An analog clock with only two symbols instead of twelve: the symbols read 'AM' and 'PM'.
Apr 8, 2020

Axios AM

✡️ Good Wednesday morning. Passover starts at sundown. Many families are planning virtual Seders, via Zoom and Google.

  • Jewish leaders are rewriting the Haggadah, the sacred text used during Passover, "drawing parallels between the Israelites’ captivity and our own quarantine," reports The (San Jose) Mercury News.
  • "It is the ultimate story of freedom, filled with plagues and blessings to repair the world — and right now, perhaps for the first time, we truly get it."

Rabbi Noam Marans, director of interreligious relations at the American Jewish Committee, told AP: "'This year we are enslaved — next year we will be free.' That aspiration is very real this year."

1 big thing: Public transit's virus spiral

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Public transit systems across the country are experiencing a painful trifecta: Ridership has collapsed, funding streams are squeezed, and mass transit won't bounce back from the pandemic nearly as fast as other modes of transportation, Axios' Kim Hart writes.

  • Why it matters: "There's never been a time in which transit in one fell swoop has taken such a hit," said Sam Schwartz, CEO of Sam Schwartz Engineering and former New York City traffic commissioner.

Most public transit systems are operating at only 10% capacity — with skeletal schedules with minimal crews — to transport essential workers to their jobs, says Paul Skoutelas, CEO of the American Public Transportation Association.

  • But even with drastic drops in ridership, busier systems are still struggling with sporadic crowding and workers that have fallen ill.
  • New York's MTA has had more than 1,100 employees test positive for coronavirus, while 5,600 have been quarantined and 33 have died, New York City Transit Interim President Sarah Feinberg told NY1.

What's happening: Public transit systems have taken extra steps to keep their remaining passengers and workers safe during the epidemic.

  • In Seattle, King County Metro and Sound Transit stopped collecting fares last month and instructed riders to board buses through the back door to maintain distance from drivers.
  • In New York City, the MTA is sanitizing stations and common touch points (like turnstiles) twice a day and disinfecting the entire fleet every 72 hours.
  • In Houston, Metropolitan Transit Authority has installed netting in the middle of hundreds of buses to create more separation between drivers and passengers, who will sit in the back, per the Houston Chronicle.

What to watch: Passengers may be hesitant to sit shoulder-to-shoulder on a subway car or in a crowded bus for the near future.

  • People will likely rely more on personal cars, or even personally owned bikes and scooters that aren't shared, said David Zipper, visiting fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School's Taubman Center for State and Local Government.

Share this story.

2. Wisconsin opens 2020 election war

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Wisconsin voters braving lines in face masks could foreshadow a nationwide legal struggle over how to conduct elections during the coronavirus outbreak, Axios' Stef Kight writes.

  • Why it matters: Wisconsin's breakdown, after a last-minute Supreme Court ruling against extending the absentee deadline, showed how public health can clash with voting rights.
  • When asked about Wisconsin yesterday, President Trump criticized mail-in voting as "very dangerous," "corrupt" and a mechanism for cheating.

What's next: Twenty-one states and D.C. still have presidential primary deadlines between now and June 23.

What to watch: 2018 was a record year for election-related litigation, and 2020 should surpass it.

  • The DNC has filed lawsuits in Georgia, Arizona and Texas because the states list Republican candidates first on general election ballots, something Democrats claim gives Republicans an unfair advantage.
  • The RNC is assisting New Mexico's state party to stop a lawsuit calling for an all vote-by-mail election, according to the RNC's Mandi Merritt.

Share this story.

3. Trump vs. the watchdogs

The socially distanced briefing room yesterday. Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Trump has made a flurry of moves to thwart the authority and independence of administration watchdogs, including removing the inspector general who was to oversee the $2.2 trillion virus rescue package.

  • In four days, Trump fired an inspector general tied to impeachment, castigated another he felt was critical of the virus response, and sidelined a third meant to guard against wasteful spending of the virus aid, AP writes.

Why it matters: Trump's moves against the watchdogs are a signal and reveal how he plans to govern in the final nine months of this term.

  • Conservative allies of the president are targeting IGs across government, telling him this is a position that the "deep state" uses to undercut him.

Now any time Trump hears about a finding from an IG, he leaps to the conclusion that they’re a Democrat or Never Trumper.

  • People being considered for high-level positions or promotions are being asked flatly by White House officials if they voted for Trump.

The bottom line: Unchastened by the virus crisis, Trump is continuing his post-impeachment moves to purge government of anyone not personally loyal to him.

  • These days, the minute he hears anything like that about virtually anyone, he’s willing to authorize action.
4. Pictures of America: Election Day in Wisconsin

Photo: Angela Major/The Janesville Gazette via AP

Above: Robert Forrestal wears a full face chemical shield as he votes at the Janesville Mall.

  • Following a court order, the Wisconsin Election Commission directed election officials not to release any results until 5 p.m. ET next Monday.

Below: Photos on social media showed long lines, including this one at Washington High School in Milwaukee.

Photo: Morry Gash/AP
Photo: Morry Gash/AP

Above: A worker hands out disinfectant wipes and pens as voters line up outside Riverside High School in Milwaukee.

Below: Sisters Kelly and Teal Rowe work behind a Plexiglass barrier in Dunn, while waiting to verify voters at the town's highway garage facility.

Photo: John Hart/Wisconsin State Journal (Madison) via AP
5. 📊 Sobering stat
Courtesy N.Y Post

73% of Americans say the pandemic has reduced their family income, according to a poll of likely voters by the Financial Times and the Peter G. Peterson Foundation (subscription).

  • 48% say they'd be without any income if they were unable to work because of illness.

"In a sign of how widespread the pandemic’s economic impact has become," the FT reports, "almost as many families making more than $100,000 a year reported a hit to their income (71%), as those making less than $50,000 (74%)."

6. Ivanka Trump plans focus on virus recovery for small businesses

Ivanka Trump speaks at yesterday's White House videoconference with bank and credit card executives. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Ivanka Trump personally lobbied top bank executives to line up the $1.5 billion in commitments to small businesses that were announced yesterday at a videoconference among the bank executives and President Trump.

  • She stoked competitive juices among the execs to drive up their commitments.

Ivanka, who has had workforce development in her portfolio going back to 2017, plans an increasing emphasis on small businesses in the weeks ahead as they navigate the rescue bill’s Payroll Protection Program , sources tell me.

  • She initially focused on them as important job creators — especially women- and minority-owned businesses, which create jobs in underserved communities.
  • Now, they'll be a key path back to an economic recovery.

Watch for Ivanka to take a key role in negotiating small-business provisions in the new rescue bill being planned by the Hill and the White House.

  • She plans to advocate for workforce development and skills training to help Americans get back to work faster.
  • Also look for an emphasis by Ivanka and the administration on ways workplaces will change after the shutdown, including more telework and integration of technology.

Share this story.

7. Fears D.C. could become hot spot

Business owners set up portable fencing at the fish market in D.C. to try to enforce social distancing. Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP

Warmer weather is bringing violations of social-distancing guidelines in the nation's capital, even as health officials predict the city could become one of the next U.S. hot spots in the pandemic, AP's Ashraf Khalil writes.

  • Mayor Muriel Bowser announced last week that models predict the virus would peak in the District in May or June.
  • Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, has repeatedly mentioned D.C. as a potential looming hot spot, along with Chicago, Colorado and Pennsylvania.

Washington's attempts to slow the spread through social distancing have been complicated by noncompliant residents:

  • Authorities were forced to essentially seal off the Tidal Basin to keep crowds from gathering to see cherry blossoms.
  • Last weekend, as warm weather drew stir-crazy families outdoors, the mayor abruptly shuttered The Wharf's popular open-air Municipal Fish Market after photos on social media showed huge crowds.
  • Rock Creek Park, the massive 1,754-acre green space at the heart of the capital, drew healthy crowds of cyclists and hikers last weekend.
8. 1 smile to go

Photo: Gary Hershorn/Getty Images

A "pink supermoon" rises last night behind the Empire State Building, as seen from Hoboken, N.J.

  • Throughout the pandemic, the building will shine in what the Empire State Realty Trust, the building's owner, calls a "dynamic heartbeat."
  • At the top of every hour, the building sparkles in the colors of first responders — including yellow, blue, silver, red, white, green and gray for dispatchers, law enforcement, correctional officers, firefighters, paramedics and military.

The next supermoon is May 7.

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