Published on: April 22, 2020
Random and illustrative stories about the global pandemic, with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…
• In the US as of this morning, there have been 819,175 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, with 45,343 deaths and 82,973 reported recoveries.
Globally, there have been 2,572,807 confirmed coronavirus cases, 178,551 deaths and 701,557 reported recoveries.
• From this morning's Washington Post:
"Even as states move ahead with plans to reopen their economies, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Tuesday that a second wave of the novel coronavirus will be far more dire because it is likely to coincide with the start of flu season.
“'There’s a possibility that the assault of the virus on our nation next winter will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through,' CDC Director Robert Redfield said in an interview with The Washington Post. 'And when I’ve said this to others, they kind of put their head back, they don’t understand what I mean.'
“'We’re going to have the flu epidemic and the coronavirus epidemic at the same time,' he said.
"Having two simultaneous respiratory outbreaks would put unimaginable strain on the health-care system, he said. The first wave of covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has already killed more than 42,000 people across the country. It has overwhelmed hospitals and revealed gaping shortages in test kits, ventilators and protective equipment for health-care workers."
• Some international notes from the Associated Press:
"Small shops reopened Wednesday in Berlin as a few nations began easing coronavirus restrictions to restart their economies, but trepidation expressed by some workers and customers indicated a return to normality is still a long way off.
Restrictions were also being eased in Denmark and Austria. In France, long lines built up outside the few McDonald's drive-thrus that started serving customers again … Although some former virus hot spots like Italy, Spain, China and New York have seen a reduction in their daily death tolls and new hospitalizations, other areas are facing a resurgence of the new coronavirus. Singapore, once a model of coronavirus tracking and prevention, saw an explosion of new cases and announced Wednesday it would extend its lockdown into June."
The story goes on:
"Spain, one of the world's worst-hit countries, was grappling with how to allow children out of their homes for the first time in nearly six weeks. The country's death toll reached 21,717, behind only the United States and Italy, after 435 more deaths were reported Wednesday. Spain has over 208,000 confirmed infections.
"Both numbers reflect the plateauing of the nation’s outbreak over recent days as a result of Spain's strict home confinement rules. Yielding to pressure from parents, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez is allowing children to go outside again beginning Monday."
"Pakistan recorded its largest 24-hour increase of more than 700 new cases Tuesday and saw another 533 cases Wednesday, bringing the total to 9,749 infections and 209 deaths.
"India partially eased one of the world's strictest lockdowns this week, but public health officials fear a surge in cases. The country is planning to use wristbands fitted with a contact-tracing app, Arogya Setu, to help people identify their risk of infection."
• The Seattle Times reports that Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has "announced a road map for reopening Washington’s economy that could soon allow the return of some elective surgeries, outdoor recreation and certain construction projects.
According to the story, "Inslee said that data on cases of COVID-19, the outbreak caused by the virus, were beginning to look favorable. If that continues, Inslee said elective surgeries could begin again soon, as well as some outdoor recreation. Meanwhile, the governor’s office has agreed upon a plan with the construction industry and labor unions, 'allowing limited return to construction with safety measures in place,' he said."
The Times goes on: "Inslee’s three-part plan includes massive statewide testing, teams of workers performing contact tracing, resources for mental health and homelessness and a phased-in reopening of certain businesses, while practicing social distancing.
"The plan would make sure the state could quickly tamp down new outbreaks of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, reopen the economy in phases and help workers and businesses recover from the economic downturn.
"The governor has emphasized that his decision to lift temporary restrictions such as the stay-at-home order — which shuttered thousands of businesses and maintained a ban on large gatherings — will be driven by public-health data." And while Inslee has laid out the criteria for beginning to reopen the state, he has not set a date certain; the stay-at-home order is now scheduled to be lifted on Monday, May 4, but that it seems to be by no means set in stone.
Washington, despite being the state where the first case of Covid-19 was detected in the US, seems to have done an excellent job in avoiding the kind of public health calamity that has hit places like New York. That's not to say there hasn't been pain, not that it won't continue. There has been, and will be more. But the state's approach to dealing with the pandemic at this point seems to have been effective.
• KXAN-TV News reports that "H-E-B announced on Tuesday that its stores across Texas will extend their hours to be open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. starting April 27. The grocery giant cites improved supply and product availability as factors for the change, after it previously scaled back hours in order to handle major demand due to COVID-19 pandemic preparation shopping."
The story notes that H-E-B also says that "product limits will begin to be eased and certain departments, like the bakery and deli departments, will reopen."
• Interesting editorial from the Financial Times today in which is calls for global business changing from a "just in time" mentality that stresses efficiency to a "just in case" approach that provides greater flexibility and effectiveness.
"The Covid-19 outbreak has exposed the thin margins on which much of global business runs," FT writes. "Highly indebted companies, working from lean inventory, supported by just-in-time supply chains and staffed by short-term contractors, have borne the brunt of the sudden blow. They will now suffer the rolling, longer-term impact of its unpredictable consequences."
FT goes on: "Companies must transform their supply chains from just in time to just in case models. The pandemic has underlined the need for suppliers and customers to work together. Afterwards, it will be up to larger survivors, in particular, to help support the smaller and weaker components of their supply chains, rather than pursuing a beggar-thy-neighbour approach that destroys the chain altogether."
FT also argues that it is critical to "reinforce the networks of people that underpin their success. This will be a challenge when many will have to lay off staff just to survive. But it is arguably the most crucial element of a post-crisis strategy. Just as companies built purely on the brittle web of the gig economy may collapse, so those that have maintained a safety net of loyal and adaptable full-time workers are more likely to pull through and will be better prepared to ride out future disruption."
Exactly. I think I've been saying some of this stuff for awhile now - what it really comes down to, if you look at the bottom line, is starting with the customers and working backward from there. If you do that, you design the supply chain you need, not the one you want for efficiency's sake, and you have the network of people you need, not the one that meets an arbitrary goal for labor factor reduction, which is how many executives are judged.
• Coca-Cola Chairman/CEO James Quincey told CNBC this week that "easing restrictions on business during the coronavirus pandemic needs to be done with an understanding it may not last. 'We shouldn’t assume that each step forward is permanent necessarily'," he said, adding that we must "be cognizant that there could be steps backward in some countries as the virus flares up again."
Coke's Q1 numbers "benefited in that period from consumers stocking up on products in response to stay-at-home orders, but warned it expects a 'material' impact in the second quarter due to movie theater and restaurant closures."
Netflix yesterday said that it added 15.8 million subscribers during its first quarter - more than twice as many as it had projected - ending up with close to 183 million global subscribers.
The company conceded that the growth may be temporary, fueled by the fact that so many people are at home because of the pandemic.
But, executives said in the company's letter to shareholders, “By helping people connect with stories they love, we are able to provide comfort and escape as well as a sense of community during this pandemic. So our focus has been on maintaining the quality of our service while our employees around the world adapt to working from home.”
I must admit that I still don't know what "Tiger King" is, and "Too Hot To Handle" sounds awful. But this still seems to be a case of being in the right place at the right time, when people have plenty of time to indulge their guilty pleasures.
And a note from the Content Guy…
As apprehensive as I am about all the reopenings being phased in around the country - I'd love for things to go back to normal, too, but I worry about more infections and hot spots breaking out, which could send the economy and culture into a tailspin - I must admit that it sometimes is reassuring to see the small signs that people are reaching for some sort of normalcy.
Like the sign I saw in a local coffee shop this week:
Or the email I got from Patagonia:
I worry though.
I think it was George Orwell who once said that "progress is not an illusion. It happens." But, he added, "it is slow and invariably disappointing."