Published on: March 2, 2020
• From the New York Times:
"As the coronavirus spreads and people clamor to protect themselves from getting sick, the United States, like other countries, is seeing high demand for items like masks and hand sanitizer.
"Most health officials and disease specialists say one of the best preventive measures against the coronavirus or any other outbreak is frequent washing of hands, using soap and water to scrub fronts, backs and between fingers for at least 20 seconds.
"If soap and water aren’t available, health professionals say, then hand sanitizer can be used, as long as it contains at least 60 percent alcohol and the gel is squirted onto the hands and rubbed briskly all over them for about 20 seconds.
"In some cases, the demand is outstripping inventory."
The demand issues, the Times says, extend from Walmart to Amazon, CVS to Walgreen, as well as smaller retailers around the country. KVUE-TV News reports that in Texas, H-E-B posted a notice on its website saying, "To be fair to all customers, we are placing a limit of four on many hand sanitizers, wipes and similar items."
• The Washington Post reports that "the union representing more than 10,000 Safeway grocery store workers is moving closer to a strike that could disrupt operations at 116 D.C.-area locations, union representatives said Friday, as a disagreement with the company’s private equity-owned management over pensions remains unresolved … To trigger a strike, a majority of Local 400 members would have to reject the company’s offer, and then two-thirds would have to vote to strike. The vote is scheduled for March 5, and a strike could begin the next day."
The Post writes that "the pension dispute at Safeway is in many ways a microcosm of the broader retail industry, where automation, outsourcing and thinning profit margins have weakened the hand of organized labor. Pensions have been phased out across the business world as financial managers favor employee-managed 401(k) plans that entail fewer long-term liabilities for managers."
In addition, the story says, increased competition - from Amazon, discounters such as Lidl and Aldi - and private equity ownership that prizes efficiency over effectiveness also have contributed to what the unions perceive as a climate hostile to store employees.
• While New York State's single-use plastic bag ban was scheduled to go into effect yesterday, regulators there have agreed to delay enforcement until April 1, pending the result of a lawsuit filed on Friday.
The Wall Street Journal reports that "at a court hearing, a lawyer representing the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation agreed not to levy any fines related to the ban, according to a court order.
"A plastic-bag manufacturer and an association of New York City bodega owners sued the DEC, saying regulations about exactly which types of bags were banned were inconsistent with the law adopted last year."
The Journal writes that "the ban applies to all retailers who are required to collect sales tax, though exceptions exist, including for prepared food from restaurants and food-delivery companies. Grocery stores and delis can still offer plastic bags for unpackaged produce and prepared foods, but they won’t be available at the checkout line … Some localities, including New York City, passed laws requiring retailers to charge 5 cents for every paper bag a customer uses in an effort to encourage reusable bags or totes. Several grocery chains in the state have said they would also start charging a nickel for each paper bag that is used."
• The Associated Press has a report on yet another casualty of climate change.
According to the story, "A warm winter means that, for apparently the first time in the history of German winemaking, the country's fabled vineyards will produce no ice wine — a pricey, golden nectar made from grapes that have been left to freeze on the vine.
"The German Wine Institute said Sunday that none of the country's wine regions saw the necessary low temperature of minus 7 degrees Celsius, or 19 degrees Fahrenheit."
There are other places where it has been cold enough to make ice wine, the story notes, such as Canada's Niagara Peninsula, northern Michigan and Ashtabula County, Ohio, near Lake Erie.
At least for now.