 pandemic. Two years later, with the virus in apparent retreat in the U.S., a government report shows that jobs have not returned to a majority of states. The report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the number of jobs had surpassed pre-pandemic levels in only 21 states as of February.

According to the report, New York is running a 454,000 private-sector job deficit when compared to February 2020. The 4.1% decline in employment is one of the worst in the U.S.

Nebraska and Utah had the lowest jobless rates in February, at 2.1% each. The next lowest rates were in Indiana (2.3%) and Kansas (2.5%).

Study finds dental health can affect COVID-19

Scientists continue to learn about the virus that causes COVID-19 by finding connections between it and other health conditions. In a new study, researchers have concluded that people with poor dental hygiene are more vulnerable to severe symptoms.

In the study, about 75% of people who suffered from severe dental disease were hospitalized with COVID-19. Conversely, none of the subjects who enjoyed good dental health were hospitalized. 

The researchers aren't ruling out the possibility that people with poor dental health may be generally unhealthy, but they note that the virus enters the bloodstream through the body’s ACE2 receptors, which are plentiful in the tongue and gums.

Around the nation

  • New Jersey: New Jersey continues to make progress in a key COVID-19 metric, with fewer residents of the state dying from the virus. On Monday, health officials reported one more confirmed COVID-19 death and 617 positive tests. Officials say New Jersey has fallen bbbbbb below West Virginia and Tennessee as the state with the seventh-most coronavirus deaths per capita in the U.S.

  • North Carolina: State health officials report that the number of people hospitalized in North Carolina with the coronavirus dropped below 500 on Sunday for the first time since July 2021. One hospital,  CarolinaEast Medical Center in eastern North Carolina, discharged its final COVID-19 patient last week.

  • Mississippi:  The Trips to Discover organization, which tracks online travel searches, reports that Mississippi ranks number one in the nation in travel since COVID-19. Greenville is the most searched city, with interest rising 400% from pre-pandemic levels, according to the organization.

  • Utah: The state government is winding down its COVID-19 emergency response as cases of the virus continue to fall. The Utah Department of Health is closing a series of mass testing sites this week and will direct people to private testing facilities and home testing. 

  • Massachusetts: Schools have become the new hotspots for COVID-19, at least in Massachusetts. Several schools districts have reported a sharp rise in cases. Last week  Brookline schools recorded a total of 74 COVID-19 cases, a significant rise from the previous week when there were only 12 positive cases reported.

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