May 12, 2020

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Good Tuesday morning.

Situational awareness: Speaker Pelosi is poised to unveil the House's next coronavirus aid package, encouraging Congress to "go big" to help cash-strapped states and struggling Americans, AP reports.

  • Voting is possible as soon as Friday, but the plan faces a Senate roadblock.

⏰ Today's Smart Brevity™ count: 1,368 words ... 5½ minutes.

1 big thing ... Axios-Ipsos poll: Americans hate contact tracing
Data: Axios-Ipsos survey. Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

In a best-case scenario, just half of Americans would participate in voluntary virus contact tracing tracked with cellphones, Axios White House editor Margaret Talev writes from the latest installment of the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

  • 68% of Democrats said they'd participate if the CDC were in charge, compared with 58% of independents and 32% of Republicans.

Why it matters: A strong contact tracing program — identifying people who have the virus and isolating those who've had contact with them — is the key to letting other people get back to their lives, according to public health experts.

  • "The whole concept of American democracy is about local control and civil liberties, individual liberties," said Cliff Young, president of Ipsos U.S. Public Affairs.

The poll (980 adults; margin of error: ±3.4 points) underscores deep resistance to turning over sensitive health information.

  • The only way to get even half of Americans to participate would be for public health officials to run the program, not the White House or tech or phone companies.

Other results: Even as the death toll rises and infections breach the White House firewall, Week 9 of our national survey finds more people itching to return to work as they used to know it — and bending guidelines to see family and friends.

  • 64% say returning to their pre-coronavirus lives would be a large or moderate risk. Just 30% say that's worth the risk right now.
  • 63% consider airplane travel or mass transit to be a large risk, down from 73% a month ago.
  • Nine in 10 say they're still practicing social distancing, but just 36% say they're self-quarantining, down from a peak of 55% in Week 4.
  • 32% say they've visited family or friends in the past week, the highest share in seven weeks.

About a third of those polled know someone who has tested positive.

  • Most don't see the virus as an immediate existential threat to themselves. This week, we asked whether people had prepared or updated their wills or living wills since the pandemic began. More than 90% said no.

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2. The doctor vs. the White House

Yesterday's Rose Garden news conference. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Dr. Anthony Fauci's goal for his testimony on the Hill today — to warn the country of the dangers of reopening too quickly — precisely undercuts what President Trump and the White House are trying to achieve this week, Axios' Jonathan Swan reports.

  • As Jonathan wrote in Sunday’s Sneak Peek, Trump and his team built its messaging this week around convincing Americans that they had enough testing and personal protective equipment to begin to safely return to work.
  • And Trump has been publicly chiding blue-state governors for keeping their states closed longer than he'd like.

Fauci, who will testify before the Senate Health Committee today from "modified quarantine," plans to deliver a stark warning that Americans would experience "needless suffering and death" if the country opens up too soon, the N.Y. Times' Sheryl Gay Stolberg reports.

  • "If we skip over the checkpoints in the guidelines to 'Open America Again,' then we risk the danger of multiple outbreaks throughout the country," Fauci emailed Stolberg. "This will not only result in needless suffering and death, but would actually set us back on our quest to return to normal."

Between the lines: So you have the stark spectacle of the nation’s highest profile doctor and member of Trump’s coronavirus task force addressing the nation without the president by his side.

  • A big part of the reason some Trump advisers pushed to end his daily briefings — besides the negative political fallout — was because they wanted the public to hear less from the doctors, and more from the economists and the business cheerleaders for reopening.
  • Today we see Fauci's messaging run headlong into the White House's.
3. Trump: U.S. "prevailed" on testing

Left: Pete Souza/White House via Getty Images. Right: Alex Brandon/AP

With aides and reporters wearing masks in the Rose Garden yesterday, while President Trump remained au naturel (right), Axios editor-in-chief Nicholas Johnston was reminded of this scene (left) from 2009, during the last pandemic:

  • A White House nurse administers the H1N1 vaccine to President Obama, two months after declaring the swine flu a national emergency.

"In every generation, through every challenge and hardship and danger, America has risen to the task," President Trump said during his opening remarks at the Rose Garden presser. "We have met the moment, and we have prevailed."

  • Asked later if that was "mission accomplished," Trump replied: "No, we've prevailed on testing, is what I'm referring to. That was with regard to testing."

Save this tape ... Trump was also asked: "When will it be that Americans across the country will be able to get tested every day, as they go back to work?"

  • Trump replied: "Very soon. I mean, really, very soon."

Trump said: "If somebody wants to be tested right now, they'll be able to be tested."

  • That contradicted his testing coordinator Adm. Brett Giroir, who moments earlier said tests are mostly reserved for people who "need" one because they have symptoms or are participating in contact tracing, Axios' Zach Basu points out.

Reality check ... Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, said later on CNN:

  • "Sixty days ago, ... this disease was not even in the top hundred causes of death in this country. This past month, it was the #1 cause of death."
  • "And we're just getting started in the second inning of this nine-inning game."
4. Pics du jour
Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Above: Over 22 days, the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in D.C. was transformed into a temporary field hospital with 437 beds.

Below: In a park in Chelsea, Mass., National Guard soldiers distribute food to people suffering from food insecurity due to the pandemic.

Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
Photo: Francois Mori/AP

Above: The Champs-Élysées and Arc de Triomphe, as Parisians are allowed out without permission slips for the first time in two months.

Below: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks to reporters outside the Senate chamber yesterday.

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images
5. Best of "Axios on HBO"

Photo: "Axios on HBO"

Some highlights from last night's episode of "Axios on HBO"

  • Vice President Mike Pence told me that President Trump "welcomes prayer at meetings" in his administration. (Video.)
  • Sen. Marco Rubio, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told Axios China author Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian that "we don't have enough information" on whether or not the coronavirus pandemic resulted from an accident at a Chinese lab. (Video.)
  • Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff told Axios Login author Ina Fried that he hopes the U.S. is "weeks away" from a return to office work. He cited South Korea as a model moving forward, saying it is "way ahead of us in terms of the testing infrastructure." (Video.)
6. Dems to allow virtual elements at convention

Joe Biden outlined an economic plan on NowThis on Friday. Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Democrats now acknowledge that they may not be able to hold the in-person convention that they'd envisioned, and they're taking steps to allow virtual or socially distanced elements, Axios' Alexi McCammond writes.

  • The DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee meets today to consider a resolution giving the convention team "maximum flexibility to plan a safe event that guarantees every delegate can accomplish their official business without putting their own health at risk."

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7. Time capsule
N.Y. Post
L.A. Times
8. Baseball plans for July opening day

The Chicago White Sox host the Detroit Tigers last July 4. Photo: Mark Black/AP

Major League Baseball owners gave the go-ahead to making a proposal to the players' union today that could lead to the season starting around the Fourth of July weekend — in ballparks without fans, AP's Ronald Blum reports.

  • Spring training could start in early to mid-June, a person familiar with the decision told the AP. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because details of the plan were not announced.

Each team would play about 82 regular-season games: against opponents in its own division plus interleague matchups limited to AL East vs. NL East, AL Central vs. NL Central and AL West vs. NL West.

  • Postseason play would be expanded from 10 clubs to 14 by doubling wild cards in each league to four.

If teams can't get medical or government approvals to play at their home ballparks, they could switch to spring training stadiums or neutral sites.

9. N.Y. Times reports record new subs
Data: N.Y. Times earnings reports. Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

The New York Times said during its earnings report last week that it saw more than a half million new subscribers in Q1 — roughly double the amount of net new subscriptions that it typically sees in a given quarter, Axios' Sara Fischer writes.

10. 1 smile to go: Return of "free play"

Photo: Rob Carr/Getty Images

One positive from the shutdown is the reemergence of "free play," Axios Sports' Kendall Baker and Jeff Tracy write in a special report on youth sports.

  • Families are being active together, and kids are riding bikes and running more.

Why it matters: The past few months have been a return to the way kids played sports a generation or two ago (or how they do in in Norway).

  • This could ultimately help erase the notion that sports equal "organized play," and ultimately create a future where free play has a bigger role.

Go deeper ... "Special report: Coronavirus puts youth sports on pause."

Mike Allen

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