Published on: May 5, 2020
Random and illustrative stories about the global pandemic, with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…
• In the United States, as of this morning there have been 1,212,955 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, with 69,925 deaths and 188,068 reported recoveries.
Globally, the count is 3,663,760 confirmed coronavirus cases, 252,758 deaths and 1,205,904 reported recoveries.
• Axios reports that the US Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC) has compiled an internal model projecting that "by June 1, the U.S. will see a surge in daily new coronavirus cases from about 25,000 to 200,000, and an increase in daily deaths from about 1,750 to about 3,000."
According to the story, "The projections by the CDC underscore the fear that relaxing social distancing guidelines could put the U.S. back where it was in mid-March, when the surge in new cases threatened to overwhelm the health care system in some areas.
"Currently, the U.S. is experiencing about 1,750 deaths and about 25,000 confirmed new cases per day, with little decline throughout the month of April despite mitigation practices."
The Trump administration responded to the release of the model by saying that "this is not a White House document nor has it been presented to the Coronavirus Task Force or gone through interagency vetting. This data is not reflective of any of the modeling done by the task force or data that the task force has analyzed."
• The Washington Post this morning is reporting that despite the Trump administration's executive order mandating that the nation's meat processing plants remain open, "Tyson Foods said during an investor call that U.S. hog processing capacity had dropped by 50 percent.
The company has been severely affected by the coronavirus pandemic, the story says, as workers in its plants have been diagnosed with Covid-19. "Three of Tyson’s six main U.S. processing facilities remain closed, and three others are operating at reduced capacity."
In addition, "Steve Meyer, an economist for Kerns and Associates, an agricultural risk management firm, said Tyson’s production numbers may be even more dire."
The Post writes that "according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, 115 meat and poultry processing facilities in 19 states had reported covid-19 cases as of Friday. Among approximately 130,000 workers at these facilities, 4,913 cases and 20 deaths have been recorded."
• From Axios:
"Most Americans say they doubt the U.S. death count — but whether they think it's actually higher or lower depends on whether they're Democrats or Republicans, according to the latest installment of the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index … This may be the most jarring evidence to date about just how deeply partisanship has infected our collective ability to trust institutional sources and agree on science and facts."
The story goes on: "When it comes to the death toll, roughly one in three Americans across party lines say the numbers being attributed to the virus are probably about right. Such partisan agreement evaporates when it comes to the remaining two thirds.
"A majority of Democrats, around half of independents and one in four Republicans say they think virus-related deaths are being undercounted.
"Republicans lead the pack among those who instead think the deaths are being over-reported, while fewer than one in 10 Democrats agrees."
If you are a retailer, I'm not even sure how you navigate a world in which there is such a separation in terms of perception.
• Kroger said yesterday that it is expanding the access of symptomatic employees to coronavirus testing.
CNBC reports that Kroger "will provide workers with a self-administered test kit or an appointment at drive-thru locations run by Kroger Health, the health-care division of the company … The company will use the same criteria as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, such as prioritizing those with symptoms and underlying medical conditions."
• New Jersey-based ShopRite has kicked off a campaign "to thank the important healthcare workers, first responders and supermarket associates everywhere who are serving our communities through the COVID-19 crisis. The campaign, called Essential Thanks, gives everyone an opportunity to show their gratitude by posting a thank you note to COVID-19 frontline workers.
"For each message of thanks people post through ShopRite’s newly created www.EssentialThanks.com website, ShopRite will donate one dollar to regional food banks for COVID-19 relief efforts.
"Thank you notes can be uploaded directly to www.EssentialThanks.com or by tagging #EssentialThanks on Instagram and Twitter. ShopRite is asking people to thank truck drivers, grocery store associates, warehouse workers, healthcare providers, first responders and other essential workers on the front lines during this national emergency.
"All thank you messages should be posted between April 20 and June 30."
"Earlier this month, Wakefern, through its ShopRite Partners In Caring Fund, donated $1 million to regional food banks to help meet the dramatic increase in demand for food and essentials during the COVID-19 pandemic."
• Nordstrom this morning sent out an email to its customers informing of them of the approach it intends to take to reopening its physical stores.
In the note, signed by Pete and Erik Nordstrom, the company says that "we want to be sure the approach we're taking to reopen our stores is thoughtful, and that we're creating a store environment that's safe for everyone. Our stores won't open all at once. We're going to take a phased approach, only reopening stores when: it's allowed by state and local governments … we're prepared with the right safety measures and protocols … and we have confidence we can ensure the safety and wellbeing of our employees and customers.
"When we do reopen, more than anything we want you to feel safe and comfortable when you're shopping with us. We're making updates to our stores and the way we serve you to help keep everyone healthy. Some of those updates include: conducting health screenings for our employees … providing face coverings for employees and customers … taking steps to allow for social distancing of six feet or more, including limiting the number of employees and customers in the store … increasing cleaning and sanitization … modifying the fitting-room experience … continuing to offer contactless curbside services at selected Nordstrom stores … pausing or adapting high-touch services and customer events … keeping tried-on or returned merchandise off the sales floor for a period of time … and altering hours of operation."
• New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced yesterday that the state’s schools will stay closed for the remainder of the academic year to continue to curb further spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus.
• Bloomberg reports that Hertz is preparing for a bankruptcy filing, having lost the vast majority of its business because of the national shutdown in response to the coronavirus pandemic, which ended up with far fewer people being in the driver's seat.
The story says that "the rental-car company has been talking to some of its creditors about how to ease its burden without going through bankruptcy, but negotiations have been a struggle and the company is preparing to file for Chapter 11 court protection … A Chapter 11 filing would permit Hertz to stay in business while it works out a plan to pay its creditors and turn the business around."
The story notes that "while the U.S. government has a $50 billion bailout plan for airlines, Hertz hasn’t been able to access that program, and its chief rival, Avis Budget Group Inc., had a stronger balance sheet going into the crisis."
• CNBC reports that JC Penney has gone to court to stop beauty products retailer Sephora from closing its locations inside its department stores. JC Penney has gotten a temporary restraining order that at least for the time being will prevent Sephora from making a move that it views as being highly disruptive to its ability to survive.
Penney spokesperson Brooke Buchanan said in a statement Monday that "we remain committed to working together to drive sustainable, profitable growth, as SiJCP continues to be a beauty destination that serves millions of customers each year.”
“We have been in active discussions with JCPenney regarding our agreement for some time,” Sephora said in a statement. “Although this is a sudden and unfortunate development, we are hopeful of continuing discussions and reaching an amicable agreement for both Sephora and JCPenney.”
CNBC notes that the two companies have been in business since 2009, and while Sephora's business has been hit hard by the pandemic, forcing it to do more business online, JC Penney's very existence has been threatened by current circumstances.
Not sure about the legalities, but I don't blame Sephora for wanting to get as far away from JC Penney as possible.
• USA Today reports that Gold's Gym, which recently permanently closed 30 locations, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection yesterday as it continues to grapple with the pandemic and mandated shutdowns.
The story says that Gold's Gym "was forced to seek relief from its creditors," but that once it was allowed to reopen its remaining 700 fitness centers the bankruptcy would not have any further impact on operations.
CEO Adam Zeitsiff said, “We’re not going anywhere. Unfortunately our industry has been hit hard like many others, but we don’t have takeout service or curbside pickup, so it’s hard for us to keep revenue going during this."
No pain, no gain. (Too soon?)
• Add the onion growers to the list of agricultural businesses hit by the pandemic.
From the Argus Observer:
" The Idaho and eastern Oregon Onion Growers are seeking assistance from the federal government to address losses caused by the loss of sales to the foodservice industry, which has been predominately shut down as a result of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.
"The Idaho Onion Growers Association, the Malheur County Onion Growers Association and the Idaho-Oregon Fruit and and Vegetable Association sent a joint letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue on Tuesday reporting on the devastating losses that growers and shippers have been experiencing and will likely see this fall.
"Industry leaders explain that the massive closing of restaurants, schools and other food-service establishments designed to curb the spread of the virus has hit the regional onion industry hard … Industry officials says they will face greater challenges this fall when the new crops starts coming off the fields in early August, and since most of the onions are normally planted in early spring, most of them were planted before growers knew the effect of the virus."
• The Cape Cod Baseball League - which describes itself as "the premier collegiate summer baseball league in the nation," and was founded in 1885 - has cancelled its 2020 season because "the league determined it would be impossible to guarantee the safety of players, coaches, umpires, host families, volunteers and fans during this unprecedented health crisis."
This may seem like small potatoes if you've never been to a ballgame on Cape Cod in summer … but trust me, it is a loss that hurts … and illustrates yet again that this will be a summer like few others, and for all the wrong reasons.
• From Variety:
"London’s West End will remain closed for at least the next two months.
"The Society of London Theatre (SOLT) on Tuesday confirmed that theater closures have been extended from May 31 to June 28. The organization, which represents venues across London’s theater district, underlined that 'this does not mean theaters will reopen on June 29'."
The heart breaks a little bit more.
• The New York Times reports that Carnival Cruise Lines said yesterday that it plans to begin limited operations as soon as August.
"The company’s flagship cruise line said that eight of its ships could begin sailing on Aug. 1, about a week after a government order banning cruises in the United States is set to expire," the Times writes. "Those ships, part of the Carnival Cruise Line brand, are scheduled to depart from ports in Galveston, Texas, Miami and Port Canaveral, Fla.
"It would be only a partial reopening, and the timing could change as the company devises new safety protocols for its cruises. The eight ships that are slated to return to service are a small portion of the Carnival Corporation’s fleet of 105 vessels. Carnival Cruise Line said voyages on several of its other ships would be canceled through the beginning of October."
The Times points out that "for months, lawmakers and epidemiologists have blamed Carnival for failing to contain outbreaks on its ships and spreading the virus across the world. Its response to the pandemic is the subject of a criminal investigation by the Australian police and a congressional investigation in the United States."
I'm sure Carnival will be happy to get those boats back on the water so they can get back to their usual business of overflowing toilets, overpriced alcohol, overcrowded facilities and people occasionally falling (or being tossed) overboard,