Apr 2, 2020

Axios Vitals

Good morning.

Don't forget: Axios will be hosting a live virtual event on how the private sector can contribute to social good in the midst of a global pandemic. Join us Friday, April 3, at 12:30pm ET live for this in-depth discussion featuring Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, and Edelman U.S. CEO Richard Edelman.

Today's word count is 1,136, or a 4-minute read.

1 big thing: Florida's slow response may have made its outbreak worse
Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, Florida Department of Health; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Florida's slow response to the coronavirus may have set the stage for a disastrous outcome in one of the country's most vulnerable states, my colleague Alayna Treene and I report.

Driving the news: Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a statewide stay-at-home order yesterday, but there's bipartisan concern that he held off too long, letting the virus spread too far, before finally taking steps that many other governors embraced weeks ago.

Why it matters: Florida is the third most populous state in the U.S. and one of the highest-risk for coronavirus. Yet DeSantis' response has lagged well behind other heavily populated states.

  • He let state beaches stay open during spring break, publicly downplayed the risk, and resisted a statewide lockdown until yesterday — and those delays may have made things worse.

By the numbers: Florida is the third-largest state in the country, with several large cities. And its population is among the most at-risk in the nation, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

  • One in five residents is 65 or older. Between age and pre-existing health conditions, nearly half the state's population is at heightened risk of contracting the coronavirus.
  • The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Florida is increasing rapidly every day, with more than 900 new cases confirmed on Tuesday alone.

By the time the number of confirmed cases starts getting alarming, a crucial window already has passed. The coronavirus is highly contagious, and newly-infected people can be contagious before they ever start to feel sick.

  • That's why social distancing — of the kind Florida had not mandated until yesterday — is so important.

"I think there is a lot of risk that the state was heavily seeded and could see significant growth in new cases," former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb told Axios.

DeSantis' office did not respond to requests for comment.

Go deeper.

2. Massive pressure on medical supply chains

Although the federal government is trying desperately to ramp up production and import hospital supplies from abroad, hospitals in areas that haven't yet experienced a drastic number of coronavirus cases should do everything they can to stock up on supplies now.

By the numbers: According to a survey released yesterday by Premier, a health care purchasing organization, demand in areas dealing with active coronavirus cases is...

  • 17x higher for N95 masks
  • 8.6x higher for face shields
  • 6x for swabs
  • 5x times for isolation gowns
  • 3.3x for surgical masks
"Many providers believed they were well equipped, only to see their stocks depleted in a matter of days as they started requiring increased use of PPE across a broader population of healthcare workers."
— Premier president Michael Alkire said in a statement

Meanwhile: The Strategic National Stockpile, the federal government's emergency supplies, is almost out of personal protective equipment, the Washington Post reported yesterday.

  • And 2,000 of the 10,000 ventilators that President Trump has said the federal government is holding in reserve are unavailable, and some states have reported receiving nonoperational machines, the New York Times reports.
3. The latest in the U.S.
Expand chart
Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

A 6-week-old infant who died in Hartford County, Connecticut, last week received positive test results for the novel coronavirus on Tuesday night, Gov. Ned Lamont said on Wednesday.

The FBI processed a record 3.7 million gun background checks in March — more than any month previously reported, according to the agency's latest data.

Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said at a Pentagon news conference Wednesday that the nuclear aircraft carrier docked in Guam will move 2,700 members offshore, as more crew members test positive for the coronavirus.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice rescheduled the state's May 12 primary election to June 9 on Wednesday, citing fears surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, AP reports.

Vice President Mike Pence told CNN Wednesday that White House modeling suggests "Italy may be the most comparable area to the United States" in terms of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Stocks closed more than 4% lower on Wednesday, continuing a volatile stretch for the stock market amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Small businesses were responsible for the entirety of the 27,000 net jobs that the private sector shed in March, according to a closely watched employment report by payroll provider ADP.

4. The latest worldwide
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.

Social distancing measures around the world are so great they have actually caused the Earth to shake less.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shared with his Cabinet a video he claimed was evidence of Iran concealing coronavirus deaths by dropping bodies in garbage dumps, two Cabinet ministers told Barak Ravid of Israel's Channel 13 news.

For more than two years, Republicans and Democrats have more or less agreed the U.S. needs a China policy that acknowledges Beijing's hard authoritarian turn and the serious challenge China's growing power presents to U.S. interests.

  • The coronavirus crisis is threatening that consensus. The wedge driving Democrats and Republicans apart is concern about racism, Axios' Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian reports.

The Chinese government has embarked on a highly publicized campaign to provide vital medical supplies to European countries as they fight coronavirus outbreaks within their borders.

Spain's confirmed cases surpassed 100,000, and the nation saw its biggest daily death toll so far.

More than 500 people were reported dead within the last 24 hours in the U.K., per Johns Hopkins.

5. Health care workers fear coronavirus surge

The supply chain problems above aren't an abstract issue: Doctors, nurses and other health care workers are afraid for their health — and in some cases their lives — as the mounting coronavirus outbreak closes in on a health care system that doesn't have enough equipment and overworks its people, Axios' Bob Herman reports.

What they're saying: "It's a mess, and there's no help," Alan Roth, a doctor at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center in Queens, New York, said last week. "We have been left out to dry."

The big picture: Dwindling supplies of face masks, gowns and necessary hospital equipment continue to worry health care workers in areas where coronavirus cases have spiked.

  • Chuck Fox, a gastroenterologist in Atlanta, said on a conference call that a doctor at a nearby hospital had been using the same N95 mask for two straight weeks and was intermittently disinfecting it with Clorox wipes.
  • Hospital technicians, therapists, janitors and other service staff feel especially neglected and worry about contracting the virus, the Center for Public Integrity reports.

What to watch: Health care workers are starting to die more frequently. Whether that trend continues will depend on how well hospitals and the system at large protects them.

Go deeper: Health care workers in the calm before the storm

6. Increase in domestic violence feared

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Experts are convinced we are on the precipice of a crisis of domestic violence fueled by the anxiety, stay-at-home rules and economic uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Axios' Ina Fried reports.

The big picture: There is already early evidence of increased intensity of abuse of people in unhealthy relationships.

  • But given that many are unlikely to seek help until things are more stable — either by calling hotlines or by leaving for shelters — we likely won't know the full extent of the abuse until the virus outbreak subsides.
  • With partners and children potentially trapped at home in bad situations, experts worry both that there could be more abuse, and that the issues people face in bad relationships could get even worse.

Details: The ingredients for an increase in intimate partner violence are clear. Survivors are more isolated, their abusive partners are under more stress, and the options for escape have become more limited amid the outbreak.

Go deeper.