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 9,121,800 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 233,137 deaths and 5,934,052 reported recoveries.

Globally, there have been 44,841,231 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 1,180,349 fatalities and 32,770,227 reported recoveries.  (Source.)

•  From the Wall Street Journal:

"New coronavirus cases continued to climb in the U.S. as several states reported daily totals near all-time highs.

"The U.S. reported nearly 79,000 new coronavirus cases for Wednesday, the second day in a row the total has come in over 70,000, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University … Illinois reported more than 6,100 new cases for Wednesday, just below a record set Saturday. Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Virginia also reported totals that were the second-highest since the pandemic began, according to Johns Hopkins data.

"Across the country, more than 45,000 people were hospitalized due to Covid-19 as of Wednesday, a level last reached on Aug. 14, in the midst of the summer surge in infections, according to the Covid Tracking Project. Wednesday marked the eighth day in a row that hospitalizations topped 40,000."

•  The New York Times reports that even as Covid-19 rates have spiked, "survival rates, even of seriously ill patients, appeared to be improving. At one New York hospital system where 30 percent of coronavirus patients died in March, the death rate had dropped to 3 percent by the end of June."

The Times goes on:

"Were the lower death rates simply a function of the demographic changes, or a reflection of real progress and medical advances in treatment that blunted the impact of the new pathogen?

"Researchers at NYU Langone Health who zeroed in on this question, analyzing the outcomes of more than 5,000 patients hospitalized at the system's three hospitals from March through August, concluded the improvement was real, not just a function of changing demographics. Even when they controlled for differences in the patients’ age, sex, race, underlying health problems and severity of Covid symptoms — like blood oxygen levels at admission — they found that death rates had dropped significantly, to 7.6 percent in August, down from 25.6 percent in March."

•  Axios reports that the coronavirus "gained strength over the past week in 41 states … Wisconsin reported new single-day records for cases, hospitalizations and deaths — all in the same day.  New infections were up 16% in Arizona, 21% in Florida, 22% in Ohio, 23% in Wisconsin, 25% in Michigan and 33% in Pennsylvania."

Can you imagine any scenario under which this all gets better before it gets worse?  Because I can't.

•  CNBC reports that Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview that "the United States is 'going in the wrong direction' as coronavirus cases rise in 47 states and infected patients overwhelm hospitals across the country."

“If things do not change, if they continue on the course we’re on, there’s gonna be a whole lot of pain in this country with regard to additional cases and hospitalizations, and deaths,” he said."

CNBC writes that "Fauci noted … that cities like New York and Philadelphia are more equipped to deal with the surge, whereas locations in the northwest and heartland are going to have a more difficult time with the pandemic."

The story says that Fauci said "that he doesn’t foresee the United States taking the same lockdown measures that Melbourne, Australia took to curb its summer spike in cases. Melbourne only reopened Wednesday after spending three months shut down … Dr. Fauci suggested doubling down on masks, distancing, and avoiding crowds and congregations amid Americans’ coronavirus fatigue, and added that the country would 'be much better than we’re doing right now'."

"There is very little appetite for a lockdown in this country,” Fauci said. “There’s going to be major pushback both from above and at the local level, however, what Melbourne did, what Australia did as a country, was very successful.”

•  Fox News reports that Kroger will roll out rapid antibody testing for the coronavirus to its more than two thousand pharmacy locations and more than 200 clinic locations around the country, which it says "may provide critical information about past infection to patients who believe they may have been exposed to the coronavirus but were unable to access testing at the time of infection."

The tests, scheduled to be wisely available at these locations by the end of November, have been available to this point at the company's Michigan and California stores.  They will cost Kroger customers $25.

According to the Fox News story, "he rapid antibody testing was authorized by the Food and Drug Administration for point-of-care use in September and supplied by medical device company Whitmire Medical.

"Kroger's rapid antibody testing is conducted by a licensed health professional using a finger-prick blood sample and rapid lateral flow technology to detect antibodies for SARS-CoV-2."

•  Fox Business reports that Hy-Vee is introducing "an automated cleaning system to sanitize shopping carts … the Sterile Cart system fully cleans and sanitizes shopping carts after each use."

The retailers said that it plans to roll the fully automated system out to more than 200 of its stores by mid-November.

I think this is a very good idea.   It would be my perception that the stores I visit are not being as vigilant about cart cleaning recently as they were four or five months ago;  they're depending on consumers to wipe them down, which is fine, but maybe not enough going forward as the spikes get more pronounced.  An automated cart sterilization system is the kind of thing that could make a difference as people choose which store to patronize.

•  The New York Times has a story about how "Long Island health officials scrambled to contain a coronavirus outbreak in Suffolk County when dozens of people tested positive for the virus after attending a high-end Sweet 16 party in September that violated state restrictions on gatherings.

"On Wednesday, county officials said they were coping with the fallout from two more so-called superspreader events that left 56 people with the virus and nearly 300 in quarantine: a wedding that exceeded the state’s 50-person limit and a birthday party that did not … Ninety-one people attended the wedding, on Oct. 17, officials said. Thirty people, including 27 guests, two employees and an outside vendor, later tested positive for the virus, and 156 people wound up under quarantine, officials said."

Is there a legal term  for criminal stupidity?

•  From the New York Times:

"France will reimpose a nationwide lockdown, while Germany will close bars and restaurants and impose other restrictions for a month in a last-ditch effort to protect hospitals from becoming overwhelmed with virus patients as Europe battles a second wave of the pandemic.

"For months, European countries have tried to slow the spread of the virus through targeted restrictions aimed at avoiding the tough nationwide lockdowns imposed in the spring. But the measures have not succeeded at halting the surge in cases and hospitalizations, putting more drastic limits on daily life back in play.

"This time, though, officials are prioritizing keeping schools and some economic activity open, in stark contrast to the spring, when movement was severely limited across much of Western Europe, and many businesses were ordered to close."

In France, the story says, "the lockdown will begin Thursday night and be in effect through at least Dec. 1, with financial assistance to affected businesses and tenants … About two-thirds of France’s population had already been subject to a 9 p.m. curfew announced two weeks ago. Yet cases have continued to rise: France reported 527 coronavirus deaths on Tuesday, the country’s highest number since April."

In Germany, "Chancellor Angela Merkel announced on Wednesday that restaurants and bars will have to close their doors to patrons starting Monday. Professional sports teams will play to empty stadiums, while theaters, gyms and cosmetic studios will be shuttered.  The latest restrictions also limit the number of people allowed to meet in public, but supermarkets, stores, schools and day care centers will remain open, Ms. Merkel said … Ms. Merkel conceded that the restrictions are “burdensome” for a public that has grown increasingly weary of — and rebellious toward — limitations. But she stressed that they were necessary. German hospitals have seen the number of patients double in the past 10 days."

•  The Washington Post has a story about how "the pandemic has had dramatic effects on the food system, ingredients ping-ponging between surfeit and scarcity. Broken supply chains have resulted in the dumping of milk and eggs, and the rotting of produce in the fields, even as grocery stores have seen shortages of things such as meat, flour and yeast. But spices have been a bright spot, a category steadily increasing in demand since the virus took hold, with plastic and glass container manufacturers straining to keep up."

The story goes on:  "There are several things going on. More meals are being prepared at home, which has led consumers to reinforce their existing herb and spice pantry. Also, more young or first-time cooks are taking the plunge and laying in seasonings beyond salt and pepper. According to Darren Seifer, food and beverage industry analyst at the market research NPD Group, Americans’ collective embrace of international restaurants has made us pine for certain flavors during the protracted shutdown of food service, and a pandemic surge in the sale of multicookers such as the Instant Pot have put many Asian cuisines — from Indian to Thai — within reach."

•  The Boston Globe reports that the Boston Marathon, cancelled this year because of the pandemic, will not be held on its traditional Patriots Day date in 2021 because it is unlikely that the coronavirus will have been dealt with to the degree that a race can be held safely.

Rather, the Boston Athletic Association announced, it is hoped that the race can be rescheduled for later in the year, if feasible.

The Boston Globe video that ran after the 2020 cancellation remains one of the more memorable and uplifting pieces I've seen.