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Europe Struggling To Cope With Massive Second Waves Of Covid-19 Cases

Europe is in the midst of a second wave of Covid-19 infections that’s worrying many experts who believe this could be much worse than the first round. The continent now accounts for 46% of global coronavirus cases, and nearly a third of total deaths related to the virus. 

Both France and Spain have issued states of emergency within the past month as a means of easing the pressure on their intensive care units. In France, according to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, more than half of all ICU beds are currently being occupied by Covid-19 patients. 

Dr. Jean-Francois Delfraissy is a senior French physician and the president of the scientific council that has been reporting to the government every week in regards to the pandemic. Delfraissy recently spoke with the press and warned of how intense this pandemic is actually getting for the country, and continent as a whole. 

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“France has lost control of the epidemic, there’s been more than 52,000 new cases reported this week but the council estimates that the true figure could well be closer to 100,000 daily cases, accounting for asymptomatic cases and those who haven’t been tested.”

Currently European countries are testing their citizens for the virus at rates much faster than the first wave back in the spring. New data from the UK also suggests that the antibodies present in individuals who have had Covid-19, that work to protect them from a potential second infection, begin to disappear after a couple of months, leaving all previous patients just as vulnerable as they were to start. 

European countries are also extremely popular tourist destinations, and during the summer Europe relies heavily on their tourism industry for keeping their economy afloat. This dependency caused some countries in Europe to relax their travel restrictions and reopen some of their borders domestically, and to nearby countries, after several months in lockdown. 

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This reopening, however, has unsurprisingly led to a lot of spikes in Covid-19 cases due to an overall sense of relaxation in terms of the virus.  The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control reported that “the median age of people infected declined from 54 during the period of January to May, down to 39 in June and July.” 

When September came around many experts worried about reopening schools and universities and they soon realized their worries were valid as almost a third of new coronavirus cases in Europe within the past two months were related to school re-openings. The number of individuals aged 65 and older who are currently suffering from Covid in France is six times as high as the number of infections in that demographic in September; there are also  five times as many hospitalizations. 

Italy is currently reporting 20,000 cases a day, and a rate of deaths that they haven’t seen since May. Across the continent all bars and restaurants are too close by 6 p.m. and all gyms, swimming pools, and movie theaters have been closed indefinitely. The biggest concern at the moment is the growing pressure Europe’s hospitals will face as cases continue to rise. 

The rate of Covid-related deaths in Europe has luckily declined greatly from where it was in the first wave of the pandemic, which shows that the country has a better grasp on treating the virus, however, the growing number of cases is still a major concern. Covid-19 cases are projected to hit record peaks across the whole globe this winter, so new procedures will likely be put into play in the coming weeks.

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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.