Apr 29, 2020

Axios PM

Good afternoon: Today's PM — edited by Justin Green — is 477 words, a 2-minute read.

⚡️Situational awareness: The Federal Reserve plans to keep interest rates near zero "until it is confident that the economy has weathered" the coronavirus crisis.

1 big thing: Vaccine frustrations spark big talk

Photo: Doug Mills/The New York Times/Pool/Getty Images

Trump administration advisers are hinting at a willingness to spend billions and elevate their risk tolerance in the hope of getting coronavirus treatments out this year.

  • "There had been frustration about how slow CDC was moving on a vaccine, and there had been discussions on how to bypass some of the bureaucracy and speed the process up significantly," a White House official told Axios' Alayna Treene.

The big picture: Administration figures are hinting at a willingness to spend billions and elevate their risk tolerance in the hope of getting some treatments out this year.

The plan: The administration wants to organize public-private partnerships — with taxpayers assuming the risk — to produce vaccines on scale before widespread trials have ended. 

  • "Called 'Operation Warp Speed,' the program will pull together private pharmaceutical companies, government agencies and the military to try to cut the development time for a vaccine by as much as eight months," Bloomberg reports.
  • Reality check: This is billed as a way to get 100 million doses to the public by the end of this year and shorten the 12- to 18-month timeline laid out by the NIH's Anthony Fauci, but even that window was extremely optimistic.

The higher risk tolerance: The administration is reportedly preparing to give an emergency use authorization for Gilead's remdesivir, despite mixed results in early trials, the N.Y. Times reports.

  • Remdesivir appears to help people recover modestly quicker, which could be encouraging for those who get sick, but this drug is not any kind of a "cure" for this novel coronavirus, Axios' Bob Herman reports. Faster means 11 days vs. 15.
  • The data, which is still undergoing peer review and wasn't expected until May, shows an "important proof of concept" for remdesivir, but it isn't necessarily a "knockout," the NIH's Anthony Fauci said at the White House today.
  • Flashback: President Trump was promoting chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as recently as two weeks ago.

The bottom line: There's a lot of pressure to get treatments and eventually a vaccine out to the public faster — but don't get your hopes up.

Bonus: Pic du jour
Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

An aerial view shows some of the roughly three dozen oil tankers anchored off the California coast.

  • The spread of COVID-19 has blunted global demand for crude oil.
2. Catch up quick
  1. U.S. latest: Economy shrinks at annualized 4.8% in first quarter — NIH to start "Shark Tank" process to speed up tests — NCAA backs move toward paying college athletes for names, images and likenesses.
  2. World latest: Chinese students at U.S. universities nearly tripled over the past decade.
  3. Business latest: Lyft lays off 17% of its workforce — Boeing cuts 10% — Ford and Rivian scrap joint plans — Apple, Google deliver test code for virus-exposure tracking.
  4. 🎧 America's food supply in crisis
3. 1 horse thing
Jockey Ron Turcotte rides Secretariat to victory in the Kentucky Derby, May 5, 1973. Photo: AP

The Kentucky Derby has been postponed from this weekend back to Sept. 5, but there'll be a unique show either way, AP reports.

  • Secretariat is the early 7-2 favorite for this weekend’s virtual Kentucky Derby, an animated race between all 13 Triple Crown winners.
  • Beginning tomorrow, fans can choose their favorite horse to win on KentuckyDerby.com.
  • Anyone who selects the winning horse will be entered to win a VIP experience at the Derby. They can also donate to emergency relief efforts.