business 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 22,917,334 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 383,275 deaths and 13,483,490 reported recoveries.

Globally, here are the numbers:  90,755,600 confirmed coronavirus cases, 1,944,518 resultant fatalities, and 64,899,658 reported recoveries.  (Source.)

•  From the Wall Street Journal this morning:

"Newly reported Covid-19 cases, as well as deaths and hospitalizations related to the disease, were down from recent highs, but that doesn’t necessarily indicate a downward trend.

"The nation reported more than 213,000 new cases for Sunday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, down from 264,830 reported for Saturday and 292,521 for Friday. Newly reported cases each day tend to be lower at the beginning of the week and higher toward the end, as fewer people are tested on weekends.

"Sunday’s case number is higher than the 209,895 reported a week earlier, according to Johns Hopkins data. Experts have warned this month of surges in new cases, hospitalizations and deaths after December’s holiday gatherings and travel."

•  From the Washington Post:

"Lawmakers who hunkered down together for safety" during the mob assault on the US Capitol last week "may have been exposed to the coronavirus, according to the Office of Attending Physician. Experts warn that the storming of the Capitol could become its own superspreader event, given that many of the rioters were not wearing masks. While most lawmakers have received their first dose of a vaccine, it does not confer full immunity and it is unclear how many staff members were inoculated."

•  From the New York Times:

"Just weeks into the country’s coronavirus vaccination effort, states have begun broadening access to the shots faster than planned, amid tremendous public demand and intense criticism about the pace of the rollout.

"Some public health officials worry that doing so could bring even more chaos to the complex operation and increase the likelihood that some of the highest-risk Americans will be skipped over. But the debate over how soon to expand eligibility is intensifying as deaths from the virus continue to surge, hospitals are overwhelmed with critically ill patients and millions of vaccine doses delivered last month remain in freezers.

"Governors are under enormous pressure from their constituents - especially older people, who vote in great numbers and face the highest risk of dying from the virus - to get the doses they receive into arms swiftly."

•  The Seattle Times reports that "Amazon is preparing to administer on-site coronavirus vaccinations to nearly 20,000 of its workers in Washington, according to a letter from the company to Gov. Jay Inslee in which the company urged the state to prioritize its workers for vaccination.

"An Amazon spokesperson reiterated Saturday that the company’s warehouse and grocery workers should receive the vaccine 'at the earliest appropriate time.'

"The commerce giant said in the Dec. 21, 2020, letter that it has signed an agreement with 'a licensed third-party occupational health care provider to administer vaccines, just like we do for seasonal flu shots'."

Amazon has not said whether it will make the vaccine mandatory for its workers.

•  The New York Times reports that "Pfizer and BioNTech announced on Friday that their Covid vaccine is effective against one of the mutations present in the new contagious variants identified in Britain and South Africa.

"Independent experts said the findings were good news, but cautioned that each of those coronavirus variants has several other potentially dangerous mutations that have not yet been investigated. So it’s possible that one of those mutations affects how well the vaccine works."

•  From the BBC:

In the UK, "online supermarket Ocado has become the first big retailer to warn of shortages of some products.

"It told customers in an email that there may be 'an increase of missing items and substitutions over the next few weeks.'

"Staff sickness and self-isolation means some food producers are cutting the number of product lines they offer.

"While customers might not get their exact product choice, plenty of food should be available, Ocado said."

•  Axios reports that "after record new cases and hospital admissions, the City of Austin announced that the Austin Convention Center will be used as an overflow site for COVID care, as it was during last summer's spike.

"'Activating the Alternate Care Site means that we believe that it is inevitable that the healthcare system in Central Texas will exceed capacity and will soon be overwhelmed,' said Jason Pickett, deputy medical director for Austin and Travis County."

•  In San Jose, California, the Mercury News reports that "Stanford University’s freshmen and sophomores will not be allowed on campus for the winter quarter, school officials announced a day after they said 43 students on campus had tested positive for COVID-19.  The campuswide communique sent Saturday attributed the change to the uptick in state and local COVID-19 cases and Santa Clara County’s extension of stay-at-home restrictions to help slow the recent surge of the novel coronavirus."

The story notes that this is a change, that "Stanford had announced last month it planned to have freshmen and sophomores attending in-person classes this quarter but that their arrival would be delayed until Jan. 21-24."

The Mercury News writes that "Stanford is not the only school dealing with COVID-19 restrictions while trying to serve students.

"UC Berkeley is scheduled to begin the spring semester on Jan. 19 with at least two weeks of fully remote instruction, according to its website. The school plans to have limited in-person instruction starting Feb. 1 if health conditions allow it.

"The California State College and University system that operates 23 campuses, including San Jose State and Cal State East Bay in Hayward, has previously announced most classes for the 2020-21 academic year are being held online."

•  The Wall Street Journal reports on how CES, the world's largest technology show, known for virtually taking over Las Vegas for a week in January as it served as a crossroads where global technology providers and consumers would meet, this year will be a virtual get-together that begins today, forced into this approach by a pandemic that makes a live show impossible.

While the event is costing participants less than usual (without even counting travel and entertainment expenses), the Journal notes that it also seems to have attracted fewer exhibitors.  But, there is the possibility that by rethinking their approach, participating companies will be able to connect to attendees in a different and maybe even more intimate and effective way.  Of course, some say that the digital version is a poor substitute for what usually is a highly experiential convention.

Organizers, the Journal writes, "acknowledge that it’s not a replacement for the in-person show. At best, it lays the foundation for a digital component to a conference they hope will be back in Vegas 12 months from now."

•The Washington Post reports that "support for holding the Olympics in Japan this summer has plummeted, according to a new poll from Kyodo News Agency that found that roughly 80 percent of respondents felt the event should be canceled or rescheduled.

"That figure represents a significant jump since early December, when roughly 60 percent were opposed to allowing the Tokyo Olympics to go forward as planned. In the intervening weeks, worsening coronavirus caseloads have prompted the government to declare a state of emergency for Tokyo amid fears that the surge could overwhelm hospitals.

"The Tokyo Olympics, which were originally supposed to take place in the summer of 2020, are supposed to begin on July 23 — roughly a year later than planned. Japan’s agreement with the International Olympic Committee states that the event cannot be delayed beyond the summer 2021 (and that will still be referred to as the “Tokyo 2020″ Olympics, even if it takes place in 2021.)

"Japanese authorities have insisted that the Tokyo Games will not be delayed again, and can be held safely. But public opinion is souring…"