Apr 8, 2020

Axios Vitals

Good morning.

Today's word count is a brief 945 words, or a 4-minute read.

1 big thing: NYC's coronavirus curve may be close to flattening

A coronavirus patient in Queens, N.Y. Photo: Kena Betancur/Getty Images

There's some hope the wave of coronavirus cases in New York City, the hardest-hit area of the country, is starting to plateau, Axios' Bob Herman reports.

The big picture: Deaths keep rising, but hospitalizations, intensive care unit admissions and intubations have mostly been stagnant or declining in recent days.

What they're saying: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday that social distancing measures appear to be helping drive down the number of coronavirus patients who need serious hospital care, but that trend "still depends on what we do, and what we do will affect those numbers."

  • However, new data released Tuesday night by city officials throws a wrench in some of the optimism. Hospitalizations appear to have risen, although it's unclear whether that includes delayed reporting.

Many New York City hospitals are still struggling to care for the influx of patients, but hope this week will be the turning point.

  • "It looks like it's flattening," Steven Corwin, CEO of NewYork-Presbyterian, told Axios. His hospital system was treating 2,300 COVID-19 patients as of Tuesday, 630 of whom were on a ventilator in an ICU. "We'll really know in another three or four days whether that trend continues."

Yes, but: Health care workers are continuing to work with limited protective gear, and the extraordinary caseload has stretched doctors, critical care nurses, respiratory therapists and other essential hospital staff.

  • Corwin said he is less concerned now about the supply of N95 masks and surgical masks and more concerned about protective gowns, which are in short supply due to a gown recall from Cardinal Health earlier this year and slow production from China.

The bottom line: Even if coronavirus cases are close to peaking in New York, this is far from over; a lot of hardship and death is still to come.

2. Black people appear hardest hit by coronavirus

New data across the U.S. is increasingly confirming that black Americans are disproportionately being infected and killed by the coronavirus, exacerbating existing health inequalities.

Yes, but: Most cities and states aren't reporting the race of confirmed cases and fatalities, meaning we still don't know the real extent of the disparity, the New York Times reports.

Details: In Chicago, black Americans account for more than half of confirmed cases, 72% of virus-related fatalities, and slightly less than a third of the population, per NYT.

  • And in Louisiana, black people make up a third of the population, but about 70% of people who have died of the coronavirus are black.

Between the lines: Black Americans disproportionately work in sectors that can't work from home, putting them at higher risk of contracting the coronavirus.

  • They're also less likely to be insured, more likely to have pre-existing medical conditions and more likely to experience racial bias when seeking care.

The bottom line: The coronavirus has placed a tragic emphasis on racial inequalities that have plagued the country for a long time, not created new ones.

Go deeper: Coronavirus hits poor, minority communities harder

3. The latest in the U.S.
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Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

New York's death toll from the novel coronavirus surged to its highest one-day total on Tuesday, as the U.S. saw its largest 24-hour spike in fatalities, per Johns Hopkins data. Recorded deaths across the U.S. surpassed 12,700 on Tuesday evening.

As of the end of March, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had identified 600 undocumented immigrants in its custody who are vulnerable to the coronavirus and released more than 160 of them, the agency confirmed to Axios.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted Tuesday that he is reallocating $1 billion of his equity from Square, a payment processor for smaller merchants, to fund relief for the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S. food system depends on up to 2.7 million farmworkers, most of whom are undocumented, to pick fresh fruits and vegetables, Michael Haedicke, an agricultural sociologist at Drake University, writes.

YouTube's product chief tells Axios that the Google-owned video site has removed thousands of COVID-19 videos — including some from the Brazilian president's channel — for violating policies related to the spread of medical misinformation.

President Trump on Monday replaced the Pentagon's acting inspector general Glenn Fine, who had been selected to chair the panel overseeing the rollout of the $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill passed last month, Politico first reported.

4. The latest worldwide
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Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC.

China has lifted its lockdown of Wuhan, the city in Hubei province where the coronavirus outbreak was first reported in December, according to the New York Times.

New Zealand appears to have successfully controlled its coronavirus outbreak before it ever got bad, per the Washington Post.

France has become the fourth country to register more than 10,o00 coronavirus deaths, joining Italy, Spain and the U.S., CNBC reports.

5. Public transit's death spiral

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Public transit systems across the country are experiencing a painful trifecta: Ridership has collapsed, funding streams are squeezed, and mass transit won't bounce back from the pandemic nearly as fast as other modes of transportation, Axios' Kim Hart reports.

Why it matters: Transit agencies could see an annual shortfall of as much as $38 billion due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to TransitCenter. At the same time, they're more important than ever, with more than 36% of essential workers relying on public transportation to get to work.

  • "There's never been a time in which transit in one fell swoop has taken such a hit," said Sam Schwartz, CEO of Sam Schwartz Engineering and former New York City traffic commissioner.

Between the lines: Most public transit systems are operating at only 10% capacity — with skeletal schedules with minimal crews — to transport essential workers to their jobs at hospitals, medical centers, pharmacies and grocery stores, per Paul Skoutelas, CEO of the American Public Transportation Association.

  • But even with drastic drops in ridership, busier systems are still struggling with sporadic crowding and workers have fallen ill increasing the risk that the transit systems themselves could contribute to the spread of the virus.

The catch: Skoutelas noted that virtually all systems still have an obligation to provide door-to-door transportation to elderly and disabled passengers who still have urgent health care needs.

Go deeper.