Mar 20, 2020

Axios AM

🎬 Coming Sunday on "Axios on HBO" (6 p.m. ET/PT): Jonathan Swan has a rare (and intense, news-making) interview with China's ambassador to the U.S. ... Ina Fried talks with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella ... Dion Rabouin interviews the CEO of Carnival Corp. ... Margaret Talev sits down with Justice Stephen Breyer.

1 big thing: Coronavirus risk in Trump country

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The demographics, work patterns and media habits of President Trump's base are putting many of his supporters at elevated risk for the health and economic impacts of coronavirus.

  • Why it matters, from Axios' Stef Kight and Sara Fischer: National surveys, including the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index, found that Republicans and Midwesterners have been more likely to respond with less urgency than Americans who identify as Democrats or live in coastal centers.

The big picture: Senior citizens face higher risks from the virus than younger people. U.S. counties with the highest percentage of people 65 years and older tend to be very Republican areas that voted for Trump in 2016, according to the Brookings Institution's William Frey, who analyzed Census Bureau data for Axios.

  • All but one of the six states with the largest percentages of adults at higher risk from coronavirus voted for Trump in 2016, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation report.
  • Texas, Oklahoma, Georgia, Florida, Alaska and Mississippi have the highest percentages of people without health insurance, according to the Census Bureau. All of those states voted for Trump in 2016.
  • More than half of voters 65 years and older voted for Trump in 2016.

Younger people with pre-existing health conditions also face elevated danger compared with healthy peers. States with the highest rates of diabetes and hypertension are disproportionately Republican-leaning, per CDC data.

  • The six states with the highest shares of adults under 60 who are at risk for the coronavirus voted for Trump in 2016, according to the KFF report.

Between the lines: Misinformation and distrust in the media could be putting elderly people and some Republicans at greater risk.

  • Research has found that older populations tend to be most susceptible to falling for and spreading misinformation. On average, Facebook users 65 years or older post seven times as many articles from fake news websites as adults 29 and younger, a study found last year.
  • Republicans are less likely to trust media sources, and are more likely to place trust in one news source: Fox News, according to Pew Research Center.

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2. The jobs apocalypse is here

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Economists see an absolutely historic wave of job losses coming, Axios Markets editor Dion Rabouin writes.

  • As the tip of the iceberg, the Labor Department said yesterday that the number of Americans filing for unemployment jumped to its highest in two years — rising to 281,000 last week, far outpacing expectations.

By the numbers: Goldman Sachs predicts that more than 2 million Americans will file for unemployment claims by next week, pointing to "an unprecedented surge in layoffs this week."

  • The upcoming March 15-21 period is expected to see "the largest increase in initial jobless claims and the highest level on record."

Between the lines: Based on anecdotes from a wide range of business contacts, Goldman's economic research team foresees "an unprecedented decline in revenues across many industries."

  • "Consumer spending on sports and entertainment, hotels, restaurants, and public transportation in particular have already dropped dramatically."

Another perspective: Analysts at Bank of America Global Research expect a slower jobs drip, with the economy losing 1 million jobs a month.

  • They see unemployment rising to 6.3%, hitting the leisure, hospitality and retail industries the hardest.
3. 🦠 Coronavirus quick catch-up

Photo: Karen Ducey/Getty Images

Our future? In the photo above, workers build a 200-bed temporary field hospital on a soccer field in Shoreline, Wash., outside Seattle.

  • "It’s basically to relieve pressure on the hospitals and to free up beds for critical patients," said city spokesman Eric Bratton told the Seattle Times.

☀️ In the most far-reaching crisis directive so far, California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered all 40 million of the state's residents to stay home except when performing "necessary activities," the L.A. Times reports.

  • Those include caring for a relative, getting gas or going to pharmacies, grocery stores, farmers' markets, food banks, convenience stores, takeout and delivery restaurants, banks and laundromats.

🛒 Walmart said that it'll give bonuses April 2 to hourly employees to reward them for their work in this crunch. Part-time workers will receive $150; full-time workers will receive $300. (AP)

🥃 With restaurants across Texas forced to suspend dine-in service, "Gov. Greg Abbott issued a waiver ... that allows them to deliver alcohol with a food purchase, including beer, wine and mixed drinks." (Dallas Morning News)

4. Reprieve for Mother Nature: Brief glimpse at cleaner skies, water
Photos: @soandso on Twitter, NASA

As millions of humans stay home around the world, pollution is alleviating — temporarily, Axios' Amy Harder writes.

  • Why it matters: Images of clear skies over China and California, or fish swimming in in Venice’s canals, are a glimpse of what it might look like if we took better care of the Earth.

Reality check: As much as people seem to love sharing those images now, none of it's likely to last.

5. Two senators unload stock ahead of virus shock
The Capitol Rotunda with no tourists. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) sold as much as $1.7 million in stocks just before the market dropped in February amid fears about the coronavirus epidemic, AP and others reported.

  • Senate records show that Burr and his wife sold between roughly $600,000 and $1.7 million in more than 30 separate transactions in late January and mid-February, just before the market began to fall.
  • Several of the stocks were in companies that own hotels. The stock sales were first reported by ProPublica and the Center for Responsive Politics.
  • Most of them came on Feb. 13, just before Burr gave a speech at a social club, predicting severe consequences from the virus, including closed schools and cutbacks in company travel, according to audio obtained by NPR.

Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler, a new senator who is up for re-election this year, sold off hundreds of thousands of dollars in stock in late January, as senators began to get briefings on the virus, also according to Senate records.

  • The Daily Beast first reported that Loeffler dropped the stock in late January. The senator is married to Jeffrey Sprecher, the chairman and CEO of Intercontinental Exchange, which owns the New York Stock Exchange.
6. 💡 The talk of business: A smart idea to help companies survive

CEOs are passing around a column by the N.Y. Times' Andrew Ross Sorkin that has a smart proposal for helping businesses survive and even grow during the crisis:

The government could offer every American business, large and small, and every self-employed — and gig — worker a no-interest "bridge loan" guaranteed for the duration of the crisis to be paid back over a five-year period.
The only condition of the loan to businesses would be that companies continue to employ at least 90 percent of their work force at the same wage that they did before the crisis.

Between the lines: Sorkin heard all day from officials in D.C. and Fortune 500 CEOs who were forwarding the column to the White House and Congress.

  • A number of new iterations of the idea are now moving around the Capitol.

Read the column.

7. Car plants may struggle to make ventilators

Automakers and their parts suppliers are offering to produce desperately needed ventilators to keep coronavirus patients alive, but quickly retooling industrial factories to make precision medical equipment might not be feasible, writes Axios' Joann Muller.

The issue: Pivoting to wartime footing for ventilators is not like churning out tanks, planes and ships for World War II, says Sandy Munro, CEO of Munro & Associates, an expert in lean manufacturing who has intimate knowledge of both the auto and medical device industries.

  • Production requires sterile rooms with much higher standards than those required in a "clean room" at an automotive paint shop, for example, he says.
  • "Medical devices are intricate machines on which people’s lives depend. Every step of the production process has to be precise. This isn’t just a box with an air hose on it."

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8. 🧠 Big idea: The case for extreme measures

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

There's no such thing as being too early.

  • That's the big lesson from the coronavirus crisis: The risks of overreacting are minuscule compared with the risks of waiting to see how bad things get before you act, chief financial correspondent Felix Salmon writes.

Why it matters: The U.S. is already suffering from waiting too long to prepare itself for the medical emergency.

  • And Congress is debating a trillion-dollar fiscal stimulus plan — one that former Minneapolis Fed president Narayana Kocherlakota says should be closer to $2.5 trillion.

Keep reading.

9. Sanders forced a reckoning
Photo: Dan Winters for The New York Times

Bernie Sanders intends for his legacy after the 2020 presidential election "to be not a kamikaze mission but instead something more fruitful for the party that was never his," writes Robert Draper in a cover story for The New York Times Magazine.

  • He "has prompted a reckoning within the Democratic Party. He has forced upon it an airing of ideological differences, compelling progressives and moderates to choose their leader and then make the case in public."

The bottom line, via his wife, Jane Sanders: "It’s never been about only winning the election. ... It’s much more satisfying to pick up the paper, go online or watch TV and see town halls of people questioning their senators about Medicare for All from a more informed point of view, using facts rather than vitriol."

10. 1 parting shot
Cover: Washington City Paper, via Twitter

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