Missouri Minute: Branson businesses sue over mask order; Bayer seeks reduced Roundup award

Hello, MBA readers,

As Missouri closes in on 60,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, some models suggest a difficult few weeks ahead for the state and region. Projections point to a looming increase in coronavirus deaths across the Midwest, and health officials say inconsistent adherence to medical guidance is contributing to the problem. The ripple effects of the virus continue to be felt across the economy. The United States Postal Service reported a $2.2 billion loss over the past three months, despite package delivery increasing during the pandemic. The costs of purchasing personal protective equipment and replacing employees who got sick or stayed home because of the virus were cited as factors in that loss. Continued financial stresses come as the Postal Service is expected to play a prominent role in this fall’s election after a surge of mail-in ballots for primaries. Also feeling the effects of the virus is Kansas City International Airport. The airport has seen a steep decrease in passengers, including from big employers that typically account for tens of thousands of flights per year. Some worry those companies will return slowly — if at all — to pre-pandemic travel patterns after embracing remote alternatives to business trips.

Now hear this

Speaking Startup: Teledentistry takes root
Maria Kunstadter founded her teledentistry startup to save people time and money they might otherwise spend on emergency room visits for dental issues. The Teledentists, Kunstadter’s Kansas City-based company, has really taken root since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. On the latest episode of the Speaking Startup podcast, the dentist and entrepreneur discusses her company’s origins, its pandemic-fueled growth and the future of telehealth.

Stay alert

Missouri sees rise in positive COVID-19 tests as region braces for more deaths
Some models project a sharp increase in coronavirus deaths across the Midwest over the next few weeks, and health officials say resistance to medical guidance will make matters worse. Missouri ranked second nationally for new positive virus tests over the last two weeks. (The Guardian)

Experts seek transparency over virus hotspots
Local and national health experts want to increase the amount of information about coronavirus outbreaks that is being made public. Others contend that the virus is so widespread that people should protect themselves as if they could contract COVID-19 at any public location. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Primary results seen as bad sign for airport privatization
Some observers say primary victories by candidates opposed to privatizing St. Louis Lambert International Airport could signal difficulties for the effort. St. Louis residents are set to vote on a privatization measure in November. (St. Louis Business Journal)

Salmonella outbreak spans 43 states, including Missouri
The outbreak is linked to onions, causing the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to advise people to avoid eating or purchasing onions of any color or variety. (CNN)

Bayer seeks reduced award in Roundup case
The company is asking a California judge to reduce the amount a jury awarded to a groundskeeper who said Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller caused his cancer. Bayer wants the payment lowered to $16.5 million from $289 million. (St. Louis Business Journal)

MU students worry about safety, finances amid pandemic
With the University of Missouri set to begin classes in two weeks, students are voicing concerns about how the university will contain the spread of the virus, as well as financial worries due to scholarship cuts. Many students say the cost of online tuition should be reduced, because they will not receive that same quality of education that they would in person. (Columbia Missourian)

Branson business owners file lawsuit against mask mandate
The owners of two Branson businesses filed a lawsuit seeking to end the city’s mask mandate. They claim that the order will decrease tourism, harming the town’s economy. (Springfield Business Journal)

Raising Cane’s to open Springfield location
The Louisiana-based fast-food franchise, specializing in its chicken fingers, is expanding to Springfield. The restaurant already has 20 locations in the state, concentrated around Kansas City and St. Louis. (Springfield Business Journal)

Say that again

“My sense is that the business community is going to take a deliberate and cautious approach to allowing their associates back in the sky.”

That’s Tim Cowden, president and CEO of the Kansas City Area Development Council, speaking about the decrease in business travel at Kansas City International Airport, The Kansas City Star reports. Recently, companies such as North Kansas City-based Cerner, which counted 150,000 arrivals and departures at KCI in 2018, have cut employee travel to only essential trips. As a result of the coronavirus, companies have found that many jobs can be performed remotely, which could have long-term effects on business travel. Traffic at the Kansas City airport has historically taken time to recover from economic downturns, with passenger traffic not returning to levels seen prior to the Great Recession until 2017.

Go figure

$2.2 billion

That is how much the United States Postal Service lost over the last three months, The Associated Press reports. Officials project Postal Service losses could hit $20 billion over the next two years if the service does not receive assistance from Congress. Package delivery to households has increased by 50%, but continued declines in first-class and business mail contributed to the losses, and the Postal Service incurred additional costs procuring personal protective equipment and replacing employees who got sick or stayed home because of the coronavirus. The latest update of financial woes for the Postal Service comes during an election season in which mail-in ballots have played a more prominent role. For Missouri’s primary election, more than 230,000 voters received absentee ballots, up from about 62,000 for the August 2016 primary.

Hello, my name is

America’s Hemp Academy

The company runs a facility in the Kansas City area for testing and learning about different uses for industrial hemp. Launched in late 2018, America’s Hemp Academy has worked with a variety of hemp-derived products, from cooking oil to flour to “hempcrete,” a concrete substitute, the Kansas City Business Journal reports. Founder Joe Bisogno, who also started the sandwich chain Mr. Goodcents, says Kansas City is in a good position to become a big player in the industrial hemp market. Currently, 79.4% of hemp produced goes to the CBD industry, although hemp has a wide variety of additional uses that Bisogno and others in the Kansas City region are trying to develop markets for.

It’s been a pleasure doing business with you this morning.


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