Apr 9, 2020

Axios AM

🧼 Today marks 100 days since New Year's Eve, when a Chinese government website announced the detection of a "pneumonia of unknown cause," The Guardian notes in "100 Days That Changed the World."

  • Today's Smart Brevity™ count: 1,191 words ... a 4½-minute read.
1 big thing: Biden, Sanders work toward truce

The last Biden-Sanders debate was March 15 at CNN in Washington. Photo: Evan Vucci/AP

Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders are working to announce joint goals on health care and other issues in the next few weeks — a sign that Biden is willing to make concessions to unite the camps long before the Democratic convention in August.

  • As Biden courts Sanders' endorsement, their teams will hold policy discussions with the expectation that Biden will adopt elements of Sanders' agenda, Axios' Alexi McCammond and Margaret Talev write.
  • Sanders' leverage: He ended his campaign yesterday without backing Biden, and said he would continue to accumulate delegates in the final primaries.

Reality check: There's no chance Biden will adopt Medicare for All as part of those discussions.

  • Biden has already moved toward Sanders on making college free, and toward former rival Elizabeth Warren on bankruptcy reform.
  • The two men spoke yesterday by phone.

Between the lines: The virus pandemic could create new, limited opportunities for the men to join forces, including on health care.

  • Sanders, in his announcement, said the crisis highlights vulnerabilities for those who rely on employer-based private health insurance if their jobs get cut.
  • Biden isn't going to get rid of employer-based health care, but he did give rhetorical support to Sanders' point, saying in a statement after Sanders' withdrawal: "Many of the biggest cracks in the social safety net have been laid bare — from health care to paid sick leave to a more extensive and comprehensive system of unemployment benefits."

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2. Some Trump aides eye May 1 start to reopening

President Trump was flanked at yesterday's briefing by HHS Secretary Alex Azar (far left), Vice President Pence and Dr. Deborah Birx. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

President Trump's aides, encouraged by data showing fewer coronavirus deaths than once projected, are working behind the scenes to deliver on his vow to reopen America "sooner rather than later."

  • "We are looking at when the data will allow the opportunity to reopen," a senior White House official tells Axios' Jonathan Swan.

What to watch for: The official said there’s a lot of internal energy pushing for May 1, because that's the end of the White House's "30 Days to Slow the Spread."

  • That energy is especially coming from some of the more economic and politically minded aides.
  • The West Wing is not close to a decision. And officials insist they'll follow data, not dates.

Public health officials are wary of optimistic talk of an imminent reopening from some members of the White House economic team.

  • A senior HHS official said: "Talk of reopening the American economy — when we don’t fully understand the virus, and can’t even crank our own domestic assembly lines to make diagnostic tests, respirators, and ventilators — isn't just myopic, it's flat out ridiculous."
  • A top official defended the president: "The president’s primary focus continues to be the health and safety of the American people. That being said, he is committed to leading a historic economic recovery and will begin to lay the foundation of that effort as we continue to navigate the pandemic."

The federal government will ultimately defer to governors.

  • But in a window into the internal conversation about a phased-in return to work, the CDC yesterday posted guidance on how critical employees who have been exposed to coronavirus can return to work.
  • That includes screening of temperature and symptoms, regular monitoring, a requirement that the worker wear a mask for 14 days since the last exposure, social distancing, and disinfection of workspaces.

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3. Virus devastates African American communities
Data: New York State Department of Health. Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Of the virus victims whose demographic data was publicly shared by officials — nearly 3,300 of the nation's 13,000 deaths — about 42% were black, according to an AP analysis. African Americans account for roughly 21% of the population in the areas covered by the analysis.

  • Among the cities where black residents have been hard-hit: New York, Detroit, New Orleans, Chicago and Milwaukee.
  • "Everywhere we look, the coronavirus is devastating our communities," said Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP.

This graphic shows how the alarming trend persists across states:

Graphic: AP
4. Pictures of America: Virtual Seders

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Above: Rabbi Jeffrey Bennett of Temple Sinai in Newington, Conn., hosts a virtual community Seder on Zoom on the first night of Passover.

Below: The Barkin family of Maplewood, N.J., uses computers and mobile phones to connect with relatives during the pandemic Passover.

Photo: Reuters
5. How the virus will change workplaces

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

WeWork — the driver of America's shift to smaller, shared office spaces — is planning layout and design changes to its nearly 900 locations as it struggles to survive the pandemic, Axios' Erica Pandey reports.

  • Why it matters: After months of paranoia, social distancing and working from home, the millions who work from WeWorks will be wary of returning to shared kitchens, phone booths and desks.
  • WeWork has 75 square feet of space per worker, compared to the national average of 214.

What's happening: WeWork is removing some seats and desks, and halving many conference rooms' capacities so workers can observe 6-foot social distancing guidelines, according to company documents.

  • It'll add hand-washing or sanitizing stations as well as wipe dispensers to high-touch common areas like kitchens and phone nooks.

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P.S. ... "WeWork hasn’t paid April rent for some locations and is approaching landlords regarding rent abatements, revenue-sharing agreements and other lease amendments as it seeks to trim liabilities," Bloomberg reports.

6. 🦠 Stat du jour

At least 759 people under age 50 across the U.S. "have perished amid the deepening pandemic, according to a Washington Post analysis of state data."

7. Domino effect on startup layoffs

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Startups that aren’t directly affected by this sudden shift in consumer behavior are now laying off employees too, worried that their products and services won't be in demand anytime soon, Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva writes from S.F.

  • Why it matters: Startups create millions of jobs, and their pain will make a recovery from the virus downturn harder.

More young companies are announcing cutbacks, including buzzy retailers like luggage maker Away, and software plays like restaurant service provider Toast, which in February announced $400 million in new funding.

Others making cuts as the economic ripples gain momentum:

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8. How about never?
Graphic: Deep Root Analytics

Deep Root Analytics of Arlington, Va., surveyed its corporate social responsibility audience — consumers who say a company's stance on key issues is important to their buying decisions — and found:

  • 47% believe that it will be on or after Christmas before the economy and the American way of life return to mostly normal.
  • 11% said it will never return to normal.

Methodology: 843 U.S. voters were interviewed April 2-5, with 604 interviews online and 239 via automated telephone technology. Margin of error: ±3.4%.

9. Most expensive Hamptons rental ever

Photo: Farrell Building Company via N.Y. Post

Hamptons developer Joe Farrell found a renter for his 11-bedroom Sandcastle, at close to his asking price of $2 million for now through Labor Day.

  • That makes it the most expensive East End rental ever, reports N.Y. Post real estate columnist Jennifer Gould Keil.
  • Farrell tells the tab that the Bridgehampton mansion rented "to a textile tycoon and his family who were stuck in Manhattan and wanted to leave the city on a day’s notice. This was a COVID situation — not a normal summer rental."

See more pics.

10. 🧩 1 smile to go: Puzzle focus groups

The demand for jigsaw puzzles has left their makers and retailers on "a war footing" thanks to virus lockdowns, but intricate production methods mean that supply might not be able to keep up, writes the N.Y. Times' Amie Tsang.

  • "Each puzzle piece must be uniquely shaped, to avoid one accidentally fitting into the wrong place. That means 1,000 different shapes for a 1,000-piece puzzle, each drawn by hand by workers."
  • "Pieces of metal are then shaped to form an elaborate cookie cutter made just for that jigsaw puzzle; it takes about four weeks to build one. The cutter can be used only a limited number of times before its edges are dulled. It can be resharpened once and must then be discarded."

One popular theme: coziness.

  • Ravensburger, a German puzzle maker with global sales of $600 million, "runs focus groups and monitors platforms like Reddit, Instagram and Etsy to identify trends."

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