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, there now have been 35,287,269 total cases of the Covid-q19 coronavirus, resulting in 627,039 deaths and 29,548,468 reported recoveries.

Globally, there have been 195,346,641 total coronavirus cases, with 4,182,840 resultant fatalities and 177,183,824 reported recoveries.  (Source.)

•  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) says that 66.5 percent of the US population age 12 and older has received at least one dose of vaccine, with 57.5 percent  being fully vaccinated.

•  The Wall Street Journal writes that "a significant uptick in Covid-19 cases across the U.S. is leading to new vaccination mandates for public employees, with the Department of Veterans Affairs on Monday becoming the first federal agency, California the first state, and New York the first major city to announce requirements for their workers.

"Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough said healthcare personnel who work in or visit Veterans Health Administration facilities or provide direct care to people the VA serves would have eight weeks to get vaccinated.

"Officials in the state of California and New York City said Monday they would require their workers to either be vaccinated against Covid-19 or be tested at least weekly for the virus. California’s order, which also applies to those who work in healthcare settings, goes into effect in August. The New York City mandate begins after Labor Day."

The announcements were not universally well-received.  For example, the Journal writes that "the requirements drew criticism from some unions and sparked questions about their legality. Richard L. Brown, president of the Service Employees International Union chapter that represents 43% of California approximately 238,000 state employees, said in a video posted online that he was appalled by Mr. Newsom’s announcement and that the state’s new policy violated his members’ privacy and healthcare rights."

At the same time, in another story, the Journal reports that "the rise in Covid-19 cases driven by the Delta variant is prompting school districts across the country to consider changing their face-mask requirements, in an effort to stick to their plans to bring back students for in-person learning this fall.

"With just weeks until the first day of school, debates are raging over a matter that seemed settled earlier this summer—whether to require face masks, or ban such requirements. Districts, however, aren’t considering a return to remote learning.

"Several big city districts, including in Chicago, Atlanta and New Orleans, said last week they will require masks when schools reopen for in-person learning."

•  The Associated Press reports that "The St. Louis area has become one of the first in the United States to reinstate mask requirements amid a rise in cases that health officials are blaming on low vaccination rates and the highly contagious delta variant.

"Despite pushback from some elected officials, face coverings became mandatory Monday in indoor public places and on public transportation in St. Louis city and St. Louis County for everyone ages 5 or older — even for those who are vaccinated. Wearing masks outdoors is strongly encouraged, especially in group settings … The decision comes as both of Missouri’s urban areas see a big uptick in coronavirus hospitalizations that began in rural areas of the state, especially in southwestern Missouri.

"Missouri ranks fourth nationally in the most new cases per capita in the past 14 days, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering to measure outbreak caseloads and deaths across the United States."

•  The New Yorker offers an assessment of how the resurgence of the Covid19 coronavirus - driven both by the highly transmissible Delta variant as well as by people who have decided that they do not need to be vaccinated nor do they need to wear masks - is likely to affect the economy.

The short message:  The second "Roaring Twenties" that many were anticipating as the pandemic receded may not be coming around anytime soon.

The New Yorker writes:

"Now that the spread of the Delta variant has pushed the seven-day average of new cases above fifty thousand, and the number of hospitalizations has jumped by more than fifty per cent in two weeks, economists and investors are reassessing the prospects. Last Monday, the stock market tumbled on concerns about the variant, before rebounding on Tuesday. Later this week, the Department of Commerce will publish its initial estimate of actual G.D.P. growth in the second quarter. The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s GDPNow model, which incorporates a range of recent economic releases, estimates the figure at 7.6 per cent. In normal times, that would be a blockbuster figure. However, it is significantly below some of the estimates from May, and it shows how in some regions and industries, even before the rebound in covid cases, shortages of labor, computer chips, and other components were holding back the recovery. Now worries about the resurgent virus have been added to concerns about supply constraints. Where will the economy go from here?"

According to the story, while many economists are confident about the nation's ability to grow the economy, there are concerns about what will happen if the resurgence persists - or grows - into the fall.  "Economists said that a key moment will come in a month or so, when schools are scheduled to reopen across the country. The forecasts of rapid employment growth in the second half of this year hinge on many more parents, particularly women, returning to work as child-care concerns ease."  But if that doesn't happen …

And there's another possibility:  "the emergence of another highly contagious strain of the virus, one that is more deadly and resistant to vaccinations than the Delta variant."

•  And if the impact of a resurgent pandemic on the economy isn't enough to worry about..

National Public Radio has a piece about how "PET scans taken before and after a person develops COVID-19 suggest that the infection can cause changes that overlap those seen in Alzheimer's. And genetic studies are finding that some of the same genes that increase a person's risk for getting severe COVID-19 also increase the risk of developing Alzheimer's.

"Alzheimer's diagnoses also appear to be more common in patients in their 60s and 70s who have had severe COVID-19, says Dr. Gabriel de Erausquin, a professor of neurology at UT Health San Antonio. 'It's downright scary,' he says."

Researchers are bringing their findings and concerns to Denver this week for the Alzheimer's Association International Conference.

•  The Washington Post reports that there is a move afoot in some state legislatures around the country to curtail the authority of public health experts, looking to " limit their authority, including new state laws that prevent the closure of businesses or allow lawmakers to rescind mask mandates."

According to the story, "At least 15 state legislatures have passed or are considering measures to limit the legal authority of public health agencies, according to the Network for Public Health Law, which partnered with the National Association of County and City Health Officials to document the legislative counterpunches. Lawmakers in at least 46 states have introduced hundreds of bills relating to legislative oversight of gubernatorial or executive actions during coronavirus or other emergencies, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

"The measures, as described by the Network for Public Health Law, include a North Dakota law that prohibits a mask mandate, even during an outbreak of tuberculosis, and a new Montana law that prohibits the use of quarantine to separate people who have probably been infected or exposed but are not yet sick."

“Whatever your feelings are about what health officials did in March of 2020, I can talk to you about a future threat that might be different, that would disproportionately affect a different population, that you would feel differently about,” Lindsay F. Wiley, director of the Health Law and Policy Program at American University and an expert on emergency reform, tells the Post.  “Please don’t constrain authority as a reaction in a way that will tie officials to the mast for a future crisis.”

Great.  Just what we need.  Elected officials making public health decisions based on politics rather than on science.  Oy.