Published on: August 25, 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, we now are closing in on six million confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus - the exact number is 5,915,911, resulting in 181,117 deaths and 3,218,514 reported recoveries.
Globally, there have been 23,830,644 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 817,371 fatalities, and 16,373,520 reported recoveries.
• From the Wall Street Journal:
"Daily new U.S. coronavirus infections rose slightly but continued their downward longer-term trend, as some states worked to manage outbreaks through natural disasters and new information emerged about the complexities of the disease … The seven-day average of new U.S. cases through Sunday was 42,638, lower than the two-week average of more than 46,915, suggesting a downward trend. The seven-day average has been less than the two-week average for almost a month—though that has corresponded with a decline in testing."
• Also from the Wall Street Journal:
"Children now represent about 9% of all Covid-19 cases in the U.S., up from 2% in March, according to the most recent weekly report from the Children’s Hospital Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics. From July 9 to Aug. 13, cases in children doubled to 406,109, according to reports from 49 states.
"Most children experience mild or no symptoms, doctors say. But some are reporting issues that persist for weeks, or the development of post-viral syndromes. Symptoms reported include fever, cough, headaches, shortness of breath and gastrointestinal problems."
• From the Washington Post:
"The seven-day case average has risen by more than 25 percent in the past week in five states and territories, according to The Washington Post’s tracking: Guam, South Dakota, Maine, North Dakota and Wyoming. The average number of deaths has increased the most — more than 50 percent — in Kentucky, Arkansas, Virginia and Iowa."
• The New York Times reports that "come fall, the rise of influenza and other seasonal respiratory infections could exacerbate already staggering delays in coronavirus testing, making it easier for the virus to spread unnoticed, experts said.
"In typical years, doctors often don’t test for flu, simply assuming that patients with coughs, fevers and fatigue during the winter months are probably carrying the highly infectious virus. But this year, with the coronavirus bringing similar symptoms, doctors will need to test for both viruses to diagnose their patients — further straining supply shortages in an already overwhelmed testing system."
The Times goes on: "Flu viruses and coronaviruses differ in many ways, including how they spread, how long they linger in the body and the groups they affect most severely. Food and Drug Administration-approved antivirals and vaccines exist for the flu, but no such treatments yet exist for the coronavirus, which has killed about 800,000 people worldwide in less than a year.
"Being infected with one virus doesn’t preclude contracting the other. And researchers also don’t yet know how risky it is for a person to harbor both viruses at the same time.
"Those differences make it essential to tease the two pathogens apart, as well as rule out other common wintry infections like respiratory syncytial virus, or R.S.V., which hits the very young and very old especially hard."
• The Washington Post reports on how "health officials in Maine have linked a wedding reception in Millinocket to 53 coronavirus cases and one death, highlighting yet another example of the health risks posed by large gatherings. Investigators from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention say people who did not attend the wedding have been infected after coming into contact with guests … Those infected ranged in age from 4 to 98, officials said."
• Axios reports that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized the emergency use of convalescent blood plasma for use as a coronavirus treatment.
Here's how the FDA site describes scenario:
"Convalescent refers to anyone recovering from a disease. Plasma is the yellow, liquid part of blood that contains antibodies. Antibodies are proteins made by the body in response to infections. Convalescent plasma from patients who have already recovered from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) may contain antibodies against COVID-19.
"Giving this convalescent plasma to hospitalized people currently fighting COVID-19 may help them recover. FDA has issued an emergency use authorization for convalescent plasma to be used in hospitalized COVID-19 patients and is being investigated for the treatment of COVID-19 because there is no approved treatment for this disease. Based on scientific evidence available, the FDA concluded this product may be effective in treating COVID-19 and that the known and potential benefits of the product outweigh the known and potential risks of the product in hospitalized COVID-19 patients."
There are some concerns that the FDA may have fast-tracked this treatment beyond its ability to deliver.
The Hill writes that "in the case of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, there are conflicting signs about whether convalescent plasma even works. Studies across the globe have given mixed signals."
And Axios adds, "The EUA — which is not the same as a full FDA approval — will make the treatment easier to obtain in some settings, but it won't help advance the type of randomized trial needed to fully determine its effectiveness."
• The Associated Press reports that "University of Hong Kong scientists claim to have the first evidence of someone being reinfected with the virus that causes COVID-19.
"Genetic tests revealed that a 33-year-old man returning to Hong Kong from a trip to Spain in mid-August had a different strain of the coronavirus than the one he’d previously been infected with in March, said Dr. Kelvin Kai-Wang To, the microbiologist who led the work.
"The man had mild symptoms the first time and none the second time; his more recent infection was detected through screening and testing at the Hong Kong airport."
• Axios reports that "69% of respondents in a Harris survey said they’d support a priority system for distributing a vaccine within the U.S., while just 31% said they’d prefer a first-come, first-served approach.
"But 66% of Americans said that if the U.S. develops the vaccine, it should only be made available abroad after all U.S. orders have been filled. Just 34% said it should be made available overseas immediately."
• From Fox News:
"Grocery chain Kroger announced on Friday that it is adding over 220 coronavirus testing clinics at its stores across the country. The clinics will be available via appointment to both symptomatic and asymptomatic patients.
"The company’s healthcare division, Kroger Health, says the announcement comes just in time for the upcoming flu season, which medical experts warn could add extra complications to a health care system already struggling due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic … The initiative is part of the company’s COVIDCare Plus testing program, which aims to provide coronavirus test kits that produce reliable results within 72 hours."
• Responding to the demands of the pandemic, BJ's Wholesale Club says that it is making contactless curbside pick-up available of online orders available at all its locations.
According to Connecticut Patch, "members can order items on BJs.com or on the BJ's app and have the items delivered right to the car. The stores have marked curbside parking spaces for the pickups. Team members will load orders into vehicles.
"BJ's also announced that the company is expanding its 'buy online in-store pick-ups' to include fresh and frozen grocery items. The expansion is currently available in 'select clubs' and will be available at all locations by the end of October, officials said."
• From the Wall Street Journal:
"Nearly six months into the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S., big-box retailers are emerging as business winners while competitors - including some apparel sellers and small businesses - struggle.
"The big sellers’ strength wasn’t always a sure thing. Early in the Covid-19 pandemic, while they had rising sales, they also had rising costs and complications as they tried to keep workers and customers safe and product moving.
"But now, Walmart Inc., Home Depot Inc. and a handful of other big retailers are delivering not only strong sales but also strong profits. Last week, Target Corp. posted an 80% jump in earnings from a year ago, while profit leapt 75% at Lowe’s Cos. Amazon.com Inc.’s profit doubled to a record $5.2 billion in its June quarter."
In addition, the story says, "Big-box profits benefited from higher prices. Strong consumer demand—boosted by government stimulus checks—and a shortage of some goods lessened the pressure to offer discounts … Many already weakened retailers such as department stores and apparel retailers gave up more ground to their big-box competitors amid forced closures, spending shifts and lagging e-commerce capabilities."
• The Associated Press writes about how "small retailers, especially those selling non-necessities like apparel, are still struggling months after state and local governments lifted shutdown orders aimed at containing the virus. With the virus far from under control in many areas, however, consumers worried about getting sick are staying home and doing their purchasing online or, if they venture out, going to big stores like Walmart and Target where they can do one-stop shopping.
"The weak sales and erratic customer traffic have forced store owners to be creative in hopes of persuading customers to stop in rather than order from a big online retailer. But for some owners, disappointing sales and an uncertain outlook have forced them to close their stores for good and stake the future of their businesses on the internet."
The AP points out that "the most recent retail sales tallies from the government show sales at clothing sellers, which tend to have physical locations, fell nearly 36% from May through July. But online and other non-traditional retailers saw their sales soar 26%.
"Small retailers have also learned to be more customer-friendly. They’re using, for example, texts to communicate with shoppers and making pickups easier by setting aside dedicated parking spaces so people can grab and go…"
• The Wall Street Journal writes that "home sales surged in July, signaling how much the pandemic is reshaping where and how Americans want to live during this period of social distancing and working from home.
"Home buyers who were reluctant to venture out in March and April when much of the country was under lockdown have returned in force since late spring. With the effects of coronavirus showing little signs of abating, many home shoppers have new priorities for a place to live, or are accelerating existing plans … Buyers are ready to move farther from cities, now that many workers aren’t commuting every day. The pandemic has spurred some households to live closer to family, or somewhere that offers more space with so much time spent at home, brokers and economists say."
Indeed, the story says, "First-time buyers accounted for 34% of sales in July, NAR said, a category that includes many millennial buyers.
"This group, who range from their mid-20s to their late 30s, are a growing presence in the housing market. Older millennials who delayed getting married and having children are now reaching those life milestones, which increases homeownership demand. Younger millennials, who are now entering their 30s, are starting to buy homes more actively at an age when previous generations also began homeownership."
• From Fast Company:
"Since Google and Apple launched their joint exposure notification platform in May, countries across the globe have begun releasing apps that will inform their residents if they’ve come into contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19. The platform is designed with privacy in mind and does not collect personal data."
The story says that "in the U.S., five states have launched apps so far. As of a week ago, Virginia, the first U.S. state to launch an app on the platform, had over 300,000 downloads for a population of roughly 8.5 million, according to local news reports. The Apple-Google platform is also being used by a growing list of countries around the world, including Germany, Ireland, and Canada. The latter made its exposure notification app available to citizens in Ontario as a test case for the rest of the country at the end of July. To date, of Canada’s 37.6 million residents, only two million have downloaded the app. The Canadian Digital Service has not specified whether that two million are all among Ontario’s 14.5 million citizens or from around the country."
There are two issues at work.
One is that the app "will need greater buy-in to make a serious impact." The other is access - "citizens are having to contend with whether their phone is new enough to participate in the notification system … users must have an Apple or Android phone purchased within the past five years."
• The Associated Press reports that "Instagram has deleted an account that claimed to throw 'COVID parties' at Arizona State University after the school sued Facebook and the owner of the account on Thursday on allegations that the account improperly used the school’s logos and trademarks … It is unclear who ran the account … The university’s regents filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court Thursday. The lawsuit said the account shared misinformation about the coronavirus with students and claimed to be throwing large parties as students returned for fall semester classes last Thursday."
Facebook may have pulled the account, but it isn't conceding that the university has a point; it just says that the account violated terms of service.
Either way, I'd be appalled if one of my kids actually attended a party like this. I'm working on the assumption that I've raised them to be smarter than that. Then again, I know of some parents who have thrown parties for friends and families, throwing caution to the wind … demonstrating that age does not exactly equal intelligence.
• From the New York Times:
"The James Beard Foundation, which honors outstanding American chefs, restaurants and bars each year in a gala ceremony, said Thursday that it would not announce any more winners for its awards in 2020 and 2021, citing the pandemic that has closed restaurants and continues to ravage the economy.
"The foundation had already released its list of finalists for the 2020 chef and restaurant awards, and announced winners of its media awards, earlier this year. Now, in a virtual ceremony broadcast live via Twitter on Sept. 25, the foundation will celebrate previously announced honorees in categories such as America’s Classics, Lifetime Achievement and Humanitarian of the Year.
"No awards will be presented in 2021, either; the organization, which is based in New York City, said it would be unfair because of the hardships restaurants face."
• Time has a story about how, "as the end of summer approaches, debates over schools re-opening in countries across the world have parents, teachers and authorities all facing difficult choices amid the coronavirus pandemic. Those decisions have also become part of what has become, in some places, a broader trend of urban flight: In New York City, for examples, some wealthy families have left Manhattan for good and plan to enroll their children in schools closer to their second homes in places like the Hamptons."
It isn't, Time notes, the first time. "A young King Henry VIII was in his late 20s and at the start of his reign when an outbreak of the plague ravaged Europe in 1517 and 1518. Contemporaneous reports indicate his intense fear of contracting the disease, given that his grandmother was thought to have died from it in 1492." And so he got out of town: "Throughout the epidemic, Henry and the royal court left London and constantly moved around to avoid infection, stopping at places for short periods of time before moving on to the next palace or residence."