May 4, 2020

Axios AM

Good Monday morning.

🔬 Today at 12:30 p.m. ET, join Bob Herman and me for a 30-minute virtual event about medical research during a crisis. Our guests include Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.

  • Register here. 

🗞️ The Pulitzer Prizes will be announced at 3 p.m., postponed from last month because of the virus. Livestreams here.

1 big thing: Colleges gamble on reopening

Illustration: AĂŻda Amer/Axios

Colleges around the U.S. are making plans to welcome students back to campus this fall — afraid they'll be headed for financial catastrophe if they remain closed, Axios' Erica Pandey reports.

  • Why it matters: Social distancing could still be in place, and medical experts say a second wave of coronavirus cases is possible in the fall. But for many universities, the revenue blows that would come with an online semester are too severe to weather. They've got no option but to figure out how to reopen.

Among the schools that have announced intentions to open in the fall are Purdue, the University of Nebraska, the University of Alabama, the University of North Carolina and Baylor.

Over the past week, several university presidents revealed ways they hope to pull off an on-campus fall:

  • The capability to test all students upon arrival and regularly thereafter is critical, Brown President Christina Paxson wrote in a New York Times op-ed.
  • Large lecture classes would likely continue to be held online, and athletic events would go on without spectators.
  • To limit students' exposure to one another, some universities are considering inviting a smaller number of students to campus — just freshmen for whom an on-campus orientation is key, for example — and spreading them out across dorm facilities.
  • Schools may have to ban social gatherings above a certain size, and limit students' ability to have visitors on campus or travel away from school on breaks, Purdue President Mitch Daniels wrote.

Telling millions of college students — many of whom are experiencing their first taste of independence — that they can't see friends and throw parties is easier said than done.

  • Think of the thousands of students who went on spring break trips and crowded beaches even after several states had put social-distancing guidelines in place.

On top of that, college campuses are designed to be dense environments where students eat, live and learn together — and mix and mingle with all types of people through different dorm assignments, extracurriculars and seminars.

  • To isolate students is "contrary to the ideas of a liberal education," says Graeme Wood, a Yale professor and correspondent for The Atlantic. 'That's not a college experience that's working the way it's supposed to."

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2. Virus persists despite distancing
Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins. Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The number of new U.S. coronavirus cases hovered around 30,000 a day during the entire month of April, meaning that the virus has managed to spread in spite of stringent social-distancing measures, Axios' Caitlin Owens writes.

  • Why it matters: Many states have already started to lift these measures, which could enable the virus to spread even faster.
  • "Everyone thought we’d be in a better place after weeks of sheltering in place and bringing the economy to a near standstill," former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb wrote in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece yesterday.

Between the lines: Many Americans — health care workers, grocery workers and emergency personnel — aren't able to stay home. That's enabled the virus to spread among these populations.

  • It has also spread among people who live close together, including families, nursing home residents, incarcerated Americans and those experiencing homelessness.

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3. Reopening risk for GOP governors
Reproduced from Kaiser Family Foundation. Data from The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, Census Bureau. Chart: Axios Visuals

The hardest-hit areas so far have mostly been in states with Democratic governors, but the number of virus cases is now increasing more quickly in states with Republican governors, Drew Altman, president and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation, writes in a column for Axios.

By the numbers: Over the last two weeks, reported infections have increased 91% in red states versus 63% in blue states. 

  • We see the same pattern for COVID-19 deaths: 170% growth in red states vs. 104% in blue states.

Between the lines: Polls show Republicans are far more likely than Democrats to think that the worst is behind us when it comes to coronavirus. 

4. Cartoon du jour

I figured we all could use a Monday morning smile ...

Cartoon: Danny Shanahan/New Yorker. By kind permission of the The New Yorker, via Cartoon Bank
5. Trump sees toll up to 100,000
Photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters

President Trump said during a Fox News virtual town hall at the Lincoln Memorial last night that the country's coronavirus death toll could reach 100,000, "far worse than he had forecast just weeks ago, even as he pressed states to reopen the shuttered economy," the N.Y. Times' Peter Baker writes.

Trump said: "Look, we’re going to lose anywhere from 75, 80 to 100,000 people."

  • But the Times notes that he credited himself with preventing the toll from being worse: "If we didn’t do it, the minimum we would have lost was a million two, a million four, a million five, that's the minimum. We would have lost probably higher, it’s possible higher than 2.2" million.
  • "The death toll passed 67,000 on Sunday, more than the total American deaths in the Vietnam War."

🥊 When Bret Baier asked when the next Trump rally will be, the president replied: "I mean, everybody wants the rallies. ... [T]hey are longing for the rallies. I get it all the time."

  • "But you can't have a rally — I don't think we can have a rally with an empty stadium, with nobody in there. ... [Y]ou may be able to pull it off for baseball or football or boxing or basketball."
  • "So, hopefully, we will be able to do rallies in the last couple of months. I mean, I would hope that, within maybe the last couple of months, we will be able to do rallies in various states."
6. Inside Jesse Jackson’s push for a pipeline

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Breaking from other progressives, Rev. Jesse Jackson is calling for a natural-gas pipeline to serve an impoverished community near Chicago, Axios' Amy Harder writes in "Harder Line," her weekly energy column.

  • The move puts Jackson at odds with some Democrats and environmentalists who oppose fossil fuels because they drive climate change. The famous civil rights activist says the largely black community is being unfairly cut off from affordable energy.
  • Why it matters: This is an example of the complex tug of war between energy affordability amid climate change.

The intrigue: For several months, Jackson has been working with local, state and federal officials in Illinois to get an $8.2 million, 30-mile natural-gas pipeline built for a community in a rural part of Illinois 65 miles south of Chicago.

  • Jackson, who has protested with environmentalists to oppose the Dakota Access oil pipeline, told Axios in a February interview: "I really do support the environmental movement."
  • However, he said, the people of this community — called Pembroke — have no gas at all and are paying exorbitantly high prices to heat their homes with propane.
  • "When we move to another form of energy, that’s fine by me, I support that," Jackson said. "But in the meantime, you cannot put the black farmers on hold until that day comes."

Keep reading.

7. Bush: "We are not partisan combatants"

Screenshot via Twitter

Over the weekend, former President George W. Bush issued a three-minute video message urging Americans to come together amid the coronavirus crisis as part of the livestreamed global relief event "The Call to Unite."

  • "Let us remember how small our differences are in the face of this shared threat," Bush said.
  • "In the final analysis, we are not partisan combatants. We are human beings, equally vulnerable and equally wonderful in the sight of God. We rise or fall together and we are determined to rise."

President Trump griped in a tweet yesterday that Bush hadn't defended him during the impeachment process: "He was nowhere to be found in speaking up against the greatest Hoax in American history!"

8. Babysitting's new era

Photo: Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post via Getty Images

With parents stuck at home juggling work, child care and their own mental health, babysitting has become "something that happens over a Zoom or FaceTime call during the day, usually for an hour or less," reports the Washington Post's Heather Kelly.

  • For one high-end Miami company, "each sitter makes an advance plan for how they’ll spend the video time based on the kids’ age and interests, and it can include art projects, singing, meditation, Legos or dance."

The bottom line: "The demand for virtual babysitting might increase as the school year, in its mostly virtual form, comes to an end next month and parents who have to work are faced with even less help over the summer."

9. 50 years ago today

Photo: Howard Ruffner/Getty Images

On May 4, 1970, America was stunned by the killing of four students at Kent State University in Ohio — when members of the National Guard opened fire on protestors against President Nixon's bombing campaign in Cambodia.

  • Why it matters: This seminal moment in Vietnam War resistance was captured as "Ohio," a Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young protest song that "rang out as a generation's lament on the loss of life and innocence."
The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer
10. 1 smile to go

The Supreme Court courtroom. Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP

For all the housebound people hungry for new content ... Supreme Court arguments today will be heard live by the world for the first time.

  • The experiment is a coronavirus precaution, with six justices older than 65, and could propel the court to routinely livestream arguments, AP reports.

And the justices are phoning it in: For the first time in its 230-year history, the court will hold arguments by teleconference.

  • Ten cases over six days are set for this special treatment.

🍿 Cases that'll be heard over the next two weeks include President Trump's efforts to shield his tax and other financial records, and whether presidential electors have to cast their Electoral College ballots for their state's popular-vote winner.

  • For today's opener, the court chose a somewhat obscure case about whether the travel website can trademark its name.

Court TV will carry the arguments live beginning at 10 a.m. ET, as will various websites.

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