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 US, we now have had 6,048,404 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 184,834 deaths and 3,348,744 reported recoveries.

Globally, here are the numbers:  24,655,052 confirmed coronavirus cases, 836,143 fatalities, and 17,114,130 reported recoveries.

•  From USA Today:

"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention attempted Thursday to clarify controversial coronavirus testing guidelines published Monday that said people with no symptoms 'do not necessarily need a test' even if they were exposed to an infected person.  The medical community criticized the agency's looser guidelines, which some scientists said had been made for political rather than scientific reasons."

The story goes on:  "Public health officials said testing people who might have been exposed to COVID-19, whether or not they show symptoms, is crucial to knowing how many people in the USA are infected. It makes it possible to do effective contact tracing and quarantining to stop the spread of the virus. 

"Before Monday, the CDC website said testing was recommended 'for all close contacts of persons with SARS-CoV-2 infection,' the virus that causes COVID-19.

"Monday, that was changed to say that someone who was in close contact (within 6 feet) of a person with COVID-19 for at least 15 minutes but didn't have symptoms does not 'necessarily need a test.'

"Guidance released Thursday by CDC Director Robert Redfield says those who come in contact with a confirmed or probable COVID-19 patient can be tested, even if they don’t show symptoms."

According to USA Today, "Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary Dr. Brett Giroir said during a news conference Wednesday that the change was meant to encourage more 'appropriate testing, not less testing'."

The piece points out that "the USA leads the world in the number of reported COVID-19 cases, according to Johns Hopkins University. As of Thursday, the country had about 24% of the world's reported cases and about 22% of COVID-19 deaths, but it has about 4% of the world population."

•  The Wall Street Journal reports that "Texas reported more than 3,900 cases Thursday, down from Wednesday’s total of 6,300 new cases, which was the state’s highest daily tally since Aug. 18, according to Johns Hopkins data.

"California reported more than 4,800 new cases for Thursday, though the actual number may be higher. Gov. Gavin Newsom said earlier this week that wildfires were affecting some of the state’s testing labs."

•  CNBC reports that Gap Inc. is one retailer that seems to have benefitted from the pandemic - it reported that during its most recent quarter, it sold $130 million worth of face masks.  And its online business was up 95 percent.

That wasn't enough to rescue the company's overall performance, though - total sales fell about 18% to $3.28 billion from $4 billion a year ago.

•  From the Washington Post:

"A poultry plant in California’s Central Valley where 358 workers have tested positive for covid-19 and eight have died has been ordered to close, authorities said Thursday.

The outbreak began in late June and is the “most severe and long-lasting” in Merced County, local health officials said in a statement. Since the official tally of cases is largely based on employees who chose to get tested and reported the results, the actual number of infections may be higher, they added.

"Months before issuing a shutdown notice for Foster Farms’ chicken processing plant in Livingston, Calif., health officials recommended making “significant changes” to break spaces and expanding testing for employees, the statement says. The company allegedly ignored those suggestions. Earlier this month, as the outbreak spiraled out of control, the county twice issued official directives ordering testing for all employees who had worked alongside infected people.

"Those directives went unheeded as well, and the outbreak has shown no sign of slowing down, authorities said. The plant now accounts for 18 percent of deaths among people under 65 in the county."

•  The Washington Post reports that "University of South Carolina President Bob Caslen threatened to close the college on Thursday, saying in a town meeting that coronavirus cases had doubled in a single day, the Post and Courier reported.

"Saying that the university 'cannot sustain' another single-day increase of 191 new cases, Caslen told faculty and staff that he had asked administrators to research 'shutdown options' and he 'will pull the plug if I have to.' Many of the new cases are coming from fraternities and sororities in USC’s Greek Village, where five houses have been placed under quarantine, according to the paper."

Caslen says that this turn of events is both predictable and unacceptable.  Well, if it was predictable, why wouldn't an institution of higher education act in an educated and intelligent way and keep its students safe?

Also from the Post:

"The University of Connecticut placed an entire dormitory of nearly 300 students under quarantine on Thursday, while the University of Nebraska-Lincoln shut down a sorority house with a cluster of cases for the second time in one week. At the University of Dayton, a 'sharp increase' in the rate of positive tests for undergraduates has delayed plans to return to in-person classes for another two weeks, president Eric Spina said."

•  From the Boston Globe:

"If you’re not planning to head back to the office anytime soon, you’re not the only one.

Many of Massachusetts’s white-collar employees expect to be conducting business remotely into 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic, a new survey found.

"Only one-fifth of the workforce expects to be back at their workplace by Labor Day, and 39 percent anticipates to return by January, according to the survey, conducted earlier this month by the nonprofit public policy group Massachusetts Competitive Partnership and its business association collaborators.

"Of the 106 companies — representing 127,229 employees — surveyed between Aug. 3 and 14, 40 percent responded they are still operating 100 percent remotely, while 92 percent reported over 50 percent of all employees are working from home."

•  Good piece in the Los Angeles Times about the new pressures the end-of-year holidays will bring this year:

"Do you really need to risk your health, or someone else’s, for the satisfaction of a shared meal and the privilege of arguing politics with your wrongheaded cousins?

"This is one of many questions wrapped up in the larger pro-con conversation about whether extended families should gather this year for the holidays.

"The principal pro is clear: You and your kin will have the comfort of being together after a miserable year. That prospect will surely bring many families together in November and December, especially if they can drive rather than fly.

"The big con, of course, is that you might infect one or more of your kin. Or they might infect you. Maybe your family has been lucky so far, but the U.S. death count passed 170,000 on Aug. 17, and that list is dominated by grandparents and great-grandparents."

Makes sense, I think, for food retailers to adjust their strategies and tactics this year to account for the fact that the holidays will unfold differently this year … families will congregate differently, and eat differently, and there may be ways to market to this new reality.

•  And, from the New York Times:

"As the fall semester begins, many college students will be attending classes from the relative safety of their family homes. Others have arrived to live on university campuses, with varying amounts of success; even schools that enforce strict social distancing guidelines are seeing outbreaks of the coronavirus.

"But some students are pursuing a third option: Renting giant houses with friends — sometimes in far-flung locales — and doing school remotely, together. Call it the rise of the college “collab house.”

"Two groups of students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for example, have rented large houses in Hawaii for the fall semester. Six rising seniors at Columbia University will be living in a house in Portland, Ore. Several rising seniors at Harvard are renting property in Montana. There are at least seven large houses that have been rented in the greater Salt Lake City area alone, filled with students from different colleges.

"These houses range in scale from lavish and pricey productions to smart, budget-friendly solutions for first generation, low-income students."