Welcome to Axios Future, where our hairstyle after two months of sheltering in place can best be described as "balding werewolf."
Today's issue is 1,659 words, a 6-minute read
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Employers emerging from lockdown are looking to new COVID-19 screening tools to help workers get back on the job.
Why it matters: Neither employees nor customers are likely to return to businesses if they fear infection, so there needs to be some way to separate the sick from the well. But many new screening services are untested, and they could open the door to intrusive health surveillance.
Driving the news: Dozens of states have begun at least a limited form of reopening, but putting workers and customers back in offices and restaurants will raise the risk of new outbreaks unless the potentially infectious can be identified.
What's happening: A number of companies are already rolling out new digital tools designed to identify possible COVID-19 cases at the point of entry for workplaces.
The catch: It's far from clear how effective any of these tools will be.
Beyond issues with effectiveness, these new services present challenges to autonomy and privacy. But just as 9/11 led to more invasive security in airports and other vulnerable spaces, most indications are the pandemic will lead to more pervasive health surveillance abetted by new digital tools.
The bottom line: Digital surveillance offers the possibility of speeding up the safe reopening of the economy. But if it is implemented poorly, it will come with a cost.
A Beyond Meat burger. Photo: Mairo Cinquetti/NurPhoto via Getty Images
The pandemic is disrupting the supply chain for conventional meat, opening the door for alternatives.
Why it matters: Meat production carries an environmental cost and has proven vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19. More climate-friendly alternative meat has been held back in part by high costs, but the pandemic could change that calculation in a lasting way.
Driving the news: Beyond Meat, which makes burgers and other products from plant-based ingredients, reported that sales had more than doubled in the first quarter, in part because retailers who were worried about a meat shortage were stocking up on alternatives.
Between the lines: Some of the growth in sales is due to an increase in distribution channels for alternative meat products, including a rollout to hundreds of Kroger-owned grocery stores for Impossible Foods and an expansion into China for Beyond Meat. But alternative meat companies have also benefited from a more resilient supply chain and rising prices for its conventional competitors.
Yes, but: The plant-based meat industry is still much less than 1% the size of its conventional counterpart.
The bottom line: Meat-eating exacts an environmental cost. Plant-based alternatives can reduce that toll, and the pandemic seems likely to make more of us ready to switch.
Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
A growing number of experts are warning against what they call a "new Cold War" with China. But many Chinese Communist Party elites already view the rest of the world as a staging ground for competition between China and the United States, Axios' Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian writes.
Driving the news: The coronavirus pandemic has only accelerated the downward spiral in U.S.-China relations. “Both governments are trying to profit domestically off the other's failures," Rachel Esplin Odell of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft told USA Today.
Background: The Chinese Communist Party has two different messages — one intended for the rest of the world and one intended for party members who govern the country.
The bottom line: Some U.S. experts deny China's global ambitions, while others exaggerate its threat.
Women hold up anti-vaccination signs at a protest in Washington state on May 13. Photo: Jason Redmond / AFP
Anti-vaccination movements could grow large enough to disrupt efforts to create public immunity when a vaccine is developed, according to new research.
Why it matters: Vaccines are only effective if enough people take them to develop herd immunity against a new infection. Anti-vaxxers, though small in number, have an online savvy that makes them powerful.
Driving the news: Last week, a YouTube video titled "Plandemic" promoting the baseless idea that a future coronavirus vaccine would kill millions of people received more than 8 million views before it was deleted by the platform.
Though vast majorities of Americans still support vaccines, a recent Gallup survey found that number had fallen somewhat over the past two decades. Now a new analysis of Facebook pages published in Nature suggests that while the anti-vaccination presence online has fewer followers than the pro-vaccination side, its pages are more numerous and more often linked to by undecided Facebook pages.
What they're saying: "The anti-vaxxers have been practicing for this," tech columnist Kevin Roose wrote in the Times. "They are savvy media manipulators, effective communicators and experienced at exploiting the weaknesses of social media platforms."
The bottom line: As shocking as it might seem at a moment when the world desperately needs an effective COVID-19 vaccine, the pandemic seems poised to make the anti-vaccination movement even stronger.
The dark decade ahead (Matthew Walther — The Week)
Good science is good science (Marc Lipsitch — Boston Review)
Anatomy of an internet shutdown (Jina Moore — Rest of World)
The day the live concert returns (Dave Grohl — Atlantic)
A robot enforcing social distance rules in Singapore. Photo: Roslan Rahman/AFP via Getty Images
Robots are being employed to remind people of social distancing rules during the pandemic.
Why it matters: Sure, it may seem like putting robots in crowd control is a bad idea — at least according to fiction. But expect to see more drones and bots in the position as technology improves and public spaces become more heavily surveilled.
What's happening: Since May 8, Spot — a doglike robot made by Boston Dynamics — has been patrolling Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park in Singapore as part of a tw0-week trial by the city-state's government.
Spot isn't the first machine to be drafted for pandemic duty.
My thought bubble: The perfectly benign Spot isn't exactly Robocop's trigger-happy ED-209, but based on public reaction to its presence, humans aren't quite ready to be served and protected by robots.