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, we've now had 28,765,423 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 511,133 deaths, and 18,973,190 reported recoveries.

Globally, there have been 112,015,791 confirmed coronavirus cases … 2,479,156 resultant fatalities … and 87,384,088 reported recoveries.  (Source.)

•  The Washington Post reports that "at least 43.6 million people have received one or both doses of the vaccine in the U.S.  This includes more than 18.9 million people who have been fully vaccinated … 75.2 million doses have been distributed."

•  From the Wall Street Journal:

"The country reported more than 56,000 new coronavirus cases for Sunday, down from Saturday’s total, which exceeded 71,000, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University that was published early Monday Eastern time. The data may update later. While the daily tally of new cases is down sharply from peak levels reached earlier this year, it is still elevated compared with totals in the late summer and early autumn."

The Journal notes that "Hospitalizations due to the disease fell to 56,159 as of Sunday, down more than 53% from a month earlier, according to the Covid Tracking Project. The number of Covid-19 patients requiring treatment in intensive care units was less than 12,000 for the first time since Nov. 9, with 11,862 people in ICUs across the country."

•  The New York Times writes that "experts have pointed to a variety of explanations for why the country’s coronavirus metrics have been improving over the past few months: more widespread mask use and social distancing after people saw friends and relatives die, better knowledge about which restrictions work, more effective public health messaging, and, more recently, a growing number of people who have been vaccinated. The most vulnerable, like residents of nursing homes and other elderly people, were among the first to receive the vaccine.

"While scientists hope the worst is behind us, some warn of another spike in cases in the coming weeks, or a 'fourth wave,' if people become complacent about masks and distancing, states lift restrictions too quickly or the more contagious variants become dominant and are able to evade vaccines."

•  The Wall Street Journal writes that "several new research papers suggest that Covid-19 survivors who have gotten a first dose of vaccine are generating immune responses that might render a second shot unnecessary, potentially freeing up limited supply. The research, while preliminary, found that the previously infected people generated protection against the disease quickly and at dramatically higher levels after a first shot of the current two-shot regimens when compared with people who were vaccinated but hadn’t been sick."

•  The Washington Post reports on the question that the nation's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, gets several times a day:  "When will things be normal again?"

His answer:  "We don’t know."

"In general, there are too many unknowns to say definitively when the coronavirus pandemic will end," the Post writes.

"It really depends on what you mean by ‘normality'," Fauci says.  "If normality means exactly the way things were before we had this happen to us, I can’t predict that."

One thing Fauci does suggest is that "face masks - for many Americans, one of the most visible signs of abnormality - may still be necessary in 2022."

But in the end, he says., nobody knows.

It all depends.

•  CNN reports that "Publix joined a growing list of US grocers and retailers offering incentives to workers who get the Covid-19 vaccine.  The popular Southern supermarket chain said it is offering its employees $125 gift cards when they sign up and show proof of vaccination."

Among the other chains offering vaccination incentives:  "Aldi is offering its hourly workers with two hours of pay for each vaccine dose they receive. That equals a total of up to four hours of paid time off. The grocery chain said it would also 'cover costs associated with vaccine administration' to its employees who want to get vaccinated" … "Trader Joe's is providing its workers 'an additional 2 hours of regular pay per dose for taking the time to get vaccinated,' according to a spokesperson for the company" … "Kroger is offering its associates a one-time $100 payment if they provide proof they received the full manufacturer-recommended doses of a Covid-19 vaccine" … Starbucks "is giving its employees up to two hours of paid time off per dose, or a total of up to four hours of paid time off" … "Target said it will offer its more than 350,000 hourly employees up to four hours of pay - two hours for each dose they receive —-and free Lyft rides of up to $15 each way to get to and from their vaccine appointments."

I think it is great the companies are offering incentives.  Me, I think the best incentive is not getting sick.  But that's just me.

•  Axios reports that "America’s much-maligned vaccine rollout is actually going relatively well, at least compared to other wealthy countries … The U.S. has carried out more vaccinations than any country in the world, and given a first dose to a higher percentage of its population (12%) than all but five countries: Israel, the Seychelles, the UAE, the U.K. and Bahrain.

"In fact, the U.S. is distributing doses three times as quickly as the EU, adjusted for population, and nearly five times as quickly as Canada."

The story notes that "the U.S. has some major advantages over most of the world. Not only does America have the money to reserve more doses than it could possibly use, it also has the capacity to manufacture them domestically."

•  Reuters reports that "Israel reopened swathes of its economy including malls and leisure facilities on Sunday, with the government saying the start of a return to routine was enabled by Covid-19 vaccines administered to almost half the population.

"Shops were open to all, but access to gyms, hotels and theatres was limited to people with a 'Green Pass': those who have had both doses of the vaccine more than a week prior, or recovered from the disease with presumed immunity.

"Pass-holders could prove their status by presenting a vaccination certificate or downloading a health ministry app linked to their medical files."

•  The Wall Street Journal reports that "Covid-19 survivors who have gotten a first dose of Covid-19 vaccine are generating immune responses that might render a second shot unnecessary, potentially freeing up limited vaccine supply for more people, several new research papers suggest.

"The research, while preliminary, found that the previously infected people generated protection against the disease quickly and at dramatically higher levels after a first shot of the current two-shot regimens when compared with people who were vaccinated but hadn’t been sick."

•  The Wall Street Journal writes that "some supermarkets are still struggling to figure out how to deal with customers who show up without masks or don’t wear them properly.

"The challenge comes almost a year into the pandemic, and after public-health authorities have repeatedly said masks are a critical tool in limiting the spread of the coronavirus. Translating that advice into stores has been challenging, grocers say, putting them in the uncomfortable position of policing customers and trying to defuse confrontations."

The story notes that "after a surge in new cases around and just after the holidays, new Covid-19 infections have been falling more recently. Grocery employees in some states, including New York, Illinois and Virginia, are now eligible to get vaccinated. Still, masks remain contentious, with some governors dropping statewide mandates while health officials ask people to be vigilant. And vaccines currently remain out of reach for the majority of the population. Public-health experts say the sheer number of shoppers who patronize groceries each day creates risks for workers."

The Journal quotes Steve Smith, CEO of Food City, as saying, "You still have what I call boneheads that won’t wear masks."

Sometimes the boneheads aren't just argumentative.  Like the one in Maine who tried to run over a supermarket store manager with his car after he was told to wear a mask.

First of all, kudos to Steve Smith, who is blunt enough to call a bonehead a bonehead.   

I hope the bonehead in Maine ends up with another term attached to his name:  convicted felon.

I feel bad for retailers who find themselves in the position of having to police this issue because lawmakers have not done their jobs.  Political leaders ought to have common sense and sense of responsibility enough to establish mask mandates that will help keep their constituents safe until the pandemic has passed, and take the onus off retailers. That's what I said back in early April, and I still feel that way.

•  Meanwhile, "Saturday Night Live" this weekend offered its own take on the wear-your-mask-in-the-supermarket issue, called "Grocery Rap":