Thursday, June 25, 2020 / by Ken Couture
The outbreak of the coronavirus has dealt a shock to the global economy with unprecedented speed. Following are developments Thursday related to the national and global response, the work place and the spread of the virus.
OUT & ABOUT: Restaurants, professional sports and movie theaters are trying to get back on their feet, but attempts to do so have been halting at best.
— MGM Resorts International is tightening its restrictions for customers and will now require masks for all guests and visitors inside casinos and other public spaces at all of its properties. The company had been requiring only its employees to use masks. Customers were asked only to abide by local regulations.
— Disneyland has pushed back the reopening of its parks in California because state approval will not arrive in time. It had planned to open the gates on July 17. The company said the state will not issue guidelines until after July 4, not enough time to open within two weeks. Disney still plans to reopen the restaurants and shops at Downtown Disney District on July 9 because the state has issued guidelines for those types of businesses.
Disney still plans to open its theme parks in Florida next month. California and Florida are among a handful of states that have experienced a surge in infections.
— Darden Restaurants — the owner of Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse and other chains — reports sales dropped 43% to $1.27 billion in its fiscal fourth quarter. The company says 91% of its dining rooms are now open, at least on a limited basis, and sales are improving. In the current quarter, it expects sales to be 70% of year-ago levels.
HOME SWEET HOME?: The real estate market has been upended because of social distancing and uncertainty about job security. Yet there are some signs of stabilization driven by record low mortgage rates.
— The number of days that homes were on market sank to the lowest levels since the COVID-19 outbreak this week, according to the latest data from realtor.com. Homes sold three days faster than last week on average as shelter-in-place orders are lifted. However, new listings are down 19% and total inventory is down 29%, potentially meaning more bidding wars for those who are entering the market.
WORKPLACE: Companies with national and, or global operations are trying to revive businesses even as infections surge at home and abroad.
— Ford CEO Jim Hackett said the company’s safety procedures have kept most workers safe as factories have reopened, but he doesn't know how to make sure employees stay safe outside of work in states where infections are surging.
Testing requirements have made Ford’s factories safer than the world outside, Hackett said, “It’s what people are doing when they are not at work, and they take their masks off and they’re acting more freely.”
Hackett said he has struggled with what role Ford should take in talking to workers about their off-hours. The United Auto Workers union, which represents about 55,000 Ford factory workers and about 150,000 auto plant workers nationwide, wants companies to test workers for the virus every day once the technology is available.
— Target is adding hundreds of fresh and frozen grocery items to its store pickup and drive up services. The services will be available in more than 400 stores by the end of the month and will reach more than 1,500 of its 1,800 stores in time for the winter holiday.
TRAVEL PLANS: AAA says summer travel will drop this year for the first time since 2009. The auto club predicts Americans will take 700 million trips from July through September, a 15% decline from last summer. AAA says car trips will drop 3%, while airline travel will plunge 74% and cruise and rail excursions will fall 86%.
__ Airlines say if federal screeners start checking travelers’ temperatures they will refund tickets for people who are barred from flying because of fever. Airlines for America says temperature checks will help protect other passengers and crew members from contracting COVID-19. The trade group for big U.S. airlines wants the Transportation Security Administration to do the screening. A TSA spokeswoman said the agency has not made a decision. Critics say fever checks could be inaccurate and won’t spot people who have the virus but aren’t showing symptoms.
— Six airline labor unions asked Congress on Thursday to extend payroll subsidies for another six months to avoid what they say will be “mass layoffs” this fall. Congress approved $25 billion to help passenger airlines meet payroll costs and avoid layoffs, but that aid runs out on Sept. 30.
Unions representing pilots, flight attendants and mechanics asked House and Senate leaders to extend payroll aid through next March for passenger airlines, saying air travel will remain severely depressed well into next year, making mass layoffs inevitable unless the government steps in to help. Their plan would also extend payroll subsidies for cargo airlines and aviation contractors.
Earlier this week, pilots at American Airlines proposed that the government buy empty seats for up to nearly $4 billion a month to save airline jobs. Aid for cargo airlines and aviation contractors would cost another $7 billion, equal to the amount in the original bailout measure.
MARKETS: Stock indexes rose on Wall Street Thursday as as traders welcomed news that the Federal Reserve and other regulators are removing some limits on the ability of banks to make investments.
BOXING MATCH: Professional sports are attempting a comeback even without crowds that have been prohibited because of social distancing rules. Corrugated packaging company DS Smith is offering to fill those seats — with fans fashioned from recyclable cardboard. After providing such service in stadiums in the U.K., the company wants to speak with Major League Baseball, which plans to start its season in late July, the NBA, and Major League Soccer.
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