Key Issues:

  • On November 4, 2020, the United States reported over 100,000 new coronavirus cases in a single day. This was the first time the reported count was over 100,000.
  • This is the worst possible situation to be in as we head into the winter months and the holiday season.
  • Small businesses that make most of their money during the holiday season need to start thinking of new business models now.

Summary:

On Wednesday, November 4, 2020, the United States reported 104,004 new cases of the coronavirus in  a single day. This was the highest number every recorded and the first time it topped 100,00 cases. Over 50,000 people are currently hospitalized with Covid-19 across the country and creating a strain on hospitals.

The spread of the virus at the start of November is coming at the worst possible time for the country. As we head into the holiday season, this is the time when families spend more time together in closed rooms to escape the cold and to celebrate the holidays. It is also the time when many small businesses make most of their annual revenue from holiday sales.

Coming Holidays

  • November 26, 2020 – Thanksgiving
  • November 27, 2020 – Black Friday
  • December 10, 202  – Start of Hanukkah
  • December 25, 2020 – Christmas
  • December 31, 2020 – New Years Eve
  • January 1, 2021 – News Years Day
  • February 12, 2021 – Lunar New Year

In addition to the threat of Covid-19, the winter months are the peak of flu season. Although the flu may not be as deadly as Covid-19, the Center for Disease Control estimated that there were 74,000 hospitalizations for the flu in 2019-2020 flu season, resulting in 24,000 to 62,000 flu-related deaths. The concern of public health experts is that hospitals are already at the breaking point from Covid-19 will simply not be able to handle additional flu patients entering their hospital.

Quotes from experts:

“We’re in for a whole lot of hurt. It’s not a good situation. All the stars are aligned in the wrong place as you into the fall and winter season, with people congregating at home indoors. You could not possibly be positioned more poorly.” -Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Washington Post, October 31, 2020.

“The numbers keep going up, and we’re only getting closer and closer to Thanksgiving and Christmas. For so many reasons, the next few weeks are going to be bad for us and good for covid.” -Eleanor Murray, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at Boston University, Washington Post, November 4, 2020.

“We are in the middle of an emergency. We have cases higher than they have ever been since this pandemic started, and yet you will have people paying less attention than ever to covid. We as a country are not in a place right now where it’s safe to do that.” – Eleanor Murray, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at Boston University, Washington Post, November 4, 2020.

Impact:

  • Don’t expect a holiday rush or packed venues for the holiday season. Although local restrictions vary across the country, it is safe to assume that social distancing guidelines and limits on people inside a venue will continue throughout the holiday season.  Restaurants, retail shops, and offices will continue to limit the amount of people within their businesses.
  • Black Friday and the shopping experience for Thanksgiving weekend will drastically change this year. Large retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target have already started their Black Friday sales in the month of November. Small retailers must find ways to sustain their revenue without the foot traffic they normally receive during Black Friday.
  • Travel will be significantly less during the holiday season. Family members will probably not be heading home for the holidays when compared to previous years. The risk of catching Covid-19 at the airport or on the plane may be too high for many people, especially if they are planning on visiting parents and grandparents. Hospitality companies that rely on holiday travel must find other revenue sources this year.
  • Entertainment venues, performers, and bars will be impacted by the cancelation of New Years Eve celebrations. There will be very few venues that allow crowds of people to count down to midnight.
  • Supply chain issues may come back and impact your operations.  Unlike past surges in the country, this current surge is taking place across the country. After the initial lockdown and buying of supplies in March, the supply chain was able to somewhat get back to normal as there were isolated hotspots across the country. But now with outbreaks across all areas of the country, items will be in demand everywhere which puts strain on the manufacturer. As stated in the Wall Street Journal, “A fresh increase in demand in the event that officials reinstate restrictions on restaurants or workplaces would also run up against the normal holiday boom in grocery sales, further elevating demand for items like baking products, pasta, meat and paper towels.”
  • Someone from your business will catch Covid-19. With the cases being at the highest levels now in the country, there is a higher chance of someone in your business catching the virus. If it hasn’t happened before, how will you handle it? What protocols and procedures do you have in place to deal with this situation.

Recommendations:

  • Change the way you deliver your product or service. If you have been hoping that you could just hold out until the end of the year and things will go back to normal, you are mistaken. You must change now. You must find ways to delivery your product or service with a little physical touch as possible. You cannot rely on foot traffic.
  • Find a way to package your product or business for one person. Instead of planning for 100 people to come to one location (a restaurant, a club, a store), think of ways you can bring that experience to 100 people individually on their computer or at home. For example, instead of a 50 person office coming in to your restaurant for a Christmas luncheon, plan on packing 50 individual meals that can be delivered to that office. You could make a special menu to minimize the costs, but you should plan accordingly by purchasing the necessary supplies to pack individual meals.
  • Your customers have never talked to an Amazon representative who helped them make a purchase.  But they can talk to you. Make sure your customers know that you are available to talk, chat, webcam, and communicate in any way to help them.
  • Stock up on your PPEs and other vital supplies. The Wall Street Journal reported that N95 masks are in short supply again, and those shortages could impact other PPEs soon. Stock up on your gloves, hand sanitizer, face masks, and face shields. Customers will not visit stores where employees are not wearing PPEs.
  • Make sure you know what you are going to do when employees catch Covid-19. If you were able to avoid it until now, you won’t avoid it much longer. Have a plan on what to do if an employee (or you) catches covid or is exposed to covid. Will you allow paid leave? Will you be able to cover their shift? Will you tell your customers? Think through these issues before they happen.

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