Apr 10, 2020

Axios AM

✝️ It's Good Friday.

  • Today's Smart Brevity™ count: 1,383 words ... a 5-minute read.
1 big thing: Trump allies sound alarm

Yesterday's briefing. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Republicans are increasingly concerned not only about President Trump’s daily briefings but also his broader plan to ease the nation out of the virus crisis and back to work. This concern is acute — and spreading. 

  • Why it matters: Trump can easily address the briefing worries by doing fewer, but the lackluster bounce-back planning is what worries Republicans most. 
  • Some think he has only weeks to figure it out. The consequences of failure would be a November defeat, some warn. 

Trump built his re-election pitch on the idea the U.S. has seen historic prosperity under his leadership, but now the economy is in shambles, Axios' Alayna Treene writes.

  • "The next 4-8 weeks is really going to decide whether Trump gets re-elected," Stephen Moore, Trump's former nominee for the Fed board, told Axios.

Club for Growth President David McIntosh, a former Indiana congressman and ally of Vice President Pence, says not enough attention is being paid to the post-virus economy.

  • "Red flags are going up," a conservative strategist told Axios. "[T]he next phase needs to be about economic growth, not about making government bigger through massive spending and increased regulation."

Some Trump aides and Republican lawmakers increasingly believe his daily briefings are hurting him more than helping, "and are urging him to let his medical experts take center stage," the N.Y. Times reports.

  • Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Trump "sometimes drowns out his own message," and told him "a once-a-week show" could be more effective.

The conservative Wall Street Journal editorial page hit him yesterday with "Trump’s Wasted Briefings," saying they often deteriorate "into a dispiriting brawl between the president and his antagonists in the White House press corps":

Every reporter knows the way to get a TV moment, and get a pat on the back from newsroom pals, is to bait Mr. Trump with a question about his previous statements or about criticism that someone has leveled against him. Mr. Trump always takes the bait.

🐦 Trump took the bait, tweeting:

  • "The Wall Street Journal always 'forgets' to mention that the ratings for the White House Press Briefings are 'through the roof' ... & is only way for me to escape the Fake News & get my views across. WSJ is Fake News!"

What's next: Trump, increasingly frustrated with the pandemic's bite on the economy, is preparing to launch a second coronavirus task force focused on economic recovery.

Editor's note: This item has been corrected to reflect that a quote came from a conservative strategist, not Club for Growth President David McIntosh.

2. Return will be a flicker, not a switch

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

It feels like some big, terrible switch got flipped when the coronavirus upended our lives — so it’s natural to want to simply flip it back. But that's not how the return to normalcy will go, Axios health care editor Sam Baker writes.

  • Why it matters: The future will come in waves — waves of recovery, waves of more bad news, and waves of returning to some semblance of normal life.

What the post-lockdown world will look like:

  • Some types of businesses will be able to open before others, and only at partial capacity.
  • Stores may continue to only allow a certain number of customers through the door at once, or restaurants may be able to reopen but with far fewer tables available.
  • Some workplaces will likely bring employees back into the office only a few days a week and will stagger shifts to segregate groups of workers, so that one new infection won’t get the whole company sick.
  • Large gatherings may need to stay on ice.

And there will be more waves of infection, even in areas that have passed their peaks.

  • That's happening now in Singapore, which controlled its initial outbreak more effectively than almost any other country in the world but is now seeing the daily number of new cases climb back up.

This is all but inevitable in the U.S., too, especially as travel begins to pick back up.

  • Part of the reasoning behind locking down schools, businesses and workplaces is to prevent an outbreak from overwhelming the health care system.
  • The good news is that hospitals should have far more supplies by the fall, thanks to the coming surge in manufacturing for masks and ventilators.

What we’re watching: We’ll still need a lot more diagnostic testing to make this process work.

  • Most of the U.S. doesn't seem prepared for that undertaking.
  • Another kind of test — serology tests, which identify people who have already had the virus and may be immune to it — will also help.
  • We can’t test everyone, but identifying potential immunity could be important in knowing who can safely return to work.

The real turning point won’t come until there’s a proven, widely available treatment or, even better, a widely available vaccine.

  • A vaccine is still about a year away, even at a breakneck pace.
  • A treatment isn’t likely to be available until the fall, at the earliest.

Share this story.

3. In three weeks, 1 in 10 working-age Americans file for unemployment
Graphic: AP

How it's playing ...

4. Skylines #LightItBlue for health care, essential workers

Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Above: The Omni Dallas, with its "LIGHT IT BLUE" display, was among 150+ U.S. venues participating in last night's campaign.

Below: One World Trade Center, lit in blue, is seen from Jersey City.

Photo: Kena Betancur/Getty Images
5. God and the virus

In Jerusalem yesterday, a priest peers from the door of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Christians believe Jesus was buried. Photo: Ariel Schalit/AP

Few parts of life bring as many people together as religion.

  • Why it matters: In most crises, that's a blessing. In a pandemic, it can be dangerous, Axios World editor Dave Lawler writes.

As the coronavirus spread beyond China, some of the earliest outbreaks were traced to religious services or pilgrimages.

  • South Korea's outbreak intensified rapidly after the virus was spread at a secretive church in Daegu.
  • Israel’s virus hotspot is Bnei Brak, where some ultra-Orthodox people defied the nationwide lockdown to attend services and weddings.
  • The initial epicenter of Iran’s outbreak was the holy city Qom.

But as much of the world has moved inside, places of worship have emptied.

  • Catholic services were suspended last month in Italy and in other countries since. This weekend, Pope Francis will celebrate Easter Mass in a near-empty St. Peter’s Basilica.
  • Saudi Arabia closed the holy mosques in Mecca and Medina in early March and is considering canceling the hajj, which was expected to draw some 3 million pilgrims in late July.
  • The call to prayer still sounds in Kuwait, but people are urged to pray in their homes.

Share this story.

6. Egg shortage ahead of Easter

Photo: Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images

Grocery stores across the U.S. have struggled with a shortage of eggs as quarantined Americans stockpile and "stress-bake" ahead of Passover and Easter, Axios' Rashaan Ayesh writes.

  • Wholesalers saw orders from egg retailers increase up to 600%, and it's been difficult to keep up, USA Today writes.
  • But after last month's hoarding, the egg market has calmed down over the past two weeks with prices plateauing as availability increased, according to the USDA.

The egg shortage also hit Israel for Passover, per The Times of Israel.

  • Hard-boiled eggs play a traditional role at the Seder.
7. Why markets are steadying but Main Street isn't

Spotted in Portsmouth, N.H. Photo: Charles Krupa/AP

The Fed has steadied markets, but is poorly equipped to help small business owners and the close to 17 million Americans who filed for unemployment in the past three weeks, Axios Markets editor Dion Rabouin writes.

  • Why it matters: In the places where the Fed has stepped in to provide funding — such as mortgages, municipal bonds and investment-grade corporate debt — order has been restored and markets have bounced.

The S&P 500 rose by nearly 1.5% yesterday, capping its best holiday-shortened week since 1974. (The markets are closed today for Good Friday.)

  • But the $350 billion Paycheck Protection Program has been a debacle for many desperate business owners: Demand has far outstripped supply.
  • "The most sophisticated businesses are the best positioned to get the PPP loans and are probably going to snatch them up and the money will be gone," says Amanda Fischer, policy director for the Washington Center for Equitable Growth.

Share this story. ... Sign up for Dion Rabouin's daily newsletter, Axios Markets.

8. "Safe Work Playbook"

In China, employees at Magna International, one of the world's largest auto suppliers, adapt to a new normal at work. Photos: Magna International

As North American automakers and suppliers plot a coordinated effort to reopen factories as early as May, they're drawing lessons from China, where production has already resumed, Axios' Joann Muller writes from Detroit.

  • They're creating lengthy playbooks with step-by-step guidelines and best practices for when it's safe to return — and posting them for other businesses to adapt.

Here are tips from a 51-page "Safe Work Playbook" from Lear Corp., a maker of seats and vehicle technology:

  • Even punching in to a time clock can be risky, so station an employee nearby to disinfect the time clock between workers if needed.
  • Those waiting to enter should space themselves out.
  • Factory workers should be at least three feet apart, and when that's not possible, they should wear masks or face shields.
  • Consider assigning half of workers to eat lunch outside or in their vehicles.

Share this story.

9. Data du jour: Recessions and re-election
Graphic: Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas

Bruce Mehlman of Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas is out with one of his famous decks, pointing out that recessions historically have been incumbent-killers.

P.S. Bruce reminds us ...

Graphic: Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas
10. 1 smile to go: Fake fans

Photo: Alexey Komelkov/Dynamo Brest via AP

They don't cheer, they don't move, and they mostly wear the wrong colors.

  • Defending Belarusian league champion Dynamo Brest has started boosting its home crowds with mannequins in soccer shirts, adorned with the faces of "virtual fans" who bought tickets online, AP reports from Minsk.

Belarus is the last country in Europe still hosting professional sports in front of spectators amid the pandemic, but attendance is shrinking as fans decide stadiums are too risky.

📬 Thank you for the honor of your time. Please spread the word about Axios AM/PM.