July 3, 2020

A Penny for Your Thoughts Could Be a Lot Harder to Find

“As it relates to coins, so many businesses shut down, a lot of coins got stuck in the system, so we are a little bit far behind on coins,” Mr. Mnuchin said at a virtual investment summit sponsored by Bloomberg. “But I know they are redoubling their efforts and that will work out fine.”

The Fed began to ration its coin supply on June 15, giving banks a portion of their requested change supply depending on what they had historically requested, among other factors, a move that the central bank says is a “temporary measure.”

The strategy will remain in place as long as necessary, a Fed spokeswoman said Wednesday, pointing out that change needs to begin circulating through commerce for things to go back to normal.

“The coin shortage has been mainly caused by coins not re-entering distribution,” Michael White, a spokesman for the Mint, said in an emailed statement. “With businesses opening back up, we expect that the situation will improve as Americans return their coins to banks or recycling machines for redistribution.”

Coin shipments are also ramping up, he said, as the Mint puts safeguards into place so manufacturers can work safely. Facilities in Denver and Philadelphia returned to full production staffing levels on June 15 after reducing employees per shift earlier in the pandemic, he said.

  • Frequently Asked Questions and Advice

    Updated June 24, 2020

    • Is it harder to exercise while wearing a mask?

      A commentary published this month on the website of the British Journal of Sports Medicine points out that covering your face during exercise “comes with issues of potential breathing restriction and discomfort” and requires “balancing benefits versus possible adverse events.” Masks do alter exercise, says Cedric X. Bryant, the president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit organization that funds exercise research and certifies fitness professionals. “In my personal experience,” he says, “heart rates are higher at the same relative intensity when you wear a mask.” Some people also could experience lightheadedness during familiar workouts while masked, says Len Kravitz, a professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico.

    • I’ve heard about a treatment called dexamethasone. Does it work?

      The steroid, dexamethasone, is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in severely ill patients, according to scientists in Britain. The drug appears to reduce inflammation caused by the immune system, protecting the tissues. In the study, dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of patients on oxygen by one-fifth.

    • What is pandemic paid leave?

      The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.

    • Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?

      So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.

    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • How does blood type influence coronavirus?

      A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.


The Mint will ship 1.2 billion coins during June, Mr. White said, and is on track to increase that to 1.35 billion coins every month for the rest of 2020. Typically, the number is close to 1 billion per month.

Still, there’s a risk that the crunch in cold hard cash in the United States could touch off literal penny hoarding as businesses become nervous that they will not get the coins they need to make change for customers.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/25/business/economy/coin-shortage-coronavirus.html

Still Reeling From Oil Plunge, Texas Faces New Threat: Surge in Virus Cases

On Thursday, Governor Abbott issued an executive order suspending elective surgery in four populous counties to ensure that hospitals have the space to care for coronavirus patients. He also paused further business reopenings.

William Presta, a barbershop owner in the Houston suburb of Bellaire, closed on March 22 and reopened on May 12. Business was going well until this week when demand suddenly dried up, he said, so he has decided to close the shop next week and take a vacation.

“I’m just being conscious and smart and trying to keep out of harm’s way,” he said.

Texans are accustomed to a gyrating economy that has long soared and tanked along with oil and natural gas prices. There have been four steep oil downturns in the last four decades. In the 1980s, for example, a sharp drop in oil prices devastated the state’s energy companies and banks. Three out of every four petroleum worker lost their jobs.

Over the years the state economy has diversified, with medical centers mushrooming in Houston and Dallas, and Austin becoming a technology hub. But energy remains a critical part of the state’s economy. The shale fracking revolution has made Texas the leader of a national energy boom and fueled an expansion of petrochemical plants and natural gas export terminals.

At the start of the year, Texas oil and gas companies appeared to be doing OK. The U.S. benchmark oil price hovered around $60 a barrel. When the pandemic took hold, and Russia and Saudi Arabia briefly flooded the market with oil, the price dropped to $20 a barrel in March, and then, in a first, briefly dropped to more than $37 below zero.

Oil companies shut down wells and stopped new drilling except when companies were legally obligated to employ rigs under contract.

More than 26,000 Texas oil workers — roughly one in four — lost their jobs in April, according to state employment data. That was the largest single month of oil and gas layoffs. But the impacts were far greater, rippling across the state, hurting businesses that serve the energy industry and its workers. Regional banks, many of which have large oil-company loan portfolios, are being strained, and investments in pipelines are being delayed.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/25/business/economy/texas-economy-oil-coronavirus.html

Fed Caps Dividends and Limits Buybacks by Big Banks

“The payouts will amount to a depletion of loss-absorbing capital,” she wrote in a statement. “This is inconsistent with the purpose of the stress tests, which is to be forward-looking by preserving resilience, not backward-looking by authorizing payouts based on net income from past quarters that had already been paid out.”

  • Frequently Asked Questions and Advice

    Updated June 24, 2020

    • Is it harder to exercise while wearing a mask?

      A commentary published this month on the website of the British Journal of Sports Medicine points out that covering your face during exercise “comes with issues of potential breathing restriction and discomfort” and requires “balancing benefits versus possible adverse events.” Masks do alter exercise, says Cedric X. Bryant, the president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit organization that funds exercise research and certifies fitness professionals. “In my personal experience,” he says, “heart rates are higher at the same relative intensity when you wear a mask.” Some people also could experience lightheadedness during familiar workouts while masked, says Len Kravitz, a professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico.

    • I’ve heard about a treatment called dexamethasone. Does it work?

      The steroid, dexamethasone, is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in severely ill patients, according to scientists in Britain. The drug appears to reduce inflammation caused by the immune system, protecting the tissues. In the study, dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of patients on oxygen by one-fifth.

    • What is pandemic paid leave?

      The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.

    • Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?

      So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.

    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • How does blood type influence coronavirus?

      A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.


Banks have been pushing the Fed to allow them to continue paying dividends, worried that restricting the regular payouts will hit their stock prices. But watchdog groups have been critical of the Fed’s leniency, pointing out that in the 2008 financial crisis, officials allowed money to walk out the door by failing to curb payouts, worsening the financial situation for struggling banks that ultimately failed.

For the largest banks, buybacks make up a bigger share of overall capital distributions while dividends are a smaller chunk. Of the $143 billion that the six biggest banks spent on capital distributions last year, $107 billion went to buybacks and $36 billion to dividends.

Even without across-the-board dividend restrictions, the performance on the normal stress tests could hamper some banks’ ability to continue payouts.

JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America and Wells Fargo, the four largest banks in the United States, all came through the stress tests with sufficient capital, according to a New York Times analysis of the Fed’s results. But capital at the fifth largest, Goldman Sachs, fell slightly below the required level, according to the analysis. The result could complicate any plans the Wall Street firm had for paying out capital to its shareholders if it doesn’t rise to the required amount by late this year as part of a new regulatory framework.

The Fed’s stress tests were introduced after the 2008 financial crisis as a way of making sure regulators had an up-to-date grasp of the risks in the banking system — something they lacked before the housing market crash. The exams focus on how much capital a bank would have left after the different stress scenarios.

Capital is money banks don’t have to pay back to creditors and depositors. The more capital they have, the more losses they can theoretically absorb.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/25/business/economy/fed-dividend-buyback-limits.html

Unemployment: 1.5 Million New State Claims in Weekly Tally

“There’s a lot of turmoil in the labor market, a lot of churn,” said Joel Prakken, chief U.S. economist at the consulting and research firm IHS Markit. While economists have debated whether the recovery will take the form of a V or a Nike swoosh, Mr. Prakken said the recent uptick in coronavirus cases could create a W-shaped rebound. “The upturn in cases is worrisome,” he added.

So far, the recovery has been uneven, according to data analyzed by IHS. After being down 100 percent in April, the number of seated diners at restaurants is now off by 40 percent, a considerable improvement. Demand for gasoline is halfway back to where it was before the virus. But spending on air travel and moviegoing remains depressed.

The shaky economic outlook has both experts and workers worried about the looming expiration of the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, which provides a supplement of $600 a week to those collecting state jobless benefits.

“It’s made all the difference, because basic unemployment isn’t enough,” said Richard Brenin, who was laid off in March from his position doing postproduction work for television shows and movies in Los Angeles.

Without the $600 federal payment, Mr. Brenin would collect $450 a week. “It barely covers the rent, with nothing left over for the car payment, basic expenses or food,” he said, and he and his husband “don’t have much saved up.”

  • Frequently Asked Questions and Advice

    Updated June 24, 2020

    • Is it harder to exercise while wearing a mask?

      A commentary published this month on the website of the British Journal of Sports Medicine points out that covering your face during exercise “comes with issues of potential breathing restriction and discomfort” and requires “balancing benefits versus possible adverse events.” Masks do alter exercise, says Cedric X. Bryant, the president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit organization that funds exercise research and certifies fitness professionals. “In my personal experience,” he says, “heart rates are higher at the same relative intensity when you wear a mask.” Some people also could experience lightheadedness during familiar workouts while masked, says Len Kravitz, a professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico.

    • I’ve heard about a treatment called dexamethasone. Does it work?

      The steroid, dexamethasone, is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in severely ill patients, according to scientists in Britain. The drug appears to reduce inflammation caused by the immune system, protecting the tissues. In the study, dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of patients on oxygen by one-fifth.

    • What is pandemic paid leave?

      The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.

    • Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?

      So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.

    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • How does blood type influence coronavirus?

      A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.


Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia is opposed to extending the supplement, and many Republicans on Capitol Hill share his outlook as Congress considers new emergency relief.

“I don’t think the $600 benefit is the answer going forward,” Mr. Scalia said in an interview with CNBC on Wednesday.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/25/business/economy/coronavirus-unemployment-claims.html

Coronavirus Is a Crisis. Might It Also Narrow Inequality?

More recently, the Great Recession offered an opportunity for the Obama administration to build on it. In 2009, government redistribution efforts, including food stamps, tax provisions and other social programs, shifted 5.3 percent of the nation’s income that year to the poorest 40 percent of households. This was the biggest such transfer in at least three decades, raising the incomes of that contingent to 18.6 percent of the total.

By the end of his presidency, Mr. Obama had not only extended health insurance to millions of working-class Americans. According to the Congressional Budget Office, in 2016 government programs transferred 6.1 percent of national income to the poorest 40 percent, increasing their slice to 18.8 percent, the largest in almost a quarter-century.

Mr. Obama’s chief economic adviser, Jason Furman, highlighted the “historic achievement” of the administration in mitigating the nation’s income inequality.

Mr. Emanuel, who in the depths of the crisis argued that “you never want a serious crisis to go to waste,” acknowledged that the administration might not have achieved all its policy goals, but said, “It wasn’t a swing in the wind.”

In the coronavirus crisis, however, not everybody shares this sense of political opportunity.

Walter Scheidel, an economic historian at Stanford University, has written exhaustively about the power of crises — wars, famines, natural disasters, pestilence — to shift societies onto a more egalitarian path. As far back as the Roman Empire and even beyond, he writes, the equalizing moments in history “shared one common root: massive and violent disruptions of the established order.”

While the current emergency might seem like a big deal, Mr. Scheidel argues, it probably won’t be damaging enough. “If the crisis is bad enough, it might shape preferences enough to shift where the majorities are,” he said. “But it’s not something I see happening any time soon. We are too stable.”

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/25/business/economy/coronavirus-inequality.html

Labor Dept. Seeks to Restrict Social Goals in Retirement Investing

Jerome Schlichter, a lawyer who has successfully pursued numerous employers on behalf of workers over excessive fees in their 401(k) plans, said he was not aware of employers who had sought to pursue E.S.G. goals at the expense of financial returns.

“That has not been something that we’ve seen,” Mr. Schlichter said. “It hasn’t been done by fiduciaries in any broad way, in part due to concerns about exposure for litigation.”

Other lawyers said that while the growth in E.S.G. investment options and their rising popularity among workers could require additional regulation and enforcement, such action would typically be better aimed at investment companies marketing such funds, rather than employers and their plan administrators.

George Sepsakos, a lawyer who advises employer plans about their legal responsibilities, said the Securities and Exchange Commission had been reviewing disclosure from E.S.G. funds to make sure their marketing accurately reflected their investing strategies. “Right now the definition can mean different things to different people,” Mr. Sepsakos said.

He said that if an investment company had misrepresented potential returns or fees from an E.S.G.-focused fund, the investment company rather than the employer would typically be liable. “The plan fiduciary can only make investment decisions based on what they know or should have known at the time,” he said.

A 2015 academic paper examining decades of research and over 2,000 other studies found that about 90 percent of the work showed no negative connection between E.S.G. principles and corporate financial performance. A large majority showed positive findings.

As a result, said Mr. Hale of Morningstar, the proposed rule could end up being counterproductive. “Not only could investments that focus on the long-term sustainability of companies lead to truly long-term outperformance because you’re picking better quality companies,” he said. “But there is also the systems argument, that you’re helping to create a financial system and economy that will be more successful.”

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/24/business/labor-retirement-investing.html

As Sales Rise, Automakers Ramp Up Production

High-quality used cars are also scarce. “Our used sales have exploded,” Mr. Waikem said. “A $10,000 to $14,000 used car is gold.”

  • Frequently Asked Questions and Advice

    Updated June 24, 2020

    • Is it harder to exercise while wearing a mask?

      A commentary published this month on the website of the British Journal of Sports Medicine points out that covering your face during exercise “comes with issues of potential breathing restriction and discomfort” and requires “balancing benefits versus possible adverse events.” Masks do alter exercise, says Cedric X. Bryant, the president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit organization that funds exercise research and certifies fitness professionals. “In my personal experience,” he says, “heart rates are higher at the same relative intensity when you wear a mask.” Some people also could experience lightheadedness during familiar workouts while masked, says Len Kravitz, a professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico.

    • I’ve heard about a treatment called dexamethasone. Does it work?

      The steroid, dexamethasone, is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in severely ill patients, according to scientists in Britain. The drug appears to reduce inflammation caused by the immune system, protecting the tissues. In the study, dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of patients on oxygen by one-fifth.

    • What is pandemic paid leave?

      The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.

    • Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?

      So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.

    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • How does blood type influence coronavirus?

      A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.


Robert Watkins, a production supervisor at a manufacturing company in New Hampshire, is among those buying a used car. Because of the virus, he and his wife had to cancel a trip to Germany this summer, freeing up some cash.

“So I thought, I should probably get a better car,” Mr. Watkins said. Last week, he traded in his beat-up Hyundai Accent with 163,000 miles for a 2017 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen with almost every option imaginable.

To reopen their factories, automakers developed new procedures to screen workers for coronavirus symptoms and reduce interactions between employees. These included allowing time for cleaning work places, staggering arrival times, adding transparent barriers to assembly lines and installing no-touch faucets and doors.

So far, production appears to be ramping up with few major disruptions. Ford said it now expected to have all its U.S. plants back on normal shift schedules this Monday, two weeks sooner than expected. G.M. has returned all of its truck and S.U.V. plants to three shifts a day, and most of its other plants are on the schedules they were on before the pandemic took hold. Ninety percent of the company’s hourly workers are back to work, the company said.

G.M., Ford and Fiat Chrysler have most of their assembly plants in the Midwest, where coronavirus cases have been falling or are flat. But even foreign automakers, which have most of their plants in the South where cases are rising, said factories were more or less back to normal.

Honda, which makes cars in Alabama, Indiana, Ohio, North Carolina and South Carolina, said it had planned to halt production for three days at the end of June as part of the July Fourth holiday but would now keep its plants running.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/24/business/auto-industry-coronavirus-recovery.html

‘Like a Bad Horror Movie’: U.S. Weighs Reinstating Canadian Aluminum Tariffs

In May, the American Primary Aluminum Association, which represents the two companies, sent a letter to Robert E. Lighthizer, the United States Trade Representative, and Wilbur Ross, the Commerce secretary, saying that an import surge from Canada was threatening the viability of their business.

Only a handful of aluminum smelters, which produce raw aluminum out of bauxite, still operate in the United States. In April, aluminum giant Alcoa idled a smelter in Ferndale, Wash., saying that production there was “uncompetitive” based on current market conditions.

Aluminum production is hugely energy intensive, and the industry has gradually migrated out of the United States toward Canada, Iceland, the United Arab Emirates, Russia, and other countries with ample petroleum, hydroelectric or geothermal power. China, which heavily subsidizes aluminum production, is also a major global producer.

Since aluminum is vital for producing planes, cars and other products, the Trump administration has seen this exodus of aluminum production as a threat to national security, though critics of that view say the United States has a ready and secure supply of aluminum in Canada, an ally that fought in Afghanistan and elsewhere alongside U.S. forces.

In a congressional hearing with Mr. Lighthizer last week, Representative Suzan DelBene, Democrat of Washington, said that closure of the Alcoa smelter had put 700 people in her district out of work and she urged the administration to step up its efforts to address Chinese overcapacity.

“It’s something we’re working on,” Mr. Lighthizer said. “The president did take a bold step when he put tariffs on. And the problem unfortunately is not just China, right, as you know well, it’s also a problem with Canada that we’re working on.”

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/23/business/economy/usmca-canada-aluminum-tariffs.html

These Companies Gave Their C.E.O.s Millions, Just Before Bankruptcy

Some companies don’t even try to argue that executive pay was cut. At $6.4 million, the cash bonus paid to Whiting Petroleum’s chief executive, Bradley J. Holly, is larger than the $5.5 million at which the company valued his total compensation for 2019.

  • Frequently Asked Questions and Advice

    Updated June 22, 2020

    • Is it harder to exercise while wearing a mask?

      A commentary published this month on the website of the British Journal of Sports Medicine points out that covering your face during exercise “comes with issues of potential breathing restriction and discomfort” and requires “balancing benefits versus possible adverse events.” Masks do alter exercise, says Cedric X. Bryant, the president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit organization that funds exercise research and certifies fitness professionals. “In my personal experience,” he says, “heart rates are higher at the same relative intensity when you wear a mask.” Some people also could experience lightheadedness during familiar workouts while masked, says Len Kravitz, a professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico.

    • I’ve heard about a treatment called dexamethasone. Does it work?

      The steroid, dexamethasone, is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in severely ill patients, according to scientists in Britain. The drug appears to reduce inflammation caused by the immune system, protecting the tissues. In the study, dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of patients on oxygen by one-fifth.

    • What is pandemic paid leave?

      The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.

    • Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?

      So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.

    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • How does blood type influence coronavirus?

      A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.

    • My state is reopening. Is it safe to go out?

      States are reopening bit by bit. This means that more public spaces are available for use and more and more businesses are being allowed to open again. The federal government is largely leaving the decision up to states, and some state leaders are leaving the decision up to local authorities. Even if you aren’t being told to stay at home, it’s still a good idea to limit trips outside and your interaction with other people.

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.


And of course the bonuses are far higher than what regular employees earn. Ms. Soltau’s was many times the $11,482 the retailer’s median employee, a part-time worker, earned during J.C. Penney’s 2019 fiscal year, according to a securities filing.

The cash bonuses have also led to the concealing, loosening and removal of the tools companies normally use to tie pay to performance, which many critics contend were already too weak. Companies still operate when seeking protection under Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy code. And in theory, boards could require chief executives to hit sales targets or achieve other goals.

And in some cases, a few strings remain. Ms. Soltau has to repay a fifth of her cash bonus if she fails to achieve certain performance goals, and Mr. Lawler has to repay half of his. But J.C. Penney and Chesapeake did not disclose the goals in their securities filings and declined to answer questions about them.

Hertz and Whiting, the oil and gas company, did not tie cash bonuses to performance goals at all. Whiting and Mr. Holly didn’t respond to requests from comment, but the company said in a securities filing that the new bonuses “eliminate any potential misalignment of interests that would likely arise if existing performance metrics were retained and/or new performance metrics were established at a volatile and uncertain time.”

This is not the first time that executive pay at troubled companies has prompted an outcry. Congress passed a law in 2005 aimed at curbing retention bonuses paid during bankruptcy. Under the law, companies are allowed to pay incentive-based bonuses, but the legal cost of constructing such payments and getting them approved in bankruptcy court soared after 2005, according to research by Jared Ellias, a professor at the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law.

Of course, Congress could change bankruptcy law so that compensation payments made before the filing could be clawed back, Mr. Ellias said. In addition, lawmakers could make it easier for creditors to pursue claims against executives after the bankruptcy.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/23/business/ceo-bonsues-before-bankruptcy-coronavirus.html

A Multibillion-Dollar Opportunity: Virus-Proofing the New Office

“This terribly manual process of contact tracing: essentially it’s a phone tree, and that’s where the technology was when people started thinking about it; we’ve since moved it into the modern age,” said Rob Mesirow, a partner in connected solutions at PwC.

In May, PwC introduced a smartphone app for employers that uses Bluetooth signals, Wi-Fi, GPS and other data to track where employees go around the office, who they come into contact with and for how long. The idea is to enable human resources or corporate security managers to quickly access the data in the event of a workplace outbreak and notify employees who may have been exposed.

Microshare, a software company in Philadelphia that uses sensors to monitor environmental factors — like indoor air quality and occupancy — for offices and manufacturing plants, is marketing a different kind of contact-tracing system. It is adapting Bluetooth technology that it originally developed to track the locations of wheelchairs and beds in hospitals for tracking employees.

Employees will wear wristbands or carry credit card-size badges that collect signals about their whereabouts and proximity to one another; that data is sent to devices that transmit it to the cloud. Microshare said employers could also use its system to identify spots where infected workers may have recently gathered, enabling companies to shut down specific areas, rather than an entire building, for deep cleaning.

The badges may appeal to secure facilities or factories where employees are not allowed to bring their personal phones, as well as to people who would rather not have their employers track them on their smartphones.

“Asking you to put something on my phone, that’s a really slippery slope,” said Ron Rock, the chief executive of Microshare. But even employee-tracking wristbands and badges raise questions about increased prying by employers, he said. “You start to come up against: Is somebody going to the bathroom too often? Is somebody going to the cafeteria too often? Is somebody smoking too much? Is somebody in parts of the building where they don’t belong?”

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/22/business/virus-office-workplace-return.html