Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A security group warns that the COVID-19 pandemic could inspire terrorists to turn to bioweapons.

Why it matters: New technologies like gene-editing have the potential to make future bioweapons deadlier and easier to create, while COVID-19 demonstrates just how vulnerable the world is to any kind of biological threat.

What's happening: On May 25 the Committee on Counter-Terrorism at the Council of Europe issued a statement arguing that the pandemic had raised the risk from bioterrorism.

  • "The intentional use of a pathogen or other biological agent for the purpose of terrorism may prove highly effective and cause damage — both human and economic — on a far grander scale than 'traditional' terrorist attacks," the committee wrote.

Be smart: Scientists overwhelmingly agree that there is little evidence to suggest that the novel coronavirus was engineered in a lab, rather than emerging naturally from an animal source. But with over 350,000 deaths and trillions in likely economic damage, COVID-19 showed what even a relatively mild but contagious new virus could do.

  • A deliberately engineered and released pathogen would likely be far worse, as I noted in Axios earlier this month. That's because new tools permit the creation of viruses that could be deadlier and more contagious than anything emerging from nature — and because a bioweapon could be released repeatedly, foiling efforts at containment.
  • A 2018 pandemic simulation featuring an engineered bioweapon resulted in a fictional global outbreak that killed 150 million people.

What to watch: In its statement, the Council of Europe committee urged a coordinated international response to bioterrorism, including "a common surveillance system capable of detecting suspicious cases."

Reality check: Even though the novel coronavirus is almost certainly natural in its origins — blame the bats, probably — the global response has been anything but coordinated. It's even more difficult to imagine the world coming together in response to a biological threat that was released deliberately.

Go deeper: The coronavirus pandemic reawakens bioweapon fears

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California orders sweeping rollback of open businesses as virus cases surge

Photo: Agustin Paullier/AFP via Getty Images

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday ordered indoor operations for restaurants, wineries, movie theaters and other family entertainment like zoos, museums and card rooms to cease immediately. Bars must also close entirely.

Why it matters: It's the largest statewide rollback of a reopening plan yet, underscoring the severity of the coronavirus outbreak in California.

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U.S. rejects China's claims to territory in South China Sea

Photo: Artyom Ivanov\TASS via Getty Images

The State Department announced Monday that it rejects most of China's territorial claims in the South China Sea, a first from the U.S. as the Trump administration toughens its approach toward Beijing.

Why it matters, via Axios' Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian: This is a significant, if symbolic, step toward a tougher U.S. approach to China's attempted annexation of the open seas.

Los Angeles and San Diego public schools will be online only this fall

Alhambra Unified School District. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Public schools in Los Angeles and San Diego, the two largest public school districts in California, will not be sending children back to campuses next month and will instead administer online classes due to concerns over the ongoing threat of the coronavirus.

Why it matters: The two districts, which together enroll about 825,000 students, are the largest in the country thus far to announce that they will not return to in-person learning in the fall, even as the Trump administration aggressively pushes for schools to do so.