Local Boston breaking new United States of America
MLB players offer 114-game season, no more pay cuts - Boston.com
The World Series could extend past Thanksgiving.
NEW YORK (AP) Major League Baseball players ignored claims by clubs that they need to take additional pay cuts, instead proposing they receive a far higher percentage of salaries and a commit to a longer schedule as part of a counteroffer to start the coronavirus-delayed season. Players proposed a 114-game regular season Sunday, up from 82 in managements offer, a person familiar with the plan told The Associated Press. Done that way, the World Series could extend past Thanksgiving. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because no details were announced. Opening day would be June 30 and the regular season would end Oct. 31, nearly five weeks after the Sept. 27 conclusion that MLBs proposal stuck to from the seasons original schedule. The union offered scheduling flexibility to include more doubleheaders as baseball crams the games into 123 days, leaving little room for days off. MLBs proposal Tuesday would lower 2020 salaries from about $4 billion to approximately $1.2 billion. The unions offer would have salaries total about $2.8 billion. The plan was given to MLB during an 80-minute digital meeting among Commissioner Rob Manfred, deputy commissioner Dan Halem, union head Tony Clark and union chief negotiator Bruce Meyer. The meeting was contentious, a person familiar with it said. Like MLB, the union would increase postseason teams from 10 to 14. But unlike MLB, the players proposal would extend the postseason about a month past its usual end. MLB has said it is worried about a second wave of the coronavirus in the autumn. While management proposed an expanded postseason for 2020 only, the union offered it for this year and next. Players proposed new events that could increase revenue, such as a postseason or offseason All-Star Game and/or Home Run Derby, to wear broadcast microphones on the field and participate in television programming away from ballparks. They also asked for $100 million more in salary to be advanced during the resumption of spring training. A player would receive about 70% of his salary, or 114/162nds, under the union plan. The union and MLB agreed March 26 that players would receive prorated shares of salaries, part of the deal in which if the season is scrapped each player was guaranteed service time for 2020 matching what the player earned in 2019. The union also was guaranteed $170 million in salary advances. While the union says salaries were dealt with then, that agreement covered only games in regular-season ballparks and with fans. The deal called for good faith negotiations for games without fans or at neutral sites. MLB told the union that players would get 89% of revenue in an 82-game schedule with prorated salaries and clubs would combine to lose $640,000 for each additional game. The union has questioned the accounting. MLBs offer called for spring training to resume in mid-June and for the season to start around the Fourth of July. The club proposal would take the prorated salaries and reduce them again in a sliding scale. Those at the $563,500 minimum would get about 47% and those at the top led by Mike Trout and Gerrit Cole at $36 million would receive less than 23%. Management proposed $200 million of salaries would be contingent on the postseasons completion. All players would have the right to opt out of the season under the union plan. Those who meet qualifications for high risk or reside with a person who qualifies as high risk would receive salary and major league service. Others who opt out would receive major league service time but no salary. If the postseason is not held because of a second wave, the union plan calls for $100 million in salary to be deferred with interest, payable in November 2021 and November 2022. Only players whose original 2020 salaries were $10 million or more would be subject to having money deferred. The union estimates high-payroll teams would have up to $7 million in payroll relief, the person said.
When did the coronavirus start spreading in the U.S.? Likely in January, CDC analysis suggests - Boston.com
“It’s a sad fact that the United States missed the boat on getting adequate testing set up early enough to be able to stop the virus in its tracks."
This story originally appeared on STAT, a health and medicine website that provides ambitious coverage of the coronavirus. Go here for more stories on the virus. Try STAT Plus for exclusive analysis of biotech, pharma, and the life sciences. And check out STATs COVID-19 tracker. How early did local transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus begin in the United States? For the second time this week, scientists have proposed a new estimate. This one, from scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suggests that transmission likely began in late January or early February on the West Coast and that the virus spread undetected for more than a month. Scientists from the agency, and research groups they collaborate with, concluded community transmission in the U.S. began with a single unidentified imported case from China. Kristian Andersen, an expert in viral genomes from Scripps Research, said the new study underscores that early chains of transmission were missed in the United States, which as a consequence lost an opportunity to prevent spread of the virus from taking root here. The CDC team drew on multiple streams of data, including retrospective testing of nearly 11,000 samples collected through CDC-led influenza surveillance networks. If COVID-19 cases were being mistaken for flu in the early days of the outbreak, one would have expected to have seen some positive tests among those samples. But the first that was positive was collected from a patient in Washington state on Feb. 25 two days before authorities in California reported finding an infection in a woman who had not traveled outside the country and who was not a known contact of people who returned to the U.S. infected with the virus. CDC Director Robert Redfield pointed to the work as evidence that the agency which has been savaged for the early failure of a COVID-19 test that left the country with limited capacity to look for the virus in the early weeks of the outbreak had always been alert to the virus movements in the United States. We were never blind when it came to surveillance for Coronavirus 19, he told reporters during a briefing on the new findings, published Friday in the CDCs online journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Review. The reality is the surveillance systems that CDC had developed over the years for respiratory viral diseases, particularly influenza-like illness, really did give us eyes on this disease as it began to emerge. Redfields statement seemed to ignore the fact that the flu surveillance samples were not tested for COVID-19 in real time, when they might have helped public health departments track and halt spread of the new virus. Thats a preposterous statement, Andersen told STAT. Its a sad fact that the United States missed the boat on getting adequate testing set up early enough to be able to stop the virus in its tracks its likely one of several reasons we have by far the most cases of any country in the world. As of Friday, the U.S. has recorded more than102,000 deaths 28% of the global total. The CDC findings challenge to a degree those released earlier this week in a preprint article from Michael Worobey, a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona. Preprint articles have not yet undergone the normal peer-review process at a scientific journal. Worobey and colleagues argued that the person who started the first chain of transmission to take root in the country in Washington state entered the U.S. around mid-February, either from Asia directly, or via British Columbia, Canada. Their estimate, based on analysis of genetic sequences of viruses retrieved from infected people, in turn challenged work from Trevor Bedford, a computational biologist at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Institute, that suggested the Washington state outbreak began with the first COVID-19 case diagnosed in the country, a man who returned from China on Jan. 15. But the CDC scientists came to a different conclusion after analyzing data from four sources: genetic sequences; retrospective testing of stored influenza surveillance samples; a review of emergency room records from counties that had early cases of COVID-19; and the retrospective discovery of two people in California who died from Covid-19 in early and mid-January, and an infected cruise ship crew member who departed from San Francisco on Feb. 11. Public health officials only later realized those individuals had been infected with the virus. The combination of those data sources led the CDC team to conclude community transmission in the U.S. began in late January or early February. Worobey estimated local transmission began in the U.S. in Washington state around Feb. 13, though it could have been as early as Feb. 7 or as late as Feb. 19. The take-home message from the northern California thing seems to be that yes, there definitely were early cases and some early community transmission, but when you just fast forward a little bit in time, none of it seems to have established itself into a sustained transmission cluster like you see in Washington or later in New York, Worobey told STAT. One of the authors of the CDC study, Greg Armstrong, said the agencys scientists disagreed with how firm the two earlier estimates were in assessing when transmission began in the United States. We thought there was a considerable amount of uncertainty still, given how few data were available, said Armstrong, who is CDCs deputy incident manager for the response. The estimates of when the virus actually started transmitting in the U.S. could change again, Armstrong said, noting pathologists continue to investigate suspicious deaths from early in the year and to send samples to the CDC for analysis. It is quite possible we will find additional cases in the future, he said. Sign up and receive coronavirus news and breaking updates, from our newsroom to your inbox.
A virus-hunter fell prey to a coronavirus he underestimated - Boston.com
"My mistake was to think it was like SARS, which was pretty limited in scope. Or that it was like influenza. But it’s neither."
This is the revenge of the viruses, said Dr. Peter Piot, the director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Ive made their lives difficult. Now theyre trying to get me. Piot, 71, is a legend in the battles against Ebola and AIDS. But COVID-19 almost killed him. A week ago, I couldnt have done this interview, he said, speaking recently by Skype from his London dining room, a painting of calla lilies behind him. I was still short of breath after 10 minutes. Looking back, ruefully, on being brought down by a virus after a life as a virus hunter, Piot said he had misjudged his prey and had become the hunted. I underestimated this one how fast it would spread, he said. My mistake was to think it was like SARS, which was pretty limited in scope. Or that it was like influenza. But its neither. In 1976, as a graduate student in virology at the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, Belgium, Piot was part of the international team that investigated a mysterious viral hemorrhagic fever in Yambuku, Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo. To avoid stigmatizing the town, team members named the virus Ebola after a nearby river. Later, in the 1980s, he was one of the scientists who proved that the wasting disease known as slim in Africa was caused by the same virus that was killing young gay men elsewhere. From 1991 to 1994, he was president of the International AIDS Society, and then the first director of UNAIDS, the United Nations anti-HIV program. That expertise made him keenly alert to the danger posed by the new coronavirus. In late January, he and his wife, Heidi Larson, an anthropologist, went to a medical conference in Singapore, which had had its first case a week earlier. While there, he gave an impromptu interview to local television on the day the World Health Organization declared the emerging virus a public health emergency of international concern. We started banning handshaking from our behavior, he said. We went out to eat because we like good food, but we started giving the Ebola elbow. In early March, he went to Boston with Larson, who heads the Vaccine Confidence Project at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. She gave a TedMed talk about rumors that damage vaccination campaigns, and he was asked 100 questions about the virus. No. 79: Should I be worried that Im going to get COVID-19? How worried are you, Peter? He advised, I would do everything I can to avoid becoming infected as you dont know individual outcomes. He became a living illustration of that. Although medical conferences in the Boston area that week were turning into superspreader events, Piot almost undoubtedly did not get infected there. Back home in London, he spoke to audiences of 30 to 250, attended a 50-person birthday party and had dinner or drinks in five restaurants in London or Cambridge. My usual modus operandi, he said. Aside from avoiding handshakes, he took no particular precautions. I really dont know where I was infected. Although there were then already many confirmed cases, Britain did not officially go into lockdown until March 23, when there were 335 confirmed deaths. Piot and his wife, by contrast, began working from home on March 16. The evening of March 19, he began feeling feverish and developed a headache. My immediate thought was, Oh, I hope its not COVID. Each day he felt more tired, his fever hovering around 100 degrees. It hit me like a bus, he said. Extreme exhaustion, like every cell in your body is tired. And my scalp was very sensitive it hurt if Heidi touched it. Thats a neurological symptom. It was a new feeling. Despite all the time he has spent in mosquito-riddled climes, Id never been seriously ill in my life, he said. A regular jogger and apparently healthy, he joked, This is the first time in my adult life I didnt drink wine for a month. Larson, on the other hand, has survived a fusillade of tropical diseases in her travels: cerebral malaria, hepatitis E, typhoid and dengue. I knew how a lot of the symptoms Peter had felt how you hold your head when it hurts, how fatigued you get just moving across the room, she said. So if he asked for water, or anything, I dropped what I was doing and got it immediately. Time is a different experience when youre not well every minute matters. At the time, it was almost impossible to get tested; the few kits available were reserved for hospitals. On March 26, Piot finally found a kit through a private doctor. It was positive, and his fever kept rising. On March 31, it hit 104 degrees and he began feeling confused. He and his wife went to the emergency room of St. Bartholomews Hospital. Although he did not feel short of breath, his oxygen saturation was only 84%, dangerously low. An X-ray showed fluid in both lungs in a pattern that suggested bacterial pneumonia. His blood tests were really bad, he said. His levels of C-reactive protein, which indicate inflammation, and of D-Dimer, which indicate blood clots forming, were both very high. I instantly changed from doctor to patient, he said. He was put on oxygen and sent upstairs on a gurney. That was when it hit me in the stomach, Larson said. She had been allowed to stay while he was assessed but could not venture upstairs. Normally, Britains National Health Service hospitals are as crowded as Indian buses, Larson said. But they had a campaign saying, Dont come to the hospital unless youre in the eleventh hour, so it was almost empty. She continued: But when I saw Peter go through the double doors on that cart I had the same feeling as the Ebola families we knew in Sierra Leone: They were hiding their relatives because they didnt want to be separated from them emotionally, knowing they might never see them again. At first, Piot said, he was so exhausted he was apathetic. He asked for a single room but was told they were reserved for people who had not tested positive, for their protection. He was put in a 20-by-22-foot room, one bathroom, with three other men. They call the NHS the great equalizer, he said. The food was bangers and mash awful. He got intravenous antibiotics and high-flow oxygen, and was roused every two hours for checks on his blood pressure and other vital signs. I was particularly anxious that I not be put on a ventilator, he said. Ventilators can save lives, but they can also do a lot of harm. Once youre on one, your chances of surviving are the same as of surviving Ebola about one-third. Every day, he talked to Larson or his grown children. He did get to watch episodes of a new BBC series about a Sicilian detective, Inspector Montalbano, that his wife recommended. If this had happened before cellphones, can you imagine the loneliness? he said. Its like being in prison. Look, I know Im privileged, and I know Im not going to be stuck here for 27 years like Nelson Mandela. But the world shrinks to the essentials. All you can think is, How is my breathing going? Finally, Piot said, his oxygen saturation came up to 92%. He was discharged on April 8. But his body wasnt through with the disease. Before the hospital released him, he had tested negative for the virus. But now something else was going on a delayed immune reaction. Gradually, I became short of breath, he said. We live in an old Georgian house, with three floors, and I had a hard time getting upstairs. Larson bought a pulse oximeter, a fingertip monitor that measures blood oxygen levels. She recently tested positive for antibodies to the virus herself, although her illness was so mild that shes not sure when it peaked. She had two bouts of bad headaches, the first in late March and the second in mid-April. The second time, she also had itchy red eyes, which are a rare but recognized symptom and may indicate infection through the eyes. On April 15, Piots heart started to race to 165 beats a minute. The percentage of his blood oxygen dropped to the mid-80s again. He and Larson went to the University College Hospital, where he had a chest X-ray. This time, instead of distinct bacterial masses on each side, my lungs were full of infiltrates, and they were a real mess, he said, adding, Its called organizing pneumonia. The tiny sacs that grow like bunches of grapes throughout the lungs, he explained, were oozing signaling proteins he was having a cytokine storm. Those drew voracious white blood cells into the spaces between the air sacs so they threatened to block the paths oxygen normally takes to his red blood cells. His doctors thought about rehospitalizing him an outcome he dreaded. Instead, Dr. Joanna Porter, who specializes in difficult pneumonias, put him on an intravenous steroid to reduce the inflammation, along with an anticoagulant to prevent blood clots from his atrial fibrillation. Britains NHS bureaucracy forbade her from discussing Piots treatment, though he gave his permission. He is still under her care. Last week, a PET scan, CT scan and bronchoscopy showed that parts of his lungs had not completely cleared. And, he added, ever the universal health care booster, tell your American audience: All these expensive tests are free from the NHS. The steroids appear to be working, but taking them for too long can have side effects, including muscle wasting, weakening of bones and diabetes. He may have to take anticoagulants for the rest of his life, he said, and parts of his lungs may permanently be scarred. But you can live with that, he added, shrugging. If you get this cytokine storm while youre acutely ill, youre finished, he said. But I had three stages first fever, then needing oxygen, and now the storm. People think that with COVID-19, 1% die and the rest just have flu. Its not that simple theres this whole thing in the middle. Sign up and receive coronavirus news and breaking updates, from our newsroom to your inbox.
The death of the department store: ‘Very few are likely to survive’ - Boston.com
The sales of clothing and accessories fell by more than half in March, a trend that is expected to only get worse in April.
American department stores, once all-powerful shopping meccas that anchored malls and Main Streets across the country, have been dealt blow after blow in the past decade. J.C. Penney and Sears were upended by hedge funds. Macys has been closing stores and cutting corporate staff. Barneys New York filed for bankruptcy last year. But nothing compares to the shock the weakened industry has taken from the coronavirus pandemic. The sales of clothing and accessories fell by more than half in March, a trend that is expected to only get worse in April. The entire executive team at Lord & Taylor was let go this month. Nordstrom has canceled orders and put off paying its vendors. The Neiman Marcus Group, the most glittering of the American department store chains, is expected to declare bankruptcy in the coming days, the first major retailer felled during the current crisis. It is not likely to be the last. The department stores, which have been failing slowly for a very long time, really dont get over this, said Mark A. Cohen, the director of retail studies at Columbia Universitys Business School. The genre is toast and looking at the other side of this, there are very few who are likely to survive. At a time when retailers should be putting in orders for the all-important holiday shopping season, stores are furloughing tens of thousands of corporate and store employees, hoarding cash and desperately planning how to survive this crisis. The specter of mass default is being discussed not just behind closed doors but in analysts future models. Whether that happens, no one doubts that the upheaval caused by the pandemic will permanently alter both the retail landscape and the relationships of brands with the stores that sell them. At the very least, there is expected to be an enormous reduction in the amount of stores in each chain, which once sprawled across the American continent like a pack of many-headed hydras. Department store chains account for about 30% of the total mall square footage in the United States, with 10% of that coming from Sears and J.C. Penney, according to a January report from Green Street Advisors, a real estate research firm. Even before the pandemic, the firm expected about half of mall-based department stores to close in the next five years. Even as they have worked to transform themselves for e-commerce with apps, websites and in-store exchanges, the outbreak has laid bare how dependent the department stores have remained on their physical outposts. Macys said on March 30 that after closing its stores for nearly two weeks, it had lost the majority of its sales. The Commerce Departments retail sales report for March, released last week, was disastrous. Overall retail sales numbers for this month are expected to be even worse, given that some stores were open for at least part of March. Retailers have begun taking extreme measures to try to survive. Le Tote, a subscription clothing company that acquired Lord & Taylor last year from Hudsons Bay, said in a memo on April 2 that the chains entire executive team, including the chief executive, would be let go immediately. It also suspended payments of goods to vendors for at least 90 days, citing immense pressure on our liquidity position. Macys, which also owns Bloomingdales, extended payment for goods and services to 120 days from 60 days and, according to Reuters, has hired bankers from Lazard to explore new financing. Jeff Gennette, the chief executive, is forgoing any compensation for the duration of the crisis. The company was dropped from the S&P 500 last month based on its valuation. J.C. Penney has hired Lazard, the law firm Kirkland & Ellis and the consultancy AlixPartners to explore restructuring options, according to two people familiar with the matter, and confirmed that it skipped an interest payment on its debt last week. It is expected to make a decision on what to do, including potentially filing for bankruptcy, within a few weeks, one of the people said. But none of them were in as immediate dire straits as Neiman Marcus, which has both an enormous debt burden about $4.8 billion, thanks in part to a leveraged buyout in 2013 by the owners Ares Management and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and a raft of expensive rents in the most high-profile shopping destinations, signed during boom times. In late March, Neiman stopped accepting new merchandise and furloughed a large portion of its approximately 14,000 employees as the rumors of bankruptcy began to swirl. Its chief executive, Geoffroy van Raemdonck, announced he was waiving his salary for April. The brand denied to vendors and its own employees at its sister brand Bergdorf Goodman that it was engaging advisers to explore a bankruptcy filing, but on April 14, the S&P downgraded Neimans credit rating. Last week, the retailer did not make an interest payment that was due on April 15, angering bondholders and further fueling suspicions that a bankruptcy filing was imminent. A spokesperson for Neiman Marcus declined to comment. Even Nordstrom, widely considered the healthiest department store, said this month that it could be facing a distressed situation if its physical locations closed to customers for an extended period of time. Erik and Pete Nordstrom, chief executive and chief brand officer, are both receiving no base salary for at least six months. The chain has stunned some vendors with last-minute cancellations via email in recent days. Across chains, prices for new merchandise sold via e-commerce have already been slashed by 40% in some cases. Order cancellations for the pre-fall season which would normally have started delivering next month have been increasing. Some brands said shipments have even been turned away upon delivery to warehouses, and extensions of payment terms are cascading through vendors, who are then forced to negotiate with their own manufacturers, marketing agencies, fulfillment centers and landlords. Ive had a showroom for over 30 years, and we have always used the word partnership, when talking about our relationship with the department stores, said Betsee Isenberg, of the showroom 10Eleven, which represents numerous brands such as Vince and ATM. Through 9/11, through 2008, we worked hand-in-hand with our retailers. This is the first time the onus has been on the brands many of which are losing millions and millions of dollars because of the canceled orders. It is just not fair that it is survival of the fittest. In a new report, McKinsey refers to the situation as wholesale Darwinism. The resort season has been canceled entirely, and fall orders have been put on hold, raising questions about what inventory will be left if and when shops reopen and consumers return to stores. Nobody knows what Q4 will be like, but you have to start putting the orders in now, Sucharita Kodali, a retail analyst at Forrester, said of the holiday season, normally the most lucrative time of the year for the chains. Some people dont even have the money to put in Q4 orders, and may have to cancel Q4 orders anyway, and its a mess. Theres never been this much uncertainty. Robert Burke, the eponymous founder of a luxury consultancy, said he expected brands to move further away from a wholesale business, focusing on direct-to-consumer and a model with department stores where they control their own space and inventory. Shares of J.C. Penney, which has temporarily shut its more than 800 stores, closed at 23 cents on the dollar last Wednesday after the retailer said that it did not make a $12 million interest payment due that day. Brooke Buchanan, a representative, said it was a strategic decision in order to take advantage of a 30-day grace period before it was considered in default. Buchanan said J.C. Penney had been engaged in discussions with its lenders since mid-2019 to evaluate options to strengthen its balance sheet, a process that has become even more important as our stores have also closed due to the pandemic. Cash flow for all department stores has dropped sharply. In a note on April 13, analysts at Cowen estimated four months of liquidity at Macys, six months at Kohls and seven months for J.C. Penney. Nordstrom, they predicted, could withstand store closings for 12 months. The nature of the mall is if you lose a big anchor like a Macys, you have co-tenancy issues and you have more pressure on the mall traffic, which was already a big issue, said Oliver Chen, an analyst at Cowen. Co-tenancy clauses typically allow other tenants to demand rent reductions if certain key chains depart. Chen said that could accelerate the ongoing divide between top-tier malls and the second- or third-choice malls in certain areas. According to a report this month from S&P Global Market Intelligence, department stores were more likely than any other consumer industry to default on their debt in the next year. It estimated the probability at 42%. In its April 2 memo, the management of Le Tote and Lord & Taylor said only key employees were being retained to preserve the business. A representative for Lord & Taylor and Le Tote declined to comment or disclose the number of employees who were furloughed and laid off. It appears to be a virtual certainty that Lord & Taylor will liquidate its business in the near future, either in or out of bankruptcy, said James Van Horn, a partner at Barnes & Thornburg and a specialist in retail bankruptcy. They were already one of the most challenged department stores before the coronavirus pandemic, and when the majority of the management team is leaving, the vast majority of employees are laid off and a minority of employees furloughed, there does not seem to be any other strategy but to liquidate the inventory. Van Horn said he expected other chains might strategically employ Chapter 11 reorganizations to legally shed stores, lightening their rent burden. It will likely be a domino that falls, he said. Whether it is first or 10th, we dont know. Sign up and receive coronavirus news and breaking updates, from our newsroom to your inbox.