Mar 18, 2020

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

🌏 You're invited: Our first virtual event!

  • We miss seeing you in person. So Axios will host a live virtual event tomorrow on the coronavirus and pandemic preparedness, featuring Mark Penn and John Gerzema of The Harris Poll, Axios experts Sara Fischer and Caitlin Owens, plus Jim VandeHei and me.
  • 💻 Join the conversation via livestream at 9 a.m. ET. Register here.
1 big thing ... Introducing the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index: Stress hits America
Data: Axios/Ipsos survey, margin of error of ±3.2 percentage points. Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Twice as many Democrats as Republicans say they're very concerned about the coronavirus, according to nearly 1,100 adults polled over the weekend for the debut installment of the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

  • Axios' Margaret Talev describes the stark new reality in America: 10% have been told not to work in the past week, 10% say they're self-quarantining, and 22% say their mental health got worse in the past week.
  • Despite the impact they're feeling in other ways, most Americans said their physical health is unchanged. Only 4% said they know someone who's tested positive.

Details: This new index, produced in a partnership between Axios and global research firm Ipsos, is a vivid weekly barometer of the pandemic's effects on Americans’ health, finances, trust and quality of life.

  • It'll show how we are adapting to social distancing and other realities in this period of national uncertainty.
  • The poll was taken Friday through Monday, as the public began to come to terms with the significance of the outbreak, and has a margin of error of +/- 3.2 points.

Why it matters: The effects of school closures, business restrictions, social distancing and the overload on the medical system are only beginning to set in.

  • The findings reflect something between a panic and a "national malaise," manifesting in anxiety and uncertainty but also "psychological dissonance," said Cliff Young, president of Ipsos U.S. Public Affairs.

Some basic social conventions have already changed: 64% said they'd stopped shaking hands, and 93% said now they're washing their hands with soap for at least 20 seconds.

2. 🦠 Quick catch-up: Mnuchin warns of 20% jobless without U.S. action

Bethesda Metro during yesterday's morning rush. Photo: Tom Brenner/Reuters

"Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin raised the possibility with Republican senators that U.S. unemployment could rise to 20% without government intervention because of the impact of the coronavirus," Bloomberg reports.

  • "Mnuchin discussed the scenario with the lawmakers ... as he proposed an economic stimulus of $1 trillion or more."

Why it matters: "He told the senators that he believes the economic fallout from the coronavirus is potentially worse than the 2008 financial crisis," per Bloomberg.

  • "Extraordinarily high unemployment, he said, is a possibility if lawmakers don't swiftly provide financial assistance to wage workers and small- and medium-sized businesses."

Treasury spokeswoman Monica Crowley said: "During the meeting with Senate Republicans, ... Secretary Mnuchin used several mathematical examples for illustrative purposes, but he never implied this would be the case."

The New York Times
3. 🧹 What Biden's sweep of Super Tuesday III tells us about Sanders

The primaries have illustrated how Democrats don't believe Bernie Sanders has the ability to defeat President Trump, Axios' Margaret Talev and Alexi McCammond write.

  • Joe Biden swept the three states that went ahead with primaries amid the coronavirus outbreak — Florida, Illinois and Arizona.

Why it matters: Sanders has continually lost states where a majority of Dem voters supported Medicare for All.

  • And if you can’t win places like Florida and Illinois, what’s the case for the general election?

The bottom line: The coronavirus has been smothering Sanders’ already difficult path to a comeback. 

  • The Bernie movement was built on on massive rally crowds and huge canvassing efforts, all of which has come to a grinding halt with social distancing. 
  • Sanders' chance to make his case on TV and social media has been crowded out by the public and media focus on the virus. For example, cable networks broke away from their primary coverage last night to discuss the virus.
4. Tech's chance to shine

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

If companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon are able to demonstrate they can be a force for good in a trying time, many inside the companies feel they could undo some of the techlash's ill will, Axios chief tech correspondent Ina Fried writes from S.F.

  • Why it matters: Executives hope that the public will start to see their companies the way they do.

According to insiders she talked to, the companies all view their roles similarly: to keep existing products working even amid new demand, to provide accurate information and fight misinformation, and to help in the broader fight against the coronavirus.

  • "We just realize the seriousness of the moment and the importance of getting it right at a moment when our services are really needed," Facebook VP Molly Cutler said in an interview.
  • Cutler, who largely stays out of the media spotlight, leads Facebook's strategic response team, reporting to Sheryl Sandberg, and has been running the operations of its companywide virus response effort.

Between the lines: The giants face the challenge of meeting the needs of the moment while also shorthanded themselves. Most are based in California and Washington, two states hard hit by the pandemic.

5. Democracy's war footing

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Many of China's measures to combat the coronavirus aren't authoritarian: They are the kind of total social mobilization that happens during war, Axios China reporter Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian writes.

  • Why it matters: Democracies are perfectly capable of taking extreme measures when necessary.

Reality check: Citywide quarantines, travel restrictions and obsessive public health checks aren't authoritarian. They're the kind of total mobilization that happens during major national crises such as war, regardless of the system of government.

Democracies have a long history of successful mobilization, and they have mechanisms that both enable extreme policies and bring them to an end when they are no longer needed, to prevent authoritarian creep.

  • During World War II, the U.S. was initially paralyzed by a domestic debate about whether to get involved at all, said Maury Klein, the author of "A Call to Arms: Mobilizing America for World War II," in an interview with Axios.
  • "Things always move slower in a democracy," said Klein, because the various moving parts of government and society must first reach consensus.

What to watch: Fundamental questions about the health of our governance today and the effectiveness of our leadership suggest the United States may not rise to the occasion as well as it did almost 80 years ago.

6. New data: No part of U.S. equipped for coronavirus surge

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Every corner of the U.S. is at risk for a severe shortage of hospital beds as the coronavirus outbreak worsens, according to new simulations from Harvard, mapped out by ProPublica and the New York Times.

  • Why it matters, from Axios health care business reporter Bob Herman: Total nationwide capacity for health care supplies doesn't always matter, because hospitals in one area can help out neighboring systems when they're overwhelmed by a crisis.
  • But these projections indicate that won't be an option with the coronavirus — everybody will be hurting at the same time.

Harvard's projections show if 50% of all currently occupied hospital beds were emptied and sizable percentages of Americans were infected, the country would need at least three times more beds to care for everyone.

  • "No market would be spared," Harvard's Ashish Jha wrote.

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7. Coronavirus could fuel Middle East unrest

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Coronavirus is now poised to feed Middle East unrest and, possibly, terrorism, Axios energy columnist Amy Harder writes.

  • The big picture: The oil-rich region is being ravaged by the outbreak and low oil prices that have dropped even more due to the pandemic cutting off global demand amid a related price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia.

How it works: The less money Middle East governments have to provide services for their populations, the greater the risk of unrest that could, experts say, eventually lead to more terrorism, both in the region and abroad.

  • "The lower the prices go, the greater chance of Middle East upheaval," said Peter Atwater, a behavioral economist and adjunct lecturer at William & Mary.

Keep reading.

8. 📚 Literary interlude

Isabel Wilkerson's first book since her Pulitzer Prize-winning "The Warmth of Other Suns" is a years-long project that will explore what she calls the "unseen skeleton" of hierarchy in American life, AP reports.

  • Random House announced that Wilkerson's "Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents" comes out Aug. 20.
  • Wilkerson writes in the book: "The human impulse to create hierarchies runs across societies and cultures" and "predates the idea of race."

Authors James Patterson and Kwame Alexander are teaming up on a book for young people about Muhammad Ali.

  • "Becoming Muhammad Ali" is being called a "biographical novel" by the rival imprints JIMMY Paterson Books and HMH Books for Young Readers, which will jointly publish the book Oct. 5. (AP)
9. 🧼 Coronavirus dashboard

Spotted yesterday, St. Patrick's Day, in Vancouver, British Columbia. Photo: Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP

Global: Total confirmed cases as of 6:30 a.m. ET: 199,258 — Total deaths: 7,955

  • U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 6:30 a.m. ET: 6,496 — Total deaths: 114
10. 1 Tom thing

Tom Brady warms up before the 2018 Super Bowl. Photo: Matt Slocum/AP

Tom Brady, the greatest quarterback of all time, will play the 2020 season in an unfamiliar uniform after announcing his departure from the Patriots on social media, Axios Sports editor Kendall Baker writes.

  • Brady picked, of all days, St Patrick’s Day to let fans know he’s "shipping out of Boston" — a move that devastated some and felt inevitable to others.

Why it matters: Brady's departure ends perhaps the greatest run in the history of American team sports.

  • Less than 12 hours after Brady's announcement, news broke that he intends to sign today with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

🏈 To keep reading, sign up for Kendall Baker's daily newsletter, Axios Sports.

Photos (clockwise from top left): AP, AP, Getty Images, AP
Mike Allen

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