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, there now have been 7,724,207 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, with 215,849 deaths and 4,936,501 reported recoveries.

Globally, there have been 36,083,208 confirmed coronavirus cases, resulting in 1,055,286 fatalities and 27,172,695 reported recoveries.

•  The Wall Street Journal writes that "Texas led the nation with more than 4,000 new cases reported Monday, followed by Tennessee, North Carolina and California, which each recorded more than 2,000 new infections, according to Johns Hopkins. Eight other states recorded 1,000 or more cases … New cases continued to climb in the West. For the 11th time in less than three weeks, Utah on Monday recorded more than 1,000 new cases. The state, which had for the most part avoided the summer surge experienced by neighboring Arizona, was averaging fewer than 400 new cases a day at the beginning of September. The state’s seven-day average of new cases on Monday was 1,040, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of Johns Hopkins data.

"Utah is one of several states, including Wisconsin, Wyoming, North Dakota, Montana and Alaska, where new cases have increased by 10% or more over the past week, according to the Journal’s analysis."

Meanwhile, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo "said Tuesday the state would reimpose lockdown restrictions in regions that have seen recent surges in coronavirus cases, including parts of New York City and Orange County.  The governor on Monday ordered the closure of hundreds of schools in New York City neighborhoods with a surge in Covid-19 cases."

•  From the New York Times this morning:

"In the past week, North Dakota reported more new cases per capita than any other state.

Hospitalizations for the virus have risen abruptly, forcing health care officials in some towns to send people to faraway hospitals, even across state lines to Montana and South Dakota.

"Officials have huddled with hospital leaders in recent days to contemplate ways to free up more hospital beds even as they contend with broader turmoil over virus policy in a state that has seen resignations of three state health officers since the pandemic’s start.

"The rise in cases and deaths — September was by far the deadliest month for North Dakota since the start of the pandemic — reflects a new phase of the virus in the United States. States in the Midwest and Great Plains, many of which had avoided large outbreaks in earlier months when coastal cities were hard hit, are seeing the brunt. And in rural portions of the hardest-hit states, medical resources are quickly stretched thin for residents who can live hours from large hospitals.

"Still, partly because these outbreaks were slow in coming, public health officials say they have struggled to convince the public that the situation is urgent or that limits like mask rules make sense. North Dakota is one of fewer than 20 states with no statewide mask mandate and many counties have resisted restrictions. But as the state reaches a boiling point, health officials say they hope people now will start to take the virus more seriously."

•  The Seattle Times writes that Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has announced that "more activities would be able to take place in counties in their various stages of his four-part coronavirus reopening plan … For counties in the second phase of the plan, movie theaters will be able to operate at 25% capacity, and in the third phase, at 50% capacity. Facial coverings and 6 feet of distance between households will be required.

"Meanwhile, restaurants in second- or third-phase counties can serve alcohol now up to 11 p.m. Those establishments will be able to boost their table size to six in the second phase, and to eight in the third phase."

•  The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released, and the White House has endorsed, plans "for assessing whether a Covid-19 vaccine should be given widely," saying that it "hoped the release would help “the public understand our science-based decision-making process that assures vaccine quality, safety and efficacy for any vaccine that is authorized or approved.”

The plans call "for a two-month observation period to see whether people who got the vaccine had suffered negative side effects," the Journal writes, adding, "The guidelines lay out the standards that any Covid-19 vaccine would need to meet for the FDA to speedily allow its use during the pandemic. Normally, the FDA’s review of an experimental vaccine can take weeks or months. Given the urgent need created by the pandemic, the agency wanted to be able to conduct its review far faster, while still making sure the vaccine works safely.

"After such a review, the FDA could clear a vaccine for use during the pandemic. The so-called emergency-use authorization would last until the pandemic ends, after which vaccines would need the agency’s standard approval to stay in use.

"The guidelines that the agency put together included the same kinds of strict requirements a lengthier review would have entailed. For example, they required a vaccine to lower the rate of Covid-19 disease in study subjects by 50% or better compared with people in the trial who got a placebo."

•  The Wall Street Journal reports that there continues to be a coronavirus outbreak in Washington, DC, as the "Joint Chiefs of Staff are quarantining after attending meetings at the Pentagon with a top Coast Guard commander who tested positive this week, defense officials said."

In addition, "A military aide to the president who is among those responsible for carrying the 'football' that contains launch codes for nuclear weapons has also tested positive, a person familiar with the matter said. The aide was the latest in a series of White House personnel - including at least three members of the press office - to test positive in recent days."

And, the Washington Post reports, "Stephen Miller, senior policy adviser to President Trump, has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, according to two senior administration officials."

Other infected officials and aides include "senior adviser Hope Hicks, campaign manager Bill Stepien, former White House adviser Kellyanne Conway and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie."

•  From the Financial Times:

"The first trials of a digital health pass that certifies airline passengers are Covid-free will begin this week in a push to reopen international travel fully after nearly nine months of disruption.

"The World Economic Forum-backed CommonPass project aims to create the first globally recognised proof that a passenger has tested negative for the virus before a flight, using a digital certificate downloaded to a mobile phone. CommonPass will not conduct tests. Instead it aims to establish standard certifications for Covid-19 test results and, eventually, proof that a passenger has been vaccinated against the virus."

There seems to be little doubt that "test before you board" is the best way to get people back on planes, at least until there is a vaccine.  The best news about this is the suggestion that there could end up being a comprehensive and globalized effort to standardize certification, which I hope will extend to vaccinations.

•  From Fast Company:

"One of the hardest parts of controlling COVID-19 is that it’s very difficult to know if you or someone you know is carrying it asymptomatically. So you might let your guard down, spend time in close proximity to someone else, and help it spread. Testing is useful to curb this issue, but the wait on a test result can still take days. So it’s difficult to say for sure, at any given moment, if you actually have COVID-19 or not.

"A new device being developed at Caltech, dubbed the SARS-CoV-2 RapidPlex, could put this uncertainty to an end. It’s a SARS-CoV-2 sensor that’s being designed for use at home. When it comes into contact with a drop of blood or saliva, it can determine if you’re infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus in a mere 10 minutes. The results of the test could be beamed right to your phone over Bluetooth."

The developers believe that the device could be available in a year - "if we push it."

• The Boston Globe this morning reports that the New England Patriots "canceled Wednesday’s practice after star cornerback Stephon Gilmore tested positive for COVID-19, a league source confirmed … Three members of the Patriots organization have now been affected by the coronavirus. Starting quarterback Cam Newton testing positive last Friday and rookie practice squad defensive tackle Bill Murray was placed on the COVID-19 injured reserve list on Tuesday, meaning he either tested positive or was exposed to someone who has."