Coronavirus BRIEFING
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The Latest COVID-19 Data

Examining the Roots of the Global Paper Shortage

By Staff
Monday, September 20, 2021 3:50 PM Wood pulp is in short supply lately, and shortages and soaring demand has caused prices for everything from toilet paper to lumber to jump in the past year. The price of wood pulp has risen 50.2 percent over the past year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The price of paper rose 14.2 percent in the same time period. “Across the nation, printers and direct mail houses are experiencing a massive paper shortage,” the Dot Corp. noted in a recent blog post.

More U.S. Companies Are Considering Surcharges for Unvaccinated Employees

By Staff
Friday, September 17, 2021 12:04 AM We have reached a point in the pandemic where employers that have worked hard to make it easy for employees to get vaccinated are also considering approaches to make it more difficult for employees to remain unvaccinated.

Majority in U.S. Says Public Health Benefits of COVID-19 Restrictions Worth the Costs, Despite Downsides

By Staff
Thursday, September 16, 2021 3:09 PM More than a year and a half into the coronavirus outbreak, large shares of Americans continue to see the coronavirus as a major threat to public health and the U.S. economy. And despite widespread vaccination efforts, 54 percent of U.S. adults say the worst of the outbreak is still to come, according to a new national survey by Pew Research Center.

The toll of restrictions on public activities in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus is deeply felt across groups: Overwhelming majorities say restrictions have done a lot or some to hurt businesses and economic activity and keep people from living their lives the way they want. Smaller majorities say these restrictions have helped at least some to prevent hospitalizations and deaths from the coronavirus and to slow the spread of the virus.

Still, when asked to issue an overall judgment, Americans on balance view the public health benefits of these restrictions as having been worth the costs (62 percent to 37 percent).

The survey revealed that 73 percent of those ages 18 and older say they’ve received at least one dose of a vaccine for COVID-19, with the vast majority of this group saying they have received all the shots they need to be fully vaccinated. About a quarter of adults, 26 percent, say they have not received a vaccine.

Click here to read the full story from the Pew Research Center.

National Average for Gross Revenue Fell Dramatically for the Week of Sept. 6 to 12, Jobson’s Latest Practice Performance Tracker Shows

By Staff
Thursday, September 16, 2021 12:30 AM NEW YORK—The national average for gross revenue at ECP locations fell dramatically, by 20 index points last week (Sept. 6-12) due to Labor Day falling on Monday, Sept.6. When comparing this with the same week (Week 37) of the previous two years, 2021 was comparable to 2020 because Labor Day also fell within Week 37 of 2020 but not 2019, according to Jobson’s most recent Practice Performance Tracker. All optical sales categories decreased substantially last week because of the Labor Day holiday.

Retail Imports Remain Strong But Growth Slows as COVID-19 Disruptions Continue, Report Says

By Staff
Wednesday, September 15, 2021 4:27 PM WASHINGTON—Double-digit growth in imports at the nation’s largest retail container ports is slipping to single digits as pandemic-related supply chain disruptions around the world continue, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released last week by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates.

“Year-over-year growth isn’t as dramatic as it was earlier because we’re now comparing against months when most stores closed by the pandemic last year had reopened and retailers were stocking up again,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “We expected that. But we’re seeing issues ranging from port closures in Asia to ships lined up waiting to dock at U.S. ports.

U.S. ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 2.19 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units in July, the latest month for which final numbers are available. That was up 2 percent from June and up 14.2 percent from a year earlier. A TEU is one 20-foot container or its equivalent.

Ports have not reported August numbers yet, but Global Port Tracker projected the month at 2.27 million TEU, which would be up 7.8 percent year-over-year. That would be the busiest August on record. But it would fall short of the 2.37 million TEU forecast for August a month ago, which would have broken May’s record of 2.33 million TEU for the largest number of containers imported during a single month since NRF began tracking imports in 2002. Click here to read the full story from the NRF.

What to Know About the Mu Variant

By Staff
Wednesday, September 15, 2021 12:21 PM It seems like new COVID-19 variants are popping up every day, but according to WebMD, "only four so far have raised enough alarm to warrant a World Health Organization 'variant of concern' designation—Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta." Most recently, the Mu variant has appeared, and the WHO has classified it as a "variant of interest." Head over to WebMD to learn what we know so far about the Mu variant. 

44% of U.S. Small Businesses Have Less Than 3 Months' Worth of Cash, Report Finds

By Staff
Wednesday, September 15, 2021 12:04 AM I would rather pay my staff than buy a new van and I think everyone is thinking that way right now. It's rough out there for small businesses.

Consumers Likely to Continue E-Commerce Shopping via Subscription Models, Report Says

By Staff
Friday, September 10, 2021 11:35 AM NEW YORK—With retailers mulling new or updated strategies for the second half of the year and beyond, they will need to gain greater understanding of which consumer behaviors have shifted permanently, which will revert to those of pre-pandemic times, and which will settle somewhere in the middle, according to a recent eMarketer analysis of shopping trends.

One segment of e-commerce that retailers can look further into is subscriptions—an especially helpful retail model for replenishment items (for example, consumer packaged goods or beauty and personal care items). Subscription ecommerce sales took off amid the crisis, with 41 percent growth, according to eMarketer’s estimates. And the research firm now expects that 3 percent of U.S. retail e-commerce sales will come from subscriptions in 2021, totaling $27.7 billion and up more than $10 billion from just two years ago.

This trend is reflected in the report “FutureBuy 2021,” a study from GfK, which found that 23 percent of respondents (a 7 percentage-point increase over 2020) said they are trying and are likely to continue shopping via subscription services. When broken down by generation, 34 percent of millennials (up by 16 percentage points) said they are likely to continue this shopping behavior. That was the highest percentage among all cohorts, followed by Gen Xers at 24 percent.

Q&A: How Concerned Should We Be About the Mu Variant?

By Staff
Friday, September 10, 2021 9:03 AM Now that we're halfway through the Greek alphabet for naming coronavirus variants, it is clear that some are more worrisome than others. Only four so far have raised enough alarm to warrant a World Health Organization “variant of concern” designation – Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta.

Medical Boards: Docs Who Spread COVID Misinformation Put License at Risk

By Staff
Friday, September 10, 2021 9:02 AM Three primary care boards issued a joint statement backing the Federation of State Medical Boards' recent statement saying that if physicians spread misinformation about COVID-19, their medical license could be suspended or revoked.

Gross Revenue at ECP Locations Decreased for the Week of Aug. 30 to Sept. 5, Jobson’s Latest Practice Performance Tracker Shows

By Staff
Friday, September 10, 2021 12:30 AM NEW YORK—The national average for gross revenue at ECP locations fell last week, Aug. 30-Sept. 5, at a rate of -4 index points, likely impacted in part by the holiday weekend, although the actual Monday Labor Day holiday occurred one day after the period within which the numbers were tallied for last week (Week 36), according to Jobson’s most recent Practice Performance Tracker. In 2019, the actual Monday Labor Day holiday did fall within Week 36 of 2019 but not in 2020.

Trends That Will Define 2021 and Beyond: Six Months on

By Staff
Thursday, September 9, 2021 12:04 AM About three-quarters of Americans changed their shopping habits in 2020, and 40 percent of these changed brands—twice the rate in 2019. Younger people were more likely than older ones to switch. The implication is that, more than ever, companies can’t take their customers for granted. Loyalty must be earned time and again.

Despite the Pandemic, Wage Growth Held Firm for Most U.S. workers, With Little Effect on Inequality

By Staff
Wednesday, September 8, 2021 3:30 PM Despite the severity of the shock to the U.S. labor market from the coronavirus pandemic, the earnings of employed workers overall were largely unaffected by the pandemic. Inequality in earnings did rise during last year’s recession, if the unemployed are assumed to have had no compensation. Even so, the spike was relatively short-lived, in keeping with the record low duration of the recession, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of government data.

Earnings overall have held steady through the pandemic in part because lower-wage workers experienced steeper job losses. Thus, the typical employed worker in 2020 earned more than the typical employed worker in 2019. A slowdown in inflation in 2020 benefited all workers, boosting the purchasing power of their earnings. While unemployed workers lost their earnings, at least some relief came through unemployment insurance, a federal package known as the CARES Act and a moratorium on residential evictions. 

As the pandemic struck, lower-wage workers proved most likely to experience a job loss. The shift toward higher-wage workers among the employed helped to raise the median hourly wage to $23 in the second quarter of 2020.

Click here to read the full story from Pew Research Center.

Idaho Hospitals Begin Rationing Healthcare Amid COVID Surge

By Staff
Wednesday, September 8, 2021 8:02 AM Idaho public health leaders announced Tuesday that they activated "crisis standards of care" allowing health care rationing for the state's northern hospitals because there are more coronavirus patients than the institutions can handle.

Large Study Affirms What We Already Know: Masks Work to Prevent COVID-19

By Staff
Tuesday, September 7, 2021 8:06 AM A large, real-world test of face masks in Bangladesh shows that masks work to reduce community spread of COVID-19. It also shows that surgical masks are more effective than cloth face coverings.