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…

•  Here are the US Covid-19 coronavirus numbers:  49,716,825 total cases … 806,398 deaths … and 39,389,646 reported recoveries.

The global numbers:  264,620,488 total cases … 5,253,411 fatalities … and 238,639,788 reported recoveries.   (Source.)

•  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that 75 percent of the US population age five and older, and 70.6 percent of the total population, has received at least one dose of vaccination.  The CDC also says that 63.4 percent of the five-and-older population, and 59.6 percent of the total population, has been fully vaccinated.

According to the CDC, 23.3 percent of the US population are 18 and older, and 21.7 percent of the total population has received the vaccine booster dose.

•  Bloomberg reports that "the risk of reinfection from the omicron coronavirus variant is three times higher than for any previous variant, according to a South African study of infections since the start of the pandemic.

"The finding provides evidence of omicron’s 'ability to evade immunity from prior infection,' according to the authors, Juliet Pulliam of the South African Center for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis and Harry Moultrie of the National Center for Communicable Diseases.

"The study was based on data collected through South Africa’s health system on about 2.8 million confirmed coronavirus infections between March 2020 and Nov. 27, the authors wrote in an emailed statement. Of those, 35,670 were suspected reinfections."

• From USA Today:

"The first known case of the omicron variant was been detected in the U.S. on Wednesday, in San Francisco, California. Since then, the heavily mutated COVID-19 variant has been identified in at least five other U.S. states.

"By Thursday, the omicron variant infected at least five people in the New York City metropolitan area, plus a man from Minnesota who had attended an anime convention in Manhattan in late November … Officials reported another case in a Colorado woman who had recently traveled to southern Africa. The variant was also confirmed in an unvaccinated Hawaii resident with no recent travel history, state health officials said."

•  From the Wall Street Journal this morning:

"The U.S. has plenty of Covid-19 vaccines but retail pharmacies are struggling to quickly administer them in some places.

"Vaccine seekers in some states face waits of days or weeks for doses as local health officials hustle to improve access to meet surging demand. CVS Health Corp., Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. and Walmart Inc., which are facing staffing shortages, now say they may not be able to accommodate people without appointments.

"Millions of Americans are newly eligible for booster shots, and federal health officials in November recommended the vaccine for use in children as young as 5 years old. Concerns about the risks posed by the new Omicron variant also are driving more people to get vaccinated, health officials say … There are 100 million Americans eligible for boosters who have not yet gotten them, the White House said Thursday, adding that retail pharmacies are providing about two-thirds of the nation’s Covid-19 vaccinations.

"The U.S. has increased its reliance on those operations for nationwide Covid-19 testing and vaccine distribution through a federal partnership with nearly two dozen chains.

"The chains, particularly CVS and Walgreens, have embraced the responsibility as vaccines generate profits, bring customers into stores and as both companies look to expand deeper into healthcare. But the pharmacies have also struggled with staffing their locations amid a national labor shortage, which has caused some locations to limit hours or close drive-throughs as the companies work to hire thousands more pharmacists and pharmacist technicians."

•  Also from the Journal, a story about how the Biden administration "announced plans to tighten up Covid-19 testing timelines for travelers entering the U.S. and extend a mask mandate on airplanes and other public transportation as part of a broad administration effort to combat the Omicron variant.

"International travelers coming to the U.S. will have to test within a day of departure, regardless of vaccination status, rather than the 72 hours currently required for vaccinated travelers, Mr. Biden said. The new testing rules will take effect on Monday, Dec. 6, at 12:01 a.m. ET, according to a senior administration official who said airline industry representatives were notified of the timing Thursday. The requirements apply both to U.S. citizens and foreign nationals flying into the country.

"The administration will also require travelers to wear masks through mid-March on planes, buses and trains, and at domestic transportation hubs such as airports and indoor bus terminals, rather than allowing the requirement to expire on Jan. 18 as planned. Fines will continue to be double their initial levels, with a minimum fine of $500 for noncompliance and up to $3,000 for repeat offenses."

•  Walmart announced that "our COVID-leave policy, which was implemented in March 2020 to support associates during the pandemic, remains in place and has been extended through March 31, 2022. The policy provides up to two weeks of paid time off

"if an associate contracts COVID-19, if a facility is part of a mandated quarantine or if an associate is required to quarantine by a health care provider, government agency or Walmart. This is in addition to our standard PTO options.

"We’re continuing to waive the co-pay for medical and therapy services through Doctor On Demand’s virtual doctor visits for associates on a Walmart medical plan."

•  The Associated Press reports that "Germany is bringing in tough new restrictions on unvaccinated people in a bid to control the rapid spread of COVID-19.

"Chancellor Angela Merkel said that unvaccinated people would be barred from several public places such as non-essential shops and events. The only exemption would be if they have recently recovered from COVID-19."

According to the story, unvaccinated people will be allowed to go to supermarkets and drug stores, but will be prevented from engaging in so-called discretionary pursuits.