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 as of this morning, there are 3,414,105 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 137,787 deaths and 1,517,560 reported recoveries.

On July 2, before I took a one-week breather, we reported 2,780,152 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 130,798 deaths  … which means that there have been more than 600,000 new infections and just shy of seven thousand deaths in just the last 10 days.

Globally, there now are 13,058,349 coronavirus cases, with 571,984 fatalities and 7,605,053 reported recoveries.

Again, on July 2, globally there were 10,829,468 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 519,397 fatalities … meaning that there have been more than 2.2 million new infections and more than 52,000 fatalities in the past 10 days.

Just to put things in context.  

•  The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that "new coronavirus infections topped 15,000 in Florida, the largest one-day increase in any state since the start of the pandemic, while more than half U.S. states - including some that avoided a significant surge in the spring - were reporting steady climbs in new cases."

•  This weekend also was the time when Walt Disney World was reopened to the public.  "After closing in March because of the pandemic, the mega-resort near Orlando began tossing confetti again at 9 a.m. on Saturday," the New York Times writes.  "Two of its four major parks, the Magic Kingdom and the Animal Kingdom, welcomed back a limited number of temperature-checked visitors, with some attractions and character interactions unavailable as safety precautions. Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios were set to reopen on Wednesday."

And, a nice piece of writing from the Times story:

"…Optimism is the foundation of the Disney experience. In case the wafting smell of fresh fudge and pipe-organ soundtrack don’t immediately jolt you into another dimension, there are signs at the entrances reminding visitors, “Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy.” No matter how terrible things seem outside the gates, here is a place where everything is OK: people are nice, the windows all sparkle, there are stuffed animals to cuddle, the speedway cars never run out of gas.

"To safely reopen, however, the Magic Kingdom had to allow some of the grimness of pandemic life to puncture the utopian fantasy. To ward off germs, Disney now leaves rows of seats empty on rides like Pirates of the Caribbean. Employees constantly disinfect ride vehicles and lap bars. Face masks are mandatory, and, for some visitors, the coverings quickly grew wet with sweat."

•  The Wall Street Journal writes that "the number of daily infections in the U.S. surpassed 60,000 for a third consecutive day on Saturday, after reaching a record of more than 66,000 cases the previous day, data compiled by Johns Hopkins University showed.

"The 15,299 new cases in Florida on Saturday represented an uptick of about nearly 5,000 over Friday’s numbers. The state, which has seen a surge in cases in recent weeks, hadn’t topped 12,000 new cases in any prior day since the start of the pandemic. California, Texas, and Arizona reported near-record daily Covid-19 cases on Saturday.

"Other states across the country were beginning to see significant rises in new infections, too. Case counts in 13 others—Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia—were up more than 20% in the past week, according to Johns Hopkins. Thirty-two states had increases of at least 10% in the past week.

"The accelerating spread, which is fast moving beyond several big Sunbelt states to other pockets of the country, has some public-health experts voicing dire warnings."

•  From the New York Times:

"The country’s seven-day death average reached 700 on Saturday, up from 471 on July 5, but still well below the more than 2,200 deaths the country averaged each day in mid-April. And eight states set single-day death records over the last week: Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Dakota, Texas and Tennessee. Alaska reached a new single-day record. on Sunday, with more than 110 cases."

•  The New York Times also writes that "two of the Trump administration’s top health officials acknowledged Sunday that the country is facing a very serious situation with the onslaught of rising coronavirus cases in several states … Adm. Brett Giroir, an assistant secretary with the Health and Human Services department, and Dr. Jerome Adams, the surgeon general, both emphasized their concern about surging outbreaks, many of them in areas where people have not followed recommended public health guidelines to contain the spread of the virus."

•  From Axios:

"Health care workers faced severe shortages of face masks, gowns and other protective equipment at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, and they're afraid it's happening again now … Health care workers are sounding the alarms that they have to reuse masks and other supplies, and are worried their grievances are going unnoticed again."

The story goes on:

"'Supply is still coming in, but not enough to meet demand,' one industry official told the House Committee on Oversight and Reform earlier this month.

"It's a lot worse for nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, which are 'begging for PPE,' an official with the American Health Care Association told Axios."

•  From the Puget Sound Business Journal in Washington State:

"Covid-19 is surging back. Cases are spiking as more businesses open and people venture into the summer sun a month after Gov. Jay Inslee ended the state's pandemic lockdown, which had effectively shut down the state's economy.

"On Thursday, Inslee announced a statewide order precluding businesses from serving customers who aren't wearing masks. That measure goes into effect next week.

"The governor also leveled new restrictions on restaurants and bars and paused further steps to reopen the state's economy."

•  Los Angeles Magazine reports that Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti "is warning that locals could once again be ordered to stay at home if the county’s infection rate doesn’t get under control … Garcetti revisited the city’s new color-coded warning system. The city is currently at 'threat level orange,' which means risk is high and residents should 'minimize all contact' with people outside of their own households. If the city makes it to 'threat level red,' aka extreme risk, stay-at-home orders could be reinstated."

According to the story, "Garcetti didn’t say exactly what stats would move the dial to red—i.e. how much or how rapidly the case count or infection rate would have to rise—but threat level red is described as 'Severe and uncontrolled level of COVID-19 infection is spreading in the community and overwhelming the health care system. Outbreaks are spreading rapidly and testing and contract tracing is strained or above capacity. Hospitals are at capacity or overwhelmed'."

•  From the Wall Street Journal:

"Grocers are having trouble staying stocked with goods from flour to soups as climbing coronavirus case numbers and continued lockdowns pressure production and bolster customer demand.

"Manufacturers including General Mills Inc., Campbell Soup Co. and Conagra Brands Inc. say they are pumping out food as fast as they can, but can’t replenish inventories. Popular items such as flour, canned soup, pasta and rice remain in short supply.

"As of July 5, 10% of packaged foods, beverages and household goods were out of stock, up from 5% to 7% before the pandemic, according to market-research firm IRI."

The story goes on:

"Food makers and grocers expect prolonged shelter-in-place orders and restrictions on restaurants, as well as the battered economy, to result in a longer stretch of eating at home. Added safety measures at plants are slowing operations, too. There is enough food in the U.S. to keep people fed, executives say, but every product might not be available everywhere while inventories are strained."

•  From USA Today:

"Costco Wholesale Club will continue to offer special operating hours for members 60 and older and vulnerable shoppers every weekday morning.

"The retailer previously announced plans to reduce its senior hours to twice a week effective the week of July 13 but said on its coronavirus updates page that 'due to an increase in COVID-19 cases, Costco will maintain current Special Operating Hours until further notice' … At most clubs, the designated hour for senior shoppers, members with disabilities or immunocompromised is 9 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday."

•  The closure of so many bricks-and-mortar stores during the pandemic, as has been reported here and elsewhere, led to a shortage of coins;  as the Federal Reserve explained it, the pandemic 'significantly disrupted the supply chain and normal circulation patterns for U.S. coin."

Now, Fox News reports, "If you pay with cash at one of Kroger’s cashier checkouts, you won’t be getting coin change for a while … Kroger spokesperson Erin Rofles confirmed Friday the grocer will no longer return coin change to customers. Instead, the remainders from cash transactions will be applied to customers’ loyalty cards and automatically used on their next purchase.

"Customers are also encouraged to ‘Round Up’ to support the company’s Zero Hunger/Zero Waster Foundation."

•  The Wall Street Journal reports that Starbucks "will require customers in the U.S. to wear masks at company-operated stores … as retailers look to keep employees and patrons safe amid rising coronavirus cases in parts of the country."

The new rule takes effect on Wednesday.

The Journal writes that "Starbucks is sending signage about the new mask requirement to store managers and offering them resources on how to de-escalate situations where customers won’t wear masks, the Seattle-based company said in a message to employees viewed by The Wall Street Journal. In some cases, workers may have to 'respectfully refuse service with kindness,' according to the memo."

I agree with the decision. I'm just n ot sure why this was not the mandate when Starbucks started reopening stores weeks ago.

•  Fox News reports that Walmart has come up with a way to capitalize on the physical distancing requirements across the country that are keeping many of the nation's movie theaters closed - it is "turning 160 of its store parking lots into drive-in movie theaters … The drive-in tour is set to begin in August and will run through October. Walmart said additional details will be announced closer to the start of the tour."

Walmart is teaming up with Robert De Niro's Tribeca Enterprises to promote and program the series.