Mar 12, 2020

Axios PM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Good afternoon: Today's PM — edited by Justin Green — is 449 words, a 2-minute read.

Situational awareness: Stocks plunged more than 9% today, with the S&P 500 26% below its February all-time high. Go deeper.

  • Breaking: March Madness has been canceled, the NCAA announced today.
  • Why it matters: March Madness is a cultural phenomenon and one of the biggest sporting events in America. The NCAA was initially planning to play games without fans, but faced pressure to cancel after top-ranked teams Duke and University of Kansas suspended all athletic activities.
1 big thing: America closes up shop

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The days of ignoring the coronavirus are over.

The big picture: State and local governments — combined with big cultural institutions and corporations — are rapidly making social distancing a reality felt by all Americans.

  • Sports leagues are going dark: The NBA, NHL, MLB, MLS and some NCAA teams are suspending or delaying their seasons.
  • Cultural events are being canceled or postponed: Broadway in NYC is the latest to shut down, and the St. Patrick's Day parades won't march in 2020.
  • Schools are shutting down or going virtual: The list of universities that aren't shutting down is becoming shorter than the ones going online.
  • States like Washington and New York are going on war footings vs. the virus, with emergency declarations and grim warnings.
  • Even the U.S. Capitol is closing its doors to visitors until April 1.

Between the lines: President Trump's Oval Office address last night has not been well-received, with markets plummeting and widespread confusion thanks to his false claims over how a European travel ban will be implemented.

  • Epidemiologists predict numbers will still rise, and they say actions could be better put toward mitigating community spread in the U.S.
  • Joe Biden blasted the administration's "colossal" failure on coronavirus testing and called for free testing plus emergency paid sick leave.
  • Bernie Sanders warned that the "number of casualties may be even higher than what the armed forces experienced in WWII." (That sounds crazy until you recall the congressional doctor warned 70 million–150 million Americans may become infected.)

The bottom line: Things are likely to get much worse before they get better, as U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson told his public today:

  • "This is the worst public health crisis for a generation. ... Many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time."
Bonus: Pics du jour
Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Above: A worker cleans a subway station in Brooklyn.

Below: A sign showing support for residents is displayed on a lawn in New Rochelle, New York, a major outbreak site.

Photo: Seth Wenig/AP
2. Catch up quick
  1. "Let's admit it": Dr. Anthony Fauci testified to Congress today that the current system of making coronavirus testing available in the U.S. isn't "geared to what we need." Go deeper.
  2. Sunday's Democratic debate will be moved to CNN's studio in Washington, D.C., and feature no live audience due to concerns about the coronavirus. Go deeper.
  3. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's press secretary tested positive for coronavirus days after taking part in meetings with President Trump at Mar-a-Lago. Go deeper.
  4. The European Space Agency and Roscosmos are delaying their joint ExoMars mission from this year to 2022. Go deeper.
3. 1 bidet thing

Runs on toilet paper are sparking new interest in bidets, Crunchbase News reports.

  • Direct-to-consumer bidet startup Tushy claims it's tripled its sales.
  • “I think it’s definitely the toilet paper hoarding, no question,” Tushy CEO Jason Ojalvo told Crunchbase.
  • “We’re noticing a lot of articles about the toilet paper shortage and it’s not until the comments that people say ‘get a bidet’,” Ojalvo said.
Mike Allen