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A Trump supporter protests Pennsylvania's stay-at-home order, during a May 15 rally outside the Capitol in Harrisburg. Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

President Trump is going all-in on pushing for a rapid, robust return to normal life, creating a visual, visceral contrast with Joe Biden and other Democrats who are more reticent to rip the masks off.

The state of play: Business friends have been urging Trump from the beginning to keep the lockdowns short. He's listening more and more.

  • Trump wants a packed auditorium for his convention in August, and yesterday threatened to move ("reluctantly") the years-in-the-making event from Charlotte if North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) doesn't quickly guarantee that a full house will be allowed.
  • Fearing erosion in his evangelical base, the president declared ahead of Memorial Day weekend that states must designate houses of worship as "essential" services. He threatened to "override the governors," which he can't.

The backdrop: So far, the pandemic has mostly been a blue-state problem, and red states are revolting.

  • The N.Y. Times calculates that counties won by Trump in 2016 — with 45% of the population — have recorded just 27% of virus infections and 21% of the deaths.
  • And Bloomberg reported: "In states Trump won in 2016, 23 people have lost a job for every 1 person infected. In states Democrat Hillary Clinton won, 13 people have lost a job for every person infected."

Reality check: Polling also shows that even in red states, most people remain cautious about reopening, and that the boisterous protests of stay-at-home orders aren't representative.

  • Our Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index consistently shows Americans aren’t rushing to go back to "normal," and are largely wearing masks and practicing social distancing across party lines and regions.
  • But when it comes to questions about reopening the economy, Republicans and rural voters aren’t worried as much as Democrats and residents of cities and suburbs.

The big picture: As part of this great divide, masks are becoming a political signifier, which is absurd.

  • North Dakota Doug Burgum (R) choked up last week as he implored his constituents not to turn masks into a red vs. blue issue.
  • "I would really love to see in North Dakota that we could just skip this ... divide — either it's ideological or political or something — around mask versus no mask," Burgum said. "This is a, I would say, senseless dividing line."
  • David Axelrod tweeted: "This is leadership."

What to watch: As Axios' Jonathan Swan reported, Trump plans more mask-free events as he resumes more frequent travel.

  • Tomorrow, the president will be in Florida for the nation's biggest feel-good moment in months — a NASA launch that's the first attempt by a private company to send astronauts into orbit.
  • And sources close to Trump told Swan they hope to have a boisterous, live crowd at his convention.
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Go deeper

Colleges drive a new wave of coronavirus hotspots

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Note: Washington state case count does not include Sept. 1; Map: Andrew Witherspoon, Sara Wise/Axios

America’s brief spurt of progress in containing the coronavirus has stalled out.

Why it matters: We had a nice little run of improvement over the past month or so, but cases are now holding steady at a rate that’s still far too high to consider the outbreak under control.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Sep 2, 2020 - Health

America's botched coronavirus response foretells a dark future

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

America's failures in handling the coronavirus pandemic bode ill for our ability to deal with climate change and other threats that loom on the horizon.

Why it matters: America's ongoing struggles with the coronavirus have caused tremendous human and economic pain. But what should worry us for future disasters that could be far worse is the way the pandemic has exposed deep political divisions and a disinformation ecosystem that muddies even the hardest facts.

Updated 8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: CDC says some immunocompromised people can get fourth COVID shot — FDA panel endorses Pfizer vaccines for 5-11 year olds — Moderna says vaccine shows strong immune response in kids
  2. Health: COVID cases, deaths at meat plants were far higher than previously thought — 96% of Tyson Foods employees vaccinated ahead of mandate deadline — U.S. releases updated vaccination, testing rules for foreign travelers
  3. Politics: Louisiana lifts mask mandate except for some schools — Alabama governor orders state agencies to fight federal vaccine mandate — Axios-Ipsos poll: Confidence in Biden COVID recovery tumbles
  4. Education: Benefits of vaccine for children outweigh risks, FDA says — Education secretary reveals limits to Biden’s mask push on states — LA extends deadline for school employee vaccinations.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.