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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The era of tackling one crisis — or even two — at a time is over.

Why it matters: The new normal is a series of crises hitting simultaneously, and localities are bearing the brunt.

Consider the following:

  • Many states and cities are still struggling to get COVID-19 under control as cases soar and testing remains erratic.
  • States and cities are collectively facing hundreds of billions of dollars in budget shortfalls — Moody's puts the number at around $500 billion — because of COVID-19's economic disruptions.
  • Climate change continues to trigger more extreme weather, including massive fires in the West and multiple hurricanes in the Southeast.
  • Millions of students are stuck in precarious learning situations. The mess is expected to result in extensive learning loss that could derail a generation’s opportunity and earning potential.
  • Social unrest in response to police brutality against Black residents continues to erupt in city streets. Meanwhile, debates about police budgets, the role of public safety and the lack of social services for society’s most vulnerable rage on.

What they're saying: "We should no longer be surprised by crises, we should be prepared for them and we should expect them as part of the new normal," said Clinton Vince, partner at Dentons law firm and founder of Dentons Smart Cities/Communities Think Tank.

  • "We need infrastructure in place urgently to deal with crises. We're so far behind on each of these critical issues."

Resiliency, sustainability and urgency are the new buzzwords of urban planning.

  • In the absence of federal action, the think tank is sketching out "mini Marshall Plans" with financing mechanisms that would work in cities, counties and states.
  • Disaster relief experts and urban policy professionals have put together numerous tools for cities, nonprofits and community groups trying to stem the damage to jobs, families and local services as more crises pummel increasingly fragile institutions.

Mayors are repeatedly sounding alarms about cities' dire financial conditions and the threat to the overall economy if they don’t get help.

  • "We all know this pandemic is not going to be over in a matter of weeks or months," said Mesa, Arizona, Mayor John Giles at an RNC kickoff virtual event Monday. Mesa was one of only 38 U.S. cities with populations large enough to receive federal funding from the CARES Act.
  • "The assistance needs to continue in order to avoid the catastrophic consequences that would result without it."

Between the lines: When crises overlap the way they increasingly are, the challenges with addressing them don't just pile up, they multiply — what engineers call "cascading failures," where one problem makes solving another problem many times harder, notes Axios managing editor Scott Rosenberg.

  • For example, California released thousands of inmates to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but that left the state without the typical workforce for fighting wildfires.

The silver lining: The clustering of crises has led to many intersecting catalysts for change and a political appetite — at least at the local level — for a more equitable recovery, said David DeVaughn, director of HR&A's inclusive cities practice.

  • While the default, knee-jerk reaction is to get back to the status quo, "Getting back to normal is completely unacceptable. That normal is why we are in these circumstances to begin with," he said.

Go deeper

Updated 8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Louisiana officials find "probable" Omicron case in cruise ship COVID outbreak — CDC director says number of U.S. Omicron cases "likely to rise" — Two years of COVID-19.
  2. Vaccines: Data demonstrates most-vaccinated counties less vulnerable to worst of COVID — Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters.
  3. Politics: NYC to impose vaccine mandate on private employers — Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy.
  4. World: U.S. announces $400M for global COVID vaccine distribution — Vaccine mandates lose steam in the U.S. while Europe doubles downWHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Dec 4, 2020 - Health

Bay Area counties to enact stay-at-home order ahead of state mandate

Golden Gate Park. Photo: Justin Sullivan via Getty

Counties around the San Francisco Bay Area will adopt California’s new regional stay-at-home order amid surges in cases and ICU hospitalizations, health officials said Friday.

The big picture: California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a three-week stay-at-home order on Thursday that would go into effect in regions with less than 15% ICU capacity. Despite the Bay Area’s current 25.3% ICU capacity, health officials from Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Santa Clara, San Francisco and the city of Berkeley are moving ahead with a shelter-in-place mandate in the hopes of reducing risk.

Dec 4, 2020 - Health

CDC: It's time for "universal face mask use"

Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty

The CDC is urging “universal face mask use” for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began, citing recent case spikes as the U.S. has entered a phase of “high-level transmission” before winter officially begins.

Why it matters: Daily COVID-related deaths across the U.S. hit a new record on Wednesday. Face coverings have been shown to increase protection of the wearer and those around them, despite some Americans' reluctance to use them.