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, as of this morning there are 2,424,493 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, with 123,476 deaths and 1,020,412 reported recoveries.

Globally, there have been 9,377,126 coronavirus cases, with 480,220 fatalities and 5,064,843 reported recoveries.

•  CNN reports on Congressional testimony yesterday by Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in which he warned that "we're now seeing a disturbing surge of infections."

Fauci said that "Fauci, who has consistently expressed concern at the wave of aggressive economic openings championed by the President, warned that the next couple of weeks "are going to be critical in our ability to address those surges that we're seeing in Florida, in Texas, in Arizona, and in other states. They're not the only ones that are having a difficulty."

CNN  reports that "fully half of US states are now seeing rising cases of the disease with the situation especially acute in Texas, Florida and Arizona, which embraced aggressive reopening programs … Increasing cases of the virus, which do not represent the 'second wave' medical experts have long feared but more a broadening of the first wave that crashed onto coastal cities and urban areas, are beginning to frame up a daunting question for state and national political leaders: will the situation get so bad that a return to more restrictive and even stay at home measures will need to be considered?"

•  From the New York Times coverage of the Congressional hearing:

“'The virus is not going to disappear,' said Dr. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, who testified that the virus was not yet under control in the United States.

"His testimony came as more than half of the country was seeing an uptick in cases, with officials in some states slowing their return-to-work plans or even imposing new restrictions. Dr. Fauci and three other leaders of the government’s coronavirus response who testified on Tuesday cast a cloud over the sunny accounts offered by the president as he has portrayed the United States as a nation bouncing back from the brink.

“'I am very cautious and I don’t — still don’t sleep well at night,' said Adm. Brett P. Giroir, the assistant secretary for public health, 'because we have a long way to go.'

•  The Puget Sound Business Journal reports that Washington State health officials "mandated on Tuesday that people wear face masks in public as the economy slowly reopens and Covid-19 cases rise. The order goes into effect Friday.

"Gov. Jay Inslee said during an afternoon press conference that businesses must require all customers to wear masks when the order takes effect. Failing to do so could result in sanctions, including the loss of business licenses, Inslee said."

Inslee also said that "the order would likely remain in place until there is a Covid-19 vaccine or cure."

The story notes that Costco CEO W. Craig Jelinek "said his company supports the order and already requires its customers and employees to wear masks.

"Early in the pandemic, he said, Costco, an essential business that remained open throughout the spring lockdown, saved its supply of masks for medical workers, donating approximately 50,000 of them to hospitals. But, he said, the company found its employees were getting infected with Covid-19 … Positive Covid-19 tests among employees dropped once masks were required, he said."

•  The Wall Street Journal reports that "the two most populous states in the country, California and Texas, each reported more than 5,000 new infections, breaking previous daily records they had set."

This are not the kinds of records that anyone should want to break.

From the Journal story:

"Arizona also reported record cases Tuesday. The 3,591 new Covid-19 cases bring the state’s total to more than 58,000, according to data from the Department of Health Services.

"The state became one of the country’s largest coronavirus hot spots weeks after Republican Gov. Doug Ducey lifted Arizona’s stay-at-home orders. Last week Mr. Ducey reversed course to allow local governments to mandate use of face masks in public to slow the spread of the virus.

"New York has reached its lowest percentage of positive Covid-19 test results since March, but health officials are closely monitoring hot spots where higher rates of infection persist, including some lower-income neighborhoods in New York City. The city moved this week into phase two of its reopening plan, allowing workers to return to offices and outdoor dining to resume … In neighboring New Jersey, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy said Tuesday that amusement and water parks in the hard-hit state would be allowed to open at 50% capacity. Staff and guests will be required to wear face coverings. Playgrounds in the state are also set to open July 2."

•  CNBC  reports that as the European Union talks about the degree to which it should open its borders to international travelers as it looks to reopen its economies in the wake of pandemic-related shutdowns, one of the possibilities is that visitors from the United States could be banned.

At issue is the coronavirus infection rate in countries from which travelers originate, and the US may not make the cut, depending on how the lines are drawn.  Brazil and Russia also would be on the banned list.

According to the story, "there have been more than 9 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 worldwide. The U.S., Brazil and Russia are currently the top three nations with the most cases. As of Monday, the U.S.’s seven-day average of daily new cases had increased more than 30% compared with a week ago, according to a CNBC analysis of Johns Hopkins University data."

•  The Houston Chronicle reports that Harris County there - which includes the city of Houston, is the most populous county in nTexas and the third most populous county in the US - has mandated that "businesses require clients to wear masks … Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo issued the order June 19, after a surge in COVID-19 cases resulted in eight straight days of record hospitalizations in the county. The order officially expires June 30, though it will likely be extended."

Kroger said that it would avoid turning customers away by making "disposable and reusable masks available for purchase at our front end."

•  From Bloomberg:

"During the coronavirus pandemic, people are drinking less. (Yes, you read that correctly.)

"While the masses are buying more booze from grocers and liquor stores to drink at home, that hasn’t been enough to fill the gaping hole created by declines in shipments to restaurants, bars and sporting venues that were closed to slow the virus. Global alcohol consumption isn’t expected to return to pre-Covid-19 levels until 2024, and the U.S. recovery will take even longer, according to researcher IWSR said."

Bloomberg writes that "this is especially troubling for brands in the U.S., where even before Covid-19 a growing number of Americans, led by 20-somethings, increasingly strived to be healthier. They aren’t giving up all the indulgences of older generations, but many want to feel better about doing so. It’s a dynamic that helped turn lower-calorie hard seltzers, like White Claw, into household names and made non-alcoholic beer much more than an option for recovering alcoholics."

•  From the Washington Post:

"The fallout from Novak Djokovic’s safety-flouting Adria Tour exhibitions worsened Tuesday, when the world’s top-ranked tennis player disclosed he has become the fourth participant to test positive for the novel coronavirus.

"Djokovic, 33, organized the Adria Tour to give himself and fellow pros a chance to compete after being idle since March, when the men’s and women’s pro tours were suspended.

"But it has proved calamitous, resulting in at least six other positive tests: fellow players Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Viktor Troicki; Djokovic’s wife, Jelena; Djokovic’s fitness coach; and Dimitrov’s coach.

"The exhibitions were staged without following basic health and safety protocols to guard against transmission of the highly contagious virus."

Stories like this one only reinforce to me the degree of difficulty in bringing back sports … much as it would be good for the national mood, it'll be a short-lived relief if players start dropping like flies.