business news in context, analysis with attitude

Random and illustrative stories about the global pandemic and recovery efforts, with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

•  In the United States, there now have been 1,837,170 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 106,195 deaths and 599,867 reported recoveries.

Globally, there have been 6,282,377 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 374,232 fatalities and 2,854,425 reported recoveries.

•  The Washington Post reports that "nearly 6 in 10 Americans say the coronavirus outbreak has exacted a severe economic toll on their communities, but a majority of a divided country still says controlling the virus’s spread is more important than trying to restart the economy, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll."

However, the story also points out that there are considerable political and demographic divides in the numbers - more Democrats than Republicans … more women than men … and a majority of black Americans …  say they are more concerned about the coronavirus than the economy.

"Overall," the Post writes, "42 percent say they personally know someone who has been diagnosed with the coronavirus, a sharp increase from 11 percent who said this in late March.

"Despite declines in the rate of new infections in some parts of the country, personal fears persist, with 63 percent of Americans overall continuing to worry that they or a family member will catch the coronavirus. That is not far below the 69 percent who two months ago said they were worried.

"More broadly, nearly 7 in 10 say they are worried about the possibility of a second wave of coronavirus infections in the fall, a specter that Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has warned could coincide with the start of flu season."

One can only imagine what kinds of spikes we'll see in a few weeks - a large percentage of the folks who I saw protesting this weekend were not wearing masks, and few were respecting the kind of physical distancing guidelines that help prevent pandemic spread.

•  The Seattle Times reports this morning that "about 1% of kids who visited a Seattle hospital in April had been infected with the novel coronavirus, according to the first large-scale survey for antibodies in children. The study also found most of the youngsters developed a robust immune response, an encouraging sign for a future vaccine."

The Times goes on:  "Most of the children who tested positive for antibodies had no symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. That fits with widespread evidence that children are much less likely than adults to become ill or die.

"The analysis has not yet been peer reviewed or published in a scientific journal, and researchers caution it is just a snapshot that doesn’t shed light on two of the most vexing unknowns about the pandemic: the role of children in spreading the virus, and what is likely to happen when schools reopen."

•  From CNBC:

"While apparel retailer Abercrombie & Fitch reported a sales decline of more than 30% during its latest quarter, hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, its results also hinted at a rapid rebound among younger consumers as it reopens stores across the U.S.

"Abercrombie said it’s recovered about 80% of its sales in the U.S. stores it has opened so far, compared with a year ago. And it has reopened 45% of its stores in the country, or 285 locations.

"It said shoppers appear to be flocking to malls to visit its stores in the U.S. at a faster pace than in parts of Asia."

•  The Wall Street Journal reports that "surging e-commerce volumes during the coronavirus pandemic are straining the U.S. Postal Service’s parcel network as staffing shortages and backlogs in hard-hit areas slow deliveries … The problems have delayed some packages for days and even weeks, shippers and consumers say, holding up orders at a time when many people are shopping more online to avoid infection with the virus.

"The slow deliveries have complicated business for e-commerce sellers who rely on the Postal Service to ship packages at affordable rates, and tracking services have added to the frustrations, with some items appearing to get stuck at certain locations or vanishing altogether."

•  Barron's reports that Amazon has announced that it will be "the presenting sponsor for a virtual concert featuring Pearl Jam and Dave Matthews among others, to benefit the Covid-19 response effort All in Washington (All in WA).

"The post also stated that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos personally will match individual donations under $1 million to the nonprofit’s causes, up to $25 million. The donation is the second major one by Bezos to address the pandemic, following last month’s pledge to give $100 million to Feeding America."

•  Bloomberg reports that "gym owner 24 Hour Fitness Worldwide Inc. is preparing for a potential bankruptcy to cut its debt as it re-opens locations across the country with precautions in place for social distancing.

"The operator of more than 430 mid-tier gyms is in talks with investors over the terms of a loan that would keep the company operating through a court restructuring, according to people with knowledge of the situation. The proposed Chapter 11 filing would cut 24 Hour’s borrowings by swapping debt for equity and handing control to lenders, said the people who asked not to be named discussing a private matter."

However, Bloomberg notes that "even before the pandemic, the company, which has more than $1.3 billion of debt stemming from a leveraged buyout by AEA Investors and the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan in 2014, was struggling to hold onto to customers lured by gyms that were either cheaper or fancier."

•  From the Department of (Literally) Rarefied Air, this story in the New York Times:

"Commercial air travel has plummeted in the pandemic, but interest in private jet service is surging, particularly among people who have not paid to fly privately before.

"For years, jet service providers have ferried corporate executives and wealthy leisure travelers who paid high fees for the privacy and security. Now, those same companies are shifting to meet rising demand from people worried about getting on a commercial flight.

"Over the Memorial Day weekend, one of the busiest travel times in the United States in years past, traffic in the private jet industry was 58 percent of the volume from the same time last year, according to Argus, a company that tracks aviation data. But commercial flights fared worse over the holiday, plunging to 12 percent of the 2019 level."

•  And, another New York Times story suitable for the Department of Rarefied Air, talking about how auction house Sotheby’s now will do its "big-ticket biannual art sale that was supposed to take place in May but was delayed by the coronavirus outbreak" virtually - it will be "digitally live streamed" on June 29.

Just in case this is of interest to you, make sure you bring your checkbook - according to the Times, "at the top of the New York lineup on June 29 is Francis Bacon’s 1981 three-part oil painting, 'Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus,' which is estimated to sell for at least $60 million. The work has been guaranteed by Sotheby’s, meaning the auction house has already secured a bid. Still, given the demand for Bacon, there is likely to be competition for the painting, which would lift the price over the estimate."