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Streaming Service

Quibi’s Rise And Immediate Fall In The Steaming Industry

Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman were the two billionaires that launched Quibi, an experimental new entertainment streaming service that was meant to offer celebrity-filled fragmented “quick bite” shows; hence the name Quibi.

Target Store

Target, Costco, And Other Major Retailers Gearing Up To Reopen To The Public

Stores and businesses that have been deemed as “essential” within the past few months are beginning to take steps to return to a life of normalcy. Customers are eager to return to some of their favorite establishments, however, some worker safety/labor groups are nervous that these companies are prematurely pulling back on health and safety measures while we’re still very much battling this deadly pandemic. 

More states and cities have begun loosening their stay-at-home orders, so it makes sense that businesses like Target, Walmart, Costco and Kroger are following suit. Last week New York City, which was previously an epicenter for the virus to spread, allowed retail stores to set up curbside pickup for their customers. California permitted all schools, gyms, movie theaters, and bars to reopen with modifications, and some states have opened nail salons, massage parlors, and bowling alleys. However, it’s these states that have decided to reopen that are now seeing massive spikes in case numbers. 

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More than 117,000 American citizens have died due to the Covid-19 virus; for comparison that’s more American lives lost than in World War 1. The economy has been heavily impacted with over 40 million individuals filing for unemployment within the past three months, and recently the stock market began to drop again due to fears of a second wave. 

“The safety measures retailers are rolling back are good practices for preventing both Covid-19 and future pandemics. We should keep simple prevention measures such as these in place as long as possible as we move towards reopening the economy to ensure a new wave of infections does not force us to again shelter in place,”  said Brandon Brown, an epidemiologist at the University of California, Riverside.

Currently there are no federal requirements for how or when these “essential” stores are able to reopen, it’s more so up to the state or local governments. Costco, specifically, is beginning to bring back their free samples in a number of stores nationwide. The CFO of Costco, Richard Galanti, claims that all the samples are pre-packaged and the company will likely put up a plexiglass barrier between the server, samples, and customer. 

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A spokesperson for Target recently announced that they would be reopening the Starbucks located within the store in some locations but they’re taking “a careful market-by-market approach, and in some cases store-by-store, to ensure [they] prioritize the health and safety of our team and guests.”

“There’s a collective and growing recognition that [retailers] are likely falling well below pre-pandemic profitability levels as a percentage of sales. They need more in-store sales across categories — not just grocery and not just online or click-and-collect. They want feet through the door,” said Doug Stephens, founder of consulting firm Retail Prophet.

Obviously there’s a strong desire to get everyone back to work and to return to a life of normalcy, however, prematurely loosening these restrictions could potentially further influence how bad of a second wave America will face in the fall. Labor groups are taking to social media to express their disapproval of the decision for these establishments to reopen. While most are emphasizing their new health and safety procedures, it still doesn’t seem like enough for some. 

Regardless, it’s important that everyone continues to listen to their healthcare providers and protect themselves as much as possible when out in public.

Polio Vaccine

Polio Vaccine Could Provide Temporary Relief For Covid-19 Patients

A vaccine to cure the Covid-19 virus has been health officials number one priority since this pandemic initially began a few months ago. Now, some experts are looking at polio vaccines as a baseline for providing temporary protection against the coronavirus. 

There’s already a slew of research and evidence that supports certain vaccines protect children against a wide range of infections, even beyond what the creators of the vaccine are even aware of; hence the desire to try it as a protection from Covid-19. According to a team of experts who recently discussed this option in Science Magazine, an oral polio vaccine is safe, cheap and already widely available. 

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Over 1 billion polio vaccines are produced every year, and they’re used in over 140 countries throughout the world. The vaccine alone has essentially eradicated polio as a disease, so there’s hope that it could help lead scientists to a Covid breakthrough. Like most vaccines, the polio one uses a weakened version of the polio virus itself to allow the body’s immune system to properly respond to/kill the infection. 

When vaccines contain a live-version of the virus within it, no matter how weakened, they typically are much stronger than annual vaccines, like the flu shot, and are much more long-lasting, which is why most of us barely remember even getting the polio vaccine. This is why scientists are hoping this particular vaccine could lead to one for the coronavirus, as a one-and-done vaccine would be the most ideal way to contain and eradicate the virus. 

“We propose the use of OPV (oral poliovirus vaccine ) to ameliorate or prevent COVID-19. Both poliovirus and coronavirus are positive-strand RNA viruses; therefore, it is likely that they may induce and be affected by common innate immunity mechanisms … Oral poliovirus vaccine in particular, could provide temporary protection against coronavirus disease,” said Konstantin Chumakov of the FDA and Dr. Robert Gallo of the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland, of the research team. 

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Dr. Gallo is famous for co-discovering the virus that causes AIDS and Chumakov has been working in the FDA’s vaccine division for years. The oral polio vaccine that these two are suggesting will also create something known as the “herd effect.” Herd “immunity” in the science community is when a majority of a given population (about 70%-90%) becomes immune from an infectious disease thanks to a vaccination. 

When new vaccines are created, it can be difficult to get the “herd effect,” or a majority of the population to get behind a vaccine that’s new to the market, however, based on the severity of the coronavirus and rate in which its been spreading, most individuals will likely want a vaccine the second it becomes available. 

Currently, the coronavirus has infected more than 2 million individuals in the United States alone. 114,000 Americans have died so far due to complications brought on by the coronavirus, and while not even experts are sure when a vaccine will become available, they’re hopeful that one of the hundreds of vaccine options out there will be ready by the beginning of 2021. 

Closed Due to Coronavirus

2.5 Million Jobs Were Created In May, But The Economy Is Still Suffering

Over 30 million Americans have lost their jobs during the first two months of the Covid-19 pandemic. The month of May, however, offered a glimmer of hope, as the unemployment rate decreased from 14.7% to 13.3%, and 2.5 million individuals regained some sort of full-time employment. 

In April alone 20 million Americans lost their jobs due to Covid-19 related reasons. Originally, economists were predicting the unemployment rate to increase to 20%, and while those experts have so far been refuted, the economic damage that’s already been done is vast. 

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As all 50 states begin easing their quarantine restrictions, more individuals have been able to return to work, or find new work more easily. Within May, 1.2 million new jobs were created, and the weekly rate of job loss went from 6.6 million in April, to 1.9 million just last week. Obviously, 1.9 million jobs lost per week is still a shocking amount of individuals losing their source of income during a global pandemic, however, during a time of such economic/political unrest, it’s better than nothing. 

“America is now witnessing a shift from temporary to permanent layoffs. The US pandemic initially hit the leisure and hospitality industry hardest, now the damage is spreading further, states are running out of cash and companies are burning through their stimulus checks. The longer this goes on, the bigger the chance of permanent consequences. Without further help from Washington local governments and businesses will have to make some very uncomfortable decisions,” says Jason Reed, a professor of finance at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business.

The unemployment numbers that we see everyday on the news don’t even give the full scope of the situation. In a broader measure of unemployment that specifically counts workers who have either given up looking for a job, or are currently part-time looking for a full-time job, the numbers show even more historical numbers. The specific measure is known as U6 and the rate of unemployment went from 7% to 21.2% throughout the entire pandemic. 

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“The sheer volume, size and rapidity of losses is something I have never seen before. It took the US 16 months to reach a peak of 10% unemployment in the last recession. I’m hopeful the job market can start recovering in the months ahead, but worry a lack of political action could lead to deeper losses,” William Rodgers, the former chief economist at the US Department of Labor, who also has been studying the jobs report for 20 years. 

The federal government has since signed off on $1.6 trillion in funding to help the economic impact of Covid-19, however, a majority of that fund has already been spent. Rodgers also emphasized that the closing of more businesses is what’s going to continue to hit the economy the hardest, especially if we receive a second wave of cases amid all the protests that have been occurring throughout the past month. 

Congress is discussing another aid package that would distribute $3 trillion to American citizens, however, the Republican senators are resisting that plan. However, with the future of this pandemic and its continuous economic impact still unknown, the people need the government on their side now more than ever.

Remember, if you’re planning on attending a protest within the coming weeks, continue to practice social distancing as much as possible, and wear a mask at all times. Wash your hands, clothes, and body the second you get home, and keep listening to your healthcare officials.

Facebook App

Facebook Employees ‘Outraged’ With Mark Zuckerberg For Keeping Trump’s Protest Posts Up

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been put under fire by his own employees this week after claiming that he wouldn’t be taking any enforcement action against a post made by the President of the United States following the murder of George Floyd.

Post Pandemic Office

Creating A Positive Work Culture For Employees Going Back To The Office

As states throughout the US begin to reopen and employees return to their office jobs, employers are faced with the task of transitioning their staff back into office life while also keeping general morale up amid a worldwide pandemic. Work environments in general are not going to look the same for a while, but companies shouldn’t be aiming to return to complete normalcy until the rest of the world does the same anyway. It’s important to be lenient with your employees and allow them to have a solid adjustment period. 

Before returning to the office, it’s imperative to create a plan of action on how to handle the coming months and what needs to get done in person, and what can maybe continue to be done remotely. This is where the adjustment period comes into play. Give your employees who have job titles that really don’t require any sort of in-person interaction the option to continue working from home for now if they feel more comfortable with that. Or, suggest having certain employees come into the office one or two days a week as opposed to all five. Things like that will not only make your employees feel more comfortable, but will also strengthen the workplace bond between you and your staff, as they know that you really do have everyone’s health and safety as the top priority; which should be everyone’s top priority. 

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Bringing your staff back to work is obviously going to be a step-by-step process, hence the importance of writing out a literal step-by-step guide for returning to the office. Some ideas for specific topics you should cover in your new guidelines should include information on clocking in and out, break room/cafeteria activity, office layout, hand washing/sanitizer stations, any hygienic precautions your office will be taking, and information regarding scheduling; as previously mentioned. 

“Instead of forcing everyone back into the office at once, [I] recommend a partial return where individual departments come in one or two at a time. Another option would be having employees or departments alternating days between working from home and being in the office. Despite what many employers previously believed, remote work has been proven it can be done. Therefore, employers shouldn’t feel rushed to bring their employees back into the office. It’s best to err on the side of caution and phase employees back in until the CDC informs businesses otherwise,” said Monica Eaton-Cardone, co-founder and COO of Chargebacks911.

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Communication is already one of the most essential elements to a healthy and happy workplace, but especially now when everything in the world is so uncertain, it’s important to be as clear and communicative with your employees as possible. Give them updates as you receive them so they feel involved, informed, and like an important member of the team. 

Also ensure trust and empathy in your employees, and make it clear that you understand these are some of the hardest times in all of our lives and that you’re all in this together. Don’t put all the pressure on yourself, as the leader, to be the main source of comfort for your employees, but instead create a sense of comradery that lets your workers know we can all help each other as we continue to navigate this pandemic. 

“This is an opportunity to embrace the blending of our already blended work-life balance and provide the worker with more control over their time-where trust is given and trust is returned. If an employee needs to work at home longer or a few days a week, employers should be understanding and willing to accommodate those needs,” said Troy McAlpin, CEO of xMatters

The main takeaway here is to be compassionate and communicative with your employees the same way you would want your employer to do so. We’re all struggling and scared of what’s going to happen next, but we’re also all strong-willed and hard-working individuals who will make it out on the other side of this much stronger individuals (feel free to use that on your employees).

US Stimulus Check

Why You May Have Not Received Your Stimulus Check Yet

More than 150 million Americans have received their coronavirus stimulus checks in the mail, however, if you’re in the same group as the other half of the country who has still yet to see their payment, there’s a few reasons as to why that can be true. The money in general is a part of a much larger financial relief package that was approved by the federal government when this pandemic began. It’s intended to help ease the damaging effects Covid-19 is having on the economy, and the IRS is still continuously sending out checks. 

First things first, you need to check your eligibility to receive a stimulus check. You can use the IRS’s website to check your eligibility, but the guidelines themselves state that an individual will be eligible for a stimulus check if they are a single US resident making an income less than $99,000, file as the head of the household and earn under $146,000, file jointly without children and earn less than $198,000, or are a parent to a child aged 16 or younger. 

The IRS could potentially have scheduled your payment for later in the year. As previously mentioned the IRS is still actively sending out stimulus checks, so there’s still a decent amount of Americans who haven’t received their payments simply because they’re still en route. In April, the IRS estimated that it could take up to 20 weeks to send every check, which could lead to some receiving their payments as late as September. 

If you’re receiving a paper check and not a direct deposit, your check will take even longer to get to you as the paper checks are processed and distributed at a much slower rate, luckily, there’s much less Americans receiving paper over digital. Once the check is mailed out, the IRS claims it will take around two weeks to be delivered. 

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Your bank could also be struggling to process your check if you’re receiving direct deposit. It can be difficult for banks to process an electronic money payment from the IRS when all of their clients are receiving the same amount of money at varying times. If your bank wasn’t able to process your check, however, the only thing that will happen is the payment will be sent back to the IRS and they’ll end up mailing a paper version to the address listed on your 2019 tax return. 

The IRS could also still be waiting to process your 2019 tax return and banking information. This is especially likely if you moved/changed banks within the past year. Along those same lines, the information that the IRS has on file for you could also be outdated in terms of your current address and bank. Remember, they’re using your information from your 2018/2019 tax returns, so make sure that information is accurate. 

If you’re past-due on child support payments the IRS claims that your payment may be delayed or completely deducted until they receive that money. However, if you’re in that position the Bureau of Fiscal Service should have already told you. 

If you’re claimed as a dependent on your parents tax return you also will not be receiving payment, and to children of divorce, depending on each parents income, the parent who claimed the child as a dependent on their 2019 tax return will receive payment. 

Again, if you’re unsure of your eligibility status or have even more questions as to why you haven’t received your payment yet, check out the IRS’s website where they lay out in much more depth the specifics of these stimulus payments.

Rental Car

Rental Car Industry Has Come To A Halt Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Rental car companies typically account for about 10% or more of annual new car sales in the United States. It’s estimated that anywhere from 1.7 million to 2 million new cars were purchased through rental companies in 2019 alone. However, like most industries in the world right now, the coronavirus pandemic has caused rental car companies to suffer greatly. 

Rental car companies get around two-thirds of their business from airport locations, but obviously not a lot of individuals are utilizing those facilities at the moment. In fact, the rate of flying via airplane in the United States has decreased by a whopping 94% since the beginning of April. As a direct result of this drop-off, way less people are needing to rent cars. 

Hertz recently made headlines when they announced that they were filing for bankruptcy last week as a result of missing multiple payments to their group of lenders due to a massive drop off in new car purchases. Hertz’ main rival, Avis Budget, has been able to keep themselves in business by immediately cutting off all plans to sell new cars when the pandemic began, and by planning to continue cutting purchases of new cars by 80% within the coming months; Avis is still struggling and losing money, but because of this quick thinking they’re remaining economically viable for now. 

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Enterprise has also found themselves in a relatively viable position as well, however, it’s important to note that even the rental companies that are doing the most “successfully” amid the pandemic still have to deal with lots upon lots of thousands of unused cars that they normally would be gearing up to sell to third-party dealers right now.

At the moment, major sports stadiums throughout the country, such as the Dodgers and Angel Stadium in California, have been called upon to store these unused cars for the time being while no one is attending any sports games. The Los Angeles Times posted a photo of these parking lots, joking that it seemed as though Californians were all in the stadium still cheering for their favorite teams. 

“Hertz said it has sold 41,000 cars from its US fleet and another 13,000 cars in Europe in early March, but that the halting of used car auctions and closure of many used and new car dealerships essentially brought sales to a halt. The difficulty in continuing to sell cars is one of the reasons it cited as the cause of its bankruptcy filing. Avis Budget said it already cut its US fleet by 35,000 in the first half of March,” according to reports from CNN. 

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Rental companies are still preparing to sell these cars, however, and are even estimating they can sell hundreds upon thousands of cars; there are currently about 1.5 million unused rental cars in the US. 

All companies are considering some pretty severe price cuts to get rid of the vehicles, which could be extremely beneficial to anyone in the market for a new car. Now, buyers can likely expect to see these companies listing these late-model cars with relatively low mileage, barely any use, and at a significantly lower price than what’s to be expected (depending on the specific car of course). 

“The sales to rental car companies typically are among lowest-margin sales made by the automakers, especially compared to retail buyers who are more likely to pay for the higher priced options. But while sales to rental car companies “aren’t necessarily the most profitable sales, they move the metal, and generate cash that is needed right now,”  said Jeff Schuster, president of global forecasting for automotive research firm LMC.

Like all industries throughout the world right now, only time will tell how this pandemic continues to impact business and its economic viability.

AIRBNB

Airbnb Hosts Continue To Struggle Supporting Themselves Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Worldwide travel has come to an obvious halt, and one of the largest markets that’s felt the direct effects of that is the tourism industry. More specifically, many Airbnb hosts are planning to sell their properties as a means of making up for the money they would normally be earning from the beginning of the summer vacation season.

The real estate market in general is really unbalanced at the moment. Depending on what part of the country you’re living in, how badly the pandemic has impacted your region, and how many individuals are even still willing to proceed with their real estate transactions while the economy is so low, many aren’t able to bring their real estate realities into fruition. 

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Airbnb hosts are gearing up to lose thousands of dollars in lost bookings, cancelled trips, and an overall lack of business. The struggle comes when it’s time for hosts to pay for things such as housing bills, maintenance costs, mortgage payments, and any other payments that are normally covered by the money they earn from hosting. This is hitting homeowners who own multiple properties especially hard as well. 

“We have been working to support our community through multiple efforts, including committing $250 million to help support hosts who were affected by COVID-19-related guest cancellations and $17 million to our Super Host Relief Fund. Our internal data points to guests’ desire to travel and we are preparing to help hosts welcome them as soon as possible, which includes new cleaning measures as well,” an Airbnb spokesperson said in a statement

Airbnb has had to lay off about 25% of their workforce amid the pandemic, but also began making these major job cuts before coronavirus even entered into the States. In March, Airbnb hosts were already protesting the company they worked for, claiming that executives rely too heavily on its hosts to make money for the company.

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The protests came specifically after Airbnb announced that it would be paying its hosts only about 25% of what they would normally make back from the company after a client cancellation. Normally, if a client cancels they still have to pay a decent fraction of the renting price (a policy that each host must specifically outline), so that the host has some revenue to make from the transaction and lost time.

“[I] shut down two listings during the coronavirus crisis, one of which was pre-planned. Some of the owners [I] work with are considering winding down more properties, or are looking for long-term tenants, further throwing her business into uncertainty. I’m scrambling trying to figure out what I’m going to do, and what’s going to happen in the future. I’m not making money. With the Airbnb business, I am just trying to minimize my losses. Only one of the houses is meeting its expenses, meaning my rent and utilities,” Christina Zima, an Airbnb host in the San Francisco Bay Area, said to CNN.

Some hosts, like Zima, are turning to Facebook Marketplace to either further rent out their untouched properties, or sell their furniture and other goods to make ends meet. However, selling your valuables online doesn’t compare to making a steady income through a business you previously ran rather independently. 

Other hosts are remaining optimistic that as new safety precautions are dealt out for hosts that their renters will begin to book their properties again. For now, like for every other industry in the country, it’s a waiting game to see how much worse the country and its economy gets amid the pandemic.

AstraZeneca

U.S. Orders 300 Million Doses Of Potential AstraZeneca Covid-19 Vaccine

The United States has recently secured 300 million doses, or one third of the world’s supply, of AstraZeneca’s experimental Covid-19 vaccine by pledging to give up to $1.2 billion for funding. Although there is no vaccine currently that has been proven to eradicate the coronavirus, world leaders all over are trying to restart their stalled economies by funding these experimental ones for distribution. 

President Donald Trump along with the U.S. Department of Health agreed to provide up to $1.2 billion to accelerate AstraZeneca’s development on the vaccine. They also wanted to ensure that they would have enough vaccines  for nearly every American; America has about 350 million residents, hence the 300 million doses. 

“This contract with AstraZeneca is a major milestone in Operation Warp Speed’s work toward a safe, effective, widely available vaccine by 2021,” U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar said.

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The vaccine was initially referred to as ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, but has since been shortened to AZD1222, based on the vaccine’s chemical composition. It was initially developed at the University of Oxford, where an elite team of researchers and scientists have been working tirelessly on Covid-19 drug treatments and vaccines since this entire pandemic began. 

Oxford has been working on countless treatments but has been mainly focused on finding a 100% effective vaccine; they even were able to start human trials for a vaccine last month. Once the most recent version of AZD1222 was produced, British drug-maker AstraZeneca began the process of licensing the vaccine for future development. Obviously, the use of the vaccine as treatment to create immunity against the coronavirus is top priority, but until there’s a substantial amount of evidence that proves its effectiveness, it can be up to two years until we see a real vaccine hit the market. 

The deal between the US and AstraZeneca also states that when the vaccine is in its final stages of development scientists can perform a clinical trial on up to 30,000 Americans to test its effectiveness; with that amount of individuals participating it’s likely the vaccine will be relatively successful by that point. 

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In general AstraZeneca is going to try and ship out at least 400 million doses of the vaccine worldwide with its first round of distribution. Once they have a more secure means of manufacturing, that number will increase to one billion doses and so on until the whole world has access. The earliest that the company believes they could start dealing out the vaccines would be this September, in fact, they’re hoping to get 30 million people vaccinated by then.

“A Phase I/II clinical trial of AZD1222 began last month to assess safety, immunogenicity and efficacy in over 1,000 healthy volunteers aged 18 to 55 years across several trial centres in southern England. Data from the trial is expected shortly. There are currently no approved treatments or vaccines for COVID-19. Governments, drugmakers and researchers are working on around 100 programmes, and experts are predicting a safe and effective means of preventing the disease could take 12 to 18 months to develop,” according to reports.

So far only a few potential vaccines have gotten to the point of human trials, which is the most critical part of vaccine development. Other major drugmakers, like Johnson & Johnson, are also developing potential vaccines and creating deals with our world leaders to ensure that Americans have access to these treatments when they’re finally market ready. For now, only time will tell when that will be.