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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

There are now a lot of known knowns about the coronavirus: It's here, it's spreading, it's stressing hospitals, it's crippling the economy, it's slowed only by distance and isolation — and it's sure to get much worse before it gets much better. 

Why it matters: Similarly, there is a sameness to the patterns and known unknowns. So now we hit the maddening stage of waiting.

  • We wait and watch Wuhan and China to see if life really does return to normal once the virus is contained. The global economy hinges on this light at the end of the tunnel. 
  • We wait and watch Italy to see when its daily death rate peaks, plateaus and then plunges. This will give us a sense of how long highly concentrated outbreaks elsewhere might last. 
  • We wait to see when New York hits its apex (two to three weeks, experts say) and watch how bad it gets. We also watch New Orleans and Detroit to see if New York is an early indicator or an anomaly. 
  • We wait for widespread testing to be a reality so we can find out if the virus has spread far beyond our fears. 
  • We wait to see if Dr. Anthony Fauci's projection of 100,000 to 200,000 potential U.S. deaths is accurate — and, if so, how the media, public and markets might react to multiple days with death tolls beyond the nearly 3,000 lost on 9/11. 
  • We wait to see Trump's next move in his itch to "reopen America" after his extension Sunday of social-distancing guidelines through April 30. Does he continue to listen to his scientists, or eventually side with advisers who fear economic disaster if America stays home too long?
  • We wait and watch as drug companies race for a cure, which industry insiders say won’t happen at scale until 2021. We wait to see the consequences of using experimental medications to slow or salve. 

The big picture: This waiting period will expose whether coronavirus was an awful three months we will never forget — or a once-in-a-lifetime disruption and destroyer of life.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Go deeper

Fed chair says low interest rates aren't driving stock market prices

Jerome Powell. Photo: ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / Getty Images

Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell told reporters on Wednesday that rock-bottom interest rates aren't playing a role in driving stock prices higher, while noting that vulnerabilities to the financial system are "moderate."

Why it matters: The statement comes amid unshakeable stock prices and a Reddit-fueled market frenzy — prompting widespread fears of a bubble and the role monetary policy has played in that.

2 hours ago - World

Biden freezes U.S. arms deals with Saudi Arabia and UAE

Trump struck several large arms deals with Mohammed bin Salman (L) and Saudi Arabia. Photo: Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

The Biden administration has put on hold two big arms deals with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates which were approved in the final weeks of the Trump administration, a State Department official tells Axios.

Why it matters: The sales of F-35 jets and attack drones to the UAE and a large supply of munitions to Saudi Arabia will be paused pending a review. That signals a major policy shift from the Trump era, and may herald sharp tensions with both Gulf countries.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
2 hours ago - Podcasts

Robert Downey Jr. launches VC funds to help save the planet

Robert Downey Jr. on Wednesday announced the launch of two venture capital funds focused on startups in the sustainability sector, the latest evolution of a project he launched two years ago called Footprint Coalition.

Between the lines: This is a bit of life imitating art, as Downey Jr. spent 11 films portraying a character who sought to save the planet (or, in some cases, the universe).