Welcome back to Axios Future, where some of us saw this whole pandemic thing coming.
Today's issue is 1,496 words, ~ a 5.5-minute read.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
When it comes to a major infectious disease outbreak, what you don't know very much can hurt you.
Why it matters: Right now, officials at every level of the U.S. government face agonizing choices about whether to cancel mass gatherings, require workers to telecommute or even close schools in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. These choices will have enormous social and economic ramifications.
Flashback: As recently as the 1918 influenza pandemic, scientists were largely in the dark about how a new outbreak spreads.
Today, scientists can sequence a virus in days, develop rapid tests that can determine infection before obvious symptoms, and use complex mathematical models to predict future spread.
Be smart: It is these known unknowns that make COVID-19 so risky. It might turn out that COVID-19 kills no more people globally than the flu, but while we know how the flu spreads and how dangerous it is, we lack the same certainty about the novel coronavirus.
That's why the apparent failure to ramp up testing in the U.S. for COVID-19 is so damaging.
The bottom line: We should be clearing the fog of war around COVID-19 — not contributing to it.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Workers are set to have their futures upended by the effects of automation, but while the plight of men in manufacturing has received much of the attention, women will face unique challenges.
The big picture: Experts disagree about whether female workers will be more vulnerable to automation than men.
Background: The U.S. has already lost millions of jobs to automation, especially in the manufacturing sector. A 2015 study concluded 87% of the manufacturing job losses in the U.S. between 2000 and 2010 were due to automation.
Between the lines: Just as important as the kinds of jobs women work may be the daily challenges they face as women in the workplace.
Go deeper: How female workers can manage automation
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios
As China begins to get its coronavirus outbreak under control, authorities are going on the offensive to rewrite the narrative that the global epidemic is Beijing's fault, my Axios colleague Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian writes.
Why it matters: We're getting a glimpse of how China's formidable propaganda apparatus can obscure the truth and change narratives abroad, just as it can at home. The stakes are high — for the world and China's standing in it.
What's happening: Chinese diplomats are taking to Twitter and email, pushing talking points that deflect blame from Beijing and instead praise its response.
What's at stake: The world is facing a potential global economic recession that can trace its roots to specific decisions by Chinese authorities. Chinese President Xi Jinping wants to prevent that narrative from taking hold.
What to watch for: "The worse the coronavirus response in the foreign country, the more effective [Beijing's] narrative is going to be," said Bishop.
Plant-based chicken skewers. Photo: LIVEKINDLY Co.
A group of food industry veterans formed a new platform company for plant-based meat.
Why it matters: Meat production remains a driver of deforestation and climate change. One promising way to blunt that effect is to provide plant-based meat alternatives that won't force consumers to sacrifice on taste.
The new platform company will go by the name LIVEKINDLY Co. It was launched on March 11 with a $200 million founders fund round of investment led by Roger Lienhard, an early player in the alternative meat space.
Context: Alternative meat became a hot product in 2019, thanks to the rapid growth of companies like Beyond Meat that offered products explicitly mimicking the look and taste of animal meat.
The bottom line: What we think of as alternative meat is inching toward the mainstream.
Is it OK to have a child? (Meehan Crist — London Review of Books)
How old is too old to work? (Isaac Chotiner — New Yorker)
The end of pay-TV (Matthew Ball — MatthewBall.vc)
How the coronavirus could change sportswriting forever (Bryan Curtis — The Ringer)
This cat undoubtedly has murder in its heart. Photo: Nico De Pasquale Photography
Ordinary house cats can have a major impact on local animal populations because they kill more prey than similar-sized wild predators, according to a new study.
Why it matters: Keeping your cat indoors can help relieve pressures on nearby wildlife who might otherwise fall beneath the claw of your ferocious feline.
In the study, published March 11 in Animal Conservation, researchers from North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences collected GPS cat-tracking data and prey-capture reports from six countries, including the U.S. and U.K.
What they're saying: "Humans find joy in biodiversity, but we have, by letting cats go outdoors, unwittingly engineered a world in which such joys are ever harder to experience," study co-author Rob Dunn said in a press release.
Editor's note: The March 7 Future newsletter had a photo caption that incorrectly identified the location of a nuclear missile silo. It was in Arizona the state, not the USS Arizona.