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Good morning.

Situational awareness: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services last night issued new guidance that expands the kinds of masks health care workers can use to treat coronavirus patients, which will help alleviate supply issues.

Today's word count is 987, or a 4-minute read.

1 big thing: Trying to stretch out the outbreak
Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

It may be counterintuitive, but it's actually better if the novel coronavirus outbreak lasts awhile in the U.S., public health experts say.

Between the lines: If everyone who is going to get sick does so at once, it would overwhelm the health care system, putting all of us — not just those with the coronavirus — at risk.

  • "Time is our friend. The longer we can spread things out, the better it is," said Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute.

Details: There are only so many hospital beds in the U.S., and around 70–75% of them are occupied at any given time, Jha said.

  • If around 30–40% of Americans end up infected with the coronavirus over only a few months, the hospital-bed math just doesn't work.
  • On the other hand, if we can contain the virus's spread so that it takes 12–18 months to work its way through the population, "then we have a shot at not completely overwhelming the health care system," Jha said.

The good news: That's why public health officials keep talking about social distancing — it can prevent this bottleneck effect.

  • "If we don't do it, you'll have tens of thousands of people dying because they cannot get hospital care. To me, it's not a close call which is worse," Jha said.

The bottom line: The coronavirus may affect our daily lives for a long time — and that may be a good thing.

Go deeper: How to beat back the coronavirus

2. Catch up on the coronavirus

Speaking of social distancing — we're already doing a lot of it.

Driving the news: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced yesterday the creation of a "containment zone" around a synagogue in a New York City suburb. Schools and large gathering facilities will be closed for two weeks, Axios' Marisa Fernandez reports.

Several universities have canceled in-person classes, and some have told students to leave campus altogether.

Google recommended Tuesday that all its employees in North America work from home until at least April, Axios' Ina Fried writes.

And on the 2020 campaign trail, former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders both canceled campaign rallies in Cleveland last night.

  • The Democratic National Committee also announced that there won't be a live audience at the next debate.

A U.K. health minister has coronavirus, the BBC reports.

3. The latest diagnostic testing fiasco

Diagnostic testing for the coronavirus is threatened yet again, this time by a shortage of critical lab materials, Politico reports.

Why it matters: The testing capabilities in the U.S. are still grossly behind those of other countries. This latest problem could set us even further back, allowing the coronavirus to continue to spread undetected through communities.

Details: U.S. labs may not have enough of the supplies used to extract generic material from any virus in a patient's sample, which is a key part of the test.

  • Qiagen, a supplier of these "RNA extraction" kits, confirmed to Politico that the product is backordered.

What's next: CDC director Robert Redfield told Politico that he didn't know how the agency would deal with a shortage of the kits.

  • He added that he is hopeful "there will be mechanisms between multiple manufacturers to correct" it.

Go deeper: Lab for coronavirus test kits may have been contaminated

4. Grappling with the economic fallout

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

President Trump and his advisers left a meeting with Senate Republicans yesterday without appearing to make much progress on a plan to help cushion coronavirus' economic fallout.

  • At least some Republicans seemed cool to a payroll tax holiday, Axios' Alayna Treene reports — one of the only specific ideas Trump mentioned the night before, when he said a stimulus plan was forthcoming.

A handful of companies, including Darden Restaurants, Uber, Lyft and Instacart, have responded to one of the most serious economic threats, and begun offering some paid sick leave to their workers.

  • But in the absence of any real safety net — even a temporary one — or a dramatically bigger corporate reversal, service and gig workers will still be at particularly high risk with particularly little flexibility if they do get sick.
  • As Axios' Kim Hart reports this morning, only about half of the biggest U.S. cities require employers to offer paid sick leave, and several states have actually preempted cities from passing such requirements.
  • Go deeper.
5. Who's most at risk from coronavirus

A federal recommendation to restrict nursing home visitors is a reminder that some groups of people are more susceptible to catch the new coronavirus, Axios' Bob Herman writes.

The bottom line: Adults aged 60 and older, people who have underlying health problems, people who have compromised immune systems and health care workers have higher chances of getting sick and dying, and should take extra precautions.

State of play: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization have said older adults and people who have chronic conditions like heart and lung disease face higher risks of getting seriously ill from COVID-19.

  • People with weak or compromised immune systems also face heightened risks.
  • This includes those who recently had organ or bone marrow transplants, who are undergoing chemotherapy, who have HIV and who have rarer immune system deficiencies.

The intrigue: People who have immune system conditions don't always register fevers, one of the main symptoms of the coronavirus, and that's raising concerns that some are not getting the necessary testing.

  • John Boyle, the head of the Immune Deficiency Foundation, wrote this week that some "members of our community who, even though their doctors wanted it, have been denied testing because they did not have a fever that met the testing standard."

Go deeper: Paul Farmer says coronavirus is another caregivers' disease

6. 1 bold choice: The people who are still cruising

The Grand Princess docked in San Francisco. Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

If you are like me and have been wondering who in the world is still buying and boarding cruises, then I have good news — the Daily Beast has interviewed some of them, and almost every line is worthy of your time (if you love gallows humor).

Between the lines: Cruise ships may be a perceived by most of America as coronavirus playgrounds, but their low price tags are proving too hard to resist for some.

  • And it's not that these people aren't aware of the risks. One future cruiser bought a respirator face mask and card games to play in case he's quarantined.

The bottom line: "It's a touch of youthful hubris with a dash of a gambler's high, all dropped into the milieu of a global medical crisis," the Daily Beast's Sam Stein writes.