Tag Archives: COVID-19

Is Remote Working Here to Stay?

Much has been written about the shift to remote work since coronavirus emerged.  A year into the Covid-19 era little progress has been made on creating the conditions to emerge from pandemic mode: Vaccination programs have gone slow in many Western countries, and new variants of the virus have emerged in the United Kingdom, South African and Brazil, calling into question the efficacy of the vaccines that are currently on the market.

Traditional wisdom would posit that those factors will have an outsized impact on bringing workers back to the office. But while Covid-19 may have sparked the shift to remote work, there is no indication the trend will reverse itself on the day after the pandemic.

Not many people would choose this…
over this

According to Forbes, the number of workers permanently working from home is expected to double in 2021, with up to 70 percent of the workforce predicted to maintain arrangements to work from home at least five days a month – regardless of developments surrounding Covid-19.

“The rise of remote will lead to people re-prioritizing what is important to them,” said Chris Herd, founder and CEO of Firstbase, a tool to help companies transition to remote working.

Herd told Inc.,  “Organizing your work around your life will be the first noticeable switch. People realizing they are more than their job will lead to deeper purpose in other areas.”

Herd says remote work is beneficial for both employers, who can focus on outcomes and eliminating “senseless tasks,” and for employees, who have the ability to work when they want, spend time with their families and concentrate on their health and exercise.

Early signs appear to validate Herd’s analysis. Commercial real estate values have plummeted in urban centers around the world, with rental prices down 30 percent in New York, large swaths of empty office space in downtown  Sydney and Melbourne, Australia, and London-based HSBC announcing it would slash office space around the world up to 40 percent.

China Joins International Effort to Bring COVID Vaccine to World’s Neediest

China is the latest country to add its signature to a global effort to make sure that when a coronavirus vaccine is finally developed and ready for distribution, it will be given to the neediest people around the world.

Know as the COVAX initiative, it is sponsored by the World Health Organization and has signed up 157 countries. The WHO hopes the program will ensure that 2 billion doses of this life-saving vaccine will be made available to those most in need, no matter where they live, by the end of 2021.

“We have solemnly pledged to make vaccines developed and deployed by China a global public good, which will be provided to developing countries as a priority,” Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for China’s foreign ministry, wrote on Twitter.

This is an about-face for China, which originally bowed out from joining COVAX. China is currently developing four vaccines that are in clinical trials. One of them, according to Wu Guizhen, chief biosafety expert at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, should be ready to be used on the general population sometime in November. President of China, Xi Jinping promised back in May that he would make any Chinese vaccine available for “the global good.” At that time Xi also pledged $2 billion to WHO, making China the organization’s largest donor.

In early September, the United States announced its decision to stay away from the COVAX initiative, stating that:

“We will not be constrained by multilateral organizations influenced by the corrupt World Health Organization and China,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said at the time.

Surprise Uptick in Employment Boosts Stock Market

Image by FrankundFrei from Pixabay

Beginning in September 2010 until March 2020 the United States added more than 22 million jobs to the economy. Then came the historic COVID-19 pandemic that wiped almost that entire 10-year gain in a mere 6 weeks. In only a little more than one month the unemployment rate skyrocketed from about 3.5% in February to a high of 14.7% in April. The trend for May has reversed that free-fall, with unemployment dropping to 13.3%, less than many were expecting.
The re-opening of the economy, including a return to work of employees to the leisure and hospitality, construction, education, health services, and retail sectors, has lifted the total number of employed during the month of May.

The good news about employment caused a rise in the stock market, with the NASDAQ almost reaching a record high. The S&P went up more than 2% and is now only 1% shy of where it was at the beginning of 2020, and less than 6 percentage points short of where it was in February, before corona burst onto the planet, to devastating effect.

The NASDAQ, which weighs towards hi-tech companies such as Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft, is protected to a certain degree from economic downturns down-turns. The sheer size of these companies is protective, but in addition, lockdowns necessitated by the coronavirus did not affect tech companies as much since workers can more easily pivot to working from home than traditional companies that require a human workforce to interface with consumers. Even more, the dependence consumers had on e-commerce during the lockdown boosted the strength of these types of companies.

During May employers added 2.5 million jobs to the job market, despite the prediction by economists that the government was going to report the loss of 8 million jobs during the month.

Senate to Open on Schedule May Fourth

Mitch McConnel. Courtesy of Gage Skidmore

Mitch McConnel, the Republican Senate majority leader, announced that Senators will be returning to Washington to get back to the business of governing. McConnel is determined to move forward with the opening despite the continued health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic that has so far killed almost 60,000 Americans in the two months of March and April this year.

McConnell released a written statement addressing those fears about the opening:

“We will modify routines in ways that are smart and safe, but we will honor our constitutional duty to the American people and conduct critical business in person.”

He added that the importance of this moment requires that Senators pull their weight when others in the country are doing so.

“If it is essential for doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, truck drivers, grocery-store workers, and many other brave Americans to keep carefully manning their own duty stations, then it is essential for Senators to carefully man ours and support them,” McConnell said.

One of the urgent issued McConnel plans on addressing when the lawmakers once again meet is whether to shield businesses from lawsuits that could arise from businesses opening and people contracting corona as a result.

“We cannot let that happen,” McConnell said, referring to lawsuits against businesses. “Our nation is facing the worst pandemic in over a century and potentially the worst economic shock since the Great Depression. Our response must not be slowed, weakened, or exploited to set up the biggest trial lawyer bonanza in history.”

President Trump agreed with McConnel on this issue, that businesses should be protected from lawsuits.

“We just don’t want that because we want the companies to open and to open strong,” Mr. Trump said earlier this month.

No details were offered on how the legislatures will protect themselves from infection when they meet, except to say that changes will be made to keep people, including staff, police, security, reporters, and the Senators safe.

World’s Largest Medical Mask Maker Ramping Up Production

A NIOSH N95 particulate respirator by 3M that can filters at least 95% of airborne particles. Photo courtesy of Banej

President Donald Trump called into play what is known as the Defense Production Act in order to confront the ever-worsening coronavirus pandemic with increased production of desperately needed personal protective equipment (PPEs). This act requires private industry to re-purpose their factories and to greatly step-up production for the singular effort of producing the needed supplies to properly face the deadly pandemic that is wreaking havoc on the country, especially in New York City.

One such manufacturer is 3M, the world’s largest producer of respirator masks. One day after President Trump invoked the DPA 3M said it is ready and willing to comply with the order to supply more N95 masks for the US. They added, however, that they will not stop exporting masks to other countries that also desperately need them.
3M released the following statement:

“3M and its employees have gone above and beyond to manufacture as many N95 respirators as possible for the US market.”

The DPA also requires that companies supply the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) with the equipment ordered by the agency. 3M said it is working closely with FEMA to supply the requested masks while at the same time enlarging the number of masks it is importing into the US from its offshore factories, including from China.

The company said that it must continue to supply masks to Canada and Latin America, despite the administration’s additional request to halt the sale of US-made respirators to countries other than the USA.

A statement from 3M explained that:

“There are significant humanitarian implications of ceasing respirator supplies to healthcare workers in Canada and Latin America, where we are a critical supplier of respirators,” the statement said. Ceasing delivery of masks to these countries would “likely cause other countries to retaliate and do the same.”

The company warned that retaliation on the part of other countries would most certainly lead to the total number of respirators available for use in the US to decrease.

“That is the opposite of what we and the administration, on behalf of the American people, both seek,” 3M said.