Posts tagged with "COVID-19 pandemic"

Target will extend ‘hazard pay’ to frontline workers through July 4

May 19, 2020

Target, the eighth-largest U.S. retailer, has announced plans to extend its temporary $2-an-hour pay hike for frontline workers through July 4 as the company continues to deal with higher demand amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Bloomberg reports.

The company also is extending policies that give employees who are 65 or older, pregnant. or with medical conditions paid leave for up to 30 days. In addition, workers will get access to backup care for children or family members.

Bloomberg notes that the way in which the store is stepping up for its employees “contrasts with recent moves by retailers such as Amazon and Kroger, which are winding down higher hourly pay initiatives as the coronavirus lockdown persists.”

This will be the second extension of higher pay for Target, which initially announced wage increases in March. The Minneapolis-based retailer has seen a big boost from selling essential goods during the coronavirus pandemic, but investors are bracing for lower margins due to the higher costs and the possibility it will write off slow-selling merchandise like clothing, according to the business news outlet.

Companies allowed to operate through the pandemic, such as supermarkets, warehouses, and transportation firms, have benefited from a boost in demand and a labor market swollen with newly unemployed workers. However, their treatment of workers has drawn regulatory scrutiny; as well as protests from employees worried about catching COVID-19 at work and bringing it home to their families.

Research contact: @business

Kushner says he ‘cannot commit’ to holding 2020 election on November 3

May 14, 2020

Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and a senior White House adviser, refused on Tuesday, May 12, to rule out postponing the presidential election in November—a comment that fed directly into Democratic fears that Donald Trump might use the COVID-19 crisis to delay or de-legitimize the contest The New York Times reports.

“I’m not sure I can commit one way or the other, but right now that’s the plan,” Kushner told Time magazine in response to a question about whether the election could be postponed because of the pandemic.

The opinion of a White House staff member has no bearing on when the election is held. Even the president himself does not have the authority to unilaterally postpone Election Day, which by law takes place the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, the Times notes.

But Kushner’s comment raised alarms both because of the expansive power Trump has conferred on members of his family who serve in his administration and because it played into the worst anxieties of Trump’s detractors—that the president would begin to question the validity of the election if he feared he was going to lose.

It also plays into the fears of Bill Maher, the host of HBO’s popular live show, Real Time with Bill Maher, who has repeatedly suggested that Trump will not leave the White House if he loses the election.

And already, the president is suggesting that the election will be “rigged.”

The presumptive Democratic nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden gave voice to those concerns at a virtual fund-raiser last month. “Mark my words, I think he is going to try to kick back the election somehow— come up with some rationale why it can’t be held,” he said.

Doubts about a smooth voting process in November have increased as states have canceled or postponed presidential primary elections to avoid the spread of the virus.

What’s more, the news outlet pointed out, Kushner’s remarks undercut the president’s own publicly stated position on the issue.

“The general election will happen on November 3,” the president said last month at a news conference when asked about Biden’s comment. But he also appeared to raise the specter of election fraud, noting that “I think a lot of people cheat with mail-in voting.” He added, “It should be, you go to a booth and you proudly display yourself.”

Despite his victory in 2016, the Times reports, “Trump has consistently and without any evidence claimed that there was widespread voter fraud in the last presidential election.” He even briefly formed a commission to examine it, but the group never found evidence and disbanded.

On Tuesday night, Kushner sought to clarify his earlier interview. “I have not been involved in, nor am I aware of, any discussions about trying to change the date of the presidential election,” he said. A White House official said Kushner was fully aware that the date was set by federal law.

But his original remark on the election quickly drew fierce criticism from Trump critics. “Kushner’s statement reveals amazing ignorance of the Constitution and law,” William Kristol, a conservative columnist and prominent “Never Trump” Republican, wrote on Twitter on Tuesday. “It reveals startling arrogance in taking for granted he gets to have some say about when the election is held. It also reveals an utter lack of understanding of his very subordinate role in our democracy.”

Research contact: @nytimes

Stretching a point: Photo of Mitch McConnell social distancing goes viral

April 14, 2020

Reporters stayed within shouting distance of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—but remained the recommended six feet away or more from him and each other—as he left the Senate chamber on April 9, during the coronavirus pandemic.

The result was a photo seen around the world, and tweeted about endlessly, The Huffington Post reports.

A tweet from Doris Morgan Rueda said, “Spector of Mitch McConnell finally caught on camera, ghost hunting task force

Walter Shaub (perhaps the former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, although we have not confirmed it) commented, “… at 1:40 PM at the main branch of the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue, ten people witnessed a free floating, full torso, vaporous apparition. It blew books off shelves from twenty feet away and scared the socks off some poor librarian!”

Rachel Dzanashville said, “I’d like to commission this as a baroque painting.”

Ian Millhister contributed, “DEAR GOD! Who is that idiot in the mask who broke the circle? Now The Mitch will escape and exact tenfold revenge on his captors

And, among many others, Melissa Murray captioned the photo, “Spector of Mitch McConnell finally caught on camera, ghost hunting task force reports.”

Research contact: @HuffPost

Emptier roads, fuller pockets: Auto insurance customers get payback from Allstate, AFI

April 8, 2020

Never before have so many vehicles in the United States been “off-road.” In recognition of customers who are not only self-isolating, but also sheltering their cars in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, auto insurers Allstate and American Family Insurance are returning some money to drivers nationwide, The Boston Globe reports.

On April 6, Allstate announced on its site, “As we all work together to slow the spread of COVID-19, more of us are at home and driving less, which means having fewer accidents. Given this decline in driving, we are announcing the Allstate Shelter-in-Place Payback of more than $600 million in April and May for our auto insurance customers.

Allstate CEO Tom Wilson said in his company’s statement. “This is fair because less driving means fewer accidents.”

American Family Insurance said it plans to return about $200 million to its auto insurance customers through a one-time payment of $50 per covered vehicle, the Globe says.

States across the country have issued stay-at-home mandates to help slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus. That’s led to a decline of about 35%t to 50% in driving in most states, Wilson said.

“We started with one week of data and we sat down and said, ‘OK, what do we do about this?’ It’s one week of data. We don’t normally price on one week of data,” Wilson said on a media conference call Monday. “In about a week and half, we pulled this off. There was not one debate in our company about whether we should do this or not.”

Allstate said its first-quarter underwriting income will be cut by about $210 million before taxes because of the payback to holders of 18 million policies, with the remainder of the payback to be recognized in the second quarter. The company is also offering free identity protection for the rest of the year and payment relief for struggling customers, the Globe reported..

Research contact: @BostonGlobe

American Giant leads coalition of apparel brands to produce 1 million medical-grade masks a week

April 6, 2020

U.S. healthcare workers soon “will be wearing” happier and less-stressed expressions, thanks to the American fashion and apparel industries, Fast Company reports. The San Francisco-based startup, American Giant, which is known for its durable, domestically-produced clothing, is saying, “Hold on sweatshirts; hello medical masks,” on its website.

Indeed, American Giant has retooled its entire North Carolina factory and retrained all of its sewers to make medical-grade masks, in order to help the U.S. healthcare community fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

The “durable, not disposable” clothing company is part of a coalition of 11 U.S. apparel brands—among them, Hanes, Fruit of the Loom, and Los Angeles Apparel—that will start manufacturing personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers on the front lines of the fight against the coronavirus, Fast Company says.

While much of apparel manufacturing has been shipped out of the United States over the last four decades, a small number of companies have chosen to invest in making products locally. These brands are now able to more quickly shift their production and deliver much-needed gear to hospitals in the United States.

Equipping hospital workers with the necessary tools has become a top priority as COVID-19 cases spread across the country. The coalition companies are joining forces to make one million masks a week that have been certified by the Department of Health and Human Services.

To do this, some of these companies have had to stop the production of their own goods. American Giant, for instance, is no longer making its regular line of clothing, which means that when its current inventory runs out, it will not be able to restock. But, much to its credit, it would rather restock hospital inventories than its own store shelves.

Research contact: @americangiant

One ‘bad egg’: Woman deliberately coughs on $35,000 worth of food at market

March 20, 2020

One woman has proven herself to be “at the very bottom of the U.S. food chain” during the COVID-19 pandemic. Her so-called prank at a Gerrity’s Supermarket in Hanover Township, Pennsylvania, has cost the grocery store $35,000 in discarded stock, The New York Daily News reports.

On Wednesday, March 25,  the shopper deliberately coughed all over the store’s produce and on parts of the bakery and meat cases—forcing management to throw all of the contaminated merchandise away so that other customers would not be exposed to possibly contaminated food.

“Today was a very challenging day,” Gerrity’s Supermarket co-owner Joe Fasula wrote on Facebook.

According to Fasula, the woman responsible was known by police to be “a chronic problem in the community.” Although they do not believe that she actually was infected with the novel coronavirus, out of an abundance of caution they worked with the local health inspector to get rid of everything she coughed on.

After getting her out of the store and contacting authorities, more than 15 employees worked to clean and disinfect the areas she had  visited.

One thing is for sure, we will have the cleanest display and freshest produce anywhere in northeast[ern] PA,” Fasula wrote.

Research contact: @NYDailyNews

Trump to invoke Defense Production Act for first time during pandemic

March 25, 2020

On March 24, the Trump Administration was set to use the Defense Production Act for the first time since the coronavirus hit the United States in late January.

With millions respirators, ventilators, hospital beds, and masks all urgently needed by the healthcare sector, the president will use the act—which gives him authority to expedite and expand the supply of resources by ordering the U.S. industrial base to manufacture needed goods—only to procure about 60,000 coronavirus test kits, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Administrator Peter Gaynor of the Federal Emergency Management Agency said Tuesday on CNN that the administration had decided to use the Defense Production Act because “there are some test kits we need to get our hands on.”

Gaynor said the federal government was also inserting “DPA language” into its mass contract for 500 million masks.

The president last week issued an executive order invoking the law, but for days resisted calls to use it, saying he is concerned about nationalizing American businesses, the Journal said. Governors have called on him to invoke both the production and the distribution elements of the law, saying states are having to compete against each other for supplies.

“We’re a country not based on nationalizing our business,” President Trump said at a press briefing on Sunday. “The concept of nationalizing our businesses is not a good concept.” He said sufficient numbers of companies were volunteering to manufacture masks and other protective gear, so invoking the Defense Production Act wasn’t yet necessary, though he said “we may have to use it someplace along the chain.”

“We’re going to use it, we’re going to use it when we need it, and we’re going to use it today,” Gaynor said on CNN.

Administration officials have been having tense internal discussions about whether to use the law for weeks, according to people familiar with the matter.

Research contact @WSJ