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've now had 5,251,446 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, with 166,192 deaths and 2,715,934 reported recoveries.

Globally, there now have been 20,275,611 confirmed coronavirus cases, 739,512 fatalities, and 13,201,357 reported recoveries.

•  The Washington Post points out that research from Johns Hopkins University shows that it took six months for global coronavirus cases to reach 10 million, but then just six weeks to double to 20 million.

The Post goes on:  "More than half the cases reported to date were found in just three countries: the United States, Brazil and India. Though the United States continues to outstrip all other nations with a total count of more than 5 million cases, India has seen the largest increase over the past week, with more than 314,000 new infections reported since Aug. 4."

•  Some context from the Wall Street Journal:

"The accelerated spread of the coronavirus has spurred higher testing positivity rates, hospitalizations and case counts in a number of hard-hit states in the last month. But the number of new coronavirus cases reported each day in the U.S. has fallen since mid-July, according to Johns Hopkins data … Thirteen states - Arkansas, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Virginia - have seen their seven-day average of new confirmed cases jump higher than the two-week average as of Aug. 8, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of Johns Hopkins data. That held true for 44 states a month earlier, reflecting a decline in reported cases in many parts of the country.

"The seven-day average for new cases has been generally trending down for more than two weeks, from more than 67,000 on July 22 to 53,905 on Saturday. Since July 26, the seven-day average has been less than the 14-day average, a signal that case counts have broadly been ticking down."

The Journal goes on:  "The drop in confirmed cases could be tied partly to a drop in testing. In 29 states and Washington, D.C., the seven-day average number of tests per 1,000 people was down Sunday compared with a week ago, according to Johns Hopkins data. Demand for testing has outstripped supply, even though testing and contact tracing is considered essential by health experts to curb the spread of the virus.

"Deaths related to Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, are still trending up in 19 states, including California, Georgia, Illinois and North Carolina, according to the Journal analysis of Johns Hopkins data."

•  Michael T. Osterholm, professor and director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, and Neel Kashkari, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, have co-authored an op-ed piece in the New York Times that starts out this way:

"In just weeks we could almost stop the viral fire that has swept across this country over the past six months and continues to rage out of control. It will require sacrifice but save many thousands of lives.

"We believe the choice is clear. We can continue to allow the coronavirus to spread rapidly throughout the country or we can commit to a more restrictive lockdown, state by state, for up to six weeks to crush the spread of the virus to less than one new case per 100,000 people per day.

"That’s the point at which we will be able to limit the increase in new cases through aggressive public health measures, just as other countries have done. But we’re a long way from there right now."

The next six months, they write, "could make what we have experienced so far seem like just a warm-up to a greater catastrophe. With many schools and colleges starting, stores and businesses reopening, and the beginning of the indoor heating season, new case numbers will grow quickly."

You can read the piece here.

•  From the Washington Post:

" Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Tuesday that the country has become the first to approve a coronavirus vaccine, developed by the Gamaleya Institute in Moscow, with production and tens of thousands of inoculations to follow.

"Officials have pledged to vaccinate millions of people, including teachers and front line health-care workers, with the experimental coronavirus vaccine beginning this month, raising global alarm that the country is jumping dangerously ahead of critical, large scale testing that is essential to determine if it is safe and effective."

•  ABC News reports that Dollar Tree has changed its mind yet again - it now will require customers to wear masks when entering its Dollar Tree and Family Dollar stores.

It was just weeks ago that the company said that it would request but not require masks, which was just two weeks after it said it would require masks.

Dollar Tree said it now wants to comply with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.

I don't know what the hell they're dithering about.  This is just patently absurd … and made even more so when its last reversal, away from a mask requirement, occurred as most of the nation's big retailers were mandating the wearing of masks in their stores.

•  The Seattle Times has a story about how difficult it is to get a definitive answer about the efficacy of masks in preventing or slowing down the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus.  An effective study wouldn't just take time, but it also would require two groups - one wearing masks, one not - that could be studies … which would be sort of unethical, since it would leave the unmasked group potentially exposed to the virus.

And so, the Times writes, "officials considering mask mandates - as well as citizens weighing how and when to mask up - are forced to act on imperfect evidence. But the path is getting clearer as the sheer volume and variety of studies increases. Some are still preliminary and none meet the so-called gold standard of large, randomized, controlled trials. But collectively they are building a compelling case for universal masking as a low-tech way to help rein in the spread of the virus, and perhaps avoid the need for more painful restrictions.

"The new research comes from laboratory tests of masks; observational reports and deep dives into the data from places where masks were and weren’t embraced. There are compelling case studies, including a beauty shop in Missouri where mask-wearing by two unknowingly infected beauticians and dozens of customers seems to have prevented an outbreak. Then there’s the summer camp in Georgia where kids sang and cheered and didn’t wear masks, and more than 250 people got infected."

There's also common sense, and the notion that basic decency suggests that one would like to do everything possible to protect the people arounds you from possible infection.  

•  Fox Business reports that "Clorox CEO-elect Linda Rendle said Monday that the company is 'making more disinfecting products that we ever have before' in an effort to keep up with demand during the coronavirus pandemic."

"Since January, we're able to make 100 million more disinfecting products than we did before, that's a 50% increase," she said.  "And specific to wipes, we're making nearly 1 million packages every day and shipping them to stores."  However, the company also says that it will take until 2021 for stores to be fully stocked with Clorox products.

•  The Washington Post reports that "New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday that he plans to welcome 700,000 students back to school buildings for in-person instruction for the start of the academic year in September, an extraordinary announcement that comes while other big cities plan for remote learning as the pandemic continues to rack the nation.

"The city is home to the nation’s largest public school system, serving more than a million children, and is being closely watched by education leaders as it prepares to open its doors. Under the plan, approved by the state this week, students who opted for in-person instruction will still do much of their learning virtually and will only head to classrooms on certain days to prevent crowding in classrooms and hallways."

•  The Wall Street Journal reports that "in Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear said the state was recommending that schools wait to begin in-person classes until Sept. 28, citing a rise in cases over the past five to six weeks and an increasing number of infections in children, among other things."

•  From National Public Radio:

"A coronavirus outbreak has been discovered at the Georgia high school that drew national attention last week after photos and videos of crowded hallways and unmasked students went viral on social media.

"Nine people at North Paulding High School tested positive for the coronavirus after the first week of in-person instruction, according to officials in Paulding County, an outer suburb of Atlanta.

"The school is now 'temporarily switching' to virtual learning for two days while its facilities are being disinfected, according to a letter from Brian Otott, the county school district superintendent."

Of course, the other thing that is being purged from the school is freedom of speech that some students exercised by posting pictures of crowded halls and unmasked students online.  The administration actually suspended two students for posting the pictures … which tells is everything we need to know about what this district's priorities are.

•  The Chicago Sun Times reports that "Loyola University Chicago students will live in on-campus housing this fall, the university announced Thursday.

"Citing COVID-19 health conditions and future uncertainty, the university announced the decision to close all residence halls for the upcoming semester, according to an email sent to the school community. The school had previously planned to put all on-campus students in single dorm rooms, with some living in the nearby Hampton Inn to allow for social distancing.

“We simply cannot put our on-campus residential students in harm’s way and risk further disruption to them and their families if they needed to move home mid-semester because of an outbreak in one of our residence halls or as a result of the state and city reverting back to Phase 3,” the school administration said in the email.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Children’s Hospital Association (CHA) are out with a new report saying that the rate of Covid-19 cases among children in the US was up by 40 percent in the last 2 weeks of July, according to a new data report.

Three states are responsible for a quarter of the numbers - California, Florida, and Arizona.

•  The Detroit Free Press reports that "the Big Ten is expected to cancel its fall college football season in a historic move that stems from concerns related to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic … Multiple sources said early Monday morning that presidents voted 12-2 to end the season, though the Big Ten said Monday afternoon no official vote had taken place."

The story goes on:  "Michigan and Michigan State - which both have physicians as presidents - were among the schools in favor of not playing this fall."

However, subsequent stories from other news outlets have said that the plan is to delay the start of the season, not cancel it completely.

•  From the Department of Unintended But Positive Consequences:

The New York Post reports on a new poll saying that 57 percent of Americans are paying more attention to the quality of their own breath - because the wearing of face masks has made them much more aware of it.

Of course, that doesn't mean that everybody is doing something about it - " 35 percent of Americans polled admit they don’t brush their teeth twice a day, and nearly one in 10 said they don’t even brush once a day."