Published on: October 26, 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 are now up to 8,889,577 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 230,510 deaths and 5,772,717 reported recoveries.
Globally, there have been 43,388,054 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 1,159,742 fatalities and 31,922,400 reported recoveries. (Source.)
• Axios reports that the United States reported 83,718 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, "marking the second day in a row that the country topped 80,000 daily infections."
The previous record, set last July 16, was 77,362 daily coronavirus cases.
• The New York Times reports on a new report out of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington suggesting that universal mask wearing in the US could prevent as many as 130,000 fatalities.
Christopher Murray, director of the Institute, tells the Times that the current surge of infection numbers "are likely to continue through the fall and winter, with a steady rise in cases and deaths until January and staying high after that point … 'We strongly believe we are heading into a pretty grim winter season,' Dr. Murray said."
The Times goes on: "The new study, published in the journal Nature Medicine, also offered a rough estimate of the pandemic’s toll in the United States: perhaps 500,000 deaths by March 2021, even with social distancing mandates reinstated in most states."
The Times notes that "other experts cautioned that, as with any model, the new estimates are based on many assumptions and should not be seen as predictions." One expert said that it should be seen as "a sophisticated thought experiment” the conclusions of which need not be realized if people change their behavior.
"We can will this number out of existence,” said Shweta Bansal, an infectious disease modeler at Georgetown University.
• The Wall Street Journal reports on pandemic fatigue, writing that "from the corridors of Washington to the cobblestones of Paris, the coronavirus is roaring back and authorities are ramping up restrictions again. This time around, however, everyone is tired.
"Hospital staff world-wide are demoralized after seven months of virus-fighting triage. The wartime rhetoric that world leaders initially used to rally support is gone. Family members who willingly sealed themselves off during spring lockdowns are suddenly finding it hard to resist the urge to reunite."
This "collective exhaustion - known as pandemic fatigue - has emerged as a formidable adversary for governments that are counting on a high degree of public cooperation with the latest rounds of restrictions to flatten the infection curve. Too much pandemic fatigue, authorities say, can fuel a vicious cycle: A tired public tends to let its guard down, triggering more infections and restrictions that in turn compound the fatigue."
The story goes on: "Problems begin when the rules run up against the need for social connection. Gallup polling over the same May-to-September period showed the number of Americans avoiding small gatherings with family and friends had fallen from 71% to 45%."
• National Public Radio chimes in to point out that "unlike past surges, where a few states drove up case numbers, the current high is being propelled by many states. Texas currently has the most recorded cases, followed by Illinois, Wisconsin and Florida."
• The New York Times reports that "with the coronavirus spreading out of control in many parts of the United States and daily case counts once again setting records, health experts have warned that it is only a matter of time before the pressure on hospitals mounts to the breaking point.
"In some places it’s already happening, with more than 41,000 Covid-19 patients hospitalized in the United States, a 40 percent rise in the past month."
For example, "Hospital administrators in Utah have sent a grim warning to Gov. Gary Herbert that they will soon be forced to ration access to their rapidly filling intensive-care units, and requested approval for criteria to decide which patients should get priority … In Tennessee, the Maury Regional Medical Center in Columbia suspended all elective procedures requiring an overnight stay on Saturday to make room for an influx of Covid-19 patients. Most of the facility’s 26 I.C.U. beds are already filled … Hospitals in El Paso, Texas, are preparing to airlift some critical care patients to other medical facilities in the state after a record surge of Covid-19 hospitalizations."
• At least five people who work for Vice President Mike Pence, including his chief of staff, Marc Short, have tested positive for the coronavirus.
• From the Washington Post:
"Italy became the latest European country to announce new restrictions to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus on Sunday as countries across the continent continue to report surging infections.
"France on Sunday announced more than 50,000 new infections, a new record for the fourth day running. Germany, widely lauded for its initial handling of the virus, reported a surge of its own. The number of coronavirus cases in Poland has doubled in less than three weeks. And Spain has also imposed new restrictions."
• Fox News reports that Costco now "is selling coronavirus test kits online.
"The PCR saliva kits can be used without oversight at home … The at-home tests, which have been approved by the Food and Drug administration for Emergency Use Authorization, allow customers to test for coronavirus via saliva samples from home, in the office or in pharmacy self-administration.
"According to Costco’s site, those who take the test can get their results within 24-72 hours from the time the lab receives the kit."
• CNN reports that Delta Air Lines now has banned a total of 460 people from flying on its planes - permanently - because they did not follow its mask policy.
The number is up from the 270 bans announced in August.
The story notes that "all major airlines now mandate that passengers wear masks in the absence of any new regulations from the federal government.
"Airlines in June agreed to ban passengers from future flights for refusing to wear masks. But the airlines are not sharing information with one another about the passengers they have banned. So, for example, a passenger banned on Delta can still book a flight on American (AAL) and vice versa."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said that a) travel increases your likelihood of contracting the coronavirus, and b) wearing a mask helps to mitigate the likelihood of contracting the coronavirus. Not sure why some part of the alphabet soup that makes up the federal government - the CDC or maybe the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) - can't mandate both the wearing of masks on airplanes and the sharing of information by the airlines.
• For the moment, at least, it is no time to buy.
Variety reported over the weekend that MGM, having delayed the theatrical release of the new James Bond movie, No Time To Die, several times because of the pandemic, actively explored selling the film to Apple, Amazon, Netflix or another streaming service for at-home viewing.
No Time To Die is now slated to open in April 2021, a full year after originally planned. The story suggests that the delays already have cost MGM between $30 million and $50 million.
However, no sale has yet taken place - at least in part because MGM apparently put a price tag of $600 million on the movie, which was pretty rich even for Apple, Amazon and Netflix.
The story notes that "other studios, such as Paramount and Sony, have raked in tens of millions by selling movies like Greyhound, Coming 2 America and Without Remorse to streaming services while the exhibition sector continues to struggle during the pandemic.
That $600 million is a huge price tag, but one has to keep in mind that movies like these are expensive propositions. No Time To Die reported cost about $250 million to make - which is less than the last Bond film, Spectre ($300 million) but more than the previous three Daniel Craig-led Bond films, Skyfall ($200 million), Quantum of Solace ($230 million) and Casino Royale ($102 million). The rule of thumb is that movies on this scale have to make at least twice their production budgets to turn a profit … so to make money for MGM, No Time To Die would have to make $500 million or more. So that $600 million price tag isn't so far off the mark.
Here's my prediction. If theaters aren't getting back to normal by early next year, No Time To Die will follow the streaming route, and MGM will find some sort of workable formula to make it work.