retail 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 7,046,216 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, with 204,506 deaths and 4,299,525 reported recoveries.

Globally, there now have been 31,505,247 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 969,771 fatalities and 23,132,404 reported recoveries.

•  From the New York Times:

"As the pandemic wears on and school begins across the country, women working in retail say they are being forced to choose between keeping their jobs and making sure their children can keep up with remote learning.

"Women in all types of jobs are feeling this squeeze. According to a study last month by the Census Bureau, women were three times more likely than men to have left their job because of child-care issues during the pandemic. But the inflexibility of retail work schedules - where shifts can vary widely week-to-week and employees have little choice but to take the hours they are given - makes the pressure on those employees particularly acute and likely to lead to more women dropping out of the work force."

The Times goes on:

"The retail industry, the second-biggest private-sector employer in the United States after health care, has been roiled by the pandemic, with millions of people out of work. Women made up nearly half of the 15.7 million workers in retail before the pandemic, but they accounted for 65 percent of the industry’s job losses between February and June, according to a report from the center.

"Those who have kept their jobs were heralded as heroes and rewarded with bonuses and temporary raises during the early months of the pandemic. However, many of these same retail workers find themselves struggling to fulfill endless parenting obligations while hanging onto jobs that seem increasingly precarious in a weak economy."

•  The Washington Post reports on continued efforts by the World Health Organization (WHO) to warn that "young people are becoming primary spreaders of the virus in many countries. Several American studies published over the summer suggested that those under 18, with their high rate of infection and viral loads, play a much larger role in community spread of covid-19 than researchers previously believed. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recently said that the long-term effects of covid-19 in young people - residual symptoms such as a high rate of cardiovascular abnormalities - are 'really troublesome'."

The story goes on:  "Reports of Americans under 18 dying from coronavirus have become more regular in recent months, whether it’s a 17-year-old in Florida or a 2-month-old in Michigan. 'We are seeing young people who are dying from this virus,' said Maria Van Kerkhove, head of the WHO’s emerging disease and zoonosis unit, at a news conference last month."

•  The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has "pulled new guidelines acknowledging the new coronavirus could be transmitted by tiny particles that linger in the air, saying a draft version of proposed changes was posted in error on the agency’s website.

"For months, the CDC said the new coronavirus is primarily transmitted between people in close contact through droplets that can land in the mouths or noses of people nearby. On Friday, however, it added that Covid-19 can also be spread by 'droplets or small particles, such as those in aerosols' that can be inhaled and cause infection.  Then abruptly on Monday, the CDC reversed course and removed the additions."

More from the Journal:  "The CDC is still working on updating its recommendations regarding airborne transmission of the coronavirus, the spokesman said … The CDC wants to convey that aerosol transmission is possible, but not the primary method coronavirus spreads, according to a person familiar with the matter.

"Another person familiar with the matter said that an internal push among some people within the agency to better communicate information about aerosol transmission led to the Friday change, but that the new guidelines didn’t go through appropriate vetting. The agency is reviewing how that happened, the person said."

The argument seems to be over whether the virus can be transmitted primarily through droplets that are transmitted at close quarters, vs. aerosol that lingers in the air longer and further.  I get that … though it seems to me that at the moment, as we are still learning about Covid-19, it would make sense to simply say so, and then suggest that people are better off being safe by wearing masks more often, not less, and assuming the worst.

That would be the responsible thing to do.  That would be the patriotic thing to do.  It is not necessarily the easiest thing to do, but the unwillingness in some quarters to take this seriously is galling and almost inexplicable.  But only almost.

•  The Wall Street Journal reports on the limit advantages that so-called herd immunity would offer in terms of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

"For the pandemic to stop, the coronavirus has to run out of susceptible hosts to infect," the Journal writes.  "Herd immunity occurs when enough people in a population develop an immune response, either through previous infection or vaccination, so that the virus can’t spread easily and even those who aren’t immune have protection.

"By some estimates, 60% to 70% of people would have to be infected and develop immunity to the coronavirus before herd immunity would protect the rest of the population. Based on antibody tests, even Covid-19 hot spots like New York and Mumbai haven't reached these levels."

Indeed, most infectious-disease experts "adamantly warn against the notion of trying to reach herd immunity to the coronavirus without a vaccine, as the costs on human life would be staggering and it likely wouldn’t happen soon, if at all."

•  The Wall Street Journal also reports that "experts and medical groups increasingly say temperature checks, one of the most common initial screenings for the infection, aren’t a good gauge of Covid-19. Many infected children and adults don’t get fevers, and variability in individual temperatures, as well as questions about the accuracy of body-temperature scanners and infrared contact-free thermometers put such checks at risk of error."

•  The Financial Times reports that because of a resurgence of the coronavirus in the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson "will on Tuesday abandon attempts to persuade Britons to return to the office, insisting that people should work from home 'if possible' as part of sweeping measures to control coronavirus. Mr Johnson will set out new Covid-19 restrictions in the House of Commons at lunchtime and in a televised address at 8pm will argue that the measures will help to stop the virus spread in social settings and work.

"The prime minister will confirm plans to close all pubs, restaurants and bars at 10pm … in a move that has alarmed the hospitality sector, which is already struggling. But Mr Johnson will deliver another blow to the economy, particularly city centres, by abandoning his efforts earlier this month to persuade workers to have 'the confidence' to return to their offices."

•  Fox Business reports that "7-Eleven is seeking to hire an additional 20,000 employees nationwide as it looks to meet continued demand for its products amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The new hires, which will fill positions across more than 9,000 U.S. stores, will also help with orders through the company's 7NOW delivery app, which has seen an uptick in orders since the pandemic hit the country earlier this month, the company announced Monday."

•  The Wall Street Journal reports that Sizzler USA has filed for bankruptcy because of a significant drop-off in sales because of the pandemic.

Sizzler USA says that it hopes its 14 company-owned stores and more than 90 franchised units can remain open while it uses the bankruptcy filing to renegotiate leases.

•  The Associated Press reports that "an eighth death has been linked to a coronavirus outbreak stemming from a wedding and reception in the northern part of Maine … The wedding and reception in the Millinocket area on Aug. 7 is linked to more than 270 cases of COVID-19, including in an outbreak at a nursing home in Madison and a jail."

None of the eight people who have died were at the wedding.