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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

We're fighting the greatest public-health crisis in a century, and we barely understand our enemy. We cannot afford to stay in lockdown until a cure or vaccine arrives — but anybody trying to reopen our cities needs information that is frustratingly difficult to find.

The big picture. The single biggest obstacle to reopening the economy is a lack of visibility: We don't know the scope of the pandemic itself, or its economic fallout, or how its trajectory will change as we embark upon an ad-hoc effort to reopen the economy.

Where it stands: The Trump administration's plan for reopening the American economy explicitly calls for "up-to-date data" — but very few state or local leaders will actually have strong data on which to base their decision-making.

We don't know how many people the coronavirus has killed, or how many people have had it.

  • The official tally of over 37,000 deaths is too low, because it's based on people who died after testing positive for the coronavirus, but we don't know how low.

We don't know how many Americans have lost their jobs because of the coronavirus shutdown.

  • The official tally is 22 million new applications for unemployment benefits. But millions more haven't been able to make it through the application process, or haven't tried.
  • The biggest employers will be able to rehire their legions of workers, but the bigger concern is the businesses that will never be able to reopen. We don't know how many of them there will be.

We don’t know when we'll have a treatment, whether summer will tame the spread, or whether the virus could return in the fall even stronger. We don't know whether we're immune once we've had it, or for how long.

  • We don't know whether tech will allow us to trace it, or whether enough Americans would sign up for that, even if it does.
  • We don’t know when it’ll be safe to fly, go to a game, or pack into a school or a church. 

Be smart: It’s shocking and a bit scary how much we do not know, despite how much we now do know.

Go deeper

Updated Oct 7, 2020 - Health

World coronavirus updates

Expand chart
Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

New Zealand now has active no coronavirus cases in the community after the final six people linked to the Auckland cluster recovered, the country's Health Ministry confirmed in an email Wednesday.

The big picture: The country's second outbreak won't officially be declared closed until there have been "no new cases for two incubation periods," the ministry said. Auckland will join the rest of NZ in enjoying no domestic restrictions from late Wednesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, declaring that NZ had "beat the virus again."

Aug 26, 2020 - Health

Carson: It would "behoove" us to move forward with COVID-19 vaccine and treatment testing

Screenshot: Axios Events

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson says "this is not necessarily the time to take everything slowly" when it comes to the Trump administration's approach to getting vaccines and treatments to the public.

Why it matters: Carson's comments, made Wednesday during an Axios virtual event, came days after the Food and Drug Administration announced an emergency use authorization (EUA) for treating the coronavirus with convalescent plasma. President Trump accused the agency of slow-walking the development and approval of vaccines and therapeutics to hurt him politically.

Updated 2 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Health: Most vulnerable Americans aren't getting enough vaccine information — Fauci says Trump administration's lack of facts on COVID "very likely" cost lives.
  2. Politics: Biden unveils "wartime" COVID strategyBiden's COVID-19 bubble.
  3. Vaccine: Florida requiring proof of residency to get vaccine — CDC extends interval between vaccine doses for exceptional cases.
  4. World: Hong Kong to put tens of thousands on lockdown as cases surge.
  5. Sports: 2021 Tokyo Olympics hang in the balance.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: Carbon Health's CEO on unsticking the vaccine bottleneck.