It’s Newsletter time again! We have a lot going on even though we are not in the office
every day. As I mentioned last week, we had a very good January and February in sales. With the projected March sales, the 1st quarter of 2021 could very well be a record for Lone Star. We are also having a good month in labor utilization since the pandemic began just short of a year ago. Let’s keep up the momentum. This was possible because the number of lost hours due to COVID were at a low and we are able to work on projects that create revenue. We are having less exposure and we continue to wear PPE, masks specifically, social distancing, and washing our hands. Again, this has become very routine. We just know what to do and we do it.
Governor Abbot. Gov Abbott removed the mask mandate in Texas today along with opening all businesses to 100%. I know he was under a lot of political pressure to remove this and open up businesses, but I wish he could have been a little more patient. I personally feel it is too early to stop wearing masks, so the Lone Star offices will maintain the mask wearing policy for now. We have had the mask policy since May of last year and we will continue to wear a mask while in the common areas in the Lone Star buildings. I will continue to wear my mask and I would appreciate if you would wear one as well. I feel a couple more months is all we need. Once the majority of people in Texas get the COVID vaccine, then I am in favor of dropping the mask requirement.
COVID. The U.S. hit a very grim milestone last month: Over 500,000 deaths due to COVID. This is a staggering number of lives lost. Five hundred thousand is more U.S. lives lost than were lost in WWI, WWII, Vietnam, and the Gulf wars combined. Worldwide the lives lost due to COVID exceeds 2.5 million. That is just mind-blowing. Five hundred thousand lives lost is like losing half of the city of Austin over a years’ time. The infection rate peaked in Texas on January 12 with 23,195 new cases. It dropped to 4,251 new cases as of Feb 17 but rose again to 7,864 a week ago and now dropping slightly over the last few days. The rate is still above 7,000 cases at this time which is still a cause for concern. In just a couple more weeks it will be Spring Break for many school districts which presents another opportunity for mass transmission.
Vaccine. With the new variants of COVID that are more easily transmitted and have a higher death rate, the numbers could quickly turn around and begin rising again. Now, more than ever before, we need to keep cautious and remain aware that we can still become infected. A number of employees and their families have received vaccinations already and it is becoming easier every day to receive the shot. I received the Moderna vaccine in January and the second dose on Sunday the 21st right after the freeze, so it will be this Sunday or after that I will be considered completely vaccinated with little chance of getting COVID. We now have three vaccines available and the latest entry to the market, Johnson & Johnson, is a real “game changer”. What makes it different? It can be stored anywhere and is a single dose vaccine with more that 75% efficacy rate. The J&J is 85% effective in protecting against severe disease. And there were no hospitalizations or deaths among people of a large clinical trial making it 100% effective against COVID related deaths. One of the major advantages is it only requires a single dose. When Texas is shipped 20,000 doses next week, it will vaccinate 20,000 Texans not just 10,000 Texans like the two-dose vaccines cover. This means we could vaccinate the entire state in half the time. There were a few people, some are Lone Star employees, that aren’t sure about taking the vaccine. Why, I wonder, with three vaccines available now? If three companies have researched, trial tested and have deployed these vaccines, why would you not feel comfortable to take it? Do you feel it was created too quickly and deployed too fast to be safe? I would submit, based on the fact that these vaccines are new in design but not new in the way they are created and how they have become aimed precisely at the Coronavirus, this is a testament to science. The vaccine is new, but the technique is a proven technique that has been used in the making of vaccines for years.
This from Pfizer: “What are the ingredients in the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine? The Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is a messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine that has both synthetic, or chemically produced, components and enzymatically produced components from naturally occurring substances such as proteins. The vaccine does not contain any live virus. Its inactive ingredients include potassium chloride, monobasic potassium, phosphate, sodium chloride, dibasic sodium phosphate dihydrate, and sucrose, as well as small amounts of other ingredients.”
This from Moderna’s website: “Moderna focuses on messenger RNA (mRNA) therapies. mRNA delivers the code from DNA to ribosomes, where proteins are manufactured. The theory behind mRNA therapies is that instead of injecting a drug (or vaccine), you inject a code for the drug into the body, usually encased inside a tiny fat (lipid) molecule. Once inside the cells, they will manufacture the drug themselves. It’s a brilliant and revolutionary approach, but it’s not a particularly easy technology to develop, and in many ways, vaccines are low-hanging fruit. In the case of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, mRNA-1273 is an mRNA vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 that encodes for a prefusion stabilized form of the Spike (S) protein.” Well, that clears it up.
If you are not sure you want to get the vaccine and want to talk to someone about it first, email Patt Bowles, Donna Montgomery or myself and we can discuss it or get you to someone that can. We need to get to a point where we can all feel comfortable to work in our offices, our customer’s premises, and the area as a whole to get the economy back to normal. Remember, you will not be required by Lone Star to take the vaccine, but you may have limited access to jobsites or the offices at some point due to the risk of spreading the virus. I encourage you to do the research yourself and make your own decision.
Company Theme. This year our company mantra is the “Year of the Employee”. We are emphasizing the Employee at Lone Star, but while doing so we are not deemphasizing the Customer. We all recognize the customer is everything, without customers we have no business. Without customers we have no income. Without customers we have no need to exist. But at the same, this is true regarding our employees as well. Without great employees we cannot provide the level of service we have promised and our customers have come to expect. Without great employees we cannot provide the innovation of products that our customers need to improve their processes and provide great service to their customers. Without great employees we don’t have the knowledge to create a more efficient workflow, quality fire alarm systems, or reliable life safety systems in educational facilities. Without great employees we cannot make our communities safer. So this year, our 30th anniversary year, is the Year of the Employee. You will see more on that over the next couple weeks, stay tuned…
Company Wide Meetings. We are putting the details together for our company wide meetings to be held quarterly. Please put these dates on your calendar. April 16th, July 16th and October 14th. These will be the dates for GoToMeeting (video) companywide meetings. We really want to do these in-person, but we will be doing these via video for now. Maybe by the time October rolls around we can do some form of hybrid video and in-person meeting, but for now let’s plan on video meetings. What is the schedule for the meetings? We are not sure of the specifics, but the first one in April will be a State of the Company overview and employee tenure recognition. We will recognize all employees that have reached certain milestones: 5, 10, 15, 20 and 25 years of Lone Star employment. This is our 30th year and we have one employee that will reach that milestone soon as well. I am looking forward to having these meetings and to share our progress as a company.
Office Visits. I will be on the road soon now that I am vaccinated and safe to visit all of the offices. I will still be wearing my mask and socially distancing though… I will let each office know when I will be there and what we will be doing there as we begin our planning. I am looking forward to making the trips and seeing everyone.
The latest on the Covid-19 stimulus bill. The US House passed the latest stimulus bill and was advanced to the Senate where it is expected to pass. This will be welcomed by many. Some of the key items in the bill are sending up to $1,400 checks to families and individuals, expand child tax credits to lower-income families, extend federal unemployment benefits through August, and fund COVID-19 vaccine distribution. This is an expensive bill that is expected to put 1.9 trillion more dollars into the economy.
Cost of Living. After the year we have just been through and the money the federal government has infused into our economy to keep everything going, we expect there might be some inflation to deal with. However, the 2020 inflation has only been 1.4% according to the US Inflation Calculator.
The inflation in 2021 is expected to be 1.4% as well but that could change depending on how much additional money the Fed infuses into the economy in the form of stimulus. As is usual at Lone Star, we will be adjusting everyone’s salary to reflect the 1.4% this month.
Thanks, All, for everything you do for Lone Star. As I said before, we cannot do this without you! Until next time, Ray
-Ray Bailey, President