retail 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 4,862,513 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, with 158,968 deaths and 2,448,295 reported recoveries.

Globally, there have been 18,471,207 coronavirus cases, 697,954 fatalities, and 11,698,016 reported recoveries.

•  From the Wall Street Journal:

"The U.S. reported fewer than 50,000 new coronavirus cases for the second day in a row, with some hard-hit states recording smaller increases even as the virus continued to spread in other parts of the country.

"The daily tally of new cases in the U.S. was more than 45,000, slightly lower than the previous day’s total, marking the smallest daily gain since July 6, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. death toll was more than 155,000.

"In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday that new infections in the state had fallen over the past week for the first time since June. Hospitalizations were down, too, he said, suggesting that perhaps the state was starting to see the spread of the virus, which surged through June and July, slow again."

The Journal goes on:  "A Wall Street Journal analysis of Johns Hopkins data found that while the spread of the virus appeared to be slowing in some hot spots such as California and Florida, some states in the Northeast and Midwest are experiencing increases in cases. In Connecticut, Maryland, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Jersey, the seven-day averages of new cases exceeded those states’ 14-day averages, suggesting the number of cases is rising."

A friend of mine put it this way:  "You know how when a doctor gives you antibiotics, he tells you to make sure you take the whole two weeks' worth … that it is important not to stop taking them a week in just because you feel better.  That's the metaphor for dealing with the coronavirus … you have to go the distance in dealing with it and not delude yourself that when the numbers go down or stabilize, the threat is over."  He's right - it is when things start to stabilize that the hard work really begins.

•  The Washington Post writes that "the novel coronavirus is surging in several Midwestern states that had not previously seen high infection rates while average daily deaths remained elevated Monday in Southern and Western states hit with a resurgence of the disease after lifting some restrictions earlier this summer.

Missouri, Montana and Oklahoma are among those witnessing the largest percentage surge of infections over the past week, while, adjusted for population, the number of new cases in Florida, Mississippi and Alabama still outpaced all other states … Experts also see worrying trends emerging in major East Coast and Midwest cities, and they anticipate major outbreaks in college towns as classes resume in August."

•  The National Retail Federation (NRF) is out with an assessment of the current retail environment, concluding that "despite broad indications that the economy has begun to recover as businesses reopen from the coronavirus pandemic, conflicting data makes it difficult to say how steadily the comeback will continue."

"Optimism about the economy and retail spending is being tested daily with the spread of the coronavirus," says NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz. “Big questions are looming, and we are all grappling to discern what incoming data is telling us about the health of the economy and consumers. Depending on the data selected, the answers are not entirely clear.

“A key question is whether the pace of growth and momentum will carry forward over the next few months.  Based on quarterly and monthly data, the U.S. economic recovery continues despite elevated COVID-19 cases. But in examining weekly data, the pace of improvement appears to be slowing. Could it be that we are at or heading back to the same spot we were at two months ago?”

I'm not an economist, or a doctor … but it seems pretty clear to me that the pandemic won't be subsiding anytime soon - it may even get worse as we move into autumn and a more traditional flu season, with people going back to work and school - and the economy won't be able to fully recover until we have a vaccine.

•  From the Washington Post:

"Across the country, families are facing fraught decisions — and fierce disagreements — over whether to see one another this summer. From California to Chicago to Charlotte, family gatherings of all kinds have been linked to coronavirus outbreaks that have sickened scores of people. But as the pandemic drags on, it is testing relatives’ resolve to remain apart.

"Summer reunions offer a preview of what could happen later this year, when Americans celebrate their first Thanksgiving and Christmas since the pandemic’s start."

Examples from the Post story:

"A covid cluster at an Idaho onion-ring factory was traced back to a family reunion … A party of two dozen relatives in Charlotte led to 41 infections … And a family dinner for six in Dallas resulted in 14 people getting sick, one of whom died and another one of whom remains on a ventilator."

Last week, the Post writes, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan "warned people not to assume spending time with relatives was risk-free.  'The number one activity of those who have tested positive recently, reported by a staggering 44 percent . . . was attending family gatherings,' he said at a news conference in which he tightened mask and travel restrictions.  'We have people saying, ‘We’re not going out. We’re going to rent a beach house together with 20 or 30 of our family and we are staying home.’ But they are spreading the virus'."