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 as of this morning, there have been 6,485,708 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 193,536 deaths and 3,758,629 reported recoveries.

Globally, there have been 27,509,910 confirmed coronavirus cases, 897,217 fatalities, and 19,604,885 reported recoveries.

•  The Washington Post reports that Operation Warp Speed co-chief Moncef Slaoui, who is in charge of the federal government's efforts to accelerate the production of a coronavirus vaccine "said it was 'possible but very unlikely' that a coronavirus vaccine will be ready to distribute by the end of October or early November."

"“There is a very, very low chance that the trials that are running as we speak could [be completed] before the end of October and therefore there could be - if all other conditions required for an Emergency Use Authorization are met - an approval,” Slaoui said. “I think it’s extremely unlikely but not impossible, and therefore it’s the right thing to do to be prepared, in case."

Referring to concerns that presidential politics would play into the approval timeline, he added, "I would immediately resign if there is undue interference in this process."

•  From the New York Times:

"A group of drug companies competing with one another to be among the first to develop coronavirus vaccines are planning to pledge early next week that they will not release any vaccines that do not follow rigorous efficacy and safety standards, according to representatives of three of the companies … The manufacturers that are said to have signed the letter include Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi."

The Times goes on:  "Even as companies are competing to be the first to bring a coronavirus vaccine to market, they must navigate perilous political terrain. If they are among the first to bring a successful vaccine to market, they could earn major profits and help rehabilitate the image of an industry battered by rising drug prices.

"But if a vaccine turns out to have dangerous side effects for some people, the fallout could be catastrophic, damaging their corporate reputations, putting their broader portfolio of products at risk and broadly undermining trust in vaccines, one of the great public health advances in human history."

•  The Washington Post reports that "New York’s infection rate has been below 1 percent for 30 straight days, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced on Sunday, marking a turning point for the state that once was the epicenter of the novel coronavirus.

"Cuomo encouraged New Yorkers to continue mask-wearing, social distancing and hand-washing."

The Post notes that "New York once reported startling numbers of new infections and deaths at the outset of the virus; it reported more than 11,500 new cases in a single day in May and more than 1,200 deaths in a day in April."

•  The Daily Beast has a story quoting employees at the Downtown Disney shopping district as saying that subsequent to its opening, "Disney has kept the total number of positive cases at the district under wraps, alerting unions only to the positive test results of their members - often days after the fact, risking further exposure - and leaving workers to guess for themselves why colleagues disappeared for days at a time, or why 11 people from the 12-person Horticulture Irrigation team didn’t show up to work for a full week."

According to the story, "The Downtown Disney district had no on-site testing …  the district did not contain its visitors, but allowed streams of thousands to pass in and out of the area with little more than a temperature check. But the most alarming difference, cast members told The Daily Beast, involved the district’s shadowy contact tracing."

This is the kind of story, depending on how it unfolds, ends up claiming a bunch of victims - the people who end up getting sick, and the reputation of any company that is cavalier about dealing with the coronavirus.  

•  The New York Times has a story about Oaki, a company that makes outdoor clothing for children, and how its wares have suddenly become in-demand because of a pandemic-created trend - holding class outdoors.

At the Center School on Greenfield, Massachusetts, the story says, the administration "has committed to an all-outdoor curriculum this fall to guard against the spread of the coronavirus among its students and staff. Tents and outdoor desks have been procured to create al fresco classrooms. The school has also recommended that parents buy their children Oaki rainsuits, priced at $60 to $70.

"They are not the only ones.

"With a number of schools in the United States opting for outdoor education over the potentially germier confines of their traditional indoor spaces, demand for Oaki’s rainsuits and related gear 'has been overwhelming,' said Sam Taylor, the chief executive of the company, which is based in the Salt Lake City area. It’s a sentiment echoed by other outdoor-oriented companies, some of which are launching new product lines or repurposing existing ones to capitalize on how the pandemic has changed the education experience."

•  The Los Angeles Times reports that more than 700 people have been banned from flying on the nation's largest airlines because of their refusal to comply with mask mandates.

According to the Times, "Delta Air Lines leads all carriers, having placed 270 passengers on its 'no fly' list for flouting its mask policy. It’s followed by United Airlines, with 150; Spirit Airlines, 128; Frontier Airlines, 106; Alaska Airlines, 78; and Hawaiian Airlines, six … In addition to the bans it has doled out, Seattle-based Alaska Airlines has issued 92 warnings, or 'yellow cards,' to passengers who had to be admonished more than once on a flight for ignoring the mask policy."

The story notes that airlines are unable to fine passengers for violating the mask mandates, leaving them with no option other than banning them.

What is unknown is how many people have been banned by more than one airline, because the companies apparently don't share their lists with each other.

•  Bloomberg reports that "Peloton Interactive Inc. is preparing to launch a cheaper treadmill and a new high-end bike, while cutting the price of its existing bike to stoke demand as many gyms remain closed, according to people familiar with the matter.

"The new treadmill, called Tread, will cost less than $3,000, compared with $4,295 for the current model. It will also be smaller and have a cheaper belt design like most other treadmills on the market versus the current model’s slat design … The new stationary bike will be a premium offering called Bike+, and will likely cost more than the current $2,245 version. Peloton will then drop the price of the existing machine to less than $1,900, the people said."

The story points out that "the Covid-19 pandemic has boosted demand for Peloton’s products and services as consumers look for new ways to work out at home. Many gyms across the U.S. remain closed, giving the company a rare opportunity to lure new customers and subscribers. The stock has surged 178% this year."

•  The Las Vegas Monorail has rolled snake eyes.  Blame the pandemic.

Fox News reports that the company that owns and operates it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and will look to sell itself to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

“The Las Vegas Monorail has served a critical mobility need in the resort corridor for over 16 years, carrying over 85 million riders during that time. Like many other companies, we were forced to shut down on March 18 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and are not yet able to reopen,” said CEO Curtis Myles. “As a result, it is in the Las Vegas Monorail Company’s best interest to file for bankruptcy and effectuate a sale of the system assets to a party who intends to keep the system in operation and help ensure that the mobility benefits the Monorail provides continue during conventions, events and throughout the year.”

•  From the Associated Press:

"Theme park operators who spent months installing hand sanitizing stations, figuring out how to disinfect roller coasters seats and checking the temperatures of guests at their gates so they’d come back in the midst of the pandemic are finding many reluctant to return.

"Some parks have reduced operating days, slashed ticket prices, and closed early for the year because of lower-than-hoped attendance — expectations weren’t high to begin with — along with the uncertainty of what’s to come with the coronavirus. A few parks have been unable to open their gates at all because of state and local health restrictions.

"Disney this week will begin cutting an hour or two out of each day at its four Florida theme parks. It already called off its annual after-hours Halloween party at the Magic Kingdom. Neighboring Universal Orlando also nixed its Halloween Horror Nights.

"Amusement parks across the South that had their seasons delayed by virus outbreaks in the spring deal with a second punch with the summer flareups across the Sun Belt. Some, including Kings Dominion in Virginia and Carowinds in North Carolina, never opened and won’t this year."

•  Batman has Covid-19.

The Los Angeles Times reports that production on The Batman, a new version of the comic book legend, has been halted because Robin Pattinson, who is playing Bruce Wayne and his crimefighting alter-ego, has been infected by the coronavirus.

The Batman had been shooting when the pandemic shut down production in mid-March, and had just resumed when Pattinson was diagnosed.

The Times writes that "the new hiatus shows the difficulties Hollywood faces in trying to resume filming as the pandemic persists. Studios, which have major movie productions not only to complete but to launch, have been delaying release dates for films … The Batman had been set for release on June 25, 2021, but that has since been pushed back to Oct. 1, 2021."