Jul 6, 2020

Axios AM

🏖️Welcome back! Our morning podcast, "Axios Today," is ready for ya — including my prediction for the Redskins' new name. Hear it here.

😷 About face: The Trump campaign says that at a rally Saturday in Portsmouth, N.H., "all attendees will be provided a face mask that they are strongly encouraged to wear."

1 big thing: Virus growth outpaces testing in hotspots
Data: The COVID Tracking Project. (Vermont and Hawaii aren't included because they have fewer than 20 cases per day.) Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Despite what President Trump says, America's alarming rise in coronavirus cases isn't due to increased testing — particularly not where cases have grown fastest over the last month, Axios' Andrew Witherspoon and Caitlin Owens report.

  • Why it matters: The U.S. doesn't yet know what it looks like when a pandemic rages unchecked after the health system becomes overwhelmed. It may be about to find out.

The takeaway: The number of completed tests is going up, which is good. But the number of new cases is increasing faster.

  • The gap between testing and cases is generally largest in states with the fastest-growing outbreaks, like Florida and Texas.
  • In some places, including D.C. and New York, testing has grown faster than new cases — a good indicator that these outbreaks are under control.

Reality check: Arizona, Florida and Texas are struggling to meet the demand for tests, meaning the pandemic is already outpacing those states' ability to respond.

2. Impending retail apocalypse

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

UBS predicts that 100,000 brick-and-mortar U.S. retail stores will close by 2025, in a trend that started before the pandemic and has accelerated amid coronavirus-related shutdowns, Axios managing editor Jennifer Kingson writes.

  • Indoor malls — which were already turning into ghost towns — are being converted into apartment complexes.
  • A relatively new retail model — buy online, pick up in-store — is gaining traction.

Many COVID-19 closures that were supposed to be temporary will wind up being permanent. Among household names that have announced they're shuttering some stores for good: Nordstrom, Bath & Body Works, Gap, and Zara.

  • "Accelerated Darwinism" is how Deborah Weinswig, CEO of Coresight Research, describes some of the retail bankruptcies of 2020 (not all of which resulted in widespread store closures). Fashion apparel has suffered the most.
  • "We speak to a lot of liquidators about what's in the hopper," Weinswig tells Axios. "The recent conversations we've had suggest that the pace of bankruptcies is going to rise significantly."

Jennifer's thought bubble: The major retail corridor in my Manhattan neighborhood — East 86th Street — is practically unrecognizable. Gone for good are the Children's Place where I bought my kids' clothes and our local Barnes & Noble. Those losses feel like Piggy's glasses breaking in "Lord of the Flies."

3. Scoop: Biden mobilizes celebrities via Instagram

Misha Collins on the BUILD live interview series. Photo: Gary Gershoff/Getty Images

Joe Biden is drafting Hollywood celebrities for Instagram Live chats with campaign officials and top supporters, Axios' Hans Nichols reports.

  • Why it matters: The campaign, called #TeamJoeTalks, is an attempt to open a new front on social media, drawing on celebrities' Instagram followers to find and motivate voters while large parts of the country remain locked down.
  • "They all have audiences that we are tapping into," said Adrienne Elrod, who joined the Biden campaign last month to manage outreach initiatives with high-profile supporters. "People are still at home, living on their phones."

You may not know TV actor Misha Collins (CW's "Supernatural"), but he has 4.2 million Instagram followers. He’ll interview Biden senior adviser Karine Jean-Pierre this afternoon.

  • Remember Bradley Whitford, who played brainy Josh Lyman as deputy chief of staff on "The West Wing"? He’ll chat voting rights with potential VP pick Stacey Abrams.
  • Also on deck: Debra Messing ... celebrity chef Tom Colicchio ... and Andrew Yang.

The other side: The Trump campaign, proud of its digital muscle, scoffs at taking on @realDonaldTrump in the asymmetrical warfare of social media.

4. Pic du jour

Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images

This is a drone view of a huge ground mural being painted in an Annapolis park to honor Breonna Taylor, an emergency-room technician killed in her Louisville apartment by police serving a no-knock warrant in a case not centered on her.

5. A 3-year tradition: Amy Harder's midyear prediction check

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

In early January, Amy Harder's "Harder Line" column laid out 10 energy and climate change issues to watch this year. Spoiler: A pandemic wasn't on the list.

Amy gives her halfway check on a tumultuous 2020:

1. Politicking: Climate change was reaching a new high water mark for its role in the presidential contest among Democratic candidates. That focus has lessened significantly.

  • What we're watching: Expect climate change to play a supporting role in the debate about other topics — the pandemic and racism — grabbing society’s attention.

2. Carbon taxes: The persistently long-shot campaign of a carbon tax on Capitol Hill has gone awfully quiet in the last few months.

  • What we're watching: A climate proposal House Democrats released last week includes a price on carbon, with an emphasis on ensuring protection for poorer Americans. I’ll be watching to see to what degree Joe Biden embraces that — or whether he waits to see if he wins.

3. Climate change, in real time: The Australian bushfires — yes, they were this year! — are a prime example of more extreme weather occurring and scientists documenting it.

  • What I’m watching: To what degree extreme weather worsens this summer — especially wildfires — and to what degree it exacerbates the pandemic and racial inequality.

Keep reading.

6. At least 5 children killed by guns over holiday
Courtesy N.Y. Post

A horrible wave of holiday-weekend violence across America left at least five children shot to death (hat tip CNN for the sad list):

  • In Southeast D.C. ... Davon McNeal, 11, a sixth-grade football star who dreamed of going pro, was hit in the head by a bullet during a cookout organized by his mother, when five men began shooting in the street nearby, the WashPost reports.
  • In Atlanta ... "A day after an 8-year-old girl was fatally shot near a Wendy’s restaurant where Rayshard Brooks was killed last month by police, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms ... denounced violence." Atlanta Journal-Constitution
  • In Chicago ... A 7-year-old girl "was one of at least 80 people shot, at least 17 of those fatally, across the city during the violent holiday weekend ... [S]he became the latest in a horrific string of children whose lives have been taken away by gun violence in Chicago." Chicago Tribune
  • In Hoover, Ala. ... "A 22-year-old man has been charged in Friday’s horrific shootout inside the Riverchase Galleria that left an 8-year-old boy dead and three others injured." Birmingham News
  • In San Francisco ... "A 6-year-old boy was fatally shot in San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood Saturday evening." S.F. Chronicle
7. What happens when you reopen too soon
Data: Texas Department of State Health Services. Graphic: Houston Chronicle. Used by kind permission.
8. Time capsule: 6 months of virus

This article appeared on page A15 of the Washington Post on Jan. 5:

The Washington Post
9. Broadway's Nick Cordero, 41, loses 95-day battle with virus

Nick Cordero in Hollywood on Jan 15. Photo: Vivien Killilea/Getty Images

Nick Cordero, a Tony-nominated Broadway actor, died yesterday after a 95-day battle with COVID-19, CNN reports.

  • The 41-year-old faced multiple complications from the disease, including an amputated leg and severe lung damage.

Amanda Kloots, Cordero's wife, kept fans updated on his status on social media over the last few months, and said he "was surrounded in love by his family, singing and praying as he gently left this earth."

  • Cordero is also survived by his 1-year-old son, Elvis.
10. 🎥 How Netflix became a font of Black content

"Da 5 Bloods" production shot: From left, director Spike Lee, Clarke Peters, Delroy Lindo, Jonathan Majors and Norm Lewis. Photo: David Lee/Netflix

The N.Y. Times' Ben Smith writes in his "Media Equation" column that Netflix beat Hollywood to a generation of Black content:

Hollywood is scrambling, in its traditional way — late, liberal, a bit ham-handed — to catch up with this cultural moment. ... And to the immense frustration of mostly white executives all over town, they also find themselves — again! — scrambling to catch up with Netflix, already a threat to their technology and business model, and now winning the race to the center of the conversation as well. ...
In the summer of 2015, Black employees at Netflix produced a memo and PowerPoint presentation to make the case that the company was missing an opportunity with Black audiences. They argued ... that Netflix risked missing a boom defined by "Empire" at Fox and "Black-ish" and "How to Get Away With Murder" on ABC. ... The memo ... said Netflix was spending more money on programming for British people and anime fans than for Black Americans.

Keep reading (subscription).

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