Jul 27, 2020

Axios AM

Good Monday morning! Today's Smart Brevity™ count ... 1,282 words ... 4½ minutes.

💰With the world facing unprecedented economic and political turmoil, gold soared to an all-time high. Bloomberg

💻 Tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. ET, Media Trends author Sara Fischer will host an Axios virtual event on women and small businesses amid the virus. Register here.

1 big thing: Vaccine reality check

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The first coronavirus vaccine may arrive soon, but it’s unlikely to be the knockout punch you may be hoping for, Axios' Sam Baker and Alison Snyder write.

  • Why it matters: The end of this global pandemic almost certainly rests with a vaccine. Experts caution, however, that it’s important to have realistic expectations about how much the first vaccines across the finish line will — and won’t — be able to accomplish.

Work on a coronavirus vaccine is moving at an unprecedented pace: There are nearly 200 candidates in development, 27 are being tested in humans and a handful are already in an advanced phase of clinical trials.

  • Each new bit of positive news out of that effort makes the pie-in-the-sky best-case scenario — that one of these products will prove out and win at least an initial nod from the FDA by early next year — seem more plausible.

But first-generation vaccines often aren’t the ones that stop a new virus in its tracks, and experts’ hopes for an initial coronavirus vaccine are much more modest.

  • "Right now, we just need something that's going to mitigate the damage this virus causes," said Amesh Adalja, an infectious-diseases expert at Johns Hopkins University. "Maybe it doesn’t prevent you from getting infected, but it prevents you from getting hospitalized, or prevents you from dying."

Vaccinating enough people to get safely back to our old, communal habits will pose practical challenges.

  • Even with a jump start on manufacturing, which is happening now, there won’t be enough supply, at least at first, to address the sheer scale of a global pandemic.
  • And if distrust in a vaccine stops large numbers of people from getting it, the U.S may not achieve the "herd immunity" that prevents widespread outbreaks.

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2. Small businesses drown in virus expenses

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Expenses are piling up for cash-strapped small businesses as they invest in what it takes to lure customers and workers back into shops: fancy air filters, plexiglass shields, and stockpiles of PPE, Axios markets reporter Courtenay Brown writes.

  • Why it matters: Some small business owners are spending the equivalent of a month's worth of profit on precautionary equipment — even as they question whether it's worth it as the threat of more lockdowns loom.

What's going on: Nationally, many businesses are taking steps toward retrofits, but they're simultaneously preparing to take steps back — or to close for good — if cases spike again.

  • There's a daunting list of guidelines from the CDC: spaced-out tables, limited numbers of customers, thermometers for temperature checks and industrial-strength cleaning supplies.

One story from the trenches: Candace Combs owns In-Symmetry Spa in San Francisco, which was in the early stages of reopening before the mayor paused its plans.

  • Combs spent $5,000 preparing to reopen the spa — roughly the same amount she'd take home in profit each month before the lockdown — just as the mayor said her business wouldn't be able to reopen.
  • The money went toward supplies to build a plexiglass barrier, disposable mattresses to put atop massage tables, etc.
  • "I've spent all that money, and guess what — I still can't work," Combs says.

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3. Portland police find Molotov cocktails
Photo: Portland Police Department via AP

Portland police found a bag containing loaded rifle magazines and Molotov cocktails at a park near the site of two months of protests, AP reports.

  • A protest late yesterday started peacefully.
  • Early today, U.S. agents declared an unlawful assembly and deployed what appeared to be tear gas, flash bangs and pepper balls.

Below, a Black Lives Matter protest at Portland's federal courthouse on Saturday.

Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP
4. Alabama state troopers salute John Lewis
Photo: Lynsey Weatherspoon/Getty Images

John Lewis' "final crossing" brings poetic justice ... A horse-drawn caisson drew the congressman's flag-draped casket from Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church in Selma, Ala., where the "Bloody Sunday" march began in 1965, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes.

  • "Red rose petals were scattered on its black asphalt path, a symbol of the blood shed 55 years earlier. Crowds ... shouted 'thank you' and 'good trouble' as the carriage passed."
Photo: Brynn Anderson/AP
5. Michigan listening post: Trump's attacks sinking in

Joe Biden speaks last week in New Castle, Del. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

A focus group of swing voters in Warren, Mich., found that President Trump's branding of Joe Biden had sunk in, particularly insinuations about senility, Axios' Alexi McCammond writes.

  • Why it matters: With these voters, Biden's lower profile in mostly virtual events has proven no competition for Trump's provocations and bully pulpit.
  • Several couldn't name a single achievement in Biden's life.

Among participants in the small Engagious/Schlesinger focus group (not statistically signifiant like a poll), those who plan to vote for Biden over Trump said it was anti-Trump, not pro-Biden.

  • Many of these voters prioritize the economy as their #1 issue and continue to trust Trump on that, since the economy was doing well before the pandemic.
  • Negative feelings toward Biden were mostly rooted in TV glimpses, and a feeling that Biden "becomes lost in his answers," as one participant put it.

Read some of the voters' comments.

6. Exclusive poll: Where immigration could swing critical 2020 voters

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos via Getty Images

Even with the pandemic dominating voters' top concerns, immigration remains a powerful issue for whichever candidate can define it, Stef Kight writes from Civis Analytics data shared exclusively with Axios.

  • "It's a vulnerability for Democrats not to talk about immigration," said Tyler Moran, executive director of the advocacy group Immigration Hub, which commissioned the poll.
  • Ceding the issue to President Trump, Moran said, "is leaving votes on the table."

Immigration Hub, run by former Democratic congressional staffers, commissioned the survey of more than 9,000 voters in Wisconsin, Michigan, Colorado and Pennsylvania.

  • Nearly three in 10 Wisconsinites would be more likely to vote for a Democrat if shown certain pro-immigration arguments, according to Civis' predictive model.
  • The same is true for a quarter of those in Michigan and Colorado, but less than one in 10 in Pennsylvania.

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7. Global support builds for hydrogen

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Countries around the world — though mostly in Europe — are pledging hundreds of billions of dollars to support hydrogen energy as part of their coronavirus stimulus plans, Axios' Amy Harder writes in her "Harder Line" column.

  • Why it matters: The obscure energy source could help tackle climate change in the thorniest parts of the global energy system, like shipping and power storage, but it’s prohibitively expensive and would need lots of government support to get off the ground.

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8. Tweet du jour
Dave Weigel/Twitter

The Washington Post's Dave Weigel hit a campaign stop in Garden City, Kansas, for Republican Rep. Roger Marshall, a medical doctor, last night.

9. Conservative TV touts conspiracies

Screenshot via Fox News

Several right-leaning TV networks and hosts have walked back or acknowledged giving oxygen to conspiracy theories, Axios' Sara Fischer writes.

  • Why it matters: There's been a lot of focus over the past few years on misinformation spreading online. Yet some of the most damaging falsities have come from TV networks that reach millions of Americans daily.

Sinclair Broadcast Group asked its dozens of local affiliates not to air this weekend's episode of "America This Week," hosted by Eric Bolling.

  • The recalled show let discredited "Plandemic" activist Judy Mikovits tout a false conspiracy that Anthony Fauci started the coronavirus.

Fox News host Jesse Waters said in an interview Saturday with Eric Trump that QAnon, a far-right conspiracy theory movement, "uncovered a lot of great stuff when it comes to Epstein and the Deep State."

  • Watters later said in a statement: "While discussing the double standard of Big Tech censorship, I mentioned the conspiracy group QAnon, which I don’t support or believe in. My comments should not be mistaken for giving credence to this fringe platform."

One America News Network (OANN), a conservative network that's become a recent favorite of President Trump's, has also spread false information, but has been more reluctant to disavow the segments.

10. ⚾ 1 smile to go
Mr. Met dances in the stands at Citi Field yesterday. Photo: Adam Hunger/AP

Managers arguing with umpires through face masks — and air fives and foot taps after home runs — were signatures of COVID-era baseball's opening weekend, AP's Jake Seiner writes.

  • Every team participated in Black Lives Matter-inspired ceremonies before their openers. Numerous players and coaches kneeled during the national anthem, including Mookie Betts as he made his Dodgers debut.
  • "Now is when people will finally listen," explained Giancarlo Stanton, a Black slugger for the Yankees who plans to kneel throughout the season.

Reality check: High-fives and fist bumps continue to be common, and distancing in the dugout has appeared to be a challenge even with some reserves watching from the stands.

  • Clubs have had a particularly hard time upholding protocols after big plays. The A's piled around first baseman Matt Olson at home plate following a game-ending grand slam Friday.

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