North America Update: September 9
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- September 30 is the end of the U.S. fiscal year – a time when Democrats and Republicans need to work together to keep the federal government funded and open, which is especially critical this year. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have tentatively agreed on a short-term spending bill to avoid a government shutdown at the end of the month. However, there is no consensus yet on how long the stop-gap would extend government funding past September 30.
- The budget agreement comes as the White House and top Democratic leaders have been unable to reach a compromise on a new COVID-19 relief package. The administration and Congress remain hundreds of billions of dollars apart on additional economic stimulus efforts. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Senate Republicans are trying to gather support this week for a narrow coronavirus relief package including $500 billion in spending for healthcare, education and economic support that can secure 51 Republican votes. Democrats oppose the plan so any bill is unlikely to get the 60 votes needed to advance.
- The United States is headed into the fall season with a troubling level of COVID-19 cases, according to White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci. The U.S. is still seeing about 40,000 new cases a day. Dr. Fauci wants to see that level come down to 10,000 a day by the end of the month. U.S. health officials fear the pandemic will worsen as temperatures cool and people spend more time together indoors. They had hoped the coronavirus would abate during the summer months with warmer temperatures and more people active outdoors, but that did not happen.
- With winter weather and the holiday season approaching, Canada’s chief public health officer is warning of increased COVID-19 risks. Dr. Theresa Tam has also advised that Canada’s slow and steady increase in daily cases is a cause for concern. Tam says the average daily number of positive tests over the past week is 545, which is a 25 percent increase over the previous week’s daily average of 435, and a 40 percent increase over two weeks prior with a daily average of 390. While no new restrictions have been introduced, health officials across Canada are reminding Canadians to maintain public health measures, especially at indoor events.
- Last week Transport Canada issued its first fines of $1,000 to two air travelers who refused to wear masks aboard WestJet flights over the summer. The Canadian government issued an interim order in April requiring air passengers to wear a face-covering during flights and in airport terminals. The airline now has a zero-tolerance policy for passengers who refuse to wear a mask by denying them boarding and barring them from flights for 12 months.
- The World Health Organization has stated that widespread vaccinations against COVID-19 are not expected until the middle of 2021. This follows a statement last week by an EU official that the European Commission hoped for the first COVID-19 vaccine to have market authorization in November.
- Researchers around the world are racing to develop a vaccine against COVID-19, with more than 170 candidate vaccines now tracked by the World Health Organization.
- Amid a steep rise in coronavirus cases, England has made gatherings of more than six people illegal anywhere socially indoors or outdoors.
- 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.
- Export of auto parts from Mexico to the U.S. registered a growth of 1.2 percent in July, the first increase since the closure of a vast majority of plants due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to official data. However, foreign sales of cars from Mexico to the United States fell 9.2 percent in the same month.
- The Mexican government shared that the country has seen a decrease in COVID-19 cases and fatalities for six consecutive weeks. The beaches in the southeast of the country have reopened to draw tourism. However, officials have flagged a possible surge during the winter season.
- Mexico raised a non-binding limit for gross debt to 70 percent of gross domestic product, almost 20 percentage points above last year’s level, for the remaining four years of the term of its fiscally conservative president.
- Brazil has officially declared an economic recession. The economy is at the same level as the end of 2009, which marked the height of the impact of the global financial crisis. According to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics, GDP fell 9.7 percent in the second quarter compared to the first quarter. Household consumption, which represents 65 percent of GDP, fell by 12.5 percent. The drop was mitigated due to the government’s emergency aid. President Jair Bolsonaro announced that the government will extend its aid until the end of the year, but will cut the aid in half and will now distribute BRL 300 to Brazilian citizens.
- Brazil-based companies in the health, technology, retail and telecommunications sectors have resumed mergers and acquisitions that were postponed by the pandemic, which is expected to grow by 66 percent in the second half. These transactions are expected to reach BRL 31.3 billion in the second half of this year, according to an estimate made by consultancy Alvarez & Marsal.
- According to Imperial College London, the average transmission rate for the coronavirus in Brazil fell from 1 to 0.94 percent, the lowest rate since April. The distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by the University of Oxford is scheduled for January 2021 if the vaccine is proven to be effective in the third and final phase of clinical trials. The National Health Surveillance Agency has approved a new clinical study related to COVID-19 by the French company Abivax. In addition to Brazil, the study will be carried out in France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Italy. Approval by the authorities of Mexico, Chile and Peru is also in progress.
INSIGHTS & INTEL
- As U.S. and European drug companies race ahead with COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials, nine companies on Tuesday issued a joint pledge that they would “stand with science” and not put forward a vaccine until it had been thoroughly tested for safety and efficacy. The companies did not rule out seeking an emergency authorization of their vaccines but pledged that any coronavirus vaccine would be based on “large, high-quality clinical trials.” The companies also said they would follow guidance from regulatory agencies such as the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.
- Signing the pledge were: Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, BioNTech (developing the vaccine in partnership with Pfizer), GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Novavax, and Sanofi. The timing of a vaccine remains uncertain. Dr. Moncef Slaoui, chief advisor for Operation Warp Speed, the White House’s vaccine program, said a vaccine is unlikely to be introduced into the U.S. population before November.
- The U.S. Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) has asked governors and health departments to prepare to distribute a vaccine as soon as November 1. Dr. Stephen Hahn, Food & Drug Administration commissioner, has said the agency is prepared to bypass the full federal approval process in order to make a vaccine available as soon as possible.
- According to Forbes, a spike in coronavirus depression suggests that social media is no substitute for real life. As more people isolate at home, more digital platforms witness a surge in users and customers as many are attempting to soften feelings of loneliness, isolation and anxiety by migrating to the internet. However, this migration isn’t doing a very good job of maintaining collective mental health.
- ABC News announced three new digital video brands designed for mobile viewing leading up to the election.
- New Virtual Programming: New virtual events from FORTUNE, Bloomberg, New York Times and Techonomy will address a variety of topics, including how leaders can address climate, health and equity, the back to school dilemma, how the current climate is impacting fashion, and caring for polychronic patients.
- Shared Value Initiative: In response to COVID-19, the Shared Value Initiative transformed its annual Leadership Summit into a virtual speaker series called “Resilience Reimagined” that will feature 60-minute sessions spread over the course of Summer/Fall 2020.
- PAC-12: The Pac-12 conference entered a partnership with medical diagnostic company Quidel Corporation to supply rapid daily COVID-19 tests to Pac-12 athletes by the end of September. It will also conduct a study using data gathered from testing.
- Kentucky Derby: This weekend’s Kentucky Derby was the most-watched sports event in the U.S. since the Super Bowl in February. The Derby achieved a total audience delivery of 8.4 million views across NBC and NBC Sports Digital, the biggest audience for a sporting event on Labor Day weekend since 2017.
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