Feb 14, 2019

Why Amazon pulled the plug

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Amazon has spent the past two decades conquering the world, but today it beat a stunning retreat from the New York leg of its HQ2 expansion.

Why it matters: The optics are terrible for Amazon. It dangled 50,000 jobs as a life preserver for America's mid-sized cities, then picked the D.C. area and NYC for the bulk of the winnings, only to balk at the prospect of a local insurgency over its lucrative incentives package.

  • The NYC deal was built — with the support of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio — to avoid almost all scrutiny from other elected officials.
  • But it turns out one of the world's most valuable companies would rather fold than continue confronting the aggressive backlash from the city's community activists and municipal officials.
  • Amazon made no mention of the financial aspects of its deal in a blog post explaining its move, saying that a “number of state and local politicians have made it clear that they oppose our presence and will not work with us to build the type of relationships that are required to go forward with the project we and many others envisioned.”
  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted: "Anything is possible: today was the day a group of dedicated, everyday New Yorkers & their neighbors defeated Amazon's corporate greed, its worker exploitation, and the power of the richest man in the world."

Behind the scenes: A source familiar with Amazon’s deliberations told Axios that serious conversations about pulling back on its New York plans started in the last two weeks, sometime after a second contentious City Council hearing with its executives.

  • The source said that another key moment in the company’s decision came when New York State Sen. Michael Gianaris, a critic of the deal, was nominated to a board in early February that would have had to have approved the project.
  • News that its commitment to New York was wavering broke in the press last week.
  • Amazon’s leadership made the final call to back off the project on Wednesday night, the source said.
  • Jay Carney, a former White House press secretary and Amazon’s top policy executive, called Cuomo and de Blasio this morning to deliver the news. The company went public hours later.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 5 p.m. ET: 657,691 — Total deaths: 30,438 — Total recoveries: 139,263.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 5 p.m. ET: 119,748 — Total deaths: 1,991 — Total recoveries: 921.
  3. Federal government latest: President Trump is considering a quarantine on New York, parts of New Jersey and Connecticut. He signed a $2 trillion stimulus bill to give businesses and U.S. workers financial relief.
  4. State updates: Alaska is latest state to issue a stay-at-home order — New York is trying to nearly triple its hospital capacity in less than a month and has moved its presidential primary to June 23. Some Midwestern swing voters that supported Trump's handling of the virus less than two weeks ago are now balking at his call for the U.S. to be "opened up" by Easter.
  5. World updates: In Spain, over 1,400 people were confirmed dead between Thursday to Saturday.
  6. 🚀 Space updates: OneWeb filed for bankruptcy amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
  7. Hollywood: Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson have returned to U.S. after being treated for coronavirus.
  8. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  9. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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Infant dies after testing positive for coronavirus in Chicago

Hospital staff working inside a COVID-19 screening tent in Chicago on March 26. Photo: Jim Vondruska/NurPhoto via Getty Images

An infant less than one year old died in Chicago, Illinois after testing positive for the novel coronavirus, the state health department said on Saturday.

Why it matters: The death would mark the first reported infant mortality from COVID-19 in the U.S. The fatality rate for the novel coronavirus in the U.S. is highest among those over 85 years old, per the CDC.

Trump weighs quarantine of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

President Trump said on Saturday he is considering a "short term" quarantine of New York, New Jersey and parts of Connecticut — states that have already taken steps to quarantine residents and promote social distancing.

The big picture: With 112,000 people infected, the U.S. has the most COVID-19 cases in the world, exceeding China and Italy, per data from Johns Hopkins. A second wave of American cities, including Boston, Detroit, New Orleans and Philadelphia, are reporting influxes of cases.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Health