A close relative of mine for the USPS. Mail volume has dropped dramatically, yet they are desperate for employees to work overtime.
It's because so many are using their vacation/sick time or otherwise not coming in, and I don't blame them. Some are going through cancer treatment, have diabetes, or other complications which put them at risk.
Some in the distribution center have contracted COVID-19, and at least one (but maybe more) has already died.
There are a lot of people endangering their life coming in to work, and not just grocery stores and hospitals.
Flight attendants. Airline baggage handlers. Hotel desk clerks. Hotel maintenance workers. Bus drivers. For that matter, truck drivers. I'm sure there are others.
Other than grocery store workers, truck drivers might be the one that scares me the most. If the trucks stop, this is going to get really ugly.
(The 10-20% is a guess, based on one large plant and some other plants, without hard data. If anyone has real data, step right up.)
I was in Richmond, Virginia 10 days ago, and people were saying there was no meat in grocery stores, so they went to Texas Roadhouse in order to be able to eat non-vegitarian, because Texas Roadhouse still had steaks.
There's locust swarms in Africa, and it's potentially heading towards China. I expect there to be widespread food shortages in the coming weeks/months. I'm not sure about how life will be here in the US. We're rich, we're a net food exporter, etc. as long as the processing and other supply chain parts keep mostly working I think we'll be okay-ish. You might not get the exact product you want, but you probably won't face starvation. But in many poor countries in Africa and Asia, I think it's about to get really, really bad.
I thought mail volume was dramatically up because everyone’s ordering online?
The big issue for the post office is the amount commercial mail has fallen off a cliff and will likely continue to drop. Anecdotally, we have seen very little junk mail in the past month other than grocery fliers. I predict serial publications like regional magazines will fail, too -- running a magazine was already tough, but now it's even worse now that many advertisers have gone out of business or are cutting back on marketing costs. If they don't have enough subscribers to keep the presses running, it's game over.
The postal service might add a flyer to your actual mail delivery, but only if they're delivering to your address anyway.
The Data and Marketing Association says American businesses sent 149 billion pieces of direct mail and nearly 10 billion catalogues in 2016.
This is just a counter-anecdote, but for every flyer on the door I get (once or twice a week), I get scores of pieces of junk mail. I assume you don't own a home, because that alone is good for 10 a week.
USPS actually has a monopoly on mailboxes. It's illegal for FedEx or anyone else to put a letter/package in your mailbox, although I don't know how much that's enforced.
All of the junk mail I've received has come via the USPS, however since this all started happening I have received almost none.
The drop-off of junk mail delivery has been both welcome, and a sign of troubles for the USPS.
Also I know that ads of all kinds have dropped of a cliff.
I am in Denmark, but I imagine that people are people everywhere.
Would be interested to know if that's the case.
RTLD: 41 cited deaths among 3M grocery workers is a lower death rate than the population as a whole ?
If you're comparing grocers death rate against the population as a whole, that's not a good comparison as it doesn't control for grocer's demographics. I think that grocers would be younger (on average) than the the general population, and therefore should have lower death rates.
I think it's related to Simpson's paradox  or general issues with interpreting conditional probabilities, but I'm not sure what the best overarching term is for this sort of fallacy.
Then the entire store will be scared and it's not unreasonable because they probably interacted with Joe in produce at some point recently.
A lot of people aren't getting confirmation by testing. Most people will self diagnose based on symptoms. This means that official data undercounts deaths from the condition and unofficial data overcounts death from the condition, but this is a case of "which way do you bet?" And when faced with a pandemic, the way to bet is "That guy with that cough who is now dead probably died from the pandemic. No, I don't need official testing to be scared that I'm next because I pulled a shift with him recently."
> because I pulled a shift with him recently
It's more likely they are scared of their customers rather than Joe.
Because Joe is just a person who contacted with contagious clients and they will never contact him again. They've probably already sanitized their store.
But they will have to contact other clients who infected Joe and there is nothing they can do to avoid that.
"At least" 41 deaths among 3 million grocery workers.
I can't imagine we have anything resembling complete data for the number of grocery workers who have died. "At least 41" could be 42; it could be 500. Trying to draw conclusions on the relative safety of a grocery store employee versus the general public from that number is crazy.
That's exactly what the Washington Post article is doing.
Kevin notes some more weird things about the coronavirus here: https://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2020/04/something-abo...
A few days ago was the first time I saw that most (not all) Whole Foods workers had PPE (mask, gloves). I'm hoping its a supply issue, but wouldn't be surprised if it was a corporate "don't scare people" issue.
While I strongly prefer to select my food for quality, I'd be happy for workers' sake if stores were pure pickup only (basically a local warehouse) with enough slots for everyone to get what they need; leaving delivery for those who really need it. But stores are just not equipped to handle that sort of operation.
I can't discard my hands several times a day when out and about.
A lot of stores out there, when times were good, bought stylish new point of sale machines. These machines came with what were touted as "future proof" touch interfaces at the time. People have found that some of these devices don't actually work if you have gloves on. So at the store I'm familiar with, there is a complicated sanitizing and distancing procedure that everyone is supposed to go through when checking people out. Not surprisingly, strict adherence to a multistep process is not as consistent as just having everyone put on gloves.
On the plus side, learning more about it has helped me wrap my head around the sort of things that will inform successful post covid design.
I haven't been inside one since that day, which is why I'm asking.
Total US COVID deaths: 28000/328000000 = 0.00008536585. So seemingly there's nothing particularly risky about being a grocery store worker. In fact, you're about half as likely to die!
Keep in mind the 328mm number includes children, non-working adults, etc and of course total deaths are skewed towards older non-working adults. Still it's extremely frustrating, but not surprising, that the media refuses to do any sort of cursory analysis like this.
Working in a grocery store rather than staying at home is, intuitively, less safe. If they're not able to carefully control for the risk factors, they're doing a disservice to report that figure by itself. And it's a non-trivial amount of work to do so such controls, simply to appease those who repeat over-clever contrarian factoids like that one.
As a civilization, this still buys us a lot (in the US, it's the difference between 30 million and 230 million people catching the disease and some percent of them dying), but even if you assume all 3 million grocery store employees are in the low-risk 20-29 demographic, we're still expecting ~1200 of them to die from COVID-19, given our current understanding of the disease.
That alone would make working in a grocery store roughly as dangerous as being a coal miner in the present day US, or roughly 4 times more dangerous than being a police officer; it gets worse if you assume many employees are not in the lowest risk category.
What we are fighting for is to not let everybody get it at the same time. Because when that happens, not only this disease kills a whole lot more, but other diseases and accidents and whatever start killing many times more too.
(And recruit healthy young people to temporarily replace them.)
better yet, people who recovered from covid-19.
Existing grocery delivery services are already way overburdened, and desperately scaling up.
> risk their lives for your oreos.
You can't possibly think that going to the grocery store is so frivolous and unnecessary, as this statement would imply. Or do you?
Not exactly. They're unwilling to increase pay and working conditions in order to scale up. With millions rapidly unemployed, they should have no real trouble hiring if they actually pay for it. You should never, ever trust Amazon's rhetoric when it comes to hiring low-wage workers.
This also doesn't address curbside pickup. Several stores in my area are doing it and it limits contact.
> You can't possibly think that going to the grocery store is so frivolous and unnecessary, as this statement would imply. Or do you?
I know people who still go to the grocery store 2-3 times a week and buy snacks, yes. I'm not saying that groceries are non-essential, I'm saying that the system should be reworked to protect the most vulnerable and exploited at no impact to you other than convenience / not changing your routine. Those are the elements we're weighing: how much is their suffering worth compared to what "consumers" are doing? Should there be oreos on the shelf at all? Shouldn't we, at the bare minimum, be limiting access to necessary items if in-person contact is required?
Seems a little bit scare-mongery to me.
Or increase wages. Quantity demanded of labor is greater than supply. It's relatively-unskilled work, so drawing new entrants to the labor pool isn't prohibitive. But it isn't happening at prevailing wages.
That wage increase, in turn, might merit price increases for customers. If politicians find that untenable, they may spread the cost to taxpayers instead through public programs.
If you're involved at any of these levels, reading the writing on the wall would be useful.
Supply is FAR larger than demand right now. Have you seen the unemployment rate right now?
No, they certainly don't. What's necessary is that people get food. How they get it is open to discussion.
That final part where customers perform a random walk around a warehouse until they've found everything is not a "well oiled machine". Better to hire some professional shoppers who know where everything is. It'll be faster and safer.
Even if you insist on remaining open to the general public walking around your store, there's a million things you can do. Some stores are limiting the number of customers in the store at one time. Some stores are requiring face masks. Some stores are marking aisles as "one-way" to make it easier to maintain distance. The last store I was in had plastic film over the payment keypads, and sanitized it between customers. We know how to improve things. There's just not a ton of consistency yet.
I've quit going to our before pandemic store. It is impossible to social distance.
More self checkout.
More automatic sliding doors.
Better designed public bathrooms similar to Walmart bathrooms: No door at all; choice between paper towels and hot air hand dryer; touchless faucets and automatic flush toilets.
Hand sanitizer at every cash register.
Better training for cashiers. Cashiers who do things like lick their fingers to open bags have long been the bane of my existence because I have a compromised immune system.
What we are doing now is not the way it has to be. PPE is not the optimal solution.
I think we have our priorities backwards. We emphasize the hell out of hand washing. It's number one on the list of "five things" the WHO is encouraging people to do to stop the spread.
Number three is "Stop touching your face." That should be the top priority. It's prevention.
Emphasizing hand washing as more important than "stop touching your face" is implicitly telling people "It's okay to expose yourself. Just use soap afterwards and everything will be okay."
No, it won't. You need to stop touching your face. You need to stop licking your fingers to separate grocery bags.
On top of that, you should also wash hands frequently. But washing hands frequently isn't enough in the current culture where people are oblivious about the things they touch.
When I ask cashiers "Please don't do that" or "Please use hand sanitizer now that you have licked your fingers" they sometimes tell me they didn't do what I just watched them do seconds ago. They do it so habitually, they aren't even consciously aware of it anymore.
In some cases, they get belligerent with me. How dare I ask them to practice germ control! How rude!
Yes, this was mostly before the pandemic. I've been trying to protect myself from infection for a lot of years. It's largely irrelevant to my point.
My son told me he saw two people hugging in the parking lot of the grocery store and one of them confusedly asked "Aren't we supposed to not hug?" and the other, an older person, dismissed that with "We aren't supposed to hug strangers!"
Even with their lives on the line, people are failing to get the memo that you can't run around touching everyone and everything. This needs to somehow stop and I'm appalled that the WHO is part of the problem here in that they are emphasizing hand washing as the top priority rather than emphasizing "Keep your hands clean to begin with by not touching every damn thing, especially not your face."
And I don't know if the WHO is that stupid and honest to god doesn't realize that not touching stuff is the more important thing or if they have studies and yadda and they believe that it is a lost cause to tell people "No, really, stop touching stuff!!!" and hand washing will get more compliance, so they emphasize that.
But they have their priorities backwards. We can get this under control, but we have to practice germ control and the messaging we are getting is insufficient.
Otherwise, we will be vastly worse off the next time we face a novel disease.
I think you are flat out wrong. With 7 billion people on the planet, we need to quit sharing our germs like we all live in some tiny little village with the same 100 or so people and never travel. The fact that we persist with practices that worked okay in such settings is a large part of why we are seeing this pandemic.
It absolutely doesn't have to be this way.
I laugh inwardly whenever I see stores requiring the use of hand sanitizer at their entrances; they should be handing out masks if they are serious. Of course that's much more expensive than doling out sanitizer.
I expected governments to organize mass production and distribution of re-usable face masks for their populations, but so far I see nothing of the sort. If we are going to be able to resume a somewhat normal life going forward, use of mask has to become the norm rather than the exception.
So we bought distilled water and that was not only dramatically more effective than boiling, it stopped putting steam into the air in our apartment and that brought down the levels of ambient mold spores and noticeably improved air quality.
I've had similar experiences with, for example, ozone machines. And I increasingly moved away from things like shiny tech and personal medical gear because it gradually became clear that maintaining such things is problematic.
And I'm no doubt running a fever and wasting my time replying to you. But I really think the emphasis on masks is misguided.
Don't touch your face and don't cough on people and don't blow your nose in public. If you aren't coughing, sneezing, etc at people and you are giving them a wide berth, you aren't likely to share your germs with them.
Anyway, I think I should probably step away from this discussion. It's probably not productive.
You have a nice day.
Not received very well for several reasons. But I have to say, as a US resident, I am impressed to see that Japanese TV shows politicians and others in public wearing masks now. While it's encouraging that the CDC now recommends use, wearing them is great from normalized yet.
To do it in a just way: full PPE protections, hazard pay, and eliminating the brutal economic exploitation forcing people to go to work in these conditions: give them other options.
If these are supposedly essential services, this is not too much to ask.
Let's just point out that some people are homeless, soup kitchens are closing and homeless people still need to somehow eat.
Homelessness is a problem we should have already done something about before we had a global pandemic, but couldn't be arsed because we were too busy being in denial about the systemic issues that help foster it. We prefer the narrative that "It's just a bunch of crazies and junkies and not caused by our crappy housing policies and health care policies in the US. No need to actually build housing that people can afford to live in without a car and without taking on a roommate they've never met before."
As someone who actually has a compromised immune system, I don't want delivery drivers. I hate getting food delivered.
People are at their worst when they are alone with no eyes on them. I don't want angry, stressed out, underpaid people alone with my food for ten minutes or more while they drive it to my home (which happens to be not conducive to contactless delivery and I don't want to get into the reasons why, suffice it to say it isn't a McMansion in the 'burbs).
I don't know what possesses people to imagine that delivery is superior method for germ control. That doesn't at all fit with my understanding of life, the universe and everything.
It's the opposite of classist, it's about bringing food to everyone in the safest way possible.
This is how Vietnam handled their lockdown to great success and they guaranteed food to everyone.
"Let's just point out that some people are homeless, soup kitchens are closing and homeless people still need to somehow eat."
Bring food to them. Everyone deserves to eat. In addition, house them. Hotels are more empty than ever before.
"As someone who actually has a compromised immune system, I don't want delivery drivers. I hate getting food delivered."
The grocery store is even worse. It's a nexus for disease, has unenforceable distancing, and mandatory touching of shared materials. Delivered food (i.e., groceries if you can cook) will have to be sterilized just like food you buy at the grocery store, but without those concerns. If it's stable at ambient outdoor temperature, you can also leave it outside for hours to decrease the chance of contact.
"I don't know what possesses people to imagine that delivery is superior method for germ control. That doesn't at all fit with my understanding of life, the universe and everything."
This is a tried and true method that limits contact and the spread of disease.
The local Walmart is wiping down self checkout regularly at the moment.
I'm not looking for perfect. I'm just telling you that I've been managing my life for nearly two decades since my diagnosis and 1. Cashiers who do nonsense like lick their fingers are a huge problem for me and 2. Self checkout is much, much better.
To me, these seem like natural articles to write in the middle of a pandemic, and their coverage has also seemed appropriate to being in the middle of a pandemic.
If a panic happened, this could lead people to things like looting. I think looting would be incredibly dangerous, more dangerous than the virus itself. Thus I find it borderline irresponsible to "stoke the fire" by writing an article like this without properly putting necessary disclaimers.
I am less concerned with panic. I think the greater danger now is people not taking Covid-19 seriously enough. Ironically, the not-wanting-to-cause-panic sentiment was what some grocery store management cited as a reason employees could not wear masks, as reported in the article.
Perhaps you are talking about op eds rather than news articles? (I have often felt that newspapers should do op eds in a different font or color from regular articles, but that's another story.)
But I can see how this is perceived as sensational starting with the headline. Things like "War Zone", and "As more of the die" really set the tone a certain way up front. OK, so how many have died. Forty one? Not sure how they compiled that number, but sure. Is that a lot? Well, I don't know. Can't say I have a frame of reference. How many deaths should we expect from a give occupational group, especially one that is at higher risk?
Well, let's keep reading, surely we'll get some hard analysis of the stats. Nope. Just a bunch of anecdotes and heart wrenching quotes from the interviews. Well, they do present some numbers from the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, maybe that's where they got the 41 dead number. So 1500 plus confirmed infected, 3000 plus not working from hospitalization, quarantine, et-cetera.
Again, is that a lot? I'm not sure, the author give us no frame of reference. Seems like they want us to think it is a lot though. I mean if the the thesis holds true, then these numbers should be well above average, considering the increased risk these workers have.
This topic is clearly relevant, and something we should all be sensitive of when we go out to shop. These folks are under an incredible stress right now. But I can see how articles like this could be seen as 'fear mongering' or sensational. It should be the reporters responsibility to do the leg work, and be able to frame the data, and the thesis, in a reasonable way.
We don't really get that analysis here, just sad stories and quotes, that just leave us feeling bad or scared at the end. We are left with a 'feeling' that grocery store workers are dying at some 'astronomical' rate, and the inside of every store is chaos.
I wanted a frame of reference, how bad is this thing, really? I googled “Coronavirus vs swine flu vs sars vs mers vs West Nile virus.” Every single hit was a conspiracy theory like website. Which tells you that no “serious” journalist could be bothered to ask that obvious question.
Nope. All they can be bothered to do is write fear mongering drivel this.
news sites post infection/death numbers for covid front and center, conveniently ignoring the 98-99% of non-covid deaths that are just as tragic and heartbreaking. they did that during 9/11 and for every mass shooting since. it's sickening.
23K infections / 40M people in CA = 0.058% infection rate
682 deaths / 40M = 0.0017% death rate
yet neither of those percentages are listed. both rates have crested, yet there's no chart or graph emphasizing that. no curve showing high and low expectations of either rate modeled into the future.
most of the deaths have one or more co-morbidities, which means that a harsh flu or bacterial pneumonia would likely be roughly as deadly to them. no indications of that either. this kind of news could actually help people grasp the real risks rather than simply inducing anxiety and panic.
flu pandemics are preventable via the same collective measures, potentially saving 40K lives a year in the US, yet we don't get hysterical about collective action every winter.
media attention being understandable is different from it being reasonable.
I think this belies a lack of understanding of COVID's growth curve. Early numbers were low compared to other diseases, but the exponential nature of the spread means that without the drastic measures we are taking (which some call excessively fearful) COVID could enact a massive death toll.
Even with all the measures we are taking, COVID has already overtaken all other causes of death in the USA: https://www.livescience.com/coronavirus-leading-cause-of-dea...
You misrepresent the parent comment. In no way did they imply that information about deaths is not newsworthy. We have more choices here than two extremes.
>"so [statement A]? [question predicated on statement A]?"
In this case, statement A was a non-sequitur derived from an uncharitable interpretation. It appears at least three different people had a similar view, as I did not flag this comment.
Are service workers not dying for your convenience? Are they not working despite lacking PPE or hazard pay or the economic privilege of having the option to quit and/or work from home, as so many HN readers do?
If you don't think it's actually this bad, I recommend that you sign up for a part-time gig working at a grocery store and see how fun it is.
Of course its horrible, I assume we all hate to hear this. I think about how bad it must suck to work at a grocery store every time I go and see the people there working. The issue I think is when an article puts things like "It's a War Zone", or "As more of them die" in the headline for example.
It is true it must be very risky and stressful to work there right now. Hard to imagine. But there isn't much actual analysis of the numbers. 'At least' 41 are dead? How did they calculate that number? Is that a lot? More than we would expect for a give occupation? I don't know, they don't really explain, it's just a bunch of super sad stories and interview quotes.
"It's a War Zone" is incorrect, but "As more of them die" is not. The former is a dumb metaphor, the latter is just a correct description.
Given worker conditions, it is plain that they are being put at unnecessary risks and that these risks are fundamentally exploitative - folks have to either put their lives at risk for corporate profits (no PPE provided, frequently) or potentially become homeless, lose their insurance during a pandemic, etc. Estimating the numbers is something to go do, sure, but it doesn't change the dangerous material conditions on the ground and the dark nature of our response. Look at who bears the burden and why they do it.
Odds aren't so bad yet.
Once the exponential phase has clearly passed, I'm guessing we'll start treating this more like traffic fatalities. As in, Yeah, tens of thousands die each year, and we could easily cut this in half, but why bother?
How many more people are going to get very sick in the upcoming weeks and months? Probably a lot more.
Dismissing the workers' concerns with misleading statistics like you have done here is irresponsible at best.
> Future updates to this release may include additional detail such as demographic characteristics, additional causes of death (e.g., acute respiratory distress syndrome or other comorbidities), or estimates based on models that account for reporting delays to generate more accurate predicted provisional counts.
Guide to death certificates for covid-19: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvss/vsrg/vsrg03-508.pdf
Remember, western countries are not testing sufficiently. Deaths are up by the thousands all over the place but they're not being recorded as COVID-19 cases because there was no testing.
Every time you commute, you are playing Russian roulette