Published on: November 3, 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 had 9,568,275 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 237,009 deaths and 6,172,842 reported recoveries.
Globally, there have been 47,392,484 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 1,212,524 fatalities and 34,075,807 reported recoveries. (Source.)
I find it both sobering - and alarming - that this morning's number of total coronavirus cases in the US is more than 400,000 higher than it was last Thursday, the last day on which I took note of them. The global case number is about 2.5 million higher. The good news, if it can be called that, is that the death rate is lower than it was earlier this year … but the long-term implications on people's lives, on the economy, and maybe even the national psyche, is unknowable.
• The New York Times reports that Dr. Deborah Birx, who has been helping to lead the White House response to the coronavirus pandemic, has warned in an internal memo that "we are entering the most concerning and most deadly phase of this pandemic," and she urged "an aggressive balanced approach" to dealing with the pandemic.
The memo, according to the Times, "predicted that the United States would continue to see days when the number of new cases exceeded 100,000."
• The Washington Post has an interview with Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in which he says, "We’re in for a whole lot of hurt … It’s not a good situation. All the stars are aligned in the wrong place as you go into the fall and winter season, with people congregating at home indoors. You could not possibly be positioned more poorly.”
It is important to remember that Fauci was saying months ago that the US needed to get to the point where there were 10,000 new cases a day - that if we achieved that number by the dawn of winter, the nation would be better positioned to effectively fight off the pandemic. The reality is that we're in the 100,000 cases-per-day neighborhood. In other words, "in for a whole lot of hurt."
• From the New York Times:
"The Mountain West region, in the throes of a coronavirus surge, appears to be headed for a long winter.
"In Colorado, hospitalizations of Covid-19 patients have tripled since early September and could overwhelm the state’s intensive care units this winter, as new coronavirus cases set daily records.
"On Monday in Utah, intensive care units were at over 71 percent capacity.
"Idaho, where Gov. Brad Little has restored restrictions on large gatherings, is averaging about 850 new cases each day, more than triple the numbers seen just six weeks ago. In eastern Idaho, the Rexburg metro area has one of the highest rates of new cases per capita in the nation. In the north, Kootenai Health hospital has warned that the facility could exceed capacity and be forced to send patients to Seattle or Portland, Ore.
"Hospitalizations in Wyoming have more than doubled in the past two weeks. Gov. Mark Gordon said on Monday that he was under a 14-day quarantine after attending a meeting with someone who tested positive for the virus."
More from the Times about Colorado's situation:
"The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is now warning that hospitalizations in the state are likely to blast through the peaks of last April and could overwhelm the state’s intensive care units by January … Health officials said there was no single reason or particular hot spot fueling the increase in the state this time, unlike earlier spikes that were driven by outbreaks in long-term care homes and meatpacking plants or by students partying at the University of Colorado.
"The state health department estimated that one in every 219 people in Colorado is infectious, making it likelier now than it was in the summer for uninfected people to catch the virus."
• The Boston Globe reports that in Massachusetts, "Restaurant table service will have to stop at 9:30 p.m., and facilities such as gyms, theaters, and casinos will have to close by the same time, while the limit on indoor gatherings will be reduced to 10 people under a slate of “targeted measures” Governor Charlie Baker is ordering in response to sharp increases in coronavirus infections and hospitalizations.
"Baker, who announced the measures at a State House news conference, also tightened the state’s face-covering mandate, requiring that people wear masks in public regardless of their distance from other people.
"The Department of Public Health is also instituting a new stay-at-home advisory that urges the public to be at home between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., except for necessary activities, such as going to work or school."
• The Gothamist reports on New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo's announcement of a new policy that "asks travelers to take a COVID-19 test within three days before traveling to the state, followed by quarantine for another three days after entering New York. Travelers must then take a COVID-19 test on the fourth day. If the test is positive, the person needs to continue self-isolating for the remainder of the usual 14-day period.
"This policy also applies to people flying into New York, and Cuomo said fliers need to take a test within a four-day window before their flight as well as when they get to the state. Only travelers who leave New York for less than 24 hours can avoid taking the first test to board a flight back to the state, but will still need to take a test within four days of their return."
• From the New York Times:
"The British prime minister announced expansive new restrictions on Saturday that effectively establish a national lockdown, and Greece and Austria increased coronavirus measures, joining France, Germany, Belgium and Ireland in shutting down large parts of their societies to try to keep their hospitals from being overwhelmed amid vast second-wave surges in coronavirus infections.
"The surges, which have turned the Europe virus map almost a solid bright red, come as the United States has repeatedly set a record for daily infections. That combination is largely responsible for driving the global caseload to once unimaginable highs."
The Times writes that "Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced new restrictions for England at a hastily called news conference after an emergency meeting of his cabinet. After weeks of resisting calls for a lockdown, he is shutting pubs, restaurants and most retail stores in England, starting Thursday until Dec. 2. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland had already instituted such restrictions.
"Under the plans, people would be required to stay home unless their workplaces, such as factories or construction sites, need them. They would be allowed to go to school or college and leave home for a few other essential reasons, like buying food or seeking medical attention. But nonessential shops would be closed, people would be urged not to travel, except for business, and pubs and restaurants would only be allowed to serve take out food."
• Publix Super Markets announced that its "sales for the three months ended Sept. 26, 2020 were $11.1 billion, an 18.3% increase from $9.3 billion in 2019. Comparable store sales for the three months ended Sept. 26, 2020 increased 16.5% … Net earnings for the three months ended Sept. 26, 2020 were $917.6 million, compared to $574 million in 2019, an increase of 59.9%."
The company said that it estimates that the bulk of the increase can be traced to customer demand created by the pandemic.
• KRIS-TV News reports that "H-E-B is once again putting purchasing limits on certain household goods. Customers will be limited to two packages of paper towels and two packages of toilet paper."
These limits, the story says, "only apply to H-E-B stores in the Border, Central Texas, Gulf Coast and San Antonio regions."
• The Associated Press reports that Massachusetts-based Friendly's is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, and that it "will sell substantially all of its assets to the restaurant company, Amici Partners Group."
The company expects its 130 locations to remain open.
This is Friendly's second time through bankruptcy, having filed in 2011.
They can blame the pandemic, but the question is whether Friendly's - which, the last time I was in one seemed like it was a remnant of the Eisenhower years - had done anything to seem like a 21st century restaurant.
• The New York Times ponders the future of cities in a world where so many restaurants have gone out of business.
"By Aug. 31, over 32,000 restaurants and 6,400 bars and nightspots that had been open on March 1 were marked closed on Yelp. In New York City — perhaps the nation’s dining-out capital — a survey by the Hospitality Alliance found that 87 percent of restaurants were not able to pay all of their August rent.
"In September, the New York state comptroller estimated that one-third to one-half of the 24,000 restaurants in the city could close permanently over the next six months. Forty-three percent of bars were closed on Oct. 5, and spending at those still open was down 80 percent from the same day in 2019, according to Womply, a company that provides technological platforms to small businesses.
"In a desperate call for help, the Independent Restaurant Coalition, newly formed to lobby for the survival of restaurants not affiliated with large chains, argued in a letter to Congress in June that 'this country risks permanently losing as many as 85 percent of independent restaurants by the end of the year.'
"Downtown restaurants in big cities are suffering the most. And it is urban America — the big cities and their downtowns that rely on restaurants as a fundamental social glue — that will feel the shock of their demise most intensely."
An example of how restaurants influence urban development: "In 2019, restaurants, bars, food trucks and other dining outlets took at least 47 percent of the food budget of consumers in cities with populations above 2.5 million, according to government data. That compares with 38 percent for people outside urban areas. In the early 1970s, by contrast, urban consumers devoted 28 percent of their food budget to dining out.
"Restaurants have been a key element of America’s urban transformation, helping draw the young and highly educated to city centers. This has often turned industrial and warehouse districts into residential areas. It has also overhauled many low-income neighborhoods, sometimes forcing longtime residents out of town."
• The Washington Post reports on the impact of the pandemic on London's theater district:
"At the gilded playhouses in the world’s most popular theater district, most of the marquee lights are still dark.
"Since the government ordered London’s stages closed seven months ago, only a handful of theaters have dared to announce reopening plans — with limited runs, limited casts and socially distanced audiences scattered in the seats. Producers say ticket sales will barely cover the electricity bill.
"The impact of enduring restrictions has been catastrophic for London’s creative class. An estimated 290,000 people work in the theater here — onstage and behind the scenes — and many have had to seek paychecks where they can. Furloughed actors are stocking shelves in grocery stores. Musicians are hammering nails at construction sites."
The story goes on: "Emma De Souza, a spokeswoman for the Society of London Theatre, said that at one Sainsbury grocery story in east London, there are so many West End performers working 'you can hear singing in the aisles'."
There may be some folks who think that urban restaurants and the London theatre district may not be the most important things to worry about, but I would disagree. Not only do these two segments create a lot of jobs, but they represent the soul of their communities, places where people come together and actually form community.
• Variety reports that AMC Theatres "suffered a brutal 90.9% drop in revenues during the most recent earnings period with sales clocking in at $119.5 million. Losses hit $905.8 million … In the prior-year quarter, a time when cinemas were open around the globe and world-altering pandemics were largely the stuff of Hollywood thrillers, AMC logged revenues of $1.3 billion on a net loss of $54.8 million."
Anyone who thinks that this situation will be resolved anytime soon or quickly is deluding themselves.