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Destruction from Cyclone Amphan in Kolkata, India in May. Photo: Debajyoti Chakraborty/NurPhoto via Getty Images

New data indicates that the number of people killed in natural disasters in the first six months of 2020 was much lower than average figures over the past 30 years.

Why it matters: A combination of climate change and more people moving into risk-prone areas can intensify the effects of natural disasters. But better preparation and greater wealth can prevent deaths, even as the overall price of catastrophe rises.

Driving the news: The reinsurer Munich Re released data about the toll of natural disasters over the first six months of 2020.

  • While the financial losses were just slightly below the 30-year average over the same months, far fewer people than average 2,900 people total were killed by natural catastrophes.
  • That's 38% below the total from the first half of 2019, and nearly 90% below the 30-year average.
  • 2020's figures reflect a continued downward trend in deaths over the past few years.

Be smart: Much of what happens with natural disasters over a six-month window can be chalked up to randomness. But nimbler responses to disasters can reduce the number of deaths even in the event of a major catastrophe.

  • The biggest disaster so far in 2020 was Cyclone Amphan, which struck India in May. While the storm caused $11.5 billion in damages, only 135 people died — a number that likely would have been far higher decades ago.

Yes, but: The Atlantic hurricane season is nearing its peak months — and they're predicted to be busy. As the U.S. discovered in 2005 and 2012, one very bad storm can erase those positive trends.

Go deeper: Hurricane Hanna heads for southern Texas as Category 1

Go deeper

Oct 29, 2020 - Health

U.S. tops 88,000 COVID-19 cases, setting new single-day record

Expand chart
Data: COVID Tracking Project; Chart: Axios Visuals

The United States reported 88,452 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, setting a single-day record, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project.

The big picture: The country confirmed 1,049 additional deaths due to the virus, and there are over 46,000 people currently being hospitalized, suggesting the U.S. is experiencing a third wave heading into the winter months.

Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers

President Biden speaking from Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Jan. 21. Photo: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A federal judge in Texas blocked the Biden administration from enforcing its coronavirus vaccine mandate for federal workers on Friday, citing the outcome of last week's Supreme Court ruling that nullified the administration's vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.

Why it matters: It's a blow to President Biden's efforts to increase the U.S.' vaccination rates, though much of the federal workforce has already been vaccinated against the virus.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker