This year, instead of the traditional turkey, Nicole Beckler’s Thanksgiving table will feature two Cornish hens: the perfect sized birds for a dinner for two.
Beckler, a travel agent based in Florida, downsized her dinner after deciding against flying to New Jersey to celebrate the holiday with her family.
“Since New Jersey is kind of locking down again, I thought it best to stay here,” she said.
Like Beckler, many Americans will be celebrating Thanksgiving differently this year. Health experts have warned against traveling home or gathering in large groups as the number of new Covid-19 cases in the U.S. explodes. But celebrating Thanksgiving — even in a different way — could also lift spirits after a stressful year.
“Showing gratitude in even small ways can reduce stress and provide hope for the future,” said Barbara Fiese, a psychology professor at the University of Illinois.
Kroger’s internal data science and analytics firm found that 43% of shoppers are planning on spending the holiday only with their immediate family. Retailers, like Walmart-owned Sam’s Club, have responded by stocking smaller turkeys and shrinking their packages of yeast rolls.
Struggling restaurants see the break with tradition as a possible opportunity to attract customers who don’t want to labor over turkey, stuffing and all of the side dishes for a much smaller party.
Bayan Ko, a Chicago restaurant that fuses Cuban and Filipino cuisine, is among the restaurants selling Thanksgiving feasts for the first time. For $195, customers will receive the restaurant’s take on the holiday meal, which includes three types of meat, four side dishes and flan for dessert.
Thanksgiving meals prepared by restaurants don’t come cheap, especially when compared with the average cost of preparing the meal at home. This year, according to estimates from the American Farm Bureau Federation, a Thanksgiving dinner for ten people costs an average of $46.90 when the ingredients are bought at the grocery store. But customers are looking to offload the stress of cooking the turkey, as well as supporting local businesses.
“We’re having fun, so it’s livening up our spirits as well,” said Bayan Ko co-owner Raquel Quadreny.
The restaurant sold out of its Thanksgiving packages, with many going to regular customers, according to Quadreny.
“What we made in one day is more than we’ve been making every week since Covid cases got worse in Illinois,” she said.
As Covid cases in Chicago have surged in recent weeks, Quadreny estimates that its sales have been cut in half. City officials outlawed indoor dining once again at the end of October, with the state following suit shortly after. Bayan Ko never reopened its indoor dining room in the summer or fall, choosing instead to draw customers to its outdoor patio.
Summit House in Summit, New Jersey has also been exercising caution in light of the recent surge in cases. Thanksgiving arrives a week after the restaurant opted to suspend in-person dining, both indoor and outdoor. Instead, it’s focusing on its grab and go business, which includes preordered meal packages for the holidays.
The restaurant’s holiday packages started with its Mother’s Day bundle this year and will continue with meals for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Owner Dylan Baker said that about 200 Thanksgiving dinners will be prepared by Summit House.
And for the restaurants that have been selling Thanksgiving dinners for years, slow kitchens mean that they can take on more orders than usual.
Black-Eyed Sally’s in Hartford, Connecticut has been offering Cajun-fried turkey dinners for more than 15 years. This year, the eatery also cut its turkeys in halves or in thirds in response to consumers looking for smaller meals. Varano said that they cut off their orders this year at 150, 50% higher than its usual number.
“Since business has been so terrible, it’s nice to know at least this week we’re going to get some sales into the register with the holiday takeout,” said James Varano, owner of Black-Eyed Sally’s.
And restaurants are continuing to look ahead to the next holiday for another boost to sales. Black-Eyed Sally’s and Summit House will be making Christmas dinners. Summit House will also offer a prime rib package throughout December. Bayan Ko is planning on creating a bundle for New Year’s and weighing another one for Christmas.
During the mortgage bubble in the early 2000s, when investors were feverishly trading faulty subprime bonds, a few savvy skeptics recognized the bonds were doomed, so they bet against them. They shorted the bonds and made billions.
Now one of those players is doing the same thing, but not on subprime. He’s doing it based on the risks to the housing market from climate change and the coronavirus pandemic.
Dave Burt is a financial analyst who looks at risk in real estate derivatives markets. That’s what he was doing back in 2005, analyzing vast pools of subprime mortgage bonds that Wall Street was creating and trading. He examined the homes and borrowers who owned them.
“I had a strong suspicion that they would go bad,” said Burt.
Burt sold his findings to the few investors who wanted to short those pools of mortgages. They were right and made billions. He was featured in Michael Lewis’ best-selling book “The Big Short.”
“Burt had the most sensational information and models to analyze the information,” Lewis wrote. “He could tell you, for example, what would happen to mortgage loans zip code by zip code in various house price scenarios.”
Burt now says he can do the same thing when it comes to climate risk.
Burt says that as the risks of floods, fires and wind increase, the cost of owning a home will go up — costs from higher insurance rates, higher taxes and uninsured losses. As the cost goes up, the value of the home goes down, and, consequently, the mortgage on the home is at higher risk of default.
It is just like during the subprime storm, when borrowers who couldn’t really afford the homes they were buying were offered loans that were cheap up front but then quickly turned expensive. They then defaulted on those loans, and home values crashed, bringing the broader economy down with them.
“This is going to be much more broadly impactful than just a mortgage story,” said Burt, who is using data from Boston-based risQ, a data analytics firm specializing in climate risk. He’s looking at specific areas where home values are likely to fall from climate impacts, causing homeowners to walk away from their mortgage.
In order to profit off that information, he’s going to short a specific type of mortgage bond.
“These bonds are issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to essentially protect them against the first X number of losses,” he explained.
Burt thinks those bonds are overvalued because, by his calculations, close to a third of U.S. homeowners are vulnerable to big losses in the value of their homes from climate change.
“I think it’s quite viable and indeed as an economic proposition but also as a political proposition,” said Jesse Keenan, associate professor of real estate at Tulane University and a climate expert.
Keenan said he believes that in a Biden administration, more focused on climate overall, and with the potential for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to come out of government conservatorship, investors will be looking even more closely at these credit risk transfers.
“It shows now there is a market for credit risk transfers. You have a market, a buyer, a seller, an underwriter. I think it’s all there,” said Keenan.
Burt is essentially profiting off of people’s peril. He admits that, with one caveat.
“Honestly, I’m doing this in large part less for the profits and more to make a difference. The subprime mortgage problem, if people had become aware, through realization of market losses, of the problems being created by subprime risk in 2005, 2 million households wouldn’t have had to go through foreclosure,” he said.
Burt says he will take half the profits generated by his investments and put them into a nonprofit that will, in turn, invest in clean energy technology, carbon capture technology and social response efforts to the effects of climate change. More importantly, he claims he is educating the financial market about climate risk, even as he takes a risk himself.
“The biggest risk to this approach is timing. How long can I pay for those shorts before this theme gets realized?”
In other words, before the the devastating impacts of climate change create massive dislocation.
Burt recently launched his own investment firm, Delta Terra Capita, which bills itself as “climate risk intelligence for institutional investors.” Its platform offers tools to measure the physical risk of real estate losses and then translate that into the financial impacts on real estate investments, mortgage securities and related derivatives.
Now Burt is adding the coronavirus to the mix because he believes climate and Covid together make the bet even bigger.
“Covid has created a lot of problems fundamentally for the systems that support the housing market and have potentially been contributing to the mispricing of these climate risks and asset values. Namely, that insurance premiums are too low,” said Burt.
About 3 million mortgages are now in government or private sector Covid bailout programs, and there is no guarantee that those borrowers will ever get current on their loans again, so the homes are at risk of foreclosure.
“You’re talking about very high delinquency rates of mortgages that we all thought were much higher quality than, for instance, you saw before the crisis,” explained Burt.
Rising foreclosures cause surrounding home values to fall. Home prices right now are inflating fast because of huge demand from Covid’s stay-at-home culture.
“It’s really the conflated impact of climate risks being rationalized in valuations and the current state of the economy, as a result of the Covid impacts, that will create these substantial value declines,” he added.
Pharmaceutical giant Merck said it plans to acquire privately-held OncoImmune for $425 million in cash, gaining rights to an under-the-radar drug that’s shown striking results in hospitalized patients with Covid-19.
The medicine, referred to as CD24Fc, was shown in a late-stage clinical study in September to reduce the risk of respiratory failure or death by more than 50% in patients hospitalized with Covid-19 and requiring oxygen, Merck said in a statement Monday.
The drug was given as an intravenous infusion in addition to standard-of-care, which could include remdesivir and dexamethasone, and was compared to standard-of-care alone. The data, in 203 patients, also showed that patients receiving CD24Fc had a 60% higher probability of seeing improved clinical status.
“The results are remarkable,” Merck’s research chief, Dr. Roger Perlmutter, said in a telephone interview.
With cases of Covid-19 averaging almost 170,000 a day in the U.S. and a record number of people in the hospital with the disease, a drug that could speed recovery significantly and reduce the risk of death or of patients getting so severely ill they require ventilators could make a major difference in the pandemic.
But there’s a problem: supply.
“We realized that this small little company was in no position to make CD24Fc to try and treat all of the people who could potentially benefit from this drug,” Perlmutter said. “We decided that the only way, seriously, that this could be brought to people who need it is for us to lean in with our capabilities.”
Merck plans to shift some of its manufacturing capacity to start making the drug. But it’s a complex medicine to manufacture and it will take time; Perlmutter said he’s aiming for “before the middle of next year, and ideally much before that,” for there to be ample supply.
OncoImmune, founded and helmed by Yang Liu, director of the Division of Immunotherapy at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, reported the top-line results from the trial on its website in September. They haven’t yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal; Merck says submission of detailed results is coming.
Though they caught little of the world’s attention, one person who did notice was Moncef Slaoui, chief advisor to the U.S. government’s Operation Warp Speed. He noted in a telephone interview Nov. 1 that the data for OncoImmune’s drug have “just been incredible,” noting a “relative mortality impact that’s very clear.”
Slaoui explained the drug prevents the immune system “from being hyper-activated.” It’s the same reason the steroid dexamethasone proved so effective in a trial in June at treating patients in more severe stages of Covid-19; when patients become that sick, it can be their own immune system kicking into overdrive that causes problems, not the virus anymore.
“Frankly, nobody would have believed that it would have this kind of effect,” Perlmutter said, when asked why the CD24Fc results garnered so little attention. “If you look at the other anti-inflammatories that have been studied in very ill Covid-19 patients, it’s been hard to show there’s any effect at all.”
In addition to the potential to help with the pandemic, Merck acquired OncoImmune because it sees possibilities for CD24Fc beyond Covid-19. It’s shown promise for graft versus host disease, a dangerous immune reaction that can happen after bone marrow transplantation, and Perlmutter said it may have further applications as well.
The $425 million deal comes with the potential for additional payments based on certain regulatory milestones. But Merck only gains CD24Fc; OncoImmune will spin out other rights and assets into a new company, into which Merck will invest $50 million.
The company doesn’t plan to seek emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration until it has enough supply of the medicine for people to actually use it, Perlmutter said. That’s now the task ahead of Merck — which is also developing a pill for Covid-19 as well as two vaccines for the disease.
“Now that we have this terrible, terrible surge in Covid-19 cases, and so many people are hospitalized in severe or critical condition, and so many people in ICUs, tens of thousands, or potentially hundreds of thousands or more just in the United States might need this drug,” Perlmutter said. “We’re going to move Heaven and Earth to produce the material.”
Cancel Thanksgiving, stay home, wear a mask — State and city leaders impose targeted coronavirus restrictions to curb Covid without tanking economy
Medical staff examine a patient suffering from coronavirus in the COVID-19 intensive care unit (ICU) at United Memorial Medical Center on November 16, 2020 in Houston, Texas.
Go Nakamura | Getty Images
Coronavirus cases are running rampant across the U.S., and a handful of states and cities are closing nonessential businesses, limiting public and private gatherings and imposing mask mandates to try to slow the rapid spread ahead of the winter season.
The U.S. is reporting a weekly average of roughly 154,226 new coronavirus cases every day, soaring to record highs as scientists warn Americans that the next few months of the pandemic could be the worst yet. Unlike other other peaks in the spring and summer that hit the Northeast and Sunbelt states particularly hard, this one has no clear epicenter, medical experts say. Some state and city officials say the virus is everywhere; local outbreaks cannot be traced back to a single event or venue.
Without a cohesive federal plan, state and local officials are reinstituting some of the stay-at-home orders, curfews and other public safety measures that were rolled back over the summer and fall.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, announced a “two-week” freeze Friday on most activities and nonessential businesses across the state, making it one of the first to reinstitute widespread closures of nonessential businesses. Brown limited restaurants to takeout service only; closing gyms, fitness centers and indoor and outdoor event centers; and limiting attendance at places of worship, among other limitations.
In New Mexico, Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a Twitter post that the state will “hit reset” and begin a statewide stay-at-home order on Monday. Residents are instructed to stay at home unless venturing out for essential services for two weeks.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, followed suit on Sunday, ordering a one-month ban on indoor services at restaurants and gyms and reduced in-store retail capacity to 25%. Later in the day, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued a ban on in-person high school and college classes as well as indoor dining service for three weeks.
“We are in the worst moment of this pandemic to date,” Whitmer, a Democrat, said during a news conference. “The situation has never been more dire. We are at the precipice and we need to take some action.”
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) speaks during an event with U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden (not pictured) at the Beech Woods Recreation Center in Southfield, Michigan, U.S. , October 16, 2020.
Tom Brenner | Reuters
The U.S. first crossed 100,000 new Covid-19 cases on Election Day and the cases have continued to climb to record highs since then. That’s pushed hospitals to capacity and has prompted state leaders like California Gov. Gavin Newsom to rollback reopening efforts. A record 76,823 Covid-19 patients on Tuesday, according to the Covid Tracking Project, which is run by journalists at The Atlantic.
Newsom, a Democrat, said Monday that his state is “pulling the emergency brake” on its reopening process and banning most nonessential indoor businesses for a majority of the state’s population. The Democratic governor also floated the idea of instituting a statewide curfew.
Curfews and reduced capacity
Many governors and mayors have made it clear they don’t want to shut down the economy again like many did in March and April at the outset of the outbreak.
“Instead of this on and off switch, we need to be thinking about this like a dimmer switch or a dial that you tighten up restrictions, you loosen up restrictions very much in concert with what is happening with respect to transmission in the community,” said Dr. Celine Gounder, and infectious disease specialist at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine and a coronavirus advisor to President-elect Joe Biden.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday asked all residents to cancel Thanksgiving plans and stay at home unless they need to go to work or school or to tend to essential needs such as a doctor’s appointment or grocery shopping. She issues a non-binding 30-day stay-at-home advisory, asking people to refrain from traveling, having guests in their home or leaving for nonessential business.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, said state officials were acting “with more precision” in rolling out a set of targeted restrictions last week.
“To be clear, the last thing I want to do, or any of us want to do, is to shut our economy back down,” he said. Restaurants, bars and casinos are required to close their indoor dining sections beginning at 10 p.m. On Monday, he ordered a limit on indoor gatherings to 10 people only. “We are taking surgical steps that we hope will help mitigate the current increasing rate of spread.”
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo delivers remarks on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Riverside Church in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., November 15, 2020.
Andrew Kelly | Reuters
Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced similar new restrictions in his state, issuing a 10 p.m. curfew on bars, restaurants and gyms and limiting private gatherings to 10 people. Cuomo warned that more restrictions could be on the way after holding an “emergency” meeting with other governors of Northeastern states over the weekend.
“We’ve had a terrible eight months. We’re in this last small lap. Let’s just do what we have to do to get through it and then we’ll rebuild together,” Cuomo told reporters on a call last week.
Meanwhile, parents of school-aged children in New York City are awaiting an announcement from Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio, who told them to prepare for classrooms to move to remote teaching if the city’s test positivity rate continues to rise.
Even Republican governors, many of whom have long resisted statewide lockdowns and mask requirements, are imposing curfews and starting to order residents to wear face coverings in public.
Gov. Mike DeWine in Columbus, Ohio.
Justin Merriman | Getty Images
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, reimposed a statewide mask mandate with tougher enforcement measures on businesses on Thursday.
“If we wear a mask, we are keeping our kids in school and we are protecting our elderly and we are protecting our hospitals,” DeWine told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.
In Iowa, Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican who has long resisted issuing a statewide mask requirement, ordered residents over the age of 2 to wear face coverings when inside a public space beginning Tuesday. North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, a Republican who has also resisted instituting a mask mandate, ordered residents late last week to begin covering their face when in public.
In Utah, people will be required to wear face coverings “until further notice,” Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican, announced during a video address posted to Twitter on Nov. 8.
“Masks do not negatively affect our economy and wearing them is the easiest way to slow the spread of the virus,” he said. “We cannot afford to debate this issue any longer.”
‘Measure of last resort’
A national lockdown of businesses and schools is a “measure of last resort,” Dr. Vivek Murthy, a former U.S. surgeon general tapped to help lead Biden’s Covid-19 advisory group, told “Fox News Sunday.” Murthy noted that any measures at this stage of the pandemic would look different than the sweeping closures which states enacted in the spring to suppress the virus.
“In the spring we didn’t know a lot about Covid, we responded, in a sense, with an on-off switch. We just shut things down because we didn’t know exactly how this was spreading and where it was spreading, but we learned a lot more since then,” he said.
However, gyms, bars and restaurants will likely need tougher restrictions if an outbreak is out of control since they’re at higher risk of spreading the virus, said Dr. Andrew Pavia, a pediatric infectious diseases chief at the University of Utah Health. Mask mandates should also have some “teeth” to them, like allowing businesses to turn away customers if they’re not wearing them, he said.
“When you have a really out of control outbreak — as we do in many, many states — you need to ramp up the degree of control that you use,” Pavia said during a Nov. 11 Infectious Disease Society of America media briefing. “And you only have to look at the countries that have done a really good job to get a sense of how you can do it without resorting to terms like lockdown, a term I never want to see used again.”
A Boeing 737 MAX airplane is seen parked at a Boeing facility on August 13, 2019 in Renton, Washington.
David Ryder | Getty Images
The Boeing 737 Max is nearing clearance to fly again after a 20-month ban prompted by two fatal crashes that sent the company into a crisis, but the planes are returning to a different problem.
The coronavirus pandemic has roiled airline finances around the world, hurting demand for new planes and helping to drive up cancellations and deferrals.
“The Max isn’t coming into a situation where everything is fine now,” said Phil Seymour, president of London-based aviation consulting firm IBA Group.
It’s been a bruising year for the company. In the first 10 months of 2020, Boeing lost 393 aircraft orders after factoring in new sales, cancellations and orders for planes that were converted to other aircraft. Chief rival Airbus won 308 net new orders for aircraft in that period, by comparison. Boeing has lost $3.45 billion this year through the end of September and analysts don’t expect it to get to positive free cash flow until the end of next year.
Boeing executives, however, are eager to turn the page after the protracted crisis, and many investors appear to be, too. Boeing’s stock price has shot up more than 40% this month, fueled by optimism around the jets’ return and positive news from two vaccine trials. But the shares are still off more than 37% this year as the pandemic presents an added challenge to the plane maker.
Against that backdrop the Federal Aviation Administration is near “the finish line” of its review of the planes, it said last week. Other aviation authorities such as those in Europe and Brazil are likely to follow suit, ending the longest and largest grounding of a commercial aircraft. The recertification is key for Boeing because it hasn’t been able to deliver planes to customers since the grounding took effect in March 2019.
All 346 people on board Lion Air Flight 610 on Oct. 29, 2018, and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 on March 10, 2019, were killed in the crashes.
Pilots in both Max flights battled the planes’ automated flight-control system, which has been at the center of several investigations into the crashes. Pilots weren’t informed about the system and mentions of it had been removed from pilot manuals when they were delivered to airlines. A House investigation in September found regulatory, design and management problems as the jets were being developed led to the “preventable death” of the 346 people on board. Boeing has since made the system less aggressive and added more redundancies. FAA Administrator Steve Dickson, a former Delta pilot, tested the aircraft himself in September.
Once the aircraft is certified, 737 pilots will have to undergo training that will include sessions in a flight simulator, a process that could take several months to train all of an airline’s 737 flight crews. Southwest Airlines and United Airlines don’t expect to fly the planes commercially until sometime next year.
Others expect it back sooner. American Airlines has scheduled the planes’ first commercial flights for Dec. 29 and is planning to allow customers to tour the planes before regular flights resume. Brazil’s Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes hasn’t started selling seats on the Max, but said it would fly it domestically in December, if it’s approved this week, CFO Richard Lark said in an interview. Eventually, it plans to use them to link Brazil with Florida.
Gol is one of the biggest customers for the Max and has already cut 34 planes from its original order of 129 planes. Lark expressed confidence in the safety of the aircraft and in Boeing but said the pandemic may change the carrier’s needs.
Additionally, it stokes concerns about the residual value of the aircraft, Lark said. Aircraft values have dropped in the pandemic, and the Max is no exception. IBA valued the 737 Max 8, the most commonly sold model, at $41 million in July, down nearly 9% from January. The Airbus A320neo, the Max’s main rival, also fell, losing close to 7% of its value to $42.5 million in that period.
American has options to defer 18 of the 737 Max planes it ordered.
“If [the grounding] gets lifted soon here in November, we’ll get some delivered in December,” American’s CFO, Derek Kerr, said during an industry conference last week. “There’s another 18 that come in 2021 and 2022 that we have deferral rights on those all. And we’ve said it would have to get much, much better for those to be taken. Assumptions are that they probably, over time, will be deferred.”
Momofuku joins Goldbelly’s delivery service as consumers seek out far-flung comfort food during the Covid pandemic
Customers dine at Momofuku’s outdoor seating in the East Village as the city continues Phase 4 of re-opening following restrictions imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus on September 26, 2020 in New York City.
Alexi Rosenfeld | Getty Images
Goldbelly is adding chef David Chang’s Momofuku to its national delivery service as the coronavirus pandemic drives customers and restaurants to the e-commerce site in droves.
CEO Joe Ariel founded Goldbelly in 2013, when he was living in New York City and couldn’t find a local restaurant to meet his hankering for Nashville hot chicken or Southern-style biscuits. It’s since raised more than $33 million in funding, and its latest round@m, in 2018, was led by restaurateur Danny Meyer’s Enlightened Hospitality Investments.
Prior to the pandemic, Goldbelly was adding restaurants to the platform at a steady clip. But as lockdowns went into place across the United States, eateries that had previously eschewed delivery services and takeout had to pivot.
Like DoorDash and Grubhub, Goldbelly is one of the beneficiaries of the abrupt shift in behavior. It’s almost doubled its restaurant and customer count on its website this year, with establishments like Shake Shack, the burger chain founded by Meyer, joining its ranks. Including Momofuku, the company has nearly 700 restaurants listed on its marketplace.
“Many partners who were interested but somewhat reluctant have now embraced giving the platform a chance and said to us that they couldn’t believe they hadn’t done it sooner,” Ariel said.
But Goldbelly also has some key differences from the third-party delivery apps that work with local restaurants. It ships food items anywhere in the country, rather than being bound by a two- or three-mile radius. Restaurants have the freedom to fulfill their orders during lulls, like mid-afternoon or at midnight, when the kitchen is closed to takeout and delivery customers.
And it’s the restaurants, rather than Goldbelly, that are responsible for creating and shipping their food items. The business model means that Goldbelly is profitable, according to Ariel.
But eateries also benefit from joining the e-commerce site. Ariel said that some restaurants are seeing higher sales volumes on Goldbelly than from their dining rooms before the pandemic.
The pandemic introduced another facet to the Goldbelly experience: live cooking classes with famous chefs like Daniel Boulud. The classes are free with the purchase of the related meal kit.
Goldbelly uses a team of scouts, internally known as the “gravy seals,” to scour the country and social media for restaurants beloved by their customers or offering unique regional specialties. Eateries on the platform run the gamut from nationally known establishments to mom-and-pop restaurants.
Goldbelly founder and CEO Joe Ariel
The company also works with the restaurants to decide on the price that the consumer pays, which ultimately includes the platform’s transaction fees and the hefty expense of overnight shipping the food anywhere in the country. The food can come frozen, already assembled or as parts of a meal kit to cook the dish easily.
Ultimately, the New York bagels or Philadelphia cheesesteaks will cost more than if a customer bought them in person. But the service is for consumers who find themselves far flung from the comfort food they want to eat. And as the current crisis restricts travel and some consumers decamp to the suburbs, they are willing to pay the premium price. The service has also transitioned from being used for special occasions to something sought out more frequently.
“As the world has changed, it’s become much more of a weekly and monthly event,” Ariel said.
The fourth quarter is typically Goldbelly’s busiest time of the year, thanks to the holidays, according to Ariel. The approach of Thanksgiving means an influx of orders for pies, specialty side dishes and turduckens.
“This year, it’s going to be a different level because people aren’t traveling to see their families,” Ariel said.
Goldbelly customers are buying multiple items to ship to different people, creating their own virtual Thanksgiving dinners via Zoom. Corporate employers are looking to give their workers and clients Goldbelly’s meal kits and virtual cooking classes in place of in-person office parties.
Of course, the pandemic is also introducing new challenges to Goldbelly. Vaccine makers are worried about potential delays in their rollouts due to a shortage of dry ice. Goldbelly’s merchants use the solid form of carbon dioxide for shipping some of their items, like ice cream, across the country overnight.
Goldbelly has an entire department devoted to brainstorming how to keep food items frozen — or at least cold — before they arrive to customers.
“It’s something we’re keeping our eyes opened for, but we have a few different approaches to attacking that before it becomes more of an issue,” Ariel said, adding that the majority of Goldbelly orders do not use dry ice.
For Goldbelly and the rest of the world, a vaccine also means a return to traveling, dining inside restaurants and all of the other occasions that were abandoned during the pandemic. But Ariel thinks that consumers will continue to order from Goldbelly as frequently as they are now.
“We believe that the nationwide delivery of your favorite foods is going to continue to be a value proposition that’s really exciting for a lot of people, especially those that experienced it and made a deeper emotional connection with our brand and the platform during this time,” Ariel said.
People wear protective face masks outside a McDonald’s location in New York City.
Noam Galai | Getty Images
McDonald’s will conduct coronavirus safety reviews of its restaurants in the next six weeks as health experts worry that Covid fatigue is contributing to the record high number of new cases in the U.S.
The 7-day average of new Covid-19 cases surpassed 131,400 on Thursday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. According to CNBC analysis, the rate of new daily new infections is up 32% compared with the same time last week.
The recent surge in infections has prompted some states and municipalities to announce harsher restrictions ahead of the holiday season. The state of New York, for example, has implemented a nightly curfew of 10 p.m. for indoor and outdoor dining. Some cities, like McDonald’s hometown of Chicago, have chosen instead to ban indoor dining once again.
McDonald’s will conduct one visit per franchisee, according to an internal note to U.S. operators viewed by CNBC. The assessments were created in collaboration with franchisee leadership. McDonald’s U.S. Chief Field Officer Charlie Strong, National Franchisee Leadership Alliance Chair Mark Salebra and franchisee Tracy Johnstone penned the letter.
The inspections will assess how a franchisee is executing the “top five operating minimums.” Once completed, the franchisees are expected to make sure the rest of their locations also follow the best practices. The goal is to complete all of the visits by Dec. 31.
Strong, Salebra and Johnstone also emphasized the importance of using equipment to enable contactless pay and to make social distancing possible in the kitchens.
“We’ll end by reminding the System that our actions are being watched very closely by consumers, crew, and other external stakeholders,” the letter said.
The fast-food giant has faced several lawsuits this year alleging that the company’s franchisees failed to protect them adequately from contracting the virus. In one such case, a Chicago judge found that McDonald’s was not negligent but needed to train its workers better on social distancing and properly wearing masks.
McDonald’s U.S. President Joe Erlinger wrote in a Medium post published Friday that the chain will convene several roundtables to discuss its Covid-19 prevention practices with others in the industry.
“This is an area where we don’t see anyone as a competitor; the more that an organization of our scope and scale can share what we’ve learned, the more we can help make everyone safer,” he said.
Erlinger also said that the rate of infection in McDonald’s restaurants is lower than that of the general U.S. population, but the company is aiming to eliminate new cases. He asked employees to report any suspected cases through the chain’s Covid hotline.
“After all, McDonald’s success – just like the success of Walmart, Apple, Starbucks, or any other U.S.-based business – depends on all of us getting back to some version of normal as quickly as possible,” he wrote.
Shares of McDonald’s were nearly flat in afternoon trading Friday. The stock, which has a market value of $164 billion, has risen 7% so far this year.
Two of President-elect Joe Biden’s coronavirus advisors pushed back Friday on the idea of a national lockdown to suppress the coronavirus pandemic.
“As a group, really the consensus is that we need a more nuanced approach,” said Dr. Celine Gounder, who sits on the panel and is an infectious disease specialist at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” adding that it was “not the opinion” of the group to institute such widespread restrictions across the U.S. “We can be much more targeted geographically. We can also be more targeted in terms of what we close.”
Dr. Vivek Murthy, a former U.S. surgeon general tapped to help lead the group, said national lockdowns were recommended in the spring when scientists didn’t know as much about how the disease spreads and people were less fatigued from the pandemic.
“We’re not in a place where we’re saying, shut the whole country down,” Murthy said in an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America,” advocating for a more targeted approach. “If we don’t do that, what you’re going to find is that people will become even more fatigued, schools won’t won’t be open to children and the economy will be hit harder.
Their comments come after another Covid-19 advisor to Biden, Dr. Michael Osterholm, who serves as director of the Center of Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told Yahoo Finance in an interview Wednesday that shuttering businesses for four to six weeks while paying people for lost wages could help suppress cases and hospitalizations to a manageable level.
Osterholm later clarified his comments in an interview with NBC News, saying “it was not a recommendation. I have never made this recommendation to Biden’s group. We’ve never talked about it.”
A Biden transition official told NBC News that a shutdown “is not in line with the president-elect’s thinking.”
Rather than adopting a comprehensive lockdown approach, Gounder told CNBC that state officials should focus on implementing tighter restrictions in regions of the country where there’s a high-risk for the virus to spread, like restaurants, bars and gyms, and aim to keep their schools open for students.
“I think of this as a dimmer switch, not an on-and-off light switch,” she said. “I think we need to close only those things that really are contributing to the spread, and really try to… as much as possible remain open, like schools, if they’re not contributing the spread.”
A handful of states and cities have started to implement tighter restrictions, including curfews, mask requirements and limiting group gatherings, ahead of the winter as scientists warn that the U.S. is entering what will likely be the “darkest days of the pandemic.”
The U.S. has reported three consecutive days of record-breaking daily new Covid-19 cases, reaching a weekly average of 131,445 cases a day, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Many infectious disease experts, including White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, have tried to distance themselves from the term “lockdown,” suggesting the U.S. doesn’t have to resort to the wide-spread stay-at-home orders it adopted in the spring when the coronavirus first hit U.S. shores.
When it comes to lockdowns, Biden has previously said he would listen to suggestions from scientists like Fauci. The Biden-Harris Covid-19 plan, however, calls for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to provide communities with evidence-based guidance on when to close some business or schools depending on the degree of viral spread.
“I don’t think a full lockdown is necessary nor would it be useful,” Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, told CNBC’s “The News with Shepard Smith” on Thursday evening, saying he doesn’t agree with Osterholm’s call for a full lockdown.
It would be beneficial to curtail some activities to wrestle coronavirus outbreaks, Jha said. Indoor dining at restaurants, gyms and casinos have become “a real problem,” though other activities, especially if they’re outside and people are wearing masks, can continue, he said.
“A full lockdown is not what I would recommend at all,” Jha said.