Apr 3, 2020

Axios AM

🧼 Please join us at 12:30 p.m. ET for a 30-minute Axios virtual event about leadership in the time of coronavirus.

  • CEO Jim VandeHei will interview Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Edelman Global CEO Richard Edelman.

Register here.

1 big thing: The rich pull up the drawbridge

Illustration: AĂŻda Amer/Axios

From hastily-chartered superyachts to fortresslike country estates, the wealthiest Americans have found places to ride out the pandemic far away from the masses, Axios managing editor Jennifer A. Kingson writes.

  • People with second (and third) homes have stampeded from hot spots like New York City to pastoral and less-afflicted areas — the Hamptons, Cape Cod, Hilton Head and Palm Beach.
  • Why it matters: The virus crisis is exposing class differences — including housing and access to health care — that are less obvious in normal times.

Headlines tell the story:

  • "Chic Hamptons food stores ransacked by the wealthy amid coronavirus." (N.Y. Post)
  • "Private jets 'pour in' to Martha's Vineyard as rich flee coronavirus." (The Telegraph, London)
  • "Billionaires are chartering superyachts for months at a time to ride out the coronavirus." (Business Insider)

A tale of two pandemics: While the wealthy were among the first in the U.S. to contract the virus (as they're more apt to travel abroad), the brunt of the pandemic has hurt the working poor.

  • As soon as NYC schools closed, real estate agents were flooded with calls from people begging to rent houses in the Hamptons — where a single summer's lease can easily cost $100,000 — immediately and sight unseen.
  • To drive there, the renters would have had to pass through Queens — the city's hardest-hit borough — where the public hospital in Elmhurst is enduring "apocalyptic" conditions.

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2. CDC expected to recommend cloth masks in hot spots
Scene from the flu epidemic of 1918. Photo: George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images

The Trump administration is formalizing new guidance to recommend that many Americans wear face coverings to slow the virus, AP reports.

  • The recommendations are expected to apply to those who live in areas hard-hit by community transmission.

Why it matters: The government had been discouraging use by people who aren't medical professionals. Surgeon General Jerome Adams tweeted Feb. 29: "Seriously people- STOP BUYING MASKS! They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus."

  • But Trump said earlier this week: "It's not a bad idea, at least for a period of time."

A person familiar with the White House coronavirus task force's discussion told AP that officials would suggest that non-medical masks, T-shirts or bandanas be used to cover the nose and mouth when outside the home — for instance, at the grocery store or pharmacy.

  • Medical-grade masks, particularly short-in-supply N95 masks, would be reserved for those dealing directly with the sick.

P.S. ... The White House said a new test of Trump returned a negative result in 15 minutes, and said the president is "healthy and without symptoms."

3. Lawmakers fear stimulus debacle
Jim Cramer interviews Secretary Mnuchin. Screenshot via CNBC

Lawmakers and staff in both parties worry that the Trump administration may be overwhelmed by the demand for loans from the $2.2 trillion rescue package, and unable to write checks fast enough, Axios' Alayna Treene writes.

  • Some fear a repeat of the botched rollout of the Affordable Care Act in 2013 when the site crashed due to tremendous demand.
  • "Senators are nervous," a Senate GOP aide tells Axios.

The Treasury Department told USA Today that the first batch of stimulus checks will go out in two weeks, meaning about 50 million to 70 million Americans will get the money directly in their bank accounts by April 15.

  • The department said the "overwhelming majority of eligible Americans" will receive their payment in the next three weeks.

What's next: The $349 billion relief program for small business kicks off today, and Hill aides say it'll be a test of whether the Small Business Administration can handle the mounting loan requests.

  • Washington leaders expect to have a good idea in the next two weeks whether the stimulus programs are working, a Trump administration official said.
  • Changes could come in the form of amendments or a supplemental bill.

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4. Pictures of America
Photo: New York Governor's Office via AP

During one of his daily Albany news conferences (which have been getting heavy live pickup by cable news), New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, 62, talks with his brother, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, 49, in his home basement.

  • The younger Cuomo announced Tuesday that he has the coronavirus, but has continued doing his 9 p.m. show from the basement, vividly describing his symptoms.
5. Immigrants on front line
Data: New American Economy. Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

New data provided to Axios spells out just how outsized a role immigrants play in the high- and low-skilled ends of the economy to keep Americans alive and fed during the coronavirus crisis, Axios' Stef Kight writes.

  • Immigrants make up an estimated 17% of the overall U.S. workforce. But an analysis by New American Economy shows they're more than one in four doctors, nearly half of the nation's taxi drivers and chauffeurs and a clear majority of farm workers.
  • Reporting to work in hospitals, restaurant kitchens, cabs or the fields — for jobs deemed "essential" by the government — many documented and undocumented workers are putting themselves at higher risk of COVID-19.

Reality check: The $2.2 trillion aid package doesn't include assistance for unauthorized immigrants.

6. How brands should talk about the virus

Illustration: AĂŻda Amer/Axios

People are more likely to purchase something from a company during and after the coronavirus crisis if that company speaks out appropriately about the pandemic now, Axios' Sara Fischer writes from a new Edelman survey.

  • Data shows that consumers overwhelmingly want brands to speak out regularly, but that they don't want to be sold anything that isn't going to help make the situation better.

Brands are expected to address the coronavirus directly, and in a somber and empathetic tone.

  • This means they shouldn't use any lighthearted or humorous marketing. And they should avoid marketing or communications that reference people gathered together using their products and having a good time.

In the Edelman research, roughly two-thirds (66%) say that hearing about the pandemic from brands is comforting and reassuring,

  • Most respondents (86%) say that brands should "be a safety net," stepping in where they are needed and able, to fill gaps in the government’s response to the virus.
  • 90% say brands should partner with the government and relief agencies.

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7. Pandemic trade-offs will get harder
Cover courtesy The Economist

"Lockdowns buy time, an invaluable commodity," The Economist writes in its lead editorial:

When they are lifted, COVID-19 will spread again among people who are still susceptible. But societies can prepare in a way that they never did for the first wave, by equipping health systems with more beds, ventilators and staff. ...
Perhaps, though, no new treatments will be found ... People will have endured months indoors, hurting both social cohesion and their mental health. Year-long lockdowns would cost America and the euro zone a third or so of GDP. ... The capacity of the economy would wither as innovation stalled and skills decayed.
8. Fauci-mania: Love from left and right
Data: NewsWhip. Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

If you feel like you're suddenly spending a surprising amount of time thinking and talking about Anthony Fauci, you're not alone, Axios' Neal Rothschild writes.

  • He's become the third-most talked about person online, after only President Trump and Speaker Pelosi, according to data NewsWhip provided to Axios.

What they're saying: Of the top 40 stories about Fauci by interactions (likes, comments, shares) on social media, none had negative sentiment, and several were positively glowing. Those stories included:

  • "Thank God the Doctor Is In," Maureen Dowd wrote in the N.Y. Times.

On sites with left-leaning audiences, the top Fauci-related stories focused on instances when he contradicted Trump or gave more pessimistic forecasts than the president.

  • Right-leaning publishers' top stories were about Fauci praising Trump or criticizing the press for seeking to create a rift between the two.

P.S. ... Fauci recently received a security detail, in response to "threats as well as unwelcome communications from fervent admirers." (WashPost)

9. Resilience in face of imminent danger
Cover courtesy The New York Times

The New York Times Magazine tells the stories of essential workers on the front lines of the pandemic — in their own words — from flight attendants to grocery store workers to nurse midwives. Their stories are powerful reminders of resilience in the face of imminent danger. 

Cover images, supplied by the subjects:

From top: Erika Sawyer (nurse midwife); Dawn Adams (emergency-room doctor); Donell Johnson Jr. (grocer); Chris Reade (firefighter); Karen Raaf (gas-station attendant); Kate Doolittle (physical therapist); Brian J. Bourquin (veterinarian); Jennifer Peverill (food-service manager); Cathryn Crawford (defense lawyer); Tanveer Hussain (pharmacist); Chelsey (flight attendant); Scott C. Campbell (police officer); Steven Barton (funeral director); Debra Holloway (mail carrier); Edvin Quic (food deliveryman); Nikki Grigalunas (homeless-outreach worker); Sgt. First Class Jon Stresing (National Guard).

Keep reading.

10. 1 fun thing: Fantasy baseball without baseball
Photo: Dan Sewell/AP

Above is the Strat-O-Matic baseball board game that Dan Sewell, the AP's Cincinnati correspondent, is playing while self-isolating.

  • With no real baseball being played, fans are getting their fixes with conference call chats, trivia contests and fantasy games, Sewell writes:

A friend, media attorney Jack Greiner, has organized daily trivia and a Thursday night baseball conference chat among two dozen aficionados.

  • Another baseball buddy, investment adviser Buck Newsome, brought smiles Tuesday night by sharing a photo of Pete Rose wearing a self-made protective mask with the Reds’ wishbone “C” logo.

Play ball.

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