Published on: March 16, 2020
Random and illustrative stories about the global pandemic, with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…
• Axios reports on a new Edelman Trust Barometer survey suggesting that people "are more likely to believe their employers than government websites or traditional or social media when it comes to information about the coronavirus pandemic."
Specifics: "In most countries surveyed, including the U.S., people are more likely to believe that their employers are seen as better prepared than their countries to handle the outbreak, per the survey. In the U.S., 51% of respondents say they trust that their employer is well-prepared, while 43% say that they trust that the country is."
In addition, "A large majority of people globally (78%) and in the U.S. (75%) say businesses have a responsibility to ensure that their employees are protected from the virus in the workplace and that their employees do not spread the virus into the community."
There is a "but," though: "When it comes to the most trusted spokespeople about the virus, most people say they trust health officials, such as scientists, doctors, and CDC and WHO officials over their employers."
Axios writes that the bottom line is that "diminishing trust in traditional societal leaders, like the government and traditional media, has generally forced people to turn to their employers more often for trusted information."
• CNN reports that "all of Walmart's more than 4,700 US stores will be open from 6 am to 11 pm until further notice. The company said the shortened hours will help employees restock shelves overnight and clean stores. Thousands of Walmart stores are already operating under shortened hours."
• CBS News reports that "associates working for Walmart's U.S. corporate offices will work from home through at least Friday, April 3, to help prevent the spread of coronavirus."
• From the Cincinnati Business Courier:
"Two Kroger Co. employees have tested positive for coronavirus, and the supermarket giant has implemented an emergency leave policy for its employees.
"Downtown Cincinnati-based Kroger, the nation’s largest operator of traditional supermarkets, said Sunday public officials have told the company an employee at its King Soopers chain in Colorado and one at its Fred Meyer chain in Washington state have tested positive for COVID-19 or the new coronavirus. Both associates are getting medical care and recovering, CEO Rodney McMullen told employees in a memo issued Saturday and made public Sunday … Kroger partnered with state and local health experts, followed all sanitation and cleaning procedures and communicated with its store teams after learning of those positive tests, McMullen said. It kept those stores open and continues to follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other health organizations."
The story notes that "Kroger also is enacting the emergency leave guidelines policy for employees who are either diagnosed with coronavirus or who are placed under mandatory quarantine by their medical provider or a public health authority. Eligible employees will continue to get their standard pay for two weeks. If they can’t return within two weeks, they might be able to get additional paid time off through the company’s short-term disability benefit."
• H-E-B announced over the weekend that it now will offer free curbside ordering and pickup to consumers as a way to reduce interactions between employees and shoppers and allow for social distancing.
The retailer also said it continues to work "on delivery options," while also working with nonprofits to make sure that needed products get to people unable to tend to their own needs.
H-E-B has modified its store hours, running them on an 8 am-8pm schedule to allow for cleaning and restocking.
• MassLive reports that in New England, Big Y is running its stores on a 7:L30 am-8 pm schedule, which will "give store teams time to conduct additional preventive sanitation and restock product on shelves."
The story also says that Ahold Delhaize-owned Stop & Shop "will open at 7:30 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. at most of its locations. Stop & Shop also announced that it suspended online pickup service until further notice so store staff and can focus on cleaning and restocking. It warned of delays with its Peapod home delivery service."
• The Verge reports that "Amazon says its Prime delivery service is experiencing delays, and it’s running out of stock on some household staples due to the coronavirus outbreak."
According to the story, Amazon is saying that "the problems are due to a 'dramatic increase in the rate that people are shopping online,' leading to 'delivery promises [that] are longer than usual.' Amazon added that it was 'working around the clock with our selling partners to ensure availability on all of our products, and bring on additional capacity to deliver all of your orders'."
The story notes that it is unclear whether the delays are entirely because of product shortages, or whether there may be staffing issues related to coronavirus concerns.
From The Verge story: "Amazon has tried to curb coronavirus-related abuse on its platform, removing millions of products for making false coronavirus claims, as well as removing hundreds of thousands of listings over price gouging and banning sellers who jacked up prices on high-demand items like face masks and hand sanitizer. The company has offered two weeks of pay to employees put into quarantine or diagnosed with the coronavirus, including its part-time warehouse workers.
"It also established a relief fund to help support its contractors and gig workers affected by the coronavirus. Amazon’s independent delivery service partners, Flex delivery drivers, and other seasonal employees can apply for grants 'approximately equal to up to two weeks of pay' if diagnosed with the coronavirus or put into quarantine. Amazon made an initial contribution of $25 million into the Amazon Relief Fund."
• The Seattle Times reports that "Starbucks will temporarily close some of its North American locations and will shift to a 'to-go' model at the rest of its more than 10,000 North American stores.
"The closures, which were announced and implemented Sunday afternoon, will last at least two weeks and will affect company-operated stores in high-risk areas such as Seattle and New York, with a high number of cases of COVID-19, the highly contagious illness caused by the coronavirus, the company said in a statement Sunday afternoon. In these areas, stores will either shut down or move to reduced hours.
"Starbucks will also close locations in 'high-social gathering' areas, such as inside malls and universities, the company said."
Things are moving fast. Just 48 hours ago, our local Starbucks was open, with staff engaged in constant cleaning. One thing that surprised me - my brother and I sat outside, at some distance from each other, but most customers were inside, even though it was a nice day.
• The Wall Street Journal reports that MGM Resorts and Wynn Resorts are temporarily closing their casinos and resorts on the Las Vegas strip until further notice. MGM has eight resorts in Las Vegas affected by the move, while Wynn has two.
The story says that "last week, a convention guest at MGM’s Mirage tested positive for coronavirus. Days later, the company said several employees had also contracted the virus. MGM warned employees of imminent layoffs and work furloughs.
"MGM Springfield is also under a closure order by Massachusetts gambling regulators, and the company will also close MGM National Harbor in Maryland and casinos in New York and Ohio."
• Yahoo News Australia reports that in Australia, Woolworths "has rolled out an innovative plan to save vulnerable and elderly people from needing to battle with shoppers panic buying essential items at the supermarket. Toilet paper and other products currently in high demand due to the coronavirus outbreak will be delivered straight to the doors of the people who need it most as part of the retailer’s partnership with the Meals on Wheels program.
• The New York Times has a story about how there is one product that seems to be out of stock at many US supermarkets since concerns were raised about the impact of the Covid-19 coronavirus.
As much as with hand sanitizer and cleaning wipes, toilet paper has been amazingly scarce. The Times writes that "in an age of instant shopping gratification and same-day delivery, the idea that something so mundane could be unavailable seemed downright scary, and an ominous sign that a basic supply chain is under stress because of the pandemic."
But, most retailers tell the Times that "toilet paper hasn’t been out of stock in stores for more than a day or two, or even a few hours. Manufacturers, paper industry executives say, are raising production to meet demand, but there is only so much capacity that they can or are willing to add. They want to satisfy panic buying without going overboard and creating a glut on the market when the surge subsides."
The toilet paper thing is really odd, since the coronavirus isn't digestive. It's respiratory. It isn't like the entire country is going to get diarrhea all at once…
• From the New York Times:
"People have been clearing grocery aisles of toilet paper, peanut butter and pasta as they prepare to hunker down at home during the coronavirus pandemic. Now, liquor is the next must-have item for many consumers wondering how they are going to cope during the current global public health crisis.
"Suddenly, having a well-stocked liquor cabinet has become a priority … Drizly, an alcohol-delivery service based in Boston, said its growth rate of sales had increased by 50 percent since news of the virus began to spread. In Seattle, Chicago and Boston, sales of wine, beer and liquor this week were up 300 to 500 percent compared to sales in January, according to the company."
I'm totally on board with this. I did a big shop at Stew Leonard's over the weekend, and then went across the street to Stew's Wines, where I bought a bunch of wine and three handles of Tito's. (I have no intention of using the Tito's to sanitize my hands. I have far better plans for it.)
• The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that local food retailer Rouses is trimming its hours - from 7 am to 8 pm - "as they try to meet the demand from customers trying to stock up and combat the spread of the coronavirus."
"These temporary changes, along with some adjustments to our services as needed, will help us keep our shelves stocked and help ensure our customers can secure the products they need as quickly as possible, while allowing our team members who are able to come into work the time to safely restock the shelves and clean the store in the manner it needs to be," the company said in a statement.
• The New York City public school system, which educates some 1.1 million students, will close down this week, as will public schools in Westchester County and on Long Island.
Public libraries also are closed in the city.
New York City also announced that it "would order all bars and restaurants to close," the New York Times writes. "Restaurants would be limited to takeout and food delivery, officials said."
The Times also reports that "California called for all people 65 and older to shelter in their homes. Massachusetts moved to ban dining in bars and restaurants beginning Tuesday, effectively closing Boston’s bars for St. Patrick’s Day. And Puerto Rico set some of the strictest measures in the United States, imposing a 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew and closing nonessential businesses … The state of Ohio ordered restaurants and bars to close as of 9 p.m. Sunday, but said it would allow food to be carried out and delivered. Maryland’s governor ordered casinos, racetracks and betting facilities to close 'indefinitely'."
There apparently are some public officials who are encouraging people to go out and eat, implying or suggesting that the coronavirus pandemic is not serious or is some sort of hoax - despite the fact that there are have been more than 6,500 deaths globally and Italy said this weekend that it had 368 deaths in just 24 hours. Scientists and public health officials suggest that we are just weeks from being Italy, and I cannot understand why everybody is not taking it seriously. Deadly seriously.
• From the Boston Globe:
"Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh on Sunday afternoon announced a public health emergency in the city, and is imposing restrictions on restaurants, bars, and clubs, including cutting capacity and restricting hours.
"Boston bars and restaurants have to cut their capacity to 50 percent, make sure that no lines are formed outside, and will have to close by 11 p.m., Walsh said. Any establishments found in violation of the new restrictions will immediately be shut down for 30 days … He also said the city is lifting regulations so any establishment serving food can allow for takeout, even if they do not have a license for it."
• From Axios:
"Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced Sunday afternoon that the state government will be issuing an order closing all bars and restaurants in Ohio beginning at 9 pm ET. Shortly after, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker ordered all bars and restaurants in his state to be closed from Monday evening through March 30 … It's a drastic step to enforce 'social distancing' that follows similar measures in Italy, France and other places in Europe, where the coronavirus outbreak has put tremendous strain on health resources."
• The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has "issued a national emergency declaration to provide hours-of-service regulatory relief to commercial vehicle drivers transporting emergency relief in response to the nationwide coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. This declaration is the first time FMCSA has issued nation-wide relief and follows President Trump issuing of a national emergency declaration in response to the virus."
The announcement says that "FMCSA’s declaration provides for regulatory relief for commercial motor vehicle operations providing direct assistance supporting emergency relief efforts intended to meet immediate needs," including "medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19 … Supplies and equipment, including masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap and disinfectants, necessary for healthcare worker, patient and community safety, sanitation, and prevention of COVID-19 spread in communities … Food for emergency restocking of stores … (and) equipment, supplies and persons necessary for establishment and management of temporary housing and quarantine facilities related to COVID-19."
• From the Washington Post:
"It was a surreal sight in the City of Lights: A Paris of dark cafes.
"It’s neither an overstatement nor a cliche to say that the cafes of the French capital are its beating heart: A place to read the papers in morning, to sit with a friend in the afternoon or to sip a Bordeaux in the evening. A place to work, talk, think. It doesn’t matter what you drink, or whether you drink at all. The cafe is chatter, chaos, community. And they never close — at least not until now.
"Parisian cafes remained open throughout virtually every historic challenge that has come their way: They didn’t go dark during the Nazi occupation in World War II or even after the terrorist attacks of November 2015, which targeted precisely the joie de vivre they represent. At the time, it became an act of defiance to keep having your coffee en terrasse: This was Paris as the 'moveable feast' of Ernest Hemingway’s imagination, where the cafe is a place to 'be alone […] and be together.' Parisians have never surrendered that stronghold.
"But then came the coronavirus, an invisible enemy that’s strengthened by precisely the kind of communal solidarity that has defeated the existential threats of the past. On Saturday, France’s exasperated prime minister, Édouard Philippe, told the French public that all nonessential businesses, including cafes, would be shut at midnight until further notice. Social distancing is now the unofficial law of the land, and Sunday felt less like a new day and more like a new era."
• From the Seattle Times:
"Gov. Jay Inslee said late Sunday he would sign an emergency declaration temporarily shutting down bars, restaurants and places of entertainment and recreation statewide, and cap all public gatherings at 50 people, in the latest bid to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
"The governor’s executive action coincided with a similar order by King County officials, both set for Monday, which will also prohibit gatherings with fewer than 50 people unless specific criteria for hygiene and social distancing are met, according to statements released Sunday night. The orders would allow restaurants to provide takeout and delivery services but not allow patrons to dine in, according to the statements."
• From Variety:
"New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti have ordered movie theaters in their respective cities to close in response to the coronavirus pandemic. It’s the first time in history that cinemas have shuttered en masse not due to weather concerns."
• Apple announced over the weekend that it is closing all of its stores around the world until March 27 because of the coronavirus pandemic - except for its China stores, which it has been reopening as that country seems to emerge from the worst of the outbreak.
Among the other bricks-and-mortar retail chains that are closing their locations temporarily are Patagonia, Urban Outfitters, Abercrombie & Fitch, Nike
• CNN reports that "Chinese billionaire and Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma said he will donate 500,000 coronavirus testing kits and one million face masks to the United States.
"The kits and masks have been sourced and are ready to be delivered, he said Friday on Twitter and Weibo, China's micro-blogging platform … Ma's offer came just hours after US President Donald Trump declared a national emergency to free up $50 billion in federal resources to combat coronavirus amid criticism authorities had been too slow to test and respond as the disease spread from Asia to America's shores."
CNN notes that "Ma has donated one million masks to Japan as of March 2 and had been attempting to ship one million masks to Iran as of March 6, according to his Weibo posts. In a March 11 post, he wrote that 1.8 million masks and 100,000 testing kits would go to Europe, with the first batch arriving in Belgium this week. He shared plans to donate to Italy and Spain, two other countries hard-hit by the virus, as well."
• The New York Post reports that The Shine Distillery and Grill in Portland, Oregon, has begun giving away homemade hand sanitizer.
The company "took up the cause after a regular asked if she could have a jug of the spirited joint’s homemade cleaner. Staffers make a cleaning concoction out of an undrinkable liquid left over from the distilling process for vodka and whisky."
Owner Jon Poteet did some research and found out that as long as he wasn't making any medical claims, he was free to make the stuff and give it away.
"The home brew, so to speak, is 80 percent alcohol with some xanthan gum, a thickener, and a little bit of water — and it’s free," the Post writes.
• Willamette Week reports that fast feeder Burgerville "will temporarily close its dining rooms at all 41 locations in Oregon and Washington, as the iconic Pacific Northwest fast-food chain tries to slow the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus. Its drive-thrus will remain open. Food will also be available for delivery through DoorDash."
• The Boston Marathon has been postponed. Instead of being run on Patriots Day - the third Monday in April - as it has been for 124 years, the Boston Marathon this year will be run on September 14, a move that the Boston Globe wrote was "designed to help blunt the spread of coronavirus while preserving one of the region’s most beloved traditions."
• The Associated Press reports that "U.S. internet and wireless providers have announced temporary measures to make getting online less expensive and onerous as enforced social distancing due to the new coronavirus forces more human interaction online.
"Most notable is Comcast’s free public Wi-Fi for all for 60 days, effective Saturday. Major metropolitan areas are thick with Comcast’s Xfinity-branded hotspots … AT&T and Charter Communications also announced free public Wi-Fi for 60 days, with Charter offering free broadband for households with students through college age who don’t already have a subscription.
"Verizon was among the many providers to also announce a moratorium on late fees and disconnections."
• From the Department of Unintended Consequences … an interesting story from the New York Post about how "the COVID-19 outbreak is giving new meaning to those “sustainable” shopping bags that politicians and environmentalists have been so eager to impose on the public. These reusable tote bags can sustain the COVID-19 and flu viruses — and spread the viruses throughout the store … The COVID-19 virus is just one of many pathogens that shoppers can spread unless they wash the bags regularly, which few people bother to do. Viruses and bacteria can survive in the tote bags up to nine days, according to one study of coronaviruses."
• Here's an outlier: the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Expo actually took place in New Orleans this past weekend, with the sponsoring organization saying in advance that there were "no plans to postpone or cancel HPBExpo 2020." The rationale: there were "no travel bans for people in the U.S., nor are airlines cancelling flights."
Oy. This just seems colossally irresponsible, and organizational malpractice. One person who attended told ne that it shouldn't have been a problem since at that point there were no cases of coronavirus in New Orleans. Maybe not when the thing started … but now there have been more than 70 cases recorded in Louisiana, and one death has been recorded in New Orleans. Shame on them.