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Pandemic preparations: Some saw it coming

The pandemic crashed into American life one year ago this week — but key decision-makers sensed what was coming earlier than most Americans, and even many politicians.

The big picture: In interviews for this week's special series of Axios Re:Cap podcasts, The Week America Changed, leaders in both the public and private sectors described their growing awareness, early last year, of just how bad things could get.


Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg says Mark Zuckerberg came to her in January, based on some of the health work he'd done with the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and said they should prepare for the possibility of everyone working from home.

  • "I thought he was nuts," she said.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver in January attended a Brooklyn Nets game, during which he ran into a virologist who had advised the league on HIV after Magic Johnson tested positive. The doctor told Silver his entire team was refocusing exclusively on COVID-19.

  • "He had sufficiently concerned me to the point where I called him shortly thereafter and said, 'Would you mind working as an advisor to us in the same way you had around HIV and AIDS in the nineties?'"

United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby, says in an interview to air Sunday that the company raised $2 billion in bridge financing during the first week of March, even though United had plenty of liquidity and passengers were still flying.

  • "[The financing] wasn't publicly announced until March 12, but it was really that first week in March where we were all in a war room saying this is a global pandemic. I could see an awful lot of skepticism. Like, 'There's no way this is going to be right. You're overreacting. This can't be that big a deal because no one else seems that worried about it yet.'"

Los Angeles schools superintendent Austin Beutner says discussions about closing began in February, and that planning really began on March 1 — nearly two weeks before the official decision was announced.

  • "We worked through the night with Apple taking inventory out of their stores ... We said, 'Tell you what, can you pull them out of all your stores? And they did. That's how we got our computers."

Other episodes in the Axios Re:Cap series include conversations with Steven Corwin, the CEO of NewYork-Presbyterian; Anthony Fauci (posting this afternoon) and White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain (posting tomorrow).

Big European soccer teams announce breakaway league

12 of world soccer's biggest and richest clubs announced Sunday they've formed a breakaway European "Super League" — with clubs Manchester United, Liverpool, Barcelona Real Madrid, Juventus and A.C. Milan among those to sign up.

Details: So far the breakaway league that's due to start in August consists of six clubs from England, three from Spain and three from Italy.

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Senate Democrats settling on 25% corporate tax rate

The universe of Democratic senators concerned about raising the corporate tax rate to 28% is broader than Sen. Joe Manchin, and the rate will likely land at 25%, parties close to the discussion tell Axios.

Why it matters: While increasing the rate from 21% to 25% would raise about $600 billion over 15 years, it would leave President Biden well short of paying for his proposed $2.25 trillion, eight-year infrastructure package.

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Republican leaders raked in sizable donations from grassroots supporters

Republican leaders turned to grassroots supporters and raked in sizable donations after corporations cut them off post-Jan. 6.

Why it matters: If those companies hoped to push the GOP toward the center, they may have done just the opposite by turning Republican lawmakers toward their most committed — and ideologically driven — supporters.

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CDC: Half of US adults have received one COVID-19 vaccine dose

Data: CDC; Chart: Axios Visuals

Half of US adults have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and about a third are fully vaccinated, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Why it matters: COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are still on the rise, CDC director Rochelle Walensky said during Friday's White House COVID-19 briefing. With cases in many states being driven by variants, public health officials have emphasized the need to ramp up vaccinations.

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Israeli intel agencies believe Vienna talks will lead to U.S. return to Iran nuclear deal

Israeli military intelligence and senior officials in the Mossad briefed a meeting of the nation's security cabinet that talks in Vienna between Iran and other world powers will lead to the U.S. returning to the 2015 nuclear deal, two officials who attended the meeting told me.

Why it matters: The Israeli government is very concerned about a U.S. return to the nuclear deal and is trying to convince the Biden administration not to take the pressure off the Iranian regime.

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"It hurts": Latino community of 13-year-old killed by police in Chicago reels after shooting

Residents of Little Village, a well-known and predominantly Latino neighborhood in Chicago, are grieving the death of Adam Toledo, a 13-year-old Mexican American boy from the neighborhood who was shot and killed by a police officer on March 29, NBC News reports.

Why it matters: Adam Toledo's killing shines a spotlight on police shootings of Latinos, who are killed by law enforcement at the second-highest rate after Black Americans, according to data from the Washington Post.

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Biden adviser warns "there will be consequences" for Russia if Navalny dies

The Biden administration warned the Russian government "that there will be consequences" if jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny dies, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told CNN on Sunday.

The big picture: Sullivan also defended President Biden for not mentionining Navalny in a Thursday speech about Russia or in a Tuesday call with Russian President Vladimir Putin,saying the White House aims to deal with the issue "privately and through diplomatic channels."

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Prosecutor on leave for failing to "fully present the facts" after shooting of 13-year-old boy

Cook County prosecutor James Murphy was placed on administrative leave Friday after he implied in court that 13-year-old Adam Toledo, who was shot and killed by a police officer in March, was armed when he was shot, the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times report.

Why it matters: Videos of the shooting show that Toledo dropped what appears to be a weapon and put his hands in the air a moment before before he was fatally shot. A lawyer for the Toledo family said Thursday that if the teen "had a gun, he tossed it."

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