Jul 19, 2020

Axios AM

🥞 Happy Sunday!

  • Today's Smart Brevity™ count: 1,030 words ... 4 minutes.
1 big thing: Europe's lessons for schools

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

There’s a growing body of evidence from Europe suggesting that schools can operate safely. But no country has attempted to reopen schools with anything like the outbreak now raging in America, Axios World Editor Dave Lawler writes.

  • Why it matters: Hard-hit countries, including France and Belgium, contained the spread through lockdowns before bringing students back.

What Europe learned:

Social distancing: Danish class sizes were initially limited to around 12, and arrival times were staggered to avoid crowding.

Masks: Countries including Austria initially required masks but loosened those restrictions over time.

  • Masks are required for both students and teachers in several Asian countries, including China.

"Bubbles": When the U.K. fully reopens schools in September, smaller subsets of students will spend classes, lunch and recess together — an approach several other countries have experimented with.

What to watch: It remains unclear how susceptible children are to the virus.

  • Findings from a hard-hit town in France — which are consistent with other evidence — suggest it spreads significantly less easily among teens than adults, and hardly at all among young children.

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2. Trump to Chris Wallace: "I'll be right eventually"
Photo courtesy Fox News

In a wild interview with Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday," President Trump defended his statement July 1 that the coronavirus "at some point, that's going to sort of just disappear. I hope."

  • Trump told Wallace: "I'll be right eventually. I will be right eventually. You know, I said: 'It's going to disappear.' I'll say it again. ... It's going to disappear and I'll be right."

Trump refused to call the Confederate flag offensive: "It depends on who you’re talking about, when you’re talking about. ... [W]hen people proudly have their Confederate flags, they’re not talking about racism. They love their flag, it represents the South, they like the South." ...

  • Wallace: "So you’re not offended by it?"
  • Trump: "Well, I’m not offended, either, by Black Lives Matter. That’s freedom of speech." (Video)
Photo courtesy Fox News

Trump repeated his threat to schools that don't reopen: "We’re not going to fund them. We’re not going to give them money if they’re not going to school."

  • Wallace pointed out that federal funding, a small part of local school budgets, "goes overwhelmingly to disadvantaged kids and children with disabilities."
  • Trump responded: "Chris, let the schools open."

On whether he'll accept the results of November's election, Trump said: "I have to see. No, I’m not going to just say 'yes.' I’m not going to say 'no.'" (Video)

  • On the current outlook: "I'm not losing, because those are fake polls."

🍿 Video: Chris Wallace fact-checks Trump on U.S. virus mortality rate.

3. A giant life: Repenting racists confessed to Lewis
Photo: Pouya Dianat/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"It wasn’t uncommon for Congressman John Lewis’ staff to find apologies in his mail," Tamar Hallerman writes in a memorable story for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, hometown paper for the civil rights legend, who died Friday at 80:

  • "They came from the children and grandchildren of people who fought in the 1960s against him and other civil rights activists — and even from those who remained on the sidelines."
  • "The Atlanta Democrat would get them in person, too, from elected officials, community leaders and others as he crisscrossed the South commemorating milestones in the hard-fought battle for racial equality.
  • "In January 2009, former Ku Klux Klan member Elwin Wilson confessed to being part of the white mob that bloodied Lewis and another Freedom Rider in Rock Hill, South Carolina, nearly 48 years earlier."

Keep reading.

The flags at the Washington Monument fly at half-staff in tribute to Rep. John Lewis. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images
4. Pic du jour
Photo: Kiran Ridley/Getty Images

In Paris, "Le Cinéma sur l'Eau" is a free-floating theater with 38 electric boats, installed in compliance with social distancing rules.

  • 150 deckchairs are available on the banks of the canal for a short film, "A Corona Story," followed by a comedy, "Le Grand Bain."
5. Birx fed Trump's hopes; Fauci played skunk

President Trump's prepared remarks as he spoke to a Coronavirus Task Force press briefing on April 18. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

The N.Y. Times writes in an autopsy of April decision-making that President Trump's effort to shift responsibility for the pandemic to the states was at the heart of "a catastrophic policy blunder" that contributed to "perhaps one of the greatest failures of presidential leadership in generations."

Dr. Anthony Fauci, a friend for 30 years of Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus coordinator, "would describe her as more political than him, a 'different species," The Times reports (subscription):

Fauci privately warned that the virus was going to be difficult to control, often commenting that he was the "skunk at the garden party." ...
Birx regularly delivered what the new team was hoping for. ... She endorsed the idea that the death counts and hospitalization numbers could be inflated. ...
She routinely told colleagues that the United States was on the same trajectory as Italy, which had huge spikes before infections and deaths flattened to close to zero. ... "We've hit our peak," she would say ...
Dr. Birx’s belief that the United States would mirror Italy turned out to be disastrously wrong. The Italians had been almost entirely compliant with stay-at-home orders ... Americans ... began backing away by late April from what social distancing efforts they had been making ...
Italy’s recovery curve, it turned out, looked nothing like the American one.

Keep reading (subscription).

6. Mars month scheduled to blast off tonight
The Hope probe. Rendering: Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre via AP

A Japanese H-IIA rocket carrying a United Arab Emirates Mars spacecraft has been placed on the launch pad for tonight's scheduled liftoff for the Arab world's first interplanetary mission, AP reports.

  • Hope is expected to reach Mars in February 2021, the year the UAE celebrates 50 years since its formation.

Two other Mars missions are planned this month, by the U.S. and China.

  • Japan has its own Martian moon mission planned for 2024.
7. ⚾ Opening Day fears

The Red Sox socially distance during practice at Fenway Park. Photo: Michael Dwyer/AP

Public health experts have a mixed prognosis for plans by 30 baseball teams to play a 60-game season, opening Thursday night with Yankees @ Nats.

The sport produces less on-field risk than basketball, football or hockey, AP's Jake Seiner writes.

  • But players and families will have a tough time staying safe away from the ballpark. Unlike the NBA and NHL, MLB teams won't be sequestered in bubbles.
  • Teams will travel the country, to and from hard-hit Florida and Texas.

Players will be tested every 48 hours. Masks and social distancing are a must at all times, except on the field.

  • No sunflower seeds. No spitting. No licking fingers.
8. 1 smile to go: Fat chipmunks drive us nuts

Via Getty Images

Plentiful acorns last fall meant a big buffet when chipmunks got busy breeding this spring, and now New England has a bumper crop of varmints, AP reports.

  • Small-mammal biologists are also seeing more squirrels, rabbits and mice.

Chipmunks are digging holes in gardens, tunneling under lawns.

  • "We can't grow a tulip without them digging it up," said Steven Parren of the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife.

What's next: Small-mammal populations boom and bust.

  • Such is life near the bottom of the food chain: Chipmunks are easy prey for owls, hawks, snakes, foxes and raccoons.

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