Mar 29, 2020

Axios AM

📊 Situational awareness: President Trump gained ground on Joe Biden in the WashPost/ABC News poll this month, going from 7 points down in February to a statistical tie — Biden 49%, Trump 47% among registered voters. Per the WashPost:

  • Trump is more trusted on the economy, Biden on health care.
  • When registered voters are asked whom they trust more to confront the coronavirus, the difference is statistically insignificant — Trump 47%, Biden 43%.

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  • Today's Smart Brevity™ count: 1,473 words ... 5½ minutes.
1 big thing: Year of the protest meets year of the lockdown

Times Square yesterday. Photo: Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty Images

The year of the mass uprising has collided with the year of the coronavirus lockdown, leaving protest movements around the world stalled.

  • The big picture, from Axios World Editor Dave Lawler: The enduring images of 2019 are of protest — from Hong Kong to Khartoum, across the Middle East and through much of Latin America.

Seemingly overnight, though, social distancing has made such mass demonstrations almost unthinkable.

During Hong Kong's protests, face masks were worn as a symbol of defiance and protection against tear gas. Now, the same masks are worn to protect against infection, AP notes.

  • Organizers continue to press their demands for greater autonomy, but they won’t be backed by millions-strong demonstrations any time soon.

In India, protests against laws that discriminate against Muslims were intensifying in the weeks leading up to the coronavirus outbreak.

  • Large gatherings are now illegal with the country entering lockdown. The site of one longstanding protest was cleared last week.

Planned protests are on hold everywhere from Algeria to Zimbabwe.

  • In Algeria, anti-government protests had been held for 56 consecutive weekends, until last week.
  • In Paris earlier this month, police used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse Yellow Vest protesters who defied a ban on large gatherings.
  • Climate activist Greta Thunberg has, for the time being, gone from leading young people on climate marches to urging them to stay home. Self-isolating after travel, she said she suspects she had the coronavirus.

Protesters are adapting to the times — from banging pots on balconies in Brazil, to gathering in a massive virtual demonstration in Israel.

  • But the sorts of mass protests that brought down five world leaders in 2019 are on hold just about everywhere.
  • Some autocratic-leaning governments will likely use that ban to their advantage.

Where things stand: Women in Mexico attempted a novel tactic on March 9. To protest violence against women, they held a “day without women” by staying inside their homes all day. 

  • Now, the world has moved inside. It’s the streets that are empty.

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🍾 P.S. Dave Lawler, an Axios original, yesterday stuck with his long-planned wedding to Melissa Dazo: "We weren’t able to have a small ceremony in the end, but we slipped on the rings, popped some champagne and celebrated anyways."

2. Knock at the door for fleeing New Yorkers
Photo: David Goldman/AP

In the photo above, Rhode Island Air National Guard Technical Sgt. William Randall and Westerly police officer Howard Mills approach a home while looking for New York license plates.

  • Teams in camouflage fatigues and police blues went “driveway to driveway” in coastal areas of the Ocean State yesterday to provide face-to-face notification of Gov. Gina Raimondo's 14-day coronavirus quarantine for visitors from the Empire State, the Providence Journal reports.
  • Police also approached houses with vehicles with no plates.

State Police set up a checkpoint on I-95 Friday where drivers with New York plates have to stop and provide contact information, and are told to self-quarantine for two weeks, WPRI-TV reported.

  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the order "reactionary" and unconstitutional, saying he'd sue Rhode Island if the policy isn't rescinded but believed they could "work it out." (AP)

Below, at the Westerly Amtrak station, members of the Rhode Island National Guard look for passengers getting off a train from New York.

Photo: David Goldman/AP

🗽 All in 8 hours ... President Trump backed off an idea he floated for a quarantine of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, after Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on CNN that "would be a federal declaration of war on states."

  • "A lockdown is what they did in Wuhan, China, and we're not in China," Cuomo said. "Tomorrow, it's New Orleans. The day after, it's Detroit."
  • "You'd have to go back to the Civil War to talk about borders of states like that. I think it would paralyze the economy. I think it would shock the economic markets in a way that we've never seen before."

Instead, Vice President Pence tweeted: "At the recommendation of the Coronavirus Task Force & after consulting with @NYGovCuomo, @GovMurphy, & @GovNedLamont, @CDCgov issued a Domestic Travel Advisory urging residents of NY, NJ, & CT to refrain from non-essential travel for the next 14 days."

Courtesy N.Y. Post
3. If you read only one thing: Virus and society
Lara Laas and Daniel Clark marry yesterday in Sydney. Weddings in Australia are limited to five people — the couple, two witnesses and a celebrant. Photo: James D. Morgan/Getty Images

This is Ed Yong, science writer at The Atlantic:

Down through the centuries, diseases have always excelled at exploiting flux.
Humanity is now in the midst of its fastest-ever period of change. There were almost 2 billion people alive in 1918; there are now 7.6 billion, and they have migrated rapidly into cities, which since 2008 have been home to more than half of all human beings.
In these dense throngs, pathogens can more easily spread and more quickly evolve resistance to drugs.

🔮 That was in the magazine's July/August 2018 issue ("When the Next Plague Hits").

  • Now have I got your attention? Here's what Ed Yong says now, in "How the Pandemic Will End":
Pandemics can ... catalyze social change. People, businesses, and institutions have been remarkably quick to adopt or call for practices that they might once have dragged their heels on, including working from home, conference-calling to accommodate people with disabilities, proper sick leave, and flexible child-care arrangements. ...
Aspects of America’s identity may need rethinking after COVID-19. ... Having internalized years of anti-terrorism messaging following 9/11, Americans resolved to not live in fear. But SARS-CoV-2 has no interest in their terror, only their cells.

Go deeper: Ed's 2018 article ... His new piece.

4. Pic du jour
Photo: Shawn Dowd/Rochester Democrat and Chronicle via Reuters

Donuts Delite in Rochester, N.Y., is offering these customized donuts.

  • The Democrat and Chronicle reports they’re "selling like hotcakes."
5. Schools get creative to keep students connected

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

All teachers face the "summer slide" — when students lose skills during summer breaks. This year will be doubly hard because students are losing one to three months of classroom instruction, Kim Hart and Margaret Harding McGill write.

So school districts are exploring ways to keep their homebound pupils connected to the classroom, even though many students don't have the internet service or devices they need for assignments.

  • In Texas, a non-profit that gives refurbished computers to students saw demand skyrocket as the pandemic spread, with 24,000 families entering a lottery for devices in a 48-hour span, Comp-U-Dopt executive director Colin Dempsey told Axios.

In Maryland, Montgomery County Public Schools are distributing the district's limited supply of Chromebook laptops to students who don't have access to a computer or laptop at home.

  • Fox TV-owned stations in D.C. are working with the Washington Teachers’ Union to air lessons beginning tomorrow for students without access to internet or computers.

In Philadelphia, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts and his family donated $5 million to help pay for 50,000 Chromebooks for students in the Philadelphia School District to use for online lessons in April.

  • 👀 The district estimated in 2019 that only about half of students in grades 3 through 12 have the equipment they need for online classes.

What companies are doing: Many home internet providers have waived data caps for existing customers.

6. 🎧 A podcast conundrum 🤔

"Since early March, when concerns around the coronavirus started to get more severe, people have been listening to podcasts a lot less," the fashion trade publication Women's Wear Daily writes:

  • "Downloads ... have dropped about 10 percent since the start of March, according to data from Podtrac ... Total unique listeners also dropped roughly 20 percent in the same time frame."
  • Why it's happening: Many fewer people are commuting, and "everyone just wants the news, on TV and online, not a true crime podcast."

🤯 BUT so many people are at home, with all that commute time, so MORE people are making podcasts, the N.Y. Times' Reggie Ugwu writes ("Broadcasting From Closets at Home, Daily Podcasts Come of Age"):

Mike Pesca, host of the long-running daily podcast “The Gist,” said the pandemic could soon be regarded as the format’s breakout moment.
He compared it to World War II, when Edward R. Murrow’s man-on-the street radio broadcasts after the bombings in London captured the attention of anxious Americans at home.
7. Paris falls silent
Bruitparif via AP

Some 150 monitoring stations around the Ile-de-France — the name given to Paris and its suburbs — have quantified the "unusual silence" since the virus prevention lockdown began March 17.

  • The agency that measures sound pollution in the region, Bruitparif, released these before-and-after maps showing the drop in decibels. (AP)

🗞️ Today's print N.Y. Times has a 16-page special section, "The Great Empty," featuring lavish displays of the work of some 40 photogs around the world who were dispatched to document "the quiet desolation of cities during the pandemic."

  • Architecture critic Michael Kimmelman writes in an intro that the empty buildings, squares and beaches evoke "the wonder of bygone explorers coming upon the remains of a lost civilization ... the romance of ruins."

Explore "The Great Empty."

8. 1 smile to go
Photo: Caitlin Ochs/Reuters

Spotted on the window of a grocery store in Brooklyn.

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