North America Update: September 1
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- On Monday, the U.S. reached 6 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, the highest number in the world, and 183,000 total deaths. The latest sobering milestone comes at a time when 36 states have reported positive cases at colleges and universities and one week after Hurricane Laura and Tropical Storm Marco hit the Gulf Coast. Hurricane Laura, at the time a Category 4 storm, made landfall in Louisiana and Texas on August 27. In addition to downing power lines, destroying property and taking lives, the hurricane disrupted COVID-19 testing infrastructure, adding public health complications and potentially creating circumstances for the virus to spread, as people coping with the aftermath may be limited in their ability to social distance.
- Congressional leadership and White House negotiators still have yet to make progress on a fifth round of COVID-19 relief and stimulus, with conversations largely perceived as at an impasse and both sides – led by White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, respectively – pointing fingers. In the next few weeks, the process is on track to become even more complicated, as Congress confronts its annual deadline of September 30 to fund the government for the next year. The fate of coronavirus relief at this point may be inextricably linked to budget legislation, as neither party presumably wants to risk a government shutdown ahead of the election.
- With 267 new cases reported over the weekend, Canada’s national COVID-19 case count has grown to nearly 128,000, with more than 9,100 deaths. Nationally, the number of new cases has been trending downward since early May; however, there has been an uptick in new cases in recent weeks, especially in western Canada. In the past two weeks, British Columbia, Alberta and Manitoba have all set or come close to new daily records for the highest number of new cases in each province. This weekend, both Ontario and Quebec recorded their largest daily figures in more than a month.
- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Monday that the federal government has signed agreements with two more American companies to reserve millions of doses of their experimental COVID-19 vaccines for Canadians. The two agreements include 76 million doses of the Novavax vaccine candidate and 38 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine candidate. This brings Canada’s total number of agreements with vaccine developers to four, including deals with Pfizer Canada and Moderna, which were announced in early August.
- The European Commission has concluded exploratory talks with Moderna to purchase its COVID-19 vaccine. The contract would initially cover 80 million doses with the option to purchase an additional 80 million if the vaccine is proven to be safe and effective.
- As children prepare to return to school in France and facemasks becomes compulsory in the workplace, President Macron and Prime Minister Castex have both been reinforcing their pledge to do everything in their power to avoid another national lockdown.
- Spain appears to be heading into the second wave of the pandemic with positive diagnoses hitting 53,000 over the past week alone. With 114 new infections per 100,000 people in that time, the virus is spreading faster in Spain than in the United States, more than twice as fast as in France, about eight times the rate in Italy and Britain, and ten times the pace in Germany.
- The retail sector across the Asia Pacific is showing signs of recovery as economies across the region reopen. However, online shopping will continue to grow in popularity as consumers seek low-touch retail experiences.
- According to the Indonesian Retailers Association, 90 percent of its members have adopted an integrated offline and online shopping experience. Retail sales in Indonesia fell 17.1 percent year-over-year (YoY) in June, marking a slight improvement from the 20.6 percent contraction in May. The country’s retailers are optimistic that the annual Indonesian Discount Shopping Days (HBDI) will boost household spending.
- Malaysia’s retail sector saw a 9.2 percent contraction in June, a sign of a recovery following a 32.4 percent contraction recorded in April at the height of the country’s Movement Control Order. Online retail growth continued to climb by 35.5 percent in June, bolstered by the government’s “Shop Malaysia Online” e-commerce campaign, a part of the National Economic Recovery Plan.
- Mexico’s economy could contract by roughly 13 percent this year, officials from the central bank warned after GDP data showed the pandemic lockdown threw the country into its deepest slump since the Great Depression.
- The United States Trade Representative’s office is taking additional steps to curb steel imports from Mexico amid difficult domestic market conditions caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Mexican authorities have asked for export permits to prevent the U.S. from imposing tariffs.
- Mexico is pressing ahead with an effort to forge COVID-19 vaccine alliances across a wide ideological spectrum of countries from France to Cuba. Martha Delgado, a Mexican deputy foreign minister in charge of Mexico’s international response, said the country’s share of a World Health Organization (WHO) vaccine initiative will unlikely be enough to provide the roughly 200 million vaccine doses Mexico will need.
- Just over six months after registering its first case of the new coronavirus, Brazil reached the threshold of 120,000 people killed by COVID-19 on this past weekend, with no end in sight to the crisis. The country of 212 million people has now registered 120,262 deaths from the virus and 3,846,153 infections. Brazil is just the second country to surpass a death toll of 120,000 in the pandemic, after the United States.
- A vaccine against COVID-19 in Brazil could begin in 40 days. Until December, the Butantan Institute foresees delivery of 45 million doses of the vaccine, developed by Chinese laboratory SinoVac, to the public health system. The National Health Surveillance Agency and the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation are taking the first steps to register the vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and the AstraZeneca laboratory. The government of the state of São Paulo will build a vaccine factory estimated at BRL 160 million. The goal is to produce 100 million coronavirus vaccines.
- The jobless rate in Brazil is now at 13.3 percent, per the latest numbers from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics. This represents the worst rate of unemployment the country has seen in three years, and unfortunately, things continue to trend in the wrong direction.
INSIGHTS & INTEL
The race for a COVID-19 vaccine is on, including nine in phase III advanced testing worldwide. However, questions remain, including the process for ensuring the safety and efficacy of a vaccine, and what happens when the first country gets a vaccine? The United States’ “Operation Warp Speed” to identify a vaccine includes the funding of five vaccines, and some are questioning whether the FDA would approve a foreign vaccine for use in the U.S. At the same time, others are worried about Operation Warp Speed resulting in corners cut to develop and approve a vaccine, leading prominent public health experts and physicians to urge a round of independent review in the approval process.
At the same time, Americans are worried about the vaccine’s development process, with many concerned about safety and politicization. In a survey from STAT and the Harris Poll, 78 percent of Americans worry the vaccine approval process is being driven more by politics than science, and 83 percent would be worried about a vaccine’s safety if it were approved too quickly. A Gallup survey found that 35 percent of Americans would not agree to get a free, FDA-approved vaccine if available today.
Below are summaries of interesting business responses to COVID-19 in recent days:
- Ford’s Project Apollo, in cooperation with Ford Motor Company Fund, launched a community donation program that will initially deliver 10 million masks to at-risk communities across the U.S. with limited access to personal protective equipment. Project Apollo – Ford’s codename for its efforts to produce personal protective equipment, including respirators, face shields, medical gowns, plus ventilators for COVID-19 patients – has improved its ability to build medical-grade masks and is now manufacturing more than the company needs to keep its employees safe. Ford Motor Company Fund, the company’s philanthropic arm, is engaging its substantial network of nonprofit partners, state and local officials, schools and community groups to mobilize and distribute 10 million masks to help fill the essential needs of hospitals, businesses and communities across the United States.
- Skechers is partnering with the United Way of Greater Los Angeles and more charities across the country to donate one million masks to essential workers and communities in need. The masks, which are non-medical, triple-layer surgical style, will be donated to non-profit organizations that typically do not receive PPE from government institutions, with a focus on economic hardship. This includes community and public education centers, health and rehab outreach facilities, plus homeless shelters and food banks in the greater Los Angeles area as well as planned distributions in Chicago, New York City, Detroit and several cities in Florida and New Jersey.
- Programmatic is on the rise since the advertising doldrums of the early coronavirus pandemic. The number of advertisers running programmatic ads through the end of July was up 36% since January, and total programmatic spend between April and July was up 11% year-over-year, according to data from Adweek.
- According to a report released by Nielsen, Latinos are 57 percent more likely to use social media platforms as a primary source of information about the coronavirus compared with non-Hispanics. Latinos are using social media, mobile apps and other digital platforms at higher rates than the general U.S. population amid social distancing guidelines during the coronavirus pandemic.
- Davos Rescheduled: The World Economic Forum announced that the 2021 Annual Meeting has been postponed to early next summer. The event was originally slated to serve a mix of in-person and virtual attendees and was positioned as the first in-person gathering of global leaders since the pandemic began. Instead, during the week of January 25, the Forum will digitally convene high-level “Davos Dialogues” where key global leaders will share their views on the state of the world in 2021.
- Business Insider Global Trends Festival: The newly announced Festival will be held online from October 19-23 with a focus on the impact of COVID-19 on business around the globe. It will take place on multiple geographical “stages” and time zones, featuring more than 60 hours of presentations, discussions and workshops with renowned leaders from science and business.
- UCLA: Just two weeks after the Pac-12 cancelled fall sports, UCLA is suing Under Armour for reportedly using the global pandemic as an opportunity to get out of one of the largest sports sponsorship deals in collegiate history. The 15-year deal was set to run from 2017 to 2031 for $280 million.
- Big Ten: Following the postponement of the Big Ten football season, players from the University of Nebraska filed a suit against the conference asking them to admit that their reasons for postponement are flawed as well as asking for the opportunity to play football this fall.
For more information about how we are helping clients solve in this uncertain time, please contact:
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