Published on: May 21, 2020
Random and illustrative stories about the global pandemic and recovery efforts, with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…
• In the US, there now are 1,593,039 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, with 94,941 deaths and 370,812 reported recoveries.
Globally, there now are 5,106,100 confirmed coronavirus cases, 330,004 fatalities, and 2,035,670 reported recoveries.
• Fox News reports that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now saying that the Covid-19 coronavirus “does not spread easily” from "touching surfaces or objects," which is a shift from recent guidance.
However, the story says, "experts warn that doesn’t mean it’s no longer necessary to take 'practical and realistic' precautions in stopping the spread of COVID-19."
The story says that "the CDC now includes 'surfaces or objects' under a section that details ways in which the coronavirus does not readily transmit. Other ways in which the virus does not easily spread is from animals to people, or from people to animals, the federal agency said on its updated page."
Fox News notes that the shift "comes after The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in mid-April issued a statement saying that there’s no need to wipe down food packaging after you’ve returned home from the grocery store."
• From the Financial Times:
"The rapid spread of coronavirus in the southern hemisphere suggests it is likely to flare up again in the US this autumn and winter, raising the possibility of a second round of lockdowns this year, the head of the nation's public health body has told the Financial Times. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), warned the US would have to increase its disease-tracking capabilities rapidly in the next few months to avoid another public health crisis as seasonal flu coincides with a second wave of Covid-19."
According to the story, "Dr. Redfield blamed the high US death rate on two factors: a lack of funding for public health organisations such as the one he runs; and high levels of underlying health conditions such as obesity and diabetes. 'What this outbreak has shown is that the underlying occurrence of some key co-morbidities in the American public is greater than it should be,' he said. 'We need to work to try to develop programmes that help improve the public health of America.' He added that avoiding a similar public health disaster in the future would involve doubling or tripling investment in the US public health system."
I'd mostly be concerned about the possibility/probability of a resurgence in the fall, which could have devastating economic implications.
• Axios reports that "several Southern states are seeing a rise in new coronavirus cases, moving them further away from an important target for safely reopening parts of their economies."
The story goes on: "The total number of cases is an important piece of the puzzle — but it's only one piece.
"The number of new cases will rise as a state performs more testing, so looking at this metric in isolation can give the false impression of a worsening outbreak.
"Some of the states where new cases are increasing — including Arkansas, North Carolina and North Dakota — also fare poorly in a more holistic analysis that accounts for other metrics."
Clearly, there will be more cases on the books because we're going more testing. But the pictures that were all over the internet yesterday showing people clustered together and not wearing masks can only result in more cases that will be reported after testing.
• National Public Radio (NPR)says that a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll finds that "two-thirds of Americans do not expect their daily lives to return to normal for at least six months, and as states reopen, three-quarters are concerned that a second wave of coronavirus cases will emerge."
"There's a great sense that normalcy is not around the corner," said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, which conducted the poll.
• From USA Today:
"Pier 1 Imports, which previously said it would close half of its fleet of stores, now plans to close all of its locations.
The retailer, based in Fort Worth, Texas, announced … that it was seeking bankruptcy court approval to begin an 'orderly wind-down' when stores are able to reopen 'following the government-mandated closures during the COVID-19 pandemic.'
"In January, Pier 1 said it planned to close up to 450 stores, or nearly half of its locations. It then filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in February."
• Victoria's Secret announced yesterday that it plans to permanently close about 250 of its US stores, which represents about 25 percent of its US fleet.
At the same time, its parent company L Brands said it would permanently close 50 Bath & Body Works stores in the U.S. and one in Canada.
USA Today writes that this is just continuing bad news for the company: "In February, L Brands announced a deal to sell 55% of Victoria’s Secret to Sycamore Partners, a New York private equity firm. After the pandemic struck, Sycamore went to court to back out of the deal and in early May, both parties called it off."
Which has to be a considerable blow to all the malls where Victoria's Secret has a fairly sizable presence.
This is yet another sign - albeit a scantily dressed one - of how the American consumer experience is changing right before our eyes.
• Media Daily News reports that market researcher Global Web Index is out with a new study saying that "consumers are shifting from an 'acute' phase of concern about the pandemic to a 'transitory' phase that will ultimately lead to 'normalcy'."
The story says that the findings "show that both 'global' and 'local' concerns about the disease appear to have stabilized among consumers worldwide and in the U.S., and that the new normal will nonetheless suggest some fundamental changes for both brand marketers and consumers."
Some of the findings: "Fifty-six percent of consumers across the national markets surveyed said they approve of brands advertising as normal -- a number that dips slightly to 49% in the U.S." … "Eighty percent of consumers worldwide, and 73% of Americans, said they believe brand marketers should offer flexible payment terms for purchasing their products" … "71% of consumers worldwide and 68% of Americans said they should offer lower-cost versions of their products and services" … "Three-quarters of consumers want brands to help produce 'essential' products and services that are necessary for society, while Americans are much more in favor than the rest of the world of wanting brands to continue producing non-essentials."
• From the Los Angeles Times:
"Coronavirus may have spread at a church service. Now the pastor is speaking out
Pastor of church where 180 were exposed to coronavirus at Mother’s Day service explains what happened
"A Butte County pastor who defied public health officials and held an in-person Mother's Day service that potentially exposed 180 congregants to the coronavirus has spoken out about his decision on social media.
"In a Facebook post on Friday, pastor Mike Jacobsen of Palermo Bible Family Church said that an asymptomatic congregant who attended the May 11 service woke up the next morning 'needing medical attention' and was tested for the coronavirus that day. The congregant received positive test results for COVID-19 two days later.
"Jacobsen, who with his wife has led the pentecostal church since 2008, said in the post that he would 'never with knowledge put anyone in harms [sic] way'."
I guess my problem with this is that it wasn't hard to have the knowledge that bringing people together in close quarters would put them in harm's way - all you had to do was read a newspaper or sign onto the internet. I recognize the need for religious fellowship, but fellowship isn't worth a lot if it is being expressed at people's funerals.
• The New York Times reports on the flour shortage hitting the UK, as people sheltering at home use baking as a way to soothe their savage beasts. (Though one doesn't often think about modern Brits as being savage.)
The Times writes that "commercial mills produce nearly four million tons of flour each year in Britain, according to the National Association of British and Irish Flour Millers. With much of the country stuck at home, baking has surged, and retail-size flour bags have become scarce on grocery shelves … The desire for flour has led some baking Britons to buy commercial-size sacks (weighing up to 70 pounds), some to try new recipes and others to monetize the shortage, with bags of flour going on eBay for more than $85."
The story goes on: "The problem in Britain isn’t merely a flour shortage but the industry’s inability to package small bags quickly enough. Large, commercial milling sites produce 99 percent of the flour in Britain. They typically provide 16-kilogram, or about 35-pound, bags of flour to bakeries, so shifting to retail bags, which make up only a sliver of the market, has proved difficult … Small flour bags have been so scarce that the supermarket chains Morrisons and Sainsbury’s have taken matters into their own hands: selling 35-pound bags of flour or portioning it into small paper bags."
• Hooray for Hollywood.
The Los Angeles Times reports that California Gov. Gavin Newsom is saying that the state "next week will roll out protocols for productions to resume filming … The move will be a ray of hope for Hollywood. It’s been about two months since the state shut down productions and other entertainment, resulting in billions of dollars in losses for entertainment companies and throwing more than 100,000 people in the industry out of work."
Filming, Newsom says, can "resume in counties that meet testing, hospitalization capacity and other criteria established by the state."
However, Los Angeles - which is where much of film and television production takes place - is likely to be one of the last places where it can resume, since it has "recorded 1,973 deaths," and has had "the highest number of coronavirus cases among the state’s 58 counties and the most deaths."
• ABC News reports that "the philanthropic arm of Tito's Handmade Vodka has made a $1 million grant to the Baylor College of Medicine," which will be applied to efforts at the school to find a Covid-19 vaccine. "The grant will speed up the process in development and manufacturing and allow researchers to move into human trials faster," the story says.
I was using Tito's as a self-administered oral vaccine, but I do appreciate the donation. Go, Bears!