April 12, 2020

🐣 Happy Easter!

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🇬🇧 Breaking: Boris Johnson was discharged from a London hospital and will continue his COVID-19 recovery at Chequers, the prime minister's country residence. Reuters

  • Smart Brevity™ count: 1,179 words ... 4½-minutes.

1 big thing ... Survival of the biggest: Virus transforms retail

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The titans of the retail industry — Amazon, Walmart, Target and Costco — are poised to come out of the coronavirus crisis even stronger and more formidable than they were before, Erica Pandey writes.

  • "The growth of e-commerce is going to accelerate by at least five years, if not 10 years," says Guru Hariharan, CEO of CommerceIQ.

Why it matters: The pandemic will permanently reshape America's retail landscape — accelerating a winner-take-all race that started taking shape before stores were forced to close.

  • Amazon and Walmart are hiring a combined 250,000 workers to keep up with demand.

What's happening: With piles of cash, extensive delivery networks and massive physical footprints to navigate the pandemic, America’s biggest retailers are raking in sales.

  • Even mid-sized store chains — the nation's mall anchors — are running out of time to survive.

Amazon has "essentially become infrastructure," says Sally Hubbard, a director at the Open Markets Institute and a former assistant attorney general in New York's antitrust bureau.

  • Grocery delivery — a big investment for Amazon that had been slow to take off — is suddenly wildly popular, with shoppers fighting to grab delivery windows.

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2. One-third of U.S. jobs may be vulnerable

Data: LaborCUBE, McKinsey Global Institute. Chart: Axios Visuals

42 million to 54 million American jobs (out of roughly 150 million) are vulnerable to reductions in hours or pay, temporary furloughs, or permanent layoffs during the virus crisis, Kim Hart writes from an analysis by McKinsey Global Institute.

  • Up to 86% of the vulnerable jobs paid less than $40,000 a year. Almost all (98%) paid less than the national living wage for a family of four ($68,808).
  • Almost 40% of the vulnerable jobs are in firms with fewer than 100 employees.

13 million vulnerable jobs are in the restaurant industry.

  • 11 million are in customer service and sales (including 3.9 million retail clerks and 3.3 million cashiers).

Demand is surging in some areas: The McKinsey report estimates that up to 3 million workers could find short-term employment in grocery stores, pharmacies, hospitals, e-commerce warehouses and as delivery drivers.

Sign up for Kim Hart's weekly Axios Cities newsletter.

3. "Red Dawn" emails: Administration saw threat early

"Throughout January, as Mr. Trump repeatedly played down the seriousness of the virus and focused on other issues, an array of figures inside his government ... sounded alarms," the N.Y. Times reports in a six-byline, 5,500-word look-back spread over three pages of the Sunday paper.

  • "By the last week of February, it was clear to the administration’s public health team that schools and businesses in hot spots would have to close. But in the turbulence of the Trump White House, it took three more weeks to persuade the president."
  • "These final days of February ... illustrated Mr. Trump’s inability or unwillingness to absorb warnings coming at him."
  • "He instead reverted to his traditional political playbook in the midst of a public health calamity, squandering vital time as the coronavirus spread silently across the country."
Carter Mecher is a senior medical adviser at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Image: The New York Times

The piece includes excerpts from a "Red Dawn" email chain, "an inside joke based on the 1984 movie about a band of Americans trying to save the country after a foreign invasion."

  • The N.Y. Times' Eric Lipton calls it "an extraordinary conversation ... among an elite group of infectious disease doctors and medical experts in the federal government and academic institutions around the nation."
Dr. James Lawler is an infectious diseases specialist and public health expert at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Image: The New York Times

Keep reading (outside paywall).

4. America's photo album: Passover and Easter, 2020

Photo: Kathy Willens/AP

Above: Rabbi Shlomo Segal holds a Seder plate in front of a YouTube screen during a virtual Passover meal from the Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn.

Below: The Rev. Nicolas Sanchez takes a phone call from a parishioner after live-streaming Good Friday Mass at St. Patrick's Catholic Church in L.A.

Photo: Damian Dovarganes/AP
Photo: Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel via AP

Above: Spotted at an Easter parade in Orlando.

Below: The annual Easter Bunny Parade in Valrico, Fla., became a motorcade. But the egg hunt and candy toss were canceled.

Photo: Chris O'Meara/AP

5. 1 good thing: "Politician Takes a Sledgehammer to His Own Ego"

Photo: Ted S. Warren/AP

Washington Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib, 38, has announced that instead of being on the ballot in November for a second term, he'll leave office to become a Roman Catholic priest, the N.Y. Times' Frank Bruni writes in a delightful Easter column:

At the age of 8, he lost his sight: A rare cancer forced the removal of both of his retinas. ..."From Braille to Yale" was how he often described his journey. ...
"I was in talks with a top literary agent in New York about a book deal, and it was all predicated on my biography, my identity," he told me recently. He could feel himself being sucked into "a celebrity culture" in American politics that had nothing to do with public service. He could feel himself being swallowed by pride.
"How many ways," he said, "can you be called a rising star?" ...
He is entering the Jesuit religious order, whose intensive, extensive ordination process typically takes about 10 years and involves vows of poverty and obedience as well as chastity.
And he committed to this course just as political gossips speculated about a heady promotion for him. He was a lock for re-election, as is the state’s governor, Jay Inslee. But in one scenario, a Joe Biden presidency could lead to a high-level administration position for Inslee, who would then have to step down. His lieutenant governor would immediately take his place.

Keep reading (subscription).

6. Frontline heroes

Courtesy TIME

"[E]ven the most powerful people in our society are at the mercy of a virus that knows no rank and no title," TIME CEO and editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal writes in a letter introducing this week's cover package.

  • "[T]he kinds of international collaboration that have helped lead the world through previous crises are virtually absent."
  • "And so this fight is being waged in large measure by frontline responders."

Read the stories of "courageous workers risking their own lives to save ours."

7. "SNL" for a shut-in nation

Screenshot via NBC

After a month's hiatus, "Saturday Night Live" tried its first quarantine version, with coronavirus pioneer Tom Hanks, Coldplay singer Chris Martin and the entire cast phoning in with jokes from home, AP's David Bauder writes.

  • "Saturday Night Live at Home" emulated other late-night hosts who have abandoned studios and audiences for DIY merriment.
  • "Live from Zoom," Kate McKinnon said in the cold open, "it's sometime between March and Auguuuuuuuuust."

McKinnon portrayed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg doing a home workout.

  • "Every day I eat half a chicken," she said. "Sorry, chickpea."

Alec Baldwin, portraying President Trump, called in to "Weekend Update" — sans video, since Baldwin didn't have access to makeup.

  • The faux president bragged that "every night at 7 p.m. all of New York claps and cheers for the great job I'm doing" — a reference to the nightly tribute to medical workers.
Screenshot via NBC

8. 1 smile to go

Photos: Virginia Mayo/AP

The Cocoatree chocolate shop in Lonzee, Belgium, is trying to preserve some of the Easter fun of sticky brown fingers — and chomping on hollow ears.

  • Below, Genevieve Trepant outfits the masked wabbits.

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