Unemployment data set a bleak record and hospitals struggled with an influx of sick patients and lack of equipment. But the White House coronavirus response coordinator dismissed talk of shortages.
Published March 26, 2020Updated March 27, 2020
ImageCredit…Dave Sanders for The New York Times
The U.S. now leads the world in confirmed coronavirus cases.
Scientists warned that the United States someday would become the country hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. That moment arrived on Thursday.
In the United States, at least 81,321 people are known to have been infected with the coronavirus, including more than 1,000 deaths — more cases than China, Italy or any other country has seen, according to data gathered by The New York Times.
With 330 million residents, the United States is the world’s third most populous nation, meaning it provides a vast pool of people who can potentially get Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus.
And it is a sprawling, cacophonous democracy, where states set their own policies and President Trump has sent mixed messages about the scale of the danger and how to fight it, ensuring there was no coherent, unified response to a grave public health threat.
A series of missteps and lost opportunities dogged the nation’s response.
Among them: a failure to take the pandemic seriously even as it engulfed China, a deeply flawed effort to provide broad testing for the virus that left the country blind to the extent of the crisis, and a dire shortage of masks and protective gear to protect doctors and nurses on the front lines, as well as ventilators to keep the critically ill alive.
Early graduation could send medical students to the front lines.
Several medical schools in Massachusetts and New York announced this week that they intended to offer early graduation to their fourth-year students, fast-tracking them into front-line hospital care as the need for medical workers surges.
On Tuesday, the Grossman School of Medicine at New York University became the first in the United States to announce an offer of early graduation, in an email to students. That followed similar moves earlier this year in Italy and Britain, which advanced many final-year medical students into intermediate clinical service.
On Thursday, the medical schools at Tufts University, Boston University and the University of Massachusetts announced that they planned to move up their graduation dates to April from May, after a request from the state of Massachusetts to help expand the medical work force. Harvard Medical School said it was “actively considering” the same step.
Dr. Steven Abramson, vice dean for education, faculty and academic affairs at N.Y.U. Grossman, said the school’s decision came as its hospitals were overwhelmed with an increasing number of Covid-19 patient cases. “That led us to conclude: Why not graduate students who are interested in serving in hospitals now? They’ve completed their requirements and they’re prepared.”
A deal for thousands of ventilators seemed imminent, until the announcement was canceled.
The White House had been preparing to reveal a joint venture between General Motors and Ventec Life Systems that would allow for the production of as many as 80,000 desperately needed ventilators. Then word suddenly came down that the announcement was off.
The decision to cancel the announcement, government officials say, came after the Federal Emergency Management Agency said it needed more time to assess whether the estimated cost was prohibitive. That price tag was more than $1 billion, with several hundred million dollars to be paid upfront to General Motors to retool a car parts plant in Kokomo, Ind., where the ventilators would be made with Ventec’s technology.
Government officials said that the deal might still happen but that they are examining at least a dozen other proposals. And they contend that an initial promise that the joint venture could turn out 20,000 ventilators in short order had shrunk to 7,500, with even that number in doubt. Longtime emergency managers at FEMA are working with military officials to sort through the competing offers and federal procurement rules while under pressure to give President Trump something to announce.
The shortage of ventilators has emerged as one of the major criticisms of the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus. The need to quickly equip hospitals across the country with tens of thousands more of the devices to treat those most seriously ill with the virus was not anticipated despite the Trump administration’s own projection in a simulation last year that millions of people could be hospitalized. And even now, the effort to produce them has been confused and disorganized.
A Navy hospital ship is headed to New York this weekend.
President Trump said on Thursday that the Navy hospital ship U.S.N.S. Comfort will disembark on Saturday from Norfolk, Va., and arrive at Manhattan’s Pier 90 on Monday, three weeks earlier than expected.
The ship should bolster the capacity of New York’s hospitals, which are straining with patients suffering from Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Mr. Trump said that he would personally see off the ship.
“I’m going to go out and kiss it goodbye,” he said — a photo opportunity that would mark his first departure from the White House in weeks.
Hot spots are developing in the Midwest, and vaccine trials are underway.
Deborah L. Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, warned of new hot spots developing in Wayne County, Mich., home to Detroit, and Cook County, Ill., home to Chicago, during the White House briefing on Thursday.
But Dr. Birx tried to be reassuring. She said that 19 states that represent about 40 percent of the U.S. population still have fewer than 200 cases of coronavirus, and of the people with significant symptoms who are being tested nationwide, 86 percent are testing negative.
She insisted that talk of ventilator and hospital-bed shortages is overwrought.
“To say that to the American people, to make the implication when they need a hospital bed, it won’t be there, or when they need that ventilator, it won’t be there, we don’t have evidence of that right now,” Dr. Birx said.
As she spoke, medical staff in New York continued to say colleagues and patients are dying because they lack equipment in overtaxed hospitals.
Also at the briefing, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the timeline for the development of a coronavirus vaccine was proceeding faster than usual, but would still take at least a year. He said small Phase 1 trials have already begun, and that he hoped larger Phase 2 or Phase 3 trials could begin by the middle of the summer.
Dr. Fauci stressed the importance of making sure a vaccine is safe and that it did not actually “enhance the infection.”
Pelosi predicts bipartisan passage of $2 trillion stimulus in House.
‘We Can Go Bigger,’ Pelosi Says of Stimulus Bill to Combat Coronavirus
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she expected the House to pass a $2 trillion measure to aid an American economy devastated by the coronavirus pandemic.
Last night, as you know, the Senate passed important legislation. We’re very proud of the product. We think it is — we did jiu-jitsu on it, that it went from a corporate-first proposal that the Republicans put forth in the Senate to a workers-first, Democratic workers-first legislation. We will have a strong bipartisan vote, and we take some pride in the fact that, as I said earlier, congressional Democrats in the Senate and in the House were able to flip this over from a corporate, trickle-down Republican version to bubble up workers first, families first. This is an emergency, a challenge to the conscience as well as the budget of our country. And every dollar that we spend is an investment in the lives and the livelihood of the American people. We can go bigger.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she expected the House to pass a $2 trillion measure to aid an American economy devastated by the coronavirus pandemic.CreditCredit…Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that the House on Friday will pass the $2 trillion stimulus bill to respond to the coronavirus pandemic “with strong bipartisan support,” after the Senate’s unanimous late-night vote to approve it.
She said the House, which has been in recess for the past week with lawmakers scattered throughout the country, would consider the measure on a voice vote, so that members who wanted to register their positions could do so audibly on the House floor, and others who could not or did not want to return to Washington would not be obligated to cast a vote in person.
“I anticipate — I feel certain — that we will have a strong bipartisan vote,” Ms. Pelosi said at a news conference on Thursday morning.
The measure, the largest economic stimulus in modern American history, would send direct payments of $1,200 to Americans earning up to $75,000 — which would gradually phase out for higher earners and end for those with incomes more than $99,000 — and an additional $500 per child. It would substantially expand jobless aid, providing an additional 13 weeks and a four-month enhancement of benefits, extending them for the first time to freelancers and gig workers, and adding $600 per week on top of the usual payment.
Aid to state
Aid to state
The package also includes $350 billion in federally guaranteed loans to small businesses, and would establish a $500 billion government lending program for distressed companies reeling from the crisis, allowing the administration to take equity stakes in airlines that received aid to help compensate taxpayers. It would also send $100 billion to hospitals on the front lines of the pandemic.
Ohio will conduct its presidential primary mostly by mail.
Ohio will move its presidential primary election to late April and conduct it almost entirely by mail after the governor and top state health officials ordered the polls closed last week, citing an unacceptable health risk posed by crowded voting locations.
While Gov. Mike DeWine had initially proposed a June 2 primary as a substitute, the Ohio legislature this week moved the official date to April 28. Under the new plan, approximately 7.8 million registered voters in Ohio will receive postcards with instructions for applying for a ballot. Ballots postmarked by April 27 will be counted.
Only those voters who are disabled or who do not have a permanent address will be allowed to vote in person, by appearing at their local elections boards.
Ohio’s secretary of state, Frank LaRose, and voting rights advocates have criticized the new timetable. Mr. LaRose, who had favored a June 2 primary, called it “disappointing” that the legislature had “significantly reduced the time to bring this primary to a close.”
The League of Women Voters said it was exploring the possibility of filing a lawsuit to stop the new process. “The whole package is a problem,” said Jen Miller, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio. “States that do vote-by-mail have a process that’s 10 weeks. We’re trying to transfer that to four.”
Trump rebuffs a governor’s plea for more forceful federal action.
President Trump suggested to Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington State on a conference call Thursday that the federal government had already done a great deal for Mr. Inslee’s state and rebuffed his plea for a more forceful response to the coronavirus outbreak, according to two officials familiar with the conversation.
On a call with other governors, Mr. Inslee urged Mr. Trump to take more aggressive steps to mobilize private-sector manufacturers to produce critically-needed supplies to respond to the virus, the two officials said. But the president has largely resisted using the Defense Production Act, which gives the government the authority to force companies to produce equipment in national demand — and suggested on the call that the federal government had already offered significant aid to the state of Washington, which was initially the center of the outbreak in the U.S.
A third person familiar with what was said on the call said that Mr. Inslee didn’t specifically invoke the Defense Production Act, but asked why the federal government could not do more to move companies, noting that states were reaching out to them themselves.
In a letter sent on Thursday to the nation’s governors, Mr. Trump said that the administration plans to publish new federal guidelines to help states make decisions about relaxing or enhancing the measures they have put in place to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Mr. Trump said the guidelines would categorize different parts of the country as “high-risk, medium-risk, or low-risk.”
The letter came just days after Mr. Trump said he wanted to reopen the country for business by Easter, on April 12, despite widespread warnings from health officials that the worst effects of the virus were still weeks away and prematurely lifting quarantine guidelines would result in unnecessary deaths.
It appeared to be an effort to follow through on the promise, if in a more limited way and in only in certain parts of the country.
Stocks had their best three-day run since 1933, despite bleak jobs data.
Wall Street has been in rally mode, as investors bid up shares of companies that were set to receive support from Washington’s $2 trillion coronavirus aid bill.
With the package advancing through the Senate, the gains continued on Thursday. The S & P 500 climbed about 6 percent, even after the government reported a staggering jump in unemployment claims by workers.
The three-day rally has lifted the S & P 500 by around 17 percent, its best such run since 1933, according to data from Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst for S & P Dow Jones Indices. Most of those gains came on Tuesday, when stocks rose 9.4 percent, amid growing hope that the large stimulus package would offer support to an economy crippled by the outbreak and efforts to curtail the spread of the virus.
But the economic crisis is perhaps the most daunting since World War II, and the latest surge on Wall Street came in the hours after the government reported bleak figures on unemployment claims.
More than three million people filed for unemployment benefits last week, according to Labor Department data that gave some of the first hard data on the economic toll of the coronavirus pandemic, which has shut down whole swaths of American life faster than government statistics can keep track.
Thursday’s figure of nearly 3.3 million set a grim record. “A large part of the economy just collapsed,” said Ben Herzon, executive director of IHS Markit, a business data and analytics firm.
The worst could be yet to come. Mr. Herzon said he expected a similarly large number next Thursday, when the Labor Department releases its report on new claims filed this week.
As hospitalizations rise sharply in New York, doctors scramble.
‘People Are Dying’: 72 Hours Inside a N.Y.C. Hospital Battling Coronavirus
An emergency room doctor in Elmhurst, Queens, gives a rare look inside a hospital at the center of the coronavirus pandemic. “We don’t have the tools that we need.”
[Machine beeping] “The frustrating thing about all of this is it really just feels like it’s too little, too late. Like we knew — we knew it was coming. Today is kind of getting worse and worse. We had to get a refrigerated truck to store the bodies of patients who are dying. We are, right now, scrambling to try to get a few additional ventilators or even CPAP machines. If we could get CPAP machines, we could free up ventilators for patients who need them. You know, we now have these five vents. We probably — unless people die, I suspect we’ll be back to needing to beg for ventilators again in another day or two. There’s a mythical 100 vents out there which we haven’t seen. Leaders in various offices, from the president to the head of Health and Hospitals, saying things like, ‘We’re going to be fine. Everything’s fine.’ And from our perspective, everything is not fine. I don’t have the support that I need, and even just the materials that I need, physically, to take care of my patients. And it’s America, and we’re supposed to be a first-world country. On a regular day, my emergency department’s volume is pretty high. It’s about 200 people a day. Now we’re seeing 400 or more people a day. At first, we were trying to isolate patients with cough and fever and be more careful around them, but we weren’t necessarily being extra careful around all the other patients. And then we started to realize that patients who were coming in with no fever but abdominal pain actually had findings on their X-rays and chest CTs that were consistent with this coronavirus, Covid-19. So someone in a car accident gets brought in and we get a CT scan of them, and their lungs look like they have coronavirus. We were seeing a lot of patients who probably had Covid, but we didn’t realize. Ten residents and also many, many of our nurses and a few of the attending physicians got sick. The anxiety of this situation is really overwhelming. All of the doctors, it’s hard for us to get tested even if we want to, even if we have symptoms. We’re exposed over and over again. We don’t have the protective equipment that we should have. I put on one N95 mask in the morning. I need to have that N95 mask on for every patient I see. I don’t take it off all day. The N95 mask I wore today is also the N95 mask I wore on Friday. We’re always worried that we’ll be out of N95 masks. What’s a little bit scary now is the patients that we’re getting are much sicker. Many of the young people who are getting sick don’t smoke, they’re healthy, they have no co-morbidities. They’re just young, regular people between the ages of 30 and 50 who you would not expect to get this sick. So many people are saying it’s going to be OK, everything’s fine, we have what we need. And if this goes on for a month or two or three or five like it did in China, and we’re already this strained, we don’t have what we need. I don’t really care if I get in trouble for speaking to the media. I want people to know that this is bad. People are dying. We don’t have the tools that we need in the emergency department and in the hospital to take care of them, and — and it’s really hard.”
An emergency room doctor in Elmhurst, Queens, gives a rare look inside a hospital at the center of the coronavirus pandemic. “We don’t have the tools that we need.”CreditCredit…Colleen Smith
The outbreak continued to gather pace in New York, where the number of hospitalized patients jumped by 40 percent in one day, Mr. Cuomo said Thursday.
The sharp jump in hospitalizations — to 5,327 patients, of whom 1,290 were in intensive care — called into question optimistic projections that Mr. Cuomo shared the day before, which had suggested that social distancing rules were slowing the rate of hospitalizations.
On Long Island, Peconic Landing, an upscale retirement community on the North Fork, announced six deaths from the virus, sparking fears of an even bigger outbreak among a vulnerable, confined population.
The challenge was evident at hospitals across the city, including Brooklyn Hospital Center, a 175-year-old hospital where Walt Whitman once comforted the Civil War wounded and where Anthony Fauci, the White House adviser who is now American’s most famous doctor, was born.
More than 40 percent of the hospital’s inpatients were confirmed or suspected cases, as were more than two-thirds of the critical care patients. By Wednesday four had died, three of them since Monday. More than a half-dozen hospital workers have contracted the virus; two were receiving intensive care themselves.
In Manhattan, a hospital has begun treating multiple patients on some of its ventilators, a breakthrough that could alleviate a critical shortage of the breathing machines and help hospitals around the country respond to the expected surge of patients.
NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital began so-called “ventilator sharing” this week at its Columbia Irving facility, hospital officials said. The technique has worked in scientific studies and was used after the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting. This is believed to be the first time that it has been used as a long-term strategy.
The U.S. is now sending migrant children back to their home countries.
Central American minors arriving alone at the United States border are being swiftly returned to their home countries without the usual legal processes under the government’s new locked-down border policy aimed at containing the spread of the virus.
The new practice marks a significant change in border policy that could return children and teenagers to unsafe conditions in their home countries without the legal protections normally afforded under asylum law.
The new policy, issued as a public health measure under the legal authority of the surgeon general, bans tourist traffic along the borders with Mexico and Canada, and says that migrants who cross illegally or who present themselves for asylum can be returned to their countries immediately, without access to the legal process they would have gone through in the past.
The Trump administration has cited the coronavirus outbreak as justification for its most restrictive border policy yet, implementing new policies that the courts have blocked for years as violations of due process.
China closes its borders to foreign nationals who live there.
China further tightened travel restrictions on Thursday as it faces a surge in cases from people returning to the country from overseas, closing its borders even to foreign nationals who live there.
The government announced that it would suspend the entry of almost all foreign nationals holding valid visas and residence permits starting Saturday at midnight. The suspension also includes all visa-free transit policies. It does not apply to visas issued to diplomats or flight crew, or to people traveling to China for “necessary economic, trade, scientific or technological activities or out of emergency humanitarian needs.”
Earlier in the day the Civil Aviation Administration of China said that starting Sunday foreign airlines would be allowed to operate only one air route to China and no more than one flight per week. Domestic airlines are also limited to one flight per week on one route to each foreign country.
China appears to have brought its epidemic under control, reporting zero local transmissions most days, and the government this week lifted the two-month lockdown in most of Hubei Province, where the pandemic began. But officials fear a resurgence of the disease as infected people return from other countries and have moved to discourage inbound travel, with international arrivals in cities like Beijing and Shanghai subject to strict quarantine procedures. As of Wednesday, China’s total number of imported cases was 541, the National Health Commission said.
The Army’s shifting signals on coronavirus cause confusion.
The Army this week ordered a halt to most training, exercises and nonessential activities that require troops to be in close contact, military officials said, but abruptly reversed itself days later even as the infection rate within the American military shot up.
The move, by the largest branch in the U.S. military, would have been the most sweeping effort by any of the armed services to stave off the spread of coronavirus as the Defense Department comes to grip with an illness that has paralyzed plans and missions as the world faces a health crisis not seen in a century.
Rescinding the order sparked confusion among the ranks and with commanders. A Defense Department tally on Thursday reported that cases of coronavirus recorded by the Pentagon had hit 600, more than doubling in three days.
Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper has insisted that the armed forces find a way to protect troops from the virus while still performing the military’s essential operations.
In Afghanistan, where roughly 12,000 American troops are stationed, the government said on Thursday that it would release up to 10,000 prisoners to reduce the health risks of overcrowding in the country’s jails.
Attorney General Mohammed Farid Hamidi said women and vulnerable people, like older prisoners, would be prioritized, and Taliban members would not be freed.
G20, meeting by videoconference, pledges $5 trillion to soften the pandemic’s blow.
The Group of 20 major economies vowed on Thursday to inject $5 trillion into the world economy to blunt the social, economic and financial blows of the coronavirus pandemic.
In a joint statement released after a virtual summit, the group promised to cooperate on wide-ranging measures to save lives, protect economies and share medical equipment to combat Covid-19, the disease the virus causes.
Instead of an in-person meeting, the summit, chaired by King Salman of Saudi Arabia, was held by videoconference.
The world’s refugee camps are bracing.
In an embattled enclave in Syria, doctors have seen patients die from what looks like the coronavirus but are unable to treat them because they lack beds, protective gear and medical professionals. A refugee camp in Bangladesh is so cramped that its population density is nearly four times that of New York City, making social distancing impossible. Clinics in a refugee camp in Kenya struggle in normal times with only eight doctors for nearly 200,000 people.
As wealthy countries like the United States and Italy struggle with mass outbreaks of the coronavirus, international health experts and aid workers are increasingly worried that the virus could ravage the world’s most vulnerable people: the tens of millions forced from their homes by violent conflict.
Refugee camps across Africa, the Middle East and Asia are packed with traumatized and undernourished people with limited access to health care and basic sanitation, perfect breeding grounds for contagion. Extended families jam into tarpaulin shelters with mud floors. Food, water and soap are often lacking. Illnesses, from hacking coughs to deadly diseases, go untreated, facilitating their spread.
“If we think this is a big issue in the U.S. and Europe, we haven’t seen anything yet if Covid gets into the refugee population.” said Adam Coutts, a public health researcher at Cambridge University. “People can’t even wash their kids, let alone wash their hands.”
Reporting was contributed by David E. Sanger, Maggie Haberman, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Emma Goldberg, Stephanie Saul, Michael Cooper, Alan Blinder, Karen Zraick, Annie Karni, Jonah Engel Bromwich, Jennifer Steinhauer, Sheri Fink, Raphael Minder, Ben Hubbard, Hannah Beech, Mujib Mashal, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Helene Cooper, Eric Schmitt, Najim Rahim, Caitlin Dickerson, Katy Reckdahl, Hana de Goeil, Campbell Robertson, Richard Fausset, Patricia Mazzei, Kirk Johnson, Julie Bosman, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Marc Santora, Megan Specia, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Iliana Magra, Elisabetta Povoledo, Abdi Latif Dahir, Daniel Victor, Emily Cochrane, Nicholas Fandos, Michael Corkery, Sapna Maheshwari, Mariel Padilla, Christine Hauser, Fatima Faizi, David Zucchino, Alex Marshall, Vivian Wang, Yiwei Wang and Pam Belluck.
Updated March 24, 2020
How does coronavirus spread?
It seems to spread very easily from person to person, especially in homes, hospitals and other confined spaces. The pathogen can be carried on tiny respiratory droplets that fall as they are coughed or sneezed out. It may also be transmitted when we touch a contaminated surface and then touch our face.
Is there a vaccine yet?
No. The first testing in humans of an experimental vaccine began in mid-March. Such rapid development of a potential vaccine is unprecedented, but even if it is proved safe and effective, it probably will not be available for 12 to18 months.
What makes this outbreak so different?
Unlike the flu, there is no known treatment or vaccine, and little is known about this particular virus so far. It seems to be more lethal than the flu, but the numbers are still uncertain. And it hits the elderly and those with underlying conditions — not just those with respiratory diseases — particularly hard.
What should I do if I feel sick?
If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.
How do I get tested?
If you’re sick and you think you’ve been exposed to the new coronavirus, the C.D.C. recommends that you call your healthcare provider and explain your symptoms and fears. They will decide if you need to be tested. Keep in mind that there’s a chance — because of a lack of testing kits or because you’re asymptomatic, for instance — you won’t be able to get tested.
What if somebody in my family gets sick?
If the family member doesn’t need hospitalization and can be cared for at home, you should help him or her with basic needs and monitor the symptoms, while also keeping as much distance as possible, according to guidelines issued by the C.D.C. If there’s space, the sick family member should stay in a separate room and use a separate bathroom. If masks are available, both the sick person and the caregiver should wear them when the caregiver enters the room. Make sure not to share any dishes or other household items and to regularly clean surfaces like counters, doorknobs, toilets and tables. Don’t forget to wash your hands frequently.
Should I wear a mask?
Experts are divided on how much protection a regular surgical mask, or even a scarf, can provide for people who aren’t yet sick. The W.H.O. and C.D.C. say that unless you’re already sick, or caring for someone who is, wearing a face mask isn’t necessary. And stockpiling high-grade N95 masks will make it harder for nurses and other workers to access the resources they need. But researchers are also finding that there are more cases of asymptomatic transmission than were known early on in the pandemic. And a few experts say that masks could offer some protection in crowded places where it is not possible to stay 6 feet away from other people. Masks don’t replace hand-washing and social distancing.
Should I stock up on groceries?
Plan two weeks of meals if possible. But people should not hoard food or supplies. Despite the empty shelves, the supply chain remains strong. And remember to wipe the handle of the grocery cart with a disinfecting wipe and wash your hands as soon as you get home.
Can I go to the park?
Yes, but make sure you keep six feet of distance between you and people who don’t live in your home. Even if you just hang out in a park, rather than go for a jog or a walk, getting some fresh air, and hopefully sunshine, is a good idea.
Should I pull my money from the markets?
That’s not a good idea. Even if you’re retired, having a balanced portfolio of stocks and bonds so that your money keeps up with inflation, or even grows, makes sense. But retirees may want to think about having enough cash set aside for a year’s worth of living expenses and big payments needed over the next five years.
What should I do with my 401(k)?
Watching your balance go up and down can be scary. You may be wondering if you should decrease your contributions — don’t! If your employer matches any part of your contributions, make sure you’re at least saving as much as you can to get that “free money.”
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