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 30,578,674 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 555,991 deaths, and 22,846,553 reported recoveries.

Globally, there have been 124,376,605 total coronavirus cases, with 2,737,462 resultant fatalities, and 100,356,276 reported recoveries. (Source.)

•  The Washington Post reports that "at least 82.8 million people have received one or both doses of the vaccine in the U.S.  This includes more than 42.5 million people who have been fully vaccinated … 156.7 million doses have been distributed."

•  From the Wall Street Journal:

"Newly reported coronavirus cases in the U.S. edged higher, as many states push forward with vaccinations programs and look to reopen schools.  The U.S. reported more than 50,000 new cases for Monday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University that was published early Tuesday."

Keep in mind that from the beginning, public health experts said that it was important to keep the daily case numbers under 20,000.  While our numbers are better now than they were a few months ago, they're not where they need to be.

•  Just a day after reports that Oxford University and AstaZeneca said that their vaccine was safe and 79 percent effective, and likely would be submitted to US regulators for emergency use authorization, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has issued what the Washington Post called an "unusual rebuke," saying that "it was concerned AstraZeneca used outdated information from the large-scale trial when it reported the results Monday, 'which may have provided an incomplete view of the efficacy data'."

According to the Post, NIAID "urged the company … to work with the U.S. Data Safety and Monitoring Board to review the data and release the updated information 'as quickly as possible'."

•  From the New York Times:

"For the last year, New York City has been running in the shadow of a deadly pandemic, with many city and private sector employees forced to work from home, stripping New York of its lifeblood and devastating its economy.

"But with virus cases seeming to stabilize and vaccinations becoming more widespread, city officials intend to send a message that New York is close to returning to normal: On May 3, the city will compel its municipal office employees to begin to report to work in person … Workers will return in phases over several weeks.

"Mayor Bill de Blasio’s decision to bring the nation’s largest municipal work force back to the office signals a remarkable turnabout in the fortunes of a city that served as the national epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, coming to symbolize the perils of living in densely packed global capitals.

"The move is meant to broadcast that New York City will soon be open for business, and to encourage private companies to follow suit - lifting the hopes of landlords whose skyscrapers have largely sat empty as office workers stayed home."

•  The Seattle Times reports that "for the first time since the outbreak of the pandemic more than a year ago, Microsoft is allowing its Seattle-area workforce back into the office.

"Microsoft’s roughly 57,000 employees in Redmond, Bellevue and Seattle will have the option to return to the office March 29 … Microsoft is the first major local employer to announce a general return to the office. The Redmond tech giant has for months been allowing a limited number of employees to work from the office."

The story says that employees are allowed to continue working remotely, and that there will be a cap on how many people can occupy shared spaces.

The announcement came as Microsoft released an internal survey saying that "65% are craving in-person face time with their teams. Remote employees also reported being overworked and exhausted — though managers said their teams were more productive than ever.

"Still, Microsoft’s report indicated that 70% of workers want to have the option to work remotely, a future Microsoft is not alone in dubbing a 'hybrid workplace'."

•  The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that Best Buy, as part of its employee health screening process - workers who go into stores have to fill out a mobile screening questionnaire before going to work - now is providing them with a free Covid-19 at-home test kit if requested.

Workers with any symptoms or exposure are required to quarantine, with pay, while test results are processed.

Best Buy also is giving employees paid time off to get their Covid-19 vaccinations.

•  The New York Times notes this morning that "of the vaccine doses given globally, roughly three-quarters have gone to only 10 countries. At least 30 countries have not yet injected a single person.

"Scientists have long warned that such unfair treatment could not only haunt poorer countries, but also rich ones, if the continued spread of the virus allows it to mutate in ways that undermine vaccines. But the greatest human costs will almost surely be borne by less wealthy nations.

"Already, unvaccinated doctors and nurses have died this year in countries including Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria and Zimbabwe, depleting health systems that can ill afford to lose any more workers and threatening to diminish the level of care in nations overrun by variants.

"The toll in Africa could be especially profound. The continent has 17 percent of the world’s people, but so far, it has administered roughly 2 percent of the vaccine doses given globally."

Yogi Berra wasn't referring to pandemics when he said, "It ain't over till it's over."  But … the sentiment stands.  Global pandemics are exactly that - global.   It is smart public health policy - not to mention essentially moral and ethical - to minister to people who someone once referred to as "the last of my brothers."  And sisters.

•  Axios reports that "With each shot in the arm, more and more Americans are letting down their guard — seeing family and friends outside the home again, venturing out to eat or relaxing social distancing precautions, according to the latest installment of the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index."

According to the story, "Nine in 10 respondents said they know someone who's already been vaccinated, and 36% said they've been vaccinated themselves. Meanwhile, the share who know someone who died from COVID-19 has leveled off at around one in three, after climbing through 2020."

More stats:  "45% said they'd gone out to eat in the past week, up 12 percentage points from a month ago and the highest share in a year … 48% said they visited friends or relatives outside the home, up nine points from a month ago and the highest share since October … 67% said they're staying home and avoiding others as much as possible, down seven points from a month ago and the lowest share since we began asking the question 11 months ago … 17% said their emotional well being has improved over the past week, the highest share in a year."

But, Axios writes, "It's the unvaccinated in some cases who are returning to activities outside the home at the highest rates … 52% of unvaccinated Americans reported seeing friends and relatives outside the home in the past week, compared with just 41% of those who'd been vaccinated.

"The share of Americans saying they are 'not at all' likely to take the vaccine remained steady at around one in five.

"Their reasons included not trusting the vaccine or in some cases not trusting the government; wanting more information about side effects; or thinking they don't need it because they feel healthy now or already got the virus."

The Associated Press reports that "TSA continues to screen more than 1 million a day, as flying rebounds a bit.

"More than 1.5 million people streamed through US airport security checkpoints on Sunday, the largest number since the pandemic tightened its grip on the United States more than a year ago. It marked the 11th straight day that the Transportation Security Administration screened more than 1 million people, likely from a combination of spring break travel and more people becoming vaccinated against COVID-19."

It isn't what Shakespeare was referring to, but "Lord, what fools these mortals be!"

(By the way, it is a good day when I can work both Shakespeare and Yogi Berra into the commentary.)