May 1, 2020

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

💐 Welcome to May. It's May Day.

🚨 Joe Biden will be interviewed this morning on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," and is expected to answer questions about Tara Reade's sexual assault accusations, which his campaign has denied.

💻 On Monday at 12:30 p.m. ET, I'll host a live virtual event on gene therapy and the future of disease treatment, with Axios health care business reporter Bob Herman.

  • We talk with Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.) and Dr. Jane F. Barlow, EVP and CCO of Real Endpoints, and senior adviser of the MIT FoCUS Project. Register here
1 big thing: Creaky unemployment systems plague jobless Americans

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The sudden wave of tens of millions of unemployment claims has overwhelmed state agencies hobbled by outdated tech and understaffed offices, Axios' Courtenay Brown and Kyle Daly report.

  • About seven of every eight Florida residents that filed for unemployment between mid-March and early April were still waiting for their applications to be processed as of last week, per an AP analysis.

What's happening: Peyton Cannon, a north Florida resident, filed for unemployment on March 28 after being laid off from a Goodwill store.

  • A month later, his application is still pending. He tells Axios he's called the unemployment office, but the phone lines have been jammed.

Three factors explain the unemployment-system meltdown:

  1. Sheer volume. "It was like a recession happened overnight," Steve Grove, who heads Minnesota's economic development office, tells Axios.
  2. Overstressed bureaucracies. Many states have intentionally built friction into their unemployment systems to nudge people back into the workforce.
  3. Obsolete technology. State systems are the product of years — even decades — of patching. Most states are only now scrambling to tap technology like chat bots and apps to offload work from state employees.

Some states are jerry-rigging workarounds to technical logjams.

  • Kentucky is telling applicants to simply ignore erroneous alerts that it hasn’t received their applications.

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2. Even the Senate can't get enough tests

The new scrum: Members of the media social distance as they listen to Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) at the Capitol on March 23. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Capitol's attending physician told senior Republican staff yesterday that he doesn't have the equipment for rapid or widespread testing for all 100 senators when they return to work Monday, Axios' Jonathan Swan and Sam Baker report.

  • Why it matters: This is a microcosm of the national flaws in testing.

Rear Admiral Brian Monahan, Congress' attending physician, said on a conference call that he didn't have access to the 15-minute tests the White House has been using, per two sources familiar with the call.

  • The doctor said on the call, first reported by Politico, that he didn't have enough to test asymptomatic senators — that he would only test people who are ill or show coronavirus symptoms.
  • He said results could take "between two and seven business days," and senators will need to quarantine while they wait.

Behind the scenes: The topic of testing arose when one of the Republican chiefs of staff mentioned to Monahan that most senators are in the high-risk category. (The average age of a senator is 61.)

Between the lines: Some Democrats — including 86-year-old Dianne Feinstein — have expressed concern about Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's decision to bring the Senate back. Speaker Pelosi is keeping the House home, citing advice from Monahan.

  • McConnell's chief of staff, Sharon Soderstrom, said on the call that safety recommendations will include three senators to a table at Senate lunches.

The bottom line: Members of Congress skew older, and work in close quarters. Yet they can't get tests.

  • That's the same reality facing poorer, more vulnerable people going back to work in front-line jobs — and who don't have aides and Capitol Police to keep people six feet away.

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3. Air travel could change MORE than after 9/11

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

When you're ready to fly again, pack your patience with your face mask: Everything will take longer, Axios transportation expert Joann Muller writes.

  • Expect new procedures for everything from luggage check-in to security clearance and boarding.
  • You might even need to have your blood tested to prove you're in good health.
  • "9/11 changed travel completely," writes airline consultant Shashank Nigam, CEO and founder of SimpliFlying. "The impact of COVID-19 on air travel will be even more far-reaching."

Masks and social distancing are only the beginning. In a new report, "The Rise of Sanitized Travel," SimpliFlying anticipates:

  1. Online check-in: Passengers might need to upload a document to confirm the presence of COVID-19 antibodies before they fly.
  2. Airport curbside: Passengers could be required to arrive at least four hours ahead of their flight and pass through a "disinfection tunnel" or thermal scanner.
  3. Check-in and bag drop: Agents would be behind plexiglass shields, and bags would be disinfected and then "sanitagged."
  4. The pre-flight safety video might include sanitation procedures. In-flight magazines will be removed, seatback pockets emptied, and passengers will likely use their own devices to watch videos. An in-flight janitor might keep lavatories and other high-touch areas disinfected after passenger use.

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4. Pics du jour: Armed protesters storm Michigan capitol

Photo: Jeff Kowalsky/AFP via Getty Images

"A large group of demonstrators — many not wearing masks and some carrying rifles on their shoulders — crowded into the lobby outside the House chambers" at the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing, shouting to be allowed onto the floor during a protest against Michigan's state of emergency. Detroit Free Press

  • Several senators wore bulletproof vests, AP reports.
Photo: Jeff Kowalsky/AFP via Getty Images

Below: Members of a militia group stand outside Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's office after protesters occupied the capitol.

Photo: Seth Herald/Reuters

See more photos.

5. U.S. jobless claims soar past 30 million
Graphic: AP

Typical state unemployment claims 1,900% higher than a year ago:

Map: AP
6. But ... Wall Street's best month in 33 years

Screenshot via CNBC

Who coulda guessed these would be yesterday's 4 p.m. CNBC headlines?

  • "S&P 500 BEST MONTH SINCE JAN. 1987."
  • "NASDAQ BEST MONTH SINCE JUNE 2000."
  • "DOW'S BEST MONTH SINCE OCT. 2002."
7. Trump's Lincoln Memorial signal

The Blue Angels fly over President Trump's "Salute to America" at the Lincoln Memorial last July 4. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

Fox News will host a "virtual town hall" with President Trump at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday from 7 to 9 p.m. — "America Together: Returning to Work," moderated by Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum.

  • "We wanted a powerful image of American strength and the idea of what reopening looks like," a presidential aide tells Axios White House editor Margaret Talev.
  • "He's eager to get out of the building," the aide added. "The weather's getting to be nicer."

Why it matters: The event follows dips in polls that are concerning Trump aides. It's also taking place as he calls for national parks to reopen, and for many businesses to get back to work.

  • Trump has often compared himself with President Abraham Lincoln — and praised or mentioned his predecessor in the context of his own political struggle.

Between the lines: Trump, who thrives on rallies and grand events, has been cooped up for weeks. This is both a way out of the White House gates for a few hours, as well as a test run before big campaign rallies can resume.

Social-distancing alert: The White House says it's not encouraging people to come out, and a perimeter barrier will be set up.

🌵 P.S. Trump will travel to Phoenix on Tuesday, to visit a Honeywell aerospace facility that is making N-95 respirator masks. USA Today

8. 📊 Scoop: Trump pollster finds demand for more absentee voting
Data: Fabrizio, Lee & Associates. ±3.1% margin of error. Chart: Axios Visuals

New polling by one of President Trump's campaign pollsters shows an openness to vote-by-mail efforts that Trump has criticized, Axios' Alayna Treene reports.

  • Why it matters: The polling, portions of which were shared with Axios, comes as coronavirus-related election reform efforts have become a political lightning rod, with the president dismissing mail-in voting as "corrupt" and "RIPE for FRAUD."
  • The survey was conducted by Tony Fabrizio and David Lee for Secure Democracy, a nonpartisan elections group advocating "secure and fair" elections.

By the numbers: Three-fourths of the respondents said they favor states keeping polling locations open (so long as they meet health guidelines), but also giving all voters the option to vote absentee.

  • 82% of Democrats, 76% of independents and 70% of Republicans supported that dual option — and it was most popular with voters 65 and older.

Read the 3-page memo.

9. 🎥 Exclusive with new Hollywood Reporter editor

Photo provided by The Hollywood Reporter

Nekesa Mumbi Moody, the new editorial director of The Hollywood Reporter, hopes to bring a global perspective and double down on coverage of the cultural changes happening in Hollywood around topics like diversity and #MeToo, Axios' Sara Fischer reports.

  • She spent more than two decades with AP — starting out as an intern in Albany, and most recently was global entertainment and lifestyles editor.

"We don't know what's going to happen to movie theaters" after the coronavirus pandemic, she said. "Hollywood was already going through a lot between the rise of streaming and challenges to traditional formats."

10. 1 smile to go: "This is my quest"

Photo: Mark Lennihan/AP

The stunning sound emerges each night at 7 p.m., amid the clanging and banging as New Yorkers cheer front-line workers: the velvety, buttery baritone of Broadway star Brian Stokes Mitchell, AP's Jocelyn Noveck writes.

  • With Broadway's houses shuttered, the voice rings out from a fifth-floor apartment on the Upper West Side.

"This is my quest," Mitchell, 62, sings, leaning precariously out his window, launching directly into the meatiest part of "The Impossible Dream" from "Man of La Mancha," in which he played Don Quixote.

  • "To follow that star. No matter how hopeless, no matter how far ..."

📱 Video: See a great interview with Mitchell, who was "Power Player of the Week" on Chris Wallace's "Fox News Sunday."

Mike Allen

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