retail news in context, analysis with attitude

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, we now have 2,681,954 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, with 128,785 deaths and 1,117,177 reported recoveries.

Globally, there are 10,429,791 confirmed coronavirus cases, 508,630 fatalities, and 5,684,091 reported recoveries.

•  Axios reports that "World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday the coronavirus pandemic is 'far from over' and 'is actually speeding up,' as countries continue to reopen economies."

According to the story, " Tedros said although some countries have made progress, 'the worst is yet to come.' He added a 'lack of national unity and lack of global solidarity' was 'helping the virus to spread'."

9:45 am … BREAKING NEWS … The European Union this morning announced that non-essential visitors from just 14 countries will be allowed to visit the 27-nation bloc because their countries have made sufficient progress in lowering their Covid-19 coronavirus infection rates.

The United States, which has the most coronavirus cases of any country on the planet, is not on the list.

Neither are Brazil or Brazil, which are second and third in the global ranking of total coronavirus cases.

China has only been included provisionally, contingent on it signing a reciprocity agreement.

On the list:  Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay.

Some context from NBC News:

The E.U. and U.S. experienced infection spikes in late March and early April. But while strict lockdown measures have seen those numbers decline across Europe, in the U.S. there have been recent flare-ups in states such as Florida and Texas while President Donald Trump has encouraged society to reopen … Back in March, when Europe was the world's coronavirus center, Trump announced sweeping travel restrictions - without telling any of his E.U. counterparts first.

"But the E.U. says its selective travel list was not about political grudges and instead is based on epidemiological criteria.

"A European briefing last week noted that the U.S. had seen 107 cases per 100,000 people in the previous 14 days, whereas the average across the E.U. was 16 cases per 100,000 people."

•  Axios quotes former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb as saying that "even aggressive action in virus hotspots won't show effects for weeks, so Americans should expect case numbers to continue to climb.  'Look at New York. New York implemented the stay-at-home order on March 20, it was a Friday. It went into effect on Sunday. They peaked in terms of the number of daily cases that they were reporting on April 7,' Gottlieb said.

"'So almost three weeks after they implemented the stay-at-home order, the cases continued to build and then they started to slowly decline'."

•  The Los Angeles Times reports that "Los Angeles County will close its beaches Friday and ban fireworks displays in anticipation of the Fourth of July holiday, a move health officials say is necessary in light of an alarming spike in coronavirus cases … All public beaches, piers, public beach parking lots, beach bike paths 'that traverse that sanded portion of the beach' and beach access points will be closed from 12:01 a.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday."

“I know how much we look forward to this time of year,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “But not this year. This year we have to think about saving lives to protect what we have in this country ... and to make sure our economy doesn’t take more steps backward.”

The Times reports that "Garcetti said that at the current rate of spread, Los Angeles will revert to numbers reached at the height of the pandemic in about a week. Over the next week, the county’s infection rate will increase, from one of every 140 people being infectious to one out of every 70 people. At the same time, hospital capacity is decreasing."

"Garcetti also said there is a 'hard pause' on reopening any additional businesses, including concert halls, theme parks, movie theaters and bars."

•  The Los Angeles Times reports that California Gov. Gavin Newsom has "ordered a limited closure of bars in seven counties that have fallen short of the state’s guidelines for more than two weeks," saying that there has been "a 45% increase in coronavirus cases in the last seven days and said the rate of positive tests is now at 5.5%. As of Monday, the state is monitoring and working with 19 counties that have failed to meet guidelines for hospitalizations, transmission of the virus or sufficient testing for at least three days."

According to the story, "The new state requirement shutters only bars that do not serve food in Los Angeles, Fresno, Kern, San Joaquin, Tulare, Kings and Imperial counties. Bars are allowed to remain open in those counties and serve alcohol if they sell dine-in meals in the same transaction and meet state safety guidelines for restaurants. Establishments that do not traditionally serve food are also allowed to contract with an outside food vendor to remain open.

The state recommended that bars in eight other counties also close their doors under the same criteria."

•  Fox News reports that "New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced on Monday that indoor dining in the state will not resume this week as concerns mount of the surging number of coronavirus cases nationwide … Murphy said he chose to make the decision not to allow indoor dining to resume after seeing reports of overcrowding, a disregard for social distancing, and few people wearing masks at restaurants across the state."

“We had planned to loosen restrictions this week. However, after #COVID19 spikes in other states driven by, in part, the return of indoor dining, we have decided to postpone indoor dining indefinitely,” Murphy tweeted.

The story notes that "troubling surges in confirmed cases have worsened in several states that set single-day records for new cases last week, including Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, Nevada, Texas and Oklahoma. Some of those states also broke hospitalization records, as did North Carolina and South Carolina."

•  Axios reports that Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey "is ordering bars, clubs, movie theaters, waterparks and gyms to close for 30 days in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus … Ducey also said that an executive order going into effect at midnight would ban organized events of more than 50 people and push back the first day of school for in-person learning until Aug. 17."

The story points out that "Arizona, which has reported more than 3,000 new cases in five of the last seven days, is one of several states that has been forced to put its reopening plans on pause as the outbreak has accelerated across the Sun Belt."

•  From the Seattle Times:

"Amazon employees and contractors who worked in the company’s operations business throughout June will receive a one-time bonus — $500 for full-time hourly employees — as thanks for their work during the pandemic, the company announced Monday.

"The bonus for each individual ranges from $150 for contract delivery drivers who worked at least 10 hours in June to $3,000 for owners of small delivery companies set up to drive for Amazon. Full-time employees working in the company’s warehouses and Whole Foods Market stores will get a $500 bonus. Divided across a 40-hour-per-week schedule for the month of June, the $500 bonus is slightly less than $3 an hour.

"In recognition of their role helping the company respond to a surge in demand as the coronavirus upended normal life, Amazon paid its hourly employees $2 an hour extra during part of March, April and May, and increased overtime pay. It canceled the pay boost June 1, despite the continued spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus."

•  Forbes reports that "starting July 1, American Airlines will no longer leave the middle seat empty and allow flights to be booked at full capacity.

"The airline said it will notify customers and allow them 'to move to more open flights when available, all without incurring any cost.'  After boarding, passengers will also be allowed to move to a different seat in their ticketed cabin if there’s space - taking into consideration any aircraft weight or balance restrictions, the airline said … United Airlines is also booking full flights, but Southwest, Delta and JetBlue are continuing to enforce social distancing by limiting seating capacity."

The story points out that "the number of people traveling is increasing after plummeting in March, though it is still nowhere near pre-pandemic levels: According to the Transportation Security Administration, the agency screened 623,624 passengers on June 25, which is up 83% from the same day the previous month."

Gee.  What a terrific position to take at a time when coronavirus infections around the country are surging.  Wait for some flight to be identified as a "death plane" because of all the infections that are transmitted there, and then all the lawsuits that emerge from that and other incidents.

Sometimes I think the airlines are their own worst enemy.

•  The Wall Street Journal reports that "Las Vegas Strip hospitality workers filed a lawsuit against casino operators on Monday, accusing the companies of failing to protect employees from Covid-19, one of the first efforts to hold employers legally responsible for infections as cases in the U.S. surge.

"The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas against the owners of Harrah’s, MGM Grand and Bellagio casinos, says the companies didn’t immediately shut down food-and-beverage outlets and other areas after learning of positive cases, didn’t immediately inform employees when co-workers tested positive and didn’t adequately contact-trace before allowing colleagues of infected employees to return to the job."

At the moment, at least as I understand it, companies are not shielded from such lawsuits by employees.  And so this is a battle that I suspect we're going to see play out in a number of other places.

•  Variety reports that "AMC Theatres, the world’s largest exhibition chain, is pushing back its reopening by two weeks.

"The move comes as coronavirus rates continue to rise in the United States, where AMC has the bulk of its operations, and after Hollywood blockbusters such as Tenet and Mulan delayed their release by several weeks. AMC said it now expects to open 450 of its more than 600 theaters on July 30. It hopes to be essentially fully operational by early August."

The story goes on:  "AMC had initially planned on reopening on July 15. It’s possible those plans could be foiled yet again. Major markets such as New York City and Los Angeles have yet to allow cinemas to reopen and studios are hesitant about distributing movies in theaters without those cities, both of which account for a major percentage of box office revenues. Complicating matters is the fact that states such as Florida and Texas that have taken an accelerated approach to reopening their businesses have also suffered from surging rates of coronavirus infections."

I wouldn't bet on it.

•  Variety reports that the Broadway league announced yesterday that New York City's theater district will remain dark until early 2021.

The story says that "this marks the fourth extension for Broadway, prolonging the shutdowns that began in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. It’s the longest period of time that theaters have been closed.

"The Broadway League announced Monday that theater owners will refund or exchange all tickets purchased for musicals and plays through Jan. 3. But there’s a chance that some shows might not return until even later … The Broadway League said it continues to work with city and state officials to find the safest way to reopen, including screening and testing for audience members and employees, enhanced cleaning and sanitizing measures, and revamping backstage protocols. Broadway, as an industry, is particularly at risk because theaters are often small and tightly packed with patrons."

Variety notes that "when Broadway shut down on March 12, 31 musicals and plays were running, while eight new shows were in preview and another eight were preparing to debut in the spring. Already, three shows — Disney’s musical “Frozen,” Martin McDonagh’s play “Hangmen” and Edward Albee’s revival of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” with Laurie Metcalf — have announced they won’t return when Broadway reopens.

"Other shows, such as Neil Simon’s revival of “Plaza Suite” starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, have delayed their openings until 2021."