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

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Reproduced from Mastercard; Note: Online survey conducted October 8-13, 2020 among 2,017 U.S. residents; Chart: Axios Visuals

Cities like Atlanta, Houston and Orlando helped buoy merchants' coffers in October, according to a snapshot from Mastercard, which looked at retail sales in the 20 largest U.S. metropolitan areas during the first 10 months of the year.

Why it matters: So far it looks like cities that stayed open the most during the pandemic notched bigger gains, according to Mastercard, which tracked all types of transactions (not just credit and debit cards).

By the numbers: Retail sales rose a paltry 0.3% in October, down from 1.6% in September, according to the Commerce Department, which looked at month-over-month sales (Oct. 2020 vs. Oct. 2019) compared with the 10-month-cumulative data examined by Mastercard.

  • Mastercard's assessment was rosier: It found a 6% rise in retail sales (excluding gas and auto) for the months through October — perhaps in part because merchants began holiday promotions early.
  • Spending was down in two of the 20 metropolitan areas Mastercard examined— Chicago and San Francisco.

Cities that spent the most on...

  • Furniture and furnishings: Phoenix, Sacramento, Orlando and Austin.
  • Grocery: Atlanta, San Diego, Sacramento, Boston and Seattle.
  • Apparel: Orlando, Houston, West Palm Beach and Tampa.

Sob, sniff: Among respondents to an accompanying Harris Poll survey conducted for Mastercard, "most (73%) would give up their gifts altogether to spend face-to-face time with friends and family this holiday season."

Go deeper

Updated Jan 13, 2021 - Axios Events

Watch: Recovery and resilience after COVID-19

On Wednesday, January 13, Axios' Dan Primack and Dion Rabouin hosted a conversation on the future of equitable economic recovery, featuring Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and chef and World Central Kitchen founder José Andrés. They unpacked the pandemic's impact on small businesses and minority communities and spotlighting efforts to create an inclusive economy.

José Andrés discussed the impact of the pandemic on the hospitality and food industry, stressing the survival of restaurants as a critical part of the U.S. economic recovery.

  • On the food industry's need for federal support: "Restaurants will open again, and the issue is: how many are we going to lose from today until the next three, six months, or one year until everything goes back to normal? We have to make sure that the federal government is behind those businesses that are badly affected by this pandemic."
  • On ensuring living wages for workers: "We need to make sure that ... the food industry is not an industry that lives on the fringe of almost poverty, but that every American employee, every restaurant worker will make a decent living."

Rep. Ro Khanna unpacked the pandemic's impact on rural and minority communities and outlined a strategy for the Federal Reserve Board to better target their efforts.

  • On having the Fed scrutinize how they've been lending: "[We need] to make sure that lending isn't concentrated just to financial institutions and large corporations, that they're using their regional banks to be regional economic development banks considering rural and minority communities."
  • On taking a long-term approach to economic recovery: "We need to infuse [the Small Business Administration] with loans. I would do $10 trillion over 10 years to have 200,000 more loans to small businesses across America."

Axios co-founder and CEO Jim VandeHei hosted a View from the Top segment with Mastercard's strategic growth Vice Chairman and President Michael Froman who discussed the role of the private sector in times of crisis.

  • "The private sector can do a lot. And by this I mean not just philanthropy or corporate social responsibility or ESG efforts. As important as all of those are, the key is really getting companies to look at their products and services, technology and expertise and explore what they can do to have a positive social impact on a commercially sustainable basis."

Thank you Mastercard for sponsoring this event.

Republican Sen. Sasse slams Nebraska GOP for "weird worship" of Trump after state party rebuke

Sen. Ben Sasse, (R-Neb.) Photo: Andrew Harnik - Pool/Getty Images

The Nebraska Republican Party on Saturday formally "rebuked" Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) for his vote to impeach former President Trump earlier this year, though it stopped short of a formal censure, CNN reports.

Why it matters: Sasse is the latest among a slate of Republicans who have faced some sort of punishment from their state party apparatus after voting to impeach the former president. The senator responded statement Saturday, per the Omaha World-Herald, saying "most Nebraskans don't think politics should be about the weird worship of one dude."

Cuomo barraged by fellow Dems after second harassment accusation

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo faced a barrage of criticism from fellow Democrats after The New York Times reported that the second former aide in four days had accused him of sexual harassment.

Why it matters: Cuomo had faced a revolt from legislators for his handling of nursing-home deaths from COVID. Now, the scandal is acutely personal, with obviously grave political risk.