Published on: August 17, 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, there now have been 5,566,632 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, with 173,128 deaths and 2,922,724 reported recoveries.
Globally, there have been 21,843,793 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 773,284 fatalities and 14,570,899 reported recoveries.
• From the Wall Street Journal:
"The U.S. reported just over 42,000 new cases for Sunday, a sharp drop from Friday’s total of more than 64,000, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University." The US continues to represent about 25 percent of the global total.
"Deaths from the coronavirus are skewing younger for many minorities, a stark disparity that offers a clear picture of the pandemic’s outsize impact on vulnerable populations. Among people in the U.S. who died between their mid-40s and mid-70s since the pandemic began, the virus is responsible for about 9% of deaths. For Latino people who died in that age range, the virus has killed nearly 25%, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of death-certificate data collected by federal authorities."
• From the Washington Post:
"The number and rate of coronavirus cases in children have risen since the pandemic took hold in the spring, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in recently updated guidance, underscoring the risk for young people and their families as the school year begins.
"According to the CDC, the infection rate in children 17 and under increased 'steadily' from March to July. While the virus is far more prevalent and severe among adults, the true incidence of infection in American children remains unknown because of a lack of widespread testing, the agency said."
• The New York Times this morning carries an op-ed piece by Dr. Haider Warraich, a cardiologist, in which he writes:
"SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, was initially thought to primarily impact the lungs — SARS stands for “severe acute respiratory syndrome.” Now we know there is barely a part of the body this infection spares. And emerging data show that some of the virus’s most potent damage is inflicted on the heart."
You can read the piece here.
• Also from the Washington Post:
"In an effort to make testing faster and cheaper, the Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization Saturday for a saliva-based coronavirus test, developed by researchers at Yale University, that aims to reduce turnaround times in commercial laboratories.
"The diagnostic test, called SalivaDirect, does not require a swab or a special collection device; a sample can be collected in any sterile container, the FDA said. Nor does it require a separate step to extract nucleic acids, a process that is time-consuming and relies on components that have often been in shortage.
"Efficient and reliable testing will be essential this fall, as a new academic year increases the urgency of questions about the virus’s spread among children. School closures and other public health measures may have contributed to low rates of coronavirus infections in children early in the pandemic, according to the CDC."
• From the New York Times:
"The U.S.’s second-largest school district has a broad testing program for the virus.
"Amid alarm over the inadequacy of coronavirus testing across the nation, Los Angeles schools on Monday will begin a sweeping program to test hundreds of thousands of students and teachers, as the nation’s second-largest school district goes back to school — online.
"The program, which will be rolled out over the next few months by the Los Angeles Unified School District, will test nearly 700,000 students and 75,000 employees as the district awaits permission from public health authorities to resume in-person instruction, said Austin Beutner, the district’s superintendent.
It appears to be the most ambitious testing initiative among major public school districts, most of which are also starting school remotely but have yet to announce detailed testing plans.
"New York City, where the virus has been under control, is the only major school district in the country planning to welcome students back into classrooms part time this fall. The city is asking all staff members to be tested before school starts on Sept. 10 and has said it will provide expedited results."
• From USA Today:
"After five months of operating with reduced hours amid the coronavirus pandemic, Walmart will increase hours by 90 minutes at 85% of stores across the nation.
"Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer, reduced hours March 15 ,and then cut them again that same week to 8:30 p.m."
• Patch reports that "the Connecticut Freedom Alliance has begun legal action against the state Department of Education's requirement that students must wear masks when they return to school this fall … The Ridgefield-based Connecticut Freedom Alliance is requesting the court to order the CSDE to rescind all requirements regarding the use of face coverings."
Not only does the organization - which "lists two parents in East Lyme and Manchester as plaintiffs" - want to stop the state from mandating mask be worn by students in school, but it also wants to stop individual school districts from issuing such requirements.
According to the story, "The battle over regulations requiring the wearing of masks during the coronavirus pandemic has see-sawed with the waxing and waning of transmission rates, region by region. Fought mostly in social media and grocery stores during the spring and summer, the battleground is now shifting to courts and schools. There have been legal dust-ups already in Utah, California and Illinois, and more may be on the horizon … Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends schools allow students to stay at home whenever possible, encourage them to wash their hands frequently and wear cloth face coverings to slow the spread of COVID-19."
I'm thinking of starting my own organization - the Alliance For Freedom from Idiots. We'd have a lot of causes, but in this case, I'd want to point out that these parents actually are teaching their children that their own desires are more important than the needs of the society at large, that selfishness is more important than selflessness, and that science is to be ignored whenever it is deemed inconvenient. Masks help protect other people … and not only that, but they communicate the broader message that we actually all are in this together, as opposed to just being in it for ourselves.
One other thing: Masks help protect teachers. Without teachers, there is no education.
Connecticut is ranked fourth in the nation in terms of residents with advanced degrees, behind top-ranked District of Columbia, Massachusetts, and Maryland. (I'm an underachiever, BTW. I don't have an advanced degree of any kind.) But these people in the Connecticut Freedom Alliance suggest that having an advanced degree doesn't necessarily make you intelligent.
• The Wall Street Journal reports that New Zealand has decided to delay a national election for about a month, until October 17, "after a coronavirus outbreak in its largest city of Auckland put a third of voters into lockdown."
The story notes that "New Zealand went 102 days without any known local transmission of the coronavirus, but that streak ended early last week with the discovery of new cases in Auckland. The source remains unknown, but public health experts say a breach of border controls is the most likely scenario."
• The New York Times writes:
"College students are used to seeing fees on their semester bills: activity fees, lab fees, athletic fees, technology fees, orientation fees and so on.
"This year, some students are noticing a new item: coronavirus fees.
"Faced with extra expenses for screening and testing students for the virus, and for reconfiguring campus facilities for safety, some colleges and universities are asking students to pay a share of the cost.
"The level of testing and protective steps, and the associated cost, vary widely by campus. Some colleges are testing all students at the start of the semester, while others will also test repeatedly throughout the academic term. Testing is mandatory at some campuses, voluntary at others … Other colleges may still be calculating whether and how to charge fees, since plans for testing and safety protocols are changing daily as the start of the academic year approaches, health experts say. Students are already heading back to some campuses, but others won’t show up until after Labor Day."
I have no idea about the answer to this question … but I wonder how many of the schools charging new fees also gave rebates last spring when all schooling went virtual?
• The next problem: Twindemic.
From the New York Times this morning:
"As public health officials look to fall and winter, the specter of a new surge of Covid-19 gives them chills. But there is a scenario they dread even more: a severe flu season, resulting in a 'twindemic.'
"Even a mild flu season could stagger hospitals already coping with Covid-19 cases. And though officials don’t know yet what degree of severity to anticipate this year, they are worried large numbers of people could forgo flu shots, increasing the risk of widespread outbreaks.
"The concern about a twindemic is so great that officials around the world are pushing the flu shot even before it becomes available in clinics and doctors’ offices. Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been talking it up, urging corporate leaders to figure out ways to inoculate employees. The C.D.C. usually purchases 500,000 doses for uninsured adults but this year ordered an additional 9.3 million doses."
• Fox News reports that the pandemic is having an impact on our ability to order a pepperoni pizza.
According to the story, "Pizza shops across the United States say they’re paying higher prices for the popular topping and have noticed that the supply has become tighter … Restaurants from New York to South Dakota have reportedly seen a significant increase in price, with the cost nearly doubling in some areas."
There are said to be two probable reasons for the shortage and price increases. One is that pepperoni actually is a complicated product to make, and a reduced number of workers in processing plants has reduced the amount of pepperoni being made. The other is the higher demand for pizza in general, and pepperoni pizza in particular, during a pandemic in which takeout has boomed.