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Unemployment climbing in area

Across the nation, unemployment claims total the most in United States history. State-by-state claimant counts are high as well.

In Missouri, the state had an unemployment rate of 4.5% in March, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

In Buchanan County, the rate was 4.2%, just below the state average for the unemployed. But unemployment claims from February to March saw a jump from 130 to 1,958 claimants.

“Over 90% of claimants have been able to file online without assistance using UInteract,” Delores Rose, the director of strategic communications for the Missouri Department of Labor, said. “Our challenge has been to set up three new federally funded assistance programs that are not part of the unemployment insurance program in less than a month while taking an unprecedented number of unemployment claims and transitioning employees back to work remotely.”

Missouri Western State University has a Career Development Center aimed at helping students find a job after college, which already can be a hard task. The pandemic makes it even harder for recent graduates to find work.

“That is unfortunately true and I saw it primarily with a couple students that reached out to me,” Megan Raney, career development director at Missouri Western, said.“They said their internship programs were cancelled. Those part-time positions or temporary ones were the first to go, so obviously that hurts students.”

Career development advice could even be more important for students than ever. As the search for jobs continue for college students, the search for checks continues for the unemployed.

The ability to file for unemployment has not necessarily been an issue other than the fact the website has crashed a couple times with all the heavy traffic it is seeing. Those problems were quickly fixed in overnight repairs, officials said.

One problem has been workers’ ability to get checks processed and sent to them to help them make ends meet. The Missouri Department of Labor said it’s not the extra traffic that’s taking longer to get money to some people, it’s because of mistakes entered by the unemployed.

“Adjudicating issues found on claims is taking longer because of the sheer volume. Claimants are reminded to take extreme care to provide accurate information,” Rose said. “Typos, wrong dates, incorrect answers to questions and other data-entry errors during the initial claims process cause most delays for eligible claimants.”

Claim numbers might not normalize until coronavirus unemployment benefits end on July 26. Even then there could still be higher rates of claimants than seen in years past.

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Hydroxylchloroquine being used minimally locally for COVID-19

The search for an anti-viral and preventive drug for COVID-19 has been a priority for health professionals across the world. With the World Health Organization suspending the study on hydroxychloroquine, use of the drug as a treatment has slowed locally.

Mosaic Life Care has been using hydroxychloroquine sparingly for those who have had severe COVID-19 symptoms, although Chief Quality Officer Dr. Edward Kammerer said physicians have started to prescribe it less and favor Remdesivir or a convalacent serum using the plasma of those who have COVID-19 antibodies.

“We’re really not doing much of that much in the way of hydroxychloroquine anymore, because the studies coming out of America don’t seem to support the fact that it’s very effective,”

Kammerer said.

Despite the fact that President Donald Trump said on May 18 that he had been taking the drug himself every day for two weeks, many health professionals have warned the public of the potential harmful side effects.

“The most notable one with hydroxychloroquine would be the risk for heart arrhythmias, which is an abnormal heart rate,” Northwest Health Director of Pharmacy Miranda Phillips said. “That’s not something that you’d want to just be taking and not be under medical care, because that could potentially be fatal.”

Phillips said another reason for hydroxychloroquine not being prescribed is the need for it to be available for the small number of people who take the medication for malaria, lupus or arthritis.

Phillips mentioned an observational study across the world where 100,000 COVID-19 patients were given the drug and it was decided it had no impact. With the effectiveness in question as well as the concern of the side effects, Phillips said hospitals are moving away from using the drug and it should not be used as a preventive.

“There’s a lot of safety concerns with it, so when we have possibly other treatment options or treatment for the symptoms of COVID-19 I think a lot of hospitals are transitioning over to using those things rather than hydroxychloroquine,” Phillips said.

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More than 13,000 COVID cases in Missouri

Missouri recorded 13,147 cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. The number of cases is up by 185 from 12,962 on Saturday, resulting in a 1.4% increase.

The number of deaths increased from 771 to 772.

Meanwhile, Johns Hopkins University, which also counts presumptive positive cases, is reporting 13,298 cases in Missouri and 775 deaths.

In Buchanan County, 692 people have tested positive for the virus as of Sunday, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

Mosaic Life Care has issued 6,380 tests in its service area, with 329 returning a positive result, 5,944 a negative result and 57 still pending. Twelve people are inpatients in St. Joseph and one person in as inpatient in Albany.

Kansas recorded 9,719 cases of COVID-19 on Friday, up from 9,337 on Wednesday. A total of 208 people have died. The Kansas Department of Health releases numbers on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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In Washington, a new pushback against China

Two dynamics appear particularly important regarding Missouri’s relationship with China.

One involves commerce: Depending on the year, the state exports between roughly $800 million to more than $1 billion annually to China. Most of that involves oilseeds, grains and meat products, according to the U.S.-China Business Council.

The other involves a Midwestern view of human rights: Missouri members of Congress did not provide one negative vote to legislation in May sanctioning China for abuses heaped upon ethnic minorities, ranging from religious persecution to detention in concentration camps.

This balancing act has gone on for a while. China’s nearly 1.4 billion people make for a compelling marketplace for foreign goods, not to mention a ready supply of low-cost labor for American companies locating abroad.

But the Asian nation’s notorious treatment of its own citizens, in addition to its expansionist goals in the Pacific Rim and beyond, makes for a queasy international relationship.

On Friday afternoon, President Trump announced economic, immigration and other actions against the Beijing government, including a review of Chinese companies listed on American financial markets and their practices.

“Investment firms should not be subjecting their clients to hidden and undue risks associated with financing Chinese companies that do not play by the same rules,” Trump said at the White House, noting that China has been a leading player in stealing corporate intellectual property.

One Missouri lawmaker, U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, believes the U.S.-China relationship has reached a tipping point.

“Will we acquiesce? Are we, in this nation, willing to witness the slow undoing of the free world?” the Republican said in a recent speech on the floor of the Senate. “Are we willing to watch our own way of life, our own liberties and livelihoods grow dependent on the policy of Beijing?”

Since going to Washington last year, Hawley has become a steadfast critic of the Communist government headquartered in Beijing.

He has been especially condemning of China’s increasing crackdown on basic liberties in Hong Kong, a former British colony operating under a “one country, two systems” formula in the southeaster part of the Chinese mainland.

China’s National People’s Congress on Thursday approved a new national security law that curtails autonomy in Hong Kong. The vote was 2,878 to 1.

In his Rose Garden remarks Friday, Trump called Hong Kong “a bastion of liberty” that will be corrupted by China’s power grab.

“This was a plain violation of Beijing’s treaty obligations,” the president said. “This is a tragedy for the people of Hong Kong, the people of China and, indeed, the people of the world.”

Hawley visited Hong Kong last fall, meeting with pro-democracy demonstrators, and gave a speech in the aftermath labeling China as the world’s principal economic and military threat.

“The Chinese Communist Party is a menace to all free peoples. It seeks nothing less than domination. It wants nothing less than world power,” he said in the recent Senate speech.

“This is China’s policy, to control Asia and to rule the Pacific. From there, the Chinese government wants to spread its influence to Africa, to Europe to South America, a master of home and abroad.”

Legislative leaders of both parties have spoken out against Chinese actions.

“If America does not speak out for human rights in China because of some commercial interest, then we lose all moral authority to speak out on human rights violations anyplace in the world,” U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, said last week.

On Friday, Republican Congressman Ted Yoho, a Floridian on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said that China, having taken freedoms from Hong Kong, would set its sights on other countries in the region.

“I think you’re going to see not just the United States, but I think you’re going to see western democracies around the world come to shore up the defense of Taiwan,” he said. “This is something that China needs to know ... hands off of Taiwan. That’s not acceptable.”