Will the Delta variant keep shoppers and unvaccinated workers at home?
Retailers have been reporting growing streams of customers returning to shop in stores since face masks and social distancing measures were relaxed in recent months as millions of Americans got vaccinated against COVID-19. That boost, however, could be shortlived as the Delta variant has been rapidly spreading across the country with hospitalizations and deaths growing at rates not seen since last year before vaccines were widely available.
A research note released last week by analysts at the Bank of America and reported by several news organizations finds that there is growing concern among consumers about the spread of the virus. While the Delta variant hasn’t resulted in any mass shifts in shopping behavior at this point, consumers could potentially retreat to their homes to reduce potential exposure.
Public health professionals are warning that the current wave augurs more severe consequences going into the fall months. Bank of America found that the seven-day average of confirmed COVID-19 cases across the country grew by 58.4 percent to 28,900 for the week ending July 16. Positive tests are at the highest level in three months and hospitalizations, almost entirely made up of unvaccinated individuals, were up 23.5 percent.
Death totals have also been on the rise but they tend to lag confirmed cases as the infected battle for their lives before succumbing to the virus. More than 99 percent of all recent deaths have been among those who have not yet been vaccinated against the virus.
Bank of America analysts cautioned that it’s likely that local and state governments will place restrictions on activity should cases continue to climb.
The rise in cases may also affect how businesses deal with employees. Instead of bringing workers back to offices, companies may ask them to continue working remotely. Those returning to shared spaces may have to adhere to social distancing safety precautions or even be required to be vaccinated as a term of employment.
- Coronavirus in the U.S.: Latest Map and Case Count – The New York Times
- Will the Delta variant scare American diners and shoppers into staying home? – Independent/Yahoo Finance
- Delta variant could cause consumers to pull back on spending, BofA economist warns – CBS News
- COVID-19 Delta variant may threaten consumer spending – Yahoo Finance
- The Delta variant is now dominant in the U.S. See the states where it’s most prevalent – Fortune
- Corporate America Rethinks Vaccine Mandates – The New York Times
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How likely is the spread of the Delta variant to put a speed bump in the recovery path for retailers and restaurants over the next several months? How would you counsel retailers to address the challenges that the Delta variant creates for stores and HQ operations?