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Amazon to Hire 75,000 More Workers (April 14, 10:00 a.m. ET)
Amazon says it will expand its hiring spree by an additional 75,000 workers as the online retailer shores up its logistics operation to meet demand from people hunkered down at home, Bloomberg reported. It already filled 100,000 temporary and full-time positions announced last month.
The hiring spree and a temporary $2-an-hour wage boost will likely cost more than $500 million, up from a prior estimate of $350 million, the company said.
CMA CGM Offers Adapted Services for COVID-19 (April 14, 9:30 a.m. ET)
Global logistics provider CMA CGM is offering a “delay in transit” service that allows customers to temporarily store their containers in a dedicated hub until the recipient is ready for them to arrive at the final destination, according to a statement. The service is part of a range of solutions to adapt and protect supply chains during the pandemic.
Massachusetts Approves Marijuana Supply-Chain Changes (April 14, 9:00 a.m. ET)
The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) has told certain non-medical marijuana growers that they can now transfer their crops to the medical supply chain, according to Boston-based radio station WBUR. Recreational marijuana shops in the state are closed until May, while the number of people seeking medical marijuana cards has surged.
COVID-19’s strain on medical supply chains makes the policy shift necessary, CCC said.
South Dakota Meat Plant Closes Indefinitely (April 13, 7:30 p.m. ET)
The Smithfield Foods meat processing plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota has closed for an indefinite period of time, after 293 workers there tested positive for the coronavirus.
The plant is one of the nation’s largest pork-processing facilities, according to the New York Times. It reportedly employs some 3,700 workers and supplies between 4% and 5% of the country’s pork.
“The closure of this facility, combined with a growing list of other protein plants that have shuttered across our industry, is pushing our country perilously close to the edge in terms of our meat supply,” Smithfield president and chief executive officer Kenneth M. Sullivan said in a statement. “It is impossible to keep our grocery stores stocked if our plants are not running.”
Rong Li, assistant professor of supply chain management at Syracuse University, said it’s likely that similar closures of manufacturing facilities will follow, “due to food safety concerns as well as a shortage of labor and management as more employees contract COVID-19.”
The pandemic is forcing food processors to deal with safety issues that arise from their employees instead of the food itself, Li said. In the future, she added, “they need to think more about how to make their plants more automatic and easier to monitor and control remotely, to hedge against the risk of labor shortage…. This may be a lesson for all the manufacturing plants.”
FedEx Puts Parked Jets Back in Service (April 13, 4:00 p.m. ET)
FedEx is redeploying aircraft it mothballed earlier this year and plans to add 150 flights over the next month to ferry masks, protective suits and other health-care supplies to the U.S. from Asia, Bloomberg reported. The activity adds to the usual seven to nine daily flights across the Pacific.
The company also has increased U.S. domestic flights to meet higher package volume for the U.S. Postal Service as shut-in Americans buy more goods online.
More Vaccines in Development (April 13, 2:00 p.m. ET)
WHO says 70 vaccines are in development. The furthest along in the clinical process is an experimental vaccine developed by Hong Kong-listed CanSino Biologics Inc. and the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology, which is in phase two, Bloomberg reported. The other two being tested in humans are treatments developed separately by U.S. drugmakers Moderna Inc. and Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc.
Forwarder Sees ‘Big Changes’ in Shipping Between U.S. and Mexico (April 12, 8:00 p.m. ET)
Big changes are coming in the movement of cargo between the U.S. and Mexico as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a freight forwarder and customs broker in that trade.
Laredo, Texas, the busiest crossing along the U.S.-Mexico border, experienced an immediate 15% reduction in traffic after March 20, according to Deepak Chhugani, founder and CEO of Nuvocargo. An even sharper drop in activity was seen at the Tijuana crossing, which handles a larger proportion of consumer travel.
Bigger changes are on the way, he said. “Already we are seeing Mexican carriers with extra capacity who are lowering prices to get their trucks moving. We expect that will become much more common. We are also seeing slowdowns in production capacity, even at essential businesses, due to social distancing mandates and businesses striving to keep their workers safe.”
Chhugani noted “very uncertain” demand for product as a result of consumers engaging in panic buying. Meanwhile, manufacturers and buyers are more carefully vetting transportation partners to confirm their financial stability.
The sudden glut of shipping capacity will cause a continued decline in rates, Chhugani predicted, adding that manufacturers “are increasingly offering buyers favorable terms for early payment.”
Morgan Stanley Survey Suggests ‘Peak Disruption’ of Transport (April 12, 7:45 p.m. ET)
The latest biweekly survey by Morgan Stanley of some 400 carriers, shippers and brokers suggests that transportation activities might be approaching a state of “peak disruption” in reaction to the coronavirus outbreak.
Eighty-three percent of respondents rate the current level of impact from the pandemic as “medium” or “high,” compared with around 75% in the prior survey. “However, forward expectations suggest we are moving toward peak disruption and could be poised for a V-shape recovery (as we expect for freight transportation — even if the broader economy settles into a U- or L-shaped recovery),” Morgan Stanley said.
“One datapoint does not make a trend,” the firm added, “but this update’s results suggest we could be returning to a relative ‘normal’ sooner than some expect.”
Looking ahead, around 74% of respondents said they expect disruptions to continue at “medium” or “high” levels, projecting a slight improvement in the transportation picture in the months ahead. At the same time, they anticipate the effects of the pandemic to linger over the next 12 months, indicating a continued bias toward a “somewhat negative” net impact.
FDA Approves COVID-19 Testing Innovations by Ohio State (April 12, 7:30 p.m. ET)
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration has approved a new method of testing for the COVID-19 virus across the state of Ohio, developed by The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
Over a period of 24 hours, Ohio State researchers created an in-house “recipe” for making viral transport media (VTM), a sterile solution that is an essential part of COVID-19 testing kits. It consists of “a salt solution buffered in the way necessary to stabilize the virus,” they said.
Health systems around the world are experiencing a critical shortage of test-kit components. Ohio State has created more than 100 liters of VTM, enough for up to 30,000 test kits, according to Peter J. Mohler, vice dean of research at The Ohio State College of Medicine.
In addition, the Wexner Medical Center, in collaboration with faculty and staff in the university’s colleges of Engineering and Dentistry, have created and 3D-printed more than 50,000 new swabs for COVID-19 test kits, to be shared with hospitals across Ohio.
USPS Cuts Foreign Destinations (April 12, 7:15 p.m. ET)
The U.S. Postal Service has temporarily stopped accepting mail for certain international destinations as of April 10.
USPS said it will not accept mail for countries “where the foreign postal operator has indicated that they are unable to process or deliver international mail or services originating from the United States.”
Until further notice, USPS is asking customers not to mail items addressed to Curaçao, Mauritius, Malawi and Nepal., among others In addition, it is temporarily suspending acceptance of mail to countries “where air and sea transportation is unavailable due to widespread cancellations and restrictions into the area.” They include Burundi, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea Bissau, Guyana, Kenya, Kiribati, Lesotho, New Guinea, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, United Arab Emirates, and Zambia.
In all, USPS has temporarily suspended international mail service to approximately 66 countries.
The latest service disruptions affect Priority Mail Express International, Priority Mail International, First-Class Mail International, First-Class Package International Service, International Priority Airmail, International Surface Air Lift, and M-Bag items.
Pfizer to Develop Vaccine by Year-End (April 9, 2:00 p.m. ET)
Pfizer and BioNTech say they will jointly develop a vaccine for COVID-19, potentially supplying millions of doses by the end of 2020. The two companies plan to jointly conduct the first clinical trials as early as the end of April, assuming regulatory clearance, Bloomberg reported. Clinical trials for the vaccine candidates will initially be in the U.S. and Europe across multiple sites.
World Hunger Could Double (April 9, 1:00 p.m. ET)
The number of people going hungry around the world could double in just a few months as the pandemic wreaks havoc on food supplies and hurts incomes, according to a group of major food companies, industry bodies and academics, Bloomberg reported. The number of those suffering from chronic hunger may surge from about 800 million.
London Delays Pollution Controls for Trucks (April 9, 12:00 p.m. ET)
London delayed the start of stricter pollution controls for trucks in the capital, because the pandemic has put too much pressure on supply chains. New minimum standards for freight are due to come into force in October with fines of as much as 550 pounds ($683) per day, Bloomberg reported.
Enforcement will be delayed for at least four months, Transport for London said. It’s already suspended other pollution and congestion charges for cars and vans, to ensure deliveries can take place and for key workers to travel.
Bipartisan Policy Center Calls for Gap Analysis of Emergency Supplies (April 8, 8:00 p.m. ET)
The Bipartisan Policy Center is urging the federal government to take steps to improve the allocation of items needed to combat the COVID-19 virus.
There is a “critical need” for a gap analysis of existing supplies of medical and personal protective equipment, said BPC Chief Medical Adviser Anand Parekh and Senior Vice President Bill Hoagland.
“The federal government has the unique ability and visibility to ensure coordination, provide logistical support, and direct manufacturing of material and equipment, all of which are crucial in the response to this public health emergency,” they said. Without a transparent analysis of supplies, “it’s very difficult to know whether voluntary private-sector commitments will be enough, and to what extent the Defense Production Act (DPA) should be invoked.”
In addition, they recommended that the Administration clarify how it is allocating critical equipment based on estimates from states, the federal government, the private sector and modeling data. “Many healthcare providers continue to experience shortages of these essential items, so ensuring the allocation process is equitable and based on need is critical,” Parekh and Hoagland said.
Lack of New Drivers Threatens National Supply Chain, Trucking Group Says (April 8, 5:00 p.m. ET)
Closures of various U.S. DMVs and CDL training facilities risk cutting off supply chains on a national level, the Commercial Vehicle Training Association has warned, urging states and the federal government to take action.
The trucking industry relies on new commercial drivers, and the closure of these agencies has halted the process of getting up to 40,000 new truck drivers trained, licensed and on the road, said Don Lefeve, president of the Commercial Vehicle Training Association, in a statement.
The majority of states have closed their DMVs, while the remaining operate on a limited basis.
Pennsylvania Asks Manufacturers to Fill Supply-Chain Gaps (April 8, 4:00 p.m. ET)
Pennsylvania is calling on companies that can “pivot or innovate” existing capabilities to help produce critical medical supplies and products in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A new website aims to match manufacturers and distributors to fill specific supply-chain needs to meet increasing demands, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. The site will also assist manufacturers that have workforce needs or gaps and aid them in identifying skilled workers.
OSHA Investigates Amazon Warehouse (April 8, 2:00 p.m. ET)
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating an Amazon.com Inc. warehouse near Hazleton, Pennsylvania, following complaints from workers that the company is not doing enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at the facility, Bloomberg reported.
At the facility, called AVP1, workers receive products from manufacturers, many of them located overseas, break those shipments down, and route them on to dozens of Amazon warehouses for storage and shipment to customers. Amazon workers around the country have staged protests and walkouts to highlight their concerns about working conditions, including an inability to maintain social distancing guidelines, a lack of protective gear and hand sanitizer and lack of time to clean their hands.
Distancing Eases Ventilator Demand in New York City (April 8, 11:00 a.m. ET)
New York City’s social-distancing strategy appears to be working, and one result is less demand for ventilators than had been projected, Bloomberg reported.
The city had estimated that it would need as many as 300 more of the life-saving machines this week to treat coronavirus patients but has needed to add only 100, Mayor de Blasio said.
U.S. Chamber Calls for Clarity on Defining Essential Workers (April 7, 8:00 p.m. ET)
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is urging a global and uniform approach to defining “essential” workers and functions that must continue to operate during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Chamber said the current lack of clarity on the issue at at both the state level and internationally “is impeding efforts to respond to this crisis.”
“As more states issue their own ‘stay-at-home’ guidance amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the lack of clarity around what constitutes ‘critical’ and ‘essential’ business and workers, and the lack of uniformity in guidance hurts efforts to respond quickly,” said Christopher Roberti, the Chamber’s Senior Vice President for Cyber, Intelligence, and Supply Chain Security Policy. “There is an urgent need for a uniform approach to identifying which workers and functions are deemed essential, and we urge states to follow a uniform model and provide guidance to state and local law enforcement, employers, and employees.”
The Chamber has worked with partners in the public and private sectors around the world to develop a set of International Principles for Safeguarding Essential Economic Functions in the COVID-19 Pandemic. The goal was “to provide a more consistent approach to identifying essential economic functions,” the group said.
Small-Business Finances in Perilous State, Fed Survey Shows (April 7, 5:30 p.m. ET)
Small businesses across America were running on slender finances well before the coronavirus struck, Bloomberg reported.
“Only one in five healthy firms — and even fewer less-healthy firms — had sufficient cash reserves to continue normal operations if they experienced a two-month revenue loss,” the New York Fed said in a report.
Small businesses account for almost half of U.S. private-sector employees. Congress, to help shelter them from the blow of the pandemic, has authorized $349 billion in small business support under a $2.2 trillion virus rescue package it passed last month. But there have been glitches in the rollout of the aid, which promises to provide loans to small businesses to cover payroll, rent and utilities for up to eight weeks.
The survey found that any dip in revenue would quickly affect operations.
Logistics Firm Is Bagging Oil Like Boxed Wine (April 7, 5:00 p.m. ET)
With oil storage tanks stuffed from Savannah to San Francisco, one company is proposing a novel solution for stowing your excess barrels of bitumen, asphalt and grease: Stick it in a bag.
OEC Group Liquid Logistics Solutions began advertising storage in 147-barrel polyethylene bags that are then tucked into 20-foot shipping containers, a combination known as flexitanks, Bloomberg reported. While straight crude and gasoline can’t be stored in the bags, industrial oils used for producing motor oils and grease can be.
Demand for the bags is up because base oils that once were shipped to Germany now need homes until the market turns again. Usually, the flexitanks store wine, food oils and ingredients for rubber tires.
FDA Facilitates Imports of Potential Treatments (April 7, 1:00 p.m. ET)
The Food and Drug Administration is “facilitating imports of drugs to potentially treat COVID-19,” the regulatory agency said in a post on its website. The FDA said it is also working to protect Americans by monitoring the quality of drugs shipped to the U.S.
U.S. Accused of “Modern Piracy” for Impounding Medical Supplies (April 7, 12:30 p.m. ET)
Forwarders are reporting concerns that shipments of medical supplies may not get through to their intended destination, as countries impound them en route for their own needs. The U.S. has been particularly busy on this front, according to various media reports — the Germans have accused it of “modern piracy,” The Loadstar reported.
Governments and states are now competing for medical equipment and personal protective gear with retailers and warehousing operators, too, as those industries struggle to provide adequate equipment for their staff. There are further difficulties in obtaining heavily in-demand medical goods following strict Chinese regulations on exports.
Truckers Demand Action From Trump (April 7, 12:00 p.m. ET)
U.S. truck drivers have demanded “urgent and immediate action” to safeguard the nation’s supply chain, according to a letter addressed to President Trump from the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.
Many drivers don’t have access to protective equipment, testing or any practical solution if they need treatment or self-isolation, says the letter, signed by President and CEO Todd Spencer.
“We need a plan for them. We need help,” Spencer said.
California to Send Ventilators to National Stockpile (April 6, 4:30 p.m. ET)
California, which has yet to see its hospitals overrun by patients, plans to loan 500 state-owned ventilators to the national stockpile.
“We’re aggressively preparing for a surge — but we can’t turn our backs on Americans whose lives depend on having a ventilator now,” Governor Newsom said in a statement.
With the New York area experiencing a supply shortage, other states are stepping in to assist. New York Governor Cuomo said this weekend that Oregon offered to send 140 ventilators to his state, Bloomberg reported.
Germany Plans ‘Limitless’ Aid Program for Small Companies (April 6, 4:00 p.m. ET)
German Chancellor Merkel’s government announced a new “limitless” aid program for small- and medium-sized companies. The program for loan guarantees is the latest measure introduced by the government, Bloomberg reported, which says Europe’s largest economy might contract even more this year than the 5% drop caused by the global financial crisis in 2008 and 2009.
Nestle Struggles to Keep Up With Demand (April 6, 2:30 p.m. ET)
Nestle is struggling to keep up with consumers’ appetites as obstacles slow down production at the world’s largest food and beverage company, CEO Mark Schneider says. The maker of Pure Life bottled water and DiGiorno pizzas is seeing very strong demand for essential food and drink items, though many of its factories are unable to run at 100% capacity, Schneider said in an interview on Bloomberg Television.
Tesla Shows Ventilator Prototype Made From Car Components (April 6, 2:00 p.m. ET)
Tesla engineers showed footage of a prototype ventilator the company is trying to make with auto parts amid a shortage of the machines for coronavirus patients.
According to the video on Tesla’s YouTube channel, the design includes a touch screen, computer and control system from a Model 3 electric car. Tesla is taking advantage of components that are familiar, reliable and available, an engineer says.
New York Governor Cuomo, among those urgently trying to source more ventilators, said Sunday that supply-chain disruption is the biggest hurdle for every manufacturer — including Tesla, Bloomberg reported.
“Their time frame frankly doesn’t work for our immediate apex,“ he said at a press conference. “Nobody can make you a ventilator right now in two weeks. You can’t make ventilators that fast because there are parts that have to come from other countries.”
Apple Designs Face Shields for Medical Workers (April 6, 10:30 a.m. ET)
Apple Inc. is designing face shields for medical workers and separately has sourced over 20 million masks through its global supply chain, Bloomberg reported.
CEO Tim Cook made the announcement on Twitter, saying that its design, engineering, packaging and operations teams are working with suppliers to get the shield made and shipped.
The first shipment was delivered to a Santa Clara, California, hospital last week. The shields are fully adjustable and assemble in under two minutes, he said, adding that Apple plans to ship over a million this week and another million weekly after that.
Apple plans to quickly expand shipping of the shields beyond the U.S., the executive said. Apple has shuttered all 458 of its retail stores outside of China to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and is requiring its engineers and designers to work from home.
China Not Creating Drug Shortages, FDA Says (April 6, 10:00 a.m. ET)
FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn says there’s no evidence that any drug is in short supply because China or another country is blocking critical ingredients from flowing into the U.S. market, Bloomberg reported.
Some shortages may be evident because of spikes in demand for some medications, Hahn said in an interview with Fox News. The FDA maintains a public database of drug shortages, which can occur for many reasons including manufacturing problems, delays and discontinuations.
Hahn added that it’s critical the U.S. pharmaceutical industry rely on multiple countries to develop medical products such as drugs, ventilators and masks.
“We really need redundancy in the medical products supply chain,” he said. “We cannot be dependent upon any single country.”
India Bans All Exports of Virus Drug (April 5, 7:00 p.m. ET)
India put a total ban on exports of hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug that President Trump has touted as a “game changer” in the fight against COVID-19.
Exports of the drug and its formulations have been prohibited “without any exceptions” and with immediate effect, Bloomberg reported. India’s Directorate General of Foreign Trade last month restricted overseas shipments of the drug, allowing only limited exceptions such as on humanitarian grounds and for meeting prior commitments.
The new ban comes on a weekend when Prime Minister Narendra Modi discussed the global supply chain for drugs and other medical supplies with Trump, who has advocated the use of hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for people with COVID-19. Its efficacy against coronavirus infections remains unproven.
New U.S. Unemployment Claims Pass 10 Million (April 5, 5:00 p.m. ET)
Approximately 10 million Americans filed new claims for unemployment insurance in the two-week period ending March 29, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
The net loss of jobs over that period is on a scale with two years of job losses in the Great Recession, between 2008 and 2010, EPI said in its Working Economics blog. What’s more, it said, “New claims in each of the last two weeks dwarf any prior week in over 50 years of weekly data.”
EPI’s model projects another 4.7-5.7 million Americans filing new claims in the week ending April 3.
The job losses are occurring across all states, which are struggling to keep pace with the surge in demand for new unemployment claims. “And not everyone who loses work has tried to file for unemployment,” EPI said. “So the true scale of labor income loss is undoubtedly larger than even these huge numbers show.”
One in Four Small Businesses Near Permanent Closure, U.S. Chamber Says (April 5, 4:45 p.m. ET)
One in four small businesses are two months or less away from permanent closure due to the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new poll by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and MetLife.
One in 10 of respondents are less than one month away from permanently going out of business, the poll reported. And 43% said they were three to six months away from permanently shutting down.
A total of 54% of all small businesses reported that they had closed or expect to close temporarily in the next 14 days. The poll was conducted between March 25 and 28.
“This is an extraordinarily difficult time for small business owners across the country,” said Christel C. Slaughter, chief executive officer of SSA Consultants and chair of the U.S. Chamber’s Small Business Council. “Many are facing significant disruptions, and as the data show many are on the brink of closure.
“While it is difficult to predict the future,” Slaughter continued, “the CARES Act provides much-needed aid, and small business owners who can retain their core customers and top employees will be able to rebound more quickly.”
Employers, Workers Organizations Call for Rapid Relief by G20 Nations (April 5, 4:30 p.m ET)
The International Organisation of Employers (IOE) and International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) are calling for an immediate virtual meeting with finance and labor ministers from the G20 group of nations, “to improve coherence on economic relief efforts in response to COVID-19.”
IOE and ITUC urged immediate implementation of the commitments set out by the G20 Leaders’ Statement. The document declares the member nations’ commitment “to take all necessary health measures and seek to ensure adequate financing to contain the pandemic and protect people, especially the most vulnerable.”
“Together with ITUC, we want rapid response programs that give businesses access to flexible and efficient low-cost short- and medium-term loans now,” said IOE President Erol Kiresepi. “We also want immediate efforts put in place to minimize disruptions to trade and global supply chains while also protecting public health.”
“We, together with IOE, want employers and workers to be given access to paid sick leave, income support and social protection as a matter of priority,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow. “We want governments to support social security and extended temporary unemployment programs to make sure the most vulnerable do not slip through the cracks in this crisis.”
Resilinc, Premier Inc. to Launch Healthcare Exchange for Hospitals (April 5, 4:30 p.m. ET)
Resilinc and Premier Inc. have launched a cloud-based platform for the healthcare industry, allowing hospitals to identify, locate and exchange critical medical items with vetted peer organizations during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Dubbed The Exchange at Resilinc, the new tool will launch in April in collaboration with Stanford Medicine. Hospitals and frontline healthcare providers facing supply shortages will be able to request specific items, and be matched with suppliers “through a safe, secure and trusted network,” the parties said.
Donations of critical supplies are also welcome, and will be disbursed through an integrated donation center, they added.
Walmart Halts DC Activity After Worker Complaints (April 3, 4:00 p.m. ET)
Walmart has suspended operations at a South Bethlehem, Pa., distribution center until April 6 following worker safety complaints, according to lehighvalleylive.com.
Workers accused the retail giant of not taking adequate steps to protect them after at least nine tested positive for COVID-19, saying they are “packed like sardines” in a building that’s not being properly sanitized.
Walmart said it will divert orders to other fulfillment centers to meet customer demand during the closure.
GE Furloughs Thousands of U.S. Aviation Workers (April 3, 2:30 p.m. ET)
General Electric is furloughing half of the U.S. manufacturing workers in its jet-engine business for four weeks, citing growing pressure on the global aviation industry.
The move, covering thousands of workers, comes 10 days after the division said it would lay off about 10% of its U.S. workforce, or about 2,500 employees, in one of the first major job cuts by a large American manufacturer, The Wall Street Journal reported. The aviation division is GE’s largest and most profitable.
New York Scours State for More Ventilators (April 3, 12:30 p.m. ET)
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo deployed the National Guard to take unused ventilators and other equipment from clinics and private firms ahead of the apex of the coronavirus, Bloomberg reported.
Cuomo said he has exhausted all options to get supplies, and believes the federal government doesn’t have enough inventory to meet the needs. The number of people hospitalized from Covid-19 reached 14,810 on Friday, with 3,731 ICU patients who need ventilators.
People are “going to die” for lack of equipment, the governor said Friday at a press briefing.
Europe Suspends Import Duties on Medical Gear (April 3, 12:00 p.m. ET)
The European Union let its member countries suspend import duties on medical equipment needed to fight the pandemic, Bloomberg reported. The European Commission approved requests by all EU governments to waive the bloc’s tariffs on goods such as masks, testing kits and ventilators.
FEMA Assembles Supply Chain Task Force (April 2, 4:00 p.m. ET)
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service have created a Supply Chain Stabilization Task Force to address limited supply of critical protective and life-saving equipment across the country.
The task force’s primary effort is to source personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators and other critical resources requested by states, tribes and territories — and to support COVID-19 “hot spots” as they arise, says Homeland Security Today. The group is engaging manufacturers, distributors and healthcare networks “to build supply chain stabilization.”
Amazon Hires 80,000, Steps Up Warehouse Safety (April 2, 1:30 p.m. ET)
Amazon.com said it has hired 80,000 people to help meet demand for online orders and has stepped up safety precautions at its U.S warehouses, Bloomberg reported.
Dave Clark, Amazon’s logistics chief, said in a blog on Thursday that Amazon would probably go “well beyond” its previous estimate of an additional $350 million in costs to support a growing workforce.
Boeing Offers Workers Buyouts (April 2, 8:45 a.m. ET)
Boeing Co. has offered voluntary buyouts to eligible employees, in a bid to quickly shed costs and adjust its work force of 161,000 to a coronavirus crisis that’s undermined the outlook for aircraft sales, according to Bloomberg. Boeing is facing a sharp contraction in demand along with its European rival Airbus SE.
Airline customers around the world have slashed schedules, with some parking their entire fleets as the coronavirus pandemic guts travel. About 44% of aircraft across the globe are in storage.
British Lobbyists Predict Brexit Delay (April 2, 8:30 a.m. ET)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he won’t delay Britain’s final parting with the European Union at the end of the year. Empty meeting rooms across Whitehall suggest delay is all but inevitable, Bloomberg reported.
Business lobbyists say government officials have canceled most meetings to prepare for Brexit as civil servants are pulled away to deal with the growing coronavirus pandemic. It’s now only a question of how Johnson will sell a delay to the British public, rather than whether or not one will happen, they say.
U.S. Pharmacopeia Offers Hand Sanitizer Toolkit (April 1, 7:30 p.m. ET)
The U.S. Pharmacopeia is offering an online toolkit, containing guidelines from public health organizations to aid manufacturers and pharmacies in the compounding and preparation of alcohol-based hand sanitizers. USP said it developed the toolkit to help organizations meet the demand for product in a time of shortages of commercially manufactured sanitizers.
The toolkit includes important information from the World Health Organization (WHO), U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other public health organizations. It includes USP recommendations on formulations and alternative ingredients from its Compounding Expert Committee. The toolkit also contains relevant USP standards used for the preparation of hand sanitizers.
“Keeping hands clean is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading the virus to others,” said Jaap Venema, chief science officer for USP. “Hand sanitizers are critical in situations where soap and water are not readily available. This is particularly important for people who are on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as health care professionals.”
FedEx Implements Temporary Surcharges (April 1, 3:30 p.m. ET)
FedEx will implement a temporary surcharge on all FedEx Express and TNT international parcel and freight shipments starting April 6, Memphis Business Journal reported. The delivery giant continues to operate in areas where state-of-emergency and shelter-in-place restrictions have been issued, and “this has disrupted the supply chain.”
FedEx Express International customers shipping from the U.S. will pay an extra 10 cents per pound. Those shipping from China and Asia-Pacific countries will see surcharges up to 45 cents per pound. TNT International Express customers will see the same.
TNT International Economy services, meanwhile, will see a 5-cent surcharge for deliveries to European countries.
EU Unveils Plan to Help Pay Workers (April 1, 12:15 p.m. ET)
The European Union announced a plan to discourage businesses in the countries worst hit by the coronavirus from firing workers as they struggle. Amid criticism that the EU has done too little to mitigate the economic impact, the European Commission signaled on Wednesday that it will use central funds to pay companies to keep workers in jobs, Bloomberg reported.
“It is intended to help Italy, Spain and all other countries that have been hard hit,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
Vaccine Race Partners With Big Tobacco (April 1, 12:00 p.m. ET)
Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco are trying to devise a defense against the coronavirus from the tobacco leaf. BAT said it’s in pre-clinical testing of a plant-based vaccine via a U.S. biotech subsidiary Kentucky BioProcessing, Bloomberg reported. Philip Morris has said its partially owned Canadian unit Medicago expects to start human trials for a potential vaccine this summer.
BAT’s Kentucky BioProcessing was involved in developing ZMapp, an Ebola drug, with Mapp Biopharmaceutical in 2014 — but that treatment never made it out of the lab.
GEP Launches Supplier Portal for Healthcare Providers (March 31, 7:45 p.m. ET)
GEP, a provider of procurement software and services, has launched a portal that connects suppliers of personal protective equipment (PPE) with healthcare providers and experts in the distribution of excess products, equipment and capacity.
The free platform is initially being aimed at hospitals and healthcare workers in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. GEP has been providing details about PPE suppliers to the tri-state area’s major hospital networks since mid-March. The new portal represents an effort to scale up that offering, the company said.
GEP said it will also provide support to small businesses and manufacturers looking to repurpose their capabilities to meet “urgent demand” for PPE equipment during the coronavirus pandemic.
Xeneta Marks Slide in Container-Shipping Rates (March 31, 7:30 p.m. ET)
The container-shipping industry experienced in March its first monthly drop in long-term contracted freight rates since October, 2019, according to Xeneta, provider of a rate-benchmarking platform.
The slight dip in rates of 0.5% followed a period of sustained growth, and is an early response to the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic. “Although these symptoms look mild, the future is characterized by growing uncertainty, with widespread economic disruption and looming global recession likely to impact on demand across all key trading routes,” Xeneta said.
“On the face of it, the index is still performing well, up 5.8% year-on-year and with a 2.2% rise since the end of 2019, but the coronavirus pandemic is now causing disruption to trade and economic activity on an unprecedented scale,” said Xeneta CEO Patrik Berglund. “The container industry, operating on the front line of the global economy, is bracing itself to feel the full impact of that.”
Several major shipping lines and alliances have cancelled sailings as a result of factory shutdowns in China and elsewhere. “The magnitude of this can’t be overstated,” Berglund said. “The economic downturn and a widespread drop-off in consumer spending is unlikely to give way to rapid recovery. This creates a hugely challenging environment for carriers, who will need to ensure adequate measures are taken to prevent a sustained drop in rates.”
True Value Registers to Make Hand Sanitizer (March 31, 7:30 p.m. ET)
Hardware wholesaler True Value Company has registered with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as an over-the-counter drug manufacturer, so that it can produce hand sanitizer in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The company said it will convert space at a paint-manufacturing plant in Cary, Illinois to provide “tens of thousands of gallons” of hand sanitizer. The first several thousand gallons will be donated to True Value hardware stores across the country, to protect employees from contracting COVID-19 while on the job. The product is scheduled to be shipped to stores in early to mid-April.
True Value said it is also manufacturing essential cleaning and sanitizing products such as hand soap, all-purpose cleansers with and without bleach, and degreasing cleanser.
True Value supplies more than 4,500 independent hardware retail stores in the U.S.
Southwest Offers First Cargo-Only Flights (March 31, 4:30 p.m. ET)
Southwest Airlines will offer the first all-cargo flights in its 48-year history as passenger demand keeps sliding.
The flights will be offered on a charter basis, and only pilots and other needed crew members will be on board, Bloomberg reported. Southwest will confine freight to the bellies of its Boeing Co. 737 aircraft instead of converting planes for cargo.
Southwest is joining American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines in offering cargo-only operations to help offset the decline in travel.
FBI Warns of Supply-Chain Cyberattacks (March 31, 3:30 p.m. ET)
A group of hackers is using Kwampirs malware to attack supply-chain companies and healthcare organizations, according to an FBI-issued alert.
Reports say hackers are using popular videoconferencing platform Zoom to install the malware.
The sudden and massive growth in work-from-home operations has left many businesses vulnerable as employees connect their personal devices to company assets. Users should be cautious of emails and files received from unknown parties, said software company Check Point: “Beware of lookalike domains, spelling errors in emails and websites, and unfamiliar email senders.”
FEMA Sending Ambulances to NYC (March 31, 11:30 a.m. ET)
The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency is sending 250 ambulances to New York City, staffed by 500 paramedics and medical technicians to help its fire department respond to an unprecedented number of medical calls, Bloomberg reported.
Fire department rescue personnel report a 50% increase over normal daily call volume, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office said in a statement. The ambulances will help respond to that surge of calls and assist in transporting patients from hospitals, which will be turned into intensive-care COVID-19 treatment centers, to other temporary medical facilities such as the USNS Comfort hospital ship docked in the Hudson River, the Javits Convention Center and the National Tennis Center in Queens, which will handle patients needing non-coronavirus-related treatment.
White House Pays Garment Companies to Make Masks (March 31, 9:00 a.m. ET)
Several underwear and T-shirt factories, including HanesBrands, are working with the White House to supply masks for hospitals.
The federal government will reimburse companies for their costs and distribute what they produce, says President Trump’s trade adviser Peter Navarro. HHS and the Federal Emergency Management Agency will buy the masks and distribute them to medical organizations immediately or use them to replenish the government’s stockpile.
Some companies are getting in the act on their own, not as part of the White House initiative. In New York, Ralph Lauren Corp. has pledged to work with U.S. factories to produce 250,000 masks and 25,000 isolation gowns.
GHX Launches COVID-19 Information Center (March 30, 8:00 p.m. ET)
Global Healthcare Exchange (GHX) has launched an information center to help healthcare organizations access the data and information needed to treat patients and protect staff during the coronavirus pandemic.
The COVID-19 Information Center includes a Critical Supply Reference List, developed by GHX in reference to McKinsey & Company’s report, COVID-19 Crisis: US Healthcare Provider and Payer Preparedness. The list will help providers identify supplies and alternatives, as well as give suppliers greater visibility into the fluctuating demand for products, GHX said.
The list includes categories such as Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), Medical Equipment, Disinfection Consumables/Biohazardous Waste Management, and Drugs/Medical Consumables.
U.S. Chamber Offers Coronavirus Loan Guide for Small Business (March 30, 8:00 p.m. ET)
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has created a guide
The new Small Business Guide details the steps that small businesses should be taking to request loans needed to keep their workers on the payroll. Further guides will be developed as the CARES Act becomes implemented, the Chamber said.
In addition, the Chamber has compiled an interactive map to show available aid on a state-by-state basis.
Air Cargo Fees Spike With Urgent Demand (March 30, 6:00 p.m. ET)
Urgent demand for medical equipment to fight the coronavirus has sent the cost of chartering aircraft skyrocketing and turned a typically humdrum process into an ultra-competitive auction, Bloomberg reported.
“Chartered prices have been pushed up from less than $300,000 four to six weeks back to $600,000 to $800,000 in the last few days,” said Anthony Lau, chairman and founder of logistics company Pacific Air (HK) Ltd. “It is absolutely crazy.”
Usually, it would cost $300,000 to charter a Boeing Co. 747 or 777 from Hong Kong to Europe in non-peak season, Lau said. “The price is changing by the hour. We have never, ever experienced this.”
An unprecedented collapse in passenger demand is prompting airlines to use their fleets to transport more cargo, including medicines. The likes of Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd., Korean Air Lines Co. and American Airlines Group Inc. are hauling a greater amount of goods in the bellies of their passenger planes to keep up with demand. Cargo rates have risen over 10% in recent weeks.
Ceva Logistics Declares Force Majeure (March 30, 2:30 p.m. ET)
Ceva Logistics has declared force majeure, citing disruption from the coronavirus pandemic.
The declaration allows Switzerland-based Ceva to modify its services, change working procedures and rates, levy surcharges and otherwise “take any measures necessary to adjust its business operations and its obligations to its customers, suppliers and other stakeholders, in response to the prevailing circumstances,” the provider said in a statement.
Ceva is not the first logistics company to invoke the extreme provision of force majeure. DHL Global Forwarding declared it March 20.
Lockheed Martin Pledges Funds for Relief Effort (March 30, 2:00 p.m. ET)
Defense contractor Lockheed Martin says it will advance more than $50 million to small- and mid-sized suppliers to ensure there are no disruptions in its supply chain. The defense titan is also offering up its fleet and facilities for relief and response efforts, according to a report in The Motley Fool.
The company will donate use of its corporate aircraft and vehicle fleet for medical supply delivery and logistical support, CEO Marillyn Hewson said in a statement, as well as use of its facilities for crisis-related activities including medical supply storage, distribution and COVID-19 testing — where needed and practical.
Pentagon Taps Four Contractors to Build 8,000 Ventilators (March 30, 8:40 a.m. ET)
The Pentagon’s logistics agency has modified an existing contract and will spend $84.4 million to buy 8,000 ventilators from four vendors, with delivery of an initial 1,400 by early May, according to Bloomberg.
The companies tapped to make the devices are Zoll Medical Corp., Combat Medical Systems LLC, Hamilton Medical Inc., and VyAire Medical Inc.
“This will be a time-phased delivery over the next several months and we expect orders to begin shipment within the next few days” with delivery locations to be determined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, spokesman Air Force Lt. Col. Mike Andrews said in a statement.
Smiths to Produce 10,000 Ventilators for U.K. (March 30, 8:30 a.m. ET)
Smiths Group said it is contracting with the U.K. government to produce ventilators needed to treat critically ill coronavirus patients. The company plans to increase production to thousands of units a month from hundreds, Bloomberg reported.
Dyson announced last week it had developed a new ventilator and received an order from Britain for 10,000 units — but the government later said its purchase would depend on regulators approving the device.
Global Supply Chain Is ‘Breaking,’ WVU Professor Says (March 29, 8:30 p.m. ET)
The global supply chain, especially for medical products, is “breaking” under the strain of the coronavirus outbreak, according to a professor at West Virginia University.
“The new pandemic has stressed supply chains worldwide and we are seeing shutdowns unheard of in modern peacetime history,” said Ednilson Bernardes, program coordinator of the Global Supply Chain Management Program at WVU’s John Chambers College of Business and Economics.
Of particular concern is the flow of critical medical supplies. “I would say that the design of the new U.S. medical supply chain is exceedingly fragile,” Bernardes said, citing the nationwide shortage of personal protective equipment, especially N95 respirators. He predicted increased scarcity of such materials, resulting in “further disruptions in the chain of medical supplies.”
Reasons for the shortage include the application over the years of “Lean” principles to U.S. supply chains, minimizing safety stocks, and the concentration of sourcing in a handful of countries. Citing FDA statistics, Bernardes noted that more than 80% of manufacturing facilities that produce components for American drugs are located abroad. At the same time, he called the federal government’s enactment of the Defense Production Act, mandating domestic manufacturing of healthcare supplies in a national emergency, a “very positive” development.
“I am positive that there will be changes to the way we design and operate global supply chains once we emerge from this pandemic, which is showing us how vulnerable some of the chains have become,” Bernardes said.
Railroads Applaud Relief for Laid-off Workers (March 29, 8:15 p.m. ET)
Organizations representing Class 1 freight and short line railroads applauded Congress’s recent action to ensure that rail workers have access to unemployment and sickness benefits during the coronavirus crisis.
Elements of the COVID-19 stimulus package specifically aimed at rail workers include a waiver of the seven-day waiting period for filing of sickness and unemployment claims with the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB), $50 million to cover the cost of additional benefits, an additional $1,200 biweekly unemployment benefit, funds for extending benefits through the end of this year, and $5 million to the RRB for additional administrative costs.
“This aid package will offer a vital relief to hard working rail employees whose jobs are impacted during these challenging times,” said Ian Jefferies, president and CEO of the Association of American Railroads (AAR). “We thank Congress for ensuring railroaders have access to this lifeline.”
The relief bill also was praised by the American Short Line Railroad Association (ASLRRA). “While short line railroads are working hard to avoid any layoffs or furloughs, this Railroad Unemployment Insurance improvement is an important safety net to provide,” said ASLRRA President Chuck Baker.
Toymaker Launches Plan to Supply Hospitals (March 29, 8:00 p.m. ET)
MGA Entertainment Inc., a California-based maker of entertainment products, has launched a program to supply hospitals with medical equipment to fight the coronavirus outbreak.
MGAE’s “Operation PAC-MAN” pledges to deliver more than 2 million masks, robes and protective gear to hospitals around the world. The initial plan involves donating $100,000 to UCLA Medical Center, along with identifying an overseas factory that can fulfill an order for the 2 million masks. A shipment of 25,000 masks, due to arrive in the U.S. this week, will be sent to three Southern California hospitals, including City of Hope, Cedars Sinai and UCLA, the company said. In addition, Flexport.org is partnering with MGAE to provide free airlift of another 150,000 units of medical supplies procured by MGAE, and promised to hospitals this week upon.
MGAE is launching a webpage this week for those wishing to support the program. It will include a link to where hospitals and healthcare workers can request certified and approved supplies to be sent to their facility. Upon verification of requests, the company will ship out supplies for immediate delivery.
U.S. Power Demand to Be ‘Profoundly’ Hit (March 27, 6:00 p.m. ET)
The closures of schools, factories and offices to prevent spread of the coronavirus will “profoundly impact” the U.S. power sector, according to BloombergNEF.
Already in New York, electricity use dropped about 7% during the week ending March 25, and prices are down about 10% as the state has ordered nonessential businesses to close, BNEF said in a report Friday. Demand and power prices are also down in California and New England.
“There are clear demand trends in New York, New England and California, but it hasn’t hit the Midwest or Texas,” Josh Danial, an analyst at BloombergNEF, said in an interview. “That was a surprise to us.”
Expansion of work-from-home and travel restrictions in other regions will likely have a greater impact on power demand in coming weeks, he said. For now, demand in Texas and the Midwest is up slightly, which may be because of increased use of data centers and fewer travel restrictions, Danial said. The recent collapse in oil prices is likely to change that dynamic in Texas.
Trump Orders GM to Make Ventilators (March 27, 4:25 p.m. ET)
President Trump ordered General Motors Co. to immediately begin making ventilators, invoking a Cold War-era defense act amid productive talks with the automaker, Bloomberg reported.
“Our negotiations with GM regarding its ability to supply ventilators have been productive, but our fight against the virus is too urgent to allow the give-and-take of the contracting process to continue to run its normal course. GM was wasting time,” Trump said in a statement. “Today’s action will help ensure the quick production of ventilators that will save American lives.”
GM and ventilator maker Ventec Life Systems Inc. had much of what they needed in place to ramp up production of the breathing machines. They were just waiting on the Trump administration to place orders and cut checks.
Toyota Shifts Factories to Face Shields (March 27, 4:15 p.m. ET)
Toyota Motor Corp.’s idled manufacturing facilities in the U.S. will make much-needed face shields and masks, and the Japanese automaker is closing in on deals with medical-device makers to help them boost production.
The carmaker says it will start mass production of face shields early next week to supply hospitals near its plants in Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and Texas, Bloomberg reported. Toyota also said it is finalizing pacts with at least two companies to make breathing ventilators and respirator hoods, and it’s looking for partners to make protective masks. The company on Thursday extended its shutdown of North American factories for two weeks.
U.K. Sees No Change to Brexit Timetable (March 27, 3:30 p.m. ET)
“In terms of the timetable there’s no change from our point of view,” the U.K. prime minister’s spokesman James Slack told reporters in a conference call, according to Bloomberg. Slack was asked if there would be an extension to the Brexit transition period beyond December.
Contract Logistics Market Could Fall by 10.2% (March 27, 1:30 p.m. ET)
In the global fight against COVID-19, a severe economic downturn could mean a contract logistics market drop of 10.2%, according to new research from Transport Intelligence.
Global projections reveal “significant” and varying degrees of risk, and the range of growth potential shows high stakes for retailers, manufacturers and contract logistics providers.
“It’s all but inevitable that we’ll have a global recession this year, and contract logistics will suffer,” the research firm says.
Air Liquide Pledges Support to U.S. Healthcare System (March 27, 1:00 p.m. ET)
Industrial gases supplier Air Liquide, second-largest in the world after Linde, has increased production and inventory of essential medical gases like oxygen, and is managing its gas assets and safety hardgoods inventory to prioritize the needs of the U.S. healthcare system and government, according to a report in Gasworld.
The company is also “working closely with authorities” to increase production of ventilators. Production will double in March, and could quadruple by June “if necessary.”
Survey Shows Big Jump in Virus’s Impact on Shopping Behavior (March 26, 7:00 p.m. ET)
A new survey finds a dramatic increase in the number of shoppers affected by the coronavirus outbreak, across all ages and genders, over the last month.
In the survey by First Insight, Inc., 75% of respondents said the virus is impacting their shopping behavior. That compares with 45% in a comparable survey conducted in February.
The survey also identified “significant swings” in behavior by women and Baby Boomers over that time. “Both groups had been slower to change behavior based on coronavirus fears than their gender and generational counterparts,” First Insight said, “but are now in greater alignment.”
The change is likely the result of intensified action by government to restrict movement and face-to-face interaction, said First Insight CEO Greg Petro.
“This survey shows a significant shift in behavior as consumers adapt to their new reality, whether it’s increasing purchases of staple items, moving more shopping online, or cutting spending in some areas,” Petro said. “The world looks very different than it did three short weeks ago, and things are likely to look different three weeks from today.”
The results were based on two U.S. consumer studies of targeted samples of more than 500 respondents each, conducted on February 28 and March 17, 2020.
Walmart Hires Thousands (March 26, 2:30 p.m. ET)
Walmart has taken on 25,000 new employees and given offers to thousands more in the first week of a hiring push, Bloomberg reported, as the biggest private employer in the U.S. scrambles to keep its shelves stocked and checkouts staffed.
The retailer has compressed a hiring process that can often take two weeks into as little as three hours by eliminating formal interviews and written job offers.
Ford Plans Gradual Restart of Plants (March 26, 2:00 p.m. ET)
Ford Motor Co. plans to resume production in Mexico on April 6, and some U.S. plants about a week later. After halting North American production as of March 19, Ford said it’s aiming to restart production first in Hermosillo, Mexico, which builds the Fusion and Lincoln MKZ sedans, according to Bloomberg.
Ford then plans to restart production on April 14 at Michigan, Kentucky and Ohio plants that assemble profitable F-Series pickups and commercial vans. Other factories that make transmissions and press metal parts for those vehicles are due to resume that day.
Fiat Chrysler and General Motors are also seeking to get assembly lines running again. Two union members who worked at separate Fiat Chrysler plants in Michigan died after contracting COVID-19, a union spokesman confirmed Thursday, after two others in Michigan and Indiana died last week.
Wallenius Wilhelmsen Begins Temporary Layoffs in U.S., Mexico (March 25, 7:00 p.m. ET)
The Norwegian and Swedish shipping line Wallenius Wilhelmsen has announced temporary layoffs of approximately 2,500 workers in the U.S. and Mexico.
The move comes in response to the closure of numerous North American automotive plants due to the coronavirus outbreak, the line said. “While we work diligently to avoid reductions in our workforce, we have no choice but to respond to the disruption experienced by our customers and the effect it has on our operational throughput and income,” said president and CEO Craig Jasienski.
The temporary layoffs amount to just over half of the line’s workforce at several land-based processing centers.
Wallenius Wilhelmsen specializes in roll-on/roll-off cargoes, including cars, trucks and rolling equipment, as well as breakbulk shipments. It operates a fleet of around 125 vessels serving six continents, with 120 processing centers and 11 marine terminals.
Conference Board Offers Three Scenarios for U.S. Economic Recovery (March 25, 6:30 p.m. ET)
The Conference Board has laid out three possible trajectories that the U.S. economy might take between now and the end of the year, in response to plunging consumer demand caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
The first scenario is for a quick reboot occurring in May. It assumes that the number of new cases of the COVID-19 disease will stop rising by mid-April. Possible positive factors include warmer weather and the deployment of better medications and treatments. (Although even in this best-case scenario, a vaccine against the disease will take much longer to deploy on a wide basis, the board said.) The largest contractions will be felt by businesses most affected by social distancing, such as arts and entertainment, recreation and hospitality. Transportation, warehousing and retail trade follow on the list of impacted sectors.
The second scenario envisions a “V”-shaped recovery, occurring not until June and possibly July. Overall, the economy would contract by 35.6% in the second quarter (on an annualized basis), with unemployment possibly hitting 15% by the third quarter. The continuing decline in consumer spending will have a particularly heavy effect on retail, wholesale and manufacturing businesses.
The third scenario delays the beginning of a reboot of the economy until September, with a rebound during the fourth quarter, and overall economic contraction of 6% for 2020. That assumes, of course, that COVID-19 will not return in full force during the fall.
New York Restricts Access to Malaria Drugs (March 25, 3:30 p.m. ET)
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo joined other states in restricting access to malaria treatments that President Trump has touted for the novel coronavirus despite a lack of proof they will work.
Cuomo updated an executive order to block pharmacists from filling prescriptions for the malaria drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine for any uses not approved by the Food and Drug Administration unless it is for a patient who has tested positive for COVID-19 and is part of a clinical trial, Bloomberg reported. The medications are not approved to treat coronavirus.
The government doesn’t typically impose on the practice of medicine. Doctors are typically allowed to prescribe drugs for any illness or condition, not just those a specific medication is approved to treat. Ohio, Texas, Idaho and Nevada have also moved to limit access to the drugs.
Home-Testing Kits Coming to U.K. (March 25, 3:00 p.m. ET)
Sharon Peacock, director of the U.K.’s National Infection Service, said 3.5 million virus home-testing kits have been ordered and will be available in days once scientists in Oxford have finished evaluating them for public use, Bloomberg reported.
The blood tests, which check for antibodies, will be sold via Amazon and pharmacy chains so people can test themselves, Peacock told a panel of lawmakers in Parliament. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government has been criticized for not carrying out enough testing during the coronavirus crisis.
China Imposes 14-Day Quarantine on Ships and Foreigners (March 24, 7:15 p.m. ET)
China has imposed a 14-day restriction on cargo ships and crew from certain countries worst hit by the coronavirus outbreak.
The action calls for tighter quarantine controls on vessels from the U.S., Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland, as reported by Splash247.com. It is in effect at major Chinese ports, including Shanghai and Ningbo-Zhoushan.
An average of 500 ships with 7,000 crew members call Chinese ports each day, according to Yang Xinzhai, deputy director of China’s Maritime Safety Administration.
China is reported to be employing “big-data” techniques to identify ships with the highest risk levels, and therefore subject to stricter quarantine controls.
More Cancellations of Shipping Services From China Likely (March 24, 7:05 p.m. ET)
Expect additional cancellations of ship sailings from China due to the ripple effects of the coronavirus outbreak, according to one industry expert.
The first wave of more than 100 service cancellations was due to the shutdown of Chinese factories in the early weeks of the crisis, noted Lars Jensen, CEO and partner of SeaIntelligence Consulting. The second will be in response to a drop in consumer demand caused by a global economic freefall.
The result will be a temporary shortage of shipping capacity along with rising freight rates, even as China and the rest of world begin to rebound from the economic impact of the pandemic. “This will make it more difficult to manage regular supply chains,” Jensen said in an article posted on LinkedIn.
Jensen recommended that shippers build slack into their planning for time-sensitive cargo. Those choosing to pressure ocean carriers for lower rates could find themselves begging for ship space once economic activity resumes, he warned.
Alaska Discovers Its Vulnerability to the Pandemic (March 24, 7:00 p.m. ET)
The state of Alaska, while recording just 32 cases of coronavirus to date, is highly vulnerable to the long-term impact of the disease because of its reliance on revenues from oil, fishing and tourism, according to state Senator Natasha von Imhof, co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee.
“Alaska is experiencing a perfect storm, a most terrible trifecta, the hat trick from hell,” she said at a committee hearing on Saturday. “We are being hit on all sides with the stock market crash, oil prices plummeting and the tourism and fishing season all but idle.”
As reported by Arctic Today, quoting University of Alaska economist Mouhcine Guettabi, plunging fuel prices are already costing the state treasury between $500 million and $700 million.
Because of the stock market crash, the Alaska Permanent Fund lost about a tenth of its value in just over two weeks, the report said.
‘Clean’ Manufacturing Techniques Enable Social Distancing in the Factory (March 24, 6:45 p.m. ET)
Drawing on Lean manufacturing principles and the concept of the “Visual Factory,” Indow has divided its 20,000 square-foot facility into zones, placing brightly colored stickers at points where human touch is most likely. Zone “captains” maintain a cleaning schedule, with every worker covering one shift within each zone. The system allows for the cleaning of all high-touch areas on a regular basis, distributing that responsibility among staff.
Workers engage in Gemba walks to identify potential COVID-19 transmission vectors within the facility.
Indow said it’s pursuing further efforts to eliminate disease vectors by replacing doorknobs with hooks, which allow doors to be opened with forearms rather than fingers.
U.S. Retailers Plan to Stop Paying Rent (March 24, 4:00 p.m. ET)
Major U.S. retail and restaurant chains, including Mattress Firm and Subway Restaurants, are telling landlords they will withhold or slash rent in the coming months after closing stores to slow the coronavirus.
Chains are calling for rent reductions through lease amendments and other measures starting in April, according to Bloomberg.
New Manufacturers Jump Into Mask Making (March 24, 12:00 p.m. ET)
Companies trying to jump into the mask-making business are hitting roadblocks in the supply chain. A Texas businessman, a company that makes pee pads for pets in Virginia and a longtime medical-supply executive in New York are all buying machines or retooling production lines to make medical-grade face masks, but new entrants and established mask makers like 3M Co. are facing shortages of key supplies and equipment, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Critical components such as nonwoven polypropylene remain in short supply, and the specialized equipment needed to make high-quality filters and masks is hard to find. Overseas suppliers of the machines say their backlogs stretch out several months. One manufacturer in North Carolina says its bid to rapidly scale up production is hamstrung because a major materials supplier had to shut its operations this year in Wuhan, the Chinese city at the heart of the coronavirus outbreak.
Amazon Suspends 4,000 Accounts Over Price Gouging (March 24, 9:15 a.m. ET)
Amazon.com says it has pulled more than half a million offers and suspended more than 3,900 selling accounts in the U.S. for violating its fair pricing policies.
A team is investigating “unfairly priced” products that are in high demand, such as protective masks and hand sanitizer.
“We are also proactively sharing information with state attorneys general and federal regulators about sellers we suspect have engaged in egregious price gouging of products related to the COVID-19 crisis,” the company said in a statement.
Since the coronavirus outbreak escalated in the U.S., there have been runs on hand sanitizer, toilet paper, bleach wipes, meat and canned soup, among other products. Some people have attempted to sell cleaning products and other supplies at inflated prices on Amazon, EBay and other sites.
Trump Signs Order to Prevent Supply Hoarding (March 24, 9:00 a.m. ET)
President Trump has signed an executive order to prevent hoarding and price increases of supplies amid the coronavirus outbreak.
At a White House briefing, Attorney General William Barr said the government won’t go after a family with a big supply of toilet paper at home, but “if you have a warehouse of surgical masks, you’ll hear a knock on the door.”
He said the government had already initiated investigations of activities that are disrupting the supply chain and suggestive of hoarding. The president has given the Department of Health and Human Services the authority to designate items that people are prohibited from accumulating in more than reasonable amounts and from selling for above market value. Such items haven’t yet been designated, Barr added.
Focus on ‘Essentials’ Sows Confusion Among Amazon Merchants (March 23, 4:00 p.m. ET)
Amazon.com’s delivery delays of non-essential goods will extend for at least another month for many customers in the U.S. and Europe, stirring panic among online merchants who rely on the web retailer for business.
The lengthening delivery times come on top of confusion over how the company identifies “essential products,” a task that appears to be performed by algorithms with little human oversight. Online merchants became alarmed Sunday when they saw delivery dates pushed into late April, meaning many of them will lose more than a month of sales in the fallout from the coronavirus outbreak. The company announced last week that it would stop accepting shipments of non-essential goods.
Shipment holdups apply to a broad range of products in various categories, including bird feeders, kitchen towels and chalk. Tens of millions of products on Amazon sold by approximately 250,000 merchants won’t be available to shoppers until late April at the earliest — “the biggest disruption Amazon has ever seen,” Bloomberg reported.
Expected delivery appears to be slowest for Amazon shoppers who don’t pay monthly or annual fees for Prime.
Ford and GM Rush to Start Making Ventilators (March 23, 10:00 a.m. ET)
U.S. automakers are scrambling to see if they can orchestrate makeshift manufacturing of ventilators in as early as two weeks.
Automakers have 3-D printers and the technical expertise to use them to make components. They have “clean rooms” in some plants that could be elevated to meet Food and Drug Administration standards, and Tyvek suits used in paint shops that could be re-purposed, Bloomberg reported.
With the Defense Production Act, President Trump could order the U.S. private sector to marshal its resources to attack the scarcity and provide financing via government contracts. There has been confusion about whether the president has actually done so via recent tweets.
For now, Trump said at a Sunday press conference, companies are responding without having to be forced.
More Passenger Airlines Shift to Freight As Rates Rise (March 23, 9:00 a.m. ET)
Passenger airlines reeling from the coronavirus-driven collapse in travel are looking at suddenly-robust cargo markets.
American Airlines launched its first scheduled cargo flight since 1984 on Friday, with two round-trip flights over four days between Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and Frankfurt on a wide-body Boeing Co. 777-300 passenger plane that can carry more than 100,000 pounds of freight. Global carriers including Delta Air Lines, Korean Air Lines and Qantas Airways also are running passenger aircraft on freight-only flights in certain lanes.
Deutsche Lufthansa, which has cut 95% of its passenger flights but continues to operate its freighter fleet, says it may use some of the passenger planes to move cargo.
Industry executives say airfreight prices have started to surge on key trade lanes, including routes in Asia where production is starting back up even as industrial operations in Europe and North America shut down. Freight forwarders who typically pay $3 a kilogram to move freight in the belly of Cathay Pacific planes, for instance, may see rates of between $9 and $11 per kilo, The Wall Street Journal reported.
DHL Group’s global forwarding arm has declared force majeure so it can modify its services without penalties of contract violations. The company said in a statement that “almost all elements of the air and ocean supply chain on certain trade lanes” are now “impossible to predict or control.”
Testing Companies Are Struggling With Demand (March 20, 2:30 p.m. ET)
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, U.S. President Donald Trump and other leaders want to ramp up coronavirus testing, but providers of the diagnostics can’t make enough kits to keep up with demand.
The U.K. will soon be testing 25,000 people a day for the virus, Johnson said at a press conference Thursday, and that could eventually rise to 250,000.
Qiagen NV, which makes its own testing kits as well as the components others need for theirs, is having to ration clients while it works to ramp up production as much as 80% in two months. Roche Holding AG’s new high-speed tool that can spew out more than 4,000 results a day is going to places most in need — but not to every lab that could benefit from having it.
Intel Is Still Delivering Most Products on Time (March 20, 1:30 p.m. ET)
Intel is managing to maintain an above 90% on-time delivery of its products from factories worldwide — with manufacturing and supply-chain operations still running in Oregon, New Mexico, California and Arizona, Israel, Ireland, China, Malaysia, Vietnam and other partner locations around the world, the world’s biggest chipmaker says.
Intel’s products are essential components of personal computers and the server machines that run corporate networks and the internet. Continued output from its factories is a vital part of the global supply chain as the technology industry scrambles to deal with the effects of the pandemic.
Semiconductor plants are some of the most automated facilities in the world and require very little human involvement directly in the manufacturing process.
The Santa Clara, California-based company has been trying to increase its output to meet customer demand for more than a year after struggling with the introduction of a new advanced technique. It had planned to improve output this year to accumulate inventory and make sure all its customers were served. Companies such as Dell Technologies Inc. have complained that processor shortages have hurt their earnings.
American Airlines Announces Cargo-Only Flights to Europe (March 19, 8:00 p.m. ET)
American Airlines is deploying passenger aircraft grounded by the coronavirus outbreak to move cargo between the U.S. and Europe.
According to the airline, the first cargo-only flight will depart Dallas Fort Worth International Airport on March 20, landing at Frankfurt Airport the following day. The Boeing 777-300 will fly two roundtrips between DFW and FRA over a period of four days, carrying only cargo and necessary flight crew.
“Challenging times call for creative solutions, and a team of people across the airline has been working nonstop to arrange cargo-only flight options for our customers,” said Rick Elieson, president of cargo and vice president of international operations.
American hasn’t operated a cargo-only flight since 1984, when it retired the last of its fleet of Boeing 747 freighters.
Truckers Face New Restrictions (March 19, 4:15 p.m. ET)
Truckers are raising alarms about growing operational challenges from restrictions tied to the coronavirus pandemic. Efforts to hold back the spread are reaching truck stops and loading docks, The Wall Street Journal reports, adding hurdles for truck drivers racing to meet surging demand for consumer staples and medical equipment.
One operator says some customers are restricting movements of truckers at their facilities, and Pennsylvania recently closed rest stops that provide significant parking space for truckers in critical logistics corridors. Federal highway regulators are trying to provide more capacity by expanding a suspension of hours-of-service driving limits for critical goods, extending the waiver to carriers of fuel and some raw materials.
Detroit Car Makers to Temporarily Close (March 19, 4:00 p.m. ET)
Detroit car companies have agreed to temporarily shut down factories in the U.S. to protect workers, The Wall Street Journal reports, in an unprecedented work stoppage that will affect more than 150,000 factory employees.
Ford Motor Co. is suspending factory work at its plants in North America for 11 days to clean facilities and develop other preventive measures, and General Motors Corp. is taking similar steps. Honda Motor Co. is also closing all its North American plants for six days to respond to coronavirus concerns.
Chinese Port Restricts Ships From Virus-Hit Nations (March 19, 9:00 a.m. ET)
The port of Fuzhou in eastern China is restricting vessels arriving from nine countries including the U.S. and Singapore in efforts to limit the spread of coronavirus by visiting ships and their crew.
Vessels arriving from Japan, South Korea, Iran, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, the U.S., and Singapore won’t be allowed entry into the port until they’ve completed a mandatory 14-day quarantine, according to Bloomberg. The countdown begins when ships depart from those nations.
Fuzhou’s port is the world’s 47th busiest, handling 3.3 million twenty-foot equivalent units in 2018, according to the World Shipping Council.
Trump Gives U.S. Control Over Health Supply Chain (March 18, 8:00 p.m. ET)
President Trump signed an executive order Wednesday giving the federal government broad powers to direct the production and distribution of health protective gear, ventilators and other supplies if the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. gets far worse.
As part of an emergency measure, the executive order lets U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar take priority over private contracts and agreements. The department could also get control over how needed health-care goods are distributed.
It’s not clear how extensively the government would use the powers outlined in the broadly-written order, or whether companies would start legal objections if they disagreed. In a tweet following the signing of the order, Trump said it would be used for a “worst-case scenario,” and hopefully wouldn’t be needed.
The White House cited the Defense Production Act of 1950, which gives the government authority to allocate private resources in a national crisis, as the legal basis for the new authority.
U.S.-Canada Border to Close; Trade Won’t Be Affected (March 18, 7:30 p.m. ET)
President Trump announced today that the border between the U.S. and Canada will be temporarily closed to “non-essential” travel, in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The action is being taken under “mutual consent” by the two countries. However, the President added in a tweet, trade will not be affected, and goods will continue to be allowed to cross in both directions. “Details to follow!” he tweeted.
On Monday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced restrictions on the entry into Canada of non-citizens, except for those from the U.S.
U.S. Blood Supply Under Strain (March 18, 4:00 p.m. ET)
The broad shutdown of American commerce and social life has put the nation’s blood supply under stress it’s never before seen, blood-center directors say. The centers are urging people to make appointments to donate after the typical venues for drives — schools, colleges, workplaces and houses of worship — have closed.
About 4,000 blood drives scheduled for March, April and May have been canceled, reducing projected supply by 130,000 donations, according to Bloomberg. A March 13 Congressional Research Service report warned the outbreak “may pose significant challenges” to the U.S. blood supply.
Officials say respiratory viruses don’t spread through blood, and blood centers hope getting the word out to donors that giving is safe will replenish stocks. The industry usually handles local shortages by moving supplies around, but the current drop in donations has affected inventory nationwide. The shortfall exposes another vulnerability in the complex supply chains that keep the medical system working.
VW, Airbus Shut Plants (March 17, 2:30 p.m. ET)
Europe’s biggest industrial manufacturers from Volkswagen AG and Airbus SE to Daimler AG are taking unprecedented steps to idle plants across the region.
VW, the world’s largest automaker, joined a host of rivals and suppliers on Tuesday in suspending output across its European factories as a synchronized halt not seen in decades gained momentum. Airbus, the biggest planemaker, will shutter production at sites in France and Spain for four days to clean floor stations and separate workers, while Daimler is halting most of its output in Europe for at least two weeks.
Chicken Run Has Processors Boosting Output (March 17, 2:00 p.m. ET)
Meat companies are ramping up processing to help restock coolers that are being emptied by Americans on edge.
Tyson Foods Inc., the biggest U.S. meat processor, is making its “most-significant shift” ever to produce more chicken, beef and pork that’s favored by supermarket shoppers, rather than cuts that restaurants use. Employees are working through weekends to fill as many orders as possible.
Sanderson Farms Inc. said it is adding Saturday shifts at its five plants that process chicken for grocery-store customers, and is ready to convert two other plants to process more such birds. Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. and Perdue Farms Inc. are also working to accommodate the boom in retail demand.
Amazon Prioritizes Medical Supplies, Household Staples (March 17, 12:35 p.m. ET)
Amazon said independent merchants would be unable to ship products other than medical supplies, household staples and other high-demand products to its warehouses until April 5 as the e-commerce giant prioritizes the delivery of these goods.
Delta Will Charter Planes for Cargo Market (March 17, 12:30 p.m. ET)
Delta Air Lines Inc. is offering some of its idled passenger aircraft to the cargo charter market, as the carrier seeks new revenue sources after pulling down a swath of flights because of plummeting travel demand. The airline will make available jets at 13 U.S. airports and 70 sites outside the country.
Delta said last week that it is cutting about 40% of its flights over the next few months, joining an array of airlines that are pulling back operations as governments restrict travel and customer demand falls.
Container Lines Cancel Reefer Surcharges (March 17, 12:00 p.m. ET)
Container lines are canceling surcharges for refrigerated shipments destined for China as congestion caused by the coronavirus impact eases.
The surcharges came after business slowdown in China last month caused a pile up of refrigerated containers at major ports across the country — and shortage of power and staff to monitor them. The situation has since been normalizing.
Oakland Port, Airport to Remain Open (March 16, 8:00 p.m. ET)
The Port of Oakland and Oakland International Airport will remain open during the COVID-19 outbreak, despite a “shelter-in-place” order requiring the closing of all businesses in six Bay Area counties that do not provide essential services.
The port said both facilities are considered essential services, and are therefore exempt from the order.
The Port of Oakland is among the 10 busiest containerports in the U.S., handling more than 2.5 million cargo containers annually. Oakland International Airport serves 14 million passengers a year.
“Our operations are critical to the health, safety, infrastructure and economy of our region,” said Port of Oakland Executive Director Danny Wan. “We will continue to function as a vital gateway for global trade and transportation while doing everything possible to protect our employees, customers and business partners.”
Amazon to Hire 100,000 to Meet Order Spike (March 16, 5:30 p.m. ET)
Amazon.com Inc. will hire 100,000 people — and give U.S. workers a $2 an hour raise in an effort to meet crushing demand from customers placing online orders for household essentials rather than going to crowded stores, Bloomberg reported.
Amazon has had difficulty meeting demand triggered by the coronavirus outbreak. The company warned customers March 2 that orders were backlogged since demand outstripped its delivery capacity, and a technical glitch on Sunday further delayed orders from Whole Foods Markets and other Amazon services.
“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Amazon and our network of partners are helping communities around the world in a way that very few can—delivering critical supplies directly to the doorsteps of people who need them,” Amazon executive Dave Clark said Monday in a blog post. “Getting a priority item to your doorstep is vital as communities practice social-distancing, particularly for the elderly and others with underlying health issues. We are seeing a significant increase in demand, which means our labor needs are unprecedented for this time of year.”
Governments Rush to Secure Ventilators (March 16, 3:00 p.m. ET)
With hundreds dying every day, Europe’s governments are racing to stock up on ventilators, which can save patients with acute cases of COVID-19. The German government last week ordered 10,000 ventilators from Drägerwerk AG, worth roughly a year’s production. Italy is tendering for a total of 5,000 ventilators — at least 150 of which are on their way from China.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday urged British manufacturers across sectors to help with production of ventilators and other medical equipment.
Man Donates 17,700 Bottles of Stockpiled Hand Sanitizer (March 16, 2:00 p.m. ET)
A Tennessee man and Amazon seller has donated 17,700 bottles of hand sanitizer — just as the Tennessee attorney general’s office began investigating him for price gouging.
Grocers Fail to Keep Up With Demand (March 15, 4:30 p.m. ET)
U.S. grocers are changing some of their fundamental operations as coronavirus stockpiling threatens to overwhelm their supply chains. Retailers including Kroger Co., Publix Super Markets Inc. and Walmart Inc. are shortening store hours to give workers more time to restock and disinfect their sites. The Wall Street Journal reports the businesses are grappling with stronger-than-anticipated shopping surges and that contingency plans developed for natural disasters are running up against a nationwide emergency.
U.S. Grants Tariff Exemptions for Medical Goods (March 15, 4:00 p.m. ET)
U.S. trade officials removed tariffs on dozens of medical items imported from China amid the coronavirus crisis — including some protective gowns, exam gloves, patient bags, surgical drapes and medical waste disposal bags. Officials had previously ruled that these items couldn’t get exemptions.
Effort to Ramp Up Sanitizer Production (March 15, 12:00 p.m. ET)
A nationwide run on hand sanitizer is testing manufacturers’ capacity to flex up production. Sales declined 4.5% last year, and the sudden swing in demand as the coronavirus pandemic took hold in the U.S. is challenging suppliers, The Wall Street Journal reports, as factories staff up to boost output of the federally-regulated product. California-based EO Products is running extra shifts and converting factory lines designed for other products to make hand sanitizer, a switch-over that will drag on margins.
U.S. Suspends Truck-Driving Limits (March 15, 11:30 a.m. ET)
As supply chains showed signs of strain, U.S. highway safety regulators suspended limits on daily driving hours for truckers moving emergency supplies in response to the pandemic.
Charter Services Pick Up Amid Capacity Challenges (March 15, 11:05 a.m. ET)
Cargo operators are ramping up charter services as passenger flight cancellations limit airfreight capacity, with several services announcing new routes for shippers scrambling for space.
Coronavirus Takes Toll on Events Hauliers (March 15, 11:00 a.m. ET)
Canceled conventions are weighing on special-events trucking companies, as more conferences, exhibitions and music events continue to be canceled or postponed across the U.K. and Europe.