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, we now have had 4,568,375 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, with 153,848 deaths and 2,245,521 reported recoveries.

Globally, there have been 17,212,853 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 670,903 fatalities and 10,726,201 reported recoveries.

•  From the Washington Post:

"New infections appear to have peaked across the United States, but hospitalizations continue to rise, and the death toll is soaring. More than 1,400 coronavirus-related deaths were reported nationwide on Wednesday — roughly one fatality for every minute of the day. It was the worst day for covid-19 deaths in more than two months, as Florida, California, North Carolina and Idaho recorded single-day highs."

The Post goes on to point out that "Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, said states such as Ohio, Tennessee, Indiana and Kentucky are seeing a subtle but worrisome uptick in positivity rates. That suggests they 'may be getting into the same sort of trouble' as hot spots in the South that were quick to reopen, Fauci warned."

•  Politico reports that Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-Texas) tested positive for Covid-19 during a pre-screening at the White House on Wednesday.

Gohmert has been at several Congressional hearings on Tuesday, largely without wearing a mask, and was identified as being positive for the virus because he was tested before a planned trip to Texas on Air Force One with President Trump.

•  The Washington Post reports that "fans will not be allowed to attend the U.S. Open at Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, N.Y., which will be held Sept. 17-20 after it was postponed from its usual Father’s Day weekend spot because of the coronavirus pandemic."

•  The Chicago Tribune reports that "the Illinois High School Association on Wednesday put the football season — at least in the traditional sense — on ice due to continuing concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

"According to a new plan introduced by the IHSA, there will be a streamlined football season from Feb. 15 to May 1. Girls volleyball and boys soccer have also been moved to that time frame.

"The only fall sports in 2020 the IHSA plans to conduct, starting Aug. 10 and ending Oct. 17, are boys and girls cross country, boys and girls golf, girls tennis and girls swimming."

•  Willamette Week reports that "Portland Public Schools will hold online classes through at least Nov. 5, the district announced July 28 after it became clear that Portland schools—public and private—are unlikely to open anytime soon … To begin having in-person classes, at least for kindergarten through third-grade students, Multnomah County would need to reduce its number of new COVID-19 cases by more than 40%, and for a full reopening, the cases would need to decline more significantly under state criteria announced today."

•  From the New York Times this morning:

"As the nation heads toward a chaotic back-to-school season, with officials struggling over when to reopen classrooms and how to engage children online, teachers’ unions are playing a powerful role in determining the shape of public education as the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage.

"Teachers in many districts are fighting for longer school closures, stronger safety requirements and limits on what they are required to do in virtual classrooms, while flooding social media and state capitols with their concerns and threatening to walk off their jobs if key demands are not met … But even as unions exert their influence, they face enormous public and political pressure because of widespread acknowledgment that getting parents back to work requires functioning school systems, and that remote learning failed many children this spring, deepening achievement gaps by race and income.

"With the academic year set to begin next month in much of the country, parents are desperate for teachers to provide more interactive, face-to-face instruction this fall, both online and, where safe, in person. But many unions, while concerned about the safety of classrooms, are also fighting to limit the amount of time that teachers are required to be on video over the course of a day."

The degree to which the country can achieve any semblance of normality will be tied to our kids' ability to return to school.  There's no question about that.

It is, however, a tenuous construct.  If a teacher has 20 kids in her class and one of those kids tests positive, the classroom has to be closed for 24 hours and the entire class - and teacher - have to quarantine for 14 days.  The same goes for all the other kids and teachers who have been in contact with that kid in the school, playground, on the bus, or elsewhere.  It is like a dominoes game that we cannot win.

•  Amazon announced that it will be selling new face shields - designed by the same folks who designed theAmazon Prime Air Drones - at cost to front line medical workers and their institutions.  This is in addition to some 200,000 shields being donated to medical personnel and $10 million worth of gear and protective equipment being donated by the company.

•  Interesting column in the Financial Times by Edward Luce in which he postulates an American divide over a coronavirus vaccine.

Luce writes:

"A recent poll found that only half of Americans definitely plan to take a coronavirus vaccine. Other polls said that between a quarter and a third of the nation would never get inoculated. Whatever the true number, anti-vaccine campaigners are having a great pandemic - as indeed is Covid-19. At least three-quarters of the population would need to be vaccinated to reach herd immunity.

"Infectious diseases thrive on mistrust. It is hard to imagine a better Petri dish than today's America. Some of the country's vaccine hesitancy is well grounded. Regulators are under tremendous pressure to let big pharma shorten clinical trials. That could lead to mistakes … Cutting immunological corners could be dangerous to public health.

"Such caution accounts for many of those who would hesitate to be injected. The rest are captured by conspiracy theories. In the battle between public science and anti-vaxxer sentiment, science is heavily outgunned. It faces a rainbow coalition of metastasising folk suspicions on both the left and the right. Public health messages are little match for the memology of social media opponents."

Yikes.  (BTW … I had no idea what "memology" means.  I checked.  It is "the study of memes."  Naturally.)