20 minutes ago

Nascar Announces Return to Live Racing, Fans Will Stay Home

Nascar took the lead among major American sports in the quest to return from coronavirus pandemic shutdowns, announcing Thursday afternoon it will restart live racing–but without fans.

If the race at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, S.C. goes ahead as planned on May 17, it will be Nascar’s first on-track competition in more than two months. Nascar, whose season started Feb. 9 in Daytona, Fla., halted racing in mid-March.

Nascar’s announcement said races would be tailored to follow guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Darlington and Charlotte, N.C., tracks are within driving distance of North Carolina race shops, which Nascar noted would minimize travel and time spent in a community. Other adjustments include mandating the use of , health screenings for everyone before entering the facility and physical-distancing protocols.

32 minutes ago

Federal Small-Business Aid: Too Little Bang, Too Few Bucks

With over 30 million jobs lost, the U.S. government’s spending on maintaining small-business employment hasn’t been efficient, Heard on the Street’s Justin Lahart says.

If the goal was to save as many jobs as possible, the places where the U.S. government’s first $350 billion in small-business loans and grants went were less than ideal. Here’s hoping the follow-on round of $310 billion in aid now under way is going better.

Small businesses—those that, by the government’s definition, have fewer than 500 employees—are key. Not only do they represent about half of U.S. employment, but they have an outsize role in many of the service sectors that have been hardest hit.

The program’s first round, which was tapped out in mid-April, often went elsewhere, with some large companies inappropriately tapping the program, drawing a rebuke from Steven Mnuchin. But beyond that, the money was also distributed unevenly, with some sectors receiving a much smaller share of funds than their shares of small-business employment, and some receiving more.

Census data show that the accommodation-and-food-services sector accounted for 14.1% of small-business employment but it received just 8.9% of the funds from the Paycheck Protection Program’s first round. Health care and social assistance accounted for 14.8% of employment but received 11.7% of the funds. On the other side of the ledger, the construction sector accounted for 8.9% of employment but received 13.1% of the funds. One reason why construction might have done better may have been that many firms in the sector may have had stronger ties with banks, which distributed the loans, and so were better able to navigate the program.

48 minutes ago

Reopening Plans in Florida, ,

Governors in some states sought to gradually reopen businesses to boost battered economies.

Retailers in Texas and Alabama are set to reopen with capacity restrictions Friday.

In Florida, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis this week laid out a gradual reopening plan scheduled to go into effect Monday, with restaurants and retail stores operating at 25% of indoor capacity. The plan excludes Miami-Dade, and counties, which are still reeling from the virus.

Restaurants, malls and gyms in some Iowa counties were slated to reopen Friday with some protective restrictions in place.

“The virus will continue to be in our communities and, unfortunately, people will still get sick until a vaccine is available,” Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, said Thursday. “Keeping businesses closed for weeks or months longer won’t change that fact, and it simply is not sustainable. It’s not sustainable for Iowans, their livelihoods, or our economy. We must all learn how to manage the virus in the course of our daily lives.”

Governors in states including New York, California and Louisiana have sought to increase testing capacity and develop contact-tracing teams before taking substantial steps to reopen statewide.

On Wednesday, leaders in Washington state and Nevada extended stay-at-home orders.

In Michigan, the Republican-dominated legislature declined to support the extension of Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order, which expires late Thursday, as hundreds of protesters seeking a reopening of the state gathered at the capitol.

Mrs. Whitmer has said she can continue the heart of the stay-at-home order through other means, without legislative backing.

50 minutes ago

’s Sales Jump as Coronavirus Prompts Surge in Online Shopping

Amazon.com has faced a gargantuan task of fulfilling a surge of orders during the coronavirus pandemic that has led to it hiring additional workers, paying employees more, and even removing some features from its website that drive extra sales.

On Thursday the tech giant said that revenue rose 26% from a year earlier to $75.5 billion in the three months through March. The boom in sales came at a cost, though, as profit fell 29% from a year earlier to $2.5 billion.

“The current crisis is demonstrating the adaptability and durability of Amazon’s business as never before, but it’s also the hardest time we’ve ever faced,” Amazon Chief Executive said in a statement.

The surge in online buying taxed Amazon’s fulfillment centers, which saw unprecedented volumes for this part of the year. In response, Amazon temporarily stopped taking inventory for products deemed nonessential and announced plans to hire 175,000 more staffers for its warehouses and delivery network.

The deluge of orders constrained Amazon’s Prime one-day delivery promise, Brian Olsavsky said. Bottlenecks picking and packing boxes for customers are causing delays in shipping those items to customers, he said.

1 hour ago

Gilead to Expand Manufacturing of Covid-19 Drug

Gilead Sciences said it has moved to expand manufacturing of remdesivir, a drug meant to treat patients with serious cases of Covid-19.

The company said it expects more than 140,000 treatment courses of the drug to be made by the end of May. Gilead spent about $50 million on research and development related to the drug in the first quarter.

“Where authorized by regulatory authorities, Gilead will focus on making remdesivir both accessible and affordable to governments and patients around the world,” the company said.

The move came as the European Medicines Agency began to consider greenlighting the drug as a treatment for Covid-19 based on clinical trial data released on Wednesday.

The EMA is conducting a “rolling review” of remdesivir’s data, which allows it to analyze experimental drugs while they are still in development.

“The start of the rolling review only means that the evaluation of remdesivir has started and does not imply that its benefits outweigh its risks,” the EMA said. The agency didn’t give a timetable for the review.

The EMA is Europe’s version of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and is responsible for approving the marketing of new drugs throughout the European Union. Gilead is in discussions with the FDA to grant an emergency use authorization that would allow use of remdesivir before full approval, the company said.