Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The period of coronavirus complacency came to a dramatic end in the last 48 hours, as the stock market plunged, states issued grim warnings and schools closed their doors.

Driving the news: But it was the cancellation of sports — March Madness, in particular — that hit the hardest for some Americans, serving as a reality check as to just how serious this situation is.

  • The coronavirus was already changing what we saw on the news and how we did our jobs. Now, it's keeping us from the things we do to get by. Suddenly, something that brings people together is keeping us apart.

The big picture: In the time of a pandemic, sports are both insignificant and powerful.

  • On one hand, we're reminded of how little sports matter in the grand scheme of things, and that the institutions we've built up around them — leagues, franchises, TV networks — are no different than any other businesses.
  • On the other hand, sports are where we turn when times get tough, so now that they won't be there to entertain us through stories and links us through fandom, we're reminded of the comfort and powerful perspective they provide.

The bottom line: It's in this moment that leagues, commissioners, athletes and other sports figures have the power to lead by example and change the minds of people who lack perspective on this worldwide crisis.

  • Jerry Brewer, WashPost: "If a global health crisis doesn't provide the inspiration to be more than a money-printing diversion, then these games aren’t worthy of all the attention."
  • Scott Van Pelt, ESPN: "Maybe the diagnosis of [Gobert] did our country a huge favor. This much I know to be true: He hit the warp-speed button on all of this. And by taking away the games ... it forced everybody to take all of this a whole lot more seriously."

Go deeper: Premier League suspends season due to coronavirus

Go deeper

15 mins ago - Health

U.S., Canada and U.K. accuse Russia of trying to steal coronavirus vaccine research

Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo: Alexei Druzhinin\TASS via Getty Images

Hackers associated with Russian intelligence services are trying to steal information from researchers involved in coronavirus vaccine development, according to a joint advisory by U.K., U.S. and Canadian authorities published Thursday.

The big picture: This isn't the first time a foreign adversary has been accused of attempting to steal COVID-19-related research. U.S. officials in May announced an uptick in Chinese-government affiliated hackers targeting medical research and other facilities in the U.S. for data on a potential cure or effective treatments to combat the virus.

M&A activity falls despite early coronavirus fears

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

In April, several prominent Democrats proposed a moratorium on large mergers and acquisitions. Their argument was that the pandemic would embolden the strong to pounce on the weak, thus reducing competition.

Fast forward: The moratorium never materialized. Nor did the M&A feeding frenzy.

More than 32 million Americans are receiving unemployment benefits

Photo: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

More than 32 million Americans are receiving some form of unemployment benefits, according to data released by the Labor Department on Thursday.

Why it matters: Tens of millions of jobless Americans will soon have a smaller cash cushion — as coronavirus cases surge and certain parts of the country re-enter pandemic lockdowns — barring an extension of the more generous unemployment benefits that are set to expire at the end of the month.