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    Published on: July 20, 2020

    What does a restaurant do when one of its most coveted tables happens to be one preferred and often used by Jeffrey Epstein and Harvey Weinstein?  KC reports.

    Published on: July 20, 2020

    by Kevin Coupe

    Love these two funny new commercials from North Carolina-based Lowes Foods, focusing on "Choptober," its summer-long promotion designed to highlight its Pick-and-Prep stations that allow for custom slicing, dicing, mincing or seeding of produce they've bought in the store.

    Published on: July 20, 2020

    From Bloomberg:

    "Americans have rapidly changed the ways they buy, cook and eat food in just four months, leaving everyone from farmers to restaurants unable to match their pivot.

    "U.S. consumers, whose previous food preferences were stable enough that farmers could often make reliable planting decisions years in advance, have shifted their habits at a torrential pace during the coronavirus pandemic. That includes cooking more at home, buying more organic food, purchasing in bulk, forgoing brand-name treats and eating smaller meals due to fewer trips to restaurants with their often oversized portions.

    "Even one of those changes by itself could throw a wrench in the global food supply chain. Add all five together, and some suppliers are finding they can’t adapt fast enough to keep pace with all the changing consumer demands. Farmers like Jack Vessey, a lettuce grower in California, have been forced to destroy crops after restaurant demand dried up, while Oreo-maker Mondelez International Inc. is cutting its product offerings by 25% to simplify logistics."

    One question that remains to be answered is the degree to which these shifts will be permanent.

    Bloomberg goes on:

    "Almost a third of U.S. adults say they plan to cook at home even more than they do now, once stay-at-home recommendations have lifted. Home-kitchen purchases back that up: In the early weeks of the pandemic, U.S. sales of electric pasta makers grew more than five times what they were a year prior. Bread maker sales more than quadrupled, according to data from NPD Group.

    "But those Americans cooking more at home aren’t pantry loading the same way they used to. More than a quarter of adults purchased items in bulk more often, according to a survey of 2,200 Americans conducted by Bloomberg News and Morning Consult. Brands have also fallen out of favor, as 23% of respondents said they purchased generic or store brands more often. In fact, 16% of Americans plan to buy private-label or bulk items even more frequently once the pandemic ends than they did before lockdowns."

    KC's View:

    In a perfect world, if the coronavirus were eliminated and a vaccine were plentiful, I think people would love to re-connect to their past lives - going to theaters and restaurants and parties, and not having to be vigilant about who and how we see people.  I know I would.  But we live in a far from perfect world, and there is more uncertainty than certainty, and so it is virtually impossible to predict what people will or won't do, or the degree to which habits developed over the past few months will be permanent or even semi-permanent.

    But here's what I do know, with some degree of confidence.  Businesses and brands that have thrived because of these shifts in consumer behavior will have to work to keep those customers and sales.  They cannot be complacent about it.  That means continuing to work hard to be relevant and resonant about products and services, and thinking about being "essential" in every sense of that word.

    Published on: July 20, 2020

    Interesting piece from Bloomberg about how e-commerce giant Alibaba is creating virtual malls.

    Here's how it frames the story:

    "Clobbered by the crushing effects of the coronavirus pandemic, thousands of retailers from Bangkok to Singapore have rushed to set up online shops on big e-commerce platforms to stay afloat this year. Now entire shopping malls are going virtual for the first time.

    "Marina Square Shopping Mall -- nestled among luxury hotels and popular tourist attractions in central Singapore -- is taking more than 30 of its tenants online with Lazada, the Southeast Asian unit of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. It’s the first shopping center in the city-state to create a mini virtual replica of its physical mall.

    "'It’s a new concept in Singapore,' James Chang, chief executive officer of Lazada Singapore, said in an interview.  'From a shopping mall’s perspective, it could be seen as competition, but we worked out this partnership because it provides visibility and awareness of the tenants and offline mall'."

    The story notes that "this follows similar moves by Siam Center, a landmark shopping mall in Bangkok built in the 1970s, which teamed up with Lazada to set up its virtual mall with about 40 tenants. In Indonesia, more than 100 tenants of three malls by developer Pakuwon Group are going live on Lazada."

    KC's View:

    Hard to know about the specifics, but it seems to me that the time is ripe for e-commerce platforms and mall/shopping center owners to start initiating these kinds of partnerships, finding ways to work together to serve shoppers, not defending boundaries that consumers are finding less and less confining.

    Published on: July 20, 2020

    TechCrunch reports on Google's newest experiment is described as "a video shopping platform designed to introduce consumers to new products in under 90 seconds."  The project is called Shoploop, and is "from Google’s internal R&D division, Area 120, where it tests out new ideas with a public user base."

    The story says that the concept "was inspired by how consumers today use a combination of social media and e-commerce sites together when considering purchases. For example, users will pop between a social media app, like Instagram, then head to YouTube to see a tutorial or demo, then - if they like what they saw - actually make a purchase … The shopping experience on Shoploop is interactive. Users don’t just scroll through images and text, but instead watch videos where creators show off things like  nail stickers, hair products or makeup. The team says it’s starting with products in categories such as makeup, skincare, hair and nails and its working with creators, publishers and store owners in this market for the app’s content."

    TechCrunch goes on:  "The experience is similar to watching YouTube tutorials, but distilled down to the best bits. (Or perhaps it’s more like TikTok, in that case) The demos are meant to be relatable, giving consumers a feel for the brands and products in real life. When consumers find a product they like, they can save it for later or click to be directed to the merchants website to complete the purchase. The app also allows you to follow your favorite Shoploop creators and share videos with friends and family."

    KC's View:

    Google, from all reports, is highly focused in finding ways to compete with Amazon's shopping platform … and it will be interesting to see how initiatives like these play out.

    Published on: July 20, 2020

    USA Today reports that a new online petition has been launched calling for Trader Joe's to change the branding of some of its ethnic foods because, the petition says, it reinforces negative and racist stereotypes.  At issue are brands "Trader Jose's," which is used for Hispanic foods, and "Trader Ming's," used for Chinese food.

    However, the petition may not be necessary - the story notes that Trader Joe's "says it already has begun work to phase out the names and while its approach to product naming 'may have been rooted in a lighthearted attempt at inclusiveness, we recognize that it may now have the opposite effect'."

    A spokesperson says that the retailer has been "in the process of updating older labels and replacing any variations with the name Trader Joe's, and we will continue do so until we complete this important work."

    KC's View:

    Good for Trader Joe's.  This is both the right answer and the right attitude.

    Published on: July 20, 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, we now have had 3,898,639 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, with 143,289 deaths and 1,802,391 reported recoveries.

    Globally, there have been 14,664,059 confirmed coronavirus cases, 609,279 fatalities and 8,748,094 reported recoveries.


    • The Wall Street Journal reports:

    "More American states reported record tallies of coronavirus infections on Sunday, further straining health-care resources, as the country struggled to contain the fast-spreading pandemic … North Carolina, Louisiana and Kentucky reported record case counts of 2,400, 3,119 and 979 respectively on Sunday. Arizona experienced a record of 147 deaths linked to the virus."

    The Journal goes on:

    "In Florida, younger people are driving a new wave of confirmed cases, Gov. Ron DeSantis said. On Sunday, more than 12,000 people tested positive, the fifth day in a row that the state added more than 10,000 cases in a single day. The state’s total number of cases stood at more than 337,000 … Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration said on Sunday that nearly 50 of the state’s hospitals with intensive care units beds were no longer available.

    "Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Sunday that the city is “on the brink” of returning to shutdown mode, as Los Angeles county saw its highest hospitalization rate since the outbreak occurred."


    •  From the Wall Street Journal:

    "The fierce resurgence of Covid-19 cases and related business shutdowns are dashing hopes of a quick recovery, prompting businesses from airlines to restaurant chains to again shift their strategies and staffing or ramp up previous plans to do so. They are turning furloughs into permanent layoffs, de-emphasizing their core businesses and downsizing production indefinitely."

    The story goes on:  "Executives who were bracing for a months-long disruption are now thinking in terms of years. Their job has changed from riding it out to reinventing. Roles once thought core are now an extravagance. Strategies set in the spring are obsolete."

    The Journal writes that "there are some signs of strength in consumer spending. The Commerce Department on Thursday said U.S. retail sales—a measure of purchases at stores, at restaurants and online—increased 7.5% in June, driven by a pickup in sales at motor-vehicle dealers, furniture, clothing and electronic stores. Spending has also been buoyed by enhanced unemployment benefits that are set to expire at the end of the month.

    "Still, some economists say the data obscure the reality on the ground, where consumers are increasingly fearful of the economic impact of a new surge of Covid-19 cases in much of the U.S."


    •  From the Wall Street Journal:

    "Face masks are emerging as one of the most powerful weapons to fight the novel coronavirus, with growing evidence that facial coverings help prevent transmission - even if an infected wearer is in close contact with others.

    "Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said he believes the pandemic could be brought under control over the next four to eight weeks if 'we could get everybody to wear a mask right now.'  His comments, made Tuesday with the Journal of the American Medical Association, followed an editorial he and others wrote there emphasizing 'ample evidence' of asymptomatic spread and highlighting new studies showing how masks help reduce transmission."


    •  The Washington Post reports on the major attitudinal sea change that took place last week, resulting in the fact that the nation's nine largest bricks-and-mortar retailers now require consumers to wear masks while in their stores.

    The Post writes:  "Costco began enforcing masks on May 4, but two months passed before other top retailers followed suit. Walmart, Inc. seemed to have triggered a corporate landslide this week with its announcement on Wednesday that masks would be required in its namesake stores and Sam’s Club locations.

    "Seven more of the largest brick-and-mortar retailers in the U.S. announced similar policies within two days: Kroger, CVS Health, Walgreens, Target, Albertsons Companies (which owns Safeway, Tom Thumb, and Acme, among other brands). Lowe’s and Home Depot both announced mask requirements Friday."


    •  USA Today reports that Winn Dixie is not mandating face masks in its stores as a way of avoiding "undue friction" between customers and employees.  In fact, Winn Dixie isn't even requiring employees to wear masks - it is "allowing" them to wear masks, but is not mandating their use.

    "We strongly encourage state officials to lead the way in regulating these type of safety mandates," said Joe Caldwell, director of corporate communications at Winn Dixie owner Southeastern Grocers.

    The story notes that Winn Dixie's decision has met with mixed reactions, with some thanking the retailer for defending their "freedom," and others suggesting that the supermarket should begin running a 'Grim Reaper special'.

    This won't surprise anyone who has been reading MNB, but I think Winn Dixie is wrong on this, and will not be judged well when the history of this era is written.


    •  The Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal reports that Caribou Coffee said on Friday "it would begin requiring customers inside its company-owned stores to wear masks, becoming the latest retail chain to make masks a must-have accessory … Exceptions will be made for small children and people with underlying medical conditions; all others will be steered toward either drive-thru lanes or Caribou's curbside pickup option for online orders."

    The policy goes into effect today.


    •  The Sacramento Bee reports that "Gov. Gavin Newsom handed down strict guidelines that will require most California schools to keep their buildings closed to start the year to cope with the coronavirus outbreak.

    "Those that do reopen during the coronavirus outbreak must require masks for older children as well as masks and consistent testing for staff."

    The Bee writes that "the California Department of Public Health built a five-point framework for schools to follow that Newsom said would allow students to learn during the pandemic.  The first point prohibits public and private schools in the more than 30 counties currently on the state’s COVID-19 watchlist from physically reopening their doors this fall … Those counties represent more than 80 percent of the state’s population. A district can only open physically after its county experiences a 14-day decline in COVID-19 numbers."

    Lots on this general subject in Your Views, below.


    •  The New York Times writes:

    "Delta Air Lines said it would require passengers unable to wear face masks because of health conditions to undergo a medical clearance at the airport before boarding — or the passengers should 'reconsider travel' altogether.

    "The policy is an addition to Delta’s rules that call on passengers to wear face masks at check-in, boarding gates and during the flight. It follows reports of some passengers on U.S. airlines failing to wear masks onboard and air staff not enforcing them."


    •  From the Puget Sound Business Journal:

    "Owners of Seattle businesses that violate state mandated mask-wearing and other requirements aimed at slowing the spread of Covid-19 could be fined, jailed and have their licenses suspended, Mayor Jenny Durkan said Friday."

    The story says that "a new city order, effective immediately, states businesses must require every person in their establishments to wear a protective face covering over their nose and mouth. They also must comply with physical distancing and business occupancy guidelines required by a statewide order.

    "Violation is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail and up to a $100 fine. Repeated and egregious offenses could result businesses having their business license suspended, and owners may be charged with a crime that carries a maximum penalty of up to 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine."


    •  From USA Today:

    "American tourists will be barred from entering the Bahamas amid the re-surging COVID-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said in a national address Sunday.

    "The rollback comes three weeks after the Bahamas reopened its borders to travelers. 

    "The situation in the Bahamas has deteriorated 'at an exponential rate since we reopened our international borders' on July 1, Minnis said. The country's Ministry of Health reported 49 new cases since borders fully opened, for a total of 153 cases."


    •  At Disney World, one can no longer walk and eat at the same time.

    Variety reports that the theme park has imposed this new rule on visitors because too many of them were using "I was eating" as an excuse for not wearing a mask while walking around.  They can eat and drink in the park, but Disney asks that people be stationery while doing so.

    The Variety story notes that "the park has been under fire for reopening in Florida, where coronavirus cases have skyrocketed recently, after it originally closed in March when the coronavirus pandemic was in early stages in the US … To help prevent the spread of coronavirus at the park, Disney World has taken some extra precautions, such as enforcing enhanced cleaning to high-traffic areas, adding signs and barriers to promote social distancing and creating cashless services to reduce physical contact."


    •  Axios reports that the stay-at-home summer of 2020 means that "many Americans are rediscovering their backyards and lawns."  But they're also discovering that certain things are hard to buy, such as above-ground pools, Adirondack chairs, 

    parts and supplies for lighting, pumps and custom pieces, (and) treated lumber for fences and decks."

    At the same time, the story says that "people are finding that landscaping and outdoor remodeling crews are booked for what feels like forever."

    The bottom line, according to Axios:  "There are bigger problems in the world, but in this time of limbo, even the small stuff can sting."


    •  From USA Today:

    "Here's another 'business' struggling because of the coronavirus pandemic: kids' lemonade stands.

    "According to lemonade brand Country Time, the popular summertime fixtures in neighborhoods across the nation are closed "due to social distancing guidelines."

    So, Country Time has launched the 'Littlest Bailout Relief Fund' to help put a 'little juice back into the economy.'

    "The brand owned by Kraft Heinz announced in a news release that it will send stimulus checks to kids who can't operate their lemonade stands this summer.  Through Aug. 12, parents of children 14 years or younger can apply for a chance to win $100 in the form of Visa gift cards and a commemorative check…"

    Published on: July 20, 2020

    CNet has an interesting idea for Amazon and, by extension, other purveyors of technologies that are designed to populate the "smart home."

    "Despite all the new products from Amazon and the reworked smart home platform from Google,," CNet writes, "2019 ultimately felt like an iterative year. Everything was improved, but no major new concepts were introduced. We've had voice assistants since 2011, smart speakers since 2014, smart displays since 2015 and smart home integration since long before all of those. So what's the next big invention? Augmented or virtual reality? A voice-driven application environment?"

    CNet's conclusion - smart home technology companies need to become more like Netflix.  Instead of selling them the next speaker or other piece of hardware, Amazon (and other companies) could sell people smart home subscriptions.

    Here's how it would work:  "A $15-a-month fee, which is a dollar cheaper than Netflix's premium plan, could easily help people start to fill their houses with smart home gear. Make it an Amazon Prime add-on that comes with a free Echo Dot or smart light bulb and customers battling the monotony of quarantine would likely give it a try. Within a year, with $180 down and brief installations once a month, average people could have a drastically different home experience.

    "The experience could even be personalized. In the same way meal delivery services let you choose from a limited menu each week or month, smart home subscribers could select more, say, security-oriented devices for the first few months, before switching to lighting or cooking devices."

    CNet goes on:  "A subscription-based smart home market could be great for the industry -- leading to more competitive pricing and more customer interest in what can seem like an inaccessible set of products. In a retail category full of hard-to-understand devices, a service like this could slowly introduce new products based on customer interests, all of which are guaranteed to work with their Amazon Echo speaker."

    And here's the rationale:  "The subscription model has been uniquely disruptive in the entertainment industry, but it's also proved lucrative in plenty of other retail spaces of late -- fueling dozens, if not hundreds, of popular clothing, food and toy brands. These companies allow customers to try new products for reasonable prices, cutting out much of the time typically associated with research, shopping and ultimately making difficult decisions. In fact, in the niche smart home market -- where buying a simple light bulb can lead down rabbit hole articles on color temperature and wattage, ecosystem compatibility and voice control -- a subscription box model seems to make a lot of sense."

    KC's View:

    I have to say, I love this … it provides an entry point for many people who would like to invest in this kind of technology, but quite frankly don't know where to start or how to invest intelligently.  And for Amazon - or anyone else - it would be about the creation and deepening of relationships, not just selling stuff.

    Which is what subscription services and auto-replenishment are all about.

    Published on: July 20, 2020

    LL Bean announced on Friday that it will begin selling wholesale in the US, distributing a selection of its products to Nordstrom, Staples and Scheels, a sporting goods chain.

    LL Bean backpacks and water bottles will be available at Staples in time for back-to-school sales, and the iconic Bean Boot, in a variety of styles, will be one of the items available at Nordstrom, both in-store and online.

    The Associated Press reports that "the move is not unprecedented for the 108-year-old retailer: L.L. Bean inked an agreement in 2018 to sell products in Sporting Life, Hudson’s Bay and Mountain Equipment Co-Op stores in Canada. The company also reached an agreement three years ago to expand sales in Japan beyond company-branded stores."

    The AP story quotes Charlie Bruder, LL Bean's vice president for merchandising, as saying that the retailer "believes its products are underrepresented in the marketplace and that there’s an opportunity to expand while other retailers contract."

    KC's View:

    Smart move.  LL Bean has been in expansionist mode, but this allows it to expand its footprint with less risk, which makes sense at a time when the whole shopping infrastructure is being challenged by events.

    Published on: July 20, 2020

    The Washington Post reports on a new take on the "ghost kitchen" - the "ghost food hall."

    The Post writes that "ghost food halls combine 'ghost kitchens' -  which serve meals exclusively by delivery — and food halls, both of which have become popular in recent years, said Alex Susskind, associate dean for academic affairs at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration. With the pandemic making indoor dining less safe than before, he said many people who were skeptical of takeout and delivery are suddenly using those services frequently and finding themselves hungry for new food options."

    One example from DC:  "Ghostline, an establishment that will gather several chefs cooking in different styles to offer takeout, delivery and limited patio seating in the Glover Park neighborhood starting Sept. 1, without serving customers inside. This 'ghost food hall' is among a few food establishments whose owners are betting on an unusual business model to carry them through a crisis shaking the foundations of the restaurant industry."

    You can read the story here.

    Published on: July 20, 2020

    •  From the Wall Street Journal:

    "A just-completed CBRE analysis found that since 2017, 60 new retail-to-industrial conversion projects have entered at least the preplanning stage, out of a total of 94 such projects completed or in progress in the past decade. Projects begun or completed since 2017 transformed 14 million square feet of former retail space into 15.2 million square feet of industrial space, most of it for e-commerce distribution. That’s still a relatively small proportion of the 14.5 billion square feet of industrial real estate in the U.S."

    "Welcome to the next phase of the 'retail apocalypse,'" the Journal writes, "part of a burgeoning trend in which retail spaces of all sizes are being converted into e-commerce fulfillment centers. The global pandemic may have turbocharged the shift from bricks-and-mortar retail to online shopping, but the rate of conversion of retail into industrial spaces has been accelerating for years, says Matthew Walaszek, associate director of industrial and logistics research at CBRE Group Inc., the world’s largest commercial real-estate services firm by revenue."

    Published on: July 20, 2020

    •  Fox Business reports that the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) says that "tens of thousands of workers throughout the U.S. will take part in 'Strike for Black Lives' on Monday and walk out of their workplaces for eight minutes and 46 seconds to remember George Floyd … The walkout will include workers from fast food, nursing home, rideshare and other sectors, according to SEIU. Labor groups including the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Domestic Workers Alliance are supporting the walkout."

    "'Companies like McDonald's cannot on the one hand tweet that 'Black Lives Matter' and on the other pay us poverty wages and fail to provide sick days and adequate PPE,' Angely Rodriguez Lambert, a McDonald's employee in Oakland, Calif., said in a statement shared by SEIU."

    "We're going on strike because McDonald's and other fast-food companies have failed to protect us in a pandemic that has ravaged Black and brown communities across the country," Lambert said.


    •  Newsweek reports that "a peaceful protest in Seattle turned violent when some demonstrators vandalized government buildings and ransacked businesses, including an Amazon Go store and a Starbucks."  The story notes that "protests against police brutality and racism were touched off in Seattle by the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis police custody on May 25, and have taken place almost every night since.

    Published on: July 20, 2020

    John Lewis, a sharecropper's son who became a Civil Rights icon and eventually one of the most respected members of the USA House of Representatives, passed away on Friday of pancreatic cancer.  He was 80.

    Lewis was the last surviving speaker from the 1963 March on Washington, where he said, in part:

    "By the force of our demands, our determination and our numbers, we shall splinter the segregated South into a thousand pieces and put them together in the image of God and democracy. We must say: 'Wake up, America. Wake up!'  For we cannot stop, and we will not and cannot be patient."

    And, he said:

    "I appeal to all of you to get into this great revolution that is sweeping this nation.  Get in and stay in the streets of every city, every village and hamlet of this nation until true freedom comes, until the revolution of 1776 is complete."

    Here's an excerpt from the New York Times obituary:

    "Mr. Lewis’s personal history paralleled that of the civil rights movement. He was among the original 13 Freedom Riders, the Black and white activists who challenged segregated interstate travel in the South in 1961. He was a founder and early leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which coordinated lunch-counter sit-ins. He helped organize the March on Washington, where Dr. King was the main speaker, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

    "Mr. Lewis led demonstrations against racially segregated restrooms, hotels, restaurants, public parks and swimming pools, and he rose up against other indignities of second-class citizenship. At nearly every turn he was beaten, spat upon or burned with cigarettes. He was tormented by white mobs and absorbed body blows from law enforcement.

    "On March 7, 1965, he led one of the most famous marches in American history. In the vanguard of 600 people demanding the voting rights they had been denied, Mr. Lewis marched partway across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., into a waiting phalanx of state troopers in riot gear.

    "Ordered to disperse, the protesters silently stood their ground. The troopers responded with tear gas and bullwhips and rubber tubing wrapped in barbed wire. In the melee, which came to be known as Bloody Sunday, a trooper cracked Mr. Lewis’s skull with a billy club, knocking him to the ground, then hit him again when he tried to get up."

    There is a move afoot to rename the Edmund Pettus Bridge - named after a Confederate Army general and leader of the Ku Klux Klan - after Lewis.

    KC's View:

    There is lovely quote from John Lewis that seems incredibly timely…

    "Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble."

    Published on: July 20, 2020

    So, on Friday I got the following email from MNB reader Brett Hassler, responding to my piece about how retailers were suddenly embracing mask mandates:

    To much here to fully respond back on. This will be a great response to hold onto and see what happens in November and perhaps require some reflection.

    In the meantime, and I am surprised you didn't think this was note worthy, in hiding behind the shamdemic these retailers see a very big sales opportunity at very high profit levels in selling all these masks to their customers -just so they can shop with them. Brilliant- it's like a membership and your mask is your membership card.

    I'm sure we will soon see shippers at every check-stand, end displays, and actual sets in aisles with assorted SKU's for value, filtration level (which by the way, you know you are right, can you tell us what serves as suitable mask) and don't forget fashion and the newest greatest mask hitting the market each week.

    Nice job pointing out your political bias, now how about going back and talking about retail, why most of read MNB.

    I actually wrote back to Brett, even though I really have no idea how to have a conversation about this subject with someone who calls this disease - which has killed more than 140,000 people in the US and more than 600,000 people globally - a "shamdemic."  (How many people have to die for this to be real?  Just curious.)

    First I wrote him:

    This isn’t about politics.  It is about science … and retailers keeping their employees and customers safe and healthy.

    He responded:

    Sorry Kevin, but I have to disagree.

    Which is fine.  I'll choose the science, and you can choose whatever the hell it is you are choosing.

    But I also wrote:

    I was reading your email again, and was wondering:  are you suggesting that the retailers are just endorsing masks because they see a sales opportunity?  … I just want to be sure I don’t misinterpret you…

    Are you suggesting it is not a sales opportunity? Just think if every American uses two disposable masks a day...... And by the way, just a few short months ago banning plastic straws and utensils was all the rage. Where is the volume of these masks going to end up?

    I'm not arguing that retailers shouldn't sell masks.  I am arguing that a sales opportunity is not the only reason … it would be irresponsible to require them but not sell them.  (Also, a lot of retailers are giving them away to people who show up the store without them.)

    I can be a cynic.  But apparently not nearly as big a cynic as this particular MNB reader.

    To be clear, I do believe that this is an issue with different perspectives, and that it is not as simple as mandating masks and then everyone complies.

    One MNB reader wrote:

    I absolutely agree that every citizen should do their part to litigate the spread of covid, wearing masks is a small ask of all of us to do that. I disagree with your view on retailers policing this with a no mask no entry policy. People that aren't wearing mask are looking for confrontation on this issue. They WANT someone to tell them they have to wear a mask. They rationalize that it's a free country and no one will "make" them wear a mask. 

    Have you not seen the videos of people getting into fights, threatening store clerks, and in some cases pulling out weapons? I think it is not reasonable to ask a 20 year old kid to stand at the door and take this abuse. If this is a mandate in the state, then the local authorities should man every retail operation and enforce this. I do not want to be the store manager that has to call a parent to tell them that their child was injured, or worse, because of a mask dispute. Sorry, I can not support having retailers enforce this. We are not the police!

    Another MNB reader wrote:

    It’s great that retailers are now telling customers that they must wear a face covering to enter and shop in their stores, except for the fact that none of them have the courage to actually enforce these mandates.  Customers walk into my store all the time without a mask on.  No one  says anything to them because it’s against HIPPA rules to ask anyone what their medical condition is that prevents them from abiding by these mandates. 

    And from another reader:

    Most of the time I agree with you on your views. This one I am disagreeing with - hat retailers should set the tone.  I am a store manager, and the vitriol that was heaped on our teammates from the beginning was horrible. I want to be clear, I support the mask order. I disagree that retailers should initiate it. Sad times when our elected officials stick to the party message instead of doing what is right. Read into that however you want. I expect leaders to lead. I respect our business leaders trying to protect us and our customers, shame it has to come from them. 

    From a different angle, from another MNB reader:

    Regarding police officers enforcing mask wearing….

    My son graduated from the police academy  in November and hit the streets in January after field training in Richmond, VA where we’ve had protests for more than 6 weeks.

    With protests, destruction, officers being pulled to Crowd Management Teams there just aren’t enough officers out there to make this a priority.

    But another MNB reader wrote:

    Right on about mask wearing!  Was just listening last night to a discussion about the behavior of citizens in ‘loose’ (permissive & individualist , like U.S., Brazil, Italy) and ‘tight’ societies (Japan, China, Singapore) and the comparative effects on the spread of the pandemic. Pretty obvious empirical evidence.  Then there was the example of New Zealand - definitely a “loose” society, but able to turn on a dime and tighten up in order to achieve the greater good. Let’s be like New Zealand!

    From another reader:

    That’s nothing new to Californians. I guess it depends on where people live. Here, we’ve been wearing masks in all stores…

    MNB reader Leon Drzewianowski wrote:

    Regarding the email today on Monday Morning Quarterbacking of masks, I have to say I think that there was not as much negativity by the CDC and Dr Fauci to all of us wearing masks early on, but that they felt that masks were needed more by the front line care givers. They, I believe, were afraid if the general public went out and grabbed up all the available masks the shortage would have been even worse than it was for hospitals and first responders. They did not change their beliefs, they were just trying to protect those most at risk

    As an aside, I really enjoy reading your Morning News Beat and appreciate your thoughts and opinion. Please keep up the great work. 

    Another MNB reader chimed in:

    Costco has done the best job I’ve seen of any Southern California food retailer in having safe practices in combating Covid-19. They open stores early for seniors, require (and monitor) safe distancing both outside and inside their buildings, implemented safe distances in checkout procedures, implemented safe practices in their food courts, provide masks for those customers that request them, sanitize shopping carts, provide disinfectant wipes upon entering the buildings, reconfigured bathroom urinals to provide safe distancing, etc. They are the gold standard in Southern California in being a responsible retailer during the pandemic… and they have done a wonderful in supplying products and advising customers with signage on products that are out of stock prior to entering the building.

    And from another reader, an independent retailer:

    Almost to the day, three months ago, we began to require face coverings to be worn by all of our Team Members while on duty in the store.  Only a few days later our local Health Officer directed the community to wear face coverings whenever they were entering essential businesses that were remaining open to serving customers, like our supermarket.   While the County Health Order had some exemptions built in we jumped right on this and created a store policy that permitted no exceptions.  We offered curbside or home delivery as options for those who were not able to, or not willing to wear a face covering. 

    Let's not lose sight of the main driver for all of this; To keep the essential workers we employ healthy and safe!   So for the past three months Kroger has put their Team Members and customers at risk by not requiring face coverings.  That means they have disregarded the health and safety of their employees and that's a disgrace.  They are finally getting on the bandwagon, like Walmart.  And for all this time they have put their employees at risk.  And now they would like positive press.  In the end I don't care what these larger corporations do or say.   I focus on what we can do and have done.  Our actions speak loudly to our Team Members who know we care about them through our policies and how we manage those policies.  Because we care more about our Team Members than we do anything else.  Are you hearing this Kroger and Walmart?  

    MNB reader Steve Deatherage wrote:

    Everyone should be wearing a mask now.  I have since this all started and now it is the norm.  No one makes fun of you, and they only get angry when you don’t have one on.  I know a few people that think all of this is just silly and a joke and they refuse to wear a mask.  I just hope no one in their family gets COVID-19 as that will be a  “ I told you so “ moment and be very unfortunate.  Let’s just all get along and do what is right  and help reduce the spread of this infection.


    Also on the mask front…

    Last week MNB took note of a New York Post report that the San Diego woman who complained on social media last month about the Starbucks barista who refused to serve her because she was not wearing a face mask, only to generate an outpouring of support for that barista that resulted in a customer-created GoFundMe page that brought in more than $100,000 in "tips" for the employee, now has a new cause.

    "She's considering suing for half the money that customers gave to the barista.

    According to the story, Amber Lynn Gilles told a local TV station that she has underlying medical conditions that don't allow her to wear a mask.

    "The Post wrote that 'Gilles brought two documents to the outlet to prove her exemption. One document was a pelvic exam from 2015, reporting a 'probable exophytic fibroid arising from the anterior wall of the uterus measuring 2.9 cm size,' and 'simple 2.5 cm left ovarian cyst.'

    "A second was a handwritten note on letterhead from a local chiropractor, reading, 'Amber has underlying breath conditions that prevent her from wearing a mask or any type of facial covering whatsoever. Please contact me if have any questions.'"

    I referred to this as "unmitigated gall," but several MNB reader observed something else…

    MNB reader Bob Thomas wrote:

    She should stay home as much as possible.  What would happen if, in her weak condition, she caught the virus. There are some plastic face guards she can use that would be cheaper than legal fees for the suit.  But to quote Puff Daddy:  “It’s all about the Benjamins.”

    Referring to her medical condition, another MNB reader wrote:

    And she really wants to use this as an excuse to not wear a mask? May I suggest that if her ‘breathing problems’ are that severe, contracting COVID-19 would almost assuredly kill her. She should not venture out of her bubble until this pandemic has passed.


    On a related subject, I got the following email from MNB reader Rob Connelly:

    I think we are very aligned in most everything— I am baffled at how this pandemic has gotten so political.. and the mask fight is just absurd...

    But I do want to challenge your thought that it would be better to just keep kids home from school the rest of the year ...

    What I don’t see from you and many others is the complexity of the challenge ... I am sure you are familiar with all the research on from PreK to 3rd grade is so critical to a child’s development... and then from there to 8th... and if that foundation is not set the likelihood of success for that student is dramatically lower…

    So who loses when we close the schools ... the highest risk, the poorest , the most vulnerable?

    I am not worried about the kids in my upscale neighborhood... they will be fine because they have plenty of resources … I am worried about the Dayton City Schools where so many are challenged with generational poverty , abuse , abandonment, lack of internet, etc…

    It feels like a position of privilege to say let’s close them without at least acknowledging it is a gut wrenching decision... that has lots of risk and human impact in either case.

    My only point is I believe it is very complicated and I don’t hear much discussion about the kids who are being left behind if we close the in person schools.

    Rob … I actually don't think we are disagreeing that much.

    There's no question that kids will suffer a significant loss if they do not return to traditional classrooms in just a few weeks.  I would just suggest that there will be nothing traditional about their classrooms when they return.

    In my upscale community, classrooms will be structured so that kids are organized in cohorts, with desks organized so they are three feet apart, and teachers will be required to stay behind a line at the front of the room.   The kids will be wearing masks, and their desks may be shielded in plexiglass.  Teachers will wear masks and face shields.  Books and bookcases may be removed from rooms, and there will be very little sense of traditional community … with no recess and kids having lunch at their desks.

    And this is an upscale school.   One can only imagine what it will be like at schools with fewer resources.

    This is extremely complicated, and I think time and financial pressures have school districts to varying degrees making it up as they go along - doing their best, but not really knowing what the right thing is to do, since a spike in diseases inevitably will mean closures.  If a teacher has a class of 20 kids, and one kid tests positive, they'll have to put all those kids and the teacher into quarantine … and what about other kids they've encountered (in the neighborhood, on the bus) and other teachers?

    What I'm suggesting - and I understand this is not the optimal situation - is that it might make sense to take the first half of the school year and use it as an opportunity to a) try to flatten the infection curve to a significant degree, and b) develop a nuanced approach to balancing e-learning with classroom learning that will serve the students to the greatest possible extent.

    I agree.  These are all gut-wrenching decisions, and "complicated" may be the understatement of the year.

    Published on: July 20, 2020

    The Toronto Blue Jays will not being playing any home games in the pandemic-shortened Major League Baseball season scheduled to begin on Thursday.

    That's because Canadian authorities have ruled that the teams from the United States will not be allowed to enter the country and play in Toronto - the only non-US city that has a major league baseball team - because of fears that they will bring and spread the Covid-19 coronavirus.

    "Based on the best-available public health advice, we have concluded the cross-border travel required for MLB regular-season play would not adequately protect Canadians’ health and safety," said Canadian immigration minister Marco Mendicino.

    The Blue Jays have until July 29 to find a temporary home;  they are scheduled to be on the road until then, at which point they are scheduled to play against the Washington Nationals.

    Among the locations mentioned as possibilities are Buffalo, where its Triple-A minor league affiliate plays, and Dunedin, its Florida spring training home.  However, the team has expressed a desire to play in a major league facility, though that might mean having to mix-and-match stadiums based on date availability.