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Expand chart
Data: Our World in Data; Chart: Axios Visuals

A surge in coronavirus infections in Europe makes clear the stakes of the race in the U.S. between vaccines and new variants.

Why it matters: Europe and North America, two of the regions hit hardest by the pandemic, both saw sharp declines in cases and deaths beginning in January. Then, Europe's decline gave way to a new spike. America's already slowing decline could slip into reverse next.

Stephen Kissler, a researcher at Harvard who models the spread of COVID-19, says the U.S. is "lagging a couple of weeks behind many of the countries in Europe that are starting to see rises in cases right now."

  • "I think we should take that as a very serious warning that that can and very well might happen here as well," Kissler says.
  • The lesson from Europe is "it's possible for these variants to cause surges in Covid during a time of year when you might not expect it," he adds.

What's happening: Europe's latest wave has been particularly destructive in Central European countries like the Czech Republic and Poland, but cases are now rising sharply in Italy and beginning to tick up in France and elsewhere in Western Europe.

  • Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization's regional director for Europe, cites two factors: variants, particularly the one discovered in the U.K., and premature reopenings.
  • The U.K. variant is now dominant in at least eight EU countries, per AP, including France, Germany and Italy. The variant is far more contagious and also appears to be more deadly.
  • The U.K. did manage to bring its variant-driven spike under control, but it took a strict lockdown that has dragged on since December.

What to watch: The increasing rate of vaccination in the U.S. and the arrival of warmer weather both work to America's advantage, Kissler says.

  • So while the U.S. should take heed of the "very clear warning," Kissler says, it's possible that the U.S. could avoid a similar outcome.

Worth noting: Vaccine rollouts are moving much more slowly in the EU than the U.S., making Europe's challenge of vaccinating its way out of the current surge that much more difficult.

Go deeper: Vaccines and stimulus pave the way for a big, uneven global recovery.

Go deeper

2 hours ago - Technology

3D printing's next act: big metal objects

Chief Scientist Andy Bayramian makes modifications to the laser system on Seurat's 3D metal printer. Photo courtesy of Seurat Technologies.

A new metal 3D printing technology could revolutionize the way large industrial products like planes and cars are made, reducing the cost and carbon footprint of mass manufacturing.

Why it matters: 3D printing — also called additive manufacturing — has been used since the 1980s to make small plastic parts and prototypes. Metal printing is newer, and the challenge has been figuring out how to make things like large car parts faster and cheaper than traditional methods.

Rising rates may hammer the stock market

Illustration: Sarah Grillo / Axios

Stocks are much more vulnerable to interest rate swings than they used to be.

Why it matters: A sharp rise in rates in early 2022 is the key reason the stock market is off to an ugly start. And with the Federal Reserve making noise about trying to keep inflation in check, rates could go higher.

Ina Fried, author of Login
3 hours ago - Technology

Microsoft's Activision Blizzard deal complicates Big Tech regulation

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

Microsoft's surprise $68 billion deal to buy Activision Blizzard is adding a fresh twist to the heated debate over which tech companies have monopolies that need to be reined in.

The big picture: The deal could force a question the company has happily ducked for a decade: whether its size and power make it just as deserving of regulatory scrutiny as its Big Tech rivals.