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 3,479,573 confirmed Covid-19 coronavirus cases, with 138,247 deaths and 1,549,624 reported recoveries.

Globally, there have been 13,259,548 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 576,028 fatalities and 7,727,203 reported recoveries.

•  From the Wall Street Journal:

Because of a spike in infections, "California imposed on Monday new restrictions, including an immediate halt to indoor activities in restaurants, bars, museums, zoos and movie theaters, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom said."

At the same time. "Oregon banned most indoor social gatherings of more than 10 people, and Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, said Monday that the state would require people to wear masks outside when they can’t properly social distance."

And, "Florida, which saw daily new infections jump over the weekend, joined Arizona, Texas and Michigan in recently putting restrictions on bars."

•  USA Today reports that Walmart CEO Doug McMillon is considering mandating the wearing of masks in all of its stores.

Masks are required in about 3,600 of its more than 5,000 stores, McMillon said, because of some government mandate.  But, he said, "We don't currently, as we're doing this interview, mandate that in our other stores but that's obviously something that's on our minds."

The story notes that "the Retail Industry Leaders Association, which represents Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Walgreens, Home Depot and other major chains, is asking governors to mandate masks across the nation and says different local mandates have created confusion leading to conflicts between customers and store employees."

I know it would be easier if the government would mandate mask-wearing at a federal level, or if every state governor would mandate it, but that apparently is not going to happen.  So let me repeat something I said here back in early April - stores have to do it on their own.  They have to be clear about it, explain to shoppers that it is to protect employees and other shoppers, and not be wishy-washy.  Will it annoy some people?  Sure.  Will it result in some unpleasant confrontations?  Almost certainly.

But there's one right thing to do, and retailers should do it.

•  The Wall Street Journal reports that New York State now will require people flying into any of the state's airports from states that are on its quarantine list now must "fill out detailed contact forms upon landing, with fines and a summons for noncompliance."

The 19 states currently on the list - because of their infection rates - are Alabama, Arkansas,, Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi , North Carolina, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah.

National Public Radio reports that "the leader of Republican lawmakers in the New York state Senate called the new requirements for air travelers put in place by the administration of the Democratic governor an 'overreach of power' that 'violates the civil liberties of New Yorkers and citizens across this country' … 'This is putting an unwelcome mat at New York's door,' New York State Sen. Rob Ortt said in a statement. 'Such severe action will keep people and their dollars away, at a time when our businesses need them most'."

“None of this is pleasant, but we’ve gone through this before,” said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “We can’t be in a situation where we have people coming from other states in the country bringing the virus again. It is that simple."

This may not be pleasant, but there is a certain irony, because it wasn't that long ago, when folks from the northeastern US - and especially New York - weren't really wanted in many of those places.  The thing is, so many people thought that this was a northeastern US problem that would never affect them.  They were wrong.  While this action may keep people and their dollars away from New York, it also hopefully will keep the virus out as well, and prevent the resurgence that is devastating California.  There are hard short-term decisions that hopefully will have a positive long-term result.

•  The New York Times reports that even as DisneyWorld was opening Florida - which was seeing an enormous spike in coronavirus cases - Hong Kong Disneyland announced that it will shut down tomorrow because of an increase in infections.

The re-closing comes "at a highly awkward time for Disney," the Times writes.  "Over the weekend, Disney executives in Florida cited the smooth reopening of Hong Kong Disneyland and other Disney parks in Asia as evidence that the company’s largest resort, Walt Disney World, could reopen safely, even as coronavirus cases in Florida surge to alarming levels. On Monday, Florida officials reported 12,624 new infections, one of the largest daily jumps in the state since the pandemic began.

"Hong Kong Disneyland, 53 percent of which is owned by the local government (with Disney controlling the balance), initially closed because of the virus on Jan. 26. It reopened on June 18 with limited capacity and other safety measures, including temperature checks for visitors and employees. The 14-year-old complex includes three hotels with more than 1,700 total rooms. Attendance has been very light since it reopened."

If I'm reading the numbers right, it looks like Hong Kong Disneyland closed because of 52 new cases of coronavirus.  In Florida, DisneyWorld opened despite more than 10,000 new daily infections.

And you wonder why we're not being successful in fighting this pandemic?

•  From the New York Times:

"Shoppers no longer stare at aisles devoid of toilet paper. Pasta, in many shapes and sizes, is back in abundance. And eager home bakers can restart their mixers and ovens now that flour and yeast have finally reappeared … But while the bare shelves brought on by the coronavirus pandemic have largely been restocked across New York City and the country, times are still far from normal at supermarkets, which face less pronounced but potentially more enduring shifts.

"Americans have become accustomed to enjoying an extraordinary variety of choices — sometimes a dozen or more brands of everything from ketchup to potato chips to, yes, toilet paper.

"The pandemic changed all that … Companies like Coca-Cola and Pepsi have reduced the number of products they make, and during the pandemic some manufacturers have stopped producing some varieties of recognizable brands, like lightly salted Lay’s barbecue potato chips and reduced-fat Jif peanut butter."

It has vexed Mrs. Content Guy that we've found it difficult to get Thomas's Whole Wheat English Muffins.  But I guess this explains it.

I do think that this could be a positive for retailers that embrace the opportunity to examine which products actually are essential for their customers.  Ther answers will be different for every store, but I think a more curated selection would make a lot of sense in many cases.

•  Axios reports that Los Angeles and San Diego public schools will start the school year with students learning from home.

The story notes that "this could start a domino effect among officials who haven't made a final decision, especially with the coronavirus surging across much of the US … Los Angeles is the first big district to make this move, with plenty more at a crucial point in the decision-making process.

"New York City will be allowed to open schools if positive test rates remain below 5%.

"Chicago let high school athletes return to practice last week, but hasn't decided whether to have classes in person.

"Miami-Dade is asking parents to vote on their preference of online, hybrid or in-person, but this only applies if the state goes to the next phase of re-opening.

"Maryland's Montgomery County Public Schools released its draft plan this weekend to start September with online-only classes. In-person classes would then be phased in, and blocked off by different periods and grades … Las Vegas will have a hybrid system with the potential for alterations … Atlanta's school board is voting today on whether to start the first nine weeks online."

•  Another one bites the dust.

USA Today reports that RTW Retailwinds, owner of women's fashion chain New York & Co.,  has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and said in a news release that it has "launched a store closing and liquidation process." 

"The combined effects of a challenging retail environment coupled with the impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic have caused significant financial distress on our business, and we expect it to continue to do so in the future," the company said in a press release.