Apr 27, 2020

Axios Vitals

Good morning.

🎬 Tonight "Axios on HBO" returns at a new time! New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo reflects on the early days of the coronavirus and what could have been done differently (clip), an in-depth interview with Walmart CEO Doug McMillon on how the pandemic is affecting the company’s business and employees (clip) and much more. 

  • Catch the show at 11pm ET/PT on all HBO platforms. 

🦠 Tomorrow Axios is hosting a live virtual event on COVID-19's impact on education, hosted by Axios co-founder and CEO Jim VandeHei and Cities correspondent Kim Hart.

  • Join us Tuesday, April 28 at 12:30pm ET for a conversation with Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Coursera CEO Jeff Maggioncalda and Common Sense Media CEO Jim Steyer. 
  • Register here.

Today's word count is 1,133, or a 4-minute read.

1 big thing: Testing is increasing, but still not good enough
Data: The COVID Tracking Project; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The good news is that the number of daily coronavirus tests is going up again. The bad news is that it's still not nearly enough for the country to safely reopen.

Why it matters: If we don't know who has the virus, we can't stop it from spreading without resorting to stringent social distancing measures.

Driving the news: On Saturday, Anthony Fauci said that the U.S. is testing roughly 1.5 million to 2 million people a week, but "we probably should get up to twice that as we get into the next several weeks, and I think we will."

  • Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, said yesterday that "we have to realize that we have to have a breakthrough innovation in testing." She said we'll need tests that can detect antigen, or the part of a pathogen that triggers an immune response.

Between the lines: Testing has been hampered by shortages of supplies like swabs and test kits. There has also been a lack of coordination between labs with excess testing capacity and communities struggling to meet testing demand.

What we're watching: Some major cities and states — including New York and California — have begun to expand testing beyond the sickest patients, which is a good sign.

2. Hospitals that have disclosed bailout funds

More than $1.2 billion in federal bailout funds have been disclosed by hospitals and health systems thus far, including $150 million that was sent to Mayo Clinic, according to a review of financial documents by Axios' Bob Herman.

Why it matters: Hospitals do not have to repay these taxpayer funds, which are supposed to offset the lost revenue and higher costs associated with handling the coronavirus outbreak. But there is no central location to track where the money is flowing.

The big picture: Hospitals and other health care providers can receive coronavirus funds through two primary sources:

Where it stands: Axios has found 11 hospital organizations — ranging from small community hospitals to large, multistate systems — that have disclosed bailout funding and Medicare loans through municipal bondholder documents or public filings, and compiled them into a database.

  • Some of the largest bailout payments disclosed so far have gone to HCA Healthcare ($700 million), Mayo Clinic ($150 million), Mercy ($101.7 million) and NYU Langone Health ($73.1 million).
  • $50 billion of the first $100 billion in bailout funds is "allocated proportional to providers' share of 2018 net patient revenue," according to HHS, and therefore likely favors systems that are bigger and/or charge higher prices.
  • Medicare has sent $100 billion as loans as of April 24, $7 billion of which has been disclosed to these 11 hospital systems.

Go deeper: The hospital bailout funding database

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.

Several state and city authorities eased restrictions this weekend, as the number of novel coronavirus cases continued to rise along with the death toll in the U.S.

The White House plans to shift its coronavirus messaging toward boosting the economy and highlighting "success stories" of businesses, reducing its public emphasis on health statistics, Axios' Jonathan Swan reports.

The CDC has updated its list of possible symptoms for the novel coronavirus to include chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headaches, sore throat, and a loss of taste or smell.

96% of 3,277 inmates in state prison systems in Arkansas, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia who tested positive for the coronavirus did not show symptoms, Reuters reports.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) on Sunday swiped President Trump for suggesting that disinfectant could be used to treat the coronavirus. Maryland's emergency hotline received hundreds of calls last week about whether disinfectant products could be injected or ingested to treat the virus, something that Hogan noted could actually kill people.

Protesters gathered in Florida, Louisiana and Texas on Saturday against stay-at-home orders designed to protect against the spread of the novel coronavirus, following a week of similar demonstrations across the country.

At least 22 states and Washington, D.C., are building up stores of the anti-malarial drug President Trump previously touted as a possible solution for the novel coronavirus, AP reports.

  • The Food and Drug Administration advised doctors Friday against prescribing hydroxychloroquine or the related drug chloroquine to coronavirus patients as it appears to be causing some serious and potentially life-threatening side effects.

President Trump tweeted Saturday that White House press conferences are "not worth the time & effort." As first reported by Axios, Trump plans to pare back his coronavirus briefings.

A small number of young and middle-aged Americans have experienced strokes after testing positive for the novel coronavirus, the Washington Post reports.

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

Italy reported 260 deaths caused by the novel coronavirus on Sunday, marking the country's lowest confirmed single-day death toll since the week of March 12, per Johns Hopkins data.

Several hundred Hong Kong protesters held an anti-government demonstration at a mall on Sunday in one of the city's largest protests since early March.

Bill Gates told the Financial Times in an interview that his foundation will focus all of its attention on the coronavirus pandemic, in addition to the $250 million in direct funding that it has already pledged.

Spain will begin gradually easing stay-at-home restrictions on May 2 if the evolution of novel coronavirus cases look positive, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said on Saturday.

Children in Spain were allowed to go outside on Sunday for the first time since a nationwide lockdown aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus began six weeks ago.

The World Health Organization said in a scientific brief there's "no evidence” that people who recover from the novel coronavirus and have antibodies are protected from a second infection.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to return to work on Monday after being being treated for the novel coronavirus this month, the BBC reports.

5. Searching for answers in a pandemic
Expand chart
Data: Google; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

A detailed new analysis of how Google searches changed since January traces Americans' real-time scramble to get ahead of the pandemic as new information surfaced — from "What is coronavirus?" to "What is Zoom?"

Why it matters: The project by Google Trends, Schema and Axios shows how searches became more specific as infections spread across the U.S. — documenting Americans' urgency as questions shifted from the general to practical ones about how to protect themselves and how to get tested, Axios' Stef Kight reports.

Between the lines: The search trends also signal how widely people are heeding (or at least hearing) the advice from public health officials, who early on urged Americans to wash their hands, and more recently to wear masks in public.

What they're googling: Americans across the states began searching for basic information about the virus even before it began spreading in the U.S.

  • "What is a pandemic?" and "What are the symptoms of the coronavirus?" began rising and spreading through the U.S. in January and February.
  • But the searches became more narrow, personal and actionable following states' first confirmed coronavirus case — shifting to more "how to" queries.

Go deeper.