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, there now have been 30,081,657 total cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 547,234 deaths and 22,169,237 reported recoveries.

Globally, there have been 120,465,898 total coronavirus cases,  with 2,666,246 resultant fatalities, and 97,010,929 reported recoveries.  (Source.)

•  The Washington Post  reports that "at least 69.8 million people have received one or both doses of the vaccine in the U.S.  This includes more than 36.2 million people who have been fully vaccinated … 135.8 million doses have been distributed."

•  The Wall Street Journal reports that "newly reported Covid-19 cases in the U.S. were down from a day earlier, dropping below 40,000 for the first time since early October … The number of cases reported each day tends to be lower at the beginning of the week, as fewer people are tested over the weekend. Cases have been generally falling since the highs of around 300,000 registered in January, but have fallen less rapidly over the past three weeks."

The Journal goes on:  "While Covid-19 deaths head lower, states around the country are steadily finding previously unreported deaths that are causing data confusion. The issues largely involve systems that states are using to try to report Covid-19 data in near real time, and not deaths reported more slowly through death certificates. These front-line numbers are the ones that fuel state dashboards and data trackers, such as that of Johns Hopkins’."

The Journal goes on:

"While Covid-19 deaths head lower, raising hopes that the U.S. is turning a corner as vaccinations continue, states around the country are steadily finding previously unreported deaths that are causing data confusion.

"The issues largely involve systems that states are using to try to report Covid-19 data in near real time, and not deaths reported more slowly through death certificates. These front-line numbers are the ones that fuel state dashboards and data trackers, like the closely watched one created by Johns Hopkins University, which help policy makers and the public closely monitor pandemic trends.

"Ohio in February announced more than 4,000 additional deaths while reconciling its data, and Indiana added about 1,500. Smaller revisions have also recently come from Virginia, Minnesota and Rhode Island. On Thursday, authorities in West Virginia said medical providers hadn’t properly reported 168 deaths to the state’s public-health department."

•  The Wall Street Journal reports that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, said yesterday that "the U.S. could experience another Covid-19 surge like Europe if it lifts restrictions too soon … Referring to Europe, Dr. Fauci said, 'They always seem to be a few weeks ahead of us in the dynamics of the outbreak. Then they plateaued because they pulled back a bit. They thought that they were home-free and they weren’t. And now they’re seeing an increase.'

"His warnings came as some states, such as Texas, have begun allowing businesses to reopen at full capacity and dropping mask mandates against the advice of public-health officials. Mr. Fauci called the decision in Texas 'risky and potentially dangerous'."

Fauci also said that "his biggest outstanding question going forward is 'what impact these variants are going to have.'  He said 'the best way that we can avoid any threat from variants is do two things, get as many people vaccinated as quickly as we possibly can, and to continue with the public health measures'."

•  The Washington Post reports that the governments of the Netherlands, Ireland, Italy, Norway, and Denmark are among those that have stopped the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine - which has not yet been approved for emergency use in the US - amid concerns that there could be a connection between it and recent deaths from blood clots.

In a statement, the Post writes, "AstraZeneca said that of the 17 million people so far inoculated with its vaccine, jointly produced with Oxford University, there have only been 15 cases of deep vein thrombosis and 22 pulmonary embolisms.  'This is much lower than would be expected to occur naturally in a general population of this size and is similar across other licensed COVID-19 vaccines,' the company said."

•  Bloomberg reports that " Inc. has been ordered to close a facility outside Toronto for two weeks as public health officials worry about rising COVID-19 cases inside the complex.

"Although the rate of COVID-19 infection has been falling in the Peel region in the last few weeks, the rate inside the Brampton, Canada, fulfillment center 'has been increasing significantly,' the local health authority said Friday in a statement. Every employee at the site may have experienced 'high-risk exposure,' the agency said.

"'This Amazon facility is in a vulnerable community and employs thousands of people,' Lawrence C. Loh, medical officer of health for the Peel region, said in the statement.  'This was a difficult decision but a necessary one to stop further spread both in the facility and across our community'."

•  From the Wall Street Journal:

"Colleges and universities around the country are beginning to detail their plans for next fall, anticipating more students on campus, a full slate of in-person classes and even concerts and cheering sports fans.

"But, they warn, plans could change.

"After months with virtual classes and sparsely populated dorms, schools including Michigan State University and the University of Oregon say they expect to return to mainly face-to-face classes for the 2021-22 academic year. The forecasts are couched in disclaimers in case the institutions decide to pivot back online.

"The announcements come as Covid-19 case counts continue to recede from wintertime highs and vaccination rates increase—and right as prospective students are weighing their college options."

The story says that there is a certain peer pressure among educational institutions, as they worry about fall enrollments - those that do not commit to in-person classes are worried that they will be at a disadvantage compared to those that do.

•  The Washington Post reports that "Tesla’s Bay Area production plant recorded hundreds of covid-19 cases following CEO Elon Musk’s defiant reopening of the plant in May, according to county-level data obtained by a legal transparency website.

"The document, obtained by the website PlainSite following a court ruling this year, showed Tesla received around 10 reports of covid-19 in May when the plant reopened, and saw a steady rise in cases all the way up to 125 in December, as the disease caused by the novel coronavirus peaked around the country … Musk fought vigorously against the county-mandated shutdown, arguing Tesla should be allowed to continue producing cars despite the stay-at-home orders. In late April, he railed against the government mandates, hurling expletives during an earnings call and calling them 'fascist'."

The story also notes that "Tesla also came under fire for its treatment of workers. It had promised they could remain home if they felt uncomfortable returning to the line. The Post reported in late June and July that workers concerned about covid exposure received termination notices after they did not return to work."

•  The Washington Post reports that a new role has emerged at many hotels and resorts - covid navigator.

"The idea of a covid specialist is still a novelty in the hospitality industry, but over the year, hotels have been introducing new amenities that speak to these anxiety-riddled times. In the early months of the pandemic, hotels were loading up guests with complimentary masks and hand sanitizer. A second wave of perks is now upon us, triggered by a January announcement that all air travelers entering the United States must provide proof of a negative 'viral test'."

Now, the story says, hotels are finding that having someone on staff who can coordinate coronavirus tests as well as make sure that guests are comfortable with a property's protocols, simply makes sense of they are going to re-energize their businesses after a disastrous year.

•  The Chicago Tribune reports that over the weekend, after Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced that the pandemic had forced the cancellation of the St. Patrick's Day parade on Wednesday and that the Chicago River would not be dyed green, as usually happens each year, the city secretly dumped green dye into the river.

The goal, the paper said, was to give citizens a taste of "normal" without creating an event that would cause people to gather.  "Lightfoot sanctioned the famous river dyeing to proceed ... without confirming the exact time, marveling passing revelers, dog walkers and joggers alike."

•  Finally, the Berkshire Eagle reports that on Saturday, when world-famous cellist and part-time Berkshires resident Yo-Yo Ma went to Berkshire Community College to get his second dose of vaccine, he spent the 15 minute wait after the shot treating people there to an impromptu concert.

Class act.  here's a snippet: