Missouri Minute: 1,800 state employees have tested positive for COVID-19; pandemic pushes up holiday retail

Hello, MBA readers,

More than 1,800 of the state’s approximately 53,000 employees have contracted the coronavirus. That includes four aides to Gov. Mike Parson, who himself announced Monday that he has recovered from the virus and returned to work. The highest case counts among state employees come from the Department of Corrections, with nearly 650 positive tests, and the Department of Mental Health, with close to 400. Elsewhere, cattle producers in Missouri and other states across the Midwest are calling for more federal help. Despite retail beef prices spiking after the onset of the pandemic, ranchers say they aren’t seeing the benefits. Plus, Monday brought a new sign of distress for the hard-hit movie theater industry. Regal, the country’s No. 2 cinema chain, announced that it will temporarily shutter all of its theaters in the U.S.

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1,800 state employees have tested positive for COVID-19; governor returns to work
More than 1,800 of the state’s approximately 53,000 employees have tested positive for the coronavirus, and nearly 1,300 have recovered. The count includes four aides to Gov. Mike Parson, who also has tested positive. On Monday, Parson said he has recovered and returned to work and campaigning. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Holiday shopping starts earlier than usual due to pandemic
Large retailers including Target and Macy’s are moving holiday sales that would typically begin on Black Friday up to October in an effort to reduce crowds in stores. Retailers also have pushed online discounts earlier in an effort to prevent an unfillable rush of orders close to Christmas. (Associated Press)

Missouri Regal theaters among hundreds to close
Regal, the second-largest U.S. theater chain, said it will temporarily shut down all 536 of its locations, including eight in Missouri. The decision comes less than two months after Regal started reopening theaters, which it had shuttered due to COVID-19. (NPR)

Food bank sees food donations drop, financial contributions increase
For the Food Bank for Central & Northeast Missouri, financial donations increased from April to August, helping cover for a decrease in food donations. The drop in food donations has been caused partly by restrictions added due to the coronavirus. (Columbia Missourian)

Officials ask businesses to ease access to accounts for employees with disabilities
Missouri Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick and multiple chambers of commerce are encouraging businesses to offer employees direct deposit for MO ABLE accounts, which provide tax-free savings for disability-related expenses. (Columbia Missourian)

Say that again

“When they double the price of beef to you guys and take $100 to $250 per head away from us, that’s corruption. Who the hell can afford that?”

That’s Doug Korth, one of many ranchers in beef-producing states across the Midwest who want more federal assistance for the losses they have incurred since the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted their market, KCUR reports. Retail beef prices spiked and profit margins for meatpacking companies soared when the coronavirus hit the U.S., but cattle producers have not seen a corresponding increase in profits. Ranchers, lawmakers and lobbyists have cited consolidation in the beef industry and a lack of price transparency as major contributors to the problem. In Missouri, cattle producers received the largest chunk — 64% — of the state’s first round of federal aid through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.

Go figure

$100 million 

Johnson & Johnson has agreed to pay more than $100 million to settle over 1,000 lawsuits that claimed that the company’s baby powder contained asbestos, a cancer-causing substance, Bloomberg reports, citing people familiar with the agreements. It marks the first set of settlements after years of litigation over the issue. In 2018, a St. Louis court awarded $4.7 billion to 22 plaintiffs who brought a case against the personal products manufacturer; the verdict was reduced to $2.1 billion in an appeal. Nearly 20,000 lawsuits are still pending against Johnson & Johnson.

Hello my name is

Kristina’s Casa

This new Rolla bodega caters to the needs of the town’s growing Hispanic population, St. Louis Public Radio reports. Owner Kristina Colón Leininger decided to open her own grocery store after she struggled to find traditional ingredients to cook Puerto Rican food. Rolla’s Hispanic population is small, making up just 3% of the city’s overall population, but it doubled to about 1,000 between the 2000 and 2010 census and is expected to increase again in this year’s census. Plus, the Missouri University of Science and Technology enrolled the largest number of Hispanic students in its history this fall. Kristina’s Casa is more than a grocery store, Leininger said, and seeks to help the Hispanic community in Rolla thrive.

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


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