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 up-to-date US Covid-19 coronavirus numbers:  52,253,848 total cases … 830,990 deaths … and 40,801,232 reported recoveries.

The global numbers:  276,710,961 total cases … 5,388,422 fatalities … and 248,241,708 reported recoveries.   (Source.)

•  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that 77.2 percent of the US population age five and older, and 72.6 percent of the total US population has received at least one dose of vaccine, while 65.5 percent of the five-and-older demographic and 61.6 percent of the total US population has been fully vaccinated.

The CDC also is saying that 33.1 percent of the 18-and-older population, and 30.4 percent of the total population, has received a vaccine booster shot.

•  The Wall Street Journal writes this morning that "a recent rise in Covid-19 cases driven by the Omicron variant is prompting more vaccinated Americans to consider getting booster shots, but it doesn’t appear to be persuading large numbers of the unvaccinated, survey data shows.

"Among vaccinated adults who haven’t had a booster shot, 54% are more likely to do so because of Omicron, according to a survey released by the Kaiser Family Foundation Tuesday. Of unvaccinated respondents, 12% said the fast-spreading variant’s emergence would make them more inclined to get their first shot."

Seems likely to me that before long, public health officials will say that people will have tio have three shots to be fully vaccinated, as opposed to two shots with a booster.  Me, I'll take as many chasers as they want me to.

As I wrote this, a news piece popped up on my laptop saying that "San Jose is poised to become the first city in California to require booster shots as a mandatory component of vaccination.

"San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo announced the proposal Tuesday. If approved by the City Council, it would require all San Jose city employees to receive booster shots as a condition of employment and anyone who enters city-owned facilities to do the same."

•  The Jerusalem Post writes today about how the Pandemic Response team there has ruled "that anyone over the age of 60 and medical workers could receive a fourth shot of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine, the Health Ministry said.

"The shot will be available four months after receiving the third dose.

"In a statement, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett praised the committee for the move, which he said will 'help us overcome the Omicron wave that is sweeping the world'."

•  From the Washington Post:

"An unvaccinated Houston-area man in his 50s is the first recorded fatality associated with the omicron variant in the Texas county — and may be the first U.S. death publicly attributed to it.

"The man, who tested positive for the omicron variant before his death, according to Harris County Public Health (HCPC), had previously been infected with the coronavirus and had underlying health conditions that made him particularly vulnerable.

"State and county officials renewed calls for people to get fully vaccinated and boosted as the best protection against severe disease, hospitalization and death, including illness caused by omicron."

I saw an evangelical pastor on TV this morning who made the point that getting vaccinated is a perfect embodiment of the "love thy neighbor" ethos.  Which seemed perfectly stated for this time of year, though it would be nice if we loved our neighbors all year long.

•  From CNN, a story about how "Covid-19 was the third leading cause of death overall, accounting for more than 10% of all deaths in 2020."  Here's how the story frames the revelations:

"Covid-19 claimed hundreds of thousands of lives in the United States in 2020, driving a record increase in the death rate and a drop in life expectancy of nearly two years, according to final 2020 death data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics.

"Life expectancy at birth fell 1.8 years in 2020, from 78.8 years in 2019 to 77 years, the largest single-year decline in more than 75 years, since World War II.

"The death rate -- about 835 deaths per 100,000 people -- jumped nearly 17% from 2019, the sharpest increase in more than a century since the CDC has been tracking this data.

The year-over-year increase was even starker among racial and ethnic minorities, with death rates for Hispanic people going up about three times as much as for White people and death rates for Black people increasing about twice as much as for White people. The death rate for Hispanic males rose nearly 43%, and the death rate for Black males increased 28%, while the death rate for White males increased about 13% from 2019."

•  NBC News reports that "Chicago will soon require proof of vaccination for indoor public spaces like restaurants, bars and gyms in the new year, the city's mayor announced Tuesday, joining other big cities like New York and Los Angeles in adding the requirement as COVID cases surge.

"Beginning Jan. 3, anyone age 5 and older will be required to show proof of full vaccination to dine inside or visit gyms or entertainment venues where food and drinks are being served … According to the new guidelines, those 5 and older must show proof of full vaccination, but anyone ages 16 and older will also need to provide identification that matches their vaccination record. Employees at such venues will also need to either be vaccinated or wear a mask and show proof of weekly negative COVID-19 tests."

•  The National Grocers Association (NGA) said yesterday that it has written a letter to the Biden administration "urging the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) to consider exempting businesses in the food supply chain from the COVID-19 Vaccine and Testing Mandate following the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals decision to lift the stay on the Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS)."

The mandate, at least at the moment, is scheduled to go into effect in early February, and will impact businesses with 100 employees or more.  The letter requests OSHA to “reconsider an exemption for the essential workforce in the food industry so we can keep hungry Americans fed without disruption.”

“We fear an untenable situation should OSHA restore the vaccine and testing mandate on grocers at this time,” NGA President and CEO Greg Ferrara wrote in the letter. “Our members are reporting that many employees intend to quit if required to submit to vaccines or weekly tests. Even if employees opt for weekly testing, grocers are reporting they cannot currently procure enough tests to satisfy the number of employees that require testing. Simply put, we expect significant disruptions to the industry’s ability to supply a hungry American public with needed food and consumer goods should the mandate go forward as planned.”

•  CNN reports that "the two largest pharmaceutical chain stores in the US -- CVS Health and Walgreens -- are limiting the number of at-home Covid kits customers can buy due to huge demand.

"The rapid spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant ahead of the holidays has sparked the surge -- and there has been anecdotal evidence over the past week of test shortages at stores across the country."

•  From the Wall Street Journal this morning:

"Organizers of CES 2022 are pressing ahead with plans to host tens of thousands of people in Las Vegas next month, setting up the technology conference as a test for mass business gatherings at a time when surging Covid-19 cases are prompting other companies and groups to change plans.

"Several participants including Inc., Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc. and Twitter Inc., and at least one keynote speaker, T-Mobile’s chief executive, have withdrawn from the event.

"The Consumer Technology Association is kicking off the biggest U.S. tech conference the first week of January with a scaled-back crowd and vaccine and mask requirements. While there’s a digital component, the organization expects 50,000 to 75,000 attendees at the Las Vegas Convention Center and other venues.  In a normal year, the show gathered close to 200,000 attendees, though it went entirely online last January."

CTA Chief Executive Gary Shapiro tells the Journal that "the exhibitor count was rising, not dropping. He said the event would proceed unless a government mandate made it impossible to host."

The piece notes that "the newer Omicron variant is currently driving increased Covid-19 cases across the country. It’s causing companies such as Apple Inc. to reconsider plans to open their offices. JPMorgan’s big San Francisco healthcare conference, scheduled for mid-January, will be taking place online. And next month’s Davos Economic Forum has been postponed for the second straight year. The National Hockey League has called off this week’s remaining games, and some Broadway shows have gone dark once again."

If I'm reading things right, January conferences may be problematic, though public health experts expect/hope that by February, whatever spikes we see following the holidays will have subsided, making get-togethers possible as long as folks are smart about safety protocols.

If public health officials decide to make three shots the standard for full vaccination, however, that could throw a monkey wrench into the works.  CES is requiring full vaccination to attend, as is the National Retail Federation (NRF) for its January show.  I would expect that FMI would do the same thing for its planned midwinter conference, as is the National Grocers Association for its late February confab.  But if full vaccination requires three shots instead of two, I imagine it could create some issues.  It'll all depend on timing.