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 29,314,254 total confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 527,226 deaths, and 19,817,532 reported recoveries.

Globally, there have been 2,552,090 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 2,552,090 resultant fatalities, and 90,792,009 reported recoveries.  (Source.)

•  The Washington Post this morning breaks the news that "pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. will help make Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot coronavirus vaccine — an unusual pact between fierce competitors that could sharply boost the supply of the newly authorized vaccine."

According to the story, federal health officials "began scouring the country for additional manufacturing capacity after they realized in the first days of the administration that Johnson & Johnson had fallen behind in vaccine production. They soon sought to broker a deal with Merck, one of the world’s largest vaccine makers, which had tried and failed to develop its own coronavirus vaccine.

"Under the arrangement, Merck will dedicate two facilities in the United States to Johnson & Johnson’s shots. One will provide 'fill-finish' services, the last stage of the production process during which the vaccine substance is placed in vials and packaged for distribution. The other will make the vaccine itself, and has the potential to vastly increase supply, perhaps even doubling what Johnson & Johnson could make on its own."

•  Reuters reports that Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, continues to reiterate that the US needs to "stick to a two-dose strategy for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines … He warned that shifting to a single-dose strategy for the vaccines could leave people less protected, enable variants to spread and possibly boost skepticism among Americans already hesitant to get the shots."

According to the story, Fauci "said the science does not support delaying a second dose for those vaccines, citing research that a two-shot regimen creates enough protection to help fend off variants of the coronavirus that are more transmissible, whereas a single shot could leave Americans at risk from variants such as the one first detected in South Africa."

•  From Axios:

"CDC director Rochelle Walensky warned states on Monday that 'now is not the time' to lift public health restrictions, as the recent dramatic declines in coronavirus cases and deaths 'appear to be stalling' … While the average of 70,000 new infections and 2,000 daily deaths is nowhere near the extremely high levels recorded at the start of 2021, the figures are still a poor baseline to 'stop a potential fourth surge' - especially with the threat posed by more contagious new variants, Walensky warned."

•  From the Washington Post:

"The global number of new coronavirus cases rose for the first time in nearly two months, the World Health Organization said Monday, blaming the surge in infections on circulating variants and premature efforts to lift public health restrictions.

"It would be 'unrealistic' to think that the virus crisis will be over by the end of this year, warned WHO’s head of the health emergencies program, Michael Ryan.

"Cases over the past week jumped in every region except for Africa and the Western Pacific, the U.N. agency said, after declining for six weeks straight. In the United States, a steady drop in new cases last month also appeared to be leveling off and there are fears it could reverse course amid yet another wave of infections."

•  The New York Times reports that the P.1 coronavirus variant, which was first detected in Brazil and because of a high degree of contagiousness "fueled a surge in coronavirus cases," seems to have gained the ability to reinfect people who already have had the coronavirus and might have been expected to be immune.

According to the Times, "P.1 is now spreading across the rest of Brazil and has been found in 24 other countries. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recorded six cases in five states: Alaska, Florida, Maryland, Minnesota and Oklahoma.

"To reduce the risks of P.1 outbreaks and reinfections," doctors say that it is "important to double down on every measure we have to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Masks and social distancing can work against P.1. And vaccination can help drive down its transmission and protect those who do get infected from severe disease."

•  CNBC reports that for the first time since the pandemic began, all 270 Apple stores in the US are open for business - though some of them are appointment-only and do not allow walk-ins.

•  The Produce Marketing Association (PMA) announced that Fresh Summit 2021 will take place, in-person, October 28-30, 2021 at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, LA. 

PMA said that it "will welcome the industry back to the event with a variety of safety protocols and modifications developed with guidance from public health authorities."

“We all had that moment in the last year when we knew that things would never be the same,” said PMA CEO, Cathy Burns.  “I shared my belief I have no interest in going back to normal.  I am much more interested in using this opportunity to create our ‘new extraordinary’. I look forward to welcoming the industry back in person to grow a healthier world, which is especially powerful and essential in these times.”

Late October for an in-person event seems eminently reasonable … it'll be good to see these kinds of conferences returning.   PMA, especially, thrives on the ability to celebrate freshness in a common setting, and offer often unorthodox and compelling and relevant programming.

•  The International Dairy Deli Bakery Association (IDDBA) announced the decision to cancel this year’s event, citing concerns about the pandemic raised by exhibitors, members and its Board of Directors.

The conference had been scheduled for June 6-8 in Houston.  It is the second year in a row that IDDBA had to cancel the event because of the pandemic.

Then organization said that "planning for IDDBA 2022 is already underway and scheduled to be held in Atlanta, GA, June 5 – 7."

June 2021, on the other hand, is a little early for comfort.

•  One year ago today, NBC Nightly News featured an interview with a longtime government official with whom most Americans were not familiar - Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.  It is remarkable the degree to which Fauci foresaw what would happen in the US over the next 12 months … and also interesting how much we didn't know.  (Note:  Watch the first moments of the interview, when Fauci shakes hands with correspondent Richard Engel.  Today, that is almost jarring.)