- Americans continued to spend in August, with the Commerce Department reporting a 0.6% increase in retail sales across the nation. Although grocery stores’ recent momentum slowed to a 1.6% decline in August when compared to July, sales were 9% higher than Aug. 2019. Foodservice and drinking places posted an increase of 4.7% on August month-over-month, but remained 15.4% below the year-ago level, reported The New York Times (September 16). Full Story
- The New York City Council approved a controversial move to let restaurants charge a 10% COVID-19 relief fee. The surcharge, the first allowed in more than 40 years, would be in place until 90 days after restaurants open for indoor dining, which will be allowed on Sept. 30. The surcharge, which only applies to in-person orders, is meant to assist restaurants with operating costs and staff pay after the virus slashed restaurant business in the city, reported The Wall Street Journal (September 16). Full Story
- The online foodservice boom will remain long after the pandemic ends, according to Chipotle Mexican Grill CEO Brian Niccol. Niccol said Chipotle was taking precautions against a possible second wave of the coronavirus, and that online orders could represent 40% to 50% of its business in the future, reported Bloomberg (September 16). Full Story
- Fast food, restaurants, and discount stores were among the businesses seeing recovery as U.S. retail spending gradually rallied in August. Retail sales overall grew a seasonally adjusted 1.1% in the month, slightly slower than the beginning of the pandemic recovery in July. Wholesale clubs and discount stores have recovered much faster than restaurants as foot traffic remains low, reported The Wall Street Journal. (September 16). Full Story (WSJ Subscription Required)
- About 70% of U.S. shoppers would prefer an automated, human-free shopping experience, according to a survey from Sense Photonics and The Harris Poll. About 72% said they were more likely to shop at a retail store with contactless pickup as an option, with 35% saying they would be okay never making retail purchases in-store again (September 15). Full Story
- The COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating a trend towards automation, according to a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. The report found that most job losses during the public health crisis would be temporary, but cashiers, hotel staffers, parking attendants, and other jobs were at risk of permanently being replaced with technology, reported Seattle Times (September 15). Full Story
- U.S. shoppers are going to the grocery store less often but filling up the cart more when they do go, according to a roundup of store trends. Additionally, delivery and curbside service are both trending upward, with some customers totally transitioning to digital ordering with no plans to change back. Manufacturers can reduce their variety of products in favor of focusing on staples as customers seek healthy basics and comfort food, reported Bradenton Herald (September 15). Full Story
- Nearly one in six restaurants, representing 100,000 foodservice establishments, have closed permanently or long-term in the six months following the first shutdown orders for restaurants due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the National Restaurant Association. The organization noted that nearly 3 million employees remained out of work, and the industry was on track to lose $240 billion in sales by the close of 2020 (September 14). Full Story
For the latest economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, look to the expertise of the Food Institute. Monthly analysis of CPI, PPI, retail, and foodservice data is available to Food Institute members in our Economic Benchmarking portal. Learn more.
- Hurricane Laura caused an estimated $1.6 billion in damage to Louisiana’s agriculture industry and forests, more than the $1.5 billion caused by both hurricanes Katrina and Rita combined in 2005. The estimate for Hurricane Laura’s destruction, which tallied $525.4 million in damages for the state’s farmers, did not yet account for fisheries, which could push the total higher, reported The Advocate (September 15). Full Story
- Severe rain and the pandemic have led to a 30 to 40% decline in the 2020 Nepal tea harvest year over year. In addition, climate change is causing plants to spend more time dormant, reducing production numbers, according to a representative of the National Tea and Coffee Development Board. The government is providing funding to some farmers to try to counteract the climate and pandemic problems, reported Reuters (September 15). Full Story
- China’s customs authority suspended imports from one U.S. poultry supplier due to a coronavirus outbreak among workers. OK Foods in Arkansas was blocked on Sept. 13 due to 234 plant workers being infected over the course of the pandemic. The Arkansas Department of Health says the facility currently no longer has more than five active cases, reported Reuters (September 15). Full Story
- Food prices rose steeply in Nigeria due to border closures, floods, and restrictions on the dollar. Floods hit the rice harvest in the north of the country, and President Muhammadu Buhari put dollar restrictions in place for food imports, which may drive traders to the black market to get better prices, reported Bloomberg. Full Story
- The COVID-19 pandemic could push losses in Washington state’s potato industry to more than $1 billion, according to a study from Washington State University. The study found frozen potatoes intended for foodservice outlets went unsold, and a disrupted supply chain pushed down production and processing efforts, reported The Packer (September 13). Full Story
- There were about 860,000 seasonally adjusted initial unemployment claims in the week ending Sept. 12, down 33,000 from the prior week’s revised level, according to the Department of Labor. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 8.6% for the week ending Sept. 5, a decrease of 0.7 percentage point from the prior week. (September 17). Full Report
- The Federal Reserve expects its benchmark interest rate will remain pegged near zero through at least 2023 in an effort to improve economic growth and combat the unemployment rate. Additionally, it will seek to push inflation above 2% annually, reported Boston Globe. (September 16). Full Story
- The Trump Administration’s tariffs on Chinese goods allegedly violate global trade rules, according to a ruling from a three-member panel of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The WTO ruling will have no immediate impact on the tariffs but is expected to be a diplomatic dent in trade talks, reported Washington Post (September 15). Full Story
- A Brooklyn bar opened a federal suit against Gov. Andrew Cuomo alleging the midnight cap on restaurants is arbitrary and hurts businesses. The curfew, intended to help halt the spread of COVID-19, limits 50% of The Graham tavern’s sales since many of its customers are late shift workers or employees at other restaurants, says the owner. A representative for Cuomo said limiting late-night service reduces the likelihood of large gatherings, reported the New York Post (September 15). Full Story
- USDA granted nearly $14 million to help U.S. universities find solutions during the pandemic. The funding includes $13 million made available for 17 grants through the Agricultural and Food Research Initiative, while 14 grants worth $1.3 million were allocated through the Small Business Innovation Research Program (September 9). Full Story
- Indoor restaurant dining will be allowed in New York City at 25% usual capacity starting Sept. 30, according to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Diners will be required to wear face coverings while not seated; temperature checks will be given at the door; a member of each party must provide information for contact tracing; bar seating will not be permitted; and restaurants will close at midnight, reported MarketWatch (September 9). Full Story
- Congressional lawmakers agreed on funding to prevent a government shutdown, but hopes are dwindling for another coronavirus relief bill. Talks between top Democrats and the Trump administration broke off in August and hopes for a fifth bipartisan pandemic response bill is seen as unlikely in the lead up to the November election, reported Yakima Herald-Republic. (September 7). Full Story
- CDC told the nation to prepare for the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine this fall. The agency notified public health officials across the country that limited doses of a vaccine could be available by later October, which would be routed to healthcare workers and other high-risk groups, reported HealthDay (September 2). Full Story
- There were about 1 million seasonally adjusted initial unemployment claims in the week ending Aug. 22, down 98,000 claims from the prior week’s revised level, according to the Department of Labor. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 9.9% for the week ending Aug. 15, a decrease of 0.2 percentage point from the prior week (August 27). Full Report
- Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, a virus closely related to the SARS virus.
- People who are infected may have few symptoms or develop fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
- Cases can progress to pneumonia and multi-organ failure.
- There is currently no vaccine or specific antiviral treatment, with management involving the treatment of symptoms, supportive care, and experimental measures.
- The case fatality rate is estimated at between 1% and 3%.
What You Should Watch Out For:
- Symptoms: CDC reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death for confirmed coronavirus disease. Fever, cough, and shortness of breath have been reported two to 14 days after exposure.
- Prevention: There is currently no vaccine to prevent the disease, so CDC says the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus. CDC recommends everyone wear a cloth face cover when they have to go out in public.
- Testing: Please check with your healthcare provider for testing availability.
- If You Are a Parent: Schools can play an important role in the effort to combat coronavirus and can prepare to take steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19. For schools in the midst of a community outbreak of COVID-19, temporarily dismissing childcare programs and K-12 schools is a strategy to stop or slow the further spread of COVID-19 in communities.
- If You Are Elderly: Much like the seasonal flu, older adults and those with chronic health conditions are at higher risk of being impacted by the coronavirus in the event it does spread. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) urged nursing homes to keep abreast of CDC updates on coronavirus.
- Johns Hopkins University Global Coronavirus COVID-19 Cases Tracker
- CDC: Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Summary
- WHO: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak
- Department of Labor: Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19
- Department of Labor: Guidance On Unemployment Insurance Flexibilities During COVID-19 Outbreak
- International Foodservice Distributors Association: Coronavirus Information and Resources for Businesses
- National Restaurant Association: Coronavirus Information and Resources
- OSHA: COVID-19