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, there now have been 6,710,031 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 198,533 deaths and 3,975,097 reported recoveries.

Globally, there have been 29,206,669 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 928,830 fatalities and 21,041,840 reported recoveries.

•  The Washington Post quotes Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, as saying that he finds the nation's latest coronavirus statistics to be "disturbing."

According to the Post, Fauci "pointed out that the United States is 'plateauing' at about 40,000 new coronavirus infections and 1,000 new deaths reported each day.  Fauci listed reasons for caution heading into the fall: colder weather pushing people indoors and aiding the spread of the virus as well as tests increasingly coming back positive in some parts of the country, including the Dakotas and Montana. Public health officials have also expressed worry about the novel coronavirus colliding with flu season.

"The baseline of infections should be brought down, Fauci said, 'so when you go into a more precarious situation like the fall and the winter, you won’t have a situation where you really are a at a disadvantage right from the beginning'."

•  From the New York Times:

"Case numbers surged in the Northeast this spring. They spiked early this summer in the South and the West. And now, even as parts of the country experience rapid improvement, reports of new infections have soared in the Midwest … Through Friday, North Dakota, South Dakota, Missouri and Iowa had added more recent cases per capita than all other states. As restrictions were loosened around the country, some local governments in the Midwest urged people to take the virus more seriously, and considered possible new limits on bars and face mask requirements in public.

"'When things opened up, it was like, 'We’re ready to party,''said Dr. Steve Stites, the chief medical officer for the University of Kansas Health System. Kansas has seen some of its highest daily case averages in recent weeks.  'We didn't get the initial surge that New York did, so people weren’t as shellshocked.'  But, he added, 'all of the sudden, that caught up with us.'

"The upticks have prompted alarm and fear in places that had until now avoided the worst of the pandemic."

•  From the Wall Street Journal:

"As recently as mid-July, Arizona was in the midst of a full-blown coronavirus outbreak. It repeatedly logged more than 3,000 cases a day, putting it in a category alongside more populous states such as Texas, Florida and California as the hottest of the nation’s hot spots.

"Two months later, Arizona is telling a different story.

"The number of newly reported cases in the state fell 72% in August, compared with a month earlier, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Over that same period, the number of deaths in the state fell by roughly one-third.

"Arizona’s apparent turnaround contrasts with what happened in those other hot-spot states, whose conditions have improved but not as much. Reported cases in Florida, California and Texas dropped 54%, 21% and 29%, respectively, last month.

"Health experts and officials attribute Arizona’s improvement to a host of issues, such as Gov. Doug Ducey’s decision in mid-June to allow cities, towns and counties to enact more restrictive measures, such as mask mandates. He later limited bars to take-out and delivery service and put capacity restrictions on restaurants."

•  CNBC quotes Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen as saying that he believes the cooking-at-home trend spurred by the pandemic will continue even as the coronavirus recedes:

"When we talk to our customers, what they tell us — and it’s fascinating — if they have young kid they love baking with their kids, and it’s something they enjoy doing together. If they have older kids, it’s like, ‘Well, we really enjoy time together,' … So everything that we can see, it’s something that will be a long-term trend because people have, one, learned how to cook and, two, found they really enjoy it. And the other thing that’s special, is when families eat as a family, they stay together. The kids don’t get into as much trouble. Those kinds of things."

McMullen adds, "But for us the thing that gives us the most excitement, our customers are telling us they actually enjoy it.."

Well, that and the fact that sales and profits are pretty good.

But McMullen and the folks at Kroger are smart enough to know that they can't be complacent about any of this stuff.  There's no such thing as permanence anymore.

•  CNBC reports that Scott Kirby, CEO of United Airlines, said yesterday that "a recovery for the aviation industry will have to wait until a Covid-19 vaccine  is approved and widely available, a milestone he said the company projects the country will reach toward the end of 2021."

"In a business like ours, demand is not going to come back until people feel safe being around other people, and that’s going to take a vaccine," Kirby said.  "And that’s just the reality. Some businesses can recover earlier, but in aviation and all the industries that we support, it is going to take longer."

CNBC writes that "the coronavirus pandemic has ravaged the airline industry, bringing business travel to a virtual standstill, preventing U.S. residents from traveling internationally, and curbing leisure trips.

"Kirby said that barring new federal legislation, United will be forced to lay off 16,000 workers as soon as next month, after the existing funds that were allocated in March dry up. He said that the company continues to burn through $25 million per day amid a decline in revenue of 85%."

•  From the Boston Globe:

"Artu, the Automatic, Bar Boulud, Bella Luna, Bergamot, Coda, Cuchi Cuchi, Dante, Deep Ellum, the Friendly Toast, the Frogmore, O’Leary’s, Parsnip, the Pour House, Stella, the Table at Season to Taste, Tango, Wit’s End. . . . These are just some of the Boston-area restaurants that have closed since coronavirus began to decimate the dining landscape. Many were around so long they felt like old friends. We grew up in these places. We gathered there as college students, went on dates and got engaged, celebrated life’s milestones.

"According to Bob Luz, president of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, 3,600 of the 16,000 restaurants that existed in the state on March 1 - or about 23 percent - have not reopened. This is just the tip of the iceberg, say many who work in the industry. The number is only going to grow in the coming months, affecting not just business owners but employment levels. In July, Massachusetts had the highest unemployment rate of any state at 16.1 percent."

•  Variety reports that Wonder Woman 1984, the superhero movie that was expected to be a summer blockbuster before the pandemic forced a delay of its release until October 2, has been delayed yet again, to a Christmas 2020 release date.

The decision comes as Christopher Nolan's Tenet, after several delays, was released to theaters a couple of weeks ago to what Variety calls "muted" ticket sales.  Many theaters around the US remain closed - including in Los Angeles and New York - which limits how much box office can be done in the US.

My Chicago son went to see Tenet the other day - it was a 12 noon matinee, and the 400-seat independent theater only was allowing some 75 people in.  Plus, only about half that many showed up.  His reaction was that the mask requirements, distancing and obvious cleaning procedures made him feel safe, though he was glad it was the first show of the day.  But he said he'd be a lot less likely to go to a big chain like AMC to see a movie - the whole thing was just this side of nerve-wracking.

•  From the Washington Post:

"The French government declined to introduce new lockdown measures on Friday even as coronavirus cases soar in France.

"The country reported nearly 10,000 new infections on Thursday, prompting officials to examine new approaches to curb the spread of the virus."

France is not alone.  Bloomberg reports that Western Europe has passed "the U.S. in new daily Covid-19 infections, re-emerging as a global hot spot after bringing the pandemic under control earlier in the summer."  Western Europe is defined as the 27 countries in the European Union plus the U.K., Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

The Post writes:  "In a press conference Friday evening, Prime Minister Jean Castex acknowledged a 'manifest degradation'  of the situation but said that citizens would have to learn how to live with covid-19 for the next few months.  'The virus will be around for a few more months, and we must managed to live with it without being dragged back into a logic of general confinement,' he said."

Merde sacrée.  I hope they know what they are doing.  The 'manifest degradation' may not be in the health situation, but in the willingness of the French leadership to do the right thing, or believe in the population's willingness to do the right thing.

I was emailing over the weekend with a friend of mine from Oregon.  I reached out because I was concerned about his safety because of the fires, and he wrote back, "We're great.  Because we’re Italian residents, we were able to snag a flight back to Milan last month.  In our little corner of the Alps, the covid infection rate is basically zero, nothing’s burning and there is no election going on.  Thank god for the internet to keep us insane."

But one of the things that people have to do - even in the corners of the world where the pandemic has receded - is to never get complacent, and never let up the pressure on the coronavirus.

•  French fashion house Louis Vuitton reportedly plans to come out with a designer face shield that will include its signature LV pattern and gold studs, describing it as "an eye-catching headpiece, both stylish and protective" that can be converted into a hat.

The cost:  $961 (US).

Note:  The face shield is not recommended as a substitute for an actual face mask.  Louis Vuitton also sells those - for $250.

Merde sacrée.