Sep 11, 2020

Axios Vitals

By Caitlin Owens
Caitlin Owens

Good morning.

Today's word count is 951 or a 4-minute read.

1 big thing: We're numb to the coronavirus
Data: Newswhip; Chart: Axios Visuals

We're over COVID even if it isn't over us, Axios' Neal Rothschild writes.

Why it matters: Six months into the pandemic, online engagement around coronavirus stories has dropped off markedly and continues to reach new lows even as the pandemic continues, according to data from NewsWhip provided exclusively to Axios.

By the numbers: Interactions (likes, comments, shares) on stories about the coronavirus have fallen 88% since March, 62% since July and 36% from the August average.

  • Google searches for the coronavirus have descended from a peak in mid-March and are now roughly where they were on Feb. 25 — well before the virus upended life the the U.S, — according to Google Trends data.

Between the lines: Even as the virus itself began to spread largely unchecked across almost the entire country in late June, the uptick in engagement was modest — another sign that Americans had gotten used to the virus.

The big picture: Throughout the pandemic, partisan anger — and not pertinent public health information — has fueled stories related to the virus on social media.

  • The top term associated with "coronavirus" on social media in the last 3 months is "trump," according to data from Keyhole.
  • Revelations from the new Bob Woodward book set off another round of politically oriented engagement on the virus late this week.

My thought bubble: The threat here is if this disinterest translates into riskier behaviors, especially as we head into the fall. If we don't remain vigilant about mask wearing and social distancing — as much as we're all sick of it — coronavirus cases could once again skyrocket, this time alongside flu cases.

2. Bad news for restaurant-goers

People with and without coronavirus infections have pretty similar lifestyles, with one big difference: whether they have recently ate or drank in public, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Why it matters: We all miss restaurants, bars and coffee shops. But going to these places carries extra risk, primarily because eating and drinking, by definition, cannot be done while wearing a mask.

Details: Study participants who tested positive for the coronavirus were about twice as likely as those who tested negative to have dined at restaurants in the two weeks before they got sick.

  • Restaurant dining included indoor, patio, and outdoor seating, and the question did not distinguish between indoor and outdoor options.
  • Coronavirus patients were also more likely to have visited a bar or coffee shop, but only when the analysis was limited to patients who had not had close contact with another known coronavirus patient.

The bottom line: There's still plenty of good reasons to assume that indoor dining is riskier than outdoor dining, and that dining in a crowded restaurant is worse than dining in one that is adhering to social distancing guidelines.

  • But taking off your mask around other people increases your vulnerability to the virus.

My thought bubble: I hope there's another study out there quantifying the risk of outdoor dining specifically, because I love and miss going to restaurants as much as I'm sure all of you do.

3. The latest in the U.S.
Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project; Note: Does not include probable deaths from New York City; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The Department of Labor this week issued its first coronavirus-related citation at a meat packing plant, fining Smithfield Packaged Meats nearly $13,500 for "for failing to protect employees from exposure" to the virus.

Beginning next week, the U.S. will no longer require travelers arriving from certain countries to be funneled through 15 major airports to undergo enhanced coronavirus screenings, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

President Trump tweeted on Thursday that journalist Bob Woodward withheld recordings of Trump saying his strategy was to intentionally downplay the threat of the coronavirus in February and March because "he knew they were good and proper answers."

Despite concerns over antimicrobial resistance flourishing during the pandemic as doctors use all their tools to help patients fight COVID-19, early indications are that their efforts may not be causing a large increase, Axios' Eileen Drage O'Reilly reports.

More than 150 executives at major firms based in New York City asked Mayor Bill de Blasio in a letter on Thursday to resolve "public safety" and "quality of life" issues set off by the coronavirus pandemic.

4. The latest worldwide
Expand chart
Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Thursday called on donor countries to raise $35 billion to boost coronavirus vaccine development within the next three months, before the world loses a "window of opportunity" to fight the pandemic.

France recorded a new record of nearly 10,000 coronavirus cases on Thursday, BBC reports.

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot says the company is still aiming to complete development of its vaccine with the University of Oxford by the end of this year, despite pausing phase 3 trials due to a participant falling ill, Bloomberg reports.

5. Dog of the week!
Tessa. Photo: Matt Miller

As cute as everyone's dogs (and cats) are, the dog of the week for this week was actually a little bit of a no-brainer. (Sorry, Dad, I did love the pics you submitted of our dogs. They'll eventually get their turn.)

Meet Tessa! She's also from Georgia, and was also adopted from Lost Dog & Cat Rescue — meaning that she and my dog Piper may be from the same hometown, and may have made their way up north together. Small world!

  • Per her dad, Matt: "She's four years old, loves the dog park and head massages more than anything, is also fascinated by bugs and mirrors, and has the most adorable underbite."
  • Like Piper, Tessa is a pandemic pup, and in her former life was abandoned and then a stray.

What's next: Keep sending me your dogs (or cats)! A rule I just made up on the fly — you can definitely resubmit, but the photos have to be new. I am more than happy to keep seeing the same cute dogs over and over again.

Bonus: Piper got spayed this week and is currently wearing the cone of shame. She keeps running into everything. Poor Piper.

Piper with her cone on the day after surgery. Photo: Caitlin Owens/Axios
Caitlin Owens

Have a great weekend!