School districts across the country are dealing with severe substitute teacher shortages, despite efforts to recruit and pay them more

college student teachers
Cooper Hanson, a substitute teacher at the Greenfield Intermediate School in Greenfield, Ind., is photographed Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020.

  • School districts are stretched thin facing continuing problems staffing their schools amid the pandemic.
  • The shortages have resulted in a need for substitute teachers, which are also in short supply.
  • Some school districts are offering incentives or bonuses to maintain teaching staff and subs.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

School districts across the country have been struggling with dwindling staff numbers after teachers left the profession amid coronavirus lockdowns last year, and now, as Delta infections spike. Those factors, coupled with more full-time teachers testing positive for COVID-19, has led to an increased demand for substitute teachers, which are also now in critically short supply in many districts.

Districts in Georgia, California, Florida, Idaho, and other states are struggling to fill their substitute teacher rosters, and some are even offering more money and perks in what is typically a low-paid and inconsistent job.

“We have quite a few teachers out either because they’ve tested positive, they’re symptomatic, or they have their own children who are in quarantine,” Kelly Rhoden, principal at Nevada Union High School in California, told CalMatters. “At the end of the day, we just don’t have enough substitutes.”

School administrators are scrambling to prepare for these absences, ensuring there’s an adult in every classroom, with some asking non-teaching school staff fill in for these positions, CalMatters reported. The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, which licenses full-time and substitute teachers, saw a drop in substitute permits it issued from 64,000 in 2018-19 to 47,000 in 2020-21.

In Georgia, multiple school districts are reporting substitute teacher shortages, having school counselors and media specialists without full teaching experience cover classes, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported.

School districts in Central Massachusetts saw their substitute pools dry up due to low pay rates, which was only exacerbated by the COVID pandemic. Substitutes are typically paid less than $100 per day of teaching – just a little over minimum wage in the state – which is not enough for subs to risk coming in and catching COVID-19, according to the Telegram & Gazette.

Texas schools have even gone to cancelling online classes, with the Conroe Independent School District in Houston reportedly 250 substitutes short on Friday, KHOU reported. Conroe ISD is one of several districts that don’t have mask mandates against COVID-19, which is also leading to increased cases among teachers and hesitations from substitutes to enter these learning spaces.

“The pandemic has just had a devastating impact on children’s education across the country,” former United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told CNN on Sunday. “We now have tens of millions of children who are behind anywhere between a couple months to a year or more.”

In an effort to keep and recruit qualified substitutes, several school districts in California and Georgia gave per-day raises for both short and long-term subs. Administrators also advertised open positions on digital freeway billboards and lowered barriers for prospective substitutes, like a $100 signup fee and a bachelor’s degree requirement. Atlanta Public Schools also offered substitutes a $500 bonus to return.

The teaching shortage is not a new issue – and certainly not unique to substitute teachers.

Educators have been reevaluating whether they want to remain in the teaching profession, with many of them opting to leave this past year. A survey from May found 32% of teachers considered leaving the profession because of the pandemic. Special education teacher numbers area also down because they lack the necessary support from the US school system. The US is down 582,000 jobs in local and state government since February 2020, Insider previously reported.

Amid the growing teaching crisis, school districts have turned to offering different incentives to retain their teachers and attract new staff. Districts in California and North Carolina are offering new teachers $2,000 in signing bonuses. Other schools are using federal stimulus funds to provide retention bonuses for teachers planning to stay another year. Some US school districts are even looking outside of the US for new teaching talent.

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A new COVID-19 variant called Mu that might be able to evade immunity from vaccines has been detected in almost every US state

A map of where the Mu COVID-19 variant has not been detected
The Mu variant has not been detected in Nebraska, South Dakota, and Vermont.

  • A new COVID-19 variant called Mu might be able to evade the immunity people get from vaccines, Insider reported.
  • The Mu variant has been detected in 47 US states and the District of Columbia, according to data from Outbreak.info.
  • Only Nebraska, Vermont, and South Dakota are yet to detect a case, the data says.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A new variant of COVID-19, which the World Health Organization (WHO) says could have the ability to evade the immunity people get from vaccines and previous infections, has been detected in almost every US state, according to data from epidemiology and genomic database Outbreak.info.

Called Mu, the B.1.621 variant was first detected in Colombia in January this year. As of September 4, cases of the strain have been reported in 47 US states and the District of Columbia, Newsweek was first to report.

The only states without reported cases are Nebraska, Vermont, and South Dakota, according to Outbreak.info’s data.

The strain is currently most prevalent in Alaska, where data suggests that 139 reported cases account for 4 percent of the total 3,837 sequenced samples.

California has the highest number in terms of raw numbers, the data show, with 232 reported cases of the B.1.621 variant out of 139,930 sequenced. This accounts for less than one percent of those sampled.

The Mu variant accounts for fewer than one percent of total COVID-19 cases, with the Delta variant dominant in the US.

Earlier this week, Mu was added to the WHO’s “of interest” list of variants.

Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical officer, said Thursday that the Mu variant did not represent an “immediate threat” to the US.

“This variant has a constellation of mutations that suggests that it would evade certain antibodies, not only monoclonal antibodies but vaccine- and convalescent serum-induced antibodies,” Fauci said during a COVID-19 press briefing on Thursday. “But there isn’t a lot of clinical data to suggest that. It is mostly laboratory in-vitro data,” he added.

Fauci said that health officials are “keeping a very close eye” on the situation.

The WHO noted in its weekly bulletin that further studies would need to be done on the mutated variant to see if it can evade immune defenses to COVID-19, Insider’s Cheryl Teh reported.

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The August jobs report shows the pandemic is keeping workers home – not enhanced unemployment benefits

an unemployed worker holds a sign that says  I Am angry as hell Fix Unemployment Now,'
Odirus Charles holds a sign that reads, ‘ I Am angry as hell Fix Unemployment Now,’ as he joins others in a protest on May 22, 2020 in Miami Beach, Florida.

  • The August jobs report showed dismal job growth, marking a bump in America’s economic recovery.
  • The low number of jobs added shows that the pandemic is still strangling the economy.
  • It also counters the narrative that enhanced benefits were keeping workers at home.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The number of jobs added in August came in dismally below economists’ expectations, showing yet another bump in the road for America’s economic recovery.

August’s data also shows that the pandemic’s newest surge – and not enhanced unemployment benefits – is responsible for workers staying home.

America added just 235,000 nonfarm payrolls last month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s monthly report. Economists were anticipating an addition of 733,000 payrolls, Insider’s Ben Winck reports. It’s a huge slowdown from the 1.1 million jobs added in July.

In August, 5.6 million people said that they were unable to work due to the pandemic. That’s an increase from July, where 5.2 million cited the pandemic as keeping them from work. And 1.5 million people said that the pandemic prevented them from looking for work – a number that did not drop from July.

That shows the ongoing pandemic, and especially the rise of the more-contagious Delta variant, is still heavily weighing on the jobs market.

Notably, August’s jobs report likely captures our fullest picture yet of the impact that ending enhanced unemployment benefits had on workers. At least 25 states opted out of federal benefits early after similarly weak jobs reports this spring, with governors pointing to beefed-up benefits as the reason that people weren’t returning.

The stated goal for ending benefits was simple: To get people back to work.

“Alabama is giving the federal government our 30-day notice that it’s time to get back to work,” Gov. Kay Ivey said in a press release announcing that federal benefits would end June 19.

Benefits in those states all came to an end by mid-July; August’s report is based on the state of the labor market from August 8 to 14. The weak job growth numbers coming after the end of expanded benefits in half the states suggest that those cuts aren’t causing a surge in hiring, or at least not enough of a surge to overcome the Delta slowdown.

Research has found that states that ended benefits early lost $2 billion in consumer spending, which likely didn’t help the situation either.

Leisure and hospitality, a primarily in-person and low-wage industry that was hit particularly hard by the pandemic and shutdowns last year, had previously been leading the way in recovery. The sector added nearly 400,000 jobs in July, but in August, employment in leisure and hospitality was unchanged, adding a net zero jobs during the month – and food services and drinking places shed 42,000 jobs.

With enhanced benefits ending, those plentiful low-wage service jobs that some unemployed workers were being nudged towards – and where anecdotal labor shortages abounded – were stalling out. At the same time, more people were out of work due to the pandemic.

“Delta seems to be the overwhelming factor affecting the labor market right now,” Daniel Zhao, a senior economist at Glassdoor, told Insider. “It’s entirely possible that the withdrawal of enhanced unemployment benefits led to a small increase in payrolls, but it’s just being completely overwhelmed by Delta.”

The dismal August numbers come as all federal unemployment benefits are set to end on Monday. The left-leaning Century Foundation estimates 7.5 million workers will lose benefits completely, and researchers project that benefits ending could lead to an $8 billion drop in spending. Research has also found ending benefits early had little effect on employment.

Some advocates and politicians have argued it’s too early to end the benefits, but the Biden administration has already affirmed they’ll come to a close on Monday. The administration did say that states could step in to continue to provide benefits with American Rescue Plan funds. So far, none of them are.

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Goldman Sachs says there’s a window of opportunity for stocks right now as investors are worrying too much about the Delta variant

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Stocks have risen sharply on Wall Street in 2021.

  • Goldman Sachs said there’s a window of opportunity for stocks, as the market is too worried about the Delta variant.
  • The Wall Street bank said cyclical stocks should benefit in particular as the economic recovery continues.
  • Yet it also said that the economic picture would become more cloudy in 2022 as the boost from stimulus fades.
  • Sign up here for our daily newsletter, 10 Things Before the Opening Bell.

Goldman Sachs has said investors are too worried about the risks from the Delta coronavirus variant, arguing there’s a window of opportunity for solid stock-market gains before the effects of stimulus die down.

Some investors have been jittery in recent months about the rapid spread of COVID-19 in advanced economies such as the US, which has caused many institutions to downgrade their economic growth forecasts.

Yet Goldman analysts, led by Zach Pandl, said in their global outlook that they believe those fears as overblown.

“Despite this, we think the market is worrying too much about global cyclical risks from Delta outbreaks and China’s slowdown, and our [Federal Reserve] forecast is still more dovish than the market’s,” they said in a note on Wednesday.

“So we think some further relief in cyclical assets – higher equities and higher bond yields – is likely over the near-term.”

Cyclical stocks are those that tend to do better when the economy is strong, such as shares in hospitality and retail companies, or banks.

The analysts said the economic outlook over the next few months should be stronger than people anticipate, allowing the market to relax and creating a “window of opportunity” for stocks to rise.

Read more: These 6 trades can help investors beat the market as torrid earnings growth pushes the S&P 500 to 5,000 in 2022 – even with near-term upside limited

Goldman expects the S&P 500 – the benchmark US stock index – to rise to 4,550 over the next three months and climb to 4,700 in six months. The index closed at 4,524.09 on Wednesday.

The Wall Street bank’s analysts said they expect the highly transmissible Delta variant to have less of an impact in countries that have plenty of vaccines than the market is currently pricing in. They also said the US labor market should remain strong as the economy reopens.

However, Pandl and the team said they expect the environment for stocks to become more challenging over the medium term.

“Our economists estimate that the combined impulse from fiscal stimulus, reopening, and pent-up savings to global GDP growth will be greatest in Q3 2021 and smaller thereafter, turning slightly negative by H2 2022, reflecting the reduction in fiscal support and a shrinking reopening boost.”

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Procter & Gamble is running its toilet paper mills 24/7 as the spread of the Delta variant prompts Americans to stockpile again

Stockpiling toilet paper
Toilet paper stockpiling resumes.

  • Procter & Gamble says it’s ramping up toilet paper production as demand soars, per the WSJ.
  • Evidence is growing that Americans are starting to stockpile as the Delta variant spreads.
  • Small retailers say they’re struggling to keep key items in stock.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

American shoppers are starting to stockpile toilet paper again, and it’s pressuring manufacturers to boost production.

According to a Wall Street Journal report, Procter & Gamble, the largest toilet paper maker in the US, is speeding up its production lines and running its factories 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to meet demand.

Evidence is growing that consumers are starting to stock up on home essentials as concerns grow over the spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus across the US.

Last month, Insider reported that Costco customers were complaining on Twitter that some of its stores were out of toilet paper and water. These tweets date back to early July.

Other shoppers said that Costco was also limiting the number of products customers could buy, a tactic used by grocery stores in the early days of the pandemic to prevent shoppers from stockpiling.

One retailer supplied by P&G told the Journal that the company was limiting what it could buy. A spokesperson for P&G declined to comment to the newspaper on this. Insider reached out to P&G for more details but did not immediately hear back.

Read more: Business owners are already prepping for holiday shopping madness to avoid shipping delays and supply-chain nightmares

Toilet paper stock levels are nowhere near as low as they were in March 2020, according to data from market research firm IRI, cited by the Journal. However, they are below the average in-stock levels for consumer products overall.

Some smaller retailers say they’re struggling to keep toilet paper in stock.

“Customers are asking a lot of questions,” Arthur Ackles, vice president of merchandising and buying at Massachusetts-based grocery chain Roche Bros, said of product shortages in his stores, per the Journal. P&G imposed limits on orders last week, he said. Roche Bros has 21 stores in total.

It’s not only soaring demand causing these bottlenecks, however. The ongoing labor crunch is battering the US supply, causing delays and shortages across the board.

“I don’t think we fully recovered from when the supply chain got a massive hit,” Ackles said.

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COVID-19 test manufactures rushing to produce more tests after cutting production and even destroying stock

covid-19 swab test
A woman gets a COVID-19 swab test at the Utah County Health Department in Salt Lake City on November 20, 2020.

  • Companies that manufacture COVID-19 tests are working to produce new tests amid increased demand, Reuters reported.
  • Demand for tests dipped earlier this year when cases fell with the introduction of vaccines but has once again spiked with the Delta variant.
  • One manufacturer in June ordered employees to destroy testing kits and laid off employees, The New York Times reported.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Companies that manufacture COVID-19 testing kits are working to ramp up production as demand for tests increases as students across the US head back to schools.

Abbott Laboratories, Becton Dickinson and Co., and Quidel Corp. had scaled back their operations to produce COVID-19 tests in recent months as demand for the kits fell, according to a report from Reuters.

Abbott in June and July ordered employees at a facility in Maine to dismantle and throw away parts of testing kits they had created due to a decrease in the demand for tests across the US, The New York Times reported August 20. The dip in demand came as vaccines rolled out and cases of the coronavirus dipped dramatically in the US.

Then, the company laid off the workers hired to make the testing kits, according to the report.

“The numbers are going down,” an Abbot site manager told the 2,000 workers the company laid off at a manufacturing facility in Illinois, according to the Times report. “This is all about money.”

But demand for the rapid antigen tests has once again increased amid the spread of the more transmissible Delta variant, which has fueled a new surge of cases across the US at the same time companies call workers back to offices and students and staff head back to schools and college campuses for the start of the new academic year.

“We’re hiring people and turning on parts of our manufacturing network that were idled or slowed when guidance changed and demand plunged,” a spokesperson for Abbott told Reuters in a statement.

A spokesperson for Becton Dickinson told Reuters that supply was currently tight.

“With the rise of cases from the Delta variant… there is currently some tightness in supply as manufacturers ramp back up,” the spokesperson told the outlet.

CVS on Friday announced it would limit the number of rapid tests that individuals could purchase from its stores at one time. Customers were previously allowed to purchase an unlimited number of tests, but are now limited to purchasing six rapid testing kits at a time, as Insider previously reported.

As Insider noted, at-home rapid tests have become a popular way to test for the disease among people looking for quick results.

“Abbott has continuously been manufacturing tests, and we have been scaling up manufacturing as we saw demand increase when Delta became the dominant strain and new CDC guidance called for a re-prioritization of testing,” an Abbott spokesperson previously told Insider.

The demand for COVID-19 tests has increased from 250,000 tests per day at the beginning of July to about 1.5 million tests a day in the middle of August, an increase of nearly 600%, according to federal data reported by Reuters.

As the outlet noted, demand for tests is likely to further increase as more state governments and private employers issue vaccine mandates that require unvaccinated employees to undergo regular testing for the disease. President Joe Biden in July announced all federal employees must be vaccinated against the disease or face regular testing.

Companies like Walmart and major airlines, like United and Frontier, have announced various vaccine mandates. The mandates vary, with some allowing employees to opt-out if they agree to regular testing.

Demand is also likely to increase as school systems and campuses implement surveillance testing programs to avoid outbreaks, industry officials and state health officials told Reuters.

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Teachers are going back to school after a year that pushed their limits. With the Delta variant surging, 5 of them tell us how they feel.

A man wearing a pale blue shirt and a dark tie puts his arm around his young daughter.
Matthew Tomko, a social studies teacher from Florida, with his daughter.

  • This month, schools returned to in-person classes as the Delta variant surges across the US.
  • Insider spoke to five teachers who described feeling “broken” by the demands of last year.
  • Some teachers said they often worked until 2 a.m. and considered quitting to work in a restaurant.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Arriving back at school, teacher Eleana Valencia-Knight describes a “fog” over her head – an anxiety that one of her students or coworkers will catch COVID-19.

Valencia-Knight, an elementary school teacher from Florida, told Insider that she and most of her coworkers felt “broken” by the start of the summer break in June, and fears that the new academic year will bring more chaos.

“This emotional rollercoaster that we’ve been through and that we’re still going through is not going to end,” she said. “Teachers are going to break again.”

In the 10 days after her school reopened on August 10, Valencia-Knight said that at least one person tested positive for COVID-19 every day. Anyone who has spent at least 15 minutes in close proximity with an infected person must stay at home, she said.

It is hard for Valencia-Knight to track which students have interacted with each other when they move between classrooms, but every teacher keeps a rigid seating plan. She is lucky, she said, that her school’s principal understands the demands placed on staff.

Since schools restarted in-person teaching this month, teachers have grappled with rising case numbers, propelled by the highly contagious Delta variant, and highly politicized mask mandates.

In July, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed an executive order banning mask requirements in schools, citing the protection of parental freedoms. But Palm Beach County – where Valencia-Knight’s school is located – has resisted DeSantis’ ban, and mandated mask-wearing at all times in its buildings.

Read more: I’m a teacher. Now that the FDA has fully approved the Pfizer vaccine, every single school in the US should mandate vaccinations for staff – and eligible students too.

For many educators, simply stepping back into the classroom induces anxiety after a year that led many to simply burn out. Some worry that the same will happen again.

Dr Maxie Hollingsworth taught math and reading in Houston during the last school year, but recently moved to a role coaching other educators. She said that between March 2020 and June 2021, she would regularly work until 1 a.m. on weekdays, until 2 a.m. on Saturdays, and all day Sunday. It was a routine she described as “overwhelming.”

“I was one of those teachers that was going to leave. I assumed I was going to leave. I was absolutely done,” Hollingsworth said. “In May, you could not have told me I would still be doing this.”

“I’m very concerned about this new school year. What that’s gonna look like. We’re still in the middle of a pandemic,” she added.

Teachers described to Insider a desperate scramble to create new online curricula, source laptops, and check in with students in the early days of the pandemic.

Kara McCormick-Lyons, a 7th grade literacy teacher from New York, runs the White Plains City School District teacher’s union, which represents 680 members.

She said that, of the 306 teachers who responded to her November survey, 56% reported working between five and seven hours over the weekend.

“Last year, over and over again, the word was unsustainable. This is unsustainable,” she said.

A woman with curly brown hair sits in front of a book case and smiles at the camera.
Kara McCormick-Lyons is President of the White Plains City School District teacher’s union.

A RAND Corporation survey of more than 1,000 teachers in January and February found that a quarter of respondents were likely to quit their jobs by the end of the school year, up from one in six before COVID-19 hit.

Another RAND survey showed that 44% of teachers who left their jobs due to the pandemic last year cited insufficient pay relative to their stress levels as their main reason for quitting.

And the demands only ramped up when many schools adopted a hybrid-learning model from the start of the 2020-21 school year. In those cases, some students were based in the classroom and others at home.

Sarah Spleiss, a high school English teacher from Minnesota, said she worked 12- to 13-hour days last year, and described hybrid teaching as an “awful” experience, requiring her to navigate technical glitches and online breakout rooms while setting assignments for the students in front of her.

Spleiss said that she would have quit to take up a restaurant job had more service industry roles been available at the time.

As Spleiss’ students were high school seniors, aged either 17- or 18-years-old, many took up jobs when in-person schooling shut, and some even joined virtual classes during work.

“Their priorities changed. I had students joining class from jobs. One kid posted her phone next to the fryer at her Taco John’s job and joined class that way,” she said.

“I had to make up class rules, like you can’t join class from your car.”

A woman with long red curly hair folds her arms and smiles at the camera.
Sarah Spleiss teaches high school English in Minnesota.

Matthew Tomko, a social studies teacher from Florida, likened hybrid teaching to cooking multiple pots on different burners, and said that the pandemic’s extra demands on educators simply magnified longstanding problems in the profession.

“Many people were already teetering with that line of exhaustion or disillusionment with the industry when COVID came,” he said.

Tomko said his workload increased once his school returned for the 2020-2021 academic year, when he was based in the classroom. He took on more students, lunch duties, and supervision responsibilities after several coworkers resigned or took unpaid leaves of absences around this time.

“I can’t imagine a stockbroker or another similarly college-degreed job being asked to stay late, to work off-hours, etc, without being compensated accordingly.”

A man wearing a white shirt hugs his young daughter who wears a blue dress.
Matthew Tomko, a social studies teacher from Florida, with his daughter.

Some schools are facing a severe shortage of teachers and resorting to offering signing and retention bonuses to help staff their schools.

Two-thirds of 1,200 districts have reported needing more teachers, according to an April survey by Frontline Education – the highest figure since the education software company launched its first survey in 2015.

“All we’re asking is not for the world or for diamonds or anything like that, but just respect us in what we provide to society,” Tomko said.

For Valencia-Knight, her main hope for the next year is even more basic – to “just survive.”

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The ongoing US-Mexico border closure is smothering local businesses in this Texas city: ‘What was once a thriving street is now a ghost town’

Woman gets a tattoo at a tattoo shop
Before the pandemic, people used to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in Golden Goose Tattoo as they waited for tattoos. Now, it’s quiet.

  • Restrictions barring non-essential travel from Mexico have gutted foot traffic and sales for American businesses.
  • Business streets look like ghost towns in the border city of El Paso.
  • Business owners yearn for Mexican customers, but no one knows when the border closure will end.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The only sounds in the tattoo studio are rock music and the buzzing of two tattoo machines. In the 71-year-old pawn shop across the street, it’s silent except for the humming air conditioner and a telenovela playing in the background.

For the most part, an empty quiet fills El Paso’s downtown and keeps local businesses in a stranglehold. As a ban on non-essential travel from Mexico drags on into its 16th month, businesses in the border city have seen cash flows shrivel and have struggled to stay alive after up to half their customers vanished.

The US government first banned non-essential travel from Mexico to curb the spread of COVID-19 in April 2020, and has extended the restrictions every month since then.

“What was once a thriving street is now a ghost town,” Jon Barela, CEO of the economic development organization Borderplex Alliance, told Insider. He noted that up to 30% of retail sales in this area were made to Mexicans before the border closure. “It’s had a devastating impact on many of those small businesses in our region.”

In Dave’s Loan Co, a cramped pawn shop in one of the oldest buildings in town, the owner has met disintegrating foot traffic and a dwindling loan balance with somber resignation. His parents owned the shop before him, and his grandparents bought the building when he was seven years old.

“We’ve been here 71 years. What else can I say? It’s very hard to see it like this,” Baron said. “We’ve spent our whole lives here.”

pawn shop
Dave’s Loan Co., an El Paso pawn shop well-known for its eclectic and bizarre collection of items, has struggled during the pandemic.

Though he loves the carousel of eccentric people and items that cycle through the doors, he lives off social security benefits since he can’t afford to pay himself a salary anymore.

His tiny shop is crammed floor-to-ceiling with pawned off oddities, ranging from the typical to the unsettling. What Baron says is a real mummy brought in years ago by a mysterious customer faces the cashier counter (sticker price of $15,000), and a blackened, wizened finger purported to be Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa’s trigger finger is displayed in a shadow box in the shop window.

mummy in a glass display case
Larry Baron, pawn shop owner, said an unknown man brought what he claimed was a mummy into the shop years ago. “We don’t ask questions,” Baron said.

Built in the 1870s as a horse stable, the building was allegedly frequented by Billy the Kid, Wyatt Erp, as well as the other desperados, gunslingers, and outlaws during its wild west days, Baron said. But now, the store is hemorrhaging cash, neighboring businesses are shuttering, and the downtown is filling with “for rent” signs.

“What can you do?” Baron said.

Located in a bend in the Rio Grande, El Paso’s downtown juts up against a port of entry where a trickle of cars and pedestrians pass back and forth from Ciudad Juárez, El Paso’s twin city on the other side of the border fence. The two cities’ histories and communities have been knitted together for generations – families and friends live on either side of the border; people cross to work, shop, and socialize; and roughly $72 billion worth of international trade crosses into El Paso from Juarez every year.

downtown el paso
With shuttered businesses and few people, some streets in downtown El Paso feel like ghost towns.

The closure has made in-person gatherings in the US practically impossible and cut off a crucial source of revenue for many El Paso businesses. It’s unclear when the travel restrictions will lift or even what requirements would have to be met before that happens.

Tom Fullerton, an economist at the University of Texas at El Paso, estimates that local businesses lost $200 million in retail sales in 2020 due to the border restrictions.

“If the border ever re-opens, that is a lot of pent-up demand,” Fullerton said.

In August, the Department of Homeland Security extended the restrictions until September. In the meantime, other businesses have found new ways to reach Mexican customers who are barred from crossing. At a 39-year-old boutique dress shop, where girls often bought their prom and quinceañera dresses at the same place that their mothers first tried on their wedding gowns, the owner now hand-delivers wedding dresses to her clients in Mexico.

Woman in bridal boutique
Elodia Perches, owner of Bridal Novias, began hand-delivering dresses to Mexico after half her customer base was barred from entering the US.

Elodia Perches, the owner of Bridal Novias, said around half her customer base was from Mexico before the pandemic. Last year, her revenue plummeted by around 90%.

“The only reason I’m in business still is because I have a guardian angel,” she said. “I feel like, literally, we are blessed.”

Fabian Cobos, the owner of Golden Goose Tattoo, said his business was on the brink of shutting down during the pandemic. During the lockdown, he’d often jolt awake from sleep, panicked and his heart racing, wondering when his business and the world would return to normal.

It still hasn’t. His store lost around 10% of its customers because of the border closure, but he hopes a lifting of restrictions would revive foot traffic and customers that many borderland businesses rely on.

Fabian Cobos in his tattoo shop
Fabian Cobos drew his first tattoo of a flaming skull for his dad when he was 11 years old. Though he loves the art and the transformative effect of tattooing, his business has yet to fully recover.

Despite the economic impact of the border closure, public health experts are divided over how effective travel restrictions are at taming the virus’s spread.

“I don’t think keeping the border closed necessarily makes any sense since there’s already so much COVID in Texas,” Andrew Noymer, a public health professor at the University of California Irvine, said. “Travel restrictions in general worldwide is like the saying of ‘a horse has bolted from the barn’ a long time ago.”

Armando Meza, chief of infectious diseases at Texas Tech University, said achieving high immunization rates in the US and Northern Mexican states would reduce the risk of spreading the virus once the borders reopen. El Paso’s vaccination rate has hit 71%, while Ciudad Juárez lingers at around 30%, with the US promising to deliver 8.5 million vaccine doses to Mexico in the next month.

El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said vaccine parity between the two regions should be a priority, noting that opening the border would allow areas like El Paso to set up vaccination hubs for people from Juárez and the surrounding areas, where it’s more difficult to access vaccines.

“I don’t think we can solve this issue by having the bridges closed,” he said. “We solve it by dealing with the reality of this situation.”

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CVS limits the number of COVID rapid tests a customer can buy as cases of the Delta variant spike

The Ellume COVID 19 Home Test
  • CVS is running out of at-home COVID-19 tests due to an increase in demand.
  • Customers are limited to buying four tests in-store and six online at a time.
  • The Delta variant continues to surge as many Americans return to the office or go back to school this fall.
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CVS is limiting the number of at-home coronavirus tests customers can buy amid surges of the Delta variant across the US.

Originally having been able to purchase an unlimited number of tests, customers are now only allowed to purchase a maximum of six at a time from the CVS website or four at a time while shopping in-store, according to an email sent Friday from a CVS spokesperson. The tests are still available without a prescription.

The purchasing restraint is caused by manufacturing delays from suppliers of the tests. The limited tests include the Abbott BinaxNOW and Ellume at-home tests, the CVS spokesperson told Insider.

The delays are caused in part by fewer workers and slower production lines, a spokesperson from Abbott Laboratories told The Wall Street Journal. Ellume is experiencing similar issues, telling Bloomberg they are “scaling production and working with retailers to ensure consumer access to its tests.”

Both Abbott Laboratories and Ellume did not respond to Insider’s request for comment.

CVS cites “high demand” as a reason for the shortage of the tests. Demands for testing have grown as people return to school or the office this fall.

“We’re continuing to work with our suppliers to meet customer demand,” a CVS spokesperson said.

As coronavirus continues to spread, at-home testing is a popular option for those looking for quick results. The Delta variant is now responsible for most of the cases in the US and spreads faster and more easily than the earlier-detected versions of the coronavirus.

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Investors are having trouble shaking off pandemic jitters – and that’s creating hidden opportunities in sectors like travel, leisure, and sports, says Howard Marks

Howard marks
  • Pandemic-afflicted sectors may be worth a second look as Delta variant fears have scared investors away, billionaire investor Howard Marks said in an interview with Bloomberg.
  • Sectors like airlines, hotels, resorts, movie theaters, sports, and concerts could be undervalued.
  • Marks has argued that the market’s irrational excesses can give level-headed investors a leg up.
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Pandemic-afflicted sectors may be worth a second look as Delta variant fears have scared investors away from the travel and leisure industries, billionaire investor Howard Marks said in an interview with Bloomberg.

Sectors like airlines, hotels, resorts, movie theaters, sports, and concerts “are the kinds of things that people are worried about,” said Marks, co-founder Oaktree Capital Management, the world’s biggest distressed debt firm.

“And worrying transforms into lower asset prices,” he told Bloomberg.

Marks’s Oaktree invests in or lends to companies that are in dire financial straits, on the theory that a bargain can be found in areas more risk-averse investors might avoid. This year, Oaktree has been delving into “rescue financing” – that is, lending to firms on the brink of bankruptcy or default that need immediate cash.

A low-yield world makes it difficult to find worthwhile buys, and finding “hidden gems” may require looking abroad, Marks said.

Marks, widely known in the financial world for his investor memos, has argued that the market’s irrational excesses can give more level-headed investors a leg up.

“If you want to understand your market, you have to understand the motivation of the people in it, because that’s all the market is,” he said in July.

But even still, earning excess returns amid low interest rates will be challenging no matter an investor’s skill or insight.

“The whole world is in this low return environment and the question is how do you behave in a low-return environment and the answer is that there’s no easy answer,” Marks told Bloomberg.

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