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The economic impact of the coronavirus is about to get even worse

The weather is getting colder and the days are getting shorter — accelerating the economic and psychological damage of the coronavirus pandemic.

The big picture: During the summer, businesses took advantage of outdoor dining, exercise and shopping, and families and friends safely gathered outside and at a distance. As the season changes, much of what made the last several months bearable will vanish.


Businesses that have made it this far could start closing in droves.

  • The pandemic has already forced at least 100,000 restaurants to close indefinitely or permanently.
  • Those that have stayed open in big metros have done so by seating patrons outside. And although many cities are extending outdoor dining permits into the fall and winter, restaurateurs doubt customers will want to sit outside in the cold or the rain — unless they spend big on outdoor heaters.
  • Many other businesses — from yoga studios to music schools — have been conducting classes outside all summer. Their customers may disappear in the winter, too.

Washington's failure to deliver relief in the form of a stimulus package is hammering the economy.

  • The unemployment situation is rapidly worsening. "We’re seeing a transition from short-term unemployment to a situation where a lot of these workers are not going to have a job to get back to," says James Stock, an economist at Harvard.
  • And the lack of stimulus money and unemployment insurance is pushing Americans to tighten their wallets — a troubling sign for the economy's health.
  • "The expiration of enhanced unemployment insurance benefits pulled $667 billion in purchasing power out of the economy in August alone," per the Economic Policy Institute.

The upcoming holiday season could trigger case spikes all over the country — or further devastate the hard-hit travel industry.

  • "People are tired of isolation and lockdown," Stock says. Many may use the holidays as an excuse to gather indoor in groups, which dramatically increases the likelihood of transmission and spread.
  • But if people choose not to travel for the holidays, the already-battered travel industry — set to lose $500 billion this year — will lose even more money and shed even more jobs.

It didn't have to be this way. With masks, social distancing and other precautions, America could have controlled the virus. But we didn't.

  • "It's technically completely feasible to have a pre-vaccine recovery, but we’ve just chosen not to do that," says Stock. "We’ve chosen deaths and job losses over health and recovery."

The bottom line: In July, I wrote that the pain of the pandemic was about to get a lot worse. It turns out we hadn't seen anything yet.

How Biden might tackle the Iran deal

Four more years of President Trump would almost certainly kill the Iran nuclear deal — but the election of Joe Biden wouldn’t necessarily save it.

The big picture: Rescuing the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is near the top of Biden's foreign policy priority list. He says he'd re-enter the deal once Iran returns to compliance, and use it as the basis on which to negotiate a broader and longer-lasting deal with Iran.

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Democrats look to Kamala Harris as bridge to next generation

Progressive leaders see Sen. Kamala Harris, if she's elected vice president, as their conduit to a post-Biden Democratic Party where the power will be in younger, more diverse and more liberal hands.

  • Why it matters: The party's rising left sees Harris as the best hope for penetrating Joe Biden's older, largely white inner circle.

If Biden wins, Harris will become the first woman, first Black American and first Indian American to serve as a U.S. vice president — and would instantly be seen as the first in line for the presidency should Biden decide against seeking a second term.

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Technical glitch in Facebook's ad tools creates political firestorm

Facebook said late Thursday that a mix of "technical problems" and confusion among advertisers around its new political ad ban rules, caused issues affecting ad campaigns of both parties.

Why it matters: A report out Thursday morning suggested the ad tools were causing campaign ads, even those that adhered to Facebook's new rules, to be paused. Very quickly, political campaigners began asserting the tech giant was enforcing policies in a way that was biased against their campaigns.

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States beg for Warp Speed billions to distribute COVID-19 vaccines

Operation Warp Speed has an Achilles' heel: States need billions to distribute vaccines — and many say they don't have the cash.

Why it matters: The first emergency use authorization could come as soon as next month, but vaccines require funding for workers, shipping and handling, and for reserving spaces for vaccination sites.

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Court rules Minnesota absentee ballots must be received by 8 p.m. Election Day

An appeals court on Thursday ruled that Minnesota absentee ballots must be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day to be counted.

Why it matters: The ruling, which comes just five days before the election, blocks the state's plan to count absentee ballots arriving late so long as they're postmarked by Nov. 3 and delivered within a week of the election. Now those ballots must be set aside and marked late.

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Twitter labels tweet from RT implying voter fraud in U.S. elections

Twitter on Thursday labeled a tweet from Russian state media outlet RT (formerly Russia Today) that included a video implying widespread voter fraud is plaguing, and potentially delegitimizing, the U.S. election.

Why it matters: It's the first time Twitter has labeled RT's account with a civic integrity label, or a designation used to highlight efforts to manipulate or interfere in elections or other civic processes.

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U.S. tops 88,000 COVID-19 cases, setting new single-day record

Data: COVID Tracking Project; Chart: Axios Visuals

The United States reported 88,452 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, setting a single-day record, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project.

The big picture: The country confirmed 1,049 additional deaths due to the virus, and there are over 46,000 people currently hospitalized, suggesting the U.S. is experiencing a third wave heading into the winter months.

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The norms around science and politics are cracking

Crafting successful public health measures depends on the ability of top scientists to gather data and report their findings unrestricted to policymakers.

State of play: But concern has spiked among health experts and physicians over what they see as an assault on key science protections, particularly during a raging pandemic. And a move last week by President Trump, via an executive order, is triggering even more worries.

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