COVID19 🦠 Newsbites
Perfect storm' of high package volume, employees out with COVID slowing USPS deliveries
USPS refused to release any statistics to CNN -- on mail volume or employee coronavirus quarantine rates -- but APWU National president Mark Dimondstein confirmed to CNN that there are now upwards of 18,750 USPS employees across the US on the quarantine list every day.

In comparison, there were around 8,000 on the daily quarantine list before Thanksgiving, he said.

The USPS has grappled with these issues throughout the pandemic, but they've become what APWU New York president Jonathan Smith called "a perfect storm."

While the postal system grapples with the logistical problems, Americans are -- once again -- facing delays in deliveries.

"The U.S. Postal Service, similar to the broader shipping sector, continues to face near-term pressure on service performance across categories as it manages through a historic record of holiday volume this season," USPS spokesperson Kim Frum told CNN in a statement. "This negative impact is compounded by the temporary employee shortage due to the COVID-19 surge, as well as ongoing capacity challenges with airlifts and trucking for moving this historic volume of mail."

... Although the USPS has some machines that can sort packages, a significant portion of the packages fall into a "non-machineable" category, meaning they must be sorted by hand. When there's a massive influx of packages in the mail stream, it can take an substantial number of USPS employees to process it.

A dramatic increase in positive Covid-19 cases -- and employees quarantining because of exposure to the virus -- is significantly limiting the processing power of USPS to move the historic amount of packages. "It's not a perfect storm, it's a perfect mess," Scott Adams, postal worker and Portland, Maine local APWU president, told CNN of the double gut punch from Covid-19 and historic package volume.

... All this is translating to significant disruptions in mail delivery and Americans not receiving their packages, or mail.

... Even if private shipping companies like Amazon, UPS or FedEx handle a package, they frequently utilize the USPS to handle the "final mile" and actually deliver it to a customer. Unlike the private companies, the USPS delivers to every address in the US.

A Century After Phony Flu Ads, Companies Hype Dubious Covid Cures
Musical medicine? Corona-fighting herbs? “Human beings haven’t changed all that much,” a marketing professor says of the similarities between ads from 1918 and recent months.

With a pandemic raging, a spate of ads promised dubious remedies in the form of lozenges, tonics, unguents, blood-builders and an antiseptic shield to be used while kissing.

That was in 1918, during the influenza outbreak that eventually claimed an estimated 50 million lives, including 675,000 in the United States.

More than a century later, not much has changed. Ads promoting unproven miracle cures — including intravenous drips, ozone therapy and immunity-boosting music — have targeted people trying to avoid the coronavirus pandemic.

“History is repeating itself,” said Roi Mandel, the head of research at the ancestry website MyHeritage, which recently unearthed and compared pandemic ads published generations apart. “So many things are exactly the same, even 102 years later, even after science has made such huge progress.”

This year, a company with a California address peddled products containing kratom, an herbal extract that has drawn concern from regulators and health experts, with the promise that it might “keep the coronavirus at bay.” The Food and Drug Administration sent the company a warning in May.

The claims are an echo from 1918, when an ad for Dr. Pierce’s Pleasant Pellets promised that the pills — made from “May-apple, leaves of aloe, jalap” — offered protection “against the deadly attack of the Spanish Influenza.”

... “Human beings haven’t changed all that much,” said Jason P. Chambers, an associate professor of advertising at the University of Illinois. “We’d like to believe we’re smarter, that we’d be able to spot the lies, but the ability of advertising to maintain its veneer of believability has only become more sophisticated over time.”

... “I’m not sure there’s a clear sense that this will get any better when the next pandemic comes along,” he said. “Companies are just selling the same old falsehoods in new packaging, and the incidents are only increasing. The regulations are getting better, but the process is still quite slow and budgets are quite thin. It’s a bit of a Whac-a-Mole problem.”