Aug 14, 2020

Axios Vitals

By Caitlin Owens
Caitlin Owens

Good morning.

For the next two weeks, Axios is your floor pass to the conventions! Check out Axios 2020 Conventions coverage on the app (Apple | Android) or online for can't-miss coverage and daily virtual events with the biggest newsmakers.

📺 Sneak preview: Find out why Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf "would be concerned" about Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in office (clip), then tune in for the full interview on Monday at 11pm ET/PT on all HBO platforms. 

Today's word count is 1,312, or a 5-minute read.

1 big thing: The kids who are most at risk from the coronavirus

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The coronavirus isn't as deadly for children as it is for adults, but kids still get it and can still get seriously sick from it. The risk is higher for Black and Hispanic children.

Why it matters: In communities with high caseloads, cases among children could explode as schools reopen. And kids in the communities already hit hardest by the pandemic are the most at risk.

The big picture: We don't know much about children and the coronavirus, mainly because the closure of schools and day cares has limited kids' contact with other people.

  • Schools may soon provide much more information.

By the numbers: In the 20 states that report the age distribution of hospitalizations, plus New York City, between 0.6% and 8.9% of child cases ended up hospitalized, according to a recent report by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association.

  • The AAP report also found a 40% increase in child cases during the second half of July, yet another indication that the virus can spread easily among children when given the opportunity.
  • A separate CDC report released last week found that, although children's hospitalization rate is low, children who are hospitalized are admitted to the ICU at almost the same rate as adults.

Context: Those numbers indicate that the coronavirus is more dangerous to kids than the flu.

  • 0.7% of children between 0 and 4 who got the flu during the 2018-2019 season were hospitalized, and only 0.27% of children 5–17 were hospitalized, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • More hospitalized kids also end up in the ICU from coronavirus than from the flu.

Yes, but: Thankfully, very few children have died from their infections.

Between the lines: Mirroring almost every other pandemic trend, Black and Latino children have had it worse than white children.

  • Hispanic children have been hospitalized eight times more than white children, per the CDC. Black children have been hospitalized five times more.
2. The pandemic's toll on mental health

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

One in four Americans between 18 and 24 years old say they've considered suicide in the past month because of the pandemic, according to a survey from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

Why it matters: The findings confirm warnings from public health experts about the long-term mental health impacts from the pandemic, Axios' Marisa Fernandez reports.

  • Young adults are one of several groups — including Black and Hispanic people, essential workers and adult caregivers — that reported worse mental health outcomes, increased substance abuse or suicidal thoughts.

By the numbers: The study analyzed 5,412 responses between June 24 and 30 based on self-reporting:

  • 10% overall said they considered suicide, with one in five of them essential workers.
  • Anxiety and depression symptoms were three to four times higher than a year ago. About 13% said they have turned to substance abuse.

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (En Español: 1-888-628-9454; Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 1-800-799-4889) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

3. The latest in the U.S.
Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project; Note: Does not include probable deaths from New York City; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

House Democrats on the committee charged with overseeing the federal government's response to the coronavirus announced an investigation Thursday into "Operation Warp Speed," the Trump administration's efforts to accelerate the development and distribution of a vaccine.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) announced Thursday he plans to withdraw a lawsuit that sought to block Atlanta's face mask mandates and coronavirus restrictions, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

Joe Biden called on governors to issue a three-month mandatory outdoor mask mandate on Thursday, telling reporters after receiving a coronavirus briefing that experts say it could save over 40,000 lives.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow dismissed "voting rights" as a non-starter request from Democrats in stalled talks over a coronavirus stimulus package, arguing on CNBC Thursday that it's part of a "liberal left wishlist" and that it's "not our game."

The NFL has conducted 109,075 coronavirus tests of players, coaches and staff through Tuesday, with a positive test rate of 0.46% overall and 0.81% among players, according to the league.

4. The latest worldwide
Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

India's outbreak has become the fastest-growing in the world, in terms of new cases, as the pandemic continues to spread across the developing world, Axios' Dave Lawler writes.

  • 63% of all new cases reported today came in India (66,999), the U.S. (54,791) or Brazil (52,160), according to the WHO's daily figures.
  • Along with Mexico, which continues to have a startlingly high mortality rate, those countries also accounted for 63% of deaths.
  • Despite isolated spikes in cases, Europe continues to record far fewer deaths. While Russia recorded 124 cases today and the U.K. 180, there were just 149 recorded across the rest of Europe, compared to 1,236 in the U.S.

The other side: Pakistan, which was on a similar trajectory to India as of two months ago and actually faring worse as a proportion of population, is now recording under 1,000 new cases each day.

  • "[E]ven as government officials are eager to take credit, they admit they don't fully understand how the turnaround happened," WSJ reports.
5. Fauci's guidance on pre-vaccine treatments

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Antibody drugs and various medicine cocktails against the coronavirus are progressing and may provide some relief before vaccines.

The big picture: Everyone wants to know how and when they can return to "normal" life, as vaccines are not expected to be ready for most Americans for at least a year. Two therapies are known to be helpful, and more could be announced by late September, NIAID director Anthony Fauci tells Axios' Eileen Drage O'Reilly.

Where it stands: The FDA has not approved any treatments or vaccines to address COVID-19 yet, but there are 316 treatments and 202 vaccines in various stages of development.

  • For people who are hospitalized with advanced disease, remdesivir and dexamethasone have been found to be helpful.
  • To address the disease at an earlier stage, Fauci says they hope to get positive news from results expected in September from monoclonal antibodies trials that target the virus specifically.
  • Plus, a pre-print of the Mayo-led study of 35,322 patients indicates a transfusion of plasma from people who've recovered from COVID-19 within three days of diagnosis may yield "significantly reduced" mortality, although the trial didn't use a placebo.

Why it matters: "It will take a while before we're talking about broad distribution of a vaccine" and likely "well into 2021" before most people will have access to a vaccine, says Esther Krofah, executive director of Faster Cures at the Milken Institute.

Go deeper.

6. Biden signals fall strategy with new COVID-19 ads

Biden's campaign is doubling down on its criticism of President Trump's mishandling of the coronavirus, launching two new 30-second ads today on the heels of Biden's own call for an outdoor mask mandate, Axios' Hans Nichols reports.

Why it matters: With Biden's running mate, Kamala Harris, now in place to amplify and augment the message, the campaign is signaling it will hit Trump on the pandemic every day until Nov. 3.

  • A campaign official tells Axios that "Ready to Lead" will run in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida, Arizona and Nevada, weaving in Biden's call for a universal mask mandate with a pledge to produce more protective gear in the U.S.
  • "Dignity," will cycle into the campaign's existing media buys targeting seniors, with cuts from Biden's June 30 coronavirus speech played over scenes of the former vice president comforting older Americans.

Go deeper: In a new campaign memo, deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield says Trump has told more than 150 lies regarding the coronavirus.

  • The memo underscores the Biden campaign's theory of the election: It will come down the coronavirus and Trump's response to it.

Between the lines: Bedingfield's memo also signals that, if elected, Biden is prepared to tell Americans things they may not want to hear when it comes to getting the virus under control.

The other side: President Trump appears to welcome a campaign that's contested over masks, coronavirus and the economy.

7. Health care costs are still a thing
Adapted from the Health Care Cost Institute; Cartogram: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Remember when we used to write about health care costs all the time? Well, here's a reminder that the issue hasn't gone away.

Driving the news: Like every other health care service, doctor visits and other professional services are more expensive for commercial insurance plans than for Medicare, although not as much more expensive as outpatient and inpatient services, according to a new report by the Health Care Cost Institute.

  • The average commercial price was 122% of Medicare rates in 2017, although there was drastic variation between states and even within them.

Why it matters: "The variation we find both across and within localities suggests that any policies that rely on benchmarking commercial prices to Medicare rates may have a dramatically different impact across depending on the area," the authors write.

Caitlin Owens