May 6, 2020

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

😷 National Nurses Week begins today and ends May 12, the birthday of Florence Nightingale, a British reformer who is considered the founder of modern nursing.

  • We can't pay sufficient tribute to the heroic nurses who are holding our loved ones' hands, arranging for family FaceTimes with patients who can't have visitors, and risking their own lives — and the health of their families — to serve and save us. Thank you!

🎣 This is something I have never typed in 14 years of writing a morning newsletter:

  • I'm off the grid.
  • Really. Axios is requiring each of our colleagues to take occasional mental health days — close your laptop, clear your mind, come back refreshed.

Axios CEO Jim VandeHei went fishing Monday, Axios President Roy Schwartz turned off his phone yesterday. Today is my day.

  • So this edition of Axios AM is being landed by my editor, Shane Savitsky. My thanks to Shane, Justin Green and all my Axios colleagues who get my back every day.
1 big thing: Where the virus is spreading fastest
Expand chart
Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, U.S. Census Bureau. Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Besides keeping an eye on the nation's tragic, climbing coronavirus totals, state-level trends are also revealing, Axios editor-in-chief Nicholas Johnston writes.

  • Why it matters: Rising, or falling, numbers of cases is one of the key metrics for determining where mitigation efforts are working and when the economy can begin to reopen.

The Trump administration's reopening guidelines specify that in order to start lifting restrictions and reopening businesses, a state needs to report 14-day trends of fewer cases or fewer positive tests (though local officials get some leeway).

  • Not a lot of states meet the criteria.

This chart compares each state's seven-day average of new cases from Monday and the seven-day average from a week prior, April 27.

  • Comparing the averages of two dates helps smooth out a lot of the noise in how states sometimes inconsistently conduct and report tests.
  • By this metric, Minnesota, Nebraska and Puerto Rico have the most worrisome trends. Arkansas and Wyoming have the most positive trends. Twelve states are moving in the right direction.
  • But more than a third of the nation still has a growing number of cases. That includes Texas and Virginia, where Republican and Democratic governors are beginning to unveil reopening plans.

Explore the graphic.

2. The next phase of America's virus failure

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Evidence is mounting that America is steamrolling toward a nightmarish failure to control the coronavirus, Axios Vitals author Caitlin Owens writes.

  • Why it matters: We made a lot of mistakes at the beginning. And despite a month of extreme social distancing to try to hit "reset," a hurried reopening now raises the risk that we'll soon be right back where we started.

The Trump administration is in "preliminary discussions" to wind down its coronavirus task force, possibly in early June, Vice President Mike Pence told reporters yesterday.

  • The dissolution is yet another sign that the administration is ready to move on — despite all of the indications that we're not prepared.

What we're watching: The U.S. is still seeing around 30,000 new coronavirus cases a day — and that's just the ones that we’re catching, because we're still not testing enough people.

  • Even with a robust contact tracing workforce, which we don't have, tracking down the interactions of 30,000 people a day would be an impossible task.
  • And even if it weren’t, we have no system in place for isolating those people to prevent them from infecting their family members, coworkers or other contacts.

The bottom line: We don’t have a treatment or a vaccine, and we're about to loosen the reins on a virus we still don't fully understand.

  • 🚑 Sign up for Caitlin Owens' daily newsletter, Axios Vitals.
3. The virus is outlasting the stimulus

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The hundreds of billions of dollars for the Payroll Protection Program were meant to stop the economic bleeding, to buy time while the wound cauterizes.

  • But the injury was more severe than originally diagnosed, Axios' Dan Primack and Alayna Treene write.

President Trump signed the $2.2 trillion stimulus, the CARES Act, on March 27.

  • Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told "Face the Nation" on March 29 that "the entire package provides economic relief overall for about 10 weeks."
  • Mnuchin's 10-week window expires on June 5.

Why it matters: The federal government has effectively created a "back to normal" deadline for small businesses, even though such decisions are supposed to be made by the states.

  • But no one expects to see a Phase 4 stimulus in the next month, nor a full-scale economic reopening.

The bottom line: The small business loans and individual checks were designed as bridges to reopening. But if they only delayed layoffs and economic pain by a couple of months, then they'll be remembered as bridges to nowhere.

4. Pic du jour
Photo: Tom Brenner/Reuters

President Trump, who has rarely left the White House grounds in the past two months, hit the road for Phoenix yesterday and wore protective glasses as he toured a Honeywell factory that's making face masks.

How it's playing ...

The New York Times
L.A. Times
5. 👀 Surveillance nation: Employers plan new tools to track workers

When many Americans return to the factory or office, their moves will be watched and recorded, the Wall Street Journal's Konrad Putzier and Chip Cutter report (subscription):

  • "In Midtown Manhattan, thermal cameras will measure body temperatures as employees file into a 32-story office tower at Rockefeller Center. The building's owner, RXR Realty, said it is also developing a mobile app for tenants" to score workers' compliance with social distancing.
  • "PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP said it is preparing ... a phone app for employers that traces contacts by analyzing workers' interactions in the office. More than 50 clients have expressed interest, including some of the nation’s biggest banks, manufacturers and energy companies."
6. New polls show danger for GOP Senate seats
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks yesterday in the Hart Senate Office Building after a Senate Republican policy lunch. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

A raft of new polls from states with competitive Senate races shows momentum veering away from Republican incumbents, as doubts rise about President Trump's re-election prospects, Axios' Neal Rothschild and Alexi McCammond report.

  • To win control of the Senate, Democrats likely will have to flip five of eight competitive seats with a Republican incumbent. Of the six races with recent polling, Democrats lead in five and trail by just one point in the other.

Polls released Tuesday show Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) leading Sen. Steve Daines (R) by seven points (sample size: 738) and North Carolina Democrat Cal Cunningham beating Republican Sen. Thom Tillis by nine points (sample size: 1,362).

  • In Arizona: Democratic frontrunner Mark Kelly leads Republican Sen. Martha McSally by eight points in the RealClearPolitics average.

Between the lines: Two main factors are bolstering these Democratic candidates, Jessica Taylor of Cook Political Report tells Axios:

Share this story.

7. Biden tests virtual events
Joe Biden appears on "The Late Late Show with James Corden" from his home in Delaware on April 21. Photo: CBS via Getty Images

Joe Biden is testing a new way of campaigning amid the coronavirus crisis, kicking off "local" virtual events this week in an attempt to recreate traditional campaign stops, Axios' Alexi McCammond reports.

  • Why it matters: Biden enters the general-election phase of the campaign at a time when normal campaign travel is impossible.

Biden, his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, and the campaign's top surrogates will host virtual events in key battleground states in the coming weeks, starting with Florida and Michigan, a Biden campaign aide tells Axios.

8. Supreme Court justices are just like us
Group portrait in 2018. Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, after a few moments of silence during Supreme Court arguments by conference call, when she forgot to unmute her microphone for the second day in a row (via N.Y. Times):

  • "I'm sorry, Chief. I did it again."

Breaking: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is resting at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore following non-surgical treatment for a gallbladder condition.

  • The Court says she plans to participate in today's oral arguments remotely from the hospital.
9. 75 years ago this week: Nazis surrender, ending World War II in Europe
Wire copy showing the bulletin sent May 7, 1945, by AP Paris Bureau Chief Edward Kennedy, who was present at the surrender and was the first to report the end of the war in Europe, bypassing an Allied embargo. Photo: AP

May 8 and 9 (this Friday and Saturday) mark the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe.

FLASH: ALLIES OFFICIALLY ANNOUNCED GERMANS SURRENDERED UNCONDITIONALLY. ...

REIMS, France: Germany surrendered unconditionally to the Western Allies and the Soviet Union at 2:41 a.m. French time today. [8:41 p.m. Eastern War Time, Sunday May 6, 1945.]

  • Joy at the news was tempered only by the realization that the war against Japan remains to be resolved.

[Why it matters!] The end of the European warfare, the greatest, bloodiest and costliest war in human history — it has claimed at least 40 million casualties on both sides in killed, wounded and captured — came after five years, eight months and six days of strife that overspread the globe.

People gather in Times Square on May 7, 1945, to celebrate news of the unconditional surrender of Germany in World War II. Photo: Harry Harris/AP
10. 🎬 What we're watching: Michelle Obama doc debuts today
From "Becoming." Photo courtesy Netflix

'"Becoming," an "intimate documentary" about Michelle Obama by Nadia Hallgren, live today on Netflix, captures the former first lady navigating her post-White House life, interacting with fans and fostering a spirit of positivity, self-belief and hope, AP film writer Jake Coyle reports.

  • "My life is starting to be mine again," she says in the film. "There's another chapter waiting for me out there."
  • The film, an extension of her best-selling memoir of the same name, is produced by Higher Ground Productions, the Obamas' film company.

Behind the scenes: The movie was a secret until Netflix announced the upcoming premiere last week. Hallgren, a veteran documentary cinematographer, typically worked with small crews or just by herself.

  • Much of "Becoming" takes place in arenas crowded with cameras or in private settings — the back seat of an SUV, the first lady's childhood home.
  • Hallgren said: "I think if people saw me, it probably looked very unofficial."

Keep reading.

Mike Allen

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