May 22, 2020

Axios Vitals

Good morning.

Today's word count is 1,238, or a 5-minute read.

1 big thing: The coronavirus invades Trump country
Map courtesy of the Brookings Institute. Note: High-risk counties are counties with at least 100 cases per 100,000 residents, as of May 17.

Republicans are still less worried about the coronavirus than Democrats or independents, even as it spreads out from primarily urban areas into suburban and rural Republican-leaning areas.

Why it matters: The virus doesn't care about politics or geography. High-risk behavior in places where the virus is spreading is the recipe for an outbreak.

The big picture: For the last four weeks, counties newly designated as having a high prevalence of coronavirus cases — meaning at least 100 cases per 100,000 people — were more likely to have voted for President Trump than Hillary Clinton in 2016, according to a recent analysis by the Brookings Institution.

  • The most recently identified counties tend to be in the South and the Midwest.
  • Between March 29 and May 17, the portion of Americans living in high-prevalence counties rose from 8% to 79%.

What they're saying: "This suggests that rhetoric from some of the president's supporters against maintaining public health measures may become more muted, as the nation continues to grapple with the many unknowns about COVID-19's continued spread," writes William Frey, the author of the analysis.

Yes, but: That's not happening.

  • Republicans are more willing than Democrats or independents to partake in activities that involve interacting with other people, per new polling by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
  • Two-thirds of Republicans said either that the pandemic isn't a major problem or that the "worst is behind us." On the other hand, 70% of Democrats and half of independents said that the "the worst is yet to come."
Data: KFF; Chart: Axios Visuals

The bottom line: How people feel about the coronavirus will undoubtedly affect the kinds of risks they are willing to take, which will in turn impact the extent of future outbreaks.

2. A snapshot of coronavirus victims

The novel coronavirus has killed almost 100,000 people in the U.S. and well over 300,000 worldwide. And though it's easy to become fixated on the statistics, the people who have died were mothers, fathers, siblings and friends, Axios' Bob Herman writes.

The big picture: Many of those who have died from the virus had committed themselves to the health and well-being of others, in ways big and small — from high-level researchers to emergency room doctors to family caregivers.

What follows is a small snapshot of some of those lives.

  • Li Wenliang, 33: An ophthalmologist in China who was among the first to warn about the outbreak and later died from the disease.
  • Lorna Breen, 49: An ER doctor at a Manhattan hospital who treated COVID-19 patients and later died by suicide. Her father told the New York Times: "She tried to do her job, and it killed her."
  • Kious Kelly, 48: The New York City nurse's death in March highlighted the shortage of protective equipment for medical workers.
  • James Mahoney, 62: A longtime critical care physician, known as "our Jay-Z" to black medical residents. He worked at a hospital in Brooklyn that predominantly treats the poor.
  • Angeline Bernadel, 52: A nursing home employee in Connecticut who was "panicked" by the virus, and represents the particularly high risks to people working in senior care facilities.
  • John Murray, 92: A pioneering pulmonologist who died from acute respiratory distress syndrome — "a condition he helped define" — that was caused by COVID-19. 
3. The latest in the U.S.
Expand chart
Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

President Trump told reporters on Thursday that while a second wave of the novel coronavirus is "a very distinct possibility," the U.S. should not issue widespread lockdowns or stay-at-home orders to fight the next outbreak.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday confirmed that it has been combining the results of diagnostic coronavirus tests and coronavirus antibody tests, The Atlantic reports.

Another 2.43 million workers filed for unemployment benefits last week, the Department of Labor said on Thursday.

NIAID Director Anthony Fauci said he's "cautiously optimistic" about a Moderna coronavirus vaccine that appeared to generate antibody responses to the virus in a small number of patients, at a CNN town hall on Thursday.

The coronavirus does not spread easily from touching surfaces or objects, the CDC emphasizes in recently updated guidance.

The coronavirus pandemic could reduce incoming student enrollment by up to 20%, Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education, said at a virtual Axios event on Thursday.

Amazon has announced a partnership with Mary's Place to create a permanent family shelter in Seattle that would house up to 200 family members, including those who may be experiencing economic hardship fueled by the pandemic.

Overall trust in scientists has grown in the U.S. over the past year, but that is driven by a partisan gap, according to a Pew Research Center survey released today.

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

The rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics would have to be canceled entirely if the coronavirus pandemic means they cannot be held in 2021, International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach told the BBC on Wednesday.

50 ventilators manufactured in the U.S. arrived in Russia on Thursday as part of a $5.6 million relief package to fight the coronavirus, the U.S. embassy in Moscow announced.

Americans tend to think South Korea and Germany responded effectively to the COVID-19 pandemic, while China and Italy failed to do so, according to new polling from Pew Research.

5. A shift in coronavirus searches
Reproduced Schema analysis of Google Trends; Chart: Axios Visuals

Questions about the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic are beginning to overtake questions about the virus itself, according to a new analysis of Google search data from around the world, Axios' Stef Kight reports.

Why it matters: Even with the global death toll rising, search data indicate that the coronavirus has become a fact of life for much of the world. Now, people have more questions about jobs, unemployment, furloughs and government aid.

How it works: Axios, Google Trends and research firm Schema analyzed more than 8,000 search terms in six countries — the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, Australia, India and Singapore.

What we found: General knowledge searches, such as "what is the coronavirus." surged in each country in January and February as the virus began to spread.

  • But over the past several weeks, those queries have slowed.
  • In the U.S., Canada, Australia and Singapore, searches about topics like furloughs and unemployment — repercussions of necessary coronavirus shutdowns — are more likely to be top searches than questions about the virus or its spread.
  • More people in the U.S. are now searching "Facebook" than "coronavirus."

Great Britain's Google trends largely mirror trends in the U.S., except that searches about jobs and the economy have not yet surpassed the number of top searches for general knowledge about the virus.

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6. Kids are seeking mental health help more often

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Emergency departments aren't prepared for the huge increase in children seeking mental health care, according to a recent study.

The big picture: Even before the coronavirus pandemic — which is expected to exacerbate the problem — there was exponential growth from 2007 to 2016 in visits by children to hospitals for mental health emergencies, especially for those who deliberately self-harm or have a substance use disorder, Axios' Eileen Drage O'Reilly reports.

Behind the scenes: Charmaine Lo, co-author of the study in the journal Pediatrics and senior research scientist at Nationwide Children's Hospital, says the head of emergency medicine at the hospital noticed "there seemed to be a larger number of kids coming in for a mental or behavioral health disorder, and [some] providers weren't the most comfortable treating these cases."

  • Nationwide Children's has a lot of resources and is very familiar with young patients, whereas other hospitals may have less familiarity and fewer resources, Lo tells Axios. That raised concern among the researchers.
  • The National Pediatric Readiness Project reports less than half of EDs are prepared to treat children, Lo adds.

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to make the situation worse for many, including children, as it has generated multiple additional stressors.

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