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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

As the global pandemic thrust technology to the center of our lives, it also gave Big Tech an unexpected respite from federal regulatory threats, pushing COVID-19 response ahead of other Washington priorities.

What we're hearing: With the Biden administration fixated on vaccine distribution and cabinet confirmations, fleshing out a tech-industry regulatory agenda will continue to take a back seat for at least a few more months.

Where it stands: That doesn't mean action has completely stalled. The White House is actively vetting candidates for key roles in the agencies tasked with policing the tech industry — the DOJ, FTC and FCC.

  • But decisions about crucial leadership positions are still a ways off, and close watchers of the process don't expect the key agencies to be staffed up enough to create a policy agenda before late summer or fall.

Flashback: When our reliance on technology tools deepened a year ago at the dawn of the pandemic, some in the industry thought public gratitude for the flexibility and relief tech provided might earn it a reprieve from political scrutiny.

That theory only partially played out. Tech made remote work and virtual classrooms possible — but it was hardly ideal. And as the pandemic dragged on, all our Netflix bingeing, FaceTiming, and Amazon ordering also underscored the power and omnipresence of the biggest tech firms — and the resulting tight grip they have over our data.

  • The November election once again surfaced the intractable problem of misinformation on social media platforms— just as we were all spending far more time in our online social circles.
  • These concerns further revved up tech's critics. Trump's antitrust watchdogs opened investigations, doubled down on calls for renewed competition, and finally brought parallel lawsuits against Google (by the DOJ) and Facebook (by the FTC).

Between the lines: Federal and state investigations and cases can drag on for years, and no meaningful action is likely before 2022 at the earliest.

The bottom line: The pandemic was a big break for Big Tech. Their businesses boomed while regulatory forces were redirected. At least for the time being.

Go deeper

Federal court blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for health workers in 10 states

President Biden delivers remarks on the Omicron COVID-19 variant following a meeting with his COVID-19 response team. Photo: Anna Moneymaker via Getty Images

A federal court in Missouri has blocked the Biden administration from enforcing a coronavirus vaccine mandate for health care workers at federally-funded facilities in 10 states.

Why it matters: Monday's decision is the first victory for opponents of the rule, which requires health care workers to get vaccinated by Jan. 4, 2022. The case is one of four lawsuits challenging the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' (CMS) rule and argues that the mandate will exacerbate staffing shortages.

Twitter's next act

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey is exiting the company he helped build at a time when its future has never been so uncertain.

Why it matters: The person who controls Twitter controls the de facto public square — with implications for politics, media and free speech.

47 mins ago - Health

CDC strengthens COVID booster recommendation

Rochelle Walensky. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Monday strengthened its previous recommendation for booster shots, saying that everyone 18 and older "should" receive a booster dose.

Why it matters: Last month, CDC director Rochelle Walensky accepted a key advisory committee's recommendation that adults "may" get the shot. The slight, but strengthened, change in wording comes amid the emergence of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

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