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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Congress goes on vacation next week, after months spent hardly working on an economic stimulus that almost everyone agrees was needed months ago.

  • This failure was disheartening in May. It was frustrating in August. It was maddening earlier this month.
  • Today it's whatever adjective best describes the compulsion to slam your head against a concrete wall.

The difference between now and then is that we can see a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, thanks to vaccine trial results from Pfizer and Moderna.

  • That means we know more about what's needed and for how long it's needed, neither of which were really true when the CARES Act was passed in March.
  • We also know now that America is in the midst of a third COVID-19 wave that is only expected to get worse, particularly after a Thanksgiving holiday that may double as a national super-spreader event.
  • Many businesses — including a lot of Northern state restaurants that have been eking by on outdoor dining — are unlikely to survive until a Biden inauguration (or even until the Georgia run-offs). More jobs will be lost.
  • In addition, upwards of 12 million Americans could lose their unemployment benefits the day after Christmas, as CARES Act provisions expire.

This list of horribles is manifest. Yet there are zero negotiations happening right now on stimulus, according to Axios political reporter Alayna Treene.

The bottom line: Elected officials of both parties, including President Trump, are failing the country. Not only by not succeeding in getting new stimulus passed, but by no longer even trying.

  • The time for apportioning partisan blame has passed. The elections are over, so it's no longer defensible for leaders to wait until their "side" has more leverage. Every business or job saved, every family enabled to avoid eviction, should now be the priority. Every vacation day is a cruelty, brought to us by what is becoming the lamest of ducks.

Go deeper

Jan 29, 2021 - Health

Ex-CDC director Tom Frieden on the next COVID-19 vaccines

Americans fortunate enough to receive COVID vaccines now, outside of clinical trials, are getting shots made by either Pfizer or Moderna. But newly released data from Novavax and Johnson & Johnson suggests that more vaccines could be on the way, with J&J's requiring a single dose.

Axios Re:Cap digs into the news and why it matters with Tom Frieden, former head of the CDC, as COVID-19 variants spread globally.

Jan 29, 2021 - Health

J&J says its one-shot vaccine is 66% effective against moderate to severe COVID

Photo: Thiago Prudêncio/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Johnson & Johnson announced Friday that its single-shot coronavirus vaccine was 66% effective in protecting against moderate to severe COVID-19 disease in Phase 3 trials, which was comprised of nearly 44,000 participants across eight countries.

Between the lines: The vaccine was 72% effective in the U.S., but only 57% effective in South Africa, where a more contagious variant has been spreading. It prevented 85% of severe infections and 100% of hospitalizations and deaths, according to the company.

Jan 30, 2021 - World

Science helps New Zealand avoid another coronavirus lockdown

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (L) visits a lab at Auckland University in December. Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images

New Zealand has avoided locking down for a second time over COVID-19 community cases because of a swift, science-led response.

Why it matters: The Health Ministry said in an email to Axios Friday there's "no evidence of community transmission" despite three people testing positive after leaving managed hotel isolation. That means Kiwis can continue to visit bars, restaurants and events as much of the world remains on lockdown.