Published on: December 21, 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, there now have been 18,267,579 total confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 324,869 deaths and 10,622,082 reported recoveries.
Globally, there have been 77,250,310 confirmed coronavirus cases … 1,701,404 fatalities … and 54,164,036 reported recoveries. (Source).
• The Wall Street Journal reports that "the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday authorized the emergency use of Moderna’s vaccine in people 18 years and older, citing the shot’s high effectiveness in preventing Covid-19 in a large clinical study. A panel of doctors and public-health officials advising the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted on Saturday to recommend that people receive the Moderna vaccine."
The story says that "immunizations using the newly authorized Covid-19 vaccine from Moderna Inc. are slated to start Monday, boosting the mass inoculation campaign that was launched just last week.
"Drug distributor McKesson Corp. began picking up doses of the vaccine from manufacturing plants on Saturday for distribution around the country. United Parcel Service Inc. and FedEx Corp. trucks started rolling out Sunday to deliver the doses to hospitals and other sites.
"The federal government plans to distribute over the coming week a total of 7.9 million doses of vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer Inc., which developed the first Covid-19 shot authorized for use in the U.S."
• From the Financial Times:
"A growing number of EU countries including Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Austria, Ireland and the Netherlands moved over the weekend to halt travel from the UK after a sharp rise in coronavirus cases, caused in part by a more infectious new strain. Germany, Italy and the Netherlands announced on Sunday that they were stopping flights from the UK while Belgium banned air and rail travel. France said it was halting the entry of all passengers from the UK by any form of transport … Ireland imposed sweeping curbs on passenger flights and ferries and Austria said it was preparing a blanket ban on UK travellers. Eurostar said it would be unable to “run trains between London, Brussels and Amsterdam” from Monday. Madrid said it would strengthen checks at airports and ports to ensure that people coming from the UK have negative PCR tests, although such tests are already obligatory for people coming from Britain.
"The unilateral moves sparked calls for a more co-ordinated EU response to the UK situation as scientists also expressed concern that the more transmissible new variant had appeared in other countries including Denmark and the Netherlands…"
- From the Los Angeles Times:
"Supermarkets have been hit hard by the unprecedented explosion of the coronavirus in Los Angeles County, further straining an essential service that needs to remain open despite the new stay-at-home order.
"Outbreaks are increasing at an alarming rate across industries, officials say — an unavoidable consequence of so many people falling sick in the region. But those at grocery stores and other essential retailers pose a unique challenge for officials attempting to reduce coronavirus transmission, as well as for county residents trying to pare down their activities to only what is necessary."
The story goes on: "County officials estimate that 1 in 80 people in the county are infectious with the coronavirus, the highest prevalence yet recorded. With so many people infected, it’s likelier than ever that a co-worker or customer could be ill, and that a single case could multiply into dozens."
Cases have been reported at stores operated by Food 4 Less, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods Market, Sprouts Farmers Market branches "and several smaller grocery chains," the story says. Overall, the Times writes, "L.A. County is investigating ongoing coronavirus outbreaks at 490 businesses, compared with 173 a month ago, according to county data."
• The New York Times reports that "the pandemic has been a boon to retail alcohol sales of all kinds. Beer sales are up, as are those of wine and vodka. Even the lowly vermouth — the anonymous mixer that blends with the name-brand spirits in martinis and Manhattans — has seen a spike in business as consumers substitute drinking at home for visits to local bars or restaurants.
"What has also changed in the pandemic is consumers’ choice of libations: They’re drinking more expensive bottles … Sales of wines, for instance, dipped in the first quarter, before the pandemic. But they are now selling at a brisk rate, making up for the slower months, according to SipSource, which collects data from wine and spirits distributors. And sales of premium wines during the post-pandemic period have grown more than other categories."
• Fox News reports that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is saying that because of a small number of severe allergic reactions to the Covid-19 vaccine, " if a person has 'ever had a severe allergic reaction to any ingredient in a COVID-19 vaccine,' then they "should not get that specific vaccine."
According to the story, "Despite the new warning, adverse reactions to the vaccine have been exceedingly rare, as there have been just six allergic reactions recorded out of 272,000 shots given.
"All six of the allergic reactions occurred within the recommended observation window, which is 30 minutes for people with a history of severe allergic reactions, and 15 minutes for everyone else."
• From the Wall Street Journal:
"Italy, the first non-Asian country hit by the coronavirus pandemic early this year, once again is struggling with one of the world’s deadliest outbreaks.
"Around 680 people are dying of Covid-19 in Italy on an average day, on par with Brazil and behind only the U.S. This year Italy has recorded about 67,900 confirmed deaths from the virus, the highest total in Europe, and fifth in the world after the U.S., Brazil, India and Mexico—which all have much bigger populations.
"Once again, Italians are asking themselves: Why is Covid-19 killing more people here than almost anywhere else?"
According to the story, "The answer lies partly in demographics, public health experts say. Italy has one of the world’s oldest populations, second only to Japan. Nearly one in four Italians is over 65, an age group much more likely to succumb to the disease.
"Another factor: Multigenerational homes are especially common in Italy, potentially exposing older people to infection from their younger relatives."
• CNBC reports that Amazon "has closed a warehouse in northern New Jersey until Dec. 26 after it saw an uptick in asymptomatic coronavirus cases." The company did not disclose "the total number of cases at PNE5 or whether the building will undergo additional cleaning while it’s closed … Amazon employees will be paid for any shifts that they’ll miss while the facility is shuttered."
• USA Today reports that Apple has closed all of its stores in California temporarily because of surges around the state in Covid-19 cases: "California has been the epicenter of the health crisis in recent weeks. Total cases top 1.8 million and there have been more than 22,000 deaths. Average daily cases have increased 10-fold the past seven weeks to more than 40,000."
In addition, the story says, because of the pandemic "Apple is closing, or already has shuttered, all four of its stores in Tennessee, all three in Utah, all four in Minnesota, its two stores in Oklahoma, and outlets in Anchorage, Alaska; and Albuquerque New Mexico."
• The Wall Street Journal reports that "about one in three small businesses have closed their doors in Connecticut since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, a setback for a state that never fully recovered from the last recession.
"That number puts Connecticut behind New York, New Jersey and the nation as a whole, where about one in four small businesses have closed, according to Opportunity Insights, a research and policy institute based at Harvard University that is tracking the economic damage caused by the pandemic."
• The Boston Globe reports that it is expected that Legal Sea Foods - the family-owned (though sometimes acrimoniously) restaurant company that expanded from a single location in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to a chain running up and down the east coast - is expected to be sold this week to PPX Hospitality Group, owner of Smith & Wollensky steakhouses.
According to the story, "Financial terms of the sale won’t be disclosed, but PPX isn’t paying much upfront because . . . well, a restaurant business, even New England’s fish ambassador to the world, isn’t worth a premium these days. Instead, Legal will get payouts based on how well the restaurants perform down the road.
The Berkowitz family, which started the company in 1968, will retain rights to the Legal Seafoods name for its online business.
Roger Berkowitz, CEO of the company, said that the only reason he's selling is the impact of the pandemic on the restaurant business.
It is a shame, but at least Legal Seafoods seems to have a viable future because of access to greater resources. I've always was a fan of two of its Boston-area locations - the Legal Test Kitchen in the Seaport, which has been permanently closed because of the pandemic, and the one in Cambridge where Spenser creator Robert B. Parker and Joan Parker used to sit at the bar. (There's actually a plaque on the bar saying that it is where Parker and Spenser used to drink; I once met Joan Parker for a drink there, after RBP had passed away, and it was totally cool…)