A briefcase with a red cross on the front.
Aug 5, 2020

Axios Vitals

Good morning. Thanks to everyone who joined me for yesterday's event.

  • Join Axios cities correspondent Kim Hart Thursday at 12:30pm ET for a conversation on ethical technology and the role of tech companies in the coronavirus response with former U.S. chief data scientist DJ Patil and Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth.
  • Register here.

Situational awareness: Missouri yesterday became the latest red state to vote to expand Medicaid by ballot initiative, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Today's word count is 1,103, or a 4-minute read.

1 big thing: There's not much good news about kids and coronavirus

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The more we learn about kids and the coronavirus, the riskier reopening schools for in-person learning appears to be, at least in areas with high caseloads.

Why it matters: There have already been many reports about the virus spreading through schools and summer camps, and evidence has begun to support the notion that children can play a key role in community transmission.

The big picture: Children, thankfully, still aren't getting severe coronavirus infections as often as adults do. The bigger question around reopening schools has been whether they become conduits for the virus' spread among adults.

Driving the news: Based on a growing body of anecdotal evidence, children don't seem to have any problem spreading the virus to one another.

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week reported a large outbreak at a sleepaway camp in Georgia. Within a week of the camp's orientation, one counselor went home, and the camp shut down a few days later.
  • But by then, nearly half of the roughly 600 campers and counselors had already been infected.

Piling on to the bad news, a recent study found that infected children carry at least as much — if not more — of the coronavirus in their noses and throats as adults.

Between the lines: We're also slowly learning more about the biggest outstanding question: how likely children are to transmit the virus to adults.

  • A recent study from South Korea found that, within their households, children between 10 and 19 transmitted the virus at least as well as adults, while those younger than 10 were significantly less likely than adults to spread the disease.

Go deeper.

2. Moderna skirts disclosures of virus vaccine costs

Moderna has not been living up to contractual obligations to disclose the percentage of taxpayer dollars that are funding its coronavirus vaccine project, but the pharmaceutical company tells Axios' Bob Herman that federal money makes up "100% funding of the program."

Why it matters: Moderna has received almost $1 billion in taxpayer grants to get its vaccine through clinical trials and is considering setting the highest price of all coronavirus vaccine candidates.

Driving the news: Moderna's contract with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, which is part of Health and Human Services, includes a provision that requires Moderna to "clearly state ... the percentage of the total costs of the program" financed with federal vs. private dollars.

  • Moderna has not done this in any of its press releases tied to its coronavirus vaccine.

What they're saying: HHS did not say if it issued Moderna an exemption from this provision, only saying in a response:

  • "Moderna provides the required acknowledgement to the federal government for funding and other support provided to develop the vaccine."

Moderna said in multiple responses that it "request[s] BARDA review for each of our press releases or other disclosures before we issue ... and are comfortable that the information included in our public disclosures is consistent with BARDA's expectations."

  • Moderna said the language in its original BARDA funding press release — "BARDA will fund the advancement of mRNA-1273 to FDA licensure" — "made clear the extent of BARDA's 100% funding of the program."
3. The latest in the U.S.
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Data: The COVID Tracking Project; Note: Does not include probable deaths from New York City; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Thirty-four state and territory attorneys general sent a letter yesterday to federal health agencies asking the federal government to exercise march-in drug rights for remdesivir as a way "to help increase the supply of this drug and lower the price so it is accessible to our state residents," Bob writes.

The next big coronavirus battleground will be over who has the final say on whether schools can stay open, Axios' Justin Green writes.

Over half of Americans surveyed in a new NPR/Ipsos poll support a mandatory, nationwide order to shelter at home for two weeks to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Defending champion Rafael Nadal tweeted Tuesday that he will not attend the 2020 U.S. Open due to rising coronavirus infections, noting that "it looks like we still don't have control of it."

New York City health commissioner Oxiris Barbot resigned Tuesday, citing "deep disappointment" that Mayor Bill de Blasio did not use the full extent of available disease control expertise to handle the pandemic, the New York Times reports.

The extra $600 a week of unemployment insurance isn't creating a disincentive for job seekers, per a new study by Yale economists.

National security adviser Robert O'Brien returned to the White House on Tuesday after recovering from a mild case of COVID-19, AP reports.

4. The coronavirus' risk to women workers

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The coronavirus' disproportionate impact on women workers is eroding years of progress, Axios' Erica Pandey reports.

Why it matters: In the long run, the pandemic could chip away at women's representation in the workforce and widen the gender pay gap, experts say.

What's happening: Women in the U.S. hit a milestone in February when, for the first time in history, they held the majority of non-farm payroll jobs, outnumbering men in the workforce. Then the pandemic hit, exacerbating many of the issues working women face.

Closed schools and day care centers along with stay-at-home orders dramatically increased the amount of housework that needed to be done. Women took on the bulk of that unpaid labor — and many were punished for it.

  • Since the pandemic began, American women have exited the workforce at a higher rate than men, per the Wall Street Journal.
  • That's because they're disproportionately represented in the sectors that have suffered the most — like restaurants and salons — but also because many have had to, at least temporarily, quit their jobs to take care of children.

As women lose or leave their jobs, or cut back on hours to make time for other types of work, they'll likely miss out on raises and promotions.

A bit of a silver lining: The pandemic is at least starting conversations about issues that working women have faced for decades — a dynamic that could prompt change.

Go deeper.

5. The first multistate coronavirus testing drive

A bipartisan group of governors has joined the Rockefeller Foundation to deliver 3 million rapid coronavirus antigen tests to slow the spread of COVID-19 and help states safely reopen, the nonprofit announced Tuesday.

Why it matters: With no national plan, the initiative with Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R), Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D), Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R), Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R), and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) would be the first coordinated testing strategy in the U.S., Axios' Rebecca Falconer writes.

What they're saying: Hogan, who negotiated the compact with the Rockefeller Foundation toward the end of his term as chair of the National Governors Association, said in a statement the group would work to bring more states, cities and local governments on board as the strategy moves forward.

  • "With severe shortages and delays in testing and the federal administration attempting to cut funding for testing, the states are banding together to acquire millions of faster tests to help save lives and slow the spread of COVID-19," he said.