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, we've now had 6,514,376 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, with 194,037 deaths and 3,797,173 reported recoveries.

Globally, there have been 27,764,017 confirmed coronavirus cases, 902,356 fatalities, and 19,848,805 reported recoveries.

•  The Washington Post  reports that while "the coronavirus pandemic appears to be leveling off in most of the United States, with new cases, deaths and hospitalizations all down over the past week," the numbers suggest "continued high levels of infection and a long road ahead, particularly as cold weather and the flu season approach. Without a vaccine or a major advance in treatment, significant reductions in new cases would probably require voluntary or mandated changes in behavior that experts say are unlikely six months into the public health crisis.

"Although the pandemic has meant the loss of jobs, wages, schooling and more along with lost lives, large numbers of Americans have resumed many elements of their daily routines, and many still decline to wear masks or avoid crowds."

The Post quotes Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, as saying that "he no longer thinks it makes sense to talk about 'waves' of virus spread. Instead, he said, there will be spikes followed by plateaus."

“This is just one big forest fire of coronavirus, and it will burn hot wherever there is human wood to burn,” he says. “If you don’t put the fire out completely, and then you walk away from it, it’s going to start burning again in days.”

•  From NBC News:

"More than 500,000 children in the United States have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported Tuesday, and the rate of new cases among kids continues to rise.

"From Aug. 20 to Sept. 3, there were 70,630 cases reported among children - an increase of 16 percent - bringing the national total to 513,415. The largest increases were reported in six states: Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota.

"As many as 103 children have died, according to the report.

"'These numbers are a chilling reminder of why we need to take this virus seriously,' Dr. Sara Goza, president of the academy, said in a statement.

"The half a million pediatric cases represent 9.8 percent of the more than 6 million cases overall in the country."

The story notes that "while children may be largely spared the worst outcomes, experts say they can spread the virus to more vulnerable family members" as well as teachers and coaches with whom they may be interacting.

•  The Wall Street Journal reports that "AstraZeneca PLC said Tuesday it paused clinical trials of an experimental Covid-19 vaccine after a participant in a U.K. study had an unexplained illness.

"AstraZeneca, which licensed the vaccine from developers at the University of Oxford, said the pause will allow an independent committee to review safety data.

"The pause affects a study that began last week in the U.S. aiming to enroll 30,000 people, with funding from federal agencies. The study is testing whether the vaccine reduces the rate of Covid-19 cases compared with unvaccinated study subjects. AstraZeneca and Oxford had started a large study of the vaccine in the U.K. in the spring."

•  From CNBC:

"Late-summer getaways helped lift air travel during the Labor Day weekend but the coronavirus pandemic has left its mark on what has shaped up to be a dismal season for airlines.

"The number of people screened by the Transportation Security Administration reached 968,673 on Friday, the highest since March 16, agency data released on Monday showed. During the Friday-through-Monday holiday weekend, close to 3.3 million passengers passed through TSA checkpoints, down nearly 60% from the holiday weekend in 2019. That, however, is an improvement from the depths of the coronavirus crisis in April when passenger volume was off by more than 95%."

The story notes that "airlines are now scrambling to create more flexible policies to win over travelers, particularly as what is generally the slower fall season followed by the end-of-year holidays approach. Among the changes is a scrapping of domestic ticket change fees by United last month. Delta and American followed with similar policies."

•  USA Today reports that Marriott "is laying off 673 workers from its headquarters," attributing the decision to "the slump in travel amid the coronavirus pandemic."

The number is more than 10 percent of the workforce at the Maryland facility, the story notes,. but it is just accelerating an already announced departure from the site scheduled for 2022.  "In March, Marriott International said it was furloughing tens of thousands of employees as the travel industry grappled with a tidal wave of cancellations."

•  From the New York Times:

"Across the United States colleges that have reopened for in-person instruction are struggling to contain the rapid-fire spread of coronavirus among tens of thousands of students by imposing tough social-distancing rules and piloting an array of new technologies, like virus tracking apps.

But perhaps their most complex problem has been what to do with students who test positive for the virus or come into contact with someone who has. To this end, many campuses are subjecting students to one of the oldest infection control measures known to civilization: quarantine.

"Many public and private colleges have set aside special dormitories, or are renting off-campus apartments or hotel rooms to provide isolation beds for infected students and separate quarantine units for the possibly sick.

"The general strategy has been supported by public health officials like Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, who say it is better to separate students until they are no longer contagious rather than send them home where they might infect their family and friends.

"But in practice, many undergraduates and some epidemiologists say the policies have broken down, often in ways that may put students and college staff at risk. And that breakdown reflects the chaotic nature of this extraordinary semester, when schools are struggling to deliver both in-person and remote classes; to identify, isolate and treat coronavirus outbreaks; and to maintain safe behavior among sometimes unruly undergraduates."

•  The New York Post reports that Jamain Stephens, a 20-year-old defensive lineman at the California University of Pennsylvania and the son of former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Jamain Stephens, has passed away from complications related to the coronavirus.

Stephens was not playing football this semester - the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference had suspended all competition for the fall semester.

•  The Washington Post reports that the recent Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota, which attracted close to a half-million people despite concerns about it being a potential coronavirus super-spreader event, may have been responsible for a significant spike in Covid-19 cases.

According to the story, "The report from San Diego State University’s Center for Health Economics & Policy Studies used anonymized cellphone location data and virus case counts to analyze the impact of the 460,000-person event that took place last month, believed to be one of the largest events held during the pandemic. Health officials had expressed concerns about the rally, which, the researchers noted, 'represents a situation where many of the ‘worst case scenarios’ for superspreading occurred simultaneously.' Those included the event being prolonged over 10 days, attracting a significant out-of-town population and involving attendees clustered together, with few wearing masks.

"The consequences were 'substantial,' the researchers concluded. By analyzing the parts of the country that had the highest number of Sturgis attendees and changes in coronavirus trends after its conclusion, they estimated 266,796 cases could be linked to the rally. That’s about 19 percent of the number reported nationally between Aug. 2 and Sept. 2, and significantly higher than the number state health officials have linked through contact tracing. Based on a covid-19 case statistically costing about $46,000, the researchers said, that would mean the rally carried a public health price tag of $12.2 billion."

Sons of Anarchy, indeed.  Because anarchy is what happens when people who should know better decide to spit in the face of a pandemic.  The pandemic - no surprise -  spits back.

•  The Associated Press reports that "Britain’s government is banning gatherings of more than six people in England, as officials try to keep a lid on daily new coronavirus infections after a sharp spike across the U.K. that has been largely blamed on party-going young adults disregarding social distancing rules.

"Downing Street said urgent action was needed after the number of daily laboratory-confirmed positive cases hit nearly 3,000 on Sunday. The figure dipped Tuesday to 2,460.

"Officials said that starting Monday, the legal limit on all social gatherings in England will be reduced from the current 30 people to six. The new law applies both indoors and outdoors, including private homes, restaurants and parks. Failure to comply could result in a $130 fine."

•  There have been a lot of stories about people moving out of cities because of the pandemic, driven to find places with more space, back yards, and other amenities that seem desirable during lockdowns.

The Gothamist has an interesting piece in which it talked to a number of New York City residents - of varying ages, genders and ethnicities - who had decided for whatever reason to stay in the city, which was so hard-hit by the pandemic.

"While a mass exodus has been greatly exaggerated, there is some truth to be found here — after all, unemployment is way up, and some residents have heartbreakingly left out of necessity," the story says.  "But those aren't the stories making up most of the headlines — instead, we are led to believe that New Yorkers have simply had it with this city, and are fleeing to some sort of perceived comfort in the suburbs … To those who are still here and determined to stick around, we asked: Why are you staying in New York City?"

One of those answers, from a woman named Andrea Skowronek, touched me:

"I love New York and I live in New York because, for the most part, this is not just a city where people randomly end up. This is a city where many people have chosen to live. We choose to live amongst each other even though we are all so different. We choose the dirt and the grime and the expense and the inconvenience because we know that New York is the real American Dream. The American Dream isn't a vision of white utopia where everyone has a yard and 'freedom' and barbecues on the weekends. The American Dream is people streaming in from all over the world for hundreds of years onto this one tiny island because they wanted to make a better life for themselves and their kids and their families back home. Covid didn't scare me out of New York because my great grandfather busted his ass to get here at 14 without a dime in his pocket and just a few generations later every single person in the family has a college degree and a good job and health insurance and a home (...and most of them still have their New York accents!). If he could come here as a little kid alone, help build the Holland Tunnel, and build a life and a family, then I can suck it up and wear a mask on the train."

Good for Andrea Skowronek, and what strikes me as an essential kind of patriotism.