Apr 29, 2020

Axios Vitals

Good morning.

Got questions on how the coronavirus is impacting the health care industry? I'm answering them today at 2pm ET! Tweet here using #AskAxios and #AskAxiosCaitlin.

Today's word count is 1,041, or a 4-minute read.

1 big thing: Not all states are behind on coronavirus testing
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, U.S. Census Bureau; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Some states — generally those without major coronavirus outbreaks — are doing enough testing for now, at least according to one metric.

Between the lines: Although the U.S. as a whole still falls far short of where it needs to be on testing, several individual states are testing enough people to put their positive rate at or below 10% of the total number of people tested — an important indicator of whether the state can successfully identify new outbreaks.

The big picture: The World Health Organization has recommended that coronavirus testing should be prolific enough that only 10% or less of the tests come back positive, according to NPR, although some experts say the rate should be even lower.

  • That indicates that a large enough testing net is being cast to catch all of the infections in the community, which is key to then stopping the spread of the virus.
  • "If you have a very high positive rate, it means that there are probably a good number of people out there who have the disease who you haven't tested," Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, recently told the New York Times.

Yes, but: Outbreaks are not static, and states that are testing a small portion of their population, yet have a low positive rate, could be overwhelmed by cases down the road.

Testing shortages have led to tests generally being reserved for health care workers and the sickest patients, meaning that a lot of mildly symptomatic or asymptomatic people aren't being tested at all.

  • We're also not yet doing surveillance testing on the scale needed.
  • Some states — like New York or Massachusetts — are completing more tests than others after adjusting for population, but still have a higher positivity rate. That means that those states have a much larger caseload than others, and thus need to test more.

What we're watching: As states begin to lift social distancing measures, those who do so while their positive rate is still high will be particularly vulnerable to new outbreaks.

2. Prepare for less privacy

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Whether in the workplace or the mall, people can expect that an opened-up world will involve more intrusive security measures and surveillance, Axios' Jennifer Kingson reports.

Why it matters: All the new coronavirus protocols that companies are considering for their workers and customers — from contact tracing and temperature-taking to heat mapping and "immunity passports" — have privacy and civil liberties implications.

Where it stands: While there's evidence that people are less concerned with privacy than before the pandemic hit — and more concerned with health — they still may not be ready for a world where their blood is tested for antibodies before boarding an airplane, as Dubai-based Emirates airlines has started doing.

Other options could have a far broader reach.

  • Employers are entitled to mandate that workers get their temperature taken at the workplace, report any symptoms to their boss, and get a COVID-19 vaccine if one is developed, per WSJ.
  • Apple and Google are collaborating on an app-based system for contact tracing that "uses Bluetooth to determine if users have recently been in close proximity to someone with the coronavirus," Axios' Ina Fried reports.

Where it's going: Companies are going to be collecting a lot more information about people — through contactless payment systems, which will be in growing use as people avoid face-to-face transactions, and through the various technologies in development that will track people's virus exposure.

  • But the security of that information will be vulnerable to hacking or misuse, as well as public skepticism.

Go deeper.

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.

More than 1 million people in the U.S. have tested positive for the coronavirus, accounting for about a third of the world's total confirmed cases, per Johns Hopkins data.

President Trump signed an executive order on Tuesday requiring meat processing plants to stay open under the Defense Production Act during the coronavirus pandemic.

Anthony Fauci told CNN on Tuesday that every American who needs a coronavirus test should be able to get one by the end of May or beginning of June.

Vice President Mike Pence did not wear a face mask during his visit to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, on Tuesday, despite a clinic policy that requires all visitors to do so.

Southwest Airlines reported Tuesday a first-quarter net loss of $94 million as the coronavirus pandemic brings the airline industry to its knees.

The House will not return from recess on May 4 as previously planned, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Tuesday.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told CNBC Tuesday that the Small Business Administration would undertake a "full review" of any loan that exceeds $2 million under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

North Carolina health care workers staged a counterprotest Tuesday against a "Reopen N.C." rally in Raleigh as anti-lockdown demonstrations entered a second week in the state capital, per the News Observer.

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

A record 50.8 million people are internally displaced because of conflict or disaster and the novel coronavirus pandemic is making them "more vulnerable."

China has reopened its economy following its coronavirus outbreak, but Chinese consumers are newly reluctant to spend, the New York Times reports.

Australia has called for an independent probe into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, escalating tensions with China and worrying Australian businesses, Bloomberg reports.

5. Pandemic flattens the sharing economy

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The "sharing economy" — as embodied by companies like Uber, Airbnb, and WeWork — is in critical condition, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.

Why it matters: Basic assumptions about the evolution of human behavior in the digital age are melting under the pressure of COVID-19, requiring us to recalibrate how we envision the tech-enabled future, Axios' Scott Rosenberg reports.

The big picture: The sharing economy — an idealistic vision birthed and branded in the late 2000s, during the last economic crisis — held that Americans were moving beyond an ethos of acquiring and protecting stuff.

  • Instead, we would willingly share use and enjoyment of space, vehicles and tools, saving money to buy memorable experiences and fulfilling leisure activities.

What's next: In some ways, the pandemic opens a door to the revival of the sharing economy's original, grassroots ideals of community cooperation and peer-to-peer trust.

  • There's a lot of flour, sugar and yeast passing from neighbor to neighbor these days, even if we're just leaving it on one another's doorsteps.
  • We may not rush back into shared spaces — but we've experienced a profound demonstration of interdependence.

Go deeper.