Welcome to Axios Future, and thank you for all the tips on working at home with kids. Here's one from me — if you're forced to do a radio interview in the bathroom, lock the door.
Axios will be hosting a live virtual event Thursday, March 19, on the coronavirus and pandemic preparedness. Join us at 9am ET live for this in-depth discussion that will cover the impact of the crisis. Register here.
Today's issue is 1,585 words, a 6-minute read.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Two aspects make the COVID-19 pandemic unlike any disaster we've experienced in memory: its global nature and its unknown duration.
Why it matters: As the coronavirus spreads around the country, we'll need to fight a medical war on all fronts at the same time, stressing our ability to respond. And we may need to keep up that fight — and the disruptive social distancing accompanying it — for months or longer.
Background: It's tempting to search for historical precedents, like 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina.
Be smart: COVID-19 will not be like those experiences, both in terms of the disease itself and how we're forced to respond to it.
Waging a multifront health and economic war against the pandemic will be difficult enough. But scientists warn we may need to keep up that fight for months longer.
"This is the defining global health crisis of our time. The days, weeks and months ahead will be a test of our resolve, a test of our trust in science and a test of solidarity.”— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general at a media briefing
The bottom line: It will be a long haul.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Many of China's measures to combat the coronavirus aren't authoritarian: They are the kind of total social mobilization that happens during war, Axios China reporter Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian writes.
Reality check: Citywide quarantines, travel restrictions and obsessive public health checks aren't authoritarian. They're the kind of total mobilization that happens during major national crises such as war, regardless of the system of government.
Democracies have a long history of successful mobilization, and they have mechanisms that both enable extreme policies and bring them to an end when they are no longer needed, to prevent authoritarian creep.
What to watch: Fundamental questions about the health of our governance today and the effectiveness of our leadership suggest the United States may not rise to the occasion as well as it did almost 80 years ago.
Test launch of an Indian nuclear-capable missile in 2013. Photo: Pallava Bagla/Corbis via Getty Images
A new study argues that a nuclear war between India and Pakistan would cause global cooling and planet-wide food shortages.
Why it matters: Scientists have long debated the climatic effects of nuclear war. New computer models show even a comparatively limited nuclear exchange could have global impacts on food production that would eclipse the worst famines in documented history.
In a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers led by Jonas Jägermeyr of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies used sophisticated computer models to predict what would happen in a nuclear war that would be both more limited and more likely than a full-scale one: a conflict between the geopolitical rivals India and Pakistan.
Context: The study also has important implications for a world groaning under the sudden shock of the coronavirus. "Even though the situation is very different, we're seeing how it would feel if consumers were suddenly not able to buy food," says Jägermeyr.
The bottom line: The world isn't short of things to worry about, but the effects of a nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan are likely even worse than we might have imagined.
Duration Health emergency medical kit. Photo: courtesy of Benjamin Jack
An emergency room physician's startup is offering kits of medicines to help customers should they be cut off from care during the pandemic — or any other time.
Why it matters: Duration Health mixes telemedicine with a survivalist mindset to sell medical go-bags — basic prescription drugs someone might need while traveling or trapped at home. Though the company launched months before the pandemic, it has gained new relevance in the quarantine era.
Duration Health was founded by Benjamin Jack, a working ER doctor in the Philadelphia area. Jack wanted to put together an emergency medical kit for himself, both for travel and for "general preparedness," he says. But even as an MD, Jack found it difficult to obtain the basic drugs he'd want in a crisis.
By the numbers: Prices for the kits — which aren't covered by insurance — vary according to the prescriptions they contain. The baseline model is $499.
The bottom line: Jack wouldn't reveal sales numbers, but says the company has seen a marked uptick in interest since COVID-19 began making the headlines. As city shutdowns grow, the impulse to prep for a medical emergency at home is only going to grow.
Coronavirus is exposing America's shameful selfish streak (Joel Mathis — The Week)
How World War II almost broke American politics (Joshua Zeitz — Politico Magazine)
A fiasco in the making? (John Ioannidis — STAT)
Coronavirus will revive the all-powerful state (Pankaj Mishra — Bloomberg Opinion)
Photo: courtesy of BBC Films and Revolution Films
Since we'll be home for the duration, this newsletter will be highlighting bingeable content with Future themes.
Why you should watch it: In the near-future of "Code 46," China appears to be one of the few functioning economies left, genetic tinkering is rampant, and people can be prevented from traveling to certain countries because of disease. So, nothing at all like today.
Directed by British filmmaker Michael Winterbottom, "Code 46" focuses on an insurance adjuster played by Tim Robbins who is sent to Shanghai to sniff out workers suspected of forging "papeles" — documents required for people to transit between countries. He meets and falls in love with Maria (Samantha Morton), though it turns out that on a genetic level, they may share more than just their passion.
Of note: One of the most brilliant things about "Code 46" is the way it deftly sketches its future world in a few strokes.
My thought bubble: So much in "Code 46" envisioned the world we live in today and the one that might endure after the pandemic — a world where individual health becomes the subject of pervasive surveillance. And yet the movie's main concern is human cloning — a fear from 2003 that has yet to become real in 2020.