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, we now stand at 21,579,641 total confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 365,664 deaths and 12,862,216 reported recoveries.

Globally, there have been a total of 86,959,605 confirmed cases of Covid-19, with 1,878,706 resultant deaths and 61,674,108 reported recoveries.  (Source.)

•  From the Washington Post:

"The United States has entered the new year with record numbers of Americans hospitalized with the coronavirus, straining a health-care system bracing for a post-holidays surge that has the potential to further stretch hospitals.

"More than 131,000 covid-19 patients were hospitalized nationwide as of Tuesday, eclipsing the record set in the last week of 2020. Facilities across the West and South are especially burdened.

"Los Angeles County has been so overwhelmed it is running out of oxygen, with ambulance crews instructed to use oxygen only for their worst-case patients. Crews were told not to bring patients to the hospital if they have little hope of survival and to treat and declare such patients dead on the scene to preserve hospital capacity. Several Los Angeles hospitals have turned away ambulance traffic in recent days because they can’t provide the air flow needed to treat patients.

"Arizona now has the nation’s highest rate of coronavirus hospitalizations. In the Atlanta area, nearly every major hospital is almost full, prompting state officials to reopen a field hospital for the third time.

"The optimism that came with new vaccines and a new year is colliding with a grim reality: The United States has reached the worst stage of the pandemic to date, with the deadly results of holiday gatherings yet to arrive."

The Post goes on:

"Public health experts say the country faces a similar challenge it did last spring: buying time. In the early months of the pandemic, authorities urged the public to 'flatten the curve' by following stay-at-home orders to give hospitals time to expand their capacity and protect their staff. They are pleading with Americans to keep following basic precautions - wearing masks, socially distancing, avoiding crowds - with the promise of a vaccine on the horizon."

•  The Wall Street Journal reports that "newly reported Covid-19 cases in the U.S. were back above 200,000, putting the nation’s total reported infections above 21 million … The nation reported more than 230,000 new cases for Tuesday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, up from 180,477 reported for Monday. Tuesday’s figure was also up from the 202,145 reported a week earlier."

The story says that "hospitalizations jumped again, to a record 131,195, according to the Covid Tracking Project. It was the first time the number has risen past 130,000, and the 10th day in a row it has been above 120,000. There were 23,509 people in intensive care, according to the project, also a record."

•  From CNN:

"Now that coronavirus vaccines are starting to roll out in the US and abroad, many people may be dreaming of the day when they can travel, shop and go to the movies again. But in order to do those activities, you may eventually need something in addition to the vaccine: a vaccine passport application.

"Several companies and technology groups have begun developing smartphone apps or systems for individuals to upload details of their Covid-19 tests and vaccinations, creating digital credentials that could be shown in order to enter concert venues, stadiums, movie theaters, offices, or even countries."

One example:  "The CommonPass app … allows users to upload medical data such as a Covid-19 test result or, eventually, a proof of vaccination by a hospital or medical professional, generating a health certificate or pass in the form of a QR code that can be shown to authorities without revealing sensitive information. For travel, the app lists health pass requirements at the points of departure and arrival based on your itinerary."

•  The New York Times reports that "as England re-entered lockdown on Tuesday, new figures showed that one in 50 people had recently been infected with the virus, and officials warned that some restrictions on daily life could still be needed next winter.

"Speaking at a news conference, Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised to focus government efforts on rolling out its strained mass vaccination program intended to prevent a surge in infections of a highly transmissible variant of the virus from overwhelming the health service.

"With more than a million confirmed cases in the week ending Jan. 2, or 2 percent of England’s population, Britain is in a race against time to distribute vaccines."

•  The BBC reports that "travellers to the UK from abroad could soon be required to prove they have had a negative coronavirus test.  The Department for Transport (DfT) said the measure is one of several being considered to 'prevent the spread of Covid-19 across the UK border"."

•  The Washington Post reports on how MorseLife Health System, described as "a high-end nursing home and assisted-living facility in West Palm Beach, Florida," made coronavirus vaccinations available not just to its residents and staffers, but also to members of its board of directors and major donors, "including members of the Palm Beach Country Club."

The exact number of invitations to jump the line that were proffered by MorseLife is unknown, as is the number of people who accepted the offer, the Post writes.

The Post offers this context:

" the arrangement, in appearing to rely on a program run by chain pharmacies for nursing home residents and staff, may have violated national immunization guidelines, as well as state protocols, even though state officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to address sensitive matters, acknowledged that the rules have not been spelled out clearly enough by Gov. Ron DeSantis. Vaccine doses are allocated to the state by the Trump administration but reserved for people living in long-term care facilities, who are at the highest risk of dying from covid-19.

"The MorseLife episode highlights how the country’s patchwork approach to immunization against the coronavirus — leaving decisions about eligibility to state and local authorities as well as to individual providers — is creating opportunities for facilities to provide access to well-connected people while thousands of others wait in line. In Florida, some elderly residents have camped out overnight in hopes of receiving a shot."

If accurate, this report would illustrate something particularly distasteful about the current state of affairs.

•  From the New York Times:

"The auto industry sputtered through its weakest year in nearly a decade in 2020 as the pandemic kept buyers away from dealerships and forced companies to shut down factories for two months last spring.

"But automakers are counting on a rebound in 2021, and foresee possibly strong growth in the second half, as they roll out a parade of new sport utility vehicles, pickup trucks and electric cars. Those hopes rest in large part on the expectation that the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines will accelerate this spring and summer after a slow start in recent weeks."

•  The Washington Post reports that "the Grammy Awards have been postponed due to coronavirus concerns, according to the Associated Press. The ceremony, now pushed to March, was scheduled to be held Jan. 31 in Los Angeles … The Recording Academy waited to postpone the Grammys but inevitably followed in the footsteps of the Academy Awards, the Tony Awards and the Golden Globes, all of which announced last year that ceremonies would be moved to later in the winter or spring."

•  Axios has an interview with Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon in which he says that "some of the survival pivots entrepreneurs have made in the past year will last past the pandemic."

"A lot of small businesses have had to make some investment in digitization and technology to connect to their customers more digitally than directly," Solomon says. "Some of that will last and will help their businesses."

The story points out - similar to what Michael Sansolo writes in his column today - how important it is to be able to adapt:  Solomon talks "about a business that went from making leather bags to making masks, and he met today with a restaurateur who now basically runs a delivery business."  And, he recently "visited a Chick-fil-A where the drive-thru overflowed, but the parking lot had an army of workers taking orders on iPads."

One of the things that retailers should've learned during the pandemic is how not to over-think and over-analyze innovation.  Because they thought of it as survival, they simply made the moves that they needed to make, the changes that they believed would allow them to survive.

Survival, however, is an ongoing challenge - its demands will not ended when the last vaccination is injected in someone's arm.