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 a total of 29,925,902 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 543,721 deaths, and 20,790,554 reported recoveries.

Globally, there have been 119,223,964 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 2,643,905 resultant fatalities, and 94,808,030 reported recoveries.  (Source.)

•  The Washington Post writes that "at least 64.1 million people have received one or both doses of the vaccine in the U.S.  This includes more than 33.2 million people who have been fully vaccinated … 131.1 million doses have been distributed."

•  The Wall Street Journal reports that "newly reported Covid-19 cases in the U.S. rose from a day earlier, exceeding 60,000 for the first time this week … Thursday’s figure was higher than the 58,735 reported a day earlier but lower than the 66,463 reported for March 5."

•  The Washington Post reports that "President Biden on Thursday directed states to ensure that all adults are eligible for a coronavirus vaccine by May 1, and he declared a goal of allowing small celebrations on July 4, setting up significant landmarks in the effort to return to normalcy after the devastating pandemic."

Eligibility is not the same as shots-in-arms.  Even at the rate of more than two million vaccinations a day, which is the current pace in the US, it will take time to get the eligible - and willing - population vaccinated.  The federal government is ramping up the acquisition of vaccines and expanding the vaccination network as a way of increasing the vaccination rate.

“If we do our part, if we do this together, by July Fourth, there’s a good chance you, your family and friends can gather in your backyard and have a barbecue and celebrate Independence Day,” Biden said. “After this long hard year, that will make this Independence Day something truly special, where we not only mark our independence as a nation, we begin to mark our independence from this virus.”

However, there also was a caveat:  “A lot can happen. Conditions can change. The scientists have made clear that things may get worse again as new variants of the virus spread."

•  The New York Times reports that "a new survey indicates that a sizable minority of Americans - particularly Republicans - are not yet willing to take it.

"Twenty-two percent of respondents to an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist College poll released Thursday said they had already been vaccinated, and an additional 45 percent said they would get the vaccine when it became available to them.

"But 30 percent said that they would not.  Among Republicans, that number leapt to 41 percent.

"The poll revealed a stark racial disparity in terms of access to the vaccine. Roughly a quarter of both white and Black Americans said they had already been vaccinated — but among Latinos, that number dropped to 11 percent."

The good news - while 30 percent of Americans said they wouldn’t get the vaccine, that was "down from a high of 44 percent in a Marist poll in September."

•  The Boston Globe has a piece about the implementation of a vaccine passport program:  "It has already happened in New York City, at Madison Square Garden and the Barclays Center. Starting in late February, hundreds of fans attending Brooklyn Nets or New York Rangers games have displayed a smartphone app or a printed QR code that verified either that they’d been vaccinated or had tested negative for the coronavirus within the previous 72 hours.

"Delighted sports fans used the Digital Health Pass system from IBM, one of a number of vaccine verification systems under development by technology companies and major global organizations. Some countries, including Israel and China, have begun to deploy them broadly, and the European Union is expected to release details of its digital green pass later in March."

The story notes that "vaccine passports are familiar to world travelers who carry yellow fever immunization cards. In the United States, people who’ve gotten a COVID vaccination get a similar paper card, issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But they’re easy to forge and, unlike yellow fever cards, aren’t officially recognized by other countries."

In addition, the Times points out, the use of varying systems will inevitably frustrate consumers … which is why the federal government is evaluating the feasibility of a federal vaccine passport program.

•  The Wall Street Journal reports that "the European Union expanded its list of approved Covid-19 vaccines to four options, but the addition of Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot vaccine Thursday appears unlikely soon to accelerate Europe’s lagging rollout.

"The European Medicines Agency said that the J&J vaccine is safe and effective against Covid-19, and hours later EU authorities formally authorized its use. Distribution is set to begin in the second quarter."

The story points out that "The EU vaccination campaign has been hampered by late signing of contracts, delivery problems and difficulties distributing the vaccines in some member states. For now, the vaccination rate in the EU is well below those in the U.S. and U.K.

"In France, Germany and Italy, less than 8% of people have received their first dose, according to Wednesday’s daily data from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control."

•  The New York Times has a piece about how one year into the pandemic, "the Seattle area has the lowest death rate of the 20 largest metropolitan regions in the country. If the rest of the United States had kept pace with Seattle, the nation could have avoided more than 300,000 coronavirus deaths."

The Times writes that "Seattle’s success illustrates the value of unified and timely strategies: Although the region’s public health experts and politicians grappled behind the scenes about how to best manage the virus, they came together to present a united front to the public. And the public largely complied … The restrictions that have been in place off and on for the better part of a year have brought widespread disruption to lives and the economy. But as governors elsewhere have cited the economy as a reason to ease lockdowns, Seattle’s success showed that an alternative pathway was doable: Amid widespread economic turmoil, the state’s unemployment rate has been about average nationally, outperforming some places that have pressed ahead with wider reopenings, including Arizona and Texas."

Seattle, the story suggests, had certain advantages.  Public health experts said that  "Seattle may have benefited from its demographics: a healthy population living in small households and a lot of workers able to do their jobs from home. The city may have also have won more public support for the crackdowns from the shock of experiencing the nation’s first publicized deaths. The high humidity may have helped, scientists say, although the cold weather and gray skies probably did not.

"Researchers said Seattle also profited from its network of research and philanthropic organizations focused on global health, politicians willing to listen to them, businesses that emptied their offices early and residents who repeatedly indicated a willingness to upend their lives to save others."

You can read the piece here.

•  And here's the result of Seattle's strong response to the pandemic -  The Seattle Times reports that "the Seattle Mariners will have real-life opening day fans, restrictions will begin to lift on other outdoor sports events and Washington’s 39 counties will soon move to a new third phase in Gov. Jay Inslee’s COVID-19 reopening plan.

"Inslee’s announcement Thursday to changes in his Healthy Washington reopening plan will allow restaurants, retailers, fitness centers and other indoor spaces to open up to 50% capacity. The changes - most of which kick in on March 22 - will automatically take effect across the state."

•  The Dallas Morning News writes that "a sweep of several grocery stores in Dallas on Wednesday found that shoppers are abiding by individual retailers’ rules to continue wearing masks."

Wednesday was the first day that, as a result of a decree by Gov. Greg Abbott, that Texas became "100 percent open," with capacity limits and mask mandates eliminated.

While a number of retailers said they would continue to have mask mandates, albeit with lax enforcement, that didn't seem to be a problem as customers continued wearing masks.

In all fairness to Abbott, his position was that Texas citizens were smart enough to do the right thing without a mask mandate.  Which may be happening.  But I'm not worried about the people smart enough to continue acting responsibly to fight the pandemic - I'm a lot more concerned about the people not smart enough to do so.  Because those are the folks who could lead to a resurgence.

•  Fox News reports that "Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Thursday he will roll back some of the state’s final coronavirus restrictions, lifting limits on public gatherings along with the mandate requiring that masks be worn in state buildings … Stitt reiterated that the coronavirus remains a threat in the Sooner State and advised people to continue to wear masks depending on the circumstance.

"But the governor also suggested Oklahomans cannot live in fear of the virus, and he is lifting mandates he sees as restrictions on their individual liberties."

•  Variety reports that "movie theaters in Los Angeles will be able to reopen early next week, public health officials said Thursday. The announcement punctuates nearly a year without cinemas in the film capital of the world, and is welcome news to the exhibition industry, which has struggled over the past twelve months since COVID-19 upended daily life.

"The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health announced Thursday that theaters will be allowed to reopen at 25% capacity sometime between Monday and Wednesday of next week."

•  The Wall Street Journal reports that most Major League Baseball teams "are expecting to have at least some fans at their ballparks this spring, with the hope of increasing capacity in the summer. No team has been more aggressive than the Texas Rangers. As the state of Texas on Wednesday lifted Covid-19 restrictions, the Rangers said they would allow 100% capacity—about 40,000 fans—at Globe Life Field in Arlington for their home opener on April 5.

"After that, the team will designate certain locations as 'distanced seating' sections, where spectators will not fill every seat and can be in close contact only with other people in their party. Regardless, masks will be required for all fans except when actively eating and drinking, although under the Texas governor’s order, that’s no longer a state mandate. It makes the Rangers the first team in any league to open its facility to a full slate of fans.

"The move marks the most aggressive effort yet among the major professional and college sports leagues to restore some sense of normalcy - and begin collecting significant ticket revenue - after a year when fans were mostly replaced by cardboard cutouts and piped-in cheers. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has informed teams that they are free to work with their local governments to determine their own protocols for bringing fans back to the ballpark."

Globe Life Field in Arlington is, in fact, the only MLB ballpark I haven't been to, and I'm looking forward to visiting it sometime soon.  But not just yet.