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 5,416,014 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 170,422 fatalities and 2,843,642 reported recoveries.

Globally, here have been 21,096,947 confirmed coronavirus cases, 757,823 deaths and 13,946,839 reported recoveries.

•  The New York Times offers an analysis of national death numbers that suggests that it is possible that more than 200,000 people have died of causes related to the coronavirus.  "As the pandemic has moved south and west from its epicenter in New York City, so have the unusual patterns in deaths from all causes," the Times writes.  "That suggests that the official death counts may be substantially underestimating the overall effects of the virus, as people die from the virus as well as by other causes linked to the pandemic."

The Times goes on:  "The Northeast still makes up nearly half of all excess deaths in the country, although numbers in the region have drastically declined since the peak in April.

"But as the number of hot spots expanded, so has the number of excess deaths across other parts of the country. Many of the recent coronavirus cases and deaths in the South and the West may have been driven largely by reopenings and relaxed social distancing restrictions."

•  California has become the first state to report more than 600,000 cases of the coronavirus.

The New York Times writes that "with more than 10,800 fatalities, the state now ranks third in the country for the worst death toll, behind New York and New Jersey, which were overwhelmed with cases in the spring but have since managed to contain the virus’s spread.

"Along with the Sun Belt states, California has been among the hardest hit in the summer resurgence of the virus, but the picture in California appears to have begun improving lately. Citing a 19 percent decline in the number of people hospitalized over the past two weeks, Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Wednesday that the state was 'turning the corner on this pandemic'."

Not to cast doubt on what Newsom is saying, because California has been aggressive in its approach to the virus - on a per-capita basis, California ranks 20th in cases and 28th in deaths - but don't you have the feeling that whenever any state or community "turns the corner" on the pandemic, there's always another corner just waiting for them?

•  From the Washington Post:

"As Texas struggles to beat back a surge in coronavirus infections, its testing positivity rate has risen dramatically.

"Faced with a question about that increase, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) told reporters on Thursday that the Texas Department of State Health Services was investigating potential reasons for it. Decreased testing is probably a significant factor, he said.

"Texas’s positivity rate rose from 12 percent on July 30 to about 25 percent on Tuesday, state data show. It then fell to 16 percent for Wednesday, the latest day for which the statistic is available, in an update that the Austin American-Statesman reported was announced hours after the news conference.

"Abbott … told reporters that the decline in testing partly resulted from the end of some surge-testing operations in July that caused a 'very abundant number of tests that were done' in some regions. Demand for testing has also dropped in the past few weeks, he added."

•  The New York Times writes that on Thursday, "Officials in Nevada announced the most deaths in a single day, with 31. Hawaii, North Dakota and the U.S. Virgin Islands set single-day case records."

The Times quotes Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, as saying, "Bottom line is, I’m not pleased with how things are going."

Fauci told ABC News journalist Deborah Roberts at a National Geographic panel that "disparities between the ways different states were handling the situation were keeping the country from bringing it under control once and for all."

•  The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that the federal coronavirus task force "warns that Georgia continues to see 'widespread and expanding community viral spread' and that the state’s current policies aren’t enough to curtail COVID-19.

"The task force 'strongly recommends' Georgia adopt a statewide mandate that citizens wear masks, joining a chorus of public health officials, Democrats and others who have warned that Gov. Brian Kemp’s refusal to order face coverings has plunged the state into deeper crisis and will prolong recovery.

“'Current mitigation efforts are not having a sufficient impact,' the report said."

•  The Boston Globe reports that public health experts are throwing cold water on the notion of hybrid schooling as an optimal solution for schools looking to reopen amid the pandemic.

According to the story, "some infectious disease experts call it a potential public health disaster. Alternating schedules could cause children to ebb and flow within an expanded network, transitioning from home to school to child-care centers and thus having a greater risk of exposure or transmission.

At face value, the story says, "hybrid plans provide students with some much-desired in-person instruction while lessening the burden on parents who are either working from home themselves or are essential employees who cannot work remotely. Meanwhile, hybrid plans limit class size and, seemingly, the risk to teachers of exposure.

"But epidemiologists note that parents who cannot do their jobs remotely and those too busy to oversee at-home learning will still rely on external child-care solutions two to three days a week, further widening the child’s circle of exposure. With fully remote or all in-person learning, children are spending the majority of their time in one or two places with a consistent group. With a hybrid plan, that number balloons to three or more."

•  From Axios:

"The coronavirus isn't as deadly for children as it is for adults, but kids still get it and can still get seriously sick from it."  In addition, the story says, "the risk is higher for Black and Hispanic children."

The problem is that "in communities with high caseloads, cases among children could explode as schools reopen. And kids in the communities already hit hardest by the pandemic are the most at risk."

The American Academy of Pediatrics is out with a report saying that there was a  "40% increase in child cases during the second half of July — yet another indication that the virus can spread easily among children when given the opportunity."

In addition, "Mirroring almost every other pandemic trend, Black and Latino children have had it worse than white children.  Hispanic children have been hospitalized eight times more than white children, per the CDC. Black children have been hospitalized five times more."

•  Bloomberg reports that "even if the most optimistic projections hold true and a COVID-19 vaccine is cleared for U.S. use in November, the vast majority of Americans won’t be able to get the shots until spring or summer next year at the earliest.

"That likely timeline, based on interviews and remarks from top specialists including Anthony Fauci of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, means businesses, schoolchildren and families will continue to wait."

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview, "I would hope that by the time we get well into the second half of 2021 that the companies will have delivered the hundreds of millions of doses they have promised."

Meanwhile National Public Radio  this morning reports that "more than a third of Americans (35%) say they won't get vaccinated when a vaccine comes available; 60% say they will. There are huge splits by education and party on this. Those with college degrees are 19 points more likely to get vaccinated than those without (72% to 53%),and Democrats are 23 points more likely than Republicans (71% to 48%)."

•  From the New York Times:

"Amid a flurry of concern over reports that frozen chicken wings imported to China from Brazil had tested positive for the coronavirus, experts said on Thursday that the likelihood of catching the virus from food — especially frozen, packaged food — is exceedingly low.

"'This means somebody probably handled those chicken wings who might have had the virus,' said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University. 'But it doesn’t mean, ‘Oh my god, nobody buy any chicken wings because they’re contaminated.'

"Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintain that 'there is no evidence to suggest that handling food or consuming food is associated with Covid-19.'  The main route the virus is known to take from person to person is through spray from sneezing, coughing, speaking or even breathing."

•  The Wall Street Journal offers a sobering statistic:  "Nearly 11% of adults said they had seriously considered suicide in the previous 30 days as the coronavirus pandemic takes a toll on Americans’ mental health, according to data released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."

That's more than double the number of people who might ordinarily make that admission, the story says.

The demographics of the people who seriously considered suicide are striking:  "Among those 18 to 24 years old, 25.5% reported having seriously considered suicide in the last 30 days. The numbers were 15.1% for Black Americans and 18.6% for Hispanic Americans."

And, the Journal writes, "The new survey also found that substance use and symptoms of anxiety and depression have risen. Nearly 13.3% of participants said they had started or increased their use of alcohol or drugs to help cope with stress related to the pandemic. And about 31% reported symptoms of anxiety disorders or depression."

We're five-plus months into this thing, and while it gets harder and harder to resist the siren call of what we vaguely remember as 'normal,' it seems to me that we really have to do is take better care of each other and ourselves.