May 18, 2020

Axios PM

Good afternoon: Today's PM — edited by Justin Green — is 478 words, a 2-minute read.

Situational awareness: Chinese President Xi Jinping addressed the WHO today, while President Trump rejected his invitation to speak, Jonathan Swan reports.

⚡️Breaking: President Trump says he's taking hydroxychloroquine, despite the lack of evidence it prevents infection and an FDA warning about heart-related side effects for coronavirus patients.

1 big thing: Contact isolation

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Add another term to your coronavirus vocabulary: "contact isolation."

The big picture: This would be the equivalent of "break glass in case of emergency" for the U.S.

  • The current hope is to use contact tracing to encourage enough voluntary testing and isolation to tamp down the spread.
  • A more restrictive system would use it to mandate quarantines for those who test positive. We aren't doing this yet.

Contact isolation is even more restrictive, and it worked to great effect during the first wave in places like Hong Kong and South Korea, Lyman Stone writes for WashPost.

  • "Anytime someone tests positive — regardless of symptoms — their close contacts are identified. The person with the positive test result and all of those contacts are then required to move temporarily into a government-run, hygienic, isolated environment — probably in a hotel or similar setting — until they can be ruled out as infectious," he notes.
  • "[T]he tracing program would extend to their close contacts, and so on."

Between the lines: The U.S. has made great strides on testing since mid-March, even though we're still not testing enough.

  • The U.S. has the capacity to house and feed people ordered into quarantine, but hotel rooms for voluntary isolation in New York City went mostly unused.

The bottom line: If wave two is bad, the public should understand the range of options being tried globally.

Go deeper: Why contact tracing may fall apart

Bonus: 40 years ago today
Photo: Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

Mount Saint Helens erupted on May 18, 1980, with a huge column of ash that rose 60,000 feet. The mountain lost 1,312 feet from its summit during the eruption.

  • There will be no public observances at the volcano today, AP reports, because of the coronavirus.
  • “Please stay tuned for next year because I think we’re going to take all of this energy and passion and turn it into something productive for the 41st anniversary," said Washington State Parks interpretive specialist Alysa Adams.
2. Catch up quick
  1. Public health: Moderna's coronavirus vaccine shows initial immune response.
  2. Business: Uber to cut 3,000 more jobs and close dozens of offices — Fed chairman Jerome Powell says "there's no limit" to coronavirus stimulus response.
  3. Politics: McConnell taps Rubio as acting chairman of Senate Intelligence Committee.
  4. 🎧 Podcast: Misery at the mall and the future of retail.
3. 1 helpful thing
Screenshot: YouTube

Michelle and Barack Obama took turns reading "A Bear Ate Your Sandwich" today as part of the former first lady's online reading series, AP reports.

  • The former first lady first read “The Giraffe Problem,” by Jory John and Lane Smith. Then she was joined by her husband, who even barked at one point.

She has been reading midday on Mondays — viewable on the Facebook and YouTube pages of PBS Kids — for the past several weeks in support of families with small children at home during the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Books she has featured include Julia Donaldson’s "The Gruffalo” and Eric Carle’s "The Hungry Caterpillar.”