Published on: October 28, 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've now blown through the nine-million-case mark - there now have been 9,039,170 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, with 232,101 deaths and 5,878,859 reported recoveries.
Globally, there have been 44,322,504 coronavirus cases, resulting in 1,173,189 fatalities and 32,486,703 reported recoveries. (Source.)
• From the New York Times:
"The United States reported a record of more than 500,000 new cases over the past week, as states and cities resorted to stricter new measures to contain the virus that is raging across the country, especially the American heartland … The record reflects how quickly the virus is spreading. It took nearly three months for the first 500,000 coronavirus cases to be tallied in the United States — the first was confirmed on Jan. 21, and the country did not reach the half-million mark until April 11."
While there is a lot more testing now than there was in the early days of the pandemic, public health experts say that the current numbers are a lot more accurate than those generated six months ago.
According to the Times, "The new restrictions range from a nightly business curfew in Newark, N.J., to a two-week stay-at-home order in El Paso, Texas, to a halt in indoor dining in Chicago.
"Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced on Tuesday that he was stopping indoor dining and bar service in Chicago, effective at 12:01 a.m. Friday, Oct. 30.
"The city joins New York and Wisconsin, states that earlier this month issued restrictions or outright bans on indoor dining in restaurants and bars to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The restrictions have been loudly opposed by a restaurant industry that has been decimated by the pandemic."
And more: "In Newark, N.J., all nonessential businesses began closing at 8 p.m. Tuesday. As of Sunday, the three-day average citywide positivity rate was 11.2 percent, more than double the statewide rate for the same period, the city said Monday.
"Gov. Brad Little of Idaho ordered the state on Monday to return to Level 3 restrictions including limiting indoor gatherings to 50 people, requiring masks at long-term care facilities, and restricting bars and restaurants to serving only customers who are seated at tables. Idaho is averaging around 900 cases each day, up from about 260 in mid-September.
"New mask mandates, the first in North Dakota, were imposed last week in the cities of Fargo and Minot. About 5 percent of all North Dakotans have now tested positive for the virus, the highest rate of any state."
I feel terrible for restaurants in places like Illinois and Wisconsin that won;'t be able to swing open their doors even for reduced capacity … it already is getting cold in those places, and outdoor dining, even with heaters, is going to be problematic. This is an argument for government support for the restaurant business, though, not an argument for reduced restrictions.
• Here's how the Washington Post frames the same news:
"As days grow short and cold weather sets in across the northern United States, the country is logging more coronavirus infections than ever before. Tuesday marked the first time that the rolling seven-day average of new daily case counts — a metric considered more reliable than single-day figures — topped 70,000. Record numbers of infections have been reported in 29 states over the past week, in every region of the country."
• Axios reports on a new Vanderbilt University analysis saying that "coronavirus hospitalizations are rising much more dramatically in places that don’t require people to wear a face mask … The findings reinforce what experts have been saying for months: Masks — and mask mandates — work. They will not vanquish the coronavirus on their own, but they help. A lot."
The study says that "in hospitals where at least 75% of patients are subject to a local mask requirement, COVID hospitalizations are at about the same level now as they were July 1. In hospitals where fewer than 25% of patients are subject to a local mask mandate, however, hospitalizations are more than 200% higher than their July 1 levels."
• The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is out with a new survey in which it concludes that "a vast majority of Americans of all ages have been wearing face coverings since April," the New York Times reports.
However, the data only covered April to June … which may explain why coronavirus cases are spiking now.
• The New York Times reports that "As the holiday travel season approaches, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the New York City region’s biggest airports, said on Tuesday that it would soon impose a $50 fine on travelers who do not wear a mask or face covering.
"The agency, which in addition to operating Kennedy International, La Guardia and Newark Liberty International airports also oversees the PATH train system and two major bus terminals, said it would begin issuing fines on Monday. It was unclear how the agency planned to enforce the fine.
"The Port Authority has required masks in its facilities and on its transit system for months but was not fining those who did not comply. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates New York City’s subways and buses and two of its commuter rail lines, last month began issuing a $50 fine against riders who did not wear masks."
The Times notes that the whole notion of travel advisories can be problematic when it comes to the New York metropolitan area. It is tough for New York to ban travelers from New Jersey and Connecticut since so many people from those two states travel to New York City for work (though fewer than did so before the pandemic). The inter-connectedness extends to Massachusetts, where the infection numbers are high enough to merit a restriction, but New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has conceded that it is hard to simply ban Bay Staters from coming to New York. But, Cuomo has urged people to avoid all non-essential travel.
• The Boston Globe reports that Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker said yesterday that "people under 30 account for a large portion of the recent spike in Massachusetts coronavirus cases, and acknowledged that the state’s own efforts to trace the source of many new infections have been stymied … In the strongest terms since cases surged, Baker stressed that residents should avoid attending large social gatherings with the upcoming holidays, and that infectious disease specialists have identified informal gatherings as a prime spreader of the virus."
I'm waiting for the post-Halloween spike to take place all over the country. In my town, they've recommended against trick-or-treating and Halloween parties, saying that such activities will result in higher infection numbers. And yet, there are families planning both … and it is a good bet that this will be a national phenomenon.
• The governors of Washington State, Oregon and Nevada have joined with the governors of California and New York to say that they will join in independent reviews of any vaccine that is approved for usage by the federal government.
The goal of these reviews, the governors said, was not to delay distribution but to ensure that an effective and fair distribution plan is developed and implemented without politicization.
• The New York Times reports that "after weeks of dangling the possibility of early coronavirus vaccine results by October, Pfizer’s chief executive said Tuesday that would now be nearly impossible … In his remarks, he acknowledged the urgency of developing a vaccine amid a global resurgence in infections. In the United States over the past week, there have been an average of more than 71,000 coronavirus cases per day, and hospitalizations are increasing, too.
"Let’s be very patient — I know how much the stress levels are growing," said Dr. Albert Bourla. "I know how much the vaccine is needed for the world.”
• From Bloomberg:
"This fall, the U.S. will need to vaccinate huge numbers of Americans in the middle of a public-health crisis. It will also be a valuable dry run should a coronavirus shot arrive months later.
"The annual U.S. flu vaccine campaign has been cast into disarray by Covid-19, with people staying away from pharmacies, schools, offices, hospitals and other places where they typically get their shots. But with fears of a flu surge colliding with the coronavirus pandemic, health authorities are looking at how one vaccine effort can inform the other.
"In Denver, public-health officials are trying to increase the number of adults who get the flu vaccine this year to 65% from 45%. To do it, they’re setting up 'strike teams' that can go from school to school giving vaccines, vans that can stop at construction sites and inoculate workers, and doing outreach to hard-to-reach communities."
Meanwhile, Bloomberg also reports, "CVS Health Corp. has already surpassed the 9 million flu shots it gave during the entire previous season and expects to double that number by the end of this cycle, a spokesman said. Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. has administered 60% more doses in its U.S. stores than at this point last year, said Rina Shah, group vice president of pharmacy operations."
• Axios reports as cases of the coronavirus spike around the country, so has "an increase in coronavirus-related startup funding, focused on both testing and pharma."
An example: "Gauss, a Silicon Valley computer vision startup focused on health care, tells Axios that it's raised $10 million to accelerate development and commercialization of an at-home rapid antigen test for COVID-19.
"Gauss was founded in 2011 to focus on surgical bleeding, but earlier this year signed a partnership with biotech Cellex to create what would be the first rapid COVID-19 test that can be fully performed at home without involving a lab."
• Harvard University is out with a new study suggesting that people on airplanes are less likely to catch the Covid-19 coronavirus than people shopping in grocery stores.
The argument, as CNN explains it, is that "specialized onboard ventilation systems filter out 99% of airborne viruses … Researchers at the university's T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that even though air is recirculated back into the cabin, it goes through high-quality filters first. And virus droplets from one passenger are unlikely to infect another because of a 'downward direction' of airflow, they said."
The story goes on: "The ventilation system, however, is not effective alone. Harvard's researchers described masks as a critical part of keeping travelers healthy and credited the role of disinfection and passengers' self-screening for Covid-19 symptoms."
Still, it is not a perfect system: "A study released by Irish researchers shows what can go wrong onboard, even when precautions are taken.
"Through contract tracing, public health officials in Dublin and other cities linked 13 cases to a single passenger on a seven-hour international flight this summer. Fewer than one in five seats were filled. None of the travelers were known to not wear a mask on the flight."
• Axios reports that "Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday instituted a nationwide mask mandate, as the nation tries to combat a second spike of COVID-19 cases … Russia currently has the fourth-most coronavirus cases in the world, with 1,537,142, according to Johns Hopkins data, behind the U.S., India and Brazil. Russia has reported 26,092 deaths to date."
• The Guardian reports this morning that French president Emmanuel Macron "is expected to impose a new four-week national lockdown to halt the spread of Covid-19 … The announcement would follow record numbers of new cases in France that have put pressure on hospitals, and a startling rise in coronavirus deaths … Large swathes of France, including Paris, have been placed under a night-time curfew, but officials say this has not been enough to stop the virus."
The announcement is expected to come in a televised speech this evening.
• Another movie casualty of the pandemic, as MGM announced yesterday that Respect, the new Aretha Franklin biopic starring Jennifer Hudson, which originally was scheduled to open two months ago and was delayed to January 15, now is slated to open on August 13, 2021.
Variety describes the impact the pandemic has had on the movie business: "The New York City, Los Angles and San Francisco markets remained closed due to the pandemic along with the Regal Cinemas chain, which shuttered its 536 U.S. locations on Oct. 8. Even though about 85% of U.S. markets are open, Comscore reports that only 49% of movie theater locations are open. In addition, other U.S. theaters are operating with reduced hours and at reduced capacity with social distancing restrictions."
Theaters may have reduced capacity, but they also have reduced appeal to patrons … which is the real problem.