Published on: June 15, 2020
Random and illustrative stories about the global pandemic and how businesses and various business sectors are trying to recover from it, with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…
• In the United States, there have been 2,162,228 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, with 117,858 deaths and 870,050 reported recoveries.
Globally, we have passed eight million confirmed coronavirus cases - the number this morning is 8,013,963, with 435,988 fatalities and 4,137,614 reported recoveries.
• From the Wall Street Journal:
"The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged Americans on Friday to wear masks and distance themselves from others as states reopen and large gatherings take place, including protests related to the killing of George Floyd and events tied to the presidential election.
"The agency released two sets of guidelines on Friday that outline best practices for people deciding to go out and attend events, including large gatherings. The guidelines recommend that people maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from one another, avoid shaking hands or hugging, and keep hand sanitizer, a face covering and tissues handy.
"The CDC also listed questions that people should ask themselves when deciding to go somewhere, such as whether they are high-risk or live with someone at high risk, and if the virus is spreading within their community.
"The new recommendations are meant to supplement, rather than replace, guidance from state and local health officials, the CDC says."
• From the Wall Street Journal:
"New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday threatened to reverse reopening in parts of the state that aren’t following or enforcing coronavirus safety rules. He said the state had received 25,000 reports of reopening violations, predominantly in Manhattan and the Hamptons, as New York City and the rest of the state reopen.
"Lots of violations of social distancing, parties in the street, restaurants and bars ignoring laws,” Mr. Cuomo said. “Enforce the law or there will be state action.”
• The Associated Press reports that Oregon Gov. Kate Brown is saying that "a noticeable increase in coronavirus infections was cause for concern and that she was putting all county applications for further reopening on hold for seven days … The Oregon Health Authority reported 178 new confirmed COVID-19 cases Thursday, marking the highest daily count in the state since the start of the pandemic … Officials said the increased case number is partly due to the expansion of 'widespread availability of testing, increased contact tracing, active monitoring of close contacts of cases' and recent workplace outbreaks."
There's no question that we are going to see more cases as we do more testing. This only means that we are getting a more accurate picture. But we also know that outbreaks have the potential of overwhelming health systems, not to mention leading to more deaths. Vigilance is all.
• Bloomberg reports that "Florida reported its biggest single-day increase in new cases since the state began releasing its reports once a day on April 25.
"New cases rose to 73,552 on Saturday, up 3.6% from a day earlier and well above the average increase of 2.1% in the previous seven days. Deaths among Florida residents reached 2,925, a 1.7% increase."
• The Washington Post reports that "Anthony S. Fauci said Friday that it is a 'danger' and 'risky' for people to be gathering in large groups … The nation’s top infectious-disease expert advised on a podcast that if gatherings take place, people should 'make sure' to wear a mask."
The Post notes that Fauci said his advice applies to both protest rallies and political rallies.
The story points out that "across the South and West, coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are on the rise. In Texas, more than 2,100 people in the state were hospitalized with covid-19 as of Friday, according to state data tracked by The Washington Post, and intensive care units are reportedly at 88 percent capacity in the Houston area. Arkansas reported 731 new cases, the largest since the pandemic began. And in North Carolina, cases topped 40,000 after its highest single-day increase."
• The New York Times reports that "China on Sunday reported 57 new confirmed infections, its highest single-day tally in two months, renewing fears that the country’s grip on the pandemic is not yet secure.
"Of the 38 locally transmitted cases, 36 were in the capital, Beijing, where the authorities are conducting mass testing at a major seafood and produce market that appears to be the source of a new outbreak. It is the most cases the city has reported in one day since the coronavirus first emerged. Beijing had gone eight weeks without a single locally transmitted case until a total of seven were detected on Thursday and Friday."
• In Japan, the Wall Street Journal reports, "Tokyo is stepping up testing of people who work at clubs where male hosts or female hostesses interact closely with customers after 18 people connected to a single host club in the Shinjuku nightlife area tested positive. Tokyo on Sunday reported a total of 47 new positive cases, including those 18, the highest figure since a state of emergency was lifted last month.
"Gov. Yuriko Koike has repeatedly said nightlife spots are the biggest cause of new infections because people are interacting closely in poorly ventilated spaces and, after a few drinks, may fail to observe precautions such as staying 6 feet apart."
• From Fox Business:
"Regional grocery chain Albertsons Companies ended its 'Appreciation Pay' Saturday, which provided a $2 hourly bonus to in-store employees.
"The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union – one of the world’s largest labor unions for foodservice employees – is not pleased with the decision … But, FOX Business has learned the grocery chain is planning a 'reward payment' for employees who are working during a global pandemic."
Albertsons released the following statement:
"We are deeply grateful for how our front-line associates served their neighbors in an extreme time of need. Not only did they ensure everyone had access to essential goods, they enacted numerous proactive measures to protect the health and safety of everyone walking into the store … As much of the country lifts restrictions and businesses re-open their doors, we will thank associates with a reward payment following the final extension of the temporary $2-per-hour appreciation pay through June 13.
"The reward will be equal to $4 per hour for their average hours worked per week between March 15 and June 13. For this reward, all eligible associates will be credited with a minimum average of 15 hours worked per week."
• From Fox Business:
"As the country continues to reopen in phases, Kroger grocery stores in the Mid-Atlantic Division are returning to normal operating hours Sunday, the company announced.
"This regional update will still include special shopping hours for seniors and high-risk customers, which will take place between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. from Tuesday to Thursday. Pharmacy hours inside stores will not be changed at this time. However, fuel centers will be open between 6 a.m. and 10 or 11 p.m. depending on each location."
• From Bloomberg:
"Galen G. Weston, the scion of the billionaire family that controls Canada’s biggest grocer, Loblaw Cos., became the company’s public face through his polished appearances in promotional videos and television ads. But the executive’s latest attempt at controlling the message has turned into a public relations fiasco.
"In a post on a Loblaw website Thursday, Weston, who’s the executive chairman, shared how he briefly flouted physical distancing rules to help his frail father, W. G. Galen Weston. It was a rare personal glimpse inside a discreet family that controls a $7.6-billion fortune in retail and real estate.
"That made the letter’s conclusion more jarring. Weston announced Loblaw would end a temporary pay bump to employees who kept its supermarkets and pharmacies running during the height of the Covid-19 panic, before signing off: “Your safety and the well-being of our colleagues remain our top priority. Be well, Galen Weston.”
Bloomberg says that "the backlash was immediate from consumers and unions representing the company’s employees, who used social media to contrast the decision with the Weston family’s wealth and the company’s booming business during the coronavirus crisis."
Well, maybe not his top priority…
• One of the unexpected results of the pandemic: people are consuming less sugar.
Bloomberg reports that "the global closure of restaurants, sports arenas and cinemas means sugar demand will drop this season for the first time in four decades, according to Czarnikow Group. Drink and confectionery sales at giants including Coca-Cola Co. and Nestle SA have fallen, and while economies start to reopen, it’s unclear how quickly demand will recover as incomes and employment fall."
“Consumption out of home is normally more than what you would now substitute and have at home,” said Ben Seed, an analyst at Czarnikow in London. “If you go to the cinema you would probably quite happily have a liter or maybe more of soda while you watch the film, whereas we just don’t think people would drink a whole liter of soda while watching Netflix.”
Vodka consumption, on the other hand, is off the charts. But hey, you have to make trade-offs.
• Ultimately, Hollywood blinked.
Warner Bros. announced on Friday that it is delaying two summer releases that it - and the industry at large - were hoping would jump-start Americans' return to movie theaters post-pandemic.
Tenet, the new Christopher Nolan-directed thriller, will now be released to theaters on July 31, two weeks later than originally planned.
And Wonder Woman 1984 will now come out on October 2, instead of the original mid-August date.
The Washington Post writes that the Tenet postponement "signals the first crack in a studio, and filmmaker, that had previously remained steadfast in its belief that audiences would return to theaters in mid-July, even as nearly every competitor was scrambling to push movies deeper into the summer or later."
I wouldn't bet on "Tenet" making that July 31 date, unless there is no second wave of infections. It isn't just people wanting to return to theaters - it also is theaters not wanting to be sued if someone goes and then gets sick. Are they going to ask people to sign agreements saying they won't sue?