Axios PM

An analog clock with only two symbols instead of twelve: the symbols read 'AM' and 'PM'.

December 17, 2020

Good afternoon: Today's PM — edited by Justin Green — is 436 words, a 2-minute read.

Situational awareness: Axios bought Charlotte Agenda, a local media company in Charlotte, N.C., to help supercharge our expansion into local news.

  • Why it matters: “There is an audience — and real revenue — in cities,” Axios CEO Jim VandeHei told the N.Y. Times. “It’s a tough nut to crack, but creating a daily habit for local readers who care deeply about local issues stirs the possibility of starting to solve the local news crisis.”

1 big thing: Fatal opioid overdoses at record levels

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

An estimated 81,000 people died from drug overdoses from June 2019 to May 2020, the highest 12-month stretch in U.S. history.

  • Why it matters: “The disruption to daily life due to the COVID-19 pandemic has hit those with substance use disorder hard,” said CDC director Robert Redfield.

The big picture: The report aligns with previous data showing overdose deaths spiked during the first three months of 2020, reports Axios’ Marisa Fernandez. The agency estimates the U.S. will surpass last year's record.

Between the lines: Overdoses from synthetic opioids like fentanyl are up about 38% compared to 2018–2019 data.

  • 10 western states reported over a 98% increase in synthetic opioid-involved deaths.
  • Overdose deaths involving cocaine also increased by 26.5% nationwide.

The bottom line: The CDC's guidance for local officials and first responders on how to cope with the surge (toplines below) is worth a few minutes of your time:

  1. "Expand the provision and use of naloxone and overdose prevention education."
  2. "Expand access to and provision of treatment for substance use disorders."
  3. "Intervene early with individuals at the highest risk for overdose."
  4. "Improve detection of overdose outbreaks due to fentanyl, novel psychoactive substances (e.g., fentanyl analogs), or other drugs to facilitate an effective response."

2. Pic du jour

Photo: China Daily via Reuters

Researchers work around Chang'e-5 lunar return capsule carrying moon samples after it landed in Inner Mongolia.

3. Catch up quick

French President Emmanuel Macron virtually attends a round table for the National Humanitarian Conference in Paris. Photo: Charles Platiau/Pool via AP

  1. French President Emmanuel Macron tested positive for the coronavirus.
  2. New Biden Cabinet nominees: Michael Regan to head the EPA and Rep. Deb Haaland — who would be the first Native American woman in a Cabinet post — to run the Department of the Interior.
  3. President-elect Biden promised to impose "substantial costs" to those responsible for the suspected Russian cyberattack on multiple government agencies and U.S. companies. Go deeper.
  4. 38 states and territories sued Google, accusing the company of a multipronged effort to maintain an illegal monopoly. Go deeper.
  5. Mackenzie Scott has given away another $4.2 billion in the past four months, in the form of "immediate support to people suffering the economic effects of the crisis." Go deeper.
  6. 🎧 Axios Re:Cap digs into the reasons for Bitcoin's price surge with investor and podcast host Anthony Pompliano. Listen here.

4. 1 smile to go: Health heroes get vaccines

Photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

Health care workers celebrate after getting the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccination at the Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland, Oregon.