business 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, there now have been 2,780,152 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus … for the first time since the pandemic began, the Us saw more than 50,000 new cases in a single day.  The US now stands at 130,798 deaths and 1,164,794 reported recoveries.

Globally, there are 10,829,468 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 519,397 fatalities and 6,048,749 reported recoveries.

•  The Washington Post reports that "more than 800,000 new coronavirus cases were detected in the United States in June, many of them in Sun Belt states that were quick to reopen … California, Texas, Arizona, North Carolina and Georgia all broke their previous single-day records for new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, while Louisiana’s infection rates continued to rise … Arizona reported a record number of coronavirus-related deaths Wednesday as intensive care units approached 90 percent capacity."

•  The Los Angeles Times reports that California Gov. Gavin Newsom yesterday "ordered tougher restrictions on indoor activities for most of the state, marking a major step backward in the reopening and an attempt to slow an alarming rise of the coronavirus in 19 counties.

"The governor took action to halt visits to indoor restaurants, bars, wineries and tasting rooms, entertainment centers, movie theaters, zoos, museums and card rooms for the next three weeks in Los Angeles, Riverside, Ventura, Orange, San Bernardino and Sacramento counties and other regions hard hit by the virus."

The fear is that July 4 weekend revelries could send the entire state, which responded early to the pandemic, into an infection tailspin.

"The change signals a reversal in the state’s reopening that began in early May and quickly progressed by June 12 to allow retail stores, dine-in restaurants, bars, religious services, hair salons, gyms and other businesses to open again with modifications in counties that met state guidelines," the Times writes, adding, "The state applied the closures to counties that have been flagged for at least three consecutive days based on troubling longer-term data on key public health metrics, including hospitalizations, community transmission and hospital capacity."

•  The Wall Street Journal reports that New York State officials, alarmed by spikes in coronavirus infections elsewhere in the country and concerned that all the hard work done in the state to flatter the curve could be undone, have decided to delay the start of indoor dining in New York City:

"Gov. Andrew Cuomo said rising case counts in other states, insufficient compliance by the public with mask and social-distancing protocols and a lack of enforcement by local authorities were factors in postponing the return of indoor dining to New York City. The state has moved to limit the virus’s spread by requiring travelers from 16 other states with higher coronavirus prevalence and positive test rates to quarantine."

At the same time, the Journal writes, "Michigan on Wednesday joined more states taking steps to limit crowds in bars. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer closed indoor service for bars and nightclubs in counties that had moved into Phase 4 of the state’s reopening plan."

•  The Washington Post reports that "Pennsylvania has joined a growing list of states mandating that masks be worn in public.  On Wednesday, state Secretary of Health Rachel Levine signed an order requiring masks for anyone who leaves their home. The order, effectively immediately, includes limited exceptions.

"The announcement comes the same day that Pennsylvania health officials reported 636 new cases of the novel coronavirus — its highest 24-hour surge since early June. Before Wednesday, Pennsylvania had seen a relatively low climb in daily cases compared with the nation’s hot spots."

•  Kroger announced yesterday that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted its Kroger Health division "Emergency Use Authorization for the COVID-19 Test Home Collection Kit. The testing solution combines the safety and convenience of at-home sample collection with the expert guidance of a telehealth consultation to help improve the quality of the collection process.

"Kroger Health’s COVID-19 Test Home Collection Kit will be available to frontline associates across Kroger’s Family of Companies, based on medical need, beginning this week. In partnership with Gravity Diagnostics, a full-service clinical laboratory located in Covington, KY, Kroger Health plans to rapidly expand the availability of the home collection kits to other companies and organizations in the coming weeks, with a goal of processing up to 60,000 tests per week by the end of July."

According to the company, "The home collection is performed under the supervision of a licensed healthcare professional. The process is simple and is available at no cost to eligible patients who meet established clinical criteria for likely COVID-19 infection or exposure.

"Patients will be provided access to a website where they will answer screening questions, input their organization’s benefit code and an individual code, like an employee ID, and complete a clinical assessment. If a patient qualifies, a healthcare professional will issue a prescription and the home collection kit is shipped to their home within 24-48 hours … Upon receipt of the home collection kit, a healthcare professional guides the home collection process via telehealth – a two-way video chat. The direct observation helps to ensure the proper technique is used for sample collection.

"The patient will then overnight ship their sample to the laboratory for processing, which on average will take 24-48 hours."

•  Tyler, Texas-based Brookshire Grocery Co. (BGC) said that it has given employees a second round of gift cards to its more than 15,000 employees as a way of thanking them for their "effort and dedication while serving our customers during this pandemic."  Full-time employees are receiving a $200 BGC gift card and part-time employees are receiving a $100 BGC gift card totaling $1.9 million, bringing to more than $17.5 million in rewards given to employees of the 180-store company.

•  Axios reports that one of the casualties of the pandemic may be cash … because people have stopped using it - in part because they're going to physical stores less, and in part because of fears it could spread the coronavirus.

It matters, Axios writes, because "the coronavirus may have changed our buying and payment habits forever. Online shopping is through the roof, and consumers are rushing to get 'contactless' credit and debit cards, which are tapped at a merchant terminal rather than inserted or swiped."

It isn't necessarily good news:  "The acceleration of e-commerce and card payments at the expense of cash is convenient for consumers and good for banks, which reap fees on the transactions. But it can be bad for merchants, who pay those fees, and for low-income people who lack bank accounts."  And it can be particularly tough on those who survive on tips.

•  The Wall Street Journal reports that McDonald's "is pausing the reopening of dine-in service in the U.S. as coronavirus cases continue to spread across states.  The burger giant said Wednesday that it would wait three weeks before any new U.S. restaurants add dine-in service to its drive-through, takeout and delivery operations."

•  Apple announced yesterday that it re-closing 30 stores this week -  in Alabama, California, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada and Oklahoma - because of concerns about local spikes in coronavirus infections.

Apple said in a statement: “Due to current COVID-19 conditions in some of the communities we serve, we are temporarily closing stores in these areas. We take this step with an abundance of caution as we closely monitor the situation and we look forward to having our teams and customers back as soon as possible.”

•  New York reports that Cirque du Soleil is seeking bankruptcy protection, laying off 3,480 employees, and looking for an entity to acquire it, as it deals with the fact that virtually all of its shows have been closed down since March because of the pandemic.

The story says that "of their more than forty shows, only Cirque du Soleil’s The Land of Fantasy, which reopened in China on June 3, has been able to resume."

Land of Fantasy?  Is that about the world before the coronavirus?