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 a total of 29,801,506 confirmed Covid-19 coronavirus cases, resulting in 540,574 deaths and 20,549,678 reported recoveries.

Globally, there have been a total of 118,243,352 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 2,624,068 resultant fatalities, and 93,912,955 reported recoveries.   (Source.)

•  The Washington Post reports that "at least 61.1 million people have received one or both doses of the vaccine in the U.S.  This includes more than 31.8 million people who have been fully vaccinated … 123.2 million doses have been distributed."

The Post also writes that "the seven-day average for new daily coronavirus cases in the United States fell below 58,000 this week for the first time since mid-October, after weeks in which a steady decline in new infections appeared to have plateaued. The drop comes as the United States is administering an average of 2.15 million vaccine doses per day, according to data compiled by the Washington Post.

"But even as more Americans are immunized against the virus, public health experts are warning against the loosening of restrictions in states such as Florida and Texas. This month, spring break starts for tens of thousands of college students in the United States, which scientists worry could accelerate the spread of new variants."

•  From Fox News:

"Alaska has become the first state to drop eligibility requirements for COVID-19 vaccines and allow anyone 16 or older who lives or works in the state to get a vaccine, Gov. Mike Dunleavy said Tuesday … He described expanding eligibility for vaccines in Alaska as a 'game-changer,' particularly with the summer tourist season looming and as the state seeks to rebuild its pandemic-tattered economy."

•  The New York Times writes that "the move to open Texas has faced intense resistance. The governor’s medical advisers have said that they were not involved in the decision. And some experts have raised concerns about intensifying the spread of the virus while the vaccination process is underway. Texas, which is averaging about 5,500 new cases a day, has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country."

But, the Times also reports that many Texas businesses are embracing the opportunity to reopen - to take down the plexiglass, eliminate capacity restrictions, and try to recapture customers that they hope are equally ready for a change in approach to the pandemic.

•  Albertsons said yesterday that "its pharmacies have now administered more than 1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine."

“Our pharmacy teams across the country are working diligently in serving our communities during this national effort. We are deeply grateful to our federal partners and local jurisdictions in delivering this important milestone,” said Omer Gajial, SVP of Pharmacy and Health at Albertsons, in a prepared statement.   “We continue to provide equitable vaccination solutions to underserved and rural customers and will accelerate our services as doses become more widely available.”

This week, Albertsons said, its pharmacies began offering appointments to teachers as part of the national priority to vaccinate America’s educators.

•  USA Today reports that "U.S. health officials are exploring a partnership with Dollar General, one of the nation's largest retailers, to accelerate the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in the nation's rural areas.

"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is in talks with Dollar General, CDC director Rochelle Walensky said Tuesday.

"Dollar General does not have pharmacies, but it has more than 16,000 locations.  That's about three times the number of locations as Walmart and more than half as many as CVS and Walgreens, all three of which are delivering COVID-19 vaccines at some of their pharmacy locations."

•  As Los Angeles and Orange counties in Southern California see their coronavirus case loads decreasing and vaccination numbers rising, the area's theme parks - Disneyland, Universal Studios, Knott’s Berry Farm and Six Flags Magic Mountain, all closed for the past year because of the pandemic - are expected to begin laying out reopening plans.

Disney CEO Bob Chapek said that Disneyland likely would open in late April, just because it would take several weeks to get the park into customer-ready shape.

“The fact is, it will take some time to get them ready for our guests,” he said, noting that Disney is focused on “recalling more than 10,000 furloughed cast members and training them to operate under the State of California’s new requirements.”

•  The New York Times writes that "California officials announced on Friday that theme parks in the state could reopen on a limited basis as soon as April 1. Eligibility, however, will depend on coronavirus transmission statistics in individual counties.

"For instance, theme parks in counties where the virus threat remains the most severe (in the purple tier under the state’s system) must remain closed. But parks in areas where the threat of infection has eased somewhat (red tier) will be allowed to reopen at 15 percent capacity. Even less threat (orange tier) will allow for 25 percent capacity, ultimately rising to 35 percent for the lowest threat (yellow).

"California will restrict attendance to in-state visitors. Regulators will also restrict indoor dining. Some indoor rides may be required to remain closed."

•  The Hollywood Reporter says that "cinemas across L.A. County - the top moviegoing market in the country - shut a year ago because of the pandemic."  But now, the story says, "Los Angeles movie theaters may be only days away from reopening, albeit with a host of safety protocols, including 25 percent capacity or no more than 100 people in any auditorium."

•  The Associated Press reports that "there are going to be more happy campers this summer as more camps choose to reopen despite the pandemic, providing millions more kids an opportunity to gather around a campfire.

"Most camp directors sat out last summer as the virus raged across the country, either because of state restrictions that barred them from opening or because of concerns about keeping kids healthy. But with cases declining and more people vaccinated each day, many are feeling more confident about reopening this season."

•  Talk about a silver lining.

Disney was looking at a very bad year as the pandemic closed its theme parks, grounded its cruise ships, prevented sporting events aired on its networks, and shuttered theaters that showed its movies.

Now, Variety reports, "Disney Plus continues to grow apace, topping 100 million subscribers worldwide, Disney CEO Bob Chapek said Tuesday during its annual shareholders meeting. That’s up from the 94.9 million Disney reported last month.

“The enormous success of Disney Plus has inspired us to be even more ambitious, and to significantly increase our investment in the development of high-quality content,” Chapek said. “In fact, we set a target of 100-plus new titles per year, and this includes Disney Animation, Disney Live Action, Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic. Our direct-to-consumer business is the Company’s top priority, and our robust pipeline of content will continue to fuel its growth.”