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 8,459,041 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 225,241 deaths and 5,504,464 reported recoveries.

Globally, there have been 40,680,717 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 1,123,481 fatalities and 30,373,960 reported recoveries.

•  Fast Company has a story about how "North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Wisconsin have all reached troubling new case rates: over 300 cases per 100,000 people. But the general upward trend extends beyond those states. In total, 45 states are seeing increased cases numbers.

"Meanwhile, Europe is facing a new spate of shutdowns. The World Health Organization noted in a press briefing last week that Europe’s case numbers grew by a million in the short span of 10 days, bringing the total number of reported cases to 7 million.

"Even though the organization anticipates more cases and more burden to hospitals during this spike than in April, there was a bright spot in the report.

"'Although we record two to three times more cases per day compared to the April peak, we still observe five times fewer deaths,' said, Dr. Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe. He cuffs the higher infection to more testing capacity, especially among young people, and higher transmission among young people. That also explains the lower death rate.  'These figures say that the epidemiological curve rebound is so far higher, but the slope is lower and less fatal for now,' he said. 'But it has the realistic potential to worsen drastically if the disease spreads back into older age cohorts after more indoor social contacts across generations'."

It seems clear that the hospitalization and death rates are also likely to spike as we move into the winter unless we remain vigilant - wearing masks, physically distancing, and washing hands frequently.  Businesses are going to be on the front lines of this ongoing battle against the coronavirus.  It won't be easy or universally accepted, but business - especially retail - can and should be leading the charge and keeping employees and customers alert to the ongoing challenge by doing everything they can to maintain people's safety.

•  CNBC reports that "the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday issued a 'strong recommendation' that all passengers and employees on airplanes, trains, subways, buses, taxis and ride-share vehicles should wear masks to prevent the spread of Covid-19.  The interim guidance also calls for facial coverings at transportation hubs like airports and train stations."

The story notes that "airlines, Amtrak and most public transit systems and U.S. airports already require all passengers and workers to wear facial coverings, as do most airports, and ride-sharing firms Uber and Lyft."

I guess that CDC can't actually mandate the wearing of masks in such places;  the "strong recommendation" is as far as it can go.  But frankly, it ought to be a mandate, and it ought to stay in place until we actually have control of this thing.

•  The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has a piece about how Wisconsin is being overwhelmed by the pandemic.

The piece looks at "Aspirus Wausau Hospital, one of the many health Wisconsin that have been overwhelmed by the state's coronavirus surge.

"As of Friday, a record 1,101 people were hospitalized with the coronavirus in Wisconsin, including 274 people in intensive care units.

"At the beginning of the pandemic, Aspirus, which has 10 hospitals in its system, planned for up to 25 beds for coronavirus patients."

The Journal Sentinel says that hospitals in the system have had to move people around in order to make sure there are enough beds, but - so far - have not had to move people to a field hospital set up at State Fair Park.  The piece notes that "the spike in cases is straining capacity and taking a toll on hospital workers — 215 members of the Aspirus staff were in isolation Thursday due to COVID-19, coronavirus symptoms or exposure to someone who has tested positive in the community."

•  From the Wall Street Journal:

"After starting school virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic, some districts are opening doors and allowing students back for the first time.

Public schools that opened for in-person learning this month, or plan to, range from suburban districts in North Carolina’s Wake County to city systems such as Indianapolis; Des Moines, Iowa; and Miami-Dade in Florida. Schools in Houston plan to welcome students inside starting Monday.

"New daily cases of Covid-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus, have been trending up nationwide since mid-September, but relatively few have been found in K-12 schools that have been open already. School leaders are finding they can successfully enforce measures such as mask wearing, social distancing and cleaning routines."

The story goes on:

"Since reopening for the fall, some districts have reported scattered classroom quarantines or temporary building closures—including New York City and the Cherokee County district in suburban Atlanta—when the new virus surged in the area or was found among staff or students.

"But generally, the risk of getting the virus at school appears to be low, said Emily Oster, a Brown University economist collecting nationwide data. She is working with data scientists and educators’ associations to create the Covid-19 School Response Dashboard.  It showed an overall rate of about 1.5 infections among 1,000 students in districts with in-person classes during two weeks in late September. It found 2.5 infections among 1,000 employees."

•  From the Financial Times:

"Ireland has intensified coronavirus restrictions, closing all 'non-essential' retailers and curtailing the hospitality sector in a new lockdown that is expected to put 150,000 people out of work within days.  Although prime minister Micheál Martin acknowledged that the country already has 'what is probably Europe’s strictest regime', he said such measures on their own were not sufficient as he imposed new controls that will apply for six weeks from midnight on Wednesday.

"'The government has decided that the evidence of a potentially grave situation arising in the weeks ahead is now too strong,' Mr Martin said in a televised speech on Monday night. 'If we pull together over the next six weeks we will have the opportunity to celebrate Christmas in a meaningful way'."

•  From the Wall Street Journal:

"While a surge in coronavirus infections is forcing U.S. states and European countries to shut down bars, open field hospitals, and limit social gatherings to small groups of people, such measures are becoming distant memories in much of Asia.

"For months now, life across Asia, where the virus first emerged, has mostly returned to normal. With infections at low levels, bars and restaurants are bustling, subway trains are packed and live concerts and spectator sports have resumed.

"While China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong, combined, have been recording fewer than 1,000 cases a day since September, the U.S. alone was reporting more than 56,000 cases a day on average as of Monday, the highest number since early August … Roughly a third of the world’s population resides in East Asia and Southeast Asia, but the densely populated region accounts for less than a fifth of the world’s 1.1 million Covid-19 deaths. Europe and the U.S. account for nearly half of that."

The Journal continues:

" While Asian countries, which moved swiftly to contain their outbreaks early on, persisted in their fight against the virus, growing pandemic fatigue in the U.S. and Europe has led to relaxed attitudes about social distancing that are complicating efforts to control a resurgence. As cases rise, Western governments are struggling with testing shortages and contact tracing is becoming ineffective. Many in the West are pinning their hopes on a vaccine for life to return to normal.

"Asia, on the other hand, has managed to suppress the virus largely without the nationwide lockdowns that crippled Western economies in the spring. Governments there have put in place aggressive contact-tracing efforts, quarantine programs to isolate those infected and strict international-travel requirements. Cultural differences, consistent messaging and experience with outbreaks of SARS and MERS have led to more widespread acceptance of practices such as wearing face masks and, in some places, more intrusive government intervention."

•  The New York Times reports that "more than a million people passed through airport checkpoints on Sunday, the first time the Transportation Security Administration has screened that many people since mid-March.

"While that represents a symbolic milestone for the travel industry, U.S. airlines are still losing billions of dollars a month as they brace for much weaker demand for tickets this winter. The number of people screened by the T.S.A. on Sunday was down about 60 percent compared with the same day a year ago."