North America Update: June 29
Keep an eye out for the next update on Thursday, July 2.
- At least 12 states have paused their reopening plans as the U.S. sees a surge in coronavirus cases across the country. With July 4 celebrations approaching, officials are trying not to repeat scenes from Memorial Day weekend, when thousands across the country traveled to beaches, bars, and parties while experts cautioned against large gatherings. Public health officials are reemphasizing the federal coronavirus guidelines as the nation experiences precipitous climbs in caseloads, including in the populous states of California, Florida, and Texas. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, criticized Americans who have abandoned practicing personal mitigation measures, saying this has contributed to a surge of COVID-19 cases across the country. Health & Human Services Secretary Alex Azar warned that outbreaks in Texas, Florida, Arizona, and other southern and southwestern states threaten to spiral out of control without immediate intervention, including the widespread use of masks and social distancing.
- While many states are reporting new surges in cases, pausing reopening measures, and even re-instituting business restrictions, some economic sectors are reporting economic improvement as consumers are beginning to eat out at restaurants, traveling more and staying in hotels. Airline passengers traveling each day through airport security checkpoints is down more than 70 percent compared to last year, according to data from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), an improvement over the 90 percent decline at the peak of the pandemic. Hotel occupancy rates have continued their upward trend and are now at 44 percent, according to STR, an industry research firm. Occupancy rates are up for the tenth consecutive week. Mortgage applications have increased from more than -30 percent in April (year-on-year) to more than a 10 percent increase from mid-May.
- CEOs of the nation’s largest companies expect the economic impact of the pandemic to linger until at least the end of 2021. In a report from the Business Roundtable released on Monday, the corporate trade group said that a survey of its members in June showed a majority expect business conditions to recover by the end of 2021. But a significant number of respondents – 27 percent – expect the recovery timeline to extend beyond next year. That sizable percentage indicates how uncertain the economic climate remains as the U.S. confronts a health crisis with little modern precedence.
- New figures released today revealed that Canada’s lockdown restrictions have worked to get the coronavirus under control. Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said that as restrictions ease, it will be even more important for Canadians to maintain physical distancing and good hand-washing practices to keep case counts down and prevent a second wave. The most recent figures put Canada’s total number of cases at approximately 103,000, including 8,522 deaths. Of the more than tens of thousands being tested daily, only one percent are testing positive.
- The European Union has proposed a list of 14 “safe countries” outside of the Schengen Area whose citizens would be allowed to travel to Europe on July 1 if the list is approved by member states. The list includes Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, and Uruguay. China would be added to the list on the condition that EU citizens are also allowed into China. The list does not include the United States.
- At a pledging conference organized by the European Commission and Global Citizen, the EU has pledged an additional €4.9 billion toward making coronavirus vaccines, testing, and treatments available worldwide.
- British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce a large initiative similar to the U.S. New Deal on Tuesday following a recent statement, “I think this is the moment for a Rooseveltian approach to the UK. I really think the investment will pay off.”
- The German Bundestag and Bundesrat are seeking to pass an economic stimulus package that would, among other things, provide for a reduction in value-added tax from 19 to 16 percent as of July 1, as well as a bonus of 300 euros for each child entitled to child benefits.
- In Ireland, most shops, cafes, restaurants, and hotels can reopen today and people are now permitted to travel nationally.
- Mexico registered a slower infection rate of COVID-19 cases than Brazil and the United States, according to a government report following a graph from the University of Oxford. Yesterday, Mexico reported a total of 26,648 deaths and 216,852 cases of COVID-19.
- A Minister of the Supreme Court of Justice suspended indefinitely a new policy released by the Ministry of Energy to suspend permits for the generation of clean energy.
- The U.S. government delivered the first shipment of 200 ventilators to Brazil to help treat patients with COVID-19. In total, 1,000 devices will arrive in the country. According to the U.S. Embassy in Brazil, this donation adds up to the $12 million that the U.S. government donated to Brazil in response to the pandemic.
- According to an evaluation by the new vice president for the Latin America region of the World Bank, Carlos Felipe Jaramillo, the pandemic could lead to the loss of 20 years of progress to reduce poverty in the region. The National Treasury reported that in May the Federal Government recorded a loss of BRL 126.6 billion in public accounts due to the pandemic.
- Delivery workers in Brazil are organizing a nationwide strike this Wednesday, July 1. The movement is gaining support across several other Latin American capitals.
- According to data from the New General Register of Employed and Unemployed released by the Ministry of Economy, Brazil recorded more than one million layoffs in May. A survey carried out by fintech company, Neon, and venture capital fund Flourish reported that in Brazil 70 percent of micro-entrepreneurs are earning less than U.S. $200 per month.
INSIGHTS & INTEL: NEXT ECONOMIC STIMULUS PACKAGE
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) Monday to immediately start negotiations on a new economic relief package. Senate Republicans and the White House have been planning for late July as the timeframe for finalizing another coronavirus bill, after passing four bills in March and April that injected about $3 trillion into the economy. The Democratic-led House passed a massive relief bill 45 days ago, but Republicans have refused to consider it in the Senate, and President Trump has threatened to veto it. House Democrats want to extend the $600-per-week federal unemployment benefits through the end of the year and provide funds for state and local governments and national COVID-19 testing. Republicans favor a back-to-work bonus payment. Republicans also want liability protection for hospitals, businesses, universities, and K-12 schools related to the coronavirus.
Some deadlines are approaching when relief measures will expire. The enhanced unemployment benefits passed as part of the $2 trillion Cares Act in March will expire on July 31. The small-business Paycheck Protection Program will stop accepting new loan applications on Tuesday, even though there are about $100 billion left in the program. Congress is in session this week, but Members plan to leave Washington for a two-week recess for the 4th of July. There are currently no plans to pass coronavirus legislation before the recess.
COVID-19 Media Trends
- Outlets across different verticals are reporting how states are beginning to backtrack reopening plans as U.S. cases surge again and the economy trends downward.
- CNBC: Top CEOs see business impact from coronavirus lingering until at least the end of 2021
- Forbes: Global Death Toll From Coronavirus Tops 500,000
- Delish: Florida And Texas Are Both Shutting Down Bars Amid A Rise In COVID-19 Cases
- Taste of Home: 13 Things You Shouldn’t Do at Reopened Restaurants
- The Verge: American Airlines will resume booking flights to capacity, as COVID-19 cases soar
- U.S. News & World Report: Governments backtracking as confirmed virus cases surge
- Bloomberg: U.S. Cases Rise 1.2%; Worst Yet to Come, WHO Says: Virus Update
- Fortune: The 20 biggest companies that have filed for bankruptcy because of the coronavirus pandemic
Social Media Tackles Hate Speech and Plays Politics
- Reddit shut down 2,000 communities on Monday, its largest sweep of the service, as it tries to curtail hate speech in the wake of the racial justice movement. Included in the bans is one forum famous for supporting President Donald Trump. Reddit also announced new policies, targeting communities like “The_Donald,” which was one of the most active “subreddits” dedicated to Trump. The network company announced that its purge would include a subreddit with a hardcore far-left following, called “ChapoTrapHouse,” and about 2,000 other communities.
- In the past few days, a handful of brands – beginning with The North Face on June 19 – are withdrawing their media dollars from Facebook, in a boycott over the platform’s policies on hate speech and misinformation. The Stop Hate for Profit boycott campaign was created by the Anti-Defamation League, Color of Change, Common Sense Media, Free Press, the NAACP, and Sleeping Giants and has been picking up steam under the hashtag #StopHateForProfit. Coca-Cola, Hershey, Diageo, Levi Strauss & Co., and Birchbox are among the brands that joined the Stop Hate for Profit boycott of Facebook. The list of participating companies includes nearly 100 names as of June 29, and more marketers pledge to not buy ads on the platform in July amid concerns about its role in spreading hate speech and misinformation.
- A new series of videos circulating on TikTok is asking consumers to fill their carts with Trump merchandise — such as the $75 Keep America Great ugly Christmas sweater or the $30 Trump gift wrap featuring Trump in a Keep America Great Santa hat— and then abandon their carts. The goal is twofold: cost the Trump campaign money and mess with the inventory.
- New Virtual Programming: Top conveners such as Washington Post, WSJ, Axios and Financial Times continue to create new virtual events for the coming weeks. Thematically, these virtual gatherings will cover a wide variety of topics including managing operational risk, race and progress for women at work, inequity in venture capital, and race in America.
- Broadway: Broadway performances in New York City are being further suspended through January 3, 2021. Returning productions are planning to resume performances over a series of rolling dates in early 2021.
- KBO: The Korean Baseball League announced plans to begin the return of fans to stadiums. Initial precautions include separating fans and face mask requirements. Concessions would largely remain closed.
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