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

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Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

President Trump's coronavirus infection and the outbreak among his allies has become the biggest storyline of the election on social media through the first three days, according to exclusive data from NewsWhip.

Why it matters: All of a sudden, the country's central storyline is the threat of the virus and the Trump administration's approach to dealing with it — topics that the president wanted to deflect attention from in the campaign's homestretch.

By the numbers: Stories about Trump and others in his orbit who contracted COVID-19 generated 55 million interactions on social media (likes, comments, shares) from Thursday, when the story kicked off with Hope Hicks' positive test, through Saturday.

  • That three-day total is higher than the reaction to the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the New York Times bombshell about Trump's taxes and last week's debate.
  • While RBG's death brought a higher single-day total, Trump's infection was (barely) higher when measuring the first three days.

Between the lines: The most-viral stories on social media were largely straightforward news headlines and not commentary.

  • The most viral post came not from a national news outlet, but Baton Rouge's local TV station — WAFB9's breaking news story generated more than 4 million interactions.
  • The top post about a positive test that wasn't the president or the first lady was CNN's story about Kellyanne Conway contracting the virus (385k).
  • Readership for these stories was highest in blue states over the last few days — clicks per million residents were nearly twice as high in those states, according to data provided to Axios from social media management platform SocialFlow.
  • Connecticut was highest with 22k clicks per million. Among the battlegrounds, Michigan was highest with nearly 13k.

Yes, but: While the president's fight against a deadly virus feels singularly gripping, the numbers for this storyline are comparable to Ginsburg's death and even the debate from a few days earlier.

  • The fact that the news broke while much of America was sleeping likely dulled the potential virality of the story compared to the reaction it would have gotten if it had happened in the middle of the day.

Go deeper

Productivity in Congress tanked in 2020

Data: Quorum; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

"Twitter replaced floor debates in 2020," public affairs software firm Quorum writes in a new report, previewed by Axios, showing the 116th Congress as the least productive since the 1970s.

The big picture: Skyrocketing social media engagement and prolific numbers of bills filed that never went anywhere belie what happens when an increasingly divided and uncompromising Congress collides with an election-year pandemic.

Updated 1 hour ago - Science

This powerful new accelerator looks for keys to the center of atoms

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Nuclear physicists trying to piece together how atoms are built are about to get a powerful new tool.

Why it matters: When the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams begins experiments later this spring, physicists from around the world will use the particle accelerator to better understand the inner workings of atoms that make up all the matter that can be seen in the universe.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: FDA OKs antiviral drug remdesivir for non-hospitalized COVID patients — Walensky: CDC language "pivoting" on "fully vaccinated" — Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Teens and adults missed 37 million vaccinations during COVID — Team USA 100% vaccinated against COVID ahead of Beijing Olympics — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America — Annual COVID vaccine preferable to boosters, says Pfizer CEO.
  3. Politics: Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates — Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults — Beijing officials urge COVID-19 "emergency mode" before Winter Olympics.
  5. Variant tracker