Jul 22, 2020

Axios Vitals

By Caitlin Owens
Caitlin Owens

Good morning.

Join Axios co-founder Mike Allen and me today at 12:30pm ET with Rep. Ann Kuster (D-N.H.), Boston University School of Medicine chief of rheumatology and professor of medicine Tuhina Neogi, and American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association CEO and president Randall Rutta for a conversation on how the pandemic is changing health care access for those dealing with chronic pain.

Today's word count is 1,135, or a 4-minute read.

1 big thing: Parents turn to "pods" as schooling solution

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Neighbors are banding together to hire private instructors as a way to secure child care and make up for some of the gaps online-only classes will leave in their kids' educations, Axios' Sara Kehaulani Goo and I report.

Why it matters: Parents just want to be sure their children don't fall too far behind, but this trend could deepen the educational divide along racial and class lines.

Driving the news: Pandemic "pods" — a group of families agreeing to limit their interactions outside that circle — have thrived as a safe way to help kids interact with their friends and give parents some time to work.

  • Now, enterprising parents are offering teachers who don't want to return to the classroom a competitive salary to instead teach a handful of students in a home environment.

How it works: The idea is homegrown, meaning that pods can really look however their creators want them to.

  • One way it works is that several families with kids in the same grade agree to form a "pod" and hire a tutor or teacher at home during the workweek. Costs vary, but can top $1,000 per month, according to the Washington Post.

Yes, but: This is primarily an option for wealthier, mostly white families, and some school districts already saw many Black children struggle to show up to online learning during the spring.

  • "This is not an option open to everybody. Home environments are less equal than school environments. If what this does is let school districts off the hook either from reopening or doing a good job with distance learning, then that's going to lead to more inequality," said Steve Barnett, senior co-director of the National Institute for Early Education Research.

Go deeper.

2. The second wave of essential workers

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The pool of American workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic is getting a lot bigger, Axios' Erica Pandey reports.

The big picture: Just as grocery and delivery workers found themselves fighting a crisis they didn't sign up for back in March, teachers, hairstylists and temperature checkers are part of a new wave of workers who are now in harm's way as the pandemic rages on.

  • "This is a new group of essential workers," says John Logan, a U.S. labor historian at San Francisco State University. "They're people who never thought they'd be putting their life on the line by going to work."

By the numbers: There are already around 55 million Americans working front-line jobs defined as jobs that require exposure to a large number of people who could potentially carry the virus.

  • Now add to that millions of teachers, retail sales reps, nail techs and other professionals who have returned or will return to work in the coming weeks as their workplaces reopen.

"With most of the country reopening — whether it's safe or not — workers in so many occupations are put in the untenable position of having to choose between being able to sustain their families or putting their health at risk," says Sharon Block, executive director of the labor and work-life program at Harvard Law School.

Go deeper.

3. The latest in the U.S.
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Data: The COVID Tracking Project; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The U.S. reported more than 1,000 coronavirus-related deaths on Tuesday for the first time since May 29, according to the COVID-19 Tracking Project.

President Trump admitted at his first coronavirus press briefing since April that the outbreak in the U.S. will "probably, unfortunately get worse before it gets better," adding, "Something I don't like saying about things, but that's the way it is."

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin were deployed to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to brief the Senate Republican conference, alongside Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, on the details of the GOP coronavirus stimulus bill, Axios' Alayna Treene reports.

  • The Senate Republican lunch descended into chaos, several GOP lawmakers said, revealing that the White House and Republican senators remain far apart on key priorities in the next economic package.

Four U.S. and European airlines are asking government leaders to begin a joint coronavirus testing program so that transatlantic travel can resume, Axios' Joann Muller writes.

Travelers from 31 states are now required to quarantine for 14 days when traveling to New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, per Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office.

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

Two Chinese hackers were indicted by the U.S. on Tuesday for a "sweeping global computer intrusion campaign" that began over 10 years ago and recently targeted companies developing coronavirus vaccines and treatments, the Justice Department announced.

Italy's health minister said on Tuesday that he believes the country is "out of the storm" of the coronavirus pandemic, although Italy is "not yet in a safe haven," CNN reports.

Austrians must wear face coverings in supermarkets, post offices and banks, due to a spike in coronavirus cases in recent weeks, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said Tuesday, per Reuters.

EU leaders agreed to a €750 billion ($857 billion) post-pandemic economic recovery package, summit chair Charles Michel confirmed in a tweet early Tuesday, stating: "Deal!"

5. Cases could be 6–24x higher than reported

The number of people infected with COVID-19 in 10 regions analyzed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could be six to 24 times higher than the reported rates, according to data released by the agency Tuesday.

The big picture: The analysis, based on antibody tests, shows that many people who did not exhibit symptoms may have been unknowingly spreading the virus within their communities, Axios' Marisa Fernandez writes.

Why it matters: The U.S. has been testing about 700,000 people a day. But the agency's new report shows the testing load is still far from enough, given the country's enormous caseload.

Details: The report is the largest of its kind to date, analyzing blood tests between March 23 and May 12 from commercial labs in Connecticut, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, South Florida, Utah and western Washington state.

  • In June, the CDC's smaller collection of blood tests from cities and states was one of the agency's first indicators that there were tens of millions more cases than what the country was finding.

Worth noting: Some of the data is old, with the most recent tests conducted in May. A lot can change over the course of two months, as STAT points out.

6. Quest warns about flu season and testing

Coronavirus testing capacity could crumble under the combined demand of the pandemic and the fall flu season, Quest's executive vice president James Davis told the Financial Times.

Why it matters: Turnaround times for coronavirus tests are already at roughly a week, Marisa writes.

  • Labs only have the capacity to focus on people who are symptomatic, and that will get worse with the cold and the flu, Davis said.

What they're saying:

  • "We would double our capacity tomorrow ... but it's not the labs that are the bottleneck. [It] is our ability to get physical machines and, more importantly, our ability to feed those machines with chemical reagents," Davis said, adding "other solutions need to be found" in addition to nasal swab testing.
  • Quest rival LabCorp also warned Tuesday virus is spreading faster than the company can handle: "We need all states to ensure we're doing everything we can to better control the virus. If we can do that, then we'll be able to have the tests that we need," LabCorp CEO Adam Schechter told CNBC.

What to watch: The Food and Drug Administration last week granted Quest the first emergency use authorization to conduct pooled coronavirus testing in hopes to speed up the process.

Caitlin Owens