Published on: April 14, 2020
Random and illustrative stories about the global pandemic, with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…
• In the US, there are 587,173 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, 23, 644 deaths and 36,948 confirmed recoveries.
Globally, we've almost reached two million coronavirus cases - this morning, the toll is 1,936,576 confirmed cases, 120,536 deaths and 458,987 reported recoveries.
• The Wall Street Journal this morning quotes from a Morgan Stanley report suggesting that "the path to re-opening the economy will be long. It will require turning on and off various forms of social distancing and will only come to an end when vaccines are available, in the spring of 2021 at the earliest."
While optimism is a good thing, the report says, caution is prudent.
• Two groups of governors, one on the east coast and one on the west coast, announced yesterday that they will begin working regionally and cooperatively to figure out how to effectively lift pandemic-related restrictions in a way that will help their economies while protecting the public health.
On the east coast, the governors' group includes the chief executives from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.
On the west coast, the governors of California, Oregon and Washington State said they would be working together.
"Working together" does not mean that all the states will do the same things at the same time, but rather that they will consult with each other to make sure that their efforts are not oppositional. The different states have different economies, different needs and different realities - New York is very different from Rhode Island, just as California is very different from Oregon - and so their approaches need to be fine tuned to what will work for their industries and citizens.
The New York Times writes that "several of the governors who spoke Monday made it clear that they did not intend to let businesses in their states reopen until experts and data suggested it would be safe to do so. They noted that their fates were bound by geography. 'The reality is this virus doesn’t care about state borders, and our response shouldn’t either,' Gov. Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island said.
“'We can put together a system that allows our people to get back to work,' Gov. Ned Lamont of Connecticut said. But he warned against reopening too soon and risking a second wave of infections."
The Washington Post writes that "governments and companies face a difficult choice in coming weeks: They can either reopen with layers of stifling and expensive hygiene controls, or return to work with fewer controls and accept the risk of second-wave infections. No silver bullet exists against further community spread, yet the global economy cannot sustain a lockdown until a vaccine is developed, which could take a year or longer."
• Business Insider reports that "Walmart plans to have more than 20 coronavirus testing sites operating in at least 10 states by the end of April, the company told Business Insider on Monday.
"The retailer has been working with the federal government to set up drive-thru testing sites in its parking lots. The first two sites opened in the Chicago area on March 22 … The sites are staffed by the US Department of Health and Human Services, as well as Walmart pharmacists who volunteered to support the locations."
• The Financial Times reports that Amazon, having hired 100,000 new employees to deal with the sharp increase in business that it has seen during the pandemic, now wants to hire 75,000 more people.
The FT story notes that this bucks "the trend of mass job cuts in the US economy even as the online retailer's infrastructure shows signs of severe strain. The hiring of additional workers to help meet customer demand and fulfill orders will bring Amazon's workforce to just under 1m worldwide, a more than 20 per cent increase in headcount over the past quarter."
The Wall Street Journal notes that Amazon isn't alone: "Companies such as Walmart Inc. and CVS Health Corp. have also announced plans to hire hundreds of thousands of additional workers to keep up with consumer-buying practices in the pandemic, even as a broad economic shutdown has brought layoffs for millions of Americans.
"Walmart, which is hiring about 5,000 workers a day, has added about 100,000 positions of a previously announced plan to hire 150,000, according to the company.
Kroger Co., KR 0.87% the nation’s biggest supermarket chain, has hired more than 23,500 workers and plans to bring on an additional 20,000 people over the next several weeks. Instacart Inc. is looking to add 300,000 shoppers for its grocery-delivery service."
• The Wall Street Journal reports that Amazon "will begin allowing third-party sellers on its platform to resume shipping so-called nonessential items this week, a signal that the company is ramping up to meet broader consumer needs, according to people familiar with the matter … Sellers of items unrelated to health, wellness and cleaning will be able to send inventory to Amazon later this week, but there are limits on how much they can ship to ensure there is warehouse space for essential goods, people familiar with the matter said."
In other words, Amazon is looking toward the post-pandemic world…
• GMDC/Retail Tomorrow officially announced yesterday that its 2020 General Merchandise Conference, postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic, now will run concurrently with its 2020 Selfcare Summit in Atlanta. GM20 will take place September 30-October 4, while Selfcare Summit will run October 1-5.
Meanwhile, the organization said that its Retail Tomorrow immersion originally scheduled for last month in Atlanta, now will take place there from October 20-23.
The Retail Tomorrow immersion conference scheduled for Chicago, July 14-26, remains in place.
• The Specialty Food Association’s Summer Fancy Food Show, scheduled for June 28-30 at the Jacob Javits Center in New York, has been cancelled because of circumstances related to the pandemic, including the fact that the Javits Center has been turned into a field hospital serving Covid-19 patients.
• Mayor London Breed of San Francisco has announced that third party delivery companies' must cap their fees at no more than 15 percent of the bill - a restriction that will last as long as coronavirus pandemic restrictions on the opening of restaurants there remain in force.
The cap applies to services such as Grubhub, DoorDash and Uber Eats.
Breed said the cap was justified by the fact that "restaurants across San Francisco are struggling to stay open. In these tough financial circumstances, every dollar counts and can make the difference between a restaurant staying open or shuttering. It can make the difference between staying afloat or needed to lay off staff.”
• The Associated Press reports that Massachusetts has opened a coronavirus testing site at the New England Patriots' Gillette Stadium, in Foxboro, and designated it for first responders - including supermarket employees.
“While the effects of this public health emergency are obviously keenly felt by all of us, some of the greatest challenges associated with meeting it head-on are being met by our men and women in public safety,” said Gov. Charlie Baker. “These professionals are working in high-risk environments to protect our communities, and we felt it was important to continue to expand our capacity to support them.”
• From National Review, a story about getting to the end of the tunnel:
"Walmart’s China branch announced at an investment conference hosted by the Wuhan city government on Wednesday that it was committing 3 billion yuan ($425 million) to expand its presence in the origin point of the coronavirus pandemic over the next five years.
"According to Walmart China, the company will be putting up at least four new Sam’s Club stores, 15 additional shopping malls, and more community stores in the capital of China’s Hubei province. The U.S.-based retailer already has 34 stores and two distribution centers in the city, where the global coronavirus pandemic first emerged in December."
• From Variety:
"Vince McMahon’s XFL has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, a move that had been expected after the startup football league was forced to cut short its comeback season amid the coronavirus lockdown.
"In a Delaware bankruptcy court filing, the XFL listed $10 million-$50 million in debts and an equal amount in assets. When the XFL ended its season last month, the league vowed to pay all player salaries for the 2020 season and that it would play 'a full season in 2021 and future years'."
• The Boston Globe reports that "colleges and universities in Massachusetts and across the country have begun planning for what was once an unthinkable scenario but now may be a real possibility: a fall semester without students on campus.
"Boston University, Brown University, the University of Massachusetts system, MIT, and Harvard University are among those discussing potential scenarios for a dramatically different start to the upcoming school year due to the coronavirus pandemic. University officials say they hope to welcome students back on campus in late August, but much will depend on the public health outlook, the availability of COVID-19 testing, and state rules about large public gatherings. And even if students are allowed to return, international students may be blocked from entering the United States or have trouble getting their visas on time."
The story notes that this approach by colleges around the country also will create growth inhibitors in markets where schools serve as important economic engines.