Oct 7, 2020

Axios Vitals

Good morning.

Join me today at 12:30pm ET for a conversation on how the pandemic has worsened social and racial inequities with Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) and Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.).

Today's word count is 955, or a 4-minute read.

1 big thing: The cost of Washington's coronavirus failures

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Trump's cavalier attitude toward the coronavirus is already making the pandemic worse in his own backyard, and the failure to reach a deal on a new round of stimulus will likely make it worse all across the country, for months.

Why it matters: Heading into the winter months without a new round of stimulus in place will leave vulnerable workers without a financial safety net if they get sick — and because of that, experts say, it will likely make the pandemic itself worse, Axios' Sam Baker writes.

  • The reasons are simple: If you can't afford to miss work, and if there's no temporary aid to make it feasible for you to miss work, then you'll keep going to work — even if you're infected. Those workers will infect others, and the virus will spread from there.

Driving the news: Trump tweeted yesterday that he has directed his administration to pause stimulus negotiations until after the election, saying House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was "not negotiating in good faith."

  • "No doubt about it, the failure to pass this will make it much harder to contain the virus in the fall, and that means we will see larger outbreaks, more people getting sick," Ashish Jha, the dean of the Brown University school of public health, told Axios last month.

Washington's failure to put together a new stimulus package will disproportionately hurt the low-wage, front-line workers, most of them Black or Hispanic, who have borne the brunt of this entire pandemic.

  • On a smaller scale, those workers are already suffering for another of political Washington's mistakes: the growing outbreak emanating from the White House.
  • D.C. had done a relatively good job keeping new cases under control, but now they're at their highest level in months, threatening the city's plans to reopen schools.
2. Americans pay much more for insulin
Data: RAND; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

The U.S.pays several times more for insulin than any other developed country, according to a new RAND report.

  • Note: The chart above is comparing the U.S. to the other most expensive countries. The average OECD price, excluding the U.S., was about 11 times less than what the U.S. paid in 2018.

Why it matters: Insulin is an old drug and has been a poster child for excessive drug pricing for years, and yet nothing has been done that would significantly bring down its price.

Between the lines: This analysis focuses on list prices, not net prices after rebates. But the authors note that U.S. prices would still have been around four times higher than those in other countries even when accounting for rebates.

3. Door shuts for a vaccine before the election

The Food and Drug Administration released new guidance yesterday that effectively ensures there won't be a coronavirus vaccine authorized before Nov. 3.

Context: The New York Times reported earlier this week that the White House had blocked this guidance, and that a primary sticking point was the requirement to follow trial participants for a median of two months after they receive the final dose of a vaccine.

Yes, and: Moncef Slaoui, co-chair of Operation Warp Speed, said the government has urged drug manufacturers not to apply for emergency authorization until they have a significant number of vaccines available to distribute, STAT reports.

  • Put together, this means that the first authorization could be pushed to sometime in mid- or late-November.
  • Slaoui said that the authorization of a vaccine that no one could get would be "a major disappointment" for Americans.

Why it matters: The authorization of a vaccine after the election is much less likely to be met with skepticism about politicalization, which would be a very good thing in light of how many Americans are hesitant about coronavirus vaccines.

4. Trust in science rose during the pandemic

Skepticism toward science fell globally during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new survey data commissioned by 3M.

The big picture: Science is having a moment, as researchers race to create COVID-19 vaccines and treatments and people seek information about how to curb transmission of the virus, Axios' Alison Snyder reports.

Key takeaway: After three years of trending upward, skepticism toward science fell globally from 35% of people agreeing with the statement "I am skeptical of science" in a pre-pandemic survey to 28% in a survey taken in July and August of 2020.

What they found:

  • Trust in science and scientists also rose during the pandemic. That's in line with a recent Pew Research Center survey that found majorities of people around the world had at least some trust in scientists, though there are significant differences between those who lean politically left versus right in places like the U.S. and Canada.
  • Health care (both treatments for COVID-19 and for cancer and chronic illness), STEM and social justice equity, and addressing climate change were the highest priority issues for science to solve among the people surveyed.

Yes, but: 32% of people surveyed said if science didn't exist, their everyday life wouldn't be that different, a disconnect seen in earlier surveys.

5. Catch up quick

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Joe Biden said Tuesday when asked about facing President Trump in the second presidential debate on Oct. 15, "I think if he still has COVID, we shouldn't have a debate."

President Trump was not experiencing coronavirus symptoms Tuesday and is doing "extremely well," according to a memo released by White House physician Sean Conley.

White House senior adviser Stephen Miller has tested positive for the coronavirus, he confirmed in a statement on Tuesday.

Surgeon General Jerome Adams received a citation for violating coronavirus policies while in Hawaii, where he was helping the state respond to its outbreak. Honolulu police have issued tens of thousands of coronavirus citations in recent weeks, notes Civil Beat.

Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other senior military leaders have entered quarantine after Adm. Charles Ray, vice commandant of the Coast Guard, tested positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal report.

Washington, D.C. reported 105 new coronavirus cases on Monday, the highest number of new infections since June.

Facebook on Tuesday removed a post from President Trump in which he falsely claimed that COVID-19 is less deadly "in most populations" than the flu. Twitter labeled the tweet for violating its rules about "spreading misleading and potentially harmful information," but left it up because it may be "in the public's interest."