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Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

It's a fitting end to a crappy year: White House officials are calling us in a panic about President Trump’s erratic behavior. England is panicking about a possible super-spreading virus strain. And vaccine distribution is hitting bumps.

Why it matters: Incoming White House chief of staff Ron Klain was right when he warned of a "very, very, very dark winter."

Winter technically starts tomorrow. But it's already clear that in the 31 days until the inauguration, American institutions will be tested like never before.

  • Axios yesterday sent two alerts with Jonathan Swan's jaw-dropping reporting from Trump's inner circle, with diehard loyalists now telling us they're alarmed about what Trump might try over the next month.

A senior administration official told Swan: "Most of us have rolled our eyes at the media histrionics the last few years about Trump’s supposed tyrannical ambitions."

  • "But when he's retweeting threats of putting politicians in jail, and spends his time talking to conspiracy nuts who openly say declaring martial law is no big deal, it’s impossible not to start getting anxious about how this ends."

On top of loose Oval Office talk about martial law first reported by the N.Y. Times' Maggie Haberman and Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Trump tweeted yesterday that the cyber hack "is well under control."

  • Top administration officials tell me it's anything but — that the damage may take months and billions to detect and repair.

After Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned yesterday of a coronavirus strain that is 70% more transmissible, England finds itself increasingly cut off:

  • Italy, the Netherlands and Austria banned flights from the U.K., and Eurostar trains between London, Brussels and Amsterdam are being canceled.
  • The virus is out of control, regardless of any new variant.

With governors around the country complaining that they're being shorted on vaccines they've been promised, a government official yesterday did something rare — admitted there was a problem, and took total blame.

  • Army four-star Gen. Gus Perna, COO of Operation Warp Speed, apologized for "miscommunication" with states and told reporters: "I failed. I'm adjusting."

The bottom line: In these times, even an optimist has no choice but to become a realist.

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Go deeper

Updated 10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Louisiana officials find "probable" Omicron case in cruise ship COVID outbreak — CDC director says number of U.S. Omicron cases "likely to rise" — Two years of COVID-19.
  2. Vaccines: Data demonstrates most-vaccinated counties less vulnerable to worst of COVID — Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters.
  3. Politics: NYC to impose vaccine mandate on private employers — Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy.
  4. World: U.S. announces $400M for global COVID vaccine distribution — Vaccine mandates lose steam in the U.S. while Europe doubles downWHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Jan 29, 2021 - Health

Ex-CDC director Tom Frieden on the next COVID-19 vaccines

Americans fortunate enough to receive COVID vaccines now, outside of clinical trials, are getting shots made by either Pfizer or Moderna. But newly released data from Novavax and Johnson & Johnson suggests that more vaccines could be on the way, with J&J's requiring a single dose.

Axios Re:Cap digs into the news and why it matters with Tom Frieden, former head of the CDC, as COVID-19 variants spread globally.

Jan 30, 2021 - World

Germany to impose travel restrictions to curb spread of coronavirus variants

Border police officers check passports and COVID-19 tests at Frankfurt Airport. Photo: Thomas Lohnes via Getty Images

Germany announced Friday that it was imposing new travel restrictions in an effort to curb the spread of more contagious coronavirus variants.

Details: All non-German residents traveling from countries deemed "areas of variant concern," including the United Kingdom, South Africa, Portugal, Ireland, Brazil, Lesotho and Eswatini, will be banned from entering the country, even if they test negative for the coronavirus.