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, there now have been 8,585,748 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 227,419 deaths and 5,603,025 recoveries.

Globally, there have been 41,549,987 confirmed coronavirus cases, 1,137,332 fatalities, and 30,945,745 reported recoveries.  (Source.)

•  Axios offers a grim assessment of the nation's pandemic state of affairs, reporting that "every available piece of data proves it: The coronavirus pandemic is getting worse again, all across America … at a moment when containing the virus ought to be easier and more urgent than ever, we are instead giving it a bigger foothold to grow from.

And that's even before we head into winter, when the risk of cases and deaths is expected to grow as everyone huddles indoors in closed spaces."

The story goes on:  "The U.S. is now averaging about 59,000 new infections per day — the most since early August. New cases were up by about 15% over the past week.

That’s the sixth straight week of increases, following a brief improvement after the summer's surge in cases.

"Hospitalizations are up, too. There are about 39,000 people in the hospital today for COVID-19, also the most since early August.  In 16 states, the share of hospital beds occupied by COVID patients is as high right now as it’s been at any point in the pandemic.

"Another key metric — the percentage of all tests that come back positive — is also on the rise."

There is some good news in the Axios story - the death rate from Covid-19 actually is going down:

"Patients who are in the hospital for the coronavirus — those with the most severe infections — have about a 7.6% chance of dying, according to new research. That’s a significant improvement from the early days of the pandemic."  However, the story notes, "a 7.6% chance of death is still higher than other infections, including the flu.

And even if it doesn’t kill you, the virus may still do lasting damage to the heart, lungs, immune system and maybe the brain."

•  From the Associated Press:

"US health officials Wednesday redefined what counts as close contact with someone with COVID-19 to include briefer but repeated encounters.

"For months, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said close contact meant spending a solid 15 minutes within 6 feet of someone who tested positive for coronavirus. On Wednesday, the CDC changed it to a total of 15 minutes or more — so shorter but repeated contacts that add up to 15 minutes over a 24-hour period now count.

"The CDC advises anyone who has been in close contact with a COVID-19 patient to quarantine for two weeks."

•  From the Wall Street Journal:

"The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is exploring ways to shorten quarantine periods for schoolchildren who have been in contact with people infected with Covid-19 in an effort to speed their return to classrooms, according to people familiar with the matter.

"Public-health officials at the CDC and state health departments are collecting and analyzing data to study whether it is possible to condense the 14-day period during which children are advised to stay home after coming in contact with a person who has tested positive for Covid-19.

"Options the CDC and public-health officials have discussed include allowing children who have tested negative for the virus after a certain number of days to cut their quarantine short or paring back the number of days it advises children remain isolated."

•  From the Boston Globe:

"All Boston Public Schools students will return to remote-only learning starting Thursday, as the city’s coronavirus positivity rate continues to rise, city and school officials announced Wednesday.

"Boston’s coronavirus positivity rate rose to 5.7 percent for the week ending Oct. 17, jumping up from 4.4 percent the week prior and 4.1 percent the week before that. It was the largest one-week increase city officials had seen in a while and the highest positivity rate in Boston since late May, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh said in an interview after the announcement."

According to the story, "Boston officials and the Boston Teachers Union previously agreed that a 4 percent rate would trigger a full school closure, but school officials have prioritized keeping high-needs students in school in recent weeks.

"Only students with high needs — which include severe disabilities, limited English background, and those facing homelessness or involvement with child protective services — have been attending school in person. The rest of Boston’s student body has been attending school remotely since the academic year began on Sept. 21."

•  From Axios:

"San Francisco public school officials do not anticipate bringing students back into the classroom before the end of the year, partially due to limited coronavirus testing capacity."

We do not anticipate bringing in students back before the end of the calendar year,” said San Francisco Unified School District Superintendent Vincent Matthews, adding, “Our hope is that over the next eight weeks we’re going to have [testing] at 100 percent. We’re an educational system that’s been asked to be a testing agency."

•  From National Public Radio:

"Administrators at Brigham Young University's campus in southeastern Idaho say they are "deeply troubled" by reports that students may have intentionally tried to contract Covid-19, lured by blood donation centers that are paying a premium for plasma with Covid-19 antibodies … The school condemned the behavior, saying it is 'actively seeking evidence of any such conduct among our student body'."

BYU says that "students who are determined to have intentionally exposed themselves or others to the virus will be immediately suspended from the university and may be permanently dismissed."


•  From the Boston Globe:

"Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll and Governor Charlie Baker on Wednesday implored the public to avoid the historic city between now and Halloween and said there will be early businesses closings, significant parking restrictions, and no traditional holiday events this weekend and next in an effort to thin out crowds amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic."

Salem had cancelled all its Halloween Haunted Happenings back in August, but there apparently are persistent concerns that the public will ignore the city's moves and flock there anyway.

•  The New York Times has a story about how Alaska managed to get through the summer with "some of the fewest coronavirus cases per capita in the nation."

But, "as temperatures begin dipping back below freezing and sunset arrives with dinner, the state’s social gatherings, recreational activities and restaurant seating have started moving indoors — and the virus has seized new opportunities. With new case clusters emerging throughout the state, the acclaimed contact tracing system has grown strained.

"At a time when cases across the United States are rising and people are growing fatigued by months of restrictions, Alaska’s struggles provide an early warning that winter could bring the most devastating phase of the pandemic … On Friday, the weekly case average in Alaska reached its highest point of the year. The percentage of people testing positive has doubled in recent weeks. In parts of the state, tribal villages have been forced into lockdown."

•  The Wall Street Journal reported that Chipotle is bucking the negative trend that has affected so many of the nation's restaurants, posting "its largest-ever quarterly sales as online orders helped offset lost restaurant traffic during the coronavirus pandemic, though the shift created costs that are weighing on profit …  same-store sales grew 8.3% in its third quarter over last year, exceeding the 7.3% increase analysts expected. Digital transactions, which tripled, accounted for nearly half the company’s revenue … Chipotle’s earnings, on net income of $80 million, were $2.82 a share, down from $3.47 during last year’s period. Revenue in the quarter was $1.6 billion."

Chipotle has been testing price increases in some locations as a way to compensate for higher costs, and also has been " building new locations even as tens of thousands of independent restaurants are closing their doors as the pandemic has wiped out their dine-in business. Chipotle added 44 restaurants during the quarter, 26 of them including drive-throughs. Drive-throughs oriented toward online orders, known as Chipotlanes, average higher sales than the chain’s traditional locations, Chipotle said."

Ghostbusters: Afterlife, a sequel to the 1984 hit comedy, is the latest movie to get its release date pushed because of the pandemic's impact on movie theater attendance.

Originally scheduled to open in July 2020, it already had been postponed to March 5, 2021 … but now has been pushed yet again, to July 11,m 2021.

However, Variety writes, "Given the unpredictability of coronavirus and audiences’ apprehension to go to the movies amid a global health crisis, there’s no telling if the latest summer release date will stick."

There clearly is something wrong in the neighborhood … but there's nobody to call.  We just have to stick it out … though I am worried that we're not all that far from fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling!  Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes...The dead rising from the grave!  Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!

Me, I'm with Peter Venkman: