Coronavirus stimulus checks, unemployment claims, astronauts launch to ISS: 5 things to know Thursday

Editors, USA TODAY

Economists anxiously await jobless claims figure

More tough economic news is likely on tap Thursday when the Labor Department reports unemployment claims for the week ending April 4. A stunning 10 million Americans have sought unemployment benefits in the past two weeks, reflecting the damage caused by the coronavirus crisis. That figure exceeds the nearly 9 million who lost jobs from 2008 to 2010 amid the Great Recession. And more is still to come, experts say: Gregory Daco of Oxford Economics expects a total of 22 million job losses by May, pushing the historically low 3.5% unemployment rate to 12% before the outbreak eases.

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Americans could start receiving stimulus checks today

Millions of taxpayers could begin receiving the much-awaited stimulus cash by direct deposit as early as Thursday. The first group — estimated to cover 50 million to 60 million Americans — would include people who have already given their bank account information to the IRS. The group also would include Social Security beneficiaries who filed federal tax returns that included direct deposit information, according to an alert from Michigan Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell. Her announcement said the expectation is that the first direct deposits would hit in mid-April, likely the week beginning April 13.

Astronauts blast off for ISS despite pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic is forcing people to stay home, but three astronauts on Thursday will experience a different type of isolation and quarantine — in space. NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and his fellow crewmates, Russia's Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, blasted off aboard the Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft at 4:05 a.m. ET from Kazakhstan. They'll take a six-hour journey to the International Space Station, where they will join Expedition 62 crew members Oleg Skripochka, Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir, who will return to Earth on April 17.  Russian space officials have taken extra precautions to protect the crew during training and pre-flight preparations. Speaking to journalists via video link Wednesday, Cassidy said the crew has been in “a very strict quarantine” for the past month and so in good health. “We all feel fantastic,” he said.

Tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, high winds threaten midwestern US

More severe weather is in store for Thursday as thunderstorms and high winds are forecast across the midwestern United States from the Mississippi River Valley to the Ohio Valley. With cold and gusting winds from the Great Lakes and upper Midwest to the East Coast, Accuweather meteorologist Danielle Knittle told USA TODAY that there will be potential "tree damage [and] power outages," affecting cities including St. Louis. The National Weather Service, meanwhile, issued a tornado watch until 2 a.m. Thursday for a large swath of the Midwest as a cold front brought severe conditions to Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky. 

Fresh off brush with coronavirus, Charles, Camilla celebrate anniversary

Prince Charles and his second wife, Duchess Camilla of Cornwall, will celebrate their 15th wedding anniversary Thursday and the couple already released a picture  to commemorate the occasion, showing little sign of their scrape with coronavirus. The picture of the Prince of Wales, 71, and Camilla, 72, was posted on the Clarence House Twitter account and shows them each holding one of the duchess' small dogs, Bluebell and Beth. The palace said the picture was taken earlier Wednesday at Birkhall, the prince's mansion in Scotland. Previously, Charles announced he had tested positive for the coronavirus. He went into self-isolation in one part of Birkhall while continuing to work.  He came out of isolation on March 30 after seven days. Camilla tested negative but went into self-isolation in another part of the house. She emerged Monday after 14 days, and reunited with her husband.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Coronavirus, unemployment claims, ISS launch: 5 things to know Thursday