Apr 15, 2020

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Smart Brevity™ count: 1,251 words ... 4½ minutes.

1 big thing: With global leadership at stake, China and U.S. both fumble

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

As the U.S. steps away from its traditional global leadership role, China is aggressively looking to fill the void but has so far come up short, Axios' Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian and Dion Rabouin write.

  • Why it matters: The coronavirus pandemic desperately needs a united global response. But the U.S. and China are instead upping the ante in a battle for global supremacy that could leave both countries in a worse position.
  • The global economy is facing an economic shock "far worse" than the 2008 global financial crisis, the International Monetary Fund announced yesterday.

A win for China's self-confidence: Despite doubts about the veracity of the coronavirus data China has publicly released, its tough measures to stem the spread of infections worked.

  • But many Chinese people remain angry about the government's early cover-up and its ongoing suppression of information related to the epidemic.

What to watch: China could still draw more of the world into its orbit. COVID-19 is likely to decimate economies in much of Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent, which already receive economic assistance from Beijing and will be looking for more.

  • But the U.S. remains the largest economy and home of the global reserve currency, uniquely positioning it to help offset the looming crisis by leading debt-reduction and aid packages.

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2. Social distancing could last for years

Screenshot via MSNBC

A group of Harvard disease researchers wrote in the journal Science that people around the world might need to practice some level of social distancing intermittently through 2022, Bloomberg reports.

  • "The course of the pandemic will depend on questions not yet answered: Will the virus’s spread change with the seasons? What immunity will people have after they’re infected?"

📄 Leak! "A Framework for Re-Opening America": As federal agencies scramble to help the White House draft a plan to begin reopening America in May, the Washington Post has obtained draft FEMA and CDC advice for a phased return of schools, summer camps, parks and restaurants.

  • The CDC says the first priority is to "reopen community settings where children are cared for, including K-12 schools, daycares, and locally attended summer camps, to allow the workforce to return to work," the Post reports.

See the 10-page document.

3. China didn't warn public of virus for 6 key days

Chinese President Xi Jinping visits the School of Medicine at Tsinghua University in Beijing on March 2. Photo: Yan Yan/Xinhua via Getty Images

In the six days after top Chinese officials secretly determined the county was likely facing an epidemic, they kept quiet as millions began traveling for Lunar New Year, AP reports.

  • Why it matters: The delay by the first country to face the new coronavirus came at a critical time — the beginning of the outbreak.
  • China’s attempt to walk a line between alerting the public and avoiding panic set the stage for a pandemic that has infected almost 2 million people and taken more than 126,000 lives.

President Xi Jinping warned the public on the seventh day, Jan. 20.

  • But by that time, more than 3,000 people had been infected during almost a week of public silence, according to internal documents obtained by the AP and expert estimates based on retrospective infection data.
4. Picture of a pandemic
Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

A Rose Garden presser in time of coronavirus. 

5. Together again

Photo: Twitter via Getty Images

President Obama has said he'll work his tail off for the Democratic nominee, and started yesterday with a video endorsement of his former vice president, Joe Biden.

  • Obama aides pointed to his 2018 political activity as a playbook for what's to come. For the midterms, he held regular fundraisers for each of the party committees, and held rallies for House, Senate and gubernatorial candidates in 11 states.

Watch for: Obama will let the Biden campaign determine how he can be of most value.

  • That obviously won't be traditional campaigning for at least the next few weeks.
  • But Obama's team will look for innovative ways to get voters organized and engaged.

Watch the video and read President Obama's remarks.

6. College students' future jobs take big hit

Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Three in four college students who secured internships or post-graduate work (822 surveyed, margin of error: ± 3.4 percentage points) have seen those plans thrown into flux by the coronavirus pandemic, Axios' Neal Rothschild writes from a College Reaction poll.

  • Half of those whose plans have been upended say they've been canceled. The other half say they've been delayed or made remote.

Why it matters: The summers between college years are key for the new generation of workers to gain valuable experience and contribute to the economy — and many use the summers to earn money to pay tuition.

  • Missing out could send scores of young people deeper into debt or set them back when they graduate and enter the workforce.

77% of students say distance learning is worse or much worse than in-person classes.

  • 90% say they are concerned about the economy and the job market.

51% say they are experiencing mental health distress, with 15% reporting that they feel a great deal of it.

  • Female respondents were nearly three times as likely as male respondents to report severe mental health distress.

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7. Coronavirus misinformation seeds digital scams

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Misinformation about coronavirus is rampant online, from phony cures to outlandish claims that 5G wireless signals cause the illness, Axios tech editor Kyle Daly writes.

  • Cybersecurity analysts are also seeing an explosion in phishing and other digital cons that base their scams on these popular coronavirus myths.

Researchers at cybersecurity auditor NormShield found a massive uptick in the first three months of 2020 for new domains that make reference to chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine.

  • Those are malaria drugs that President Trump and others have suggested could be an effective treatment for COVID-19, but they have not been proven effective for that use and can have dangerous side effects.
  • The sharpest increase in the new domains came after Trump first mentioned the drug in a March 19 White House briefing.
  • Many of them hosted phishing websites that purported to be online pharmacies where people could buy the drug, but were actually operations to lift visitors' credit card numbers and other billing and personal information.

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8. ⚾ 🏈 Exclusive: Fauci describes how to have sports this fall

Photo via Snapchat's "Good Luck America"

Dr. Anthony Fauci joined Snapchat's Peter Hamby on his show "Good Luck America," and was asked about the possibility of abbreviated baseball, college football and NFL seasons this year:

[P]eople say, "Well you can't play without spectators." Well, I think you'd probably get enough buy-in from people who are dying to see a baseball game. Particularly me. I'm living in Washington. We have the world champion Washington Nationals. You know, I want to see them play again.

Fauci said the best way to perhaps begin baseball on TV — say, around July 4 — would be to get players tested and put them in hotels:

Keep them very well surveilled ... have them tested, like every week. By a gazillion tests. And make sure they don't wind up infecting each other or their family. And just let them play the season out. I mean, that's a really artificial way to do it, but when you think about it, it might be better than nothing. 

Between the lines: Policymakers worry that millennials, who are more likely to be asymptomatic carriers of the virus, aren't taking social-distancing measures seriously enough, which could lead to an uptick in cases amongst America's more vulnerable, elderly populations, Axios' Sara Fischer writes.

  • Fauci's interview will air across three episodes of "Good Luck America," debuting on Snapchat today, Thursday and Friday. Each goes live at 6 a.m. ET.
9. 📺 What we're watching on lockdown

Bill Whitaker interviews Peter Navarro. Screenshot via CBS News

A contentious interview with Peter Navarro — White House trade adviser, and now Defense Production Act policy coordinator — helped "60 Minutes" earn the top spot in weekly the Nielsen ratings for the third time this season, AP reports.

  • The CBS News show drew 9.68 million viewers to edge out three NBC shows: "The Voice," "Chicago Med" and "Chicago Fire."
  • Fox's "The Masked Singer rounded out the top five.

Numbers for the top shows that surged in the first work-from-home weeks appear to have leveled off to pre-pandemic levels:

  • The previous week's top show, "NCIS," drew over 13 million viewers, and "60 Minutes" had over 10 million watching despite finishing fourth.

Fox News Channel was the most-watched cable network last week, averaging 3.46 million viewers in prime time.

  • MSNBC had 1.94 million, CNN had 1.82 million, The History Channel had 1.19 million and TLC had 1.18 million.
10. 1 smile to go

Branch, voiced by Justin Timberlake, and Poppy, voiced by Anna Kendrick in "Trolls World Tour." Photo: DreamWorks Animation via AP

"Trolls World Tour" had the biggest digital debut of all time, Universal Pictures told AP.

  • The animated sequel featuring the voices of Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick was No. 1 on all the major platforms, including Apple, Amazon and Comcast.
  • FandangoNow said the release of "Trolls World Tour" helped the service have its best weekend ever. It was also its most preordered film ever.

Why it matters: "Trolls" was the first film from a major studio to debut on digital platforms on the same date as its theatrical release due to the pandemic.

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