Is it time for retailers to reinstate pandemic protocols?
The U.S. stock market turned in one of its worst performances of the year yesterday as investors reacted to the rapid spread of the Delta variant across the country, especially in areas where large percentages of the population have yet to be vaccinated against the virus. The Dow Jones Industrial average fell 800 points, 2.4 percent.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that daily cases of COVID-19 averaged almost 30,000 over the last seven days compared to the weekly average of 11,000 last month. Health officials are pointing to a “pandemic of the unvaccinated” with areas such as Springfield, MO, and others seeing hospitalizations and deaths approaching last winter’s numbers before vaccines were readily available to the public.
Retailers have relaxed many protective measures put in place during the most severe months of the pandemic. Many stores no longer require shoppers or associates to wear masks and social distancing measures have become a thing of the past at many locations. Many chains, which had instituted senior hours to protect the most vulnerable members of society against the spread of COVID-19, have cut back or dropped programs as state health authorities relaxed rules with the rollout of vaccinations.
Costco, which had previously announced that it was going to end senior hours, posted a message yesterday on its site that it would be continuing to allow those who are 60 or older or immunocompromised to shop Tuesdays and Thursdays between 9:00 and 10:00 a.m. local time before opening to all members. The chain said it would continue following state and local regulations regarding the wearing of masks.
Los Angeles County in California announced that it would now require all individuals two or older, vaccinated or not, to wear face masks in public indoor settings. The government took this step after seeing local cases spike among unvaccinated residents in the area.
The majority of new COVID-19 cases have been tied to the unvaccinated but so-called breakthrough cases, where vaccinated individuals have gotten the virus, are also a concern. The CDC reports that of the more than 159 million Americans vaccinated by July 12, about 5,200 were hospitalized, the majority of them 65 years of age or older (4,109).
- Stocks Plunge on Delta Variant Fears – U.S. News & World Report
- Trends in Number of COVID-19 Cases and Deaths in the US Reported to CDC, by State/Territory – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Masks are now required in all indoor public places in Los Angeles County – Los Angeles County
- COVID-19 Vaccine Breakthrough Case Investigation and Reporting – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What should retailers be doing to protect associates and customers as COVID-19 cases resume, particularly in areas where locals are refusing to get vaccinated or wear masks? Should stores that have suspended so-called “hero wages” bring them back in light of the growing threat?