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've now had 26,911,375 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 454,213 deaths and 16,629,530 reported recoveries.

Globally, there have been 104,008,098 confirmed coronavirus cases … 2,249,841 resultant fatalities … and 75,853,924 reported recoveries.  (Source.)

•  The Washington Post reports that "at least 26.2 million people have received one or both doses of the vaccine in the U.S.  This includes more than 6.1 million people who have been fully vaccinated … 49.9 million doses have been distributed."

The Wall Street Journal writes that "data coming out after the first month of vaccine distribution offered a picture of who was receiving the shots. Women and people over the age of 50 made up the majority of early U.S. Covid-19 vaccinations, according to a report released Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Of the nearly 13 million people who received at least one dose between Dec. 14 and Jan. 14, 63% were women and 37% were men, according to the CDC report. It noted that women account for approximately three-quarters of those employed in the health-care industry, giving them priority."

•  Also from the Wall Street Journal:

"Newly reported Covid-19 cases in the U.S. were up from a day earlier, as were deaths, but hospitalizations declined again … There were 93,536 people hospitalized in the U.S. on Monday, according to the Covid Tracking Project, the 20th consecutive day of declines."

•  The US government has reached a $230 million agreement with Australian diagnostics company Ellume USA LLC "to produce at-home, over-the-counter Covid-19 tests," the Wall Street Journal reports.

According to the story, "The company is expected to produce 19 million tests a month by the end of the year, Andy Slavitt, senior adviser to the White House Covid-19 response team, said Monday. Based on the agreement, 8.5 million tests will be guaranteed to the U.S. government.

"For months, public health authorities have been calling for rapid, easy-to-use tests for Covid-19 that can be performed anywhere, both to enable people to quickly determine whether or not they have Covid-19 and to allow for wider screening. At-home tests are expected to be less precise than those done in a lab and will likely require a follow-up test in certain situations."

•  The New York Times reports that a new study suggests that people who have had Covid-19 may not need to get two vaccinations:

"In a study posted online on Monday, researchers found that people who had previously been infected with the virus reported fatigue, headache, chills, fever, and muscle and joint pain after the first shot compared more frequently than did those who had never been infected. Covid survivors also had far higher antibody levels after both the first and second doses of the vaccine.

"Based on these results, the researchers say, people who have had Covid-19 may need only one shot."

•  The Los Angeles Times reports that while LA County has relaxed the rules for outdoor dining, the law says that TVs must stay off - public health officials want to make sure that folks who go to public places won't find themselves shouting at TV screens during the Super Bowl (or Lakers games, for that matter), since that is one of the ways that Covid-19 is spread.

•  Here's a sobering note from the New York Times:  "The pandemic has led businesses all over New York and New Jersey to close up shop, and by one estimate permanently shuttered nearly 100,000 businesses nationally."

But there's a bright side:  "In the New York City suburbs, some small-business owners say they are finding a way forward, through customers who are suddenly spending a lot more time - and money - in the communities where they live."

The Times goes on:  "Roughly 40 percent of Westchester residents work outside the county, according to 2017 data from the U.S. Census Bureau; more than half of those work in Manhattan. But 2020 was not 2017: Some 90 percent of Manhattan’s office employees have not returned to work, a survey by the Partnership for New York City found in October.

"In Westchester, home to nearly a million people, tens of thousands are no longer commuting into the city every day. For suburban businesses that has meant new customers.

"Repeat business is particularly important for small businesses in the suburbs, and some are finding that customers who came in for the first time during the pandemic are coming back. At the same time, many longtime customers are being extra supportive during this difficult time."

This is opportunity knocking, I think.  I happen to live in one of those New York suburbs - a place where it seems like half the town traveled to ther city via train each morning, but now the train station parking lots stand largely empty, as people continue to work from home because of the pandemic.  And I know there are folks who have moved out here from the city because of the pandemic.

I continue to believe that these people may be spending more time in the suburbs, but they continue to want the advantages that cities offer - culture, shopping, restaurants.  (At least, they'll want them when those kinds of places are able to open to full capacity.)  Which presents all sort of opportunities, especially in the food-and-beverage segment - to raise the bar on what is offered in the 'burbs.

•  From the Seattle Times:

"As vaccine misinformation has prompted some to say they will refuse to be inoculated against the coronavirus, the world’s largest online retailer remains a hotbed for anti-vaccination conspiracy theories, according to a new study by University of Washington researchers.

"Amazon’s search algorithm boosts books promoting false claims about vaccines over those that debunk health misinformation, the researchers found — and as customers engage with products espousing bogus science, Amazon’s recommendation algorithms point them to additional health misinformation."

The Times writes that "the top eight search results Thursday afternoon for the phrase 'vaccine' in Amazon’s online bookstore, for instance, were vaccine denialist tomes — including books like 'Anyone Who Tells You Vaccines Are Safe and Effective is Lying,' by the British conspiracy theorist Vernon Coleman, and 'The Vaccine-Friendly Plan,' a book purporting to show a nonexistent causal relationship between vaccination and autism co-authored by Oregon physician Paul Thomas … The Oregon Medical Board last year suspended Thomas’ license for misleading parents about vaccine safety and failing to adequately vaccinate patients, including a child who later contracted tetanus and was hospitalized for 57 days."

•  Good story from ABC News about the community of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, where local officials were having trouble with the drive-through vaccination clinic - the computer system went down, the lines were long, and frustration was mounting.

So local officials turned to someone they knew how to make a drive-through work -  Jerry Walkowiak, the manager of the local Chick-fil-A.

"With the help of a few additional volunteers, Walkowiak transformed the messy traffic jam into a smooth operation, reducing the hours-long wait to just 15 minutes.  More than 1,000 people received the vaccine that day," and, "when everyone returns for their second dose on Feb. 12, Walkowiak will be back to help manage the drive-thru."