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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

New York-based Yext is used to all kinds of businesses using its tools to manage their online profiles and field customer queries, but now it has a new customer: New Jersey's state government, which needed urgent help to create an online hub with coronavirus pandemic information for residents.

Why it matters: People need easy-to-access information from their government more than ever right now.

"Our whole mission is to fight misinformation," Yext CEO Howard Lerman told Axios. "We're seeing tens of thousands of questions per hour come through," he said just hours after the site went live when the state issued a stay-at-home order.

  • After getting the green light from New Jersey’s officials last Monday, Yext’s team was able to put the website together in 24 hours, with the whole project taking just three days including various internal approvals by the government.
  • Yext made its Answers product (the underlying software that’s making it easy for residents to search for answers on New Jersey’s site) free to companies for 90 days and is now extending this to any government for six months to help them get through the coronavirus crisis without having to worry about budgeting.
  • What’s more, New Jersey officials can get real-time data about the various questions residents are searching for on the site, giving them immediate information about what may be unclear to people or upticks in certain concerns and issues.

Yext tells Axios that it’s already talking with half a dozen other states about building similar hubs for them, along with a number of city governments and federal agencies.

Go deeper

Symone Sanders leaving VP's office

Vice President Kamala Harris and her press secretary Symone Sanders. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Symone Sanders, senior advisor and chief spokesperson to Vice President Kamala Harris, is leaving the VP’s office by the end of this year, three White House officials told Axios on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The VP has faced an onslaught of criticism in her first year centered on her leadership and staff, adding to the suggestion, she’s not the Democratic Party’s preferred nominee for 2024.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Updated 2 hours ago - Health

Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The travel bans and border closures prompted by the Omicron variant likely won't fully prevent its spread, but that won't stop countries from leaning on the measures.

Why it matters: The rapid speed at which countries turned to travel bans with the emergence of Omicron indicates border controls will increasingly become a weapon against infectious disease — whether or not public health experts agree they are effective.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

GOP fights itself on shutdown politics

Reporters question Senate Minority Whip John Thune before the Republican Party's weekly lunch on Tuesday. Photo: Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

GOP leaders on Capitol Hill are scrambling to reach a deal with a bloc of 15 Senate Republicans threatening a government shutdown to force a fight over the Biden administration's vaccine mandates.

Why it matters: The push to defund the mandates — by holding the short-term government funding bill hostageis largely symbolic, and highly controversial within the Republican Party. A shutdown as early as midnight Friday could trigger everything from national park closures to delays in receiving Social Security checks.