Jul 2, 2020

Axios AM

🧨 Good Thursday morning. With a federal holiday tomorrow, this would usually be getaway day. But you're probably already where you're going!

🎧 "Axios Today" — our new 10-minute podcast, hosted by Niala Boodhoo — is ready for your ears.

🇷🇺 Situational awareness: 78% of Russian voters backed constitutional reforms that could keep President Vladimir Putin in power until 2036. BBC

1 big thing: New competition for nursing homes

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Nursing homes have been the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, prompting more urgent discussions about alternative housing situations for elderly Americans, Axios' Kim Hart writes.

  • Why it matters: 43% of U.S. coronavirus deaths are linked to nursing homes, according to the N.Y. Times. But there are few other viable housing options for seniors.
  • COVID-19 illness severity and mortality rates have been highest among older adults — a fast-growing segment of the U.S. population as Baby Boomers age.

Alternatives are growing in popularity:

  • "Granny flats" — small units built in backyards, above garages or in basements — are seeing the biggest surge in interest, because they are often easiest to tack onto existing structures.
  • Multigenerational living has increased over the past decade, with 9.3 million people over 65 living with grown children or grandchildren in 2017.
  • Co-living — or living with roommates and sharing common areas a la "The Golden Girls" — is still relatively uncommon among the 65-and-older set. But services that match older roommates, like Nesterly and SilverNest, are rising.
  • With "homesharing," older adults with extra room can take on a tenant to help pay bills and decrease loneliness, allowing them to stay in their house.

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2. Feds would drive Biden's virus war

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

If Joe Biden wins 124 days from now, his coronavirus response would feature a no-expenses-spared federal approach to mitigating the virus, and a beefed-up safety net for those suffering its economic consequences, Axios' Caitlin Owens reports.

  • Why it matters: It’s nearly inevitable that the U.S. will still be facing the pandemic come January. So voters will choose between two very different options for dealing with it.

The big picture: The Trump administration chose a largely state-led response to the virus, with some guidance and assistance provided by the federal government. Science and the public-health advice has, at times, taken a back seat.

  • Biden’s response would be drastically different: a massive, federally-driven effort in which no cost would be too high.

America would literally look different, as Biden would "insist" that people wear masks in public. (Think of how that will go over in the red states.)

  • Biden's campaign argues that with a greater commitment to meeting state and local needs, there wouldn't be as much division.
  • "I don’t think you'd see the politicization of the response that you see today," said Ariana Berengaut, a Biden policy adviser.

But the role of the federal government would be enhanced far beyond that (many of these changes would have to go through Congress):

  • A federal Pandemic Testing Board would oversee efforts to produce more testing supplies and coordinate test distribution.
  • Biden would name a "Supply Commander" to work with governors to determine states' needs.

The plan is sure to be massively expensive, but the Biden campaign didn't provide an estimate.

3. Our famous map: Cases flat or growing in 48 states
Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments. Map: Andrew Witherspoon, Sara Wise, Naema Ahmed, Danielle Alberti/Axios

Coronavirus cases increased in the vast majority of states over the past week, and decreased in only New Jersey, Rhode Island and D.C., Axios' Andrew Witherspoon and Caitlin Owens report.

  • Why it matters: If states fail to contain their outbreaks, they could soon face exponential spread and overwhelmed health systems.
  • Flashback: A month and a half ago, shortly after states began reopening, cases were decreasing or holding steady in most states.

Between the lines: Some states saw large increases in testing over the last week, which could account for the growth in cases. But in 36 states, case growth exceeded testing growth, meaning that the spike isn't due to increased testing.

  • In Florida, testing increased by only 69%. In California, testing increased by 20% and cases increased by 35%.
  • In a handful of states — including Oregon, Arkansas and Louisiana — testing actually decreased.

What we're watching: Hospitalizations are rising nationally, but the death rate continues to decline.

  • That's at least partially because younger people are getting infected at high rates. But they can easily spread the virus to more vulnerable family members or coworkers.

🚨 The U.S. reported 52,788 new cases yesterday — the largest daily total since the pandemic began, and the first time the tally topped 50,000.

4. Pics du jour: Stonewall falls in Richmond
Photo: Steve Helber/AP

"Cast in bronze astride a horse, the statue of Confederate Gen. Thomas 'Stonewall' Jackson had towered over Monument Avenue for a century," the Richmond Times-Dispatch writes.

  • Work crews wielding a giant crane, harnesses and power tools wrested the imposing statue from its concrete pedestal yesterday, AP reports.
Photo: Steve Helber/AP
5. Russian bounty: up to $100,000 per American
At Observation Post Mustang in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, Army soldiers work out at their outdoor gym in 2011. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

Ahead of an intelligence briefing today for congressional leaders, the N.Y. Times puts a price on secret Russian bounties for the Taliban:

  • "Afghan officials said prizes of as much as $100,000 per killed soldier were offered for American and coalition targets."

The WashPost reports: "The White House is not planning an immediate response to intelligence reports of Russian bounties ... because President Trump does not believe the reports are true or 'actionable.'"

6. Hill's hottest double-header

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) is lining up back-to-back blockbuster hearings right before the August exodus:

The CEOs of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google will testify as part of the committee's antitrust investigation, N.Y. Times columnist Kara Swisher first reported ("Here Come the 4 Horsemen of the Techopolypse").

  • I'm told that with negotiations continuing over document production, the date being discussed is July 27. The CEOs are expected to appear remotely.

The next day, July 28, Attorney General Bill Barr will appear for an oversight hearing that will include grilling on Lafayette Park, Mueller and more.

7. Fresh pressure on Redskins

Photo: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

The national dialogue about racism has renewed calls for the Washington Redskins to change their name — and now protestors are targeting sponsors, Axios Sports editor Kendall Baker writes.

  • Nike, FedEx and PepsiCo each received letters signed by 87 investors and shareholders worth a combined $620 billion asking the brands to cut ties with the Redskins unless they change their name, AdWeek reports.

🏈 Sign up for Kendall Baker's weekday newsletter, Axios Sports.

8. Hundreds of Bush 43 alumni back Biden
Screenshot: 43 Alumni for Biden

A new PAC, called 43 Alumni for Biden, says it has hundreds of alums of George W. Bush's administration and campaigns ready to endorse Joe Biden.

  • It "seeks to unite and mobilize a community of historically Republican voters who are dismayed and disappointed by the damage done to our nation by Donald Trump’s presidency."

Bush's office knows about the group but isn't involved and hasn't backed it, one of the organizers told Reuters.

  • A Bush spokesperson told the wire service that the former president is retired "and won’t be wading into this election."
9. CNN has best ratings in 40 years

Screenshot: CNN

An extraordinary stretch of news has propelled CNN to its biggest audience for any quarter in the network's 40-year history, AP's David Bauder reports.

  • Fox News and MSNBC also had record-setting quarters ending in June, according to Nielsen. But CNN's audience increased at a higher pace.
  • CNN has assigned more of its top people, notably Wolf Blitzer, to weekend work. In the U.S. wee hours, it simulcasts CNN International.

CNN's weekday prime-time audience of 1.95 million was up 120% over the same period last year.

  • Fox News, which has led in the ratings for nearly two decades, had an average of 4.07 million viewers, a 43% increase, while MSNBC's count of 2.47 million was up 13% from 2019.

For the total day, CNN's viewership was up 119% over 2019, Fox jumped by 48% and MSNBC by 34%.

10. D.C. plans mile-long fireworks show
Photo: Susan Walsh/AP

The skies above the National Mall will have some semblance of Fourth of July normalcy on Saturday, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt announced.

  • 10,000+ fireworks are being launched from a mile-long stretch.
  • The show will last 35 minutes, and will be visible for three miles throughout the District and Northern Virginia.

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