Published on: September 23, 2020
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 now are at a total of 7,098,291 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, with 205,478 deaths and 4,347,172 reported recoveries.
Globally, we are at 31,816,653 confirmed coronavirus cases, 976,021 fatalities, and 23,420,748 reported recoveries.
• The Wall Street Journal notes that the total number of Covid-19 coronavirus fatalities to this point has eclipsed "annual influenza-related deaths, which number between 12,000 and 61,000 each year in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."
Despite some assertions to the contrary.
• The Daily Beast has an interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in which he says the public should not pay attention to anyone who claims to know whether vaccines are viable or not.
"'These are blind placebo-controlled trials. The only ones who see the data intermittently is the safety data monitoring board…. a single unblinded statistician,' Fauci said. 'Those data are not public data, no one can know what those data show. That person looks at the data and says, ‘OK, let's keep the trial going, we don't have enough data to make a decision.’ Or that person can look at the data and say, ‘You know, there really is a very strong signal of efficacy, let's make it known.’ We bring in the company, we tell the company, then the company can make up their mind, whether they want to use that data to go to the [Federal Drug Administration for approval}'."
In other words, the story says, "there is no way of knowing how the U.S. is faring in its development of a vaccine until a subset of statisticians decide it’s time for it to be known. The fact that the data is so closely held is part of what is supposed to build trust in the science community and within the administration that the vaccine development was developed in a controlled environment without political influences."
• The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that "US health regulators have drafted guidelines that would require a Covid-19 vaccine to meet rigorous standards to gain a speedy clearance for use, according to people familiar with the matter, an effort to ensure the shots work safely before they are widely distributed.
"Among the proposed requirements is that a coronavirus shot reduce the rate of infections by 50% compared with a placebo, which the regulators have already required for a regular approval of any Covid-19 vaccines … The draft requirements indicate the Food and Drug Administration wants to hold Covid-19 vaccines to high standards similar to what it would have used for a typical review of the shots, the people said, even though the agency plans to conduct the review more quickly than normal because of the urgent need created by the coronavirus pandemic."
The Journal makes the point that these guidelines have to be signed off on by the White House, and that if they are adopted, it probably would preclude any vaccination being authorized for distribution by Election Day. But if the guidelines are rejected by the White House, it is likely to add to broad concerns about whether politics are being placed ahead of public safety.
• From the New York Times this morning:
"Buoyed by positive results in its earlier studies, Johnson & Johnson has begun the final stage of clinical trials for its coronavirus vaccine.
"Although they started a couple of months behind the other so-called Phase 3 trials in the United States, Johnson & Johnson’s trials, which began on Monday, will be the largest, with plans to enroll 60,000 participants. And this experimental vaccine may have considerable advantages over some of its competitors, experts said. It does not need to be stored in subzero temperatures, and may require just one dose instead of two.
"'It would be fabulous if we had something at a single dose,' said Dr. Judith Feinberg, the vice chairwoman for research in medicine at West Virginia University, who was not involved in the study.
"Only Phase 3 trials, which compare the effects of a vaccine with those of a placebo, can determine if a single dose is indeed effective, Dr. Feinberg said. If it works, that could greatly speed efforts to curb the pandemic."
• Deadline reports that "Josh D’Amaro, the new chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products Tuesday begged California officials to let Disneyland reopen and to 'treat theme parks the way you treat other sectors.'
"California Governor Gavin Newsom promised last week that news about Disneyland’s reopening would be coming 'very soon.'
"But 'soon' is subjective and with nothing forthcoming, executives ramped up the heat during a webcast today for key stakeholders to provide an update on the parks business."
"The longer we wait, the more devastating the impact will be to the Orange County and Anaheim communities and to the tens of thousands of people who rely on us for employment. With the right guidelines and our years of operations experience, I am confident that we can restart and get people back to work," D’Amaro says.
• The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued guidelines for Halloween and is not recommending "classic door-to-door trick-or-treating and crowded, boozy costume parties … The CDC's guidelines group Halloween activities into lower-risk, moderate-risk and higher-risk buckets.
"The higher-risk category includes both door-to-door trick-or-treating and events where kids get treats from the trunks of cars in a big parking lot.
"Also no-nos: indoor haunted houses where people will be crowded and screaming, which could send infectious particles flying."
A less risky approach to Halloween: "Kids could pick up individually wrapped gift bags at the end of a driveway or yard while still preserving social distance. You could also organize a small outdoor costume parade where everyone is 6 feet apart. An outdoor costume party would also be considered moderate risk, if people wear masks and stay 6 feet away from each other."
The CDC also is emphasizing that a costume mask is not a facemask suitable for preventing transmission of the coronavirus.
Gotta believe that Halloween candy sales this year will not be up to usual levels. We haven't really talked about what we'll do in terms of having candy available, though it sounds like the responsible thing to do is have a bowl out from which visitors can help themselves.
Though to be honest, if I were the parent of a young child, I would not take him or her out this year. I'd try to find an in-house alternative, I'd feel bad about it, but I'd feel irresponsible letting the child go out to trick-or-treat.
• National Public Radio reports that the National Football League (NFL) "has fined several head coaches $100,000 for not wearing face masks on the sidelines — a safety precaution that is required at games during the COVID-19 pandemic. The coaches' teams were also punished, with $250,000 fines.
"The coaches include Pete Carroll of Seattle, Kyle Shanahan of San Francisco and Vic Fangio of Denver … The fines were issued after the NFL completed the second week of games, all of which have been played in stadiums that are either empty of fans or at sharply reduced capacity due to concerns about the possible spread of the coronavirus.
"Carroll, Shanahan and Fangio have all worn neck gaiters during their teams' first two games, but each of them has often been seen with the covering pushed down below their chin."
• Fast Company writes that outdoor retailer Keen "has installed vending machines that serve up branded face masks as easily as you might grab a candy bar to go. Currently in Portland, Oregon; Palo Alto, California; London; and Tokyo, the company plans to roll out additional vending machines in the coming months. A company spokesperson decline to specify where in the U.S. they might pop up next, but says it is 'working with different partners'."
The story goes on: "While face masks are everywhere, vending machines are one place we haven’t seen them yet. Keen’s approach offers a shopping experience that is entirely new and one that’s particularly apt for shopping in a pandemic. Since the vending machine is outside, it not only eliminates the possibility of indoor transmission (which research shows is higher), it removes person to person contact at the point of sale. There’s also no need to fret if you need a mask after hours: The vending machines are open 24/7. (Keen’s masks are also available to purchase online.)"
• Excellent column in the Washington Post by Steven Pearlstein about how, in the long run the pandemic may be a good thing for cities like New York and San Francisco, which have long been vital, vibrant, expensive and out-of-reach for many people, but now find themselves to be mere ghosts of their former selves, with people working from home instead of offices, stores and restaurants closed, and the tourists who help drive their economies in short supply.
Now, however, "Vacated space and falling rents in the most desirable downtown office buildings will allow firms in less convenient or less desirable buildings on the fringes of downtown, or in the suburbs, to move to the buildings they could not afford earlier. And growing companies that might otherwise have shifted work to satellite cities will decide to keep them at headquarters instead.
"At lower prices, the city’s most desirable condos and apartments would be bought and rented by people who previously had to settle for smaller units or less desirable neighborhoods, or been shut out of the metropolitan area entirely.
Visitors with three-star budgets will be able to move up to four-star hotels, while those once relegated to suburban hotels during peak seasons can afford to stay downtown.
"With the demise of department stores and the retreat of many national retailers, independent merchants and restaurants will be able to afford to locate in the shopping centers, retail districts and neighborhoods that attract the most customers with the most money to spend."
This certainly is a glass-half-full column, and you can read it here.