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Our Expert Voices conversation on pandemics.

It's no coincidence that America's last two pandemic threats — Ebola in 2014 and Zika in 2016 — struck Texas and Florida. I've previously called the Gulf Coast region (Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida) America's "soft underbelly" when it comes to emerging infectious and tropical diseases. Here's why:

  • Gulf Coast urban centers are major gateways for people.
  • Insects such as the Aedes aegypti mosquito (that transmit Zika, dengue, yellow fever among other viruses), kissing bugs (Chagas disease), and others are widespread across the southern U.S.
  • The region is especially susceptible to the effects of climate change.
  • The Gulf Coast has the highest concentration of poverty in the U.S. Presumably due to poor housing and waste disposal, poverty is a leading social determinant of infectious and tropical diseases.

Bottom line: There is an urgent need to strengthen the health systems of the U.S. Gulf Coast states, particularly in active surveillance and disease detection activities, while doing a better job reaching region's poorest inhabitants to promote access to health services, and essential diagnostics, medicines, and vaccines.

Other voices in the conversation:

Go deeper

3 hours ago - World

Map: A look at world population density in 3D

This fascinating map is made by Alasdair Rae of Sheffield, England, a former professor of urban studies who is the founder of Automatic Knowledge. It shows world population density in 3D.

Details: "No land is shown on the map, only the locations where people actually live. ... The higher the spike, the more people live in an area. Where there are no spikes, there are no people (e.g. you can clearly identify ... the Sahara Desert)."

Biden's Day 1 challenges: The immigration reset

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President-elect Biden has an aggressive Day 1 immigration agenda that relies heavily on executive actions to undo President Trump's crackdown.

Why it matters: It's not that easy. Trump issued more than 400 executive actions on immigration. Advocates are fired up. The Supreme Court could threaten the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and experts warn there could be another surge at the border.

13 hours ago - Sports

Broncos and 49ers the latest NFL teams impacted by coronavirus crisis

From left, Denver Broncos quarterbacks Drew Lock, Brett Rypien and Jeff Driskel during an August training session at UCHealth Training Center in Englewood, Colorado. Photo: Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the NFL season into chaos, with all Denver Broncos quarterbacks sidelined, the San Francisco 49ers left without a home or practice ground and much of the Baltimore Ravens team unavailable, per AP.

Driving the news: The Broncos confirmed in a statement Saturday night that quarterbacks Drew Lock, Brett Rypien and Blake Bortles were identified as "high-risk COVID-19 close contacts" and will follow the NFL's mandatory five-day quarantine, making them ineligible for Sunday's game against New Orleans.