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 11,367,214 con firmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 251,901 deaths and 6,937,236 reported recoveries.

Globally, there have been 54,896,579 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 1,325,422 fatalities and 38,197,709 reported recoveries.  (Source.)

Every once in a while I'll get an email from an MNB reader wondering a) why the numbers I am citing here each day are different than those in the Wall Street Journal and other papers, and b) if the difference in the numbers indicate that it is all fake news.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, I've been going each morning to Worldometer, which says it "manually analyzes, validates, and aggregates data from thousands of sources in real time and provides global COVID-19 live statistics" to governments, media outlets, universities and other institutions all over the world.  Worldometer describes its process this way:  "We collect and process data around the clock, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Multiple updates per minute are performed on average by our team of analysts and researchers who validate the data from an ever-growing list of over 5,000 sources under the constant solicitation of users who alert us as soon as an official announcement is made anywhere around the world … Our sources include Official Websites of Ministries of Health or other Government Institutions and Government authorities' social media accounts. Because national aggregates often lag behind the regional and local health departments' data, part of our work consists in monitoring thousands of daily reports released by local authorities."

So that's why the numbers here are a little different from those being cited in other news sources - often a little ahead of the others, but the bad news is that the numbers posted by other media sources always catch up.  And no, they're not fake news.

•  Axios reports:

"New coronavirus infections surged by roughly 20% over the past week as cases continued to climb in every region of the country … All signs indicate that the pandemic will keep getting worse throughout the winter, making it harder and harder to eventually control — even if there's a new president, and even with a vaccine."

The story goes on:  "Over the past seven days, the U.S. averaged about 85,000 new cases per day. That's a 20% increase from the week before, and it's the highest caseload of the entire pandemic.

"Cases rose in 35 states," the story says, "held steady in 10 and declined in just five."

•  From the New York Times this morning:

"In Chicago, a sweeping stay-at-home order goes into effect on Monday. Philadelphia is expected to announce new restrictions on movement later in the day. In-person classes for high school and college students in Michigan have been canceled … Michigan will suspend all in-person learning for college and high school students and indoor dining for three weeks, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said. Other indoor gathering places, like casinos and movie theaters, must also close as part of the order, which takes effect Wednesday … Ms. Whitmer’s announcement came just after Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington said he was ordering fitness facilities and restaurants to stop serving customers indoors, shutting down museums and limiting retail stores to 25 percent of capacity indoors."

The Times writes that "from a statewide, two-week lockdown in New Mexico to a new mask mandate in North Dakota, governors and mayors across the United States are taking increasingly stringent steps to slow the coronavirus after a staggering one million cases were recorded in the country over the past week alone. Cases are rising in 48 states."

Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, went on Meet The Press yesterday, the Times notes, to say that the coronavirus pandemic is "the most dangerous public health crisis since the 1918 influenza pandemic, which killed an estimated 50 million worldwide, including some 675,000 Americans.  'My worst fear is we will see what we saw happening in other countries, where people were dying on the streets,” Osterholm said.  'The health care system is breaking, literally breaking'."

•  From the Washington Post:

"On Friday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) tightened limits on restaurants and indoor gatherings, effective at 12:01 a.m. Monday, while the governors of California, Oregon and Washington state issued a joint statement discouraging travel and advising visitors to quarantine upon arrival for 14 days … Similar measures are taking effect or under consideration elsewhere, including Chicago, where the mayor on Thursday issued a stay-at-home advisory just hours before Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) threatened a mandatory statewide order. The renewed clampdown is reminiscent of the worst days of the pandemic in early March, when sports leagues, movie theaters and restaurants abruptly went into hibernation in hopes of curbing the contagion."

The Post goes on:

"On Thursday, the United States for the first time reported more than 150,000 cases in a single day. Within the next week, the daily total will top 200,000 and is likely to reach 300,000 by early December, according to Ian Shepherdson, chief economist for Pantheon Macroeconomics.

By mid-December, hospitals will be swamped with twice as many coronavirus patients as during the pandemic’s earlier waves 'unless most large-population states impose much more severe restrictions on the leisure and hospitality sectors, and on indoor gatherings, very soon,' he wrote in a note to clients Friday."

•  The New York Times writes:

"As Covid-19 cases surge in almost every part of the country, researchers say the United States is fast approaching what could be a significant tipping point — a pandemic so widespread that every American knows someone who has been infected."

•  From the Wall Street Journal:

"In earlier surges, infections were concentrated in cities such as New York and Chicago, or populous states like Florida and Texas. Many of the outbreaks then were linked to travelers returning from overseas or so-called superspreading events such as conferences, weddings and rallies.

"Now, it is everywhere. People are becoming infected not just at big gatherings, but when they let their guard down, such as by not wearing a mask, while going about their daily routines or in smaller social settings that they thought of as safe—often among their own families or trusted friends."

•  The New York Times writes that "health care workers in some hard-hit states have taken to social media to issue urgent pleas for new restrictions to slow the spread of the virus and for the public to take precautions more seriously.

"In Nebraska, Dr. Dan Johnson, a critical care anesthesiologist with Nebraska Medicine, a major health network in the region, posted on Facebook about the crisis last week, saying that current measures were not enough to stop the high rate of transmission.

"The state has seen new virus cases reach an average of 2,033 cases per day, an increase of 99 percent from two weeks earlier."

•  Good news from the Wall Street Journal this morning, which reports that "Moderna Inc. said its experimental coronavirus vaccine was 94.5% effective at protecting people from Covid-19 in an early look at pivotal study results, the second vaccine to hit a key milestone.

"Of 95 people in the study who developed Covid-19 with symptoms so far, 90 had received a placebo and only five Moderna’s vaccine, the company said Monday. The findings move the vaccine closer to wide use, because they indicate it is effective at preventing disease that causes symptoms, including severe cases.

"The vaccine also showed signs of being safe, though researchers and regulators must wait for more-complete safety data from the study, expected later in November."

•  The Associated Press this morning reports that "one of the scientists behind the experimental coronavirus vaccine developed by BioNTech and Pfizer says he’s confident that it could halve the transmission of the virus, resulting in a 'dramatic' curb of the virus’ spread."

•  The Washington Post reports that "more than 130 Secret Service officers who help protect the White House and the president when he travels have recently been ordered to isolate or quarantine because they tested positive for the coronavirus or had close contact with infected co-workers, according to three people familiar with agency staffing."

•  From the Associated Press:

"After Vermont saw its highest daily number of coronavirus cases to date this week, Gov. Phil Scott announced new restrictions on social gatherings Friday, closing bars and clubs to in-person service and banning multiple-household gatherings, both inside and out.

"He also announced a pause of recreational sports leagues, outside of the Vermont Principal’s Association sanctioned sports."

“I want to be clear: We’re in a new phase of this pandemic. The days of very low risk are over,” Scott said, noting that "many of the state’s clusters and outbreaks are traced to private gatherings such as baby showers, tailgate parties, deer camps and barbecues … The recent surge in cases has come 12 days after Halloween, when people gathered for parties. Such activities are still happening even though the state had been warning against them for weeks," the story quotes the governor as saying.

•  The Associated Press reports that "Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont is self-quarantining after his chief spokesperson tested positive for COVID-19.

"The Democratic governor’s chief spokesperson, Max Reiss, identified himself as the senior staff member who had tested positive, in a release posted to Twitter late Friday … Contact tracing has begun and all members of the administration who have been within 6 feet (2 meters) of Reiss for 15 minutes or more will self-quarantine for 14 days. In addition to Lamont, chief of staff Paul Mounds and chief operating officer Josh Geballe will self-quarantine."

•  From the Wall Street Journal:

"Tyson Foods Inc. is using infection-tracking algorithms and ongoing employee testing to shield workers at the biggest U.S. meatpacker from a fresh surge in coronavirus cases and keep grocery stores stocked, its chief executive said.

"The Arkansas-based company, like other meatpackers, is spending heavily on protective gear and planning longer-term defenses against Covid-19. Tyson Chief Executive Dean Banks said the company is adding more space for workers at existing plants and designing new ones to include workstation dividers and other safeguards."

“Everyone is concerned about a second or third wave,” Banks tells the Journal.

•  The New York Times has a story about an unfortunate byproduct of the pandemic:

"Thousands of medical practices have closed during the pandemic, according to a July survey of 3,500 doctors by the Physicians Foundation, a nonprofit group. About 8 percent of the doctors reported closing their offices in recent months, which the foundation estimated could equal some 16,000 practices. Another 4 percent said they planned to shutter within the next year.

"Other doctors and nurses are retiring early or leaving their jobs. Some worry about their own health because of age or a medical condition that puts them at high risk. Others stopped practicing during the worst of the outbreaks and don’t have the energy to start again. Some simply need a break from the toll that the pandemic has taken among their ranks and their patients."

•  Fascinating story in Time that addresses very different approaches to dealing with the pandemic taken by two elite universities.

"At the Stanford Graduate School of Business in Northern California, the stories got weird almost immediately upon their return for the fall semester. Students say they were being followed around campus by people wearing green vests telling them where they could and could not be, go, stop, chat or conduct even a socially distanced gathering. Some say they were threatened with the loss of their campus housing if they didn’t follow the rules … On the other side of the country, students at the Harvard Business School gathered for the new semester after being gently advised by the school’s top administrators, via email, that they were part of 'a delicate experiment.' The students were given the ground rules for the term, then received updates every few days about how things were going. And that, basically, was that.

"Two elite programs, two wildly different approaches in tone and execution. In terms of the substance of their efforts, though, Harvard and Stanford wound up aligning very closely with one another—and that may explain why, in the end, the schools both have achieved ongoing success in limiting the spread of COVID-19 in the age of pandemic … So far, both Harvard and Stanford have posted low positive test rates overall, and the business schools are part of those reporting totals, with no significant outbreaks reported. Despite their distinct delivery methods, the schools ultimately relied on science to guide their COVID-19-related decisions."

Personally, I prefer the Harvard approach - treat people like responsible adults, and expect that they will act like responsible adults, and hope that the the results reflect your faith.  (Of course, you always know that if your faith in not rewarded, here's always Plan B.)  Things break down when people who are adults don't act like it.