Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios Pro Rata

Dive into the world of dealmakers across VC, PE and M&A with Axios Pro Rata. Delivered daily to your inbox by Dan Primack and Kia Kokalitcheva.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Nashville news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Nashville newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Columbus news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Columbus newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Dallas news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Dallas newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Austin news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Austin newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Atlanta news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Atlanta newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Philadelphia news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Philadelphia newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Chicago news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Chicago newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top DC news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios DC newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

By removing Americans from public life, the pandemic is threatening long-term damage to the essential services we all share — like schools and transit — while worsening inequality.

Why it matters: Technology has helped keep many — though far from all of us — working, fed and even entertained at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. But the forced retreat from public life will have toxic ramifications unless the places and services we all share can be saved.

The big picture: As deadly as COVID-19 has been for those who have caught it, the pandemic could prove even more devastating for the institutions and services that make up the civic sphere.

  • Public schools across the country have seen a drastic drop in enrollment, in part because parents frustrated by COVID-closed classrooms and poor remote learning have turned to private schools, which have remained open at higher rates than their public counterparts. Some families are even homeschooling.
  • Combined with students moving to private schools, that could lead to budget cuts for public schools that get funding on a per-student basis.
  • Public transit systems have been crippled by COVID-19, as ridership plummets because of fear of infection and a shift to remote work. The drop in demand comes as funding for public transportation is threatened by plunging state and local government revenue.

And the office — that private space in public where many of us used to gather on a daily basis — is mortally threatened. Nearly 14% of office space in Midtown Manhattan is vacant, the highest rate since the depths of the 2009 recession.

  • A recent McKinsey report found three to four times more people could end up working remotely than before the pandemic, which "would have a profound impact on urban economies, transportation, and consumer spending."
  • The hospitality industry faces an existential crisis, with nearly 1 in 6 restaurants closing permanently or long-term as of September.

Be smart: It might be easy to assume we'll reenter public life when the pandemic finally ends. But habits once broken aren't easily restored, especially as the knock-on effects of COVID-19 erode the value of public services.

  • Both public schools and transit face what some experts have called a "death spiral." As frustrated parents and scared passengers withdraw from the public system, they take tax dollars and fares with them, which means schools and transit services worsen.
  • That, in turn, "will cause some of our customers to say, 'you know what, it's not worth it,'" as Pat Foye, the head of New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority told Bloomberg TV last month.

Those changes will widen what was already a yawning gap of inequality in the U.S., as only those who can't afford private solutions are left to make do with public remnants.

  • "The secession of upper-middle-class families from public school to private school is very bad for the country and for educational equity," Richard Kahlenberg, director of K-12 equity at The Century Foundation, told TIME.

Between the lines: Both push and pull factors are at work in the dissolution of public life.

  • As technology has improved, so have the benefits of staying at home, where you can increasingly watch what you want, eat what you want, and — if you're fortunate — work how you want, all on your own schedule.
  • In the years to come, TVs and game systems — like the next-generation platforms that sold out in seconds this fall — will only improve.
  • What this means is that public life and services — which require us to do the messy work of compromising with our fellow citizens — will be competing against an on-demand private life that will only get better in the years ahead.

What to watch: Whether Congress approves billions of dollars in much-needed money to rescue public transit and schools as part of a new round of COVID-19 stimulus funding.

The bottom line: It matters hugely whether our future involves returning to the office and public life or watching streaming reruns of "The Office" from our couches while ordering from DoorDash.

Go deeper

Jan 25, 2021 - Health

The pandemic could be worsening childhood obesity

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The 10-month long school closures and the coronavirus pandemic are expected to have a big impact on childhood obesity rates.

Why it matters: About one in five children are obese in the U.S. — an all-time high — with worsening obesity rates across income and racial and ethnic groups, data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey show.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Prosecutors charge parents of Michigan school shooting suspect

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

The parents of a 15-year-old accused of killing four students and wounding seven other people at a Michigan high school have been charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter, according to court documents.

The latest: Lawyers for James and Jennifer Crumbley told the Detroit News they are "returning to the area to be arraigned," after law enforcement officials announced a search for the Crumbleys had been initiated.

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus variant surveillance varies widely by state — Omicron cases confirmed in 5 U.S. states America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Moderna loses patent battles tied to COVID vaccine.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate — Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come.
  4. World: WHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming — Germany approves new restrictions for unvaccinated people.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.