Employment, Workforce & Education

Daily Briefing – 445

Biden Nods to COVID Missteps, Inflation Pain at Rare Press Conference

President Joe Biden acknowledged the frustration many Americans say they are feeling as both inflation and the pandemic surge at a rare news conference Wednesday, the final day of his first year in office. He has hit the one-year mark of his presidency with COVID case numbers surging, including among the vaccinated, and hospitals overwhelmed with seriously ill unvaccinated patients. On the economy, unemployment numbers have dropped, but still fewer Americans are working than before the pandemic and inflation has hit the highest level in decades.

Biden’s approval numbers have consistently fallen since the summer as Democrats on Capitol Hill have struggled to find the votes to pass his social spending bill and voting rights legislation — measures he spent much of his first year in office trying to push through Congress.

Read more at NBC News


At the World Economic Forum in Davos Manufacturers Share Ideas on Industry Transformation

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is set to transform manufacturing operations, and leading manufacturers are revising their operations in ways that can serve as beacons for others. The grand challenges of the coming decades require deep, responsible industry transformation along entire value chains, however, including the creation of quality jobs, and environmental sustainability.

“Manufacturing companies are uniquely positioned to drive responsible growth while addressing the increasingly complex challenges posed by consumers, climate change and digital transformation,” says Eric Enselme, Founder & Principal at XP2XL Consulting and retired Global Vice President at Procter & Gamble. “But that requires their leaders to leverage technology, not only to optimize their operations, but also – and importantly – to unlock new business models.”

Read more at The World Economic Forum


Lockdowns, Lunar New Year and the Beijing Olympics May Impact Supply Chain in February

Before the Omicron COVID variant hit, there was a growing confidence that the worst was behind us, but now that is tempered. Many in the West are relieved that Omicron has proven to be less deadly than Delta; however, executives that I speak with are expressing a lot of concern around what February will hold for goods exported from China. 

Things are likely to get more challenging based on Beijing’s response to Omicron—particularly when coupled with ongoing logistics constraints, Lunar New Year’s and the Beijing Winter Olympics. Any one of these events could disrupt supply chains with origins in China, but together they have the potential to be the perfect storm. 

Read more at IndustryWeek


Survey: Businesses Are Doubling Down on Automation in Face of Global Labor Shortage

A survey commissioned by UiPath, Inc., a leading enterprise automation software company, found that 62% of executives at large U.S. companies are struggling with the current labor shortage. As a result, 78% of them are likely to invest or increase their investment in automation to manage through the impact of higher-than-normal turnover rates.

Eighty-six percent of executives surveyed believe automation will enable their employees to focus on more creative work—and spend less time on mundane, repetitive, time-consuming tasks. As a result, 85% say that incorporating automation and automation training into their organization will help them retain employees and attract new talent. Surveyed executives also believe automation is helping their companies perform better by saving time (71%), improving productivity (63%), and saving money (59%).

Read more at UiPath


US COVID – After Omicron, We Could Use a Break. We May Just Get It.

By month 25 of the Covid-19 pandemic, we all probably should have learned not to try to anticipate what the SARS-CoV-2 virus is going to do next. It has so consistently defied predictions. But the tsunami that is the Omicron wave is tempting us all the same, in large part because of an inescapable fact: By the time it crashes, the immunological landscape in this country — and in much of the world — is going to be profoundly altered.

Far more people will have some immunity to Covid-19 than was the case before the wave began. Many will have what is effectively hybrid immunity, from vaccination and infection. Caveats abound, and most experts who spoke to STAT weren’t ready to predict that a reprieve, if it comes, will be an actual end to the pandemic — the point where SARS-2 pivots to becomes endemic. But they generally agreed that the accumulation of population immunity could slow things down, at least for a while.

Read more at STAT News


NYS Vaccine and COVID Update  – Cases Per 100k (7-Day Average) Declining in All Regions

Vaccine Stats as of January 19:

One Vaccine Dose 

  • 86.4% of all New Yorkers – 16,044,922   (plus 15,448 from a day earlier).
  • In the Hudson Valley 1,667,401  (plus 1,769).

Fully Vaccinated

  • 73.1% of all New Yorkers – 14,210,043   (plus 16,570).
  • In the Hudson Valley – 1,451,004   (plus 1,977). 

Boosters Given

  • All New Yorkers – 5,507,856
  • In the Hudson Valley – 656,347   

The Governor updated COVID data through January 19.  There were 165 COVID related deaths for a total reported of 63,980. 

Hospitalizations:

  • Patients Currently in Hospital statewide: 12,027.

7 Day Average Positivity Rate  – Cases per 100K population

  • Statewide 14.07%    –    205.41 positive cases per 100,00 population
  • Mid-Hudson: 14.27%   –  198.77 positive  cases per 100,00 population

Useful Websites:


White House: Free N95 Masks to Be Made Available at Pharmacies

The Biden administration on Wednesday is expected to announce plans to make 400 million N95 masks available free at pharmacies and community health centers across the country, a White House official said. Some scientists and doctors have said popular single-layer cloth masks may not be sufficient to protect against Omicron and called on the administration to expand access to high-filtration masks such as N95s.

The nonsurgical N95 masks will start to be available at pharmacies and community health centers late next week and the program will be fully up and running by early February, the White House official said. The masks will be sourced from the Strategic National Stockpile, the nation’s safety net of medical-equipment supplies.

Read more at the WSJ


Canada Inflation Reaches 30-Year High, Placing Spotlight on Central Bank

Canada’s consumer-price index increased 4.8% on a year-over-year basis in December, Statistics Canada said Wednesday, or slightly faster than the 4.7% rise in November. December data matched market expectations, according to TD Securities. Excluding gasoline, annual prices rose 4% in December.

Rate-increase expectations mounted after the release of the central bank’s quarterly business-outlook survey on Monday, which suggested a second round of elevated inflation is brewing. For instance, companies anticipate raising wages at a faster pace relative to the previous 12-month period to attract and retain workers in light of labor shortages.

Read more at theWSJ


UK Inflation Rate Soars to 30-Year High 

Inflation hit an annual 5.4%, its highest since March 1992 and up from 5.1% in November, itself a decade high. Economists polled by Reuters had expected an increase of 5.2%.   
On a monthly basis, consumer prices rose 0.5%, outstripping economist projections for a 0.3% climb.

The surging cost of living is raising expectations that the Bank of England will look to hike interest rates again. In December, the BOE became the first major central bank to begin lifting borrowing costs from their pandemic-era lows. Markets will be closely watching the Monetary Policy Committee’s next meeting on Feb. 3, with policymakers considering another rate increase following the 15-basis-point hike to 0.25% in December. 

Read more at CNBC


FTC, DOJ are Rewriting Merger Rules, Signaling a Tougher Look at Deals

The U.S. Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission are asking for public comment on potential revisions to merger guidelines. The agencies held a joint press conference with FTC head Lina Khan and DOJ antitrust chief Jonathan Kanter. The agencies hope to craft the revised rules this year.
“The agencies are particularly interested in aspects of competition the guidelines may underemphasize or neglect, such as labor market effects and non-price elements of competition like innovation, quality, potential competition, or any “trend toward concentration,” according to a statement from the agencies.

Khan, who was appointed chair of the FTC earlier this year, is a well-known critic of technology behemoths like Apple, Facebook and Google. Some of the areas that the agencies are asking the public to comment on as far as merger guidelines are concerned include market definition, unilateral effects, potent and nascent competition, remedies, monopsony power and labor markets, digital markets, barriers to firm entry and growth and failing and flailing firms, according to the statement from the agencies.

Read more at Seeking Alpha


Airline Recovery in Sight

Shares of America’s big carriers might finally be ready for take-off. Executives at Delta Air Lines forecast that pent-up travel demand will help the company return to long-term profitability in March, despite a loss when they recently posted the firm’s fourth-quarter earnings. As the first major American carrier to release its earnings, the firm provided an indication of what might be on the tarmac for American Airlines and United Airlines when they report this week.

Carriers are scaling up. American Airlines plans to hire 18,000 employees in 2022. Delta expects to add as many as 5,000 and will offer a majority of its staff a $1,250 bonus in February. Airlines hope that falling cases of COVID-19 will get potential passengers booking vacations and encourage staff who have been hesitant to return to work. Carriers might still report fourth-quarter losses, but Wall Street analysts are betting covid won’t keep them grounded much longer.

 Read more at CNBC


Toyota Cuts Annual Production Target Again

Toyota Motor Company announced January 18 that it would revise its annual and monthly targets for 2022 and February down as it faces the beginning of a new year still burdened by a lack of available computer chips.

The company said January 18 it would fall sort of the 9 million units it had hoped to build by March 31, 2022, the end of its fiscal year. Toyota had previously lowered its annual production target to 9 million from 9.3 million in early fall 2021 and held on to it despite further monthly production cuts later in the year.

Read more at IndustryWeek


Meanwhile in Europe… Chip Crisis Pushes European Car Sales to New Low

E.U. car sales fell to a new low last year as the auto sector was hobbled by the COVID pandemic and a shortage of computer chips, industry figures showed Tuesday. Registrations of new passenger cars in the E.U. slid by 2.4% in 2021, to 9.7 million vehicles, the worst performance since statistics began in 1990, according to data from the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA).

That follows the historic fall of nearly 24% suffered in 2020 due to pandemic restrictions, and brought new car registrations in the EU to 3.3 million below the pre-crisis sales of 2019.

Read more at IndustryWeek


Texas Power Plants Ready for Winter, Grid Says Ahead of Cold Snap

Nearly all of Texas’ electric generation units and transmission facilities have passed the state’s new winterization rules, the state grid reported just before the expected coldest day so far this winter hits the West Texas Permian oil and natural gas producing area on Thursday. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which operates most of the state’s power grid, on Tuesday filed its final winter weatherization readiness report, which showed 321 out of 324 facilities passed the new rules.

Extreme cold in Texas, which caused power plants and gas pipes to freeze last February, was the reason state agencies adopted new power plant winterization and other rules to avoid a repeat of last winter’s energy emergency. 

Read more at Reuters


Here’s Why People are Leaving — and What to do About it

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in November, the “quit rate” rose to 3%, with more than 4.5 million people voluntarily leaving their jobs. Employers are struggling with a challenging labor supply shortage as people seek out new opportunities.  But this shift is deeper than employees jumping to new jobs; it is also about people re-evaluating their priorities and purpose. To be successful in this new age of work, employers should focus on three key areas:

  • Reimagining the office
  • Revisiting company values
  • Getting onboarding right

In October 2021, DISQO asked 39,477 US adults about their attitudes on remote work and priorities. We learned that people are looking for more flexibility, whether it’s how they work or where they work. While better pay was still the most popular reason for leaving a job, the possibility of remote work, less stress and better work-life balance were also important motivating factors.

Read more at SmartBrief 


 

 

read more »

Daily Briefing – 444

Empire Manufacturing Survey – Manufacturing Activity Levels Off

Manufacturing activity was little changed in New York State according to the January survey, suggesting that growth stalled after a period of significant expansion.  After eighteen months of positive readings, however, the general business conditions fell a steep thirty-three points to -0.7.

  • The new orders index posted a steep decline, falling thirty-two points to -5.0, pointing to a slight decline in orders.
  • The shipments index fell to 1.0, indicating that shipments were little changed.
  • The unfilled orders index came in at 12.1. The delivery times index held steady at 21.6, suggesting that delivery times continued to lengthen significantly.
  • The index for number of employees fell five points to 16.1, and the average workweek index fell to 10.3, indicating that firms increased employment and hours worked.
  • The prices paid index edged down four points to 76.7, and the prices received index fell eight points to 37.1, signaling ongoing substantial increases in both input prices and selling prices, though at a slower pace than last month.
  • The index for future business conditions held steady at 35.1.
  • The indexes for future prices paid and received both rose to record highs.
  • The capital expenditures index climbed two points to 39.7, a multi-year high.
  • and the technology spending index held steady at 31.9.

See the full results at the NY Fed


Governor Hochul Unveils $216.3 Billion Budget Proposal for 2023

Nearly five months since becoming New York’s governor, Kathy Hochul unveiled her first state budget for fiscal year 2023, calling it ‘socially responsible and fiscally prudent.’  It includes $31.2 billion in school aid, an increase of 7.1 percent. Other highlights include: 

  • $2.2 billion for property tax relief (FY 2023)
  • $2 billion for pandemic recovery initiatives (reserve funded in FY 2022)
  • $1 billion to enlarge the DOT capital plan (deployed over three years, FY 2023-FY 2025)
  • $1 billion for health care transformation (reserve funded from FY 2023 and 2024 operations)
  • $1.2 billion for bonuses for health care/frontline workers (FY 2023)
  • $350 million for pandemic relief for businesses and theater/musical arts (FY 2023)

“We have the means to immediately respond to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as embrace this once-in-a-generation opportunity for the future with a historic level of funding that is both socially responsible and fiscally prudent,” Hochul said.


7 Takeaways From the Supreme Court Vaccine Mandate Ruling

The Supreme Court’s decision has far-reaching implications for employers nationwide. The ruling has a big impact on the job market. Many employers have been hesitant about implementing vaccine mandates over concerns they may lose unvaccinated employees in a hot job market and decided to instead rely on federal mandates in making their decision. Other employers believed mandating vaccines could be helpful to retain and recruit vaccinated employees. Now things are up in the air.

“This ruling has significant impact on the job market, as it’s no longer an even playing field among large employers in terms of recruitment,” says David Gordon, an employment litigation partner at law firm Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp. “Now, if a large employer believes that it would be advantageous not to require employees to be vaccinated, it will be free not to adopt a vaccine mandate if permissible where they are located.”  Here is what the experts say about seven major implications of the ruling.

Read more at HR Executive


Dow Down Nearly 500 Points as Bond Yields Hit 2-Year Highs

A fresh selloff in bonds sent U.S. stocks sharply lower on Tuesday after a three-day break, with the high-growth technology sector feeling the most pressure at the start of a busy week that also sees investors weighing the start of a busy earnings week.

The big move in financial markets Tuesday was in bonds, as the yield on the 10-year Treasury  rose 5.6 basis points to 1.846%, its highest since January 2020. Yields on the 2-year Treasury which are more sensitive to Fed policy expectations, shot up 7 basis points, rising above 1% for the first time since early 2020.

Read more at MarketWatch


US COVID – Omicron Variant Encourages Some to Drop Covid-19 Precautions

Omicron’s ubiquity and reduced severity are encouraging some people to drop pandemic precautions, decisions that public-health experts say present new risks for people at risk of severe Covid-19 outcomes. People, including those who got vaccinated and boosted and curtailed their activities for months, are letting their guard down in the face of a variant that appears to be infecting everyone but causing largely mild illness.

This is a dangerous way of thinking, doctors and scientists say: Omicron still poses risks to more vulnerable people, including the elderly, immunocompromised and those with underlying health conditions. Some doctors say they are also worried about Omicron resulting in more long-Covid cases, which can result in lingering and worsening symptoms months after infection, as well as questions of new variants arising with such widespread infection.

Read more at the WSJ


NYS Vaccine and COVID Update  – 7-Day Average New Cases Down 38.9% Over Last 7 Days

Vaccine Stats as of January 18:

One Vaccine Dose 

  • 86.1% of all New Yorkers – 16,029,474   (plus 10,362 from a day earlier).
  • In the Hudson Valley 1,665,632  (plus 1,770).

Fully Vaccinated

  • 73.0% of all New Yorkers – 14,193,471   (plus 9,842).
  • In the Hudson Valley – 1,449,027   (plus 1,567). 

Boosters Given

  • All New Yorkers – 5,467,638 
  • In the Hudson Valley – 650,961   

The Governor updated COVID data through January 18.  There were 168 COVID related deaths for a total reported of 63,552. 

Hospitalizations:

  • Patients Currently in Hospital statewide: 11,981.

7 Day Average Positivity Rate  – Cases per 100K population

  • Statewide 15.04%    –    231.29 positive cases per 100,00 population
  • Mid-Hudson: 15.16%   –  221.01 positive  cases per 100,00 population

Useful Websites:


At Least 20 Percent of Americans Have Been Infected with COVID-19

At least 20 percent of Americans have now been infected with COVID-19, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.  The data shows more than 66,400,000 Americans have been infected with the coronavirus since the pandemic began in early 2020. The country has seen more than 850,000 deaths. The total number of Americans who had COVID-19 could be much higher due to asymptomatic cases. 

The omicron variant currently spreading across the country has proven far more transmissible than previous vaccines, even among vaccinated populations.

Read more at The Hill


Israel Study: 4th Vaccine Shows Limited Results with Omicron

An Israeli hospital on Monday said preliminary research indicates a fourth dose of the coronavirus vaccine provides only limited defense against the omicron variant that is raging around the world. Sheba Hospital last month began administering a fourth vaccine to more than 270 medical workers — 154 who received a Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine and 120 others who received Moderna’s. All had previously been vaccinated three times with the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine. 

The clinical trial found that both groups showed increases in antibodies “slightly higher” than following the third vaccine last year. But it said the increased antibodies did not prevent the spread of omicron.

Read more at The AP


N95? KF94? Which Mask is Best at Protecting Against COVID-19

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said Americans should wear the most protective mask they can, but stopped short of recommending an N95 or similar face covering. 

“The best masks are some version of N95,” said Eric Toner, senior scientist of environmental health and engineering at Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University. “N95s, KN95s and KF94s are functionally equivalent.”

Read more at Reuters


Texas, Arizona Have Recovered All the Jobs Lost When Covid-19 Hit

Texas and Arizona have joined two other states in recovering all the jobs they lost at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, leading a trend that is expected to include another dozen states by the middle of this year.

The states, which also include Utah and Idaho, have benefited from demographic shifts before and during the pandemic—experiencing outsize payroll growth in retail, warehousing, technology and transportation industries. Companies have moved operations to the states, and workers have moved in as well, sometimes leaving more crowded and expensive urban areas. The states—all Republican controlled—also have had relatively relaxed Covid-19 restrictions during the pandemic, which economists say softened the blow on their economies.

Read more at the WSJ


Oil Hit 7-Year Highs as Tight Supply Bites

Oil prices on Tuesday climbed to their highest since 2014 as possible supply disruption after attacks in the Mideast Gulf added to an already tight supply outlook. Supply concerns mounted this week after Yemen’s Houthi group attacked the United Arab Emirates, escalating hostilities between the Iran-aligned group and a Saudi Arabian-led coalition. Also adding to geopolitical price premiums are rising tensions between Ukraine and OPEC+ member Russia. read more

In addition, some producers within the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) are struggling to pump at their allowed capacities under an agreement with Russia and allies to add 400,000 barrels per day each month.  Brent crude futures rose to $87.25 a barrel. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures rose to $85.07 a barrel. 

Read more at Reuters


5G – Why the FAA is Worried About Your Cellphone Again.

On January 19, Verizon and AT&T plan to switch on new cellular frequencies that will boost connections for tens of millions of phones throughout the US. Once these airwaves are activated, you should be able to download a song to your phone in just a few seconds. This is thanks to the addition of C-band frequency, which could not only improve speeds but also expand 5G coverage.  But this update hinges on a familiar yet unexpected critic of cellular technology: the Federal Aviation Administration.

What’s 5G got to do with airplanes? Not much, argue the wireless carriers. But the FAA says it’s worried that C-band could interfere with some radio altimeters, aircraft safety tools that rely on nearby airwaves. The agency is so concerned that it’s been fighting to delay 5G deployment and has issued guidance that could cause flight cancellations from airports operating near certain 5G antennas, meaning that anyone who flies or has one of these devices could be affected.

Read more at Vox


ExxonMobil Targets ‘Net Zero’ Emissions at Operations by 2050

ExxonMobil pledged Tuesday to reach “net zero” greenhouse gas emissions in its operations by 2050, but stopped short of extending the promise to products it sells throughout the global economy.  The petroleum giant’s promise covers “Scope 1” and “Scope 2” emissions, which account for carbon emissions from ExxonMobil operations, as well as emissions associated with the purchase of heating or cooling at its facilities, according to a company press release.

But the U.S. oil giant avoided targets on “Scope 3” emissions, which are those from products sold, such as the gasoline consumers buy. Some European companies such as Total have pledged to cut these emissions as well.

Read more at IndustryWeek


Cutting-Tool Demand Slows Again, Amid Manufacturing Uncertainty

U.S. manufacturers’ consumption of cutting tools slipped -10.5% from October to November, totaling $144.3 million in the latest monthly report. The new figure is still 11.4% higher than the November 2020 total – demonstrating the ongoing improvement in the market since the recent low-point for domestic manufacturing during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Cutting-tool consumption is offered as a reliable index to overall manufacturing activity, because cutting tools are required in the production of a wide variety of parts and components supplied to a range of industrial sectors. 

Read more at American Machinist


 

 

read more »

Daily Briefing – 443

2021 Holiday Sales Grew 14.1% to Record $886.7 Billion

Retail sales during 2021’s November-December holiday season grew 14.1% over 2020 to $886.7 billion, easily beating the National Retail Federation’s forecast and setting a new record despite challenges from inflation, supply chain disruptions and the ongoing pandemic. Consumers were backed by strong wages and record savings and began their shopping earlier this year than ever before. This is, in part, why we saw a decline in sales from November to December. 

The number includes online and other non-store sales, which were up 11.3% at $218.9 billion. The numbers exclude automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants to focus on core retail.

Read more at Material Handling and Logistics


Omicron Surge Roils U.S. Small Businesses

As the pandemic enters its third year, many small businesses across the United States are besieged on three fronts: deepening supply chain issues; periodic staffing shortages; and fewer customers showing up in some areas, fearing the Omicron spike in COVID-19 cases. Day-to-day management has become a challenge. Census surveys conducted since early in the pandemic show concerns steadily shifting from dwindling cash reserves and a hunt for financing to challenges with supply chains and rising costs.

This week the Federal Reserve released its latest collection of anecdotes about the state of the economy from businesses, labor groups and others nationwide, showing that the fast-spreading Omicron variant was exacerbating difficulties, especially for hiring and inflation.

Read more at Reuters


NY Fed President Sees US Inflation Slowing as Supply Issues Resolve

New York Federal Reserve Bank President John Williams said he sees inflation falling to 2.5% this year, but cautioned that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic means any forecast faces high uncertainty.

Given the rapid recovery and high inflation, he said the Fed is “approaching a decision” on raising lending rates.  With inflation hitting its highest rate in nearly 40 years, the Fed already has begun to remove the massive stimulus pumped into the world’s largest economy during the pandemic to aid in the recovery. Many economists now expect the Fed’s policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee to raise the benchmark interest rate off zero in March, with three or even four hikes possible this year. But Williams said the date will depend on how the recovery progresses.

Read more at IndustryWeek


China GDP Grew 8.1% in 2021, Though Momentum Slowed in Fourth Quarter

China’s economy expanded 8.1% last year as a pandemic-plagued world snapped up its goods, though slowing growth in the final months of the year points to challenges ahead for its economy. As expected, the annual gross domestic product figure easily topped Beijing’s official growth target of 6% or more, as exports surged to a record high. 

The challenge for the world’s second-largest economy this year is to keep the post-pandemic recovery rolling for a third year, even as momentum slows and Beijing continues to push longer-term reforms in the economy to boost its birthrate, reduce inequality, lower debt and make the country less dependent on the world.

Read more at the WSJ


US COVID – CDC Director Aims to Improve Covid-19 Messaging, Data Collection

One year into her tenure as director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rochelle Walensky acknowledges that she should have communicated certain things better to the American public. She says the pandemic threw curveballs that she should have anticipated. She thinks she should have made it clearer to the public that new rules and guidelines were subject to change if the nature of the fight against Covid-19 shifted again.

The CDC director has come under fire from public-health experts for the way she has communicated pandemic guidelines from mask wearing to isolation requirements. Dr. Walensky said she is committed to communicating CDC policy more clearly. She plans to hold more media briefings in the coming months separate from her appearances with the White House Covid-19 Response Team. Some public-health experts have said such briefings would help highlight the CDC’s role as a scientific voice, independent of politics.

Read more at the WSJ


NYS Vaccine and COVID Update  

Vaccine Stats as of January 17:

One Vaccine Dose 

  • 86.1% of all New Yorkers – 16,019,112 (plus 7,461 from a day earlier).
  • In the Hudson Valley 1,663,862 (plus 337).

Fully Vaccinated

  • 73.0% of all New Yorkers – 14,183,629 (plus 7,801).
  • In the Hudson Valley – 1,447,460 (plus 456). 

Boosters Given

  • All New Yorkers – 5,438,556
  • In the Hudson Valley – 646,751

The Governor updated COVID data through January 17.  There were 152 COVID related deaths for a total reported of 62,891. 

Hospitalizations:

  • Patients Currently in Hospital statewide: 11,751.

7 Day Average Positivity Rate  – Cases per 100K population

  • Statewide 15.68%    –    250.57 positive cases per 100,00 population
  • Mid-Hudson: 15.49%   –  234.09 positive  cases per 100,00 population

Useful Websites:


Federal Testing Website Launches Wednesday, 4 Tests Per Home

On Wednesday, the government says the public can begin to order up to four free at-home COVID-19 tests online and by phone to ship via the U.S. Postal Service at no charge to their addresses for arrival in a week to 12 days. The White House said “tests will typically ship within 7-12 days of ordering” through the U.S. Postal Service, which reports shipping times of 1-3 days for its first-class package service in the continental United States.

The website is ​​COVIDTests.gov. It is not the most timely way to receive such rapid tests if symptoms of COVID-19 infection crop up beforehand, but it is another way to be prepared as the omicron surge continues.


Moderna Hopes to Market Combined COVID and Flu Booster in 2023

Moderna hopes to market a combined booster vaccination for COVID-19, influenza and RSV — a common respiratory virus — as soon as the fall of 2023, CEO Stéphane Bancel said Monday. He said the combination vaccine would enable people to get broad protection against illnesses caused by respiratory viruses ahead of the winter infectious season without having to obtain multiple jabs.

The COVID booster is currently in phase three trials while the flu vaccine under development — which also uses mRNA technology — should progress from phase two to three trials in the second quarter. “Our goal is to be able to have a single annual booster so that we don’t have compliance issues where people don’t want to get two to three shots a winter,” said Bancel. “The best-case scenario would be the fall of 2023.”

Read more at Politico


Fauci Says it’s Still an ‘Open Question’ Whether Omicron Spells COVID Endgame

White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Monday it is still too soon to predict whether the omicron Covid-19 variant will mark the final wave of the coronavirus pandemic. “It is an open question whether it will be the live virus vaccination that everyone is hoping for,” Fauci said via videoconference at The Davos Agenda virtual event. “I would hope that that’s the case. But that would only be the case if we don’t get another variant that eludes the immune response of the prior variant,” he said.

The omicron variant, while highly transmissible, has been found to be less severe than previous variants, sparking hope that it could hasten the end of the pandemic. Yet, Fauci said there is still no guarantee.  Still, even if omicron does emerge as the final variant of Covid-19, it is unlikely that it would mean endgame for the virus entirely, Fauci said. Rather, it will remain present in society at an endemic level.

Read more at CNBC


China’s Birth Rate Drops to Record Low in 2021

Mainland China’s birth rate dropped to a record low in 2021, data showed on Monday, extending a downward trend that led Beijing last year to begin allowing couples to have up to three children. The 2021 rate of 7.52 births per 1,000 people was the lowest since 1949, when the National Statistics Bureau began collating the data, adding further pressure on officials to encourage more births.

The natural growth rate of China’s population, which excludes migration, was only 0.034% for 2021, the lowest since 1960, according to the data. China scrapped its decades-old one-child policy in 2016, replacing it with a two-child limit to try to avoid the economic risks from a rapidly aging population, but the high cost of urban living has deterred couples from having more children.

Read more at Reuters


HSAs, FSAs and 401(k)s: 11 Numbers to Know for 2022

From a planning standpoint, the beginning of the year is important for employers in many ways. It also marks a new beginning for certain benefit components—including several account limits set by the IRS. The IRS announced 2022 changes to health savings accounts back in May, but it only recently unveiled annual changes to flexible savings accounts and 401(k)s.

From contribution limits to out-of-pocket amounts, here are 11 figures that employers need to know—all of which come into play in January.

See the numbers at HR Executive


Rolls-Royce, Bentley, BMW Sales Surge as Cheaper Brands Lag Behind

A surge in luxury-car sales and the shifting of scarce semiconductors to the most profitable vehicles helped many auto makers achieve robust profits last year, even as sales of mainstream vehicles lagged behind and supply-chain disruptions crippled car production. Bentley sold 14,659 cars last year, an increase of 31% from the year before and a record for the company. Porsche, also owned by VW, sold 301,915 cars, an increase of 11% world-wide. By comparison, VW’s namesake brand, its biggest business by unit sales, struggled throughout the year to keep its factories operating because of the chip shortage. The main plant in Wolfsburg worked under capacity and had to scrap shifts throughout the year.

Other types of manufacturers have given priority to big-ticket products for similar reasons, making it harder for consumers to find cheaper alternatives. Car makers have also benefited from a bump in demand for the more expensive models.

Read more at the WSJ


DiNapoli: School District Tax Levy Cap at 2%

For the first time since 2019, property tax levy growth for school districts will be capped at 2%, up from 1.23% last year, according to data released today by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.

The tax cap, which first applied to local governments and school districts in 2012, limits annual tax levy increases to the lesser of the rate of inflation or 2%. School districts may override the cap with 60% voter approval of their budget. DiNapoli’s office calculated the inflation factor at 4.7% for those with a June 30, 2023 fiscal year end. “School district and municipal officials must remain fiscally cautious to stay under the cap as they prepare their budgets,” DiNapoli said. “Even with significant funding from the state and federal governments, school and local communities are faced with the rapid increase in inflation, pandemic surge, and trying to retain and recruit employees.”

Read more at The Comptroller’s website


Nearly One-Quarter of States Are Leaving the Public in the Dark About 2021’s Standardized Tests

We knew the picture of student learning during the COVID-19 pandemic would be murky, as states canceled standardized testing in 2020 and the federal government relaxed rules on how testing should work in 2021.

This year, parents and policymakers will have a lot more clarity in some states than others. Our nationwide review of state testing policies finds that some states managed to pull off standardized testing in 2021 with the same levels of student participation they could expect in a normal year and reported the results publicly — with all the caveats that come with testing during a global pandemic, when many students were still learning remotely. 

Read more at The 74


Could Viruses Cause Alzheimer’s? COVID-19 Brain Studies Offer New Clues

Scientists are racing to understand why some patients have persistent symptoms, especially brain fog, after a bout with COVID-19. Though little is currently known, some of the findings may yield insights into another condition that has long vexed researchers: Alzheimer’s disease, which currently affects nearly six million Americans, a number expected to triple by 2060. Long COVID sufferers describe some cognitive symptoms that neurologists say are very similar to Alzheimer’s disease. 

In the century since Alzheimer’s disease was first characterized, scientists have considered many reasons why these patients have unrelenting memory loss. The most widely accepted possible cause involves high concentrations of two abnormal proteins: beta-amyloid, which clumps in the space between neurons, cutting off the lines of communication; and tau, which accumulates inside nerve cells and disrupts neuronal signaling. Another hypothesis gaining traction is that a viral, bacterial, or even fungal infection could set off a series of events leading to neurodegeneration. Though the theory is far less popular than the amyloid hypothesis, it was starting to garner renewed attention even before the pandemic.

Read more at NatGeo


 

read more »

Daily Briefing – 442

U.S. Industrial Production Edges Lower in December

Industrial production slipped 0.1% in December, the Federal Reserve reported Friday. Output in November was revised up to 0.7% from the prior estimate of 0.5%.  Manufacturing, however, remains a bright spot in the economy. For the fourth quarter as a whole, total industrial production is up 4%. For the year, industrial production is up 3.7%.

Capacity utilization inched lower to 76.5% in December from 76.6% in the prior month. The capacity utilization rate reflects the limits to operating the nation’s factories, mines and utilities.  Economists had forecast a 77% rate. Auto production sank 1.3% in December and was about 6% lower for the year. Total manufacturing declined 0.3%. Utility output fell 1.5% on the relatively warm weather for the month. Mining, which includes oil and gas production, rose 2%.

Read more at MarketWatch


Omicron Surge Spurs New Covid-19 Relief Push in Congress

Hotels, fitness clubs, tour bus companies and minor league ball clubs are part of a long line of businesses seeking billions of dollars in new Covid-19 relief aid.  Lobbyists for the businesses say their campaign has taken on new urgency as the Omicron variant sweeps across the country, forcing many companies to scale back or shut down operations as employees call in sick and customers cancel orders and reservations.

A few Republican lawmakers support more relief funding for targeted industries, but most are generally opposed to spending more funds to help struggling businesses. These opponents say that the government has already provided sufficient relief, including more than $900 billion through the Paycheck Protection Program, and that more government spending will fuel inflation and budget deficits.

Read more at the WSJ


State Clarifies Five-day Quarantine Policy for K-12, Restricts Unboosted Teens

In a letter to school leaders, State Department of Health officials addressed questions from school districts about guidance published by the Centers for Disease Control on Thursday that reduces quarantine and isolation time from 10 days to five. “We are providing the following clarifications to assist school leadership in continuing to provide in-person instruction.” Acting Health Commissioner Mary T. Bassett wrote.

Anyone who tests positive must quarantine for five days regardless of vaccination status. On day six, the student or employee may return to school wearing a mask as long as symptoms are resolved or resolving. The student must continue to isolate at home before and after school for the full 10-day period. The guidance did not address questions around whether these students may eat lunch around their peers.

Read more at Finger Lakes Times


In Wake of Court’s Stay on OSHA’s Vax-or-Test Rule DOL Reminds Employers of their Responsibilities 

In a news release on the U.S. Department of Labor’s website, Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, reminded employers that they are responsible for the safety of their workers on the job, and pointed employers to OSHA’s COVID-19 Guidance to assist with upholding these obligations. Secretary Walsh stated that OSHA will do “everything within its existing authority to hold businesses accountable for protecting workers.” OSHA is also working on a permanent rule that addresses the workplace and COVID-19.

Employers must also keep in mind that state and local governments may have their own vaccination, testing, paid COVID-19 leave, and quarantine and/or isolation requirements. These requirements are not impacted by the Supreme Court’s decision and employers must still ensure compliance with safety practices and other requirements stipulated by these laws, as applicable.


US COVID – Hospitalizations Up

The US CDC is currently reporting 62.5 million cumulative cases of COVID-19 and 840,286 deaths. The US is averaging 761,535 new cases and 1,656 deaths per day. Notably, the US reported 1.35 million new COVID-19 cases on January 10. This exceeds the previous single-day record, set on January 3, by 397,521 cases.

COVID-19 hospitalizations in the US set a record high this week, passing the previous record of 16,497 new hospitalizations per day (January 8, 2021). The 7-day average as of January 10 is 20,269. The CDC is also reporting a surge in the number of current hospitalizations, up from an average of 91,030 hospitalized COVID-19 patients on January 3 to 124,163 on January 10, an increase of 36.4% over that period. 

Read more at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security


NYS Vaccine and COVID Update  

Vaccine Stats as of January 16:

One Vaccine Dose 

  • 86.1% of all New Yorkers – 16,011,651 (plus 16,217 from a day earlier).
  • In the Hudson Valley 1,663,525 (plus 928).

Fully Vaccinated

  • 73.0% of all New Yorkers – 14,175,828 (plus 11,280).
  • In the Hudson Valley – 1,447,004 (plus 496). 

Boosters Given

  • All New Yorkers – 5,413,473
  • In the Hudson Valley – 644,740

The Governor updated COVID data through January 16.  There were 154 COVID related deaths for a total of 62,891. 

Hospitalizations:

  • Patients Currently in Hospital statewide: 11,713.

7 Day Average Positivity Rate  – Cases per 100K population

  • Statewide 16.37%    –    271.02 positive cases per 100,00 population
  • Mid-Hudson: 16.31%   –  252.59 positive  cases per 100,00 population

Useful Websites:


9 Additional Sites to Open on SUNY and Community College Campuses Statewide – Rockland, Sullivan and Ulster In Our Region

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced nine testing sites will open on SUNY and community college campuses across New York State. This follows the 20 sites on SUNY campuses the Governor has announced throughout the month of January.

Beginning the week of Jan. 18, these sites will be open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Sites to open include:

Rockland Community College
145 College Road
Suffern, NY 10901
Beginning Jan. 18, Hours of Operation 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Appointments can be made here.

SUNY Sullivan
The Paul Gerry Field House Upper Lobby
112 College Road
Loch Sheldrake, NY 12759
Beginning Jan. 18, Hours of Operation: 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Appointments can be scheduled here.

SUNY Ulster
Senate Gym
491 Cottekill Road
Stone Ridge, NY 12484
Beginning Jan. 20, Hours of Operation 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Appointments can be scheduled here.


Studies: COVID Vaccines Effective, With Limited Waning

A trio of new studies last week in the New England Journal of Medicine report encouraging results on the effectiveness and durability of protection of COVID-19 vaccines against hospitalization and death, including teens.

One study, led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) COVID-19 Response Team, involved 445 hospitalized COVID-19 patients 12 to 18 years old and 777 uninfected matched controls at 31 hospitals in 23 states from Jul 1 to Oct 25, 2021, after the emergence of the Delta variant. Seventeen case patients (4%) and 282 controls (36%) had received two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Among case patients, 180 (40%) were admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU), and 127 (29%) needed life support. Of all ICU patients, only two were fully vaccinated. Overall vaccine effectiveness (VE) against hospitalization was 94%.

Read more at University of Minnesota’s CIDRAP


Europe’s Drug Regulator Warns Excessive Boosters Could Lead to ‘Problems With Immune Response,’ Joining WHO in Pushback

On Tuesday, EMA vaccine strategy chief Marco Cavaleri said there was still no data supporting the need for a fourth COVID vaccine dose. And even if multiple boosters do prove to be necessary, they would need to be spaced out in the style of annual flu jabs, rather than delivered every several months. He also warned that overly frequent booster doses could potentially lead to “problems with immune response.”

The World Health Organization also said Tuesday that vaccination strategies “based on repeated booster doses of the original vaccine composition [are] unlikely to be appropriate or sustainable.” The WHO also repeated its frequently expressed warning that giving primary vaccinations to those in poorer countries was a higher priority, and urged vaccine makers to provide data on the vaccines they are developing to target new variants.

Read more at Fortune


China’s Hard-Line COVID-Zero Response to Omicron Could Trigger Supply-Chain Chaos

Omicron’s spread to Dalian has raised fears that a fresh outbreak of COVID-19—coupled with Beijing’s heavy-handed “COVID-zero” response—could snarl already strained global supply chains. 

The world could face the “mother of all supply-chain stumbles” this year, Frederic Neumann, co-head of Asian economics research at HSBC, warned clients earlier this week, citing the growing epidemic in China.  The U.S. government is concerned that the outbreaks could lead to more chaos in global supply chains, too. On Tuesday, U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell told U.S. lawmakers that “if China sticks to a no-COVID policy, Omicron can really disturb the supply chains again.”

Read more at Fortune


Retail Sales Dropped 1.9% in December as Higher Prices Caused Consumers to Curb Spending

Retail sales fell much more than expected in December as surging prices took a big bite out of spending, the Commerce Department reported Friday. The advance monthly sales report to close out the year showed a decline of 1.9%, considerably worse than the Dow Jones estimate for just a 0.1% drop. In addition to the weak December numbers, the November gain was revised down to 0.2% from the initially reported 0.3% increase.

Excluding autos, sales fell 2.3%, a number that also fell well short of expectations for a 0.3% rise. Considering that the sales numbers are not adjusted for inflation, the data point to a slow ending to what had otherwise been a strong 2021 in which sales rose 16.9% from the pandemic-scarred 2020.

Read more at CNBC


Jobless Claims: Another 230,000 Americans Filed New Claims

Initial unemployment claims unexpectedly jumped to total 230,000 last week, but still remained low compared to their pandemic-era averages.  

  • Initial jobless claims, week ended Jan. 8: 230,000 vs. 200,000 expected and an unrevised 207,000 during prior week.
  • Continuing claims, week ended Jan. 2: 1.559 million vs. 1.733 million expected and a revised 1.753 million during prior week .

The latest weekly jobless claims data comes amid a bevy of labor market prints showing demand — and leverage — for many workers remains strong. Still, with the size of the civilian labor force still down by more than 2 million individuals compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Read more a YahooFinance


Wholesale Prices Jump Nearly 10% in 2021

Wholesale prices rose less than expected in December but still set a new standard at a time when consumer inflation is running at a nearly 40-year high, the Labor Department said Thursday.
The producer price index, which measures prices received by producers of goods, services and construction, was up 0.2% for the month, half the 0.4% Dow Jones estimate. 
 
However, on a 12-month basis, the index was up 9.7% to end 2021, the highest calendar-year increase ever in data going back to 2010.
 

The Economist: America Resorts to Remote Learning, Against Pupils’ Interests

Across America, more than 5,000 public schools, about 5% of the total, switched to remote learning for one or more days during the first week of January due to covid-19. It is a controversial call. Early in the pandemic remote classes led to a huge learning loss. The evidence on the health risks in schools is mixed. A study published in October in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that American counties that opened schools saw an increase in the growth rate of cases of five percentage points on average. Another study, published in April by the American Academy of Paediatrics, found that opening schools in North Carolina led to little virus spread. The authors credit the schools’ public-health measures, including daily screening and mask-wearing for pupils and adults, for minimising the impact.

According to NWEA, an education-research firm, pupil achievement declined by 3-7 percentile points in reading and 9-11 points in maths by the end of the 2020-21 school year. McKinsey, a consulting firm, estimates pupils lost four to five months of learning that year. The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that pupils engaging in remote learning also had more mental-health difficulties than children attending school in person.

Read more at The Economist


 

 

read more »

Daily Briefing – 441

7% – U.S. Inflation Reaches Fastest Pace Since 1982

The Labor Department said the consumer-price index—which measures what consumers pay for goods and services—rose 7% (its highest level since 1982 ) in December from the same month a year ago, up from 6.8% in November. That was the fastest pace since 1982 and marked the third straight month in which inflation exceeded 6%. On a monthly basis, the CPI increased a seasonally adjusted 0.5% in December from the preceding month, decelerating from October and November.

The so-called core price index, which excludes the often-volatile categories of food and energy, climbed 5.5% in December from a year earlier. That was a bigger increase than November’s 4.9% rise, and the highest rate since 1991.

Read more at the WSJ


Could Today Be the Day? SCOTUS Signals Vaccine Decisions Might Be Released Today or Friday

The Supreme Court may have tipped its hand as to when employers can expect to learn the fate of both the OSHA Vaccine ETS and the CMS Healthcare Vaccine Mandate. SCOTUS released its updated calendar for the remainder of January yesterday, and the update noted that at least one new opinion will be released this Thursday, January 13. Given the fact that it is somewhat out of the norm for SCOTUS to issue opinions on a Thursday, some believe this could be a sign that the Court is reserving this day for the release of these monumental decisions.

Of Course the Supreme Court is notoriously secretive about its inner workings, and does not announce to the public which cases will be released ahead of time. Moreover, there are at least 25 other cases sitting on the SCOTUS docket that could be released at that time.

Read more at Fisher Phillips


Omicron May be Headed for a Rapid Drop in Britain, US

Scientists are seeing signals that COVID-19′s alarming omicron wave may have peaked in Britain and is about to do the same in the U.S., at which point cases may start dropping off dramatically. The reason: The variant has proved so wildly contagious that it may already be running out of people to infect, just a month and a half after it was first detected in South Africa.

At the same time, experts warn that much is still uncertain about how the next phase of the pandemic might unfold. The plateauing or ebbing in the two countries is not happening everywhere at the same time or at the same pace. And weeks or months of misery still lie ahead for patients and overwhelmed hospitals even if the drop-off comes to pass.

Read more at The AP


Employers and Omicron: What’s the Best Response Amid the Surge?

As the Omicron variant surges across the nation, resulting in a record number of COVID-19 infections, it feels like déjà vu for many employers. And in some ways, the latest surge is more complex—adding more questions than answers—than even the beginning of the pandemic when lockdown and quarantine were the go-to strategies for organizations. “Omicron is disrupting all kinds of plans,” says Dr. Neal Mills, chief medical officer and senior vice president of Aon’s health and benefits practice “A lot of this is a more complex problem today than it was one year ago or two when we turned to lockdowns.”

So how are—and how should—employers respond to Omicron? How can they help employees facing problems from the new variant? For answers, HRE spoke to Mills.

Read more at Human Resources Executive


US COVID – Hospitalizations on the Rise

COVID-19 hospitalizations are on track to reach a record high, as early as this week. The current 7-day average is at 109,874 as of January 8, up 34% over the prior week. Pediatric hospitalizations among children with COVID-19, while still lower than any other age group, also are up, with the rise attributed to hospitalizations of children under the age of five who are not yet eligible for vaccination and driven by the increased transmissibility of Omicron.

Hospitalization data does not always provide an accurate picture of COVID-19 severity and may include incidental infections; for example, in New York, 42% of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 were hospitalized for reasons unrelated to COVID-19 and tested positive during routine testing. However,  Even incidental COVID-19 cases place incredible strain on hospitals, as coronavirus patients need to be isolated and require a greater amount of hospital resources than non-infected patients. Around 80% of hospital and ICU beds are occupied nationwide, according to US government data, with about 21% and 31%, respectively, occupied by COVID-19 patients. 

Read more at The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security


NYS Vaccine and COVID Update  

Vaccine Stats as of January 12:

One Vaccine Dose 

  • 85.6% of all New Yorkers – 15,929,927 (plus 21,484 from a day earlier).
  • In the Hudson Valley 1,654,652 (plus 2,513).

Fully Vaccinated

  • 72.6% of all New Yorkers – 14,114,364 (plus 17,375).
  • In the Hudson Valley – 1,441,523 (plus 1,920). 

Boosters Given

  • All New Yorkers – 5,196,875
  • In the Hudson Valley – 617,314

The Governor updated COVID data through January 11.  There were 166 COVID related deaths for a total of 62,698. 

Hospitalizations:

  • Patients Currently in Hospital statewide: 12,671.

7 Day Average Positivity Rate  – Cases per 100K population

  • Statewide 20.22%    –    364.35 positive cases per 100,00 population
  • Mid-Hudson: 21.09%   –  332.27 positive  cases per 100,00 population

Useful Websites:


NYS #VaxForKids Campaign to Increase Vaccination Rates among Children Five and Older

Governor Hochul Yesterday announced a new campaign to increase vaccination rates among children five and older – urging pediatricians, parents, and guardians to help children get vaccinated and keep up with all recommended COVID-19 vaccine doses. 

The multifaceted #VaxForKids effort includes new marketing efforts to reach parents and guardians in English and Spanish. This includes advertising on television, radio, and digital – including search and streaming. As part of the program, a new PSA featuring Acting State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett will launch statewide with a focus on reaching parents and guardians of children 5 – 11. Additional PSAs will be launched over the coming weeks. 

Read the press release


Empire Center’s Hammond Asks:  Since Downstate is the Epicenter of Omicron, Why are Upstate Hospitals Feeling the Crunch?

A puzzling pattern has emerged from New York’s latest wave of the pandemic: Downstate hospitals are dealing with the lion’s share of COVID patients, but upstate hospitals are the ones running out of beds. The paradox was highlighted on Tuesday when Governor Hochul ordered a halt to elective procedures in the Finger Lakes, Central New York and the Mohawk Valley, where the recent omicron surge has been relatively mild so far, because hospitals in those regions had collectively exceeded 90 percent of their capacity.

Meanwhile, hospitals in the areas hit hardest by omicron – New York City and its surrounding suburbs – are reporting occupancy rates low enough to remain fully operational under Hochul’s policy.

Read more at the Empire Center


Biden Administration to Offer Schools Millions of Free Covid-19 Tests Each Month

Later this month, the administration will begin shipping five million rapid Covid-19 tests to K-12 schools each month, White House officials said. States will have to apply to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to receive the tests. The administration has previously distributed $10 billion in resources to states for testing at schools.

Though most U.S. schools remain open, some have temporarily closed as the Omicron variant spreads around the country, infecting children and staff. President Biden has repeatedly said he wants schools to remain open, and he has advocated for additional testing as a solution for keeping children in the classroom.

Read more at the WSJ


Fauci In the News: Calls Senator a “Moron” Says Everyone Will Get Omicron

Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious diseases expert, said in a recent interview that “just about everybody” will get the omicron variant of COVID-19.  “Omicron, with its extraordinary, unprecedented degree of efficiency of transmissibility, will, ultimately, find just about everybody.  Those who have been vaccinated and vaccinated and boosted would get exposed. Some, maybe a lot of them, will get infected but will very likely, with some exceptions, do reasonably well in the sense of not having hospitalization and death.” 

There was a fiery back-and-forth with Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., during testimony before a Senate Committee Tuesday during which, Fauci could be heard whispering “what a moron” and “Jesus Christ” in response to Marshall’s questioning about his financial disclosure forms. Fauci was also questioned about the lack of theraputics, and his undermining of the Great Barrington Declaration which questioned the government’s lockdown strategy in 2020.


BOJ Offers Most Upbeat View on Regional Japan in 8 Years

The Bank of Japan offered on Wednesday its most optimistic view of the country’s regional economy in more than eight years, in a sign of its confidence that a recent resurgence in coronavirus infections would not derail the country’s fragile recovery. The upbeat assessment heightens the chance the BOJ will revise up its growth and price forecasts for the year beginning in April in fresh projections due next week.

Japan’s economy shrank in the third quarter of last year as supply constraints and curbs on activity to contain the pandemic hit factory output and consumption. Analysts expect growth to have rebounded in October-December and the current quarter as output and consumption pick up, though a recent spike in Omicron infections clouds the outlook.

Read more at Reuters


Pfizer Cutting Sales Staff

Pfizer Inc. is reportedly moving to cut some of its U.S. sales staff. The company is preparing to move to remote interactions with health care professionals, eliminating the need for several roles. While Pfizer did not specify how many jobs will be cut, a source told Reuters that hundreds of jobs are expected to be shed. New positions will also be developed, however, the source added.

“We are evolving into a more focused and innovative biopharma company, and evolving the way we engage with healthcare professionals in an increasingly digital world,” the company said in a statement to the news service. “There will be some changes to our workforce to ensure we have the right expertise and resources in place to meet our evolving needs.”

Read more at The Hill


World Bank: Pandemic Reversing Gains in Wealth Gap Globally

The coronavirus pandemic is reversing gains that had been made in the global wealth gap, according to a report released Tuesday by The World Bank. The report says the pandemic has increased extreme poverty rates and disproportionately affected lower-income populations.

The report says the pandemic has increased extreme poverty rates and disproportionately affected lower-income populations. The increase comes due to job and income losses amid the pandemic of low-skilled workers and low-income earners. Many jobs were lost over the pandemic due to government-mandated shutdowns that either forced small businesses to close their doors or shorten their hours.

Read more at The Hill


Hochul Requests Rent Relief Aid from Biden as Eviction Moratorium Set to Expire

Gov. Kathy Hochul said that she’s requesting more federal aid from the Biden administration for New York’s since dried-up rental relief program, ahead of the likely expiration of the state’s eviction moratorium this coming weekend. The State is requesting an extra $1 billion.

The eviction ban – in place since March 2020 – is expected to lapse on Saturday, Jan. 15.  It was first signed as an executive order by ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo to help struggling tenants and landlords with COVID-related financial hardship and has been extended multiple times, most recently by Hochul in September after a separate but similar federal moratorium expired in July. 

Read more at the NY Post


China Inflation Fuels Rate-Cut Calls as World Starts to Tighten

China’s inflation pressures moderated in December, giving the central bank scope to cut interest rates to cushion the economy’s downturn just as most major nations look to tighten policy. The inflation surprise adds further impetus to calls for the central bank’s first cut in its key policy interest rate since April 2020, possibly as early as next week. Authorities have shifted to a more pro-growth bias this year as a property market slump and repeated virus outbreaks threaten the outlook.

The producer price index rose 10.3% from a year earlier, down from November’s 12.9%, while the consumer price index increased 1.5%, compared with 2.3% in November. Both came in lower than economists expected.

Read more at YahooFinance


The COVID Generation: How is the Pandemic Affecting Kids’ Brains?

Although children have generally fared well when infected with SARS-CoV-2, preliminary research suggests that pandemic-related stress during pregnancy could be negatively affecting fetal brain development in some children. Moreover, frazzled parents might be interacting differently or less with their young children in ways that could affect a child’s physical and mental abilities. All this has prompted  child-development researchers to ask whether the pandemic is shaping brains and behaviour.

Lockdowns — which have been crucial for controlling the spread of the coronavirus — have isolated many young families, robbing them of playtime and social interactions. Stressed out and stretched thin, many carers also haven’t been able to provide the one-to-one time that babies and toddlers need.

Read more at Nature


CES Tech

read more »

Daily Briefing – 440

Federal Vaccine/Testing Mandates Take Effect While Supreme Court Stays Silent

Monday, January 10, 2022, the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) on COVID-19 for employers with 100 or more employees took effect as the Supreme Court continued its deliberations. Although many had anticipated that the U.S. Supreme Court might rule on the legality of the OSHA ETS prior to Monday, the Court’s failure to do so means that covered employers should be prepared to comply. 

On Friday, January 7, 2022 the Supreme Court heard expedited oral arguments regarding judicial stays facing two federal vaccine mandates concerning COVID-19: OSHA’s ETS on COVID-19 for employers with 100 or more employees and the Healthcare Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Interim Final Rule (the “CMS Rule”) covering certain health care providers.  While many had anticipated some sort of preliminary ruling or even a stay of one or both mandates by today, as of the time this advisory was published there had been no ruling on either issue from the Supreme Court.

Read more at National Law Review


Omicron, Supply-Chain Troubles to Slow Growth, World Bank Says

 The World Bank on Tuesday cut its forecasts for economic growth in the United States, the Euro area and China and warned that high debt levels, rising income inequality and new coronavirus variants threatened the recovery in developing economies.

It said global growth is expected to decelerate “markedly” to 4.1% in 2022 from 5.5% last year, and drop further to 3.2% in 2023 as pent-up demand dissipates and governments unwind massive fiscal and monetary support provided early in the pandemic.

Read more at Reuters


Goldman Predicts the Fed Will Hike Rates Four Times this Year

As Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell testified at his re-confirmation hearing yesterday, Goldman Sachs is predicting that persistently high inflation combined with a labor market near full employment will push the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates more than expected this year.

The Wall Street firm’s chief economist, Jan Hatzius, said in a note Sunday that he now figures the Fed to enact four quarter-percentage point rate hikes in 2022, representing an even more aggressive path than the central bank’s indications of just a month ago. The Fed’s benchmark overnight borrowing rate is currently anchored in a range between 0%-0.25%, most recently around 0.08%.

Read more at CNBC


Powell Testimony: ‘If We Have to Raise Interest Rates More Over Time, We Will’

Facing the Senate for his renomination, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell told Congress Tuesday that if the pace of price increases do not come down, the central bank will get more aggressive with raising short-term borrowing costs.  “If we see inflation persisting at high levels, longer than expected, if we have to raise interest rates more over time, then we will,” Powell said in a Senate Banking Committee hearing.

The stakes are high for the Fed this year, with inflationary prints showing prices rising at a clip of almost 7% on a year-over-year basis.  The Fed has spent the last year or so trying to figure out how much of those price increases are due to rising demand (which allows producers to raise prices) or constrained supply (in which COVID-disruptions increase the costs of production inputs).

Read more at YahooFinance


US COVID – Cases Set to Triple Pre-Omicron Record

The seven-day average of newly reported Covid-19 infections in the U.S. is on track to triple the pre-Omicron record set a year ago, when America saw a quarter million daily cases, as concerns grow over access to and reliability of testing both in the U.S. and Europe, where the highly transmissible Omicron variant has also taken root. The seven-day average for newly reported cases in the U.S. topped 700,000 for the first time Saturday. The numbers reported by state health departments and collected by Johns Hopkins also likely reflect a fraction of the true number, due in part to Omicron’s rapid spread and the difficulty many Americans have had getting tested.

Growing demand for tests has led some laboratories to ration access, giving priority to people exhibiting symptoms or who have other underlying health concerns, though health experts worry that asymptomatic people might continue to spread the virus if they are unable to access testing.

Read more at the WSJ


NYS Vaccine and COVID Update  

Vaccine Stats as of January 11:

One Vaccine Dose 

  • 85.5% of all New Yorkers – 15,908,443 (plus 16,372 from a day earlier).
  • In the Hudson Valley 1,652,139 (plus 2,455).

Fully Vaccinated

  • 72.6% of all New Yorkers – 14,096,989 (plus 12,685).
  • In the Hudson Valley – 1,439,603 (plus 1,978). 

Boosters Given

  • All New Yorkers – 5,143,012
  • In the Hudson Valley – 610,248

The Governor updated COVID data through January 10.  There were 160 COVID related deaths for a total of 62,458. 

Hospitalizations:

  • Patients Currently in Hospital statewide: 12,540.

7 Day Average Positivity Rate  – Cases per 100K population

  • Statewide 20.91%    –    381.66 positive cases per 100,00 population
  • Mid-Hudson: 21.96%   –  359.58 positive  cases per 100,00 population

Useful Websites:


White House Says Private Insurers to Cover Rapid Covid-19 Tests

Private insurers will have to cover the cost of over-the-counter Covid-19 tests starting Saturday under a Biden administration plan that aims to make it more affordable for people to screen for infections and limit the spread of the Omicron variant. The policy outlined Monday by the administration means that millions of people with private health insurance can expect insurers to reimburse them for up to eight tests a month per covered individual, or that they will be able to purchase them at no cost through their insurance.

Consumers with private insurance will be able to obtain the tests without any cost sharing such as deductibles, coinsurance or copayments, according to the new policy. A family of four, all on the same health plan, would be able to be reimbursed by their insurance for 32 tests a month, for example.

Read more at the WSJ


Pushback Grows Against 4th COVID Vaccine Doses, With Experts Urging Caution Over Expanding Booster Campaigns

In Israel, which has already started rolling out second boosters to over-60s, health workers and the immunocompromised, infectious disease specialist Eyal Leshem reckons most people will be sufficiently protected against severe COVID with two or three doses.  “We may need to update those boosters every several years, possibly every year, to adjust them to the prevalent variant, but we may well not need any boosters if future variants prove to be less virulent as we see with omicron,” the Sheba Medical Center expert told CNBC. 

Leshem also pointed out that Israel’s move into fourth-dose territory was based on “expert opinion” rather than “robust data as we would ideally like to have in clinical medicine.” Indeed, when the country announced the move, Pfizer and BioNTech—whose vaccine is by far the most widely used in Israel—suggested the deployment would provide useful data to indicate safety and efficacy.

Read more at Fortune


Study: “Common Cold” Cells Provide Protection from COVID-19

High levels of T-cells from common cold coronaviruses can provide protection against COVID-19, an Imperial College London study published on Monday has found, which could inform approaches for second-generation vaccines. Immunity against COVID-19 is a complex picture, and while there is evidence of waning antibody levels six months after vaccination, T-cells are also believed to play a vital role in providing protection.

Read more at Reuters


7 Ways to Improve the Effectiveness of Your Vaccine Surcharges

A number of employers have implemented vaccine mandates, which have been shown to lead to high rates of vaccination with relatively few employees requesting exemptions or being terminated. But some states have taken steps to limit or prohibit vaccine mandates, and many employers are wary of moving forward with a mandate while federal regulations that preempt such state laws continue to make their way through the courts.

Given the uncertainty, employers are looking for other approaches to encourage employee vaccination, and many are evaluating the potential to implement a health insurance premium surcharge for those who are not vaccinated. Employers are well-advised to weigh operational considerations and likely effectiveness before deciding to move forward.

Read more at HR Executive


New Machine Tool Orders Topped $650 Million

U.S. orders for new machine tools rose 13.8% from October to $650.05 million in November 2021, more than double (+111.3%) the November 2020 total, according to the latest U.S. Manufacturing Technology Orders Report released by AMT – the Assn. for Manufacturing Technology. AMT reported it to be the second-highest monthly total in the long-running USMTO series. The rise in activity continues a steady recovery in machine-tool demand throughout 2021, not only rebounding from the break in activity due to the Covid-19 pandemic but also supply-chain delays and skilled-labor shortages.

Through 11 months of new orders for 2021, the USMTO total stands at $5.315 billion, a $57.8% increase over comparable 2020 results.

Read more at American Machinist


‘Out of Touch Companies Should Focus First on Customers and Staff’, UK Survey Finds

More than half of Britons think businesses are out of touch and should focus on their staff rather than on wider social issues, a new survey has found. In a poll to be released today, about 56 per cent believe that businesses do not understand and reflect their priorities.

Around two-thirds of Brits would rather see CEOs talking about employee conditions and customer service than about social issues, according to new research from Stack Data Strategy and Hanbury Strategy. Nearly a third see ESG issues as a “distraction” for business. However, the research shows that climate change has become a “bread and butter” issue for much of the public, with many seeing it as a needed business focus.

Read more at The Times of London (subscription) 


Workers at Second Starbucks in New York Unionize as NLRB Certifies Vote

A second Starbucks location in the Buffalo, N.Y., area unionized on Monday, though the results of the vote may be disputed by the coffee giant. The unionization of a second Starbucks location in the U.S. comes almost exactly one month after the first — also in Buffalo — successfully voted to unionize.

The Starbucks union argued to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that some ballots should be tossed out. The NLRB ultimately agreed with the union, resulting in a final vote of 15-9 in favor of unionization.  A spokesperson for Starbucks told Reuters that it is reviewing its options and believes the votes that were tossed out should be counted. Starbucks has 10 days to challenge the NLRB’s decision.

Read more at The Hill


Many Americans Gained Financial Ground During the Pandemic

Contrary to fears that COVID-19 would cause a complete meltdown of American finances, many households have emerged stronger than before. Americans of all income levels socked away more money during the pandemic, according to Moody’s Analytics estimates based in part on government data. The personal saving rate—a measure of how much money people have left over after spending and taxes—hit a record 33.8% in April 2020, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The rate averaged just under 8% for the two years before the pandemic began.

The surprising financial stability came from a range of factors. Three rounds of federal stimulus payments helped provide additional funds to most Americans, while shutdowns and quarantines caused them to redirect spending. Unemployment benefits, child tax credits and pauses in student loan payments also helped Americans build a cushion in their checking and savings accounts.

Read more at the WSJ


Boeing Deliveries Rose in 2021 but Still Lag Airbus

Boeing delivered more than twice as many commercial planes in 2021 as the year earlier but still lagged its archrival Airbus in the closely watched industry benchmark, according to figures released Tuesday.

The U.S. aviation giant, benefitting from the return of its 737 MAX jet in most leading markets, delivered 340 planes last year, up from 157 in 2020. But that level is still below Airbus’ 611 deliveries in 2021. Deliveries are tied to company revenues and closely monitored by investors.

Read more at IndustryWeek


CES Tech For Manufacturing – 2022 Edition

While the “c” in CES stands for “consumer,” there is sometimes at the annual gadget circus a silent “m” for “manufacturing.” This list from IndustryWeek is not intended to be all-inclusive, but here are some technologies from CES 2022 that grabbed their attention.

Check out these Cool New Technologies at IndustryWeek 


9 Big Questions


 

 

 

read more »

Daily Briefing – 439

Workers Sick With Omicron Add to Manufacturing Woes

Mounting absences among COVID-infected workers are bringing masks back to some factory floors, executives said, while manufacturers shuttle available workers to jobs and plants where they are most needed. Companies are also redoubling recruiting efforts to fortify workforces already worn thin by high turnover in a tight job market.  The speed at which the highly contagious variant is spreading has stunned some executives, who said they had grown increasingly confident over recent months that their companies had navigated the worst of the pandemic. The apparent decreasing severity of the variant is providing some hope that the number of cases will lighten and the effect on companies will abate in coming weeks. Some sidelined workers are quarantining at home as a precaution.

Meanwhile, with demand booming for manufactured goods from automobiles to medical equipment, executives said that idling production now isn’t an option. Manufacturers mostly have maintained operations since the start of the pandemic, in part because many operate in what are deemed essential industries.

Read more at the WSJ


“Frustrating Season:” Treasury Warns of Delayed Tax Refunds Other Service Interruptions

The Treasury Department is warning that tax refunds and other services may be delayed this year because of “enormous challenges” including the coronavirus pandemic and previous budget cuts made at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).  Officials warned on Monday that they are predicting a “frustrating season” for taxpayers and tax preparers because of factors that also included federal stimulus actions, according to The Washington Post.

With the pandemic triggering lockdowns, a number of in-person tax centers that typically processed paper forms were forced to close, the Post noted. All those existing challenges were magnified by the U.S.’s economic response to the pandemic, which included trillions of dollars for new programs to support Americans.

Read more at The Hill


Pfizer CEO Says Omicron Vaccine Will be Ready in March

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla on Monday said a vaccine that targets the omicron variant of Covid will be ready in March, and the company’s already begun manufacturing the doses. Bourla said the vaccine will also target the other variants that are circulating. He said it is still not clear whether or not an omicron vaccine is needed or how it would be used, but Pfizer will have some doses ready since some countries want it ready as soon as possible.

Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel told CNBC earlier Monday the company is working on a booster for this fall that targets omicron and it will enter clinical trials soon. Bancel said demand is high from governments as they prepare regular vaccination against the virus.

 Read more at CNBC


“Deltacrontroversy” A Cypriot Scientist Defends his Assertion that a New Strain Combining Delta and Omicron Exists.

A Cypriot scientist defended his assertion that a new strain of COVID-19 exists that combines characteristics of the delta and omicron variants.  Other scientists have speculated that Leonidos Kostrikis’s findings are a result of laboratory contamination. But he told Bloomberg in an emailed statement Sunday that the cases he has identified “indicate an evolutionary pressure to an ancestral strain to acquire these mutations and not a result of a single recombination event.”

Deltacron infection is higher among patients hospitalized for COVID-19 than among non-hospitalized patients, so that rules out the contamination hypothesis, said Kostrikis, a professor of biological sciences at the University of Cyprus and head of the Laboratory of Biotechnology and Molecular Virology. Cypriot Health Minister Michael Hadjipantela said Sunday that the new variant isn’t of concern, and more details will be given at a news conference this week, Philenews reported. 

Read more at Fortune


US COVID – Cases Are Still Rising, Here’s When They Could Peak

Based on the quick rise and precipitous drop of Omicron in South Africa, Harvard experts are cautiously hopeful about a possible decline of the surging COVID variant in the very near future, even as they warn of dramatic case spikes, overloaded hospitals, and slowly rising deaths in the interim.

Dr. George Rutherford, an epidemiologist at the University of California, San Francisco, predicted we’ll see our peak in the second or third week of January before numbers start to fall.  Dr. Davidson Hamer, a professor of global health at Boston University, estimated a similar timeline. “Right now we’re still in the upswing for most parts of the country,” he said. “My prediction would be within the next two to four weeks, we’re going to see it (reach a peak) and start to drop.”

Read more at News Nation


NYS Vaccine and COVID Update  

Vaccine Stats as of January 10:

One Vaccine Dose 

  • 85.4% of all New Yorkers – 15,892,071 (plus 9.785 from a day earlier).
  • In the Hudson Valley 1,649,684 (plus 378).

Fully Vaccinated

  • 72.5% of all New Yorkers – 14,084,304 (plus 11.083).
  • In the Hudson Valley – 1,437,625 (plus 744). 

Boosters Given

  • All New Yorkers – 5,088,107
  • In the Hudson Valley – 601,620

The Governor  updated COVID data through January 9.  There were 135 COVID related deaths for a total of 62,392. 

Hospitalizations:

  • Patients Currently in Hospital statewide: 12,022.

7 Day Average Positivity Rate  – Cases per 100K population

  • Statewide 21.30%    –    381.66 positive cases per 100,00 population
  • Mid-Hudson: 22.59%   –  359.58 positive  cases per 100,00 population

Useful Websites:


40 New York Hospitals  Halt Non-Urgent Procedures Due to COVID Surge

The New York State Department of Health announced over the weekend that 40 hospitals across the state have to stop nonessential, nonurgent elective procedures for at least two weeks as they’re inundated with Covid patients. All hospitals in the Mohawk Valley, Finger Lakes, and Central New York are under the new restrictions in addition to several individual hospitals in other parts of the state.

“We cannot return to the early months of the pandemic when hospitals were overwhelmed,” said the state’s acting health commissioner, Mary T. Bassett, who encouraged New Yorkers to get vaccinated and boosted to ease the strain on providers.

Read more at NYS Health Department


COVID Reconsidered: In America the Pandemic Seems to Have Hit a Turning-Point

Omicron, a major variant of the sars-cov-2 virus, prompted governments around the world to scramble to slow it down as it surged from late November. The Biden administration announced a travel ban (since revoked) against eight African countries and a shortened window for testing (from 72 hours to 24) for inbound travellers. Hospitals began filling with patients. By late December daily cases were higher than ever. More than 3,700 schools began in January with remote learning.

Yet some measures are being relaxed. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc) shortened the recommended isolation period from ten days to five, plus five of mask-wearing. On January 4th it updated the guidance to encourage testing. Anthony Fauci, the leading adviser to the White House on infectious diseases, is calling for less emphasis on case rates and a focus on hospitalisations and deaths. Why this mixed response?

Read more at the Economist


German Vaccine Mandate May Take Months to Pass, Parties Say

Germany’s ruling parties are hitting the brakes on plans for compulsory coronavirus vaccinations, saying it may take months for lawmakers to properly debate the contentious measure in parliament.

Green party caucus leader Britta Hasselmann told the Funke media group that the first debate could take place in late January.  With few parliamentary sessions in February, this could mean the lower house won’t pass a bill before the end of March. The Bundesrat, Germany’s upper chamber, would then take up the matter in April, meaning the earliest it could come into force would be a month later.

Read more at the AP


Supply Chain: Retail Despite Growth Moderating But Volumes Still High

The rate of import growth will become normalized in 2022,  according to the monthly Global Track report released by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates. “Even with the holiday season behind us, supply chain challenges continue,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “The huge increases in imports we’ve seen have leveled out, but volume is still at high levels.”

Growth in 2021 saw year-over-year growth as high as 65% in some months, as the result of both high consumer demand and retailers stocking up to address supply chain challenges. However,  increases returned to single digits by last fall and should remain there this year, the report notes.

Read more at Material Handling and Logistics


CES Show Highlights: Robo-Dogs, Self-Sailing Boat, Brain Tech

The CES tech show in Las Vegas closed its 2022 edition on Friday, after pushing ahead with a significantly downsized gathering despite surging Covid cases. Industry behemoths like Amazon and Google stayed away over the virus risk, but the more than 2,200 firms big and small in attendance still pitched their hopes for the next big thing.

IndustryWeek has some parting highlights from the show.

Read more at IndustryWeek


ITIF: The Global Energy Innovation System Is Not Thriving

The world needs a healthy energy innovation system to realize future decarbonization commitments. Every part of the system is interdependent and must work together for the system to thrive. However, that system stands in weak condition, as evidenced by key indicators of knowledge development and diffusion, entrepreneurial ecosystem, trade, market readiness and technology adoption, and national public policies.

The only bright spot is the entrepreneurial ecosystem, where early-stage venture capital investments have made a roaring comeback, up 165 percent since 2015. Public research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) investments have only risen modestly since 2015 (+29 percent), while the number of high-value patents has gone sideways (+0.2 percent).

Read more at ITIF


Evergrande’s Woes Continue

The outlook for Evergrande is darkening by the day. The Chinese property developer was set to meet creditors at the weekend to ask for an extension on a 4.5bn-yuan ($157m) bond. The group has about $300bn in liabilities, making it the most indebted real estate company in the world.

Failure to convince bondholders in China to give Evergrande extra time would add to its growing list of problems. It defaulted on a dollar-denominated bond in December, sending ripples through the offshore bond market. On January 3rd the company halted the trading of its shares in Hong Kong when officials in the city of Danzhou in Hainan province ordered it to demolish 39 residential towers that may have been built illegally. Investors already expect Evergrande to face major restructuring, both onshore and offshore. Tearing down projects instead of building new ones reflects poorly on the company’s ability to bring in cash and pay creditors.

Read more at Reuters


Mortgage Rates Jumped to 3.4% Last Week 

Mortgage rates jumped last week to 3.4%, the highest they’ve been since June 2020.  This new average 30-year fixed mortgage rate represents a 0.13% increase over last week’s average rate of 3.27% — the biggest weekly increase in over 10 months. Last week’s jump is consistent with the consensus among housing experts that mortgage rates will rise in 2022. The only question, experts say, is when and how fast will they rise?

Over the last few weeks, we have seen record-high inflation and record-high COVID-19 cases push and pull on rates. Despite the uncertainty of surging COVID cases, last week’s increase is consistent with recent statements by Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell that the Fed expects to raise rates three times in 2022. As the Fed increases rates with the economy improving, mortgage and refinance rates are sure to follow, experts say. 

Read more Next Advisor


9 Big Questions About Omicron Explained

As scientists learn what makes Omicron different from other versions of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, guidance about how to deal with the variant is changing fast. In the U.S., where Omicron is now the dominant variant, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have come under fire for their shifting guidelines, including a recently updated recommendation that halves the isolation period for people who test positive from 10 days to five.

What is the science behind the changing guidance, and how can people best protect themselves as Omicron spreads? Here’s what experts say you need to know.

Read more at National Geographic


 

 

 

read more »

Daily Briefing – 438

December Jobs Numbers: Payrolls Rise only 199,000, Unemployment Rate fell to 3.9%, Wages up 4.7%

The U.S. economy added far fewer jobs than expected in December. Nonfarm payrolls grew by 199,000, while the unemployment rate fell to 3.9%, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. That compared with the Dow Jones estimate of 422,000 for the payrolls number and 4.1% for the unemployment rate.

The unemployment rate was a fresh pandemic-era low and near the 50-year low of 3.5% in February 2020. That decline came even though the labor force participation rate was unchanged at 61.9% amid an ongoing labor shortage.  Average hourly earnings rose more than expected as the U.S. sees its fastest inflation pace in nearly 40 years. Wages climbed 0.6% for the month and were up 4.7% year over year. That compares with respective estimates of 0.4% and 4.2%.

Read more at CNBC


November Trade Deficit Hits Near Record-High $80.2 Billion

The U.S. trade deficit surged to a near-record high of $80.2 billion in November as exports slowed at the same time that imports jumped sharply. The November deficit was 19.3% higher than the October deficit of $67.2 billion and was just below the all-time monthly record of $81.4 billion set in September, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.

Imports, goods Americans bought from other countries, jumped 4.% to $304.4 billion in November while exports, those the U.S. sends overseas, edged up a scant 0.2% to $224.2 billion. Through the first 11 months of 2021, the U.S. trade deficit is 28.6% higher than during the same period last year with the economic recovery in the United States outpacing other nations, as is the readiness of Americans to spend.

Read more at the AP


New York’s Record Wave of Omicron-Variant Cases Sees Fewer Severe Ones

Fewer New York residents are seeing the worst outcomes of Covid-19 in its latest surge compared with earlier waves, a potential harbinger of what other highly vaccinated parts of the country will experience.

At Northwell Health, New York state’s largest hospital network, about 10% of recent Covid-19 patients are ending up in the ICU compared with 25%-35% in previous surges, said Mangala Narasimhan, director of critical-care services.  Fully vaccinated patients are staying for an average of four days, Dr. Narasimhan said, compared with almost two weeks for unvaccinated patients. Patients are generally younger, and a greater share is white than during other surges, she said. Officials in the U.K. and South Africa have also reported lower rates of serious illness from Omicron than previous strains of the virus.

Read more at the WSJ


The Supreme Court Signaled it Could Block OSHA’s Nationwide Vaccine Mandate

Justices heard oral arguments on Friday to determine whether or not to halt federal vaccine and testing mandates for health care workers put in place by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and a mandate for private employers with at least 100 workers put in place by the OSHA. Based on the nearly four hours of questions and comments from the justices, experts say that they believe the court is leaning toward issuing a stay on the OSHA mandate, but may let the CMS mandate for health care workers go forward. However, any clear outcome is far from certain. 

Business lobbies, religious groups, and states with Republican leaders have led legal challenges against the mandates, arguing the agencies implementing them are overreaching their authority. Meanwhile the Biden administration has contended that these mandates are necessary to protect workers and health care providers amid a global pandemic. 

Read more at Fortune


US COVID – Cases, Hospitalizations, Deaths Increasing at Different Rates

Since the US Thanksgiving holiday weekend, daily incidence in the US has increased by a factor of nearly 6, and it has quadrupled since just December 19. The current average of 554,328 new cases per day is more than double the previous record—250,435 on January 11, 2021. The US has reported more than 6 million new cases since December 20. Genomic sequencing data from the US CDC show a continued increase in the prevalence of the Omicron variant across the US.  Omicron is estimated to be the dominant variant in all 10 HHS regions, including 8 regions with more than 90%. 

Hospitalizations in the US are rapidly approaching a record high as well.  The current average is 31% below the record high—124,031 on January 11, 2021—but the trend is increasing rapidly.  A surge in hospitalizations could place severe stress on health systems nationwide, particularly in the context of staffing shortages in many parts of the country. Daily mortality appears to have increased slightly over the past several weeks. 

Read more at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security


NYS Vaccine and COVID Update  

Vaccine Stats as of January 9:

One Vaccine Dose 

  • 85.2% of all New Yorkers – 15,882,286 (plus 17,735 from a day earlier).
  • In the Hudson Valley 1,649,306 (plus 988).

Fully Vaccinated

  • 72.4% of all New Yorkers – 14,073,217 (plus 116,380).
  • In the Hudson Valley – 1,436,881 (plus 111). 

Boosters Given

  • All New Yorkers – 5,061,145
  • In the Hudson Valley – 599,146

The Governor  updated COVID data through January 8.  There were 138 COVID related deaths for a total of 61,859. 

Hospitalizations:

  • Patients Currently in Hospital statewide: 11,747.

7 Day Average Positivity Rate  – Cases per 100K population

  • Statewide 21.71%    –    379.43 positive cases per 100,00 population
  • Mid-Hudson: 22.83%   –  356.99 positive  cases per 100,00 population

Useful Websites:


CDC Recommends First Covid-19 Boosters for 12- to 15-Year-Olds

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended Covid-19 boosters for 12- to 15-year-olds, making the doses available to the adolescents for the first time. The CDC decision comes after its advisers had voted 13 to 1 in favor of the children getting the extra dose at least five months after they finished their first round of vaccination.

The dose is the same as that given during the first round of vaccination, and as what adults get.  
About half of 12- to 15-year-olds in the U.S. are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC, which predicts about one-third might return for a booster dose.

Read more at the WSJ


Labs Limit Covid-19 Test Access -Focus on Symptomatic Cases – as Demand Soars

Escalating demand for Covid-19 tests is prompting some laboratories to ration access, giving priority to people with symptoms or other health concerns as the Omicron variant quickly spreads. Triaging who is eligible for Covid-19 tests can help ensure that patients who need a test the most get results fast enough to isolate or get treatment, pathologists and public-health experts say. The strategy, however, risks perpetuating the virus’s spread if some people get turned away from testing altogether.

Even before the Omicron wave put many people out sick or into quarantine, laboratories were chronically understaffed and heading into their third year of pandemic operations.

Read more at the WSJ


WHO: More Variants Will Emerge Amid Vaccine Inequity

As millions more people test positive for COVID-19 amid the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, the World Health Organization (WHO) cautioned that it was “wishful thinking” to believe that the latest variant of concern would be the last to emerge in the pandemic, or work as one that could take the world to a significant level of protection against the virus.

WHO Health Emergencies Program Executive Director Dr. Michael Ryan said in a press conference on Thursday night, January 6, that with billions still unvaccinated worldwide, “there is still plenty opportunity for this virus to spread and to generate new variants.”

Read more at Rapple.com


Euro Zone Inflation Hit a New Record High of 5% in December

Preliminary data showed Friday that the headline inflation rate came in at 5% for the month, compared to the same month last year. The figure represents the highest ever on record and follows November’s all-time high of 4.9%.  The increase was mostly due to higher energy prices.

Inflation has been in the spotlight after consecutive increases in recent months, with money managers debating whether the European Central Bank should be taking a more aggressive stance to combat rising prices.  The central bank said last month that it would be cutting its monthly asset purchases, but vowed to continue its unprecedented level of stimulus in 2022.

Read more at CNBC


Manufacturing Adds 26,000 Jobs, Mostly in Durable Goods

Manufacturing added 26,000 jobs in December with durable goods sectors accounted for 20,000 jobs of the gain, according to a breakdown by industry issued by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Leading the way was machinery, with an increase of 7,700 jobs, and motor vehicles and parts, up 4,200. Other sectors with employment increases included nonmetallic mineral products, up 2,100 jobs, miscellaneous manufacturing (up 2,000), and primary metals (up 1,900) 

Manufacturing totaled 12.58 million jobs in December on a seasonally adjusted basis. That was up from an adjusted 12.554 million in November and 12.231 million in December 2020. Employment in manufacturing hasn’t yet fully recovered from COVID-19. Manufacturing jobs are down by 219,000 from February 2020 levels, the last month before COVID-19 began to slam the economy, 

Read more at SME


U.S. Factory Orders Increase Strongly in November

he Commerce Department said on Thursday that factory orders rose 1.6% in November. Data for October was revised higher to show orders rising 1.2% instead of 1.0% as previously reported.  Manufacturing, which accounts for 11.9% of the economy, is being supported by businesses replenishing depleted inventories.

There were increases in orders for computers and electronic products as well as transportation equipment. But orders for machinery fell as did those for electrical equipment, appliances and components.

Read more at Reuters


Jobless Claims: 207,000 Americans Filed New claims Last Week

New unemployment claims rose but remained near a 52-year low last week, with the weekly pace of new claims holding below pre-pandemic levels as the labor market sees job openings near a record high. 

  • Initial jobless claims, week ended Jan. 1: 207,000 vs. 195,000 expected and a revised 200,000 during the prior week.
  • Continuing claims, week ended Dec. 25: 1.754 million vs. 1.678 million expected and a revised 1.718 million during the prior week.

Continuing claims, like new claims, have trended lower, but remained above pre-pandemic levels in the latest data. And in the latest data, they increased slightly by 36,000 to reach a total of nearly 1.8 million, rising from what had been the lowest level since early March 2020 during the prior week. 

Read more at Yahoo Finance


 

GM Unveils New Electric Chevrolet Silverado Priced at $39,900 – $105,000

General Motors plans to build a work truck version of its new electric Chevrolet Silverado for commercial customers and a fully loaded luxury model that will retail for more than $100,000 when it launches the new pickup next year.  A “WT,” or Work Truck, will be the first truck offered to fleet buyers in spring 2023, followed by a fully loaded $105,000 RST limited first edition model for consumers next fall. GM said the work truck will start at $39,900.

 “It will offer a revolutionary mix of capability, performance, safety, flexibility and design that catapults this electric truck for both fleet and retail customers into a category of its own,” GM CEO Mary Barra said Wednesday when unveiling the Silverado EV during a virtual keynote for the CES technology show.

Read more at CNBC


GE Research Partnering with NASA on Venus Spacecraft

NASA recently awarded GE Research, in Niskayuna a three-year, $1.7 million grant to develop an ultraviolet imaging device that would be used on a NASA mission to Venus within the next decade.

GE Research, the main research lab for General Electric Co., has been tasked to design a UV imager that can survive and operate on Venus, where temperatures can reach 900 degrees Fahrenheit – the same temperature as a wood-fired pizza oven.  The technology will use silicon carbide semiconductor technology, which GE has developed over decades. The same technology is used by Albany Nanotech for its $500 million New York Power Electronics Manufacturing Consortium, to which GE transferred its technology several years ago.

Read more at the Albany Times Union


 

 

 

read more »

Daily Briefing – 437

Governor Hochul Delivers 2022 State of the State

In her first State of the State address on Wednesday, Gov. Kathy Hochul outlined her vision to shepherd New York State through its recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, while unveiling initiatives to combat gun violence and make the state more affordable and equitable for the working class. She vowed to fuel an economic comeback and position the state as a business-friendly haven, by proposing $100 million in tax cuts for small businesses, accelerating existing tax cuts for the middle class and pouring billions of dollars into clean energy, infrastructure and economic development programs.

She unveiled incentives to recruit and retain more teachers, and to fortify the state’s decimated health care work force through a $10 billion commitment to support wages and bonuses for health care workers. She also plans to incentivize venture-backed start-ups to stay in or relocate to New York State through financial awards, and to accelerate the implementation of a $1.2 billion tax cut for middle-class earners that was introduced by Mr. Cuomo in 2018, but was not supposed to go into full effect until 2025.


Fed Minutes Point to Possible Rate Increase in March, Markets React

Federal Reserve officials at their meeting last month eyed a faster timetable for raising interest rates this year, potentially as soon as in March, amid greater discomfort with high inflation. Minutes of their Dec. 14-15 meeting, released Wednesday, showed officials believed that rising inflation and a very tight labor market could call for lifting short-term rates “sooner or at a faster pace than participants had earlier anticipated.” Some officials also thought the Fed should start shrinking its $8.76 trillion portfolio of bonds and other assets relatively soon after beginning to raise rates, the minutes said.

U.S. stocks reacted to the release of the minutes by declining sharply. The S&P 500 dropped 1.9%. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index fell 3.3%, while the blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average—which set its own record Tuesday—lost 1.1%, or 392 points.

Read more at the WSJ


A Deeper Look into the ISM Survey December Data

Last month’s Institute for Supply Management report showed stable conditions in December for manufacturers and some easing of stubborn labor and material shortages. Several of the ISM’s indicators for manufacturing health fell but remained in growth territory, including its indexes for new orders, production and prices.

  • The new orders index fell 1.1 points to 60.4%,
  • Production fell 2.3 points to 59.2%, and the
  • Prices index decelerated 14.2 points to 82.4%. 
  • Backlog growth accelerated slightly,
  • New export orders measure slowed slightly to 53.6%,
  • While the imports index grew by 1.2 points to 53.8%.

Read more at IndustryWeek


A Deeper Look a the Jolts Data Manufacturing Contributes Little to Great Resignation

While a record number of people in the U.S. quit their jobs in November, manufacturing did not contribute much to the Great Resignation.  The private economy’s job separation rate rose from 4.0 to 4.2% of the workforce in November, while the separation rate for manufacturing specifically fell from 3.4 to 3.3%.

  • The hiring rate in manufacturing fell by between October and November 2021 from 482,000 to 472,000.
  • The number of people hired by durable goods production companies remained stable at 270,000 new hires.
  • The number of new hires at nondurable goods companies fell by 10,000 people to 202,000 new employees.
  • In November 2020, 57% of private workers and 64% of manufacturing workers who left their jobs did so by voluntarily quitting. A year later, those numbers jumped to 72% and 70%, respectively.
  • The number of unfilled manufacturing jobs fell to 858,000 positions in October, down from a 948,000 peak in September.

Read more at IndustryWeek


US COVID – CDC Confirms Isolation Guidance, Rejects More Testing

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday did not formally recommend a negative COVID-19 test for a person to leave isolation after being infected and instead merely clarified that for anyone who has access to a test and wants to take it, a rapid antigen test at the end of the isolation period is best.

The agency essentially doubled down on its earlier guidance, released last week, that said people infected with COVID-19 can leave isolation and go back to work after five days if they are asymptomatic or if their symptoms are improving and they wear a mask for five days. The CDC also recommended that anyone who is not fully vaccinated and boosted should quarantine for 10 days if exposed to someone who was infected.  

Read more at The Hill


NYS Vaccine and COVID Update  

Vaccine Stats as of January 5:

One Vaccine Dose 

  • 84.6% of all New Yorkers – 15,796,298 (plus 26,618 from a day earlier).
  • In the Hudson Valley 1,641,404 (plus 2,601).

Fully Vaccinated

  • 72.0% of all New Yorkers – 14,006,052 (plus 17,539).
  • In the Hudson Valley – 1,430,404 (plus 1,508). 

Boosters Given

  • All New Yorkers – 4,837,699
  • In the Hudson Valley – 572,451

The Governor  updated COVID data through January 4.  There were 96 COVID related deaths for a total of 61,749. 

Hospitalizations:

  • Patients Currently in Hospital statewide: 10,867.

7 Day Average Positivity Rate  – Cases per 100K population

  • Statewide 22.45%    –    352.06 positive cases per 100,00 population
  • Mid-Hudson: 23.31%   –  327.90 positive  cases per 100,00 population

Useful Websites:


Pfizer to Supply U.S. With 10 Million More Courses of COVID-19 Treatment Pills

The Biden administration doubled its order for Pfizer Inc’s (PFE.N) oral COVID-19 antiviral treatment, the company and the White House said on Tuesday, providing the government a total of 20 million courses as it fights a record surge in COVID-19 cases.

The White House now expects some 4 million treatment courses of the pills to be available by the end of January and 10 million by June, three months sooner than previously planned, according to an administration official.

Read more at Reuters


WHO Sees More Evidence that Omicron Causes Milder Symptom, “Decoupling” from Death

More evidence is emerging that the Omicron coronavirus variant is affecting the upper respiratory tract, causing milder symptoms than previous variants and resulting in a “decoupling” in some places between soaring case numbers and low death rates, a World Health Organization official said on Tuesday.

“We are seeing more and more studies pointing out that Omicron is infecting the upper part of the body. Unlike other ones, the lungs who would be causing severe pneumonia,” WHO Incident Manager Abdi Mahamud told Geneva-based journalists. While case numbers have surged to all-time records, the hospitalisation and death rates are often lower than at other phases in the pandemic. “What we are seeing now is….the decoupling between the cases and the deaths,” he said.

Read more at Reuters


Testing Site to Open at SUNY New Paltz

County Executive Pat Ryan yesterday announced that New York State will open a state run COVID-19 community testing site on the campus of SUNY New Paltz starting next week. The state-run testing site will complement the over 50,000 free at-home rapid kits that Ulster County has already distributed to residents throughout the county.

The SUNY New Paltz Community Testing Site is anticipated to open to the public sometime next week. Information regarding hours and appointments for the state run testing site will be announced soon. Follow us for updates.

Read more at the Poughkeepsie Journal


China’s Zero-COVID Strategy Comes Under Pressure

In most countries, a covid-19 caseload in the low hundreds would be a welcome relief. But on Tuesday Yuzhou, a city in Henan province that is home to 1.1m people, went into full lockdown after three cases were reported the day before. The centre of China’s current covid surge is Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi province. The city of 13m people has been locked down for nearly two weeks and has recorded more than 1,700 cases since early December. Residents have complained of food shortages.

Since March 2020 the Chinese government’s zero-covid strategy—with tight border restrictions and draconian domestic measures—has mostly been successful. But it has stumbled against the more-transmissible Omicron variant. Despite lockdowns, the virus is spreading. More than 175 additional cases were reported on Tuesday.

Read more at South China Morning Post


White House: No plans to Change Definition of ‘Fully Vaccinated’

The Biden administration said Wednesday it has no plans to change the definition of “fully vaccinated” against the coronavirus to include getting a booster shot. The definition is important for an array of vaccine requirements the administration has put forward. It means two shots of Pfizer or Moderna will remain enough to satisfy Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) mandates for large employers and for health workers.

“Individuals are considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19 if they’ve received their primary series, that definition is not changing,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky said at a press briefing. She said that the CDC is instead using the term “up to date” to encourage people to get boosters. 

Read more at The Hill


E-Verify Updates on Referred TNCs and Open Cases

In March 2020, E‑Verify extended the timeframe employees had to contest their Tentative Nonconfirmations (TNCs). This extension was due in part to the Social Security Administration (SSA) closing their offices to the public. Many referred TNCs have not received final responses. E‑Verify will begin updating some referred TNCs with final responses.

To complete the E‑Verify process, employers are required to close every case, including those cases that were recently updated with final responses. However, E‑Verify will automatically close cases that receive a result of Employment Authorized. Employers must close cases that were created in error, with incorrect information, or for employees who are no longer employed. Incomplete cases must also be closed.

Read more at E-Verify


Fire at Vital Tech Factory Could Worsen Global Computer Chip Shortage

A fire at a factory owned by the sole provider of a vital technology used to manufacture computer chips could exacerbate an already serious global shortage of semiconductors used in everything from phones to cars.

The blaze broke out overnight on Sunday at a plant in Berlin, Germany, owned by ASML Holding. Although far from a household name, the Dutch company is the world’s largest supplier of photolithography systems and the only source of extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography machines, which are more advanced. These devices are used to etch circuits onto silicon wafers and create computer chips used by Apple, IBM and Samsung. In the third quarter of last year, ASML Holding sold €5.2 billion worth of this equipment.

Read more at New Scientist


Semiconductor Supply Chain to See More Volatility This Year

Industrial reports revealed recently that delivery time for chips increased again in December 2021, dampening the outlook of related industries that relate to nearly all segments of the global economy.  The delivery time between when a semiconductor is ordered and when it is delivered stood at about 25.8 weeks in December, an increase of six days from November levels, Bloomberg reported, citing an industrial report released by Susquehanna Financial Group. It was the longest delivery timespan since Susquehanna started tracing the data in 2017.

There is a list of reasons behind the fluctuations, including Washington’s efforts to disrupt the global supply chain which has sent shockwaves throughout the sector. Amid the historical trend of globalization, the semiconductor industry is one the representatives marking the global division of labor based on each economy’s comparative advantages. The trend line following economic rules, however, goes against the US’ hegemonic position in the field, especially when Chinese advanced technology is catching up or surpassing the US in many respects.

Read more at Global Times


Space Law: Getting Europe to Sign on to the Artemis Accords

The U.S. is trying to set rules for space exploration—covering everything from the protection of lunar bases to mining on asteroids—but France and Germany are yet to sign up to the so-called Artemis Accords (China and Russia are, needless to say, unlikely to get onboard anytime soon.) The discussion comes amid a new space race with China, which is moving quickly on its own national program and has outlined embryonic plans for a moon base with Russia. Both countries have made clear they aren’t interested in signing up to the U.S.-led effort.

The accords would be non-binding, but there are fundamental questions here about whether Europe should be joining a U.S.-led policy or setting up its own “space law.”

Read more at Politico


 

 

read more »

Daily Briefing – 436

JOLTS: 4.5 Million Americans Quit Jobs in November, Job Openings Decrease

The number of Americans voluntarily quitting their jobs surged to a record 4.5 million in November, a show of confidence in the labor market and an indication that higher wages could prevail for a while. The 370,000 increase in quits reported in the Labor Department’s monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS report, on Tuesday was led by the accommodation and food services industry.

Job openings dropped by 529,000 to a still-high 10.6 million on the last day of November. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast 11.075 million vacancies. There were large declines in job openings in the accommodation and food services, construction and nondurable goods manufacturing industries. Hiring was little changed at 6.7 million.

Read more at Reuters


NY Fed Research: A New Barometer of Global Supply Chain Pressures

Supply chain disruptions have become a major challenge for the global economy since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Several measures have been used to gauge these disruptions, although those measures tend to focus only on selected dimensions of global supply chains.

In this post, the authors propose a new gauge, the Global Supply Chain Pressure Index (GSCPI), which integrates a number of commonly used metrics with an aim to provide a more comprehensive summary of potential disruptions affecting global supply chains.

Read more at the NY Fed


Senate Democrats Hit Pause on Climate, Social Spending Package

Democratic aides say the Build Back Better bill won’t be ready for floor action any time soon and predict the wide-ranging legislation that the White House has negotiated with centrist Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) may have to be completely overhauled.

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) informed colleagues Monday the Senate will turn immediately to voting rights legislation and would vote to reform the chamber’s filibuster rule by Martin Luther King Jr. Day, on Jan. 17, if Senate Republicans block it. Schumer made no mention of Build Back Better or when it might come to the floor,pldespite promising at the end of last year to schedule a vote on it before Christmas.

Read more at The Hill


New York Publishes Final Paid Sick Leave Regulations

On Dec. 22, 2021, New York published its final paid sick leave regulations. As a reminder, employers with fewer than 10 employees (and under $1 million net income) must provide at least 40 hours of unpaid sick leave per year; employers between 10 and 100 employees (as well as those employers with under 10 employees and over $1 million net income) are required to provide at least 40 hours of PSL per year; and employers with 100+ employees must provide at least 56 hours of PSL per year. 

One of the vaguest parts of PSL was whether employers who frontload the full amount of PSL for a year’s time period still must allow employees to carry over unused leave from year to year. The Department did clarify that employers may give employees the option to be paid out for unused leave at year’s end, rather than carry over the unused leave. 

Read more at Bond Schoeneck and King


US COVID – Infections Top One Million After Holiday Backlog

The U.S. reported a record 1.08 million Covid-19 infections on Monday as most states worked to clear backlogs after pausing during the New Year’s holiday. The reports pushed the seven-day average of daily reported infections to 480,273, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of Johns Hopkins University data. That level is nearly double the peak reached at the height of last winter’s case surge.

Hospitalizations for confirmed or suspected Covid-19 cases reached a seven-day average of 97,855 on Monday, according to data posted by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. That is up 41% in the past two weeks but below both the pandemic peak of 137,510 on Jan. 10, 2021, and the smaller peak of 102,967 on Sept. 4, 2021, during the Delta-variant surge. While Covid-19 tests remain in short supply in much of the U.S., testing was less robust last year, complicating comparisons between pandemic surges.

Read more at the WSJ


NYS Vaccine and COVID Update  

Vaccine Stats as of January 4:

One Vaccine Dose 

  • 84.0% of all New Yorkers – 15,769,680 (plus 17,911 from a day earlier).
  • In the Hudson Valley 1,1,638,803 (plus 2,828).

Fully Vaccinated

  • 71.8% of all New Yorkers – 13,988,513 (plus 4,791).
  • In the Hudson Valley – 1,428,536 (plus 1,932). 

Boosters Given

  • All New Yorkers – 4,781,329
  • In the Hudson Valley – 367,768

The Governor  updated COVID data through January 3.  There were 99 COVID related deaths for a total of 61,607. 

Hospitalizations:

  • Patients Currently in Hospital statewide: 10,411.

7 Day Average Positivity Rate  – Cases per 100K population

  • Statewide 21.91%    –    344.18 positive cases per 100,00 population
  • Mid-Hudson: 21.81%   –  321.16 positive  cases per 100,00 population

Useful Websites:


As Omicron Surges Here’s the Latest Science on the Variant

  • Researchers in South Africa estimate that the omicron variant is 100.3 percent more transmissible than the original version of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and 36.5 percent more transmissible than the delta variant. 
  • Research suggests that people who have recovered from the omicron variant of the coronavirus may be better able to fend off the delta variant, which is still circulating at high rates. The CDC estimated that delta made up 41 percent of cases for the week ending with Dec. 25.
  • Health officials in the U.K.  looked at data from 198,348 confirmed omicron cases and compared it to delta cases. The data suggest that vaccines are 72 percent effective against hospitalization from the omicron variant from two weeks after a second dose up to 24 weeks after. This vaccine effectiveness is lower than for the delta variant, but the data suggest that vaccines still protect against symptomatic disease and hospitalization to a certain point.

Read more at The Hill


WHO Chief: Vaccine Equality Could End Pandemic in 2022

The ongoing pandemic could end this year, but only if the global community works to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are distributed equally, says World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, noting that continued inequity increases the risk of new variants emerging.

The COVAX initiative fell short of its goal of delivering two billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines in 2021, and the agency reported nearly five million new cases of the virus worldwide last week.

Read more at the times of Israel


Americans Borrowed A Record $1.61 Trillion to Buy Homes in 2021

Mortgage lenders issued $1.61 trillion in purchase loans in 2021, up from $1.48 trillion in loans issued in 2020 and marking the highest mortgage borrowing numbers ever recorded. The 2021 figures exceeded a previous record set in 2005, when $1.51 trillion in loans were issued, according to The Wall Street Journal.  

The record-setting numbers reflect a red-hot housing market. At the beginning of the pandemic, people were drawn to the market with low interest rates and desire to have more space at home — desires that continue to drive up house prices, the Journal noted. 

Read more at The Hill


No Surprises – State’s Independent Redistricting Committee Deadlocked

Five Republicans on the State Independent Redistricting Committee and five Democrats could not come to a consensus proposal to draw new district lines in the Assembly, Senate and House of Representatives, so both of their plans were submitted to the state legislature for their review.

Democrats said they submitted a plan, but that the Republican members of the commission refused to compromise. Republicans maintained the purpose of the commission was to develop a consensus plan.

Read more at WSHU


United Van Lines 45thAnnual National Movers Study Reveals The Top States People Moved To and From

United Van Lines released the company’s 45th Annual National Movers Study Monday The survey indicates Americans were on the move to lower-density areas and to be closer to their families throughout last year.  The annual study tracks the company’s exclusive data for customers’ state-to-state migration patterns.  It determined Vermont is the state with the highest percentage of inbound migration (74%) with United Van Lines. South Dakota (69%), South Carolina (63%), West Virginia (63%) and Florida (62%) were also revealed as the top inbound states for 2021.

Topping the list of outbound locations was New Jersey (71%), which has held the spot for the past four years. Meanwhile, states like Illinois (67%), New York (63%), Connecticut (60%) and California (59%), which have regularly appeared on the top outbound list in recent years, again ranked among states with the largest exoduses.

Read more at United Van Lines


Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress Appoints Adam Bosch as President and Chief Executive Officer

The board of directors at Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress yesterday announced the appointment of Adam Bosch to be the organization’s next president and chief executive officer. He has worked as a journalist, college professor, and policy analyst across the region before joining the senior leadership team of the New York City water supply system. Bosch was born and raised in the Town of Newburgh and graduated from Wallkill High School. He earned his bachelor’s degree from SUNY New Paltz, and his master’s degree from Columbia University.  He lives in Saugerties with his wife, Jennifer, and their 8-year-old son, Tristan.

The Council of Industry, one of the founding partners of Pattern for Progress in 1965, looks forward to working with Adam.

Read the press release


Ford F-150 Lightning Order Bank Opens; Production Capacity Targets 150K Per Year

Ford Motor Co., which shut down its reservation system for the all-electric F-150 Lightning pickup truck in an attempt to manage overwhelming response, will start accepting purchase orders this week, the company announced Tuesday. For the first time, reservations can be converted to actual orders. The earliest reservation holders will receive “invitations” by email on Thursday to place orders to purchase the truck, the company said. Deliveries begin in the spring.

Ford has already said it doesn’t expect to fill all orders in 2022. The Dearborn automaker said previously it planned to build 80,000 F-150 Lightning pickups annually at the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Dearborn next year. Now Ford said it’s striving to double production goals to 150,000 annually. 

Read more at The Detroit Free Press


Toyota Overtakes GM as Best-Selling Auto Maker in U.S.

Toyota Motor Corp. TM +7.08% has for the first time overtaken General Motors Co. GM +6.88% as the U.S.’s top-selling car company in 2021, a change driven largely by a global computer-chip shortage that dealt an uneven blow to the car business.

The Japanese auto maker, which for decades has worked to expand its presence in the U.S., outsold GM by roughly 114,000 vehicles in the full-year 2021. Toyota’s total U.S. sales of 2.3 million were up about 10% compared with 2020, the company said Tuesday. By contrast, GM reported a nearly 13% slide in results for a total of 2.2 million vehicles sold in 2021, as the semiconductor shortage took a bigger toll on its manufacturing operations and left dealers with fewer vehicles to sell. GM had been the no. 1 auto-seller in the U.S. for decades.

Read more at the WSJ


US ADP December Preview: Suddenly its Inflation Not Jobs

The clients of Automatic Data Processing (ADP) are forecast to have added 413,000 employees, the lowest since 310,000 in August, after averaging 543,000 in September, October and November. Nonfarm Payrolls are projected to nearly double to 400,000 in December following November’s disappointing 210,000, which was the weakest monthly total since the economy lost 306,000 jobs in December 2020.

Though the two reports draw their data from the US labor market they are quite different in concept and their monthly results have been poorly correlated since the pandemic took hold in March 2020.  The ADP employment total is simpler and more accurate, but less encompassing. Its National Employment Report records the net employee additions or subtractions of the firm’s 460,000 US clients covering about 26 million workers. The Employment Situation Report from the US Labor Department attempts to catalog the entire American employment market in one document. It tracks both hirings and firings as reported to the government and estimates the number of new jobs created each month but not on government books.

Read more at FXStreet


Pine Bush School Superintendent Tim Mains Dies

The Council of Industry was saddened to learn Pine Bush School District Superintendent Tim Mains died suddenly over the holiday break.  Mains was a strong and compassionate leader who always put the district’s students first and continuously looked for ways to improve learning and create new pathways to success.  Born in Indiana, he was not only an educator but an activist in the community. After he became the first openly gay candidate to be elected to public office in New York state, he had served as a Rochester city councilmember for 20 years.  

We will miss his leadership, but will continue to grow our partnership with Pine Bush that is part of his legacy.


 

read more »

Daily Briefing – 435

US Manufacturing PMI Down to 57.7 in December, From 58.3 in November

The final reading of the U.S. manufacturing purchasing managers index from IHS Markit was adjusted slightly downward, to a reading of 57.7 from the “flash” reading of 57.8. This is below November’s level of 58.3. Sian Jones, senior economist at IHS Markit, said material shortages and supplier delays dragged down the index.

New orders rose at the slowest pace for a year. This was linked to a reluctance at customers to place orders before inventories were worked through. Backlogs of work rose sharply but was still the slowest in ten months. There was some relief on cost pressures, which rose at the slowest pace for six months. And manufacturing firms saw softer increases in selling prices as they tried to get new orders.

Read more at MarketWatch


Governor Plans to Set Term Limits for Statewide Elected Officials

New York Governor Kathy Hochul has announced a plan to institute term limits for the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General and Comptroller. She said this will be the first proposal of the 2022 State of the State.

Hochul said she will introduce a constitutional amendment to set limits of two consecutive terms for those statewide elected officials. She will also propose legislation to impose a ban on earned outside income for the same elected officials, with an exception for academic positions that receive ethics board approval. 

Read more at News10


Economists Expect the U.S. Labor Market to Strengthen in the Months Ahead

Economists say they expect the U.S. labor market to strengthen in the months ahead, despite the surge in Covid-19 cases due to the fast-spreading Omicron variant, because employers still need a lot more workers. Workers in the U.S. are quitting jobs at record rates, leaving roles for better working conditions and pay. Employees resigned from 4.2 million jobs in October, just shy of September’s record of 4.4 million quits. That has left employers struggling to find and retain staff

The Labor Department’s latest employment report, to be released Friday, is projected to show employers added 405,000 jobs in December and the unemployment rate ticked down to 4.1%, according to economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal. The report comes as forecasters are lowering their estimates of economic growth amid rising coronavirus cases that have prompted some consumers to stay home and some businesses to close temporarily.

Read more at the WSJ


Climate Action Council Releases Draft Scoping Plan, Launches Public Comment Period

The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (Climate Act) was signed into law in 2019 as one of the most ambitious climate laws in the world. The law created the Climate Action Council (the Council), which was tasked with developing a draft scoping plan that serves as an initial framework for how the State will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and achieve net-zero emissions, increase renewable energy usage, and ensure climate justice. 

January 1, 2022 marks the beginning of a 120-day public comment period to receive feedback from the public as the Council works to develop and release a final scoping plan by the end of 2022. We are  working with like minded organizations across New York State to understand the effects of the plan on manufacturers. 

Read the Draft Scoping Plan


US COVID – The Virus is Spreading Faster Than Ever, but New Data Offer Hope.

Omicron seems milder: A large British study determined that people who contract Omicron are far less likely to be hospitalized than those infected with the Delta variant. Other studies found that Omicron may not spread as easily to the lungs, a possible explanation of why its effects appear less severe. Vaccines, especially boosters, help: The British study also underlined that the risk of hospitalization was significantly lower for people who had received two or three vaccine doses, compared with unvaccinated people. 

Dr. Fauci said on Sunday that hospitalizations, which are not rising as fast, were a more important barometer than reported cases for the severity of the Omicron wave, a sharp distinction after nearly two years of tallying daily case counts. “As you get further on and the infections become less severe, it is much more relevant to focus on the hospitalizations as opposed to the total number of cases,” Dr. Fauci said.

Read more at the New York Times


NYS Vaccine and COVID Update  

Vaccine Stats as of January 3:

One Vaccine Dose 

  • 84.0% of all New Yorkers – 15,751,769   (plus 3,456 from a day earlier).
  • In the Hudson Valley 1,635,975  (plus 140).

Fully Vaccinated

  • 71.8% of all New Yorkers – 13,975,611 (plus 4,791).
  • In the Hudson Valley – 1,426,604 (plus 516). 

Boosters Given

  • All New Yorkers – 4,739,700
  • In the Hudson Valley – 558,781

The Governor  updated COVID data through January 2.  There were 103 COVID related deaths for a total of 61,514. 

Hospitalizations:

  • Patients Currently in Hospital statewide: 9,563.

7 Day Average Positivity Rate  – Cases per 100K population

  • Statewide 21.49%    –    335.05 positive cases per 100,00 population
  • Mid-Hudson: 21.42%   –  304.18 positive  cases per 100,00 population

Useful Websites:


FDA Authorizes COVID-19 Boosters for 12 to 15-Year-Olds, Makes Other Booster Changes

The Food and Drug Administration on Monday authorized Pfizer booster shots for people aged 12 to 15 years, another expansion in the population eligible for the third shots. Booster shots are seen as a key tool to fight the omicron variant, which has shown a heightened ability to infect people who have two shots, though vaccinated people still have important protection against severe disease.

The FDA also shortened the time for all adults to get their booster shots, down to five months from six months after the initial shots. Finally, for children 5-11 years old, the FDA authorized a third shot for certain immunocompromised children, who it said might not respond fully to two shots.

Read more at The Hill


Testing Sites to Open on SUNY Campuses Statewide

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced a partnership with SUNY and Syracuse University in which 10 new testing sites will be opening on State University of New York campuses across the state and at Syracuse University the week of Jan. 3. More campus sites will open in the coming weeks as the project expands.

Exact locations and hours of operation will be announced as the program develops. SUNY testing sites to open later this week include:

-Binghamton University Community Testing Site
-SUNY Plattsburgh Community Testing Site
-SUNY Cortland Community Testing Site
-University at Buffalo Community Testing Site
-Buffalo State College Community Testing Site
-SUNY Oswego Community Testing Site
-SUNY Oneonta Community Testing Site
-SUNY Albany Community Testing Site
-SUNY Stony Brook Community Testing Site
-SUNY Purchase Community Testing Site


The Top 10 EHS Trends of 2021 ad What They Mean for 2022

COVID-19 reared its ugly head—again – in 2021 but there were some bright spots, including a brief semblance of normalcy. Yet It’s heartening to see how central safety has been to many of these conversations. Safety professionals are making a real difference in workers’ lives, both now and for years to come. It may be tough to stay hopeful as cases continue to surge and the omicron variant takes hold in the U.S. But we also know that this too shall pass. Moreover, we know that the work you’re doing today, and have been doing for the past two years, is keeping workers safe and saving lives.

Let’s take a look back at the year’s major developments, which seem like eons ago with the sustained breakneck pace of COVID-19 guidance and recommendations. Without further ado, here are our top 10 EHS trends of 2021.

Read more at EHS Today


Independent Redistricting Commission: N.Y.’s Panel is Set to Give in to Partisanship

Expect no consensus from the five Republican appointees and the five Democratic appointees when New York’s new Independent Redistricting Commission votes tomorrow on maps for the 213 seats in the Legislature and 26 in the U.S. House of Representatives. A five-on-five standoff is the smart bet. They were never going to agree, and the sham of unity hoped for by the public’s 2014 adoption of an amendment to the state Constitution ended on Dec. 22 at 4 p.m. when the GOP side accused Democrats of a take-it-or-leave-it ultimatum.

The Dems have the stronger hand, not on the evenly-divided panel, which we more accurately call an independent advisory redistricting commission, but because the Legislature always gets the last word. And the Legislature now has a Democratic supermajority in both chambers.

Read more at the Daily News


NY Fed Asks: When Will U.S. Exports Take Off?

Although U.S. imports have rebounded, U.S. exports remain far below their pre-pandemic level. This asymmetry in part reflects that U.S. imports are driven by goods trade, while exports rely more heavily on services trade—a key component of which is foreign travel to the United States.

But U.S. exports may be at a turning point given the reopening of U.S. borders to all vaccinated travelers on November 8. The authors analyze the trajectory of U.S. services and how the lifting of the travel ban might contribute to the rebound of U.S. services exports.

Read more at the NY Fed


Tesla Fourth-Quarter Deliveries Set a New Record

Tesla on Sunday said it delivered 308,600 electric vehicles in the fourth quarter of 2021, beating its previous single-quarter record as well as analysts’ expectations. The automaker produced 305,840 fully electric vehicles total during the same period. Shares jumped more than 7% in premarket trading Monday.

For the full year, Tesla delivered 936,172 vehicles, an 87% increase versus 2020 when it reported its first annual profit on deliveries of 499,647. In the third quarter of 2021, vehicle deliveries reached 241,300, Tesla’s previous best quarter.

Read more at CNBC


Brussels Plans to Label Nuclear and Gas ‘Green,” New German Government Disagrees

A row has broken out in the EU over the European Commission’s plans to label nuclear and natural gas as “green” energy sources that can serve as a bridge to a renewables-centric future—a move that would have big implications for investments. Germany seems set to join Austria, Luxembourg and Denmark in opposing the classification decision, though there probably won’t be enough momentum to stop it entirely.

A draft delegated act, sent to EU countries on Friday, says “it is necessary to recognise that the fossil gas and nuclear energy sectors can contribute to the decarbonisation of the Union’s economy.” The draft taxonomy says nuclear plants should be considered “sustainable” if the host country can ensure they cause “no significant harm” to the environment, which includes safe disposal of nuclear waste. This applies to all “new nuclear installations for which the construction permit has been issued by 2045,” the text says.

Read more at Politico


Apple Becomes First U.S. Company to Reach $3 Trillion Market Value

Apple Inc. became the first U.S. company to reach $3 trillion in market value, the latest milestone in a pandemic-era surge that carried shares of the iPhone maker and other large technology companies to unprecedented highs. The milestone marked a 38% rise for Apple’s shares since the beginning of 2021, among the biggest gains in the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

Apple shares crossed the milestone when they topped $182.856 Monday. The share price has more than tripled since the pandemic lows of March 2020, adding around $2 trillion in market capitalization.

Read more at the WSJ


$1B Plan to Address Increases in Meat Prices

The White House on Monday announced plans aimed at addressing rising prices for meat and poultry, including setting aside $1 billion for smaller producers. That includes $375 million in grants for independent meat producers, $275 million in additional financing available for processors, $100 million to address inspection costs for smaller processing plants and $100 million in training for workers in the meat and poultry industry.

The White House has previously pointed to a small number of conglomerates for driving higher meat and poultry prices, which have been a major contributor to broader inflation in recent months.

Read more at The Hill


 

read more »

Daily Briefing – 434

5.2 Million COVID Tests Shipped to Schools, Boosters Required for SUNY Students, Mask Mandate Extended

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced a “military-style operation” to deliver 5.2 million Covid-19 tests to schools this week for children to bring home, including 375,430 for schools in Western New York.
Hochul also announced returning SUNY and community college students, when eligible, will need a booster shot and a negative Covid-19 test upon returning to campus, and that faculty now must be vaccinated. The governor also extended for two weeks, to Feb. 1, her executive order requirement that businesses require customers to wear a mask or be vaccinated to enter indoor public places. 

Hochul continued to stress, as she has repeatedly, the importance of getting vaccinated, boosted, wearing a mask and getting tested to stem Covid-19 infections. She urged parents and caregivers of children ages 5 to 11 to get them vaccinated if they haven’t already, noting only 28% of that age group has received shots since vaccines became available for them on Nov. 14.

Read more at the Buffalo News


K-12 Schools Press to Reopen as Omicron Variant Surges

K-12 schools around the country are pressing forward with tentative plans to reopen after the holiday break in the midst of a surge in Covid-19 cases. Their biggest challenge: getting enough rapid tests to be able to step up or launch “test-to-stay” strategies. In contrast to 2020, there is much broader support to continue school in-person following the grim record of remote teaching on student mental health and learning loss.

School-district superintendents are weighing how—and when—to reopen, a decision driven partly by the availability of tests. The superintendents have different appetites for risk, and the level of teacher enthusiasm for returning to the classroom varies. Regional surges in pediatric hospitalizations for Covid-19 are contributing to differences across the country.

Read more at the WSJ


 Hochul Announces 6 New State Testing Sites 

Governor Kathy Hochul Saturday  announced 6 new State testing sites to address the recent surge in COVID-19 cases.   Sites are currently being mobilized with all locations slated to open on January 4, 2022. Upon launch, all sites will offer rapid antigen tests. New Yorkers are strongly encouraged to make appointments.

Locations: Hudson Valley 

  • Grace Baptist Church, 52 S 6th Avenue, Mount Vernon, NY 10550           
    • Hours of Operation: Monday – Saturday: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. 
  • Patriot Hills Golf Club, 19 Club House Lane, Stony Point, NY 10980  
    • Hours of Operation: Monday – Saturday: 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. 

 


Almost 2,000 Flights Canceled on Sunday in the US COVID/Weather to Blame

A total of 1,956 flights within, into or out of the U.S. were canceled as of 8:30 a.m. ET on Sunday, according to FlightAware. Another 870 flights within, into or out of the U.S. had been delayed. In the past 10 days, including Sunday and Christmas Eve, airlines have canceled more than 14,000 flights in the US.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) warned on Thursday that more travel delays are likely in the coming days because of COVID-19 infections among FAA employees and “weather and heavy seasonal traffic.” Despite the large number of cancellations and delays, however, people are still traveling in the U.S. this holiday season. The Transportation Security Administration said it screened more than 1.6 million travelers on Saturday.

Read more at The Hill


US COVID – CDC to Reconsider Latest Quarantine Guidance Amid Backlash

A decision by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week to cut isolation time in half, from 10 days to five days for asymptomatic COVID-19, was met with backlash after officials said it was due in part to allow people to return to work faster. It came one week after some companies, including Delta Air Lines, wrote to the CDC requesting such a change.

Now, Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser, says the testing part of that guidance may change to now require one as officials struggle with rising cases that at times are breaking pandemic records. 

Read more at The Hill


NYS Vaccine and COVID Update  

Vaccine Stats as of January 2:

One Vaccine Dose 

  • 84.0% of all New Yorkers – 15,748,313   (plus N/A from a day earlier).
  • In the Hudson Valley 1,635,835  (plus N/A).

Fully Vaccinated

  • 71.8% of all New Yorkers – 13,970,820 (plus 3,345).
  • In the Hudson Valley – 1,426,088 (plus 166). 

The Governor  updated COVID data through January 1.  There were 83 COVID related deaths for a total of 61,242. 

Hospitalizations:

  • Patients Currently in Hospital statewide: 8,773.

7 Day Average Positivity Rate  – Cases per 100K population

  • Statewide 20.87%    –    316.80 positive cases per 100,00 population
  • Mid-Hudson: 20.79%   –  284.44 positive  cases per 100,00 population

Useful Websites:


5 Things to Know About COVID-19 Tests in the Age of Omicron

Tests are in short supply right now.  The Biden administration has announced a plan to deliver a half billion free rapid tests to Americans who want them. Unfortunately, those tests won’t be available until later in January. Rachael Piltch-Loeb, a researcher at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, says that tests offer sorely needed insight even when there’s still much unknown about Omicron—including how likely it is for fully vaccinated people to get infected.

In the meantime, here’s what you need to know about testing in the age of the Omicron variant—and what experts say you should do if you test positive.

Read more at National Geographic


Hospitalization Surge among U.S. Children Spurs New Omicron Concerns

 Within weeks, the Omicron variant has fueled thousands of new COVID-19 hospitalizations among U.S. children, raising new concerns about how the many unvaccinated Americans under the age of 18 will fare in the new surge. The seven-day-average number of daily hospitalizations for children between Dec. 21 and Dec. 27 is up more than 58% nationwide in the past week to 334, compared to around 19% for all age groups, data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show. Fewer than 25% of the 74 million Americans under 18 are vaccinated, according to the CDC.

Omicron cases are expected to surge even faster across the United States as schools reopen this week after the winter holiday, experts cautioned. Doctors say it is too early to determine whether Omicron causes more severe illness in children than other variants of the coronavirus, but that its extremely high transmissibility is one key factor that is driving up hospitalizations.

Read more at Reuters


Unemployment: 198,000 Individuals Filed New Claims Last Week

First-time unemployment filings fell by 8,000 claims from the previous week’s reading, marking the second lowest print during the pandemic and signaling continued recovery in the labor market as high demand for workers pours into the new year.

  • Initial jobless claims, week ended Dec. 25: 198,000 vs. 206,000 expected and upwardly revised to 206,000 during prior week.
  • Continuing claims, week ended Dec. 18: 1.716 million vs. 1.875 million expected and downwardly revised to 1.856 million during prior week.

The newest print brings the four-week moving average to 199,300 in the week ending Dec. 25, Bloomberg data reflected. Continuing claims dropped to a fresh pandemic low of 1.716 million. 

Read more at YahooFinance


Many U.S. Construction Contractors are Turning Down Work Because They Don’t Have Enough Workers

Even before the pandemic, commercial contractors had serious concerns about having enough skilled workers to fill open positions. According to the latest data from the U.S. Chamber’s Commercial Construction Index, those concerns remain at chronically high levels and are leading to serious consequences.

  • 91% of contractors report moderate to high levels of difficulty finding skilled labor
  • 62% of contractors report high levels of difficulty finding skilled workers.
  • Almost half (45%) of contractors who report difficulty finding workers say they have turned down work because they can’t find enough skilled workers. 
  • 74% say they are asking skilled workers to do more work 
  • 72% report a challenge in meeting project schedule requirements 
  • Over half (60%) are putting in higher bids for projects (up from 58% in 2020 Q4).  

Read more at the US Chamber


Overcoming Supply Chain Bottlenecks in 2022

It started with shortages of computer chips forcing automakers to temporarily shutter facilities. Then, lumber prices grew exponentially. And at some point in 2021, it’s likely that everyone in the world had to wait longer for a finished product than they would have wanted because global supply chains had been so overtaxed.

So, when Industry Week asked people how the past few years have changed their outlooks, many responses focused on the need to rethink the supply chain. With manufacturing experts saying these challenges could persist throughout 2022, many are encouraging long-term planning that focuses on localization of supplies and flexibility in operations.

Read more at IndustryWeek


How Well do Lateral-Flow Tests for COVID-19 Work?

The federal government–which had made the roll-out of vaccines its priority, rather than widespread testing–has said it will provide 500m rapid antigen tests free of charge to consumers, as the Omicron variant of covid-19 sweeps the country. Greater use of such tests would more closely align America’s covid-19 strategy to that in other developed countries. Britain, which started providing free lateral-flow test (LFT) kits to the general public in April 2021, has the biggest testing program in Europe.

But increasing demand for rapid tests and supply-chain disruptions are creating shortages worldwide. In the weeks before Christmas pharmacies globally complained of delayed shipments. Despite this growing popularity, LFTs have gained a spotty reputation over the course of the pandemic because of doubts over their accuracy. How do they work, and are they reliable enough to help to curb covid-19?

Read more at The Economist


U.S. Companies Are Thriving Despite the Pandemic—or Because of It

Nearly two years after the coronavirus pandemic brought much of the U.S. economy to a halt, public companies are recording some of their best ever financial results. Profit growth is strong. Most companies’ sales are higher than where they were before Covid-19—often well above. The liquidity crunch many feared in 2020 never materialized, leaving companies with sizable cash cushions.

The rebound is real for smaller companies, but it is the biggest companies that have fared the best, a Wall Street Journal analysis of corporate financial data shows. For large-capitalization companies in the S&P 500 index, profits and revenue were hurt less by the pandemic’s initial economic slowdown. The biggest companies also rebounded more quickly than smaller ones, even as uncertainty deepened over Covid-19 infection rates and the spread of variants, rising inflation and supply-chain woes.

Read more at the WSJ


 

read more »

Daily Briefing – 433

U.S. Trade Deficit in Goods Jumps 17.5% to $97.8 Billion as Imports Surge

The trade deficit in goods surged by 17.5% in November to set an all-time high, largely reflecting faster improvement in the U.S. economy compared to most other countries.  An advanced look at the trade gap in goods showed that it increased to $97.8 billion in November from $83.2 billion in October, the U.S. Census Bureau said. The U.S. is on track in 2021 to post its biggest annual shortfall on record.

An advanced estimate of wholesale inventories, meanwhile, revealed a 1.2% increase in November. And retail inventories jumped 2%, according to an early estimate. Companies sought to stock up ahead of the crucial holiday shopping season, but manufacturing-production bottlenecks, congestion at U.S. ports and other transportations snafus have caused big fluctuations month to month. 

Read more at MarketWatch


Longtime Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid Dies

Former Sen. Harry Reid (Nev.), one of the Senate’s longest-serving majority leaders and a Democrat who played a central role in enacting former President Obama’s biggest legislative accomplishments, died Tuesday at 82 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. 

Reid served as majority leader from 2006 to 2014 before retiring from politics in 2017 as one of the most influential and powerful Democratic leaders ever to serve in Washington. Reid, whose service as majority leader was surpassed only by former Sens. Mike Mansfield (D-Mont.) and Alben Barkley (D-Ky.), was not afraid to engage in open partisan warfare on the Senate floor, making him one of the chamber’s most divisive leaders in history. 

Read more at The Hill


NY’s Minimum Wage Set to Increase in 2022. Here’s Where and by How Much

New York’s minimum wage is set to increase on Dec. 31, with three downstate counties arriving at the $15 minimum wage threshold set for the state five years ago. Minimum wage workers in Westchester County and in Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Long Island will see $15 an hour in the new year, on par with workers employed by large firms in New York City, who have been making $15 an hour since the end of 2018. Workers in the rest of the state will see an increase to $13.20 an hour — a 70-cent increase from the current rate of $12.50 — on Dec. 31.

Fast food workers across New York also make $15 an hour, regardless of location. 

Read more at the Democrat & Chronical


Oil Firms Predict Rising Output, Warn of Higher Costs – Fed Survey

U.S. oil and gas executives are predicting higher production and drilling activity next year as oil prices climb, but say they face sharply higher costs, according to a poll released on Wednesday by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. U.S. oil prices were up 1.2% on Wednesday at around $76.88 a barrel . They are up almost 60% since the start of the year, as demand for oil and motor fuels rebounds on an economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Some 49% of executives surveyed said they aim to expand output next year, while 15% said their main focus would be to maintain existing production levels and 13% plan to focus on reducing debt. Six-month outlooks remained positive, but the index declined to 53.2 from 58.9 the previous quarter.

Read more at Reuters


US COVID – 126% Increase in Cases, 11% Increase in Hospitalizations

People who are vaccinated and boosted also appear to be less likely to be hospitalized if they are infected with the omicron variant, leading infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci said Wednesday. “All indications point to a lesser severity of omicron versus delta,” Fauci told reporters during a White House briefing.

The U.S. on Tuesday broke a record for the most single-day COVID-19 infections, with 441,278 cases. That surpassed the previous daily record by close to 150,000.  Despite the surge in infections over the past month, however, hospitalizations have not increased nearly as quickly. Fauci said there’s been a 126 percent increase in cases over the past two weeks, but only an 11 percent increase in hospitalizations.

Read more at The Hill


NYS Vaccine and COVID Update  

Vaccine Stats as of December 29:

One Vaccine Dose 

  • 83.6% of all New Yorkers – 15,666,883 (plus 35,783 from a day earlier).
  • In the Hudson Valley 1,629,826 (plus 3,574).

Fully Vaccinated

  • 71.6% of all New Yorkers – 13,922,808 (plus 17,444).
  • In the Hudson Valley – 1,422,340 (plus 1,633). 

The Governor  updated COVID data through December 28 .  There were 97 COVID related deaths for a total of 61,159. 

Hospitalizations:

  • Patients Currently in Hospital statewide: 6,767.

7 Day Average Positivity Rate  – Cases per 100K population

  • Statewide 14.61%    –    222.26 positive cases per 100,00 population
  • Mid-Hudson: 13.72%   –  184.06 positive  cases per 100,00 population

Useful Websites:


CDC Comes Under Fire for New COVID-19 Guidance

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is under fire from some health experts and employee groups who say the new COVID-19 isolation and quarantine guidance has too many holes. The isolation guidelines announced late Monday apply to everyone, regardless of vaccination status. Some health experts said they worry people will leave isolation while still contagious, and raised questions about the CDC’s decision making.

Critics also argue the guidelines ignore the benefits of rapid antigen testing by not requiring those tests, and rely on a one-size-fits-all approach that makes assumptions about the fast-spreading omicron variant that may not be true.

Read more at The Hill


Ulster to Distribute Additional 20,000 Free Rapid at-Home COVID-19 Test Kits

Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan announced Tuesday that the county will hold two free drive-through at-home test distribution events at TechCity in the Town of Ulster on Wednesday, December 29th and at the Ulster County Fairgrounds in New Paltz on Thursday, December 30th.

Each event will have 3,000 at-home kits available to county residents, with one kit available per car. The events will start at 6 p.m. and run while supplies last.

Read more at Mid-Hudson News


22,000 Unvaccinated State Workers Remain Unvaccinated – Need Weekly COVID Tests

Slightly more than a fifth of the state workers covered by New York’s vaccine-or-test mandate remain unvaccinated, making those who can’t work remotely subject to weekly COVID-19 testing. It’s an endeavor that could cost the state more than $62 million by the end of winter.

Roughly 22,000 unvaccinated state workers need to be tested weekly under agreements worked out with unions. Just over 12,000 state employees were tested last week, according to data provided by Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office. Nearly all of those workers are unvaccinated, although certain workers remain under regular testing protocols regardless of their status. (The number of workers tested will likely be much larger during a non-holiday week.) 

Read more at the Albany Times Union


Tesla on Track to Meet Buffalo Billion Job Target

Tesla Inc. is on track to meet its employment goal at its South Buffalo factory and avoid a $41.2 million penalty, according to new job figures from the state. The company had 1,536 full-time jobs at its South Park Avenue factory on Nov. 10, along with 21 part-time positions.  That tops the 1,460 jobs that Tesla was required to have in Buffalo by the end of the year under its agreement with the state in exchange for spending more than $950 million to build and equip the plant. 

Tesla’s agreement with the state, part of the Buffalo Billion economic development initiative, only requires the company to have a certain number of jobs in Buffalo. It does not include any provisions on the type of job or how much they pay.  With Tesla’s solar energy business now stagnating at levels that are less than half of what they were five years ago, the company has been shifting other types of work to the Buffalo plant.

Read more at the Buffalo News


Employee Flexibility Becomes Key to Success, if Not Survival

Industry leaders share their thoughts on how recent history has forced companies to rethink staffing or double down on existing policies to keep good workers.

“The new normal has come at the expense of immensely hard-working people all year. From procurement managers thinking they are failing because they can’t get goods, to HR not finding enough new hires, to operations unable to fulfill on-time deliveries or all orders, to salespeople throttling back finding new orders while foisting seven price increases this year on customers: Any semblance of normalcy has taken management teams heroic efforts to achieve.” —IndustryWeek contributor and MAGNET President and CEO Ethan Karp

Read more at IndustryWeek


FuzeHub 2022 Manufacturing Grant – Applications Open January 4th

As part of the Jeff Lawrence Innovation Fund, FuzeHub’s Manufacturing Grants are designed to encourage collaboration between not-for-profit organizations and small to medium-sized manufacturing companies in New York State.

The grants serve as a resource to help companies achieve success from early stage, proof of concept through maturity. The partnership created with the not-for-profit organization serves as a pathway to technology transfer, adoption and implementation of new manufacturing processes, as well as the creation of enhanced products and services.

Read more at FuzeHub


Who Can Claim to Have Invented Important Elements of the COVID-19 Vaccines?

A high-stakes legal battle is taking shape over lucrative patent rights for Covid-19 vaccines, with drug companies pitted against each other and government and academic scientists over who invented what. Hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake. If anyone succeeds in establishing a role in the discovery of the vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna would have to share with others a bigger cut of the tens of billions of dollars in vaccine sales being generated.

The U.S. government and Moderna Inc., whose collaboration led to one of the most widely used shots, have fought over who discovered a key component and owns its rights. Meantime, Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE, makers of another leading vaccine, are in a patent battle with a smaller company, and some analysts think they could end up facing off against Moderna.

Read more at the WSJ


 

 

read more »

Daily Briefing – 432

Hochul: No Desire to Shut Down Schools Amid COVID-19 Case Rise

Despite a recent rise in pediatric hospital admissions across New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul said schools will stay open amid a surge in COVID-19 cases. Hochul, providing a post-Christmas update Monday morning, said the state is planning “for all scenarios, including the worst-case scenario,” as the omicron variant has contributed to a case rise statewide.

Hochul’s goal, also repeated by acting Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett, is to keep schools open despite these numbers and lower-than-expected vaccination statistics among children aged 5-11. “We want to make sure these schools stay open,” the governor said. “We want more vaccinated; we want them boosted at some point as soon as possible.”

Read more at City & State


NYC to Limit Classroom Closures, Prioritize Ramped-Up Testing for Schools

New York City will eliminate its current policy of quarantining entire classrooms exposed to the coronavirus and will instead prioritize a ramped-up testing program so that asymptomatic students testing negative for COVID-19 can remain in school, officials said on Tuesday.

The step shows health officials are increasing the focus on testing and trying to avoid long isolation periods. A day earlier, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shortened the recommended isolation time for Americans with asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 to five days from the previous guidance of 10 days. 

Read more at Reuters


What to Do if You Test Positive for Covid-19?

Here’s what doctors and public health officials say you should do after a positive test—from quarantining, to informing contacts and seeking medical care.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines are the same whether you are unvaccinated, vaccinated or boosted: Isolate for five days. If you have no symptoms after five days, you may leave isolation, but should wear a mask around other people for five more days. If you have a fever, you should continue to stay home.

Read more at the WSJ 


NY Clarifies Employer Role in Cannabis Use

More than six months after New York legalized recreational use of marijuana, the state’s department of labor has published a guidance document intended to help employers navigate the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act.

Enacted March 31, the act prohibits employer discrimination against employees based on their cannabis use outside of the workplace, outside of work hours, and without use of the employer’s equipment or property. However, it also amends section 201-D of the New York Labor Law by adding subsection 4-a, which permits employers to take action or prohibit employee conduct if:


US COVID – Hospitalizations, Deaths Lag Cases

Continued struggles with the Delta variant and the emergence of the highly infectious Omicron variant have pushed the country’s daily case totals to their highest levels since late summer.  Caseloads are growing rapidly in the Northeast, where Omicron already has a foothold. Reports of new cases in New York shot up more than 80 percent over two weeks. In Washington, D.C., more than three times as many infections are being identified each day now than at the start of December.

The Times Tracker includes interactive maps monitoring cases, hospitalizations, deaths and more.

Visit the New York Times COVID-19 Tracker


NYS Vaccine and COVID Update  

Vaccine Stats as of December 28:

One Vaccine Dose 

  • 83.4% of all New Yorkers – 15,631,100 (plus 24,613 from a day earlier).
  • In the Hudson Valley 1,626,252 (plus 3,407).

Fully Vaccinated

  • 71.5% of all New Yorkers – 13,905,364 (plus 12,487).
  • In the Hudson Valley – 1,420,707 (plus 1,580). 

The Governor  updated COVID data through December 27 .  There were 77 COVID related deaths for a total of 61,084. 

Hospitalizations:

  • Patients Currently in Hospital statewide: 6,173.

7 Day Average Positivity Rate  – Cases per 100K population

  • Statewide 13.36%    –    194.36 positive cases per 100,00 population
  • Mid-Hudson: 12.53%   –  152.56 positive  cases per 100,00 population

Useful Websites:


South African Study: Omicron Surge May Reduce Delta Infections

A small study from South Africa suggests that the spread of the COVID-19 omicron variant may reduce infections from the delta variant, as the former strain builds up immunity against the latter. The study, which has yet to be peer reviewed, looked at 33 unvaccinated and vaccinated individuals who had contracted the omicron variant. It found that people who became infected with the highly transmissible new strain developed an enhanced immunity to the delta variant. This effect was reportedly stronger among those who were vaccinated.

Researchers found that neutralization against delta increased by 4.4-fold over a 14-day period following participants’ enrollment in the study soon after they began experiencing symptoms from omicron infections. A 14-fold increase in neutralization against the omicron variant itself was also observed.

Read more at The Hill


Experts Say COVID-19 Cases Don’t Tell Whole Story

For nearly two years, Americans have looked carefully at coronavirus case numbers in the country and in their local states and towns to judge the risk of the disease. Surging case numbers signaled growing dangers, while falling case numbers were a relief and a signal to let one’s guard down in terms of gathering with friends and families and taking part in all kinds of events.

But with much of the nation’s population vaccinated and boosted and the country dealing with a new COVID-19 surge from omicron — hospitalizations and deaths are the markers that government officials need to monitor carefully to ensure the safety of communities as the nation learns to live with COVID-19.

Read more at The Hill


Millions in U.K. Await Treatment, but Not for Covid-19

Covid-19 has slammed hospitals and stretched healthcare systems, in turn resulting in canceled doctors’ appointments and delayed procedures and tests for other illnesses. According to the World Health Organization, the pandemic has triggered a separate, global crisis among patients with conditions like cancer, diabetes and heart disease who were unable to get—or who put off—timely care because of healthcare systems overrun by Covid-19.

In most places, it is hard to quantify how many people delayed or forwent healthcare during the pandemic. But in the U.K., thanks to a centralized, government-funded healthcare system, officials have been able to keep track.

Read more at the WSJ


U.S. Home-Price Growth Slowed Again in October

U.S. home-price growth slowed for the second straight month in October, an indication that the hot housing market may be starting to cool. The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller National Home Price Index, which measures average home prices in major metropolitan areas across the nation, rose 19.1% in the year that ended in October, down from a 19.7% annual rate the prior month.

Home-buying demand has surged in the past year due to low mortgage-interest rates, and existing-home sales are on track to hit their highest annual level since 2006. Fierce buyer competition for a limited number of homes for sale has pushed prices to record highs. .The median existing-home sale price in November rose 13.9% from a year earlier to $353,900, the National Association of Realtors said earlier this month.

Read more at the WSJ


Automation Will Drive Need for 1 Million Additional Warehouse Workers Through 2024

A study done by Interact Analysis of warehouses both in the U.S. and in Europe, found that that automation is driving sustained jobs growth, as automation creates a virtuous circle: robots aren’t being used to displace manual workers rather, robots are used alongside personnel to augment overall productivity. Warehouse operators and logistics companies face a critical struggle to meet the ever-increasing consumer demands that far outweigh anything that could be met with human manpower alone.  The research, which involved speaking to almost every single significant warehouse automation provider globally, revealed:

  • The U.S. had 1.6 million warehouse employees in 2019 which is forecast to grow to just under 2 million in 2024, while Europe had 2.5 million warehouse employees in 2019 which is forecast to grow to 3.1 million in 2024.
  • Both Europe and the U.S. are forecast to grow with a similar CAGR of approximately 4% between 2019 and 2024, With demand forecast at this rate, the research found that one million additional warehouse employees will be required, or 25% growth in five years.

Read more at Material Handling and Logistics


Japan’s Factory Output Soars as Car Production Returns

Japan’s factory output jumped at the fastest pace on record in November, as easing global supply chain bottlenecks helped car production leap out of its recent slump, lifting prospects for a strong fourth-quarter economic rebound.

Factory production gained 7.2% in November from the previous month, posting its largest jump since 2013 when comparable data first became available, thanks to rising output of motor vehicles and plastic products.

Read more at Reuters


Fauci: ‘I Don’t Think People Should Expect’ a Domestic Flight Vaccine Mandate

Anthony Fauci on Monday said Americans shouldn’t expect a Covid vaccination requirement for domestic air travel in the near future unless “things change dramatically.”

The comments come after the president’s chief medical adviser said earlier in the day that such a requirement should “seriously” be considered for travelers in the United States. Fauci said Monday evening that this should be another policy tool under consideration, but that he wasn’t suggesting it was likely to happen.

Read more at Politico


2022 Tech Trends: Meatless Meat, Web 3.0, Big Tech Battles

After a year that made the terms WFH (work from home) and metaverse instantly recognizable for many people, there are a new set of technological trends headed this way for 2022.

Here’s a selection of how technology may change lives in the coming year:

Read more at IndustryWeek


 

read more »

Daily Briefing – 431

CDC Cuts Isolation Time for Americans Who Test Positive from 10 Days to 5

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday cut the amount of time it recommends people should isolate after testing positive for COVID-19, reducing the number of days from 10 to five. Health officials similarly reduced the amount of time one should quarantine after coming into contact with someone who tests positive. 

The changes come amid a recent surge in cases spurred by the omicron variant and concerns about staffing shortages at hospitals, airlines and businesses across the country. Research has suggested omicron, while more infectious, causes milder illness. CDC officials say the new guidance is in keeping with growing evidence that people with the coronavirus are most infectious in the two days before and three days after symptoms develop.


As Omicron Bears Down, Schools Seek Ways to Stay Open

School officials are analyzing constantly evolving data to help them determine whether they can safely reopen after the holiday break. They are studying case counts, the severity of the illness, vaccination rates and vaccine efficacy. Administrators are also considering how much control they could exercise to prevent large gatherings outside school, even if classes were to go remote.

Nearly two years in, the Covid-19 pandemic has led to significant learning loss among students, upticks in misbehavior and scars from deteriorated mental health. Social skills have diminished, gun violence has increased, and fights have multiplied. As of last Thursday, officials in roughly 30 U.S. school districts had announced closures affecting more than 800 schools during the first week of January. The closings are concentrated in the Northeast.

Read more at the WSJ


Biden Signs $768 Billion Defense Bill

President Biden on Monday signed a sweeping $768 million defense policy bill, setting up top lines and policy for the Pentagon. He signed the fiscal year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) after Congress scrambled to pass the annual bill earlier this month. While passing the NDAA is an important step, the measure does not authorize any spending, meaning Congress still needs to pass an appropriations bill.

The NDAA provides $740 billion for the Department of Defense, which is $25 billion more than what the president requested for agency for fiscal year 2022.  It also includes $27.8 billion for defense-related activities in the Department of Energy and another $378 million for other defense-related activities. 

Read more at The Hill


Natural Gas Prices Rise on Colder Weather Forecasts

Natural-gas prices rose Monday after weather forecasts showed a bout of cold temperatures that could spur heating demand for parts of the U.S. this week.  U.S. natural-gas futures recently traded at $4.013 per million British thermal units, up 7.5% from $3.731 per million btus at Friday’s close. 

The Weather Prediction Center predicted heavy snow, freezing temperatures and strong winds in the northern and western parts of the country. As the weather turns colder this week, Refinitiv is projecting average U.S. gas demand, including exports, to jump to 126.7 billion cubic feet per day, up from 110 billion.

Read more at the WSJ


US COVID – What It Means to Be Fully Vaccinated Is Changing

Omicron is changing the definition of what it means to be fully vaccinated, because early studies suggest that current Covid-19 vaccines will require three doses to offer sufficient protection against the variant. A booster shot is already becoming a fact of life at some places, however. More than 75 universities have required boosters for students returning to campus in the winter, according to data compiled by the Chronicle of Higher Education. New Mexico mandated the extra dose for some state employees.

Yet given resistance to vaccinations, requiring a booster dose could be a thorny decision for policy makers and health authorities.

Read more at the WSJ


NYS Vaccine and COVID Update  (Some data is from both Saturday and Sunday) 

Vaccine Stats as of December 27:

One Vaccine Dose 

  • 82.9% of all New Yorkers – 15,606,487 (plus 6,809 from a day earlier).
  • In the Hudson Valley 1,622,845 (plus 2,478).

Fully Vaccinated

  • 71.3% of all New Yorkers – 13,892,877 (plus 1,007).
  • In the Hudson Valley – 1,419,127 (plus 583). 

The Governor  updated COVID data through December 26 .  There were 132 COVID related deaths for a total of 60,941. 

Hospitalizations:

  • Patients Currently in Hospital statewide: 5,526.

7 Day Average Positivity Rate  – Cases per 100K population

  • Statewide 12.41%    –    180.82 positive cases per 100,00 population
  • Mid-Hudson: 11.55%   –  141.03 positive  cases per 100,00 population

Useful Websites:


‘We Have More Work to do,’ Biden Says of COVID Test Shortage

U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday pledged to ease a shortage of COVID-19 tests as the Omicron variant spreads across U.S. states this holiday week, threatening to overwhelm hospitals and stifle travel plans.  Biden said the administration’s steps include using a law called the Defense Production Act to increase production of at-home tests and making it easier to use Google (GOOGL.O) to find a nearby testing location.

Biden conceded that the efforts have not gone far enough. “Seeing how tough it was for some folks to get a test this weekend shows that we have more work to do,” Biden said as he joined a call with the administration’s COVID-19 response team and a group of state governors.

Read more at Reuters


The Oxford-AstraZeneca Vaccine – Despite Setbacks, It has Probably Saved More Lives than any Other

Astra Zeneca has taken flak for data-presentation issues, delayed deliveries and rare adverse events. The share prices of Moderna and Pfizer have soared since covid-19 struck; AstraZeneca’s is pretty much back where it started.

Yet on some measures, it manufactures the most successful covid vaccine there is. According to Airfinity, a data firm, 2.2bn doses have been delivered, compared with 2bn by Pfizer and 0.5bn by Moderna (see chart 2). Because rich countries increasingly use other jabs, and poor countries mostly use their supply for initial doses rather than for boosters, Astra Zeneca’s vaccine is almost certain to have saved more lives than any other.

Read more at The Economist


Health Expert: Surge in Cases Should no Longer be ‘Major Metric’ of Pandemic

A leading health expert said the largely more mild symptoms reported by vaccinated people against the coronavirus proves the inoculation is the best way to protect yourself from being seriously sick or dying from the disease and that a surge in case numbers should no longer be the central metric by which to measure the pandemic. 

“For two years, infections always preceded hospitalizations which preceded deaths, so you could look at infections and know what was coming,” Ashish K. Jha, dean of Brown University and a former Harvard health expert said “Omicron changes that. This is the shift we’ve been waiting for in many ways.”  The country has shifted, Jha said, to a place where people who are vaccinated and especially those who have received a booster shot “are gonna bounce back” if they become infected with the coronavirus. 

Read more at The Hill


China’s Continues Zero-COVID Policy Ahead of Big Events

China is the last large country with a zero-covid policy. That means a single case can lead to city-wide testing and lockdown, and most foreigners are being kept out. Those allowed in must spend at least 14 days in strict hotel quarantine. 

Such draconian measures will persist for much, if not all, of 2022. The Communist Party has several important events it does not want disrupted by outbreaks, including the Winter Olympics in February and the five-yearly party congress in November, when Xi Jinping is expected to be confirmed as the country’s leader for at least another five years.

Read more at South China News


Global Steel Tonnage Evening Up as 2021 Ends

Global steel production slipped to 143.3 million metric tons in November, down -1.7% from the October total and -9.9% from November 2020, according to figures supplied by the World Steel Assn. The month-to-month decline continues a slowing trend that is mainly confined to China – but relevant on the worldwide basis owing to the overwhelming scale of the steelmaking industry there.

The slowing also matches the updated near-term outlook for global steel demand issued by World Steel in October, reducing the 2021 forecast by 200 million metric tons to 1.85 billion metric tons; and cutting the 2022 forecast by 500 million metric tons to 1.89 billion metric tons – both figures anticipating further retraction in Chinese steel output. By contrast, steelmakers in other developed regions – notably the U.S., European Union, and Japan – are regaining the production rates that dropped as manufacturing and construction activities paused and slowed during 2020.

Read more at American Machinist 


Mastercard: Holiday Retail Sales Rise 8.5% as Online Shopping Booms

U.S. retail sales rose 8.5% during this year’s holiday shopping season from Nov. 1 to Dec. 24, powered by soaring ecommerce sales, a report by Mastercard Inc said on Sunday.

U.S. ecommerce sales jumped 11% in this year’s holiday shopping season, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse report, yet again underscoring the COVID-19 pandemic’s role in transforming customers’ shopping habits. Shoppers also rushed to stores amid supply chain concerns as COVID-19 cases surged, sending sales at physical stores up 8.1% compared with 2020, the report added.

Read more at Reuters


Omicron Threatens Consumer Electronics Show

Several major companies as of last Wednesday have cancelled or will limit their attendance to the 2022 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) — the tech industry’s annual mass-gathering in Las Vegas — due to Covid-19 variant Omicron’s rapid spread. Major tech firms such as Facebook parent company Meta, Amazon, T-Mobile, and Twitter canceled their appearances.

The popular four-day conference, which had planned for a grand return next month, is still scheduled to start January 5, with the press getting an early peek two days before. Key tech world publications including CNET, The Verge, and TechCrunch said they will no longer send reporters to cover the event, adding to growing suspicions that CES might have to be delayed or canceled.

Read more at IndustryWeek


NY Has New Slate of Environmental Laws

New legislation signed by Governor Hochul amends the state’s public health law to establish the first emerging contaminants list as well as expand the list of chemicals to be included. The legislation requires the list be published within 90 days as well as updated every three years. The list will include the EPA’s chemical list as well as some of the most recent emerging contaminants. 

Other new laws include:

  • Eliminating certain plastic bottles and he Soil Health and Climate Resiliency Act,
  • The Lead-Free Water in Schools bill reduces from 0.015 milligrams per liter to 0.005 milligrams per liter that level at which action must be taken for lead in school water supplies. Part of this should be paid for by the state’s Clean Water Infrastructure Act and the new federal Infrastructure and Jobs Act.
  • A new law prohibits pesticides on playgrounds or athletic fields on summer camps.
  • Another bill directs the state Health Department to conduct a study on the incidences of asthma in cities and towns having a population of more than 90,000.
  • A bio-heating bill establishes minimum levels of bio-diesel used for heating. By July 2022 heating oil must contain 5% bio-diesel with the rate going to 10% by July 2025. 

Read more at the Olean Time Herald


ITIF Report: More Chinese Mercantilism, Less Global Innovation

China’s long-standing and rampant “innovation mercantilist” policies harm global innovation by taking market share and revenues from more-innovative foreign competitors, thereby diminishing the resources they can invest in research and development toward further innovation. If China were to reduce its unfair mercantilist policies, the pace of global innovation would increase. But in a classic win-lose dynamic, China shows no inclination to do so.

ITIF compiled case studies of five industries: solar panels, high-speed rail, telecom equipment, semiconductors, biopharmaceutical products. In each case, our economic models suggested significant negative impact on global R&D and patenting. In the semiconductor industry alone, ITIF found that if Chinese firms had 80 percent less market share, there would be 5,000 more U.S. patents annually.

Read the report at ITIF


Hyundai Unveils New Robot for Your Home

Soon a personal robot could be at your beck and call to carry groceries, haul package deliveries and even take a baby for a walk, as car maker Hyundai revealed the company’s first small mobility platform using robotic technologies. Called the Mobile Eccentric Droid (MobED), Hyundai created a high-tech platform that can maneuver around all sorts of environments and move up to 18 miles per hour, about the speed of an average electric scooter. The MobED is 26 inches long and 23 inches wide in the shape of a rectangle and weighs about 110 pounds.

The platform is attached to four large wheels that have independent suspensions, giving it stability even if it’s on an incline or uneven roads. The wheels are also equipped with ‘Eccentric Wheel’ drive which gives them steering, braking and altitude control systems indoors or outdoors.

Read more at The Hill


 

 

 

 

 

read more »

Daily Briefing – 430

Setting the Stage for the New York State 2022 Legislative Session that Begins January 5th

State legislators are back Jan. 5 to begin another year of lawmaking in the state Capitol in Albany. Democrats have supermajorities in the state Senate and Assembly, so they will not have to worry too much about opposition from Republicans, but they will have to worry about divisions among themselves in the months ahead. Gov. Kathy Hochul is a new “x-factor” in the state budget equation. The unexpected incumbent, and longtime moderate, has said she will announce big things in her upcoming speech and the budget proposal she will unveil separately next month.

Some Democrats further to the political left are pushing hard for progressive causes like tenant friendly housing laws and higher taxes on the wealthy. Others, especially moderates in the New York City suburbs, want to focus on issues with a different type of ideological bent. An influx of federal money already approved by Congress will help Democrats avoid some fights during budget negotiations, but divisions appear inevitable during the legislative session that is scheduled to conclude before the June 2022 primaries. 

Read more at City & State


Supreme Court to Consider Arguments on OSHA COVID-19 ETS

The U.S. Supreme Court has scheduled expedited arguments on the  U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit’s decision to lift the Fifth Circuit’s stay of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS). The Court will hear oral arguments from petitioners and OSHA on January 7, 2022, three days before OSHA will begin enforcement efforts.

Multiple parties, including 27 states, filed emergency motions with the Supreme Court to block enforcement efforts following the Sixth Circuit decision. They emphasized the irreparable harm they will suffer in having to implement the ETS, citing labor shortages, the unavailability of tests, and the unintended consequence of having to lay off vaccinated workers to absorb the costs of compliance. 


Hochul Shortens Quarantine Period for ‘Critical Workforce’ Including Some Manufacturing Workers

Gov. Kathy Hochul, D-N.Y., announced Friday that she is shortening the requisite quarantine period for vaccinated “critical workforce” who test positive for COVID-19. Under the new state guidelines, fully vaccinated workers in frontline industries such as health care can go back to work after five days instead of the previously required 10 days. Such workers must be either asymptomatic or showing resolving symptoms. They must also be free of a fever for 72 hours, not be taking medication, and wear a mask on the job. 

The order applies to Essential manufacturing including: food processing, (all foods and beverages), pharmaceuticals, food-producing agriculture/farms, defense industry and the transportation infrastructure. We are seeking clarification but, we are confident this includes manufactures supplying these industries as well. 


13 New State Testing Sites Open Across NYS Amid Recent Surge in COVID-19 Cases

Governor Kathy Hochul Sunday announced 13 new State testing sites to address the recent surge in COVID-19 cases. These sites are aimed providing additional testing options in areas of high need throughout the New York City, Long Island, Central New York, North Country, Finger Lakes, Mohawk Valley and Southern Tier regions.  Starting on Monday, December 27, New Yorkers can make an appointment for a COVID-19 test at one of these locations (Link below).  

Sites are currently being mobilized with all locations slated to open on December 29, 2021. Days and hours of operation will vary depending upon the location of the site and each will offer tests by appointment, as well as walk-ins. Upon launch, all sites will offer RT-PCR testing. Rapid antigen and rapid PCR tests will also be available within a few days of opening.   


US COVID – Cases Up, Severity Down

The US CDC is currently reporting 51.3 million cumulative cases and 807,397 deaths. The US reported 288,381 new cases on December 20 and 204,913 on December 21, surpassing 200,000 new cases in a single day for the first time since January 18. The December 20 total is the second-highest single-day total since the onset of the pandemic. Daily mortality continues to increase, though at a much slower pace than cases, up to 1,223 deaths per day, an increase of slightly more than 20% since before the US Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Daily incidence has increased by a factor of 2.5 since the most recent low on October 24 (64,162), and the trend appears to be accelerating. The sharp increase at the national level is a result of similar trends across states in multiple regions of the country. 

The US has administered 499 million cumulative doses of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines. A total of 241 million individuals have received at least 1 vaccine dose, equivalent to 72.8% of the entire US population. A total of 204.8 million individuals are fully vaccinated, which corresponds to 61.7% of the total population.  Since August 13, 63.2 million fully vaccinated individuals have received an additional or booster dose, including 55.8% of fully vaccinated adults aged 65 years or older.

Read more at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security


NYS Vaccine and COVID Update  

Vaccine Stats as of December 26:

One Vaccine Dose 

  • 82.9% of all New Yorkers – 15,599,678 (plus 6,163 from a day earlier).
  • In the Hudson Valley 1,621,838 (minus 387 -correcting a reporting error).

Fully Vaccinated

  • 71.3% of all New Yorkers – 13,888,303 (plus 3,407).
  • In the Hudson Valley – 1,418,544 (plus 1,894). 

The Governor  updated COVID data through December 25 .  There were 60 COVID related deaths for a total of 60,751. 

Hospitalizations:

  • Patients Currently in Hospital statewide: 4,891.

7 Day Average Positivity Rate  – Cases per 100K population

  • Statewide 11.70%    –    178.37 positive cases per 100,00 population
  • Mid-Hudson: 11.04%   –  140.16 positive  cases per 100,00 population

Useful Websites:


Two Studies Show Much Lower Risk of Hospitalization With Omicron

New data from Scotland and South Africa suggest people infected with the Omicron variant of coronavirus are at markedly lower risk of hospitalization than those who contracted earlier versions of the virus, promising signs that immunity as a result of vaccination or prior infection remains effective at warding off severe illness with the fast-spreading strain.

The University of Edinburgh study, drawing on the health records of 5.4 million people in Scotland, found the risk of hospitalization with Covid-19 was two-thirds lower with Omicron than with Delta. The new variant became dominant in Scotland last week. A separate study published online by researchers at South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases similarly found people infected with Omicron were 70% to 80% less likely to need hospital treatment than people infected with earlier variants, including Delta.

Read more at the WSJ


Novavax CEO: ‘We will be filing within the next few days’ with FDA

Novavax (NVAX) is finally ready to submit its application for emergency use authorization (EUA) in the U.S., and could do so as early as this week, according to CEO Stanley Erck. Novavax has now received four emergency use approvals, including a listing from the World Health Organization, making it the ninth vaccine authorized by the agency, as well as conditional marketing in the European Union. In addition, the company announced administering its first dose in Indonesia Tuesday, where it recently received emergency use authorization.

While the company faces stiff competition from mRNA vaccines from Pfizer (PFE)/BioNTech (BNTX) and Moderna (MRNA), its efficacy data is similar, and its technology sets it apart from others. The CDC recently issued guidance giving preference to mRNA doses, citing concerns over blood clots after Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) vaccines, which uses a similar platform to AstraZeneca (AZN).

Read more at Yahoo News


Merck’s COVID-19 Treatment Pill Approved By FDA, Pfizer Pill More Effective

The Food and Drug Administration authorized Merck’s drug for adults with early symptoms of COVID-19 who face the highest risks of hospitalization, including older people and those with conditions like obesity and heart disease.  The authorization comes one day after the agency cleared a competing drug from Pfizer. That pill is likely to become the first-choice treatment against the virus, thanks to its superior benefits and milder side effects.

As a result, Merck’s pill is expected to have a smaller role against the pandemic than predicted just a few weeks ago. Its ability to head off severe COVID-19 is much smaller than initially announced and the drug label will warn of serious safety issues, including the potential for birth defects.

Read more at The Boston Globe


France Cancels Order for Merck’s COVID-19 Antiviral Drug

France has cancelled its order for Merck & Co’s (MRK.N) COVID-19 antiviral drug following disappointing trial data and hopes instead to receive Pfizer’s (PFE.N) competing drug before the end of January, the health minister said on Wednesday.  France is the first country to publicly say it has cancelled an order for the Merck treatment.

While vaccines are the main weapons against COVID-19 for governments, there are hopes Merck and Pfizer’s experimental pills could be a game-changer in reducing the chances of dying or hospitalisation for those most at risk of severe illness.

Read more at Reuters


Omicron Dominates Delta – More than 90% of Cases in New York/New Jersey Region

Genomic sequencing data from the CDC show a rapid increase in the prevalence of the Omicron variant across the US. At the national level, the estimated prevalence increased from 0.1% the week of November 27 to 0.7% the week of December 4. In the 2 weeks since then, the prevalence surged to an estimated 73.2% nationwide, replacing Delta as the dominant variant.

Additionally, 8 of the 10 HHS regions are reporting Omicron prevalence greater than 50%, including 5 with greater than 90%: Regions 2 (New York/New Jersey), 4 (Southeast), 5 (Midwest), 6 (South), and 10 (Pacific Northwest).

Read more at the CDC


Omicron Starts to Slow U.S. Economy as Consumer Spending Flags

Signs are mounting that the U.S. economy is losing some steam as the Omicron variant of the Covid-19 virus spreads rapidly through parts of the country. Consumers boosted their spending by 0.6% last month, a slowdown from 1.4% growth in October, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. Economists attributed part of the November slowdown to consumers shifting their holiday purchases a month earlier, amid warnings of potential shortages due to supply-chain problems

Many economists have lowered their growth projections for early 2022 due to growing concerns about the latest surge in coronavirus cases. The forecasting-firm Oxford Economics now expects U.S. gross domestic product to grow at a 2.5% annual rate in the first quarter, down from a previous estimate of 3.4% growth.

Read more at the WSJ


Frito-Lay East Fishkill Land Acquisition Complete

Rolling Frito-Lay Sales, LP has completed its transaction to acquire the property on which it will construct a 150,000 square-foot fulfillment center in the Town of East Fishkill. The new facility will be part of the iPark84 mixed-use center at the former IBM complex. When the $100 million Frito-Lay investment is completed, the center is expected to create 80 full-time jobs and incorporate enhanced distribution technologies to serve Frito-Lay’s northeast retail customers.

Also, a new road is expected to alleviate traffic problems in an area of the Town of East Fishkill center near the former IBM facility.  Town Supervisor Nick D’Alessandro said it will be constructed near the new Amazon fulfillment that is under construction. Amazon is in the final stages of constructing its 670,000 square foot facility there. That is in addition to the one-million-square-foot distribution center it opened in the Town of Montgomery earlier this year.

Read more at Mid-Hudson News


U.S. Will Waive In-Person Interviews for H-1B, Other Work Visas

The State Department is temporarily dropping an in-person interview requirement for some work-visa categories in 2022 to ease visa issuances.  Applicants for H-1B, L-1 and O-1 visas applying from abroad won’t be required to do an in-person interview at a U.S. consulate, typically the final step before a visa is issued. Those categories represent the most common visa types companies use to attract high-skilled talent from abroad. 

The in-person interview has been one hurdle in the way of consulates issuing visas to the U.S. at pre-pandemic levels. Many consulates are operating at reduced capacity because of the pandemic. Roughly 60% of U.S. consulates are still partially closed, meaning they aren’t processing most work-visa types, according to a Cato Institute analysis of State Department data. Student visas and visas for temporary, seasonal workers have already been exempted from in-person interviews.

Read more at the WSJ


James Webb Space Telescope Launches, Notches Crucial Maneuver to Set its Path

The James Webb Space Telescope is truly on its way.  The massive observatory launched Dec. 25 from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, at 7:20 a.m. EST (1220 GMT). Just 12.5 hours later, the spacecraft began a vital maneuver on its month-long journey to its future outpost as the observatory executed a 65-minute-long thruster burn that concluded at 8:55 p.m. EST (0155 GMT), according to a statement from NASA.

The space telescope is destined to orbit a point in space known as Earth-sun Lagrange point 2 or L2, which is located nearly 1 million miles (1.5 million kilometers) away from Earth on the opposite side as the sun. The spacecraft covered the first 10% of that journey within 12 hours of launching. Then, when the telescope was about 100,000 miles (160,000 km) away from Earth, the observatory executed a crucial burn to ensure it would safely reach its destination.

Read more at Space.com


 

 

 

 

 

read more »

Daily Briefing – 429

Justice Kavanaugh Receives Flurry of Requests for Supreme Court to Block Biden’s Employer Vaccine Mandate

A series of businesses, trade groups, conservative groups, and religious organizations have asked the Supreme Court of the United States to step in and block the Biden administration from enforcing its vaccine mandate for large companies requiring that employees be vaccinated against coronavirus or submit to weekly testing. The applications for an emergency injunction were directed to Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the justice assigned the Sixth Circuit, and will likely refer the matter to the full court. They mainly contend that the Biden administration overstepped its constitutional authority by issuing the emergency temporary standard (EST) in response to the virus.

The Biden administration is required to respond to the OSHA mandate challenges by Dec. 30, which is the same deadline the administration must respond to a separate challenge to its vaccine mandate aimed at healthcare workers.

Read more at Law and Crime


What’s Next for Firms with 100 Plus Employees After Court Reinstates Biden’s Vaccine Mandate?

Although the mandate rule is bound to continue to face more legal challenges (see above) it means that company and HR leaders are wise not to waste any more time in preparing for compliance, says Dr. Jeff Levin-Scherz, population health leader, Willis Towers Watson.

“…employers should move forward with finalizing their vaccine and testing policies and move toward implementation,” he says. “Employers should continue developing the policies and procedures and the infrastructure necessary to comply with the OSHA ETS, including testing for those who have medical or religious exemptions.”  Just as critical, he says, is that company and HR leaders continue to emphasize the importance of vaccination and booster shots to employee populations—especially as the Omicron variant takes hold and wreaks havoc on workplaces.


Trump’s Tax Law Hits Four-Year Anniversary and Appears to be Here to Stay

Four years after former President Trump signed his 2017 tax-cut law, most of the measure is unlikely to be reversed in the near term, even under a Democratic president and Congress. Democratic lawmakers were united in voting against the legislation  and not are struggling to undo major portions of the law, and it increasingly looks like the Trump bill will be lasting.

The law cut individual income tax rates, increased the standard deduction and child tax credit, slashed the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent and overhauled how the U.S. taxes corporations’ foreign earnings, among other things.  Business Groups, including the National Association of Manufacturers Supported the Trump tax cut and credit it with spurring capital investment and economic growth. 

Read more at The Hill


Consumer Confidence Perks Up – Economy Poised for Strong 2021 Finish

Consumer confidence improved further in December, suggesting the economy would continue to expand in 2022 despite a resurgence in COVID-19 infections and reduced fiscal stimulus. The survey from the Conference Board on Wednesday showed more consumers planned to buy a house and big-ticket items such as motor vehicles and major household appliances as well as go on vacation over the next six months. Inflation concerns eased a bit and households remained upbeat about the labor market.

The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index increased to a reading of 115.8 this month from an upwardly revised 111.9 in November. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the index rising to 110.8 from the previously reported reading of 109.5. The cut-off date for the survey was Dec. 16.

Read more at Reuters


US COVID – Omicron Spread Leads to More Interest in Booster Shots but Not New Vaccinations

Among vaccinated adults who haven’t had a booster shot, 54% are more likely to do so because of Omicron, according to a survey released by the Kaiser Family Foundation Tuesday. Half of those surveyed in the Kaiser Family Foundation survey—which polled 1,065 adults between Dec. 15 and Dec. 20—said they worried they would become seriously ill from Covid-19. That is up from 30% who expressed such concerns in a similar survey in November, before the news of the Omicron variant. The new survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

But nearly half of unvaccinated respondents said they couldn’t be persuaded to get the shots no matter what. A report detailing the survey findings quoted a person described as a 23-year-old Black woman in Washington, D.C., as saying, “I feel they are trying to kill us with the vaccine.” Another person identified as a 32-year-old white woman in North Carolina told researchers, “Jesus himself would have to come down from heaven and speak with me personally.”


NYS Vaccine and COVID Update  

Vaccine Stats as of December 22:

One Vaccine Dose 

  • 82.4% of all New Yorkers – 15,504,902 (plus 29,358 from a day earlier).
  • In the Hudson Valley 1,614,762 (plus 2,478).

Fully Vaccinated

  • 71.1% of all New Yorkers – 13,841,875 (plus 15,981).
  • In the Hudson Valley – 1,414,467 (plus 1,894). 

The Governor  updated COVID data through December 21 .  There were 57 COVID related deaths for a total of 60,689. 

Hospitalizations:

  • Patients Currently in Hospital statewide: 4,452.

7 Day Average Positivity Rate  – Cases per 100K population

  • Statewide 8.58%    –    115.69 positive cases per 100,00 population
  • Mid-Hudson: 7.71%   –  89.63 positive  cases per 100,00 population

Useful Websites:


FDA Authorizes Pfizer Pill to Treat COVID-19 

he Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday authorized a new COVID-19 treatment from Pfizer, the first pill to treat the virus to become available. The pill, known as Paxlovid, is seen as a major step forward in the fight against the virus, with trials showing it reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by 89 percent in high-risk patients.

The fact that Paxlovid is a pill, rather than previous treatments which required injections, should make it more accessible and easier to take. It has also shown very promising results in trials in reducing the worst outcomes from the virus, putting the country on the path to defanging COVID-19.

Read more at The Hill


Israel’s COVID-19 Team Recommends 4th Shot for 60+, Medical Workers

The Pandemic Response team ruled on Tuesday night that anyone over the age of 60 and medical workers could receive a fourth shot of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine, the Health Ministry said.  
The shot will be available four months after receiving the third dose.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention already provides a fourth shot to immunocompromised people. In October, the CDC updated its guidelines saying that moderately or severely immunocompromised people who receive three shots as their primary dose can receive a booster dose, too, for a total of four COVID-19 vaccine doses.

Read more at the Jerusalem Post


UK, Germany Opt Not to Add Strict COVID Measures Ahead of Christmas

Amid rapid Omicron variant spread and uncertainty about its impact, leaders in the United Kingdom and Germany have ruled out imposing strong new COVID-19 measures before Christmas, though measures are being planned or considered for the following week as New Year’s Day nears.

In a video message posted on Twitter, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there isn’t yet enough evidence to justify imposing tough measures before Christmas, but he didn’t rule out ordering new steps after Dec 25. He said the situation is complex, but added that people need to make their Christmas plans. In Germany, federal and state leaders yesterday agreed to impose contact restrictions starting after Christmas, according to Deutsche Welle. The measures are slated to start on Dec 28 at the latest and are aimed at discouraging large New Year’s parties.

Read more at University of Minnesota’s CIDRAP


Pandemic Drove Largest New York Population Loss Ever

As of last July 1, the Empire State’s total population had dropped by 319,020 residents, or 1.6 percent, below the Census Bureau’s “estimates base” headcount of 12 months earlier, during a period when the total U.S. population increased at the slowest annual pace on record (just 0.1 percent, a gain of 392,665).  The population decline wiped out nearly half of the Empire State’s cumulative population gain of 823,147 people during the previous decade, pulling the statewide total back to below 20 million.

New York’s population decrease as of mid-2021 was due mainly to its net domestic migration loss of 352,185 residents—meaning 352,185 more people moved out of the state than moved in during the previous 12 months. This shattered all out-migration records, exceeding New York’s record annual migration losses during the late 1970s.

Read more at the Empire Center


November Home Sales Rise on Concerns Over Rising Rates Next Year

Sales of previously owned homes in November rose 1.9% from October to 6.46 million units, according to the National Association of Realtors’ seasonally adjusted count. Sales were 2.0% lower than November 2020.  These sales reflect home closings, so contracts that were likely signed in September and October. Regionally, month-to-month, sales in the Northeast were unchanged. In the Midwest, they rose 0.7% and in the South they rose 2.9%. In the West, sales increased 2.3%. 

Sales likely increased due to a strengthening job market and concerns among potential buyers that mortgage rates will be significantly higher next year, according to the NAR’s chief economist Lawrence Yun.

Read more at CNBC


Five Predictions for 2022, ‘The Year of the Smart Factory’

Spurred by a global pandemic, massive supply chain challenges, skills gaps and labor shortages, some companies are realizing that dabbling in technology adoption won’t be enough not only to compete, but even to survive. They have to go all in.

Now we’re at an inflection point. Here are five smart factory predictions for 2022, “The Year of the Smart Factory.”

Read more at Industry Week


UPS to Purchase 19 Boeing 767 Freighters as e-Commerce Expands

United Parcel Service Inc (UPS.N) has placed an order for 19 of Boeing Co’s (BA.N) 767 freighters as a surge in e-commerce has raised demand for air cargo. The deal adds to a “record-breaking year” for Boeing freighter sales, the planemaker said. Sales include 80 firm orders for new widebody freighters and more than 80 orders for Boeing Converted Freighters.

The freighter market has been a rare bright spot for planemakers after facing pandemic lows, as a boom in online shopping, supply chain disruptions and a drop in passenger plane flights has stoked demand.  UPS, which has been a key beneficiary of the pandemic shift to online shopping, will take the delivery of aircraft between 2023 and 2025, its U.S. Operations President Nando Cesarone said.

Read more at Reuters


Maersk Strikes Deal to Buy LF Logistics for $3.6 Billion

Container shipping giant Maersk (MAERSKb.CO) on Wednesday agreed to buy Hong Kong-based LF Logistics for $3.6 billion in an all-cash deal that will add hundreds of warehouses in Asia and help it expand beyond its core ocean freight business. The deal is one of the group’s largest takeovers to date and follows a series of acquisitions including logistics and e-commerce firms, a freight forwarder specialised in air freight and its smaller rival Hamburg Sud.

With the deal, Maersk will own 549 warehouses globally and increase total warehouse floor capacity by 40%, creating the world’s seventh largest contract logistics company behind the likes of UPS, DHL and Kuehne+Nagel.

Read more at Reuters


Biden Extends Student Loan Freeze to May 1

President Biden on Wednesday extended the pandemic moratorium on federal student loan payments and interest accrual through May 1 amid surging cases of COVID-19. The president announced the extension in a Wednesday statement that touted the strength of the economy during his first year in office but acknowledged the new threat posed by the omicron variant.

Those who owe student loans to the federal government have not been required to make payments on their debt since former President Trump initially issued the moratorium in March 2020. Trump’s order also froze the accrual of interest on federal student loans, effectively freezing $1.6 trillion in debt owed by more than 40 million Americans.

Read more at The Hill


Bad Weather Delays James Webb Space Telescope Launch to Christmas 

The James Webb Space Telescope, also known as JWST or Webb, has been in the works for decades. During a news conference held on Tuesday (Dec. 21), project officials confirmed that the observatory is ready to launch. However, within hours, NASA and its partners on the project announced that the long-delayed launch would be postponed by yet one more day, to Saturday (Dec. 25).

Scientists have been anticipating JWST’s revolutionary view on the cosmos for years. When JWST can get past its weather woes, its launch will begin a nerve-wracking deployment during a one-month journey covering 1 million miles. Work on JWST, which also includes the European and Canadian space agencies, began in 1996 targeting a 2007 launch; 14 years later, the observatory finally got the all-clear for blast-off during a launch readiness review held on Tuesday, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said during the news conference.

Read more at Space.com


 

 

 

 

read more »

Daily Briefing – 428

Biden Outlines Strategy to Address Omicron – Will Buy 500 Million At Home Test Kits

In speech Tuesday Mr. Biden stressed that Americans should take the Omicron variant seriously, but shouldn’t panic. The president told vaccinated Americans who are following public health guidelines that they should feel comfortable spending the holidays with their families. Unvaccinated Americans, however, are at much greater risk of hospitalization and death, he warned. 

The White House said the administration is:

  • deploying federal emergency medical response teams to six states: Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Arizona, New Hampshire and Vermont.
  • Instructed Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to prepare to send 1,000 military medical personnel—including doctors, nurses and paramedics—to hospitals in January and February as needed.
  • Positioned supplies such as masks, gowns and ventilators around the country so they can be quickly sent to states that need them, the president said.
  • Setting up new federal testing sites around the country, with the first opening in New York City this week.
  • At-home testing kits from 500 million being purchased by the government will begin to be distributed to the public free by mail through a new website, according to the White House.

Read more at the WSJ


U.S. Mulls Reducing COVID Quarantine Time Amid Omicron Surge

U.S. health authorities are considering reducing the 10-day recommended quarantine period for Americans who test positive for COVID-19 as the Omicron variant tears across the country, White House medical adviser Anthony Fauci said on Tuesday. Reducing the CDC’s 10-day quarantine recommendation would help asymptomatic people return to work or school, with the proper precautions, Fauci told CNN.

The measure is being considered particularly in the context of healthcare workers, as the number of COVID cases rises together with the need for healthcare personnel, he said.

Read more at Reuters


Manufacturers Maintain Optimism — and Worries

Manufacturers have largely maintained their optimism when it comes to their economic outlook, but they’re deeply concerned about issues such as inflation, hiring and potential tax increases targeting them, according to the NAM’s fourth-quarter 2021 Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey.  Yet worries over the increased cost of raw materials, the labor shortage, supply chain issues and legislation that would unfairly target manufacturers are at the forefront of manufacturers’ minds.

Key takeaways from the survey include the following:

  • Some 86.8% of manufacturers had a positive perspective on economic matters in Q4, down slightly from 87.5% in Q3. 
  • 87.1% of respondents said the higher cost of raw materials is their number-one concern.
  • 85.2% have open jobs they cannot fill.
  • 73.6% said supply chain bottlenecks had a negative impact on their company’s production, hiring and overall business outlook.

Read more at the NAM


Second Wave of Supply Chain Woes Loom in 2022

How will supply chains evolve in 2022 and will the challenges around semiconductor finally shortages be addressed? This is perhaps an issue of more hope than reality as challenges are set to continue. To gain an insight into supply chain dynamics, Digital Journal caught up with Mark Adams, CEO at SGH.

According to Adams: “I fully expect current constraints on supply chains and specifically as it impacts the semiconductor industry to continue for much, if not all, of 2022, with possibly some easing to begin in Q4 ‘22 or early ‘23. We’ve seen a 30-plus year decline in U.S. semiconductor manufacturing.” Moving onto a more parochial U.S. perspective,  Adams continues: “The current situation has exposed our vulnerability in so heavily relying on overseas manufacturers. It has also underscored the importance and critical opportunity to reinvest in this industry, up-level domestic production and increase self-reliance.”

Read more at Digital Journal 


US COVID – Rise of Omicron

In the US, Omicron now accounts for 73.2% of the total number of SARS-CoV-2 infections, compared to 1 week ago when it accounted for only 12.6% of all infections. As of December 20, 48 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, DC, have reported cases of Omicron. Even if the variant proves to be less severe, the shear volume of cases (currently doubling every 1.5 to 3 days) has healthcare facilities are bracing for a surge in hospitalizations.

Preliminary data suggest all of the vaccines appear to provide protection against severe disease, but most of the SARS-CoV-2 vaccines used worldwide may offer little defense against infection. According to a not-yet-peer-reviewed analysis from Imperial College London, Omicron can largely evade vaccine-induced immunity or immunity from a past infection, The researchers estimated that vaccine effectiveness (for AstraZeneca-Oxford and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines) against symptomatic Omicron infection is between 0% and 20% after 2 doses and between 55% and 80% after a booster dose. Still, some experts are saying that a 3-dose vaccination schedule will be necessary and some evidence shows the time between a second and third dose can be shortened from 6 months to 3 months. 

Read more at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security


NYS Vaccine and COVID Update  

Vaccine Stats as of  December 21:

One Vaccine Dose 

  • 82.3% of all New Yorkers – 15,475,544 (plus 22,035 from a day earlier).
  • In the Hudson Valley 1,612,254 (plus 3,479).

Fully Vaccinated

  • 71.1% of all New Yorkers – 13,825,894 (plus 11,425).
  • In the Hudson Valley – 1,412,573 (plus 1,689). 

The Governor  updated COVID data through December 20 .  There were 57 COVID related deaths for a total of 60,624. 

Hospitalizations:

  • Patients Currently in Hospital statewide: 4,328.

7 Day Average Positivity Rate  – Cases per 100K population

  • Statewide 7.88%    –    104.01 positive cases per 100,00 population
  • Mid-Hudson: 6.42%   –  80.56 positive  cases per 100,00 population

Useful Websites:


Omicron Severity – Two Modeled Scenarios 

An initial study on the severity of the Omicron variant conducted in South Africa suggests that adults are approximately 30% less likely to be hospitalized due to severe COVID-19 now than during the Delta surge. Health experts from the region also claim that hospitalized patients are less likely to end up on ventilators or require intensive care, on average, than during previous surges of COVID-19. However, scientists and public health officials have been quick to point out that the mild reactions to Omicron in South Africa may not be seen in Europe and the US.

In the US, researchers from the Covid-19 Modeling Consortium at the University of Texas at Austin looked at 18 different scenarios for Omicron, warning that under the most pessimistic model, “Omicron could lead to the largest healthcare surge to date, unless measures are taken to slow spread.” The data have not yet been peer-reviewed. Under an optimistic scenario in which Omicron is 50% more transmissible than Delta, but far less immune evasive (with only 10% reduction in protection against infection and no reduction in protection against severe outcomes), we project a significantly milder Omicron surge that peaks in January 18, 2022 with cases, hospital admissions, and deaths reaching levels that are 0.32-0.64 times the the January 2021 peak.

Read more at the University of Texas Austin Modeling Consortium


Will More Employers Follow Kroger’s Policy of Penalties for Unvaccinated Workers? 

Kroger announced last week that it will eliminate paid leave for unvaccinated employees who get COVID-19 and require some of them to pay a monthly health insurance surcharge starting next year, a further sign that employers are getting more serious about COVID-19 strategies.

Kroger’s move is significant as it sends strong messages to employees who choose not to be vaccinated, and it may spur other employers to follow suit, says Carol Morrison, senior research analyst at the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp). “We know that HR and talent leaders in other organizations are closely following these actions and studying the strategies their peers are using elsewhere as well to address concerns about unvaccinated workers,” she says.

Read more at HR Executive


Covid-19 Tests Get Harder to Find as Omicron Variant Spreads

Waiting times for Covid-19 tests are growing in parts of the U.S. as concerns over the Omicron variant, new infections and the coming holidays drive up demand. Many laboratories are still processing tests within a day or two and have the capacity to meet the heightened demand, said lab operators and pharmacies. But worker shortages at pharmacies have meant that securing testing appointments could take days or longer in places where Covid-19 cases are surging, and fast-acting at-home tests are out of stock in some cases at stores and online.

Websites for CVS Health Corp. CVS -1.04% and Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. WBA -1.70% showed some parts of the country with no available testing appointments until later next week or more than a week out. CVS said people might need to wait a couple of days to get a test appointment in places where demand is high. A Walgreens spokeswoman said availability varies by region.  Health officials and infectious-disease experts expect demand for tests to rise further in the weeks ahead as holiday gatherings collide with concerns over the Omicron variant, rising Covid-19 cases and the spread of other respiratory diseases.

Read more at the WSJ


Administration to Make 20,000 More H-2B Visas Available for Temporary Workers

The visas are being made available in addition to 33,000 visas already set aside for seasonal employers, such as landscapers, hotels and ski resorts, for the winter hiring season. They will be available to employers looking to bring on temporary workers on or before March 31. The seasonal-worker program, known as the H-2B visa program, enables U.S. employers to hire as many as 66,000 temporary foreign workers a year, with the allotments split evenly between the winter and summer seasons. Since 2017, Congress has permitted the department each year to raise that cap by as many as 64,000 additional visas, though neither the Trump nor Biden administrations have approached that limit despite demand.

Of the 20,000 additional visas, 6,500 will be set aside for applicants from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Haiti—all countries that have sent large numbers of migrants to the U.S. border in recent months. The remainder will be set aside for returning workers from any country.

Read more at the WSJ


As Inflation Rises, Cost-of-Living Raises Gain Popularity

Higher prices, a worker shortage and a revitalized labor movement are bringing about the return of pay increases tied to inflation, known as cost-of-living adjustments, or COLAs. Two major labor agreements in recent weeks have featured COLAs, and analysts say they could appear in future negotiations between employers and unions.

Under a COLA, a worker’s pay rises to compensate for the increase in consumer prices. The idea is to protect wages in times when consumer prices are rising rapidly and unpredictably.  Now, resurgent inflation is leading some workers to ask for higher wages. Annual inflation in November accelerated to 6.8%, the Labor Department reported, the fastest in 39 years.

Read more at the WSJ


EPA Updates Vehicle Emission Standards Through 2026

the Biden administration’s EPA said December 20 that it would finalize new greenhouse gas emissions standards for passenger cars and light trucks. The new standards will apply to model years 2023 through 2026. According to the EPA, the expected benefits of the new regulation should be between a net figure of $120 billion and $190 billion thanks to “reduced impacts of climate change, improved public health from lower pollution, and cost savings for vehicle owners through improved fuel efficiency.” Savings from fuel costs, the EPA predicted, would save U.S. drivers between $210 and $420 billion through 2050

The EPA’s latest rule is an ambitious one, by the agency’s own account. According to an EPA fact sheet, the new final rule means fleets should emit about 161 grams of CO2 per mile. That’s the theoretical equivalent of averaging 55 miles per gallon, though including use of air cooling and heating and high speed driving, the real-world efficiency is estimated to be about 40 miles per gallon.

Read more at IndustryWeek


Nike Earnings Boosted by Strength in North America, Good Pricing

Nike (NKE) reported fiscal second-quarter results Monday afternoon, narrowly beating earnings expectations after posting an adjusted earnings per share (EPS) of $0.83 on revenue of $11.36 billion. Analysts polled by Bloomberg expected an adjusted EPS of $0.63 on revenue of $11.26 billion.

North America revenue came in at $4.48 billion, representing a 12% growth year-over-year and exceeding estimates of $4.18 billion. Net income was $1.3 billion, up 7% from the previous year’s Q2.

Read more at YahooFinance


Kellogg Strike to End as Workers Vote in Favor of New Contract – Union President

A majority of workers at Kellogg Co’s (K.N) breakfast cereal plants voted in favor of a new contract that offers better terms for transitional employees as well as wage increases, Daniel Osborn, president of the local union in Omaha, said on Tuesday. The new five-year deal ends months-long stalemate between Kellogg and its factory workers in Michigan, Nebraska, Pennsylvania and Tennessee that had prompted the company to warn of permanently replacing striking workers, drawing criticism from President Joe Biden.

Kellogg had said the latest deal offered its lower-tier workers, known as transitional employees, “an accelerated, defined path to legacy wages and benefits as compared to the current contract”.

Read more at Reuters


Hudson Valley Labor Force Falls 2.4 Percent in Past 12 Months

The November 2021 unemployment rate for the Hudson Valley Region is 3.6 percent.  That is down from 4.1 percent in October 2021 and down from 5.9 percent in November 2020.  In November 2021, there were 39,400 unemployed in the region, down from 44,800 in October 2021 and down from 66,100 in November 2020.  Year-over-year in November 2021, labor force decreased by 26,500 or 2.4 percent, to 1,097,300.

There were 42,000 people working in manufacturing, up from 41,800 in October and from 40,600 in November of 2020.

Labor Market Profile (Hudson Valley)  – NOV 2021


 

 

 

 

 

 

read more »

Daily Briefing – 427

Biden Will Address the Nation Today Expected to Focus on Unvaccinated

President Biden will address the nation today to outline extra steps he will take to deal with the Omicron coronavirus variant. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on tweeted the president “will announce new steps the Administration is taking to help communities in need of assistance, while also issuing a stark warning of what the winter will look like for Americans that choose to remain unvaccinated.”

She added: “We are prepared for the rising case levels, and [the president] will detail how we will respond to this challenge. “He will remind Americans that they can protect themselves from severe illness from COVID-19 by getting vaccinated and getting their booster shot when they are eligible.”

Read more at Yahoo News


Despite Manchin Being a “No” Schumer Plans Build Back Better Vote Next Year

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said Democrats would plow forward early next year with a vote on the party’s roughly $2 trillion education, healthcare and climate package as Sen. Joe Manchin again said he wouldn’t be pressured into supporting the bill. In a morning letter to Senate Democrats, Mr. Schumer said Democrats would still take up the legislation, dubbed the Build Back Better Act, early next year after weeks of “deep discontent and frustration.” “The Senate will, in fact, consider the Build Back Better Act, very early in the new year so that every Member of this body has the opportunity to make their position known on the Senate floor, not just on television,” Mr. Schumer wrote.

Mr. Manchin said on Sunday that he was opposed to the bill, effectively killing it in its current form. The West Virginia Democrat said Monday that lawmakers should start from square one to rebuild a potential package and criticized the White House for its handling of talks. 

Read more at the WSJ


Conference Board: Leading Economic Indicators Post Strong Gain in November

The organization’s Leading Economic Index increased 1.1%, following a 0.9% rise in October and above estimates. The coincident index rose 0.3%, while the lagging index decreased 0.1%. The economy is currently showing strong consumer demand and steady improvement in the labor market. But companies are also facing continued disruptions in their supply chains and difficulty hiring workers.

The report, however, does not reflect the effects of the omicron variant of the coronavirus, which is rapidly spreading across the country. Indeed, Goldman Sachs on Monday lowered its forecast of growth to 2% in the first quarter, down from 3% previously, and 3% and 2.75% in the following two quarters, a cut from 3.5% and 3% in its prior estimates.

Read more at US News


Davos Economic Forum Is Postponed as Omicron Forces More Cancellations, Travel Bans

The World Economic Forum said it would postpone next month’s annual meeting in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos for the second successive year. The forum’s organizers said it would delay the in-person meeting planned for Jan. 17-21 until the early summer and hold online sessions for participants next month.

“Despite the meeting’s stringent health protocols, the transmissibility of Omicron and its impact on travel and mobility have made deferral necessary,” the organization said. Much the same happened last winter. The WEF abandoned plans to hold in-person sessions, but also had to give up on its plans for a summer session, again because of the disruptive effect of the pandemic on business travel plans.

Read more at The WSJ


US COVID – Omicron Variant Accounts for 73% of U.S. Covid-19 Cases, CDC Says

The Omicron variant caused more than 70% of recent Covid-19 cases in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday, highlighting its substantial increase in infectiousness compared with earlier versions of the virus. In many parts of the U.S., Omicron now makes up more than 90% of cases, the CDC said. Infectious-disease experts have said they believe the true share is likely even higher than that. 

The CDC said Monday that Omicron had overtaken the Delta variant of the coronavirus in the U.S. and accounted for an estimated 73% of infections for the week ending Dec. 18. The CDC’s updated data showed Omicron had caused some 13% of recent infections in the week through Dec. 11. New York state reported a record number of Covid-19 infections for the fourth consecutive day on Monday, when officials said 23,391 people had tested positive for the virus. Just over 4,000 people were hospitalized around the state, compared with peak levels of almost 19,000 in April of 2020.

Read more at the WSJ


NYS Vaccine and COVID Update  

Vaccine Stats as of  December 19:

One Vaccine Dose 

  • 82.2% of all New Yorkers – 15,443,509 (plus 11,845 from a day earlier).
  • In the Hudson Valley 1,608,775 (plus 1,447).

Fully Vaccinated

  • 71.0% of all New Yorkers – 13,814,469 (plus 29,441).
  • In the Hudson Valley – 1,410,884 (plus 1,290). 

The Governor  updated COVID data through December 18 .  There were 60 COVID related deaths for a total of 60,500. 

Hospitalizations:

  • Patients Currently in Hospital statewide: 4,020.

7 Day Average Positivity Rate  – Cases per 100K population

  • Statewide 7.40%    –    93.78 positive cases per 100,00 population
  • Mid-Hudson: 6.42%   –  75.01 positive  cases per 100,00 population

Useful Websites:


OSHA Reacts to 6th Circuit Ruling – Delays Enforcement

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a statement on the Court’s decision to disolve the stay on the Emergency Temporary Standard requiring vaccines or testing for all employee in firms with more than 100 employees. 

“To account for any uncertainty created by the stay, OSHA is exercising enforcement discretion with respect to the compliance dates of the ETS. To provide employers with sufficient time to come into compliance, OSHA will not issue citations for noncompliance with any requirements of the ETS before January 10 and will not issue citations for noncompliance with the standard’s testing requirements before February 9, so long as an employer is exercising reasonable, good faith efforts to come into compliance with the standard. OSHA will work closely with the regulated community to provide compliance assistance.”


40 Vaccine Pop-Ups Open Across State

Governor Hochul announced Friday the deployment of more than 40 new Pop-Up vaccination sites across New York State. These sites began to launch last week and are part of a multi-week effort, in partnership with local county health departments and community partners, to build on the State’s extensive outreach efforts to get all New Yorkers fully vaccinated and boosted.

Hudson Valley Locations:

Westchester County

  • Pfizer-BioNTech 12+, Pfizer-BioNTech Booster, Moderna 18+, Moderna Booster
    12/29: Greater Centennial A.M.E. Zion Church, 312 S. 8th Ave, Mount Vernon, NY 10550 (9:00 AM – 2:00 PM)
  • 1/8: Grinton I. Will Library, 1500 Central Park Ave, Yonkers, NY 10710 (11:00 AM – 5:00 PM)
  • 1/29: Grinton I. Will Library, 1500 Central Park Ave, Yonkers, NY 10710 (11:00 AM – 5:00 PM)

Read the press release


The Netherlands Goes Into Month-Long Nationwide Lockdown in Response to Omicron

The Netherlands entered a nationwide lockdown on Sunday, becoming the first EU country to reimpose stringent holiday restrictions in the face of surging Omicron cases. Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte on Saturday announced that restaurants, bars, non-essential shops, beauty salons, and concert venues and cinemas would all close from Sunday.

Most indoor sports facilities will close, and supermarkets and chemists remain open on restricted hours. Schools and colleges will also close until January 9. Funerals are restricted to 100 attendees or fewer. People will be permitted to receive four visitors indoors over the Christmas period, and are otherwise restricted to a single visitor.

Read more at Business Insider


UK – Johnson Says He Must ‘Reserve Possibility of Taking Further Action’ After 91,743 New Cases

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday he was looking at all kinds of measures to keep the Omicron coronavirus variant under control as the situation was extremely difficult, cautioning that further restrictions might be needed.

Speaking after a more than two-hour cabinet meeting to discuss the latest COVID-19 situation, Johnson said the situation was “extremely difficult” and that hospitalisations were rising steeply in London. “We will have to reserve the possibility of taking further action to protect the public, and to protect public health and the NHS (National Health Service), and we won’t hesitate to take that action,” Johnson said.

Read more at Reuters


GM Delivers First of its New Ultium EV Lineup

General Motors Inc. announced December 17 that it had delivered its first electric Hummers and that its subsidiary, BrightDrop LLC, had similarly delivered the first of its electric delivery vans to FedEx Corp. Both vehicles are built on GM’s “Ultium” EV platform, which the company says will drive it to meet or surpass electric automaker Tesla Motors in sales by 2025.

General Motors Inc. announced December 17 that it had delivered its first electric Hummers and that its subsidiary, BrightDrop LLC, had similarly delivered the first of its electric delivery vans to FedEx Corp. Both vehicles are built on GM’s “Ultium” EV platform, which the company says will drive it to meet or surpass electric automaker Tesla Motors in sales by 2025.

Read more at IndustryWeek


New York Petroleum Business Tax to Swell 5% Amid Inflation Fears

New York fuel distributors statewide can expect to pay a higher petroleum business tax starting Jan. 1, 2022. The so-called Petroleum Business Tax fluctuates every year based on the producer price index, which is determined by the federal government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The higher levy may mean that businesses, hospitals, and schools will pay more for their heating fuel due to the 5% increase, raising concerns that costs will be passed on to consumers. The price of jet fuel used by aircraft and diesel motor fuel could also rise if distributors pass on the higher cost.

Read more at Bloomberg


2022 Will Be the Year of the Worker. Here’s Why It Will Also Be the Year of the Robot

As workers gain more power in companies big and small, so too will robots. While labor shortages have led many businesses to offer higher wages and better benefits in an attempt to hire new employees, these changes are also expected to accelerate the demand for automation, namely robots. The opportunity is a huge one for entrepreneurs building robot startups.

A recent robotics report from private-capital data and research company Pitchbook, which projects that the global robotics market will grow to $45.5 billion in 2022, up from $35.7 billion this year. The report noted that venture capital investment in robotics reached a record $7.5 billion as of November 22, up from $3.6 billion in 2020. 

Read more at Inc. 


COVID-19 Pandemic Drove Record Medicaid Enrollment in 2021

A record number of New Yorkers relied on Medicaid for health care in 2021, with monthly enrollment exceeding 7 million for the first time, according to a new report by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. While enrollment has grown by about 5% per year over the last 15 years, increasing from about one in seven New Yorkers in 1998 to one in three in 2021, state budget projections rely on expectations for significant enrollment declines that may not materialize.

The share of New Yorkers without health care coverage has fallen from 11.4% in 2008 to 5.2% in 2019, thanks in part to the expansion of Medicaid. The pandemic and resulting economic recession swelled Medicaid enrollment in New York to record levels in 2021, with the monthly number of individuals covered by the program reaching seven million for the first time in February 2021. The Mid-Year Update to the SFY 2021-22 Enacted Budget Financial Plan expects monthly enrollment to remain above 7 million at least through March 2022, but decline by nearly 17% by March 2023 and return to pre-pandemic levels of just over 6 million by March 2024 as the economy recovers, unemployment rates decrease, and individuals temporarily enrolled begin to decline.

Read more at the Comptroller’s website


Fauci Says Mask Wearing on Planes Could be Here to Stay

White House medical advisor Anthony Fauci said on Sunday ahead of holiday travel, mask wearing on flights may be here indefinitely.  Fauci told Jonathan Karl on ABC’s “This Week” that despite filtration systems on board airplanes, it would be “prudent” for passengers to take the “extra step” within the enclosed space and wear a mask.  “Even though you have a good filtration system, I still believe that masks are a prudent thing to do, and we should be doing it,” he added. 

“I think when you’re dealing with a closed space, even though the filtration is good, that you want to go that extra step when you have people — you know, you get a flight from Washington to San Francisco, it’s well over a five-hour flight,” Fauci said, when asked he believed there would be a post pandemic point when passengers will not have to wear masks on flights. 

Read more at The Hill


SUNY Taps Outgoing Oswego College President to Serve as Interim Chancellor

Deborah Stanley, outgoing president of SUNY Oswego, has been named SUNY’s interim chancellor. Stanley is stepping down this month after serving as president of SUNY Oswego 25 years. Before becoming president of SUNY Oswego, Stanley taught and earned tenure in the business school and served in administration as the vice president for academic affairs and provost.

SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras recently announced his resignation in the wake of a controversy over disparaging comments he made about a woman who accused former Gov. Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment.

 Read more at Syracuse.com


Omicron’s Astonishing Speed May Have Grave Consequences

Exponential growth is a dizzying thing. In the week to December 8th Britain saw 536 new cases of covid-19 ascribed to the Omicron variant, less than 0.5% of the number caused by the dominant Delta variant. But the week before there had been only 32 cases of Omicron—and by December 14th the case number was over 10,000. Omicron looks set to become the country’s dominant strain in terms of cases before advent calendars run out of windows.

Researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine have compared models for the spread of Omicron with the situation in England during the worst previous peak, in early 2021. Of their various scenarios, the one which currently looks most plausible makes Omicron pretty good at infecting people who have been vaccinated or infected but also treats boosters as being quite good at stopping it. That would produce a peak in hospital admissions in late January well over the 3,800 a day seen in 2021. It would lead to 23m-30m infections between now and May 2022, and 37,000-53,000 deaths.

Read more at The Economist


 

 

 

 

 

read more »

Daily Briefing – 426

6th Circuit Panel Revives Vaccine Mandate, Supreme Court Showdown Looms

6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati on Friday reinstated a nationwide vaccine-or-testing COVID-19 mandate for large businesses, which covers 80 million American workers, prompting opponents to rush to the Supreme Court to ask it to intervene. The ruling lifted a November injunction that had blocked the rule from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which applies to businesses with at least 100 workers.

The rule set a Jan. 4 deadline for compliance, although it was unclear if that will be enforced because the rule was blocked for weeks. Within hours of the ruling, at least three petitions were filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking it to immediately block the mandate.

Read more at Reuters


Manchin Says He Will Not Vote for Build Back Better

 Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) announced Sunday that he will not vote for President Biden’s “mammoth” climate and social spending bill, essentially killing the White House’s top legislative priority. “I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation. I just can’t. I tried everything humanly possible. I can’t get there. This is a no on this legislation.”

“I have tried everything I know to do,” he added, closing the door on Democratic hopes that he might be persuaded to change his mind. He said he had worked “diligently” on the bill, meeting with Biden, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other colleagues to find a way forward, but he added that he remains extremely concerned about inflation, the $29 trillion federal debt and a surge in new infections caused by the omicron variant of COVID-19.

Read more at The Hill


Fed: Industrial Production Increases 0.5% in November

U.S. industrial production increased 0.5% in November as output at the nation’s factories reached the highest level since January 2019. The November gain followed an even larger 1.7% increase in October, a rebound from a 1% decline in September, the Federal Reserve reported Thursday. For November, manufacturing output rose 0.7%, led by an ongoing rebound in the auto sector, where output rose 2.2% following a 10.1% surge in October. Even with the gains, production from auto plants is 5.4% below the level of a year ago as manufacturers continue to deal with supply chain issues, particularly a shortage of computer chips.

There were severe supply chain problems afflicting manufacturers in September that reduced output at U.S. auto plants, on top of the adverse effects from refinery shutdowns along the Gulf Coast because of Hurricane Ida.

Read more at the AP


NY Fed: The Region is Struggling to Recover from the Pandemic Recession

The pandemic struck the New York-Northern New Jersey region early and hard, and the economy is still struggling to recover nearly two years later. Indeed, employment fell by 20 percent in New York City as the pandemic took hold, a significantly sharper decline than for the nation as a whole, and the rest of the region wasn’t far behind, creating a much larger hole to dig out of than other parts of the country. While the region saw significant growth as the economy began to heal, growth has slowed noticeably, and job shortfalls—that is, the amount by which employment remains below pre-pandemic levels—are some of the largest in the nation.

Among major metro areas, job shortfalls in New York City, Buffalo, and Syracuse rank among the five worst in the country. Thus, despite much progress, the region is struggling to recover from the pandemic recession. By contrast, employment has rebounded above pre-pandemic levels in Puerto Rico, reaching a five-year high.

Read more at the NY Fed


US COVID – 800,000 Deaths

As of December 14, the US CDC reports 50.2 million cumulative COVID-19 cases and 797,877 deaths. Daily incidence has increased steadily since the most recent low on October 24, up from 64,152 new cases per day to 117,950 on December 14—+84% over that period. Daily mortality is currently 1,143 deaths per day and likely will rise as daily incidence continues to increase.  

The US has administered 488.3 million cumulative doses of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines. There are 240 million individuals who have received at least 1 vaccine dose, equivalent to 72.3% of the entire US population. A total of 202.8 million individuals are fully vaccinated, which corresponds to 61.1% of the total population. Approximately 72.2% of adults are fully vaccinated, as well as 16.4 million children under the age of 18. Since August 13, 56.1 million fully vaccinated individuals have received an additional or booster dose, including 42.3% of fully vaccinated adults aged 65 years or older.

Read more at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security


NYS Vaccine and COVID Update  

Vaccine Stats as of  December 19:

One Vaccine Dose 

  • 82.0% of all New Yorkers – 15,441,664 (plus 30,413 from a day earlier).
  • In the Hudson Valley 1,607,328 (plus 2,545).

Fully Vaccinated

  • 70.9% of all New Yorkers – 13,785,028 (plus 17,668).
  • In the Hudson Valley – 1,409,994 (plus 2,593). 

The Governor  updated COVID data through December 18 .  There were 58 COVID related deaths for a total of 60,253. 

Hospitalizations:

  • Patients Currently in Hospital statewide: 3,880.

7 Day Average Positivity Rate  – Cases per 100K population

  • Statewide 6.88%    –    83.26 positive cases per 100,00 population
  • Mid-Hudson: 6.08%   –  68.83 positive  cases per 100,00 population

Useful Websites:


Moderna Says Booster Shot Increases Antibody Levels Against Omicron

Moderna announced Monday that preliminary data suggests its half-dose booster shot increased antibody levels against Omicron compared with the levels seen when a fully vaccinated person does not receive a booster — and a larger-sized dose of the booster increases antibody levels even more.

Currently, Moderna’s booster is administered as a 50-microgram dose. The company announcement noted that its 50-microgram booster dose increased antibody levels 37-fold and a 100-microgram booster dose increased antibody levels 83-fold compared with levels seen before a booster. It remains unclear what these increases mean as far as how well the booster doses clinically work against Omicron. But in the company’s statement, CEO Stéphane Bancel called the data “reassuring.”

Read more at CNN


Hochul Addresses Plans for Statewide Vaccine Mandate in Schools

Governor Kathy Hochul plans to bring the requirement for all school-age children to New York. However, the decision must first pass the state legislature.  “This is certainly something health departments all across the country are looking at,” said Hochul, “Every vaccine children have before they go to school has to be authorized by state law. Not every state follows this.”

In addition to approval from the legislature, Hochul also says she is unable to take quicker action as she does not hold the same emergency powers as her predecessor, Andrew Cuomo.

Read more at WHAM


Test to Stay – New CDC Guidance Encourages More Testing to Limit School Quarantines

Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said schools should limit quarantines by requiring testing for unvaccinated close contacts of a confirmed COVID-19 case.  “In the ‘test to stay’ protocol, there’s increased testing of close contacts after a COVID-19 exposure, and that testing needs to be at least twice in the seven-day period after exposure,” Walensky explained. “If exposed children meet a certain criteria and continue to test negative, they can stay in school instead of quarantining at home.”

The announcement elevates and updates existing guidance that some schools around the country have already been following. It could save, collectively, tens of millions of school days for students – assuming the typical 10- or 14-day quarantine – as the omicron variant spreads in the United States.

Read more at NPR


How Severe are Omicron Infections?

But as political leaders and public-health officials try to chart a course through oncoming Omicron surges, they must do so without a firm answer to a key question: how severe will those Omicron infections be? So far, the data are scarce and incomplete. “There is inevitably a lag between infection and hospitalization,” says infectious-disease epidemiologist Mark Woolhouse at the University of Edinburgh, UK. “In the meantime, policy decisions have to be made and that’s not straightforward.”

Early results suggest a glimmer of hope. Reports from South Africa have consistently noted a lower rate of hospitalization as a result of Omicron infections compared with infections caused by the Delta variant.  BUT  On 13 December, Denmark released data showing that hospitalization rates for people infected with Omicron seemed to be on a par with those for people infected with other variants. But this comparison was based on only about 3,400 cases of Omicron infection and 37 hospitalizations. Similarly, a 16 December report from Imperial College London found no evidence of diminished hospitalizations from Omicron infections compared with Delta in England, although this was again based on relatively few cases. Overall, the numbers are still too small to draw firm conclusions.

Read more in Nature


Preliminary Laboratory Data Hint at What Makes Omicron the Most Superspreading Variant Yet

Omicron is now in 77 countries, and moving faster than any previous strain of the coronavirus. In the U.K. scientists believe it is behind this week’s record-setting surge in new infections. The new variant is already causing about 13% of cases in New York and Washington states, just two weeks after Omicron was first detected in the U.S. Nationwide. Omicron is rapidly eating into Delta’s dominance. And with insufficient testing and lag times in sequencing, it has likely gained even more ground than these numbers indicate.

But what exactly gives Omicron its competitive advantage has so far been unclear. New research from a Hong Kong University indicates that Omicron multiplied about 70 times faster inside respiratory-tract tissue than the Delta variant putting more virus in people’s airways, which could mean more virus in the air. When they ran tests with the lung tissue, they found Omicron was actually worse at infecting those cells than either Delta or the original strain of the virus that originated in Wuhan.

Read more at STAT News


Percentage of Workers Facing Vaccine Mandates Stalls at 36 Percent: Gallup

Thirty-six percent of U.S. workers are subject to a COVID-19 vaccine mandate, according to a Gallup poll released Wednesday, the same figure the pollster recorded in October.  The survey indicates that workplace vaccine requirements have leveled off after consistently growing in popularity earlier this year. Between May and September, the percentage of workers facing a vaccine mandate increased from 5 percent to 29 percent, according to Gallup.

The poll found that 43 percent of workers say their employers encourage them to get vaccinated but do not require it, while 21 percent of employers do not have a vaccine policy.

Read more at The Hill


NY Fed Survey: Businesses Report Sharp Acceleration in Most Costs

Supplementary questions to the December Empire State Manufacturing Survey and Business Leaders Survey focused on recent and expected changes in the prices paid by firms for several major budget categories, including wages, employee benefits, insurance, energy, and other commodities. An identical set of questions had been asked in the December 2020 survey.

Far more businesses reported that supply disruptions had worsened over the past month than reported improvement: 60 percent of manufactures reported that the availability of supplies had worsened over
the past month, while fewer than 5 percent said it had improved. Still, these results were somewhat less
negative than in November. Looking ahead to the next month, 46 percent of manufacturers said they expect conditions to worsen, while just 9 percent predicted improvement. 

Read more at the NY Fed


Small Business Owners Are Optimistic Despite Inflation, Labor Shortages and Supply Chain Challenges

The Q4 2021 MetLife and U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index (SBI) finds small business owners are increasingly optimistic despite headwinds from labor shortages, inflation and supply chain woes. According to the poll taken October 13 – 27, 2021, more than three in four (77%) small business owners are optimistic about the future of their business. In fact, 62% of small businesses say their business is in good health, up from 55% last quarter, while those who say their business is in very good health is 30% now, compared to 20-23% throughout 2021.

  • Three in five (60%) small businesses say they expect supply chain disruptions to make it difficult for their business to manage the holiday season this year.
  • Despite ongoing labor shortages across the country, 38% of small business owners plan to hire more workers next year, up from 28% last quarter.   
  • This quarter, inflation is among the top cited concerns for small business owners (23% ), along with revenue (26%) and COVID-19 safety/compliance (21%).

Read more at the US Chamber


NY HERO Act COVID-19 Designation Extended A Third Time

Acting NYS Commissioner of Health, Mary T. Bassett, M.D., M.P.H., announced the third extension of the designation of COVID-19 as a “highly contagious communicable disease that presents a serious risk of harm to the public health” through Jan. 15, 2022.  Accordingly, private employers should continue to have their NY HERO Act Airborne Infectious Disease Exposure Prevention Plans in place. 

The Commission of Health’s designation appears to rely in large part on the CDC’s community transmission levels. In light of the latest surge and the emergence of the new Omicron variant, it is difficult to predict with any degree of certainty whether the transmission in New York State will fall to a “moderate” or “low” levels in the course of the next month. 

Read more at Bond Schoeneck and King


Jobless Claims: 206,000 Filed New Claims

New weekly jobless claims ticked up slightly last week to hold near a 52-year low.

  • Initial jobless claims, week ended Dec. 11: 206,000 vs. 200,000 expected and an upwardly revised 188,000 during prior week.
  • Continuing claims, week ended Dec. 4: 1.845 million vs. 1.943 million expected and an upwardly revised 1.999 million during prior week.

First-time unemployment filings fell sharply to reach their lowest level since 1969 in early December, coming in below 190,000.  And continuing claims, while still somewhat above pre-pandemic levels, have also come down sharply from their pandemic-era high. 

Read more at YahooFinance


I-9 Flexibility to Continue Through April 2022

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced an extension of the flexibility in complying with requirements related to Form I‑9, Employment Eligibility Verification, due to COVID‑19.

This temporary guidance was set to expire Dec. 31, 2021. Because of ongoing precautions related to COVID‑19, DHS has extended the Form I‑9 requirement flexibility policy until April 30, 2022. Employers must monitor the DHS and ICE’s Workforce Enforcement announcements about when the extensions end and normal operations resume.

Read more at ICE


What to Do, and Not Do, if You Test Positive for Covid-19 or Have Contact with Someone Who Does

When you get a positive test result, you should quarantine immediately. It doesn’t matter whether you got a rapid test or a PCR test. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines are the same whether you are unvaccinated, vaccinated or boosted: Isolate for 10 days.

Current CDC recommendations say people who are fully vaccinated don’t need to quarantine after contact with a Covid-19-positive person unless they are symptomatic. The agency does advise that close contacts get tested five to seven days after the exposure, even if they don’t have symptoms, and should wear a mask indoors in public until receiving a negative test result. If they don’t get tested, they should wear a mask in public indoors for 14 days following the exposure.

Read more at the WSJ


 

 

 

 

 

read more »

Daily Briefing – 425

Fed Will Double Pace of Taper – Expects to End Asset Purchases In March

The Federal Reserve announced Wednesday that it would move more quickly to pare back its pandemic-era easy money policies as Fed officials grow concerned about the persistence of inflationary pressures.  The policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee said it would double the pace by which it winds down its asset purchase program. The new pacing would bring all asset purchases to a full stop by March 2022, faster than the course set forth in November that originally sought to end purchases by the middle of next year.

The FOMC also signaled a strong likelihood of an interest rate hike next year, which would be the first since the central bank slashed short-term borrowing costs to near-zero in March 2020.

Read more at YahooFinance


December Empire State Manufacturing Survey – “Sturdy” Growth Continues

Manufacturing activity grew strongly in New York State, according to the December survey. Lead times lengthen prices paid and received rise, employment increases.

  • The general business conditions index held steady at 31.9. 
  • The new orders index and shipments indexes were both little changed at 27.1.p
  • The unfilled orders index rose six points to 19.0.
  • The delivery times index fell nine points to 23.1, suggesting that delivery times lengthened significantly. Inventories increased modestly.
  • The index for number of employees came in at 21.4, indicating a solid increase in employment,
  • The average workweek index fell to 12.1, suggesting a modest increase in hours worked.
  • The prices paid index edged down three points to 80.2.
  • The prices received index fell six points to 44.6, signaling ongoing substantial increases in both input prices and selling prices.
  • The index for future business conditions held steady at 36.4. Longer delivery times, higher prices, and increases in employment are all expected in the months ahead.
  • The capital expenditures index climbed three points to 38.0, and the technology spending index moved up to 31.4.

Read more at the NY Fed


Democrats Remain at Odds Over Biden’s $1.75 Trillion Social Spending Bill

Senate Democrats are struggling to find a path forward on President Joe Biden’s $1.75 trillion domestic investment bill, with moderate Joe Manchin objecting to parts of the program, a person familiar with their negotiations said. The source said Biden and Manchin remain “far apart,” with Manchin objecting to an expanded child tax credit that other Democrats want in the program.

Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer faces his biggest challenge since becoming majority leader in January. Some moderate Democratic senators saw no urgency in Schumer’s Christmas deadline but such flexibility infuriates liberals, who already swallowed a raft of compromises. A middle ground could see negotiators “continue to slim down the package under the belief the progressives will take whatever the Senate sends over.”

Read more at Reuters


U.S. Retail Sales Rose Modestly in November

Retail sales rose a modest 0.3% in November from the previous month, the Commerce Department said Wednesday, suggesting consumers are challenged to keep up with rising prices. Consumer spending has been a primary driver of strong economic growth this year. Retail sales rose nearly 15% in October, from a year earlier, showing low unemployment, rising wages and savings from stimulus payments are giving Americans the capacity to spend more, even when accounting for historically strong inflation.

Retailers across industries are expecting to finish the year strong and post significant improvements compared with 2020 sales figures. But headwinds persist: inflation, continued supply-chain issues, labor shortages and the unknown future impact of the Omicron variant.

Read more at the WSJ


US COVID Update – Study: More Than 40% of People with COVID-19 Never Show Symptoms

New research now shows more than 40% of those who tested positive for COVID-19 were asymptomatic, according to the study published Tuesday in JAMA Network Open. Researchers looked at 95 studies from January 2020 to February 2021 consisting of nearly 30 million people in Asia, Europe, North America, South America and Africa. More than 60% of confirmed COVID-19 cases among people under 20 were asymptomatic; nearly 50% in people 20 to 39; about 32% in people 40 to 59, and about 33% in those over 60.

It’s likely more COVID-19 cases are asymptomatic today compared to when the study was conducted, health experts say, due to highly transmissible variants like delta and omicron.  Vaccines themselves may also contribute to a higher proportion of asymptomatic infections, Wells said, as they’re extremely effective against severe disease and mute the symptoms of a breakthrough infection.

Read more at USA Today


NYS Vaccine and COVID Update  

Vaccine Stats as of  December 15:

One Vaccine Dose 

  • 81.2% of all New Yorkers – 15,293,001 (plus 83,224 from a day earlier).
  • In the Hudson Valley 1,598,047 (plus 2,686).

Fully Vaccinated

  • 70.5% of all New Yorkers – 13,677,062 (plus 81,895).
  • In the Hudson Valley – 1,401,544 (plus 2,802). 

The Governor  updated COVID data through December 14 .  There were 71 COVID related deaths for a total of 60,148. 

Hospitalizations:

  • Patients Currently in Hospital statewide: 3,784.

7 Day Average Positivity Rate  – Cases per 100K population

  • Statewide 4.83%    –    56.43 positive cases per 100,00 population
  • Mid-Hudson: 4.59%   –  49.28 positive  cases per 100,00 population

Useful Websites:


China’s Sinovac Vaccine ‘Inadequate’ Against Omicron Variant, Study Finds

A study has showed that China’s widely used Sinovac vaccine failed to produce sufficient antibodies to neutralize the omicron variant. A team at the Department of Microbiology of the University of Hong Kong analyzed serum antibodies from 25 people fully vaccinated with CoronaVac, developed by Sinovac, as well as a separate group of 25 more who had received two doses of the COVID vaccine from Pfizer PFE, +0.62% and its German partner BioNTech BNTX, -0.52%.

None of the 25 vaccinated with two doses of the Sinovac vaccine showed any neutralizing antibodies against the omicron variant. Of the Pfizer-BioNTech group, five showed neutralizing ability, though with vaccine efficiency “significantly reduced” to 20% to 24%. Compared with the original COVID strain, neutralizing antibodies against omicron dropped by 36 to 40 times in that group, the study said.

Read more at MarketWatch


Cornell University Reports 903 COVID-19 Cases This Week. Many Are Omicron Variant in Fully Vaccinated Students

Cornell University reported 903 cases of Covid-19 among students between December 7-13, and a “very high percentage” of them are Omicron variant cases in fully vaccinated individuals, according to university officials.  As of result, the school has decided to shut down its Ithaca, New York, campus, where it has about 25,600 students. The university will move final exams for the semester online, cancel all activities and athletics and close the libraries.

President Martha Pollack wrote in a letter to the student body posted Tuesday. “While I want to provide reassurance that, to date, we have not seen severe illness in any of our infected students, we do have a role to play in reducing the spread of the disease in the broader community,” Pollack said. The school has a mandatory vaccination policy for students, with exemptions for religious or medical issues. All unvaccinated students and many vaccinated students are required to take part in surveillance testing. Mask wearing indoors is compulsory.

Read more at CNN


Trudeau Proposes Joint EV Rebates with US to Avoid Trade Dispute

Though the northern country has objected to the rebate as written, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau proposed a compromise at a news conference Monday, December 14: Canada will pass its own, equivalent tax credit for EVs built in the U.S. and Canada, if the U.S. extends the rebate to include Canadian cars, too.

Canada has previously objected that the U.S.-exclusive rebate would amount to a de facto tariff on Canadian-built electric vehicles and said it would harm auto production in both countries. The latest proposal is one of “a number of solutions” put forward to Washington, Trudeau told reporters, who noted that the countries’ automotive businesses are intertwined.

Read more at IndustryWeek


Why No One Wants to Work for You, and What You Can Do About It

Employees are quitting in droves. One out of four workers has resigned in the past year. Employers everywhere are wringing their hands and fretting what went wrong. Why are employees leaving? We’ve never had trouble recruiting before. Maybe they’re just soft, entitled, spoiled. Surely, they’ll be back.

Or maybe this isn’t a “them” problem—maybe it’s a “you” problem.  This isn’t the Great Resignation so much as it is the Great Reset.

Read more at IndustryWeek


Scarcity and Growing Demand Boost Lithium Prices

Driven by rising sales of lithium-reliant electric vehicles, environmental opposition and Chinese competition, the demand for lithium is poised to overtake global supply, prompting a surge in prices. Lithium supply has been stopped up by supply-chain bottlenecks as well as a recent bear market. The price surge is also driven by bets on continued scarcity and consistently high demand for electric vehicles. The mad scramble for lithium is particularly worrisome for battery manufacturers and automakers, which need adequate manufacturing material

Rechargeable batteries are starting to power everything from smartphones and power tools to electric vehicles—but while the world has plenty of lithium, establishing reliable and consistent conversion of lithium into battery-grade chemicals requires extensive investments in time and capital. Currently, most lithium comes from countries such as Argentina and Chile, where it is derived from a salty brine pumped out of the ground and spodumene, a mineral found in hard rocks.

Read more at the WSJ


UK Inflation Hits 10-Year High 

The Consumer Price Index rose by 5.1% in the 12 months to November, up from 4.2% in October, which was itself the steepest incline for a decade and more than double the central bank’s target. On a monthly basis, U.K. inflation rose 0.7% in November from October, above a Reuters poll for a 0.4% increase. Core CPI, which excludes volatile energy, food, alcohol and tobacco prices, rose by 4% year-on-year against a Reuters forecast of 3.7%, and 0.5% month-on-month versus a 0.3% projection.

The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee meets Thursday to decide whether to tighten monetary policy, with inflation surging and the labor market remaining robust, but the rapid spread of the omicron Covid-19 variant has cast fresh uncertainty over the economic recovery in the short term.

Read more at CNBC


Bank of England Raises Interest Rates to Battle Inflation

The Bank of England raised its benchmark interest rate to 0.25%, making it the first major central bank to lift borrowing costs since the pandemic began. Officials on the U.K. central bank’s Monetary Policy Committee voted eight to one to lift the BOE’s policy rate to 0.25% from a record low of 0.1%, saying the strength of the labor market meant higher borrowing costs were appropriate to keep a lid on price growth.

The pound rose 0.75% against the dollar to $1.336. Yields on one-year U.K. gilts jumped 0.13 percentage points to 0.36%, their biggest jump since October, according to FactSet.

Read more at the WSJ


China’s Economic Activity Slowed in November on Property Slump, Weak Consumption

China’s economy took a knock last month from an ongoing property market slump and sporadic Covid outbreaks, prompting economists to warn that recent easing measures may not be enough to stabilize growth.

Residential property sales and the area of new housing started by developers both dropped about 20% from a year earlier. Retail sales growth weakened to 3.9% in November. Industrial output rose 3.8% from a year earlier, a slight uptick from October due to strong production of electronic products and pharmaceuticals. But the property market is weighing on the industry too, with production of property-linked commodities such as steel and cement falling about 20% year-on-year in November.

Read more at Bloomberg


JCOPE Orders Former Governor Cuomo to pay $5.1 Million in Book Earnings

The Joint Commission on Public Ethics voted 12-1 ethics on Tuesday  to order former Governor Andrew Cuomo to return $5.1 million he received for his memoir after finding he failed to follow state ethics regulations, a spokesperson with the commission said. Cuomo has 30 days to surrender the money he made for writing the book “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic” to the state. The state attorney general’s office will have the authority to decide how the funds are dispersed, the New York Times reported.

The commission said Cuomo violated a requirement not to use state resources to complete the book and misrepresented how long it would take to complete. In a statement, Cuomo lawyer Jim McGuire vowed to fight the order. “JCOPE’s actions today are unconstitutional, exceed its own authority and appear to be driven by political interests rather than the facts and the law.”

Read more at YahooNews


Missouri Science Center Wins STOP Education Innovation Award 

Forbes and the Center for Education Reform (CER) announced Tuesday the The Discovery Center of Springfield is the winner of the inaugural STOP Award. The STOP Award is a $1 million prize open to education innovators, providers and entrepreneurs who continued to support underserved communities during the COVID-19 pandemic and who seek to expand their work in the coming year.  The Discovery Center of Springfield wins for providing an education experience that is the essence of the awards: Sustainable, Transformational, Outstanding and Permissionless.

The team at The Discovery Center voted to stay open during the COVID-19 pandemic to fill the gap in childcare services that immediately presented itself within the wider Springfield, Missouri area. Within 48 hours, The Discovery Center transitioned its 60,000-square-foot building into a massive community response center dedicated to supporting the children of essential workers, delivering over 200,000 hours of childcare and 50,000 free meals. The Discovery Center quickly converted its offerings into a project-based, experiential, and hands-on learning environment that has since received tremendous enthusiasm from students and parents alike.

Read more at Forbes

 


 

 

 

 

 

read more »

Daily Briefing – 424

Congress Votes to Raise Debt Limit to $ 31.4 Trillion

Democrats voted Tuesday to raise the debt ceiling by $2.5 trillion to $31.4 Trillion, which they expect will lift the nation’s borrowing cap until 2023.  The House also could vote as soon as Tuesday. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has given lawmakers until Wednesday to keep the country solvent.

Senate Democrats unveiled a resolution to raise the debt ceiling on Tuesday, shortly before they are scheduled to take a procedural vote on the measure.  Senate Democrats are expected to vote to raise the debt ceiling on Tuesday as part of a deal worked out with Senate GOP leadership that gives them a one-time exemption to raise the debt ceiling without needing to overcome a 60-vote filibuster.

Read more at The Hill


Working the Ref – Democrats Try to Influence Senate Parliamentarian on Spending Bill

Democrats are ramping up talks this week with the Senate parliamentarian to meet a self-imposed deadline to pass President Biden’s spending bill, hoping to clear one of the biggest hurdles to getting the legislation to the floor by Christmas.  More than half of the 12 committees responsible for drafting the bill released text as of Monday. But behind the scenes, Democrats still need to get signoff from Elizabeth MacDonough, a nonpartisan Senate referee, before they can bring the spending bill to the floor and try to start debate.

A Senate Democratic leadership aide said that staff for all 12 of the committees had finished the Democratic-only meetings with MacDonough. After Democrats have their one-on-one meetings, Republicans then meet with the parliamentarian on their own. After those informal talks, the two sides of each of the committees sit down with MacDonough together to pitch their respective cases. 

Read more at The Hill


The Economist COVID Tracker Follows Omicron Across the Globe

Any new virus has known unknowns. How contagious is it, and how deadly? Which mutations will emerge, and where will they go? As SARS-CoV-2 moves from novel threat to endemic disease, no one knows how it will continue to evolve. What is known is that some new variants of the virus are especially concerning, as they may have made it more contagious or more deadly.

The latest is Omicron, a mutation of the virus first identified in a sample taken in South Africa on November 8th. Our data tracker is tracking its spread across the world—as well as vaccinations, diagnosed cases and official deaths to covid-19.

Visit The Economist Tracker (COVID Coverage remains free)


U.S. Producer Prices Climbed Sharply in November

The Labor Department said Tuesday that its producer-price index rose 9.6% in November from a year earlier, the most since records began in 2010. The so-called core PPI, which excludes often volatile food and energy components, climbed 7.7% from a year ago, also the highest on record. The index, which generally reflects supply conditions in the economy, rose 0.8% from October, an acceleration from the 0.6% gain in each of the previous three months. Higher prices for energy, wholesale food, and transportation and warehousing contributed to the pickup in inflation.

The higher-than-expected producer-price numbers suggest that consumer inflation, which hit a nearly four-decade high of 6.8% last month, will stay elevated into 2022 as price pressures persist.

Read more at the WSJ


US COVID Update – CDC’s Early Omicron Findings

The CDC released its first report on Omicron, discussing 43 cases detected in 25 states between December 1 and December 8. Since then, Omicron cases have been detected in at least 5 more states and Washington, DC. Nearly 80% (34) of the patients were fully vaccinated and one-third (14) had received a booster dose, although 5 of those were not 2 weeks from their last dose.

Additionally, 6 of the patients were previously infected with SARS-CoV-2, and nearly all cases experienced mild cold-like symptoms, including congestion, cough, and fatigue. Only 1 patient was hospitalized. State-level community transmission is listed as high across nearly the entire country, which does not bode well in the face of what appears to be the more infectious Omicron variant. As the US nears 50 million cumulative COVID-19 cases and passes 800,000 related deaths, the CDC predicts the weekly number of COVID-19 related deaths will rise from 8,800 last week to 10,000 next week and to more than 11,000 in 4 weeks. The full impact of Omicron in the US, and around the world, will become more apparent as we enter 2022, the third year of the pandemic.

Read more at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security


NYS Vaccine and COVID Update  

Vaccine Stats as of  December 13:

One Vaccine Dose 

  • 81.1% of all New Yorkers – 15,209,7770 (plus 18,917 from a day earlier).
  • In the Hudson Valley 1,595,361 (plus 2,823).

Fully Vaccinated

  • 70.5% of all New Yorkers – 13,595,167 (plus 15,581).
  • In the Hudson Valley – 1,398,742 (plus 2,346). 

The Governor  updated COVID data through December 12 .  There were 57 COVID related deaths for a total of 59,990. 

Hospitalizations:

  • Patients Currently in Hospital statewide: 3,772.

7 Day Average Positivity Rate  – Cases per 100K population

  • Statewide 4.65%    –    54.15 positive cases per 100,00 population
  • Mid-Hudson: 4.59%   –  47.72 positive  cases per 100,00 population

Useful Websites:


Pfizer Says Its Covid-19 Pill Likely Works Against Omicron

Preliminary laboratory tests gave encouraging signs that Pfizer Inc.’s experimental Covid-19 pill for the newly infected could work against Omicron, the company said. Pfizer also said Tuesday that a final analysis of late-stage study results confirmed the drug, named Paxlovid, was 89% effective at reducing the risk of hospitalization and death in adults at high risk of severe Covid-19.

Doctors and health experts have been looking for an antiviral like Paxlovid, which people could easily take at home within several days of symptoms emerging to prevent their cases from turning serious and requiring hospitalization. The emergence of Omicron has shadowed the approach of such antivirals, however, because of uncertainty whether the new strain could elude treatments and vaccines.

Read more at the WSJ


Kroger to Remove Some COVID Benefits for Unvaccinated Employees

Kroger will eliminate some Covid-19 benefits for unvaccinated employees starting next year, as the supermarket chain pushes more workers to get inoculated amid growing concerns over the spread of the omicron coronavirus variant. Kroger, among the biggest private employers in the United States, had about 465,000 full and part-time workers as of Jan. 31, according to a regulatory filing.

The grocer will no longer provide unpaid Covid-19 leave for unvaccinated employees and will apply a $50 monthly health insurance surcharge to salaried non-union workers who are unvaccinated and enrolled in a company healthcare plan, a spokesperson said on Tuesday.

 Read more at CNBC


Appeals Court Declines to Block United Airlines Vaccine Mandate

 A divided U.S. appeals court has rebuffed a request by six employees to block United Airlines from enforcing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for workers that imposes unpaid leave on those who are granted religious or medical exceptions. A panel of the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted 2-1 on Monday night to reject the emergency request for an injunction while the employees appeal a November ruling by a federal judge in favor of the airline.

United Airlines was the first major air carrier to issue a vaccine requirement and others followed. United has granted around 2,000 religious and medical exemptions to employees in roles including pilots, flight attendants and customer service agents.

Read more at Reuters


Will an Inflation-Fighting Fed Break its Vow on Inclusivity?

With the Federal Reserve expected to soon adopt an inflation-fighting posture, it might seem at a glance as though the U.S. central bank will have to jettison its goal of broad and inclusive full employment barely a year after rolling it out.  The reality, though, is more nuanced than a simple either-or choice.

A first step in the central bank’s pivot is expected at the end of its two-day policy meeting today with a widely anticipated acceleration of its bond-purchasing “taper,” a move that would clear the way for the trickier proposition of raising interest rates next year.  Doing so risks going back on a promise first made in September 2020 to leave the federal funds rate at the near-zero level until the labor market fully heals, though giving up on job gains to control inflation is, in this view, a tradeoff that Fed Chair Jerome Powell simply has to make.

Read more at Reuters


U.K. Sees First Death of a Person With Omicron as Government Warns of Wave of Cases

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed Monday that at least one patient infected with the new omicron variant of Covid-19 has died in the country. It’s the first publicly confirmed death globally from the new variant.

“Sadly yes, omicron is producing hospitalizations and sadly at least one patient has been confirmed to have died with omicron,” Johnson told reporters on a visit to a vaccination clinic near Paddington, London, according to Sky News.  “So I think the idea that this is somehow a milder version of the virus, I think that’s something we need to set on one side and just recognize the sheer pace at which it accelerates through the population. So the best thing we can do is all get our boosters,” he said.

Read more at CNBC


Almost Half of Small Business Owners are Taking Out Loans Because of Inflation

More than seven out of 10 small business owners say the rising costs of goods and services significantly impacted their operations within the past 12 months, according to the latest Small Business Index report released Tuesday. The quarterly analysis, conducted between Oct. 13-27, surveyed 750 small business operators across the country. 

To combat the effects of inflation on their bottom lines, 63% of small businesses increased their prices, and about 40% say they’ve decreased staff. But a surprising 45% of small businesses say they’ve dealt with inflation by taking out a loan over the past year. That’s significantly higher than a similar survey released by the National Federation of Independent Business in October, which asked a different question and found that 23% of owners reported borrowing on a regular basis.

Read more at Fortune


Why U.S. Job Gains Are So Hard to Count During Covid-19

The monthly U.S. jobs report moves trillions of dollars in market trades and influences key policy decisions such as the Federal Reserve’s interest-rate plans. But during the Covid-19 pandemic, economists have had an especially hard time predicting the report’s headline number of jobs added. Meanwhile, the government itself has routinely made big revisions to its initial estimates.

Why? Two big reasons. Economists have struggled to guess the behavior of consumers and companies during unprecedented government stimulus, labor-market shifts and virus fears. Second, the government has seen a sharp decline in the payroll data it collects from employers. During one of the most volatile periods in recent memory, private and public-sector economists have a less firm grasp of what the labor market is doing.

Read more at the WSJ


15% of Unemployed Say They Aren’t Working Due to Mental Health Problems

Nearly 15% of unemployed people blame their lack of work on mental health problems, according to a new survey highlighting a growing problem that is keeping many Americans from getting jobs.  
The number of those who cited mental health issues as their top cause of unemployment is up 2 percentage points from March, the survey by business consulting firm McKinsey on Monday found.

In another sign of mental health struggles during the pandemic, more than one in 10 adults have reported starting or increasingly use alcohol since COVID arrived. Deaths from drug overdoses also grew, largely due to synthetic opioids. About 93,000 drug overdose deaths were reported in 2020, the highest on record and a 30% increase from 2019. 

Read more at Fortune


The COVID-19 Pandemic is Set to Dismantle Nearly 2 Decades of Global Progress Toward Universal Health Coverage

The Pandemic is impacting health coverage and is increasing the number of people pushed into extreme poverty due to out-of-pocket healthcare costs, already at more than half a billion people prior to the pandemic, according to 2 new reports from the WHO and the World Bank. In 2020, the pandemic disrupted health services, caused immunization rates to drop for the first time in 10 years, spurred increases in tuberculosis and malaria deaths, and sparked the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, the agencies said, warning that further financial hardships are likely as governments and households face tighter fiscal constraints.

WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called on governments to “immediately resume and accelerate” efforts to rebuild and strengthen healthcare and social support systems so that every person can access services without financial consequences. The reports were released to mark International Universal Health Coverage Day on December 12.

Read more at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security


 

 

 

 

 

 

read more »

Daily Briefing – 423

Biden Aims to Win Manchin’s Support for $2 Trillion Spending Plan

President Biden this week will lobby Sen. Joe Manchin, the centrist West Virginia Democrat, in an attempt to lock in a deal on a roughly $2 trillion social-policy and climate bill that Democrats hope to finish by Christmas.

Passage hinges largely on the support of Mr. Manchin, who hasn’t endorsed the legislation. He has repeatedly raised concerns about the cost of the bill and the potential effect of new government spending on inflation. Messrs. Biden and Manchin plan to talk early this week, a Senate aide said.

Read more at the WSJ


CBO: Fully Extended “Build Back Better” Reconciliation Bill Could Cost $3 trillion

The Democratic tax and spending package to expand the social safety net and combat climate change would increase federal deficits by $3 trillion over 10 years if most programs were made permanent, the Congressional Budget Office said Friday.

The Democratic reconciliation bill, as passed by the House, would increase deficits by $231 billion over 10 years, after accounting for spending for increased tax enforcement and interest costs on the debt, the nonpartisan budget agency said. To keep costs down, Democrats called for many of their programs to be temporary — particularly the child tax credit, which would expire in a year. And some programs would take years to get started. But if those programs were made permanent, the CBO said, costs would soar, increasing deficits in the first decade by more than $3 trillion, under a set of assumptions requested by Republican lawmakers.

Read more at Roll Call


Supreme Court Rejects Religious Challenge to New York Vaccine Mandate

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected challenges brought by Christian doctors and nurses and a group that promotes vaccine skepticism to New York’s refusal to allow religious exemptions to the state’s mandate that healthcare workers be vaccinated against COVID-19.  The justices denied emergency requests for an injunction requiring the state to allow religious exemptions while litigation over the mandate’s legality continues in lower courts.

The Supreme Court previously rejected other challenges to vaccine mandates including one focusing upon Maine’s lack of a religious exemption for healthcare workers. The New York challengers said the mandate, which allows a narrow medical exemption but no religious one, violates the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment prohibition on religious discrimination by the government, or a federal civil rights law requiring employers to reasonably accommodate employees’ religious beliefs.

Read more at Reuters


Health Officials Ratchet Up Calls for Boosters Amid Threat of Omicron Wave

Health officials are intensifying their calls for all American adults to get booster shots amid the threat of the omicron variant, a strain of COVID-19 first discovered in South Africa. Even before the discovery of omicron, many experts pointed to evidence of waning immunity over time from two doses, arguing for a need for a third dose after six months, but the new variant has added to the urgency. 

Data released by Pfizer this week showed a significant drop in the antibody response to the omicron strain with two doses, but that response, according to the pharmaceutical company, was restored with a third dose. Early data from the United Kingdom on Friday showed two doses of the Pfizer vaccine were only about 30 percent effective against preventing symptomatic infection from omicron, but that effectiveness rose to about 75 percent after a third dose. 

Read more at The Hill


US COVID Update – Covid-19 Cases Rise in Many States After Thanksgiving

Health authorities in some hard-hit states, like Vermont, New Jersey and Maine, say people who became infected after traveling or gathering indoors for Thanksgiving are likely adding to the Covid-19 numbers. By Saturday, some 34 states had higher seven-day averages for new cases than they did before Thanksgiving, according to Johns Hopkins University data, with some of the biggest increases in the Northeast.

The U.S. seven-day average for new cases is about 119,000 a day, according to Johns Hopkins, up from a recent low near 71,000 in late October, when surges triggered by the Delta variant slowed in the South before starting to hit hard in northern states.

Read more at the WSJ


NYS Vaccine and COVID Update  

Vaccine Stats as of  December 13:

One Vaccine Dose 

  • 81.0% of all New Yorkers – 15,190,860 (plus 13,211 from a day earlier).
  • In the Hudson Valley 1,5912,538 (plus 714).

Fully Vaccinated

  • 70.4% of all New Yorkers – 13,579,586 (plus 10,728).
  • In the Hudson Valley – 1,396,378 (plus 828). 

The Governor  updated COVID data through December 12 .  There were 46 COVID related deaths for a total of 59,990. 

Hospitalizations:

  • Patients Currently in Hospital statewide: 3,683.

7 Day Average Positivity Rate  – Cases per 100K population

  • Statewide 4.62%    –    54.11 positive cases per 100,00 population
  • Mid-Hudson: 4.57%   –  46.90 positive  cases per 100,00 population

Useful Websites:


Some Hospitals Drop Covid-19 Vaccine Mandates to Ease Labor Shortages

Hospital operators including HCA Healthcare Inc.  and Tenet Healthcare Corp.  as well as nonprofits AdventHealth and the Cleveland Clinic are dropping the mandates. Labor costs in the industry have soared, and hospitals struggled to retain enough nurses, technicians and even janitors to handle higher hospitalizations in recent months as the Delta variant raged. Vaccine mandates have been a factor constraining the supply of healthcare workers, according to hospital executives, public-health authorities and nursing groups.

Many hospitals already struggled to find workers, including nurses, before the pandemic. The shortages were compounded by burnout among many medical workers and the lure of high pay rates offered to nurses who travel to hot spots on short-term contracts.

Read more at the WSJ


Omicron Cases May Already be Peaking in South Africa, Less Than a Month After the COVID-19 Variant First Surfaced

Nearly three weeks after the Omicron variant was first identified by South African scientists, the COVID-19 mutation has whipped across the world, with infections in at least 63 countries. But in South Africa itself, the cases seem to be nearing their peak, and could already be headed for decline.

Cases of Omicron in Gauteng, South Africa’s most populous province and home to its biggest city, Johannesburg, rose slightly from a seven-day daily average of 9,645 last Thursday, to 10,131 on Sunday. At the same time, the positivity rate of those being tested and the number of hospitalizations have both been falling. Data from the country’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases shows positivity rates dropping from 30% to around 15% between Thursday and Saturday, while the number of new hospitalizations fell from 207 to 64 over the same period.

Read more at Fortune


Twenty Central Banks Hold Meetings as Inflation Forces Split

The world’s top central banks are diverging, as some turn to tackling surging inflation while others keep stoking demand, a split that looks set to widen in 2022.  The differences will be on full display this week with the final decisions for 2021 due at the U.S. Federal Reserve, European Central Bank, Bank of Japan and Bank of England, which are together responsible for monetary policy in almost half of the world economy. 

Fed Chair Jerome Powell is tipped to confirm on Wednesday that he’ll deliver a quicker withdrawal of stimulus than planned just a month ago. He may even hint at being open to raising interest rates sooner than expected in 2022 if inflation persists near its highest in four decades. The outlook for his central banking peers is less clear, marking an end of two years in which they largely synchronized their efforts to tackle the coronavirus recession, only to find inflation surging back stronger than anticipated in many key economies.

Read more at YahooFinance


Two Major Stewart Passenger Airlines Have no Immediate Plans to Return

Before the pandemic struck, New York Stewart International Airport at Newburgh was served by a number of airlines, but only Allegiant Airways, with flights to Florida and Myrtle Beach, continues uninterrupted.

Jet Blue, Delta and American Airlines suspended operations, but returned temporarily when the federal government funded their expenses until last September when the CARES Act expired.

Delta and American pulled all of their equipment out of Stewart so airport officials are not optimistic that they will return any time soon. Delta had flown to Detroit and American flew to Philadelphia. Jet Blue continues to have its equipment at Stewart, but the airline has not responded to several inquiries about possibly returning to the Hudson Valley.

Read more at Mid-Hudson News


Disaster Strikes – Kentucky Candle Plant Hit Hard by Devastating Tornado 

U.S. emergency workers on Sunday desperately searched for survivors of ferocious late-season tornadoes that killed at least 94 across several states and left towns in ruins, including in the debris of a Kentucky candle factory, a symbol of the widespread devastation.

More than 80 people are dead in Kentucky alone, many of them workers at the Mayfield factory, Beshear said Sunday as he raised the confirmed toll by 10 fatalities. “That number is going to exceed more than 100,” Beshear told CNN. Of the 110 employees working Friday night in the candle factory, “about 40 of them have been rescued and I’m not sure we’re going to see another rescue,” Beshear said. 

Read more at IndustryWeek


OSHA Probes Amazon’s Fatal Warehouse Collapse

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is launching a probe into the fatal collapse of an Amazon facility in Illinois after it was hit by a tornado, the agency said Monday. Six people died and one was transferred to a regional hospital after a tornado hit the 1.1-million-square-foot delivery center on Friday, according to officials. 

The National Weather Services issued a tornado warning at 8:06 p.m., about 23 minutes before the tornado hit Edwardsville.  Amazon spokesperson Alisa Caroll said the onsite team at the facility “immediately moved to ensure all team members went to the designated shelter in place locations” when the tornado warning came in from local authorities. 

Read more at The Hill


Mental Health Absences Drive U.K. Sick Leave Costs Up 31%

Poor mental health was the leading cause of British workers taking off work for illness in 2021, costing employers an estimated 43 billion pounds ($56.9 billion). That’s according to data from GoodShape, which manages workplace absences for companies and has a database of 750,000 employee records. GoodShape estimated that the cost of sick leave to employers rose by 31% from before the pandemic, not accounting for the cost of hiring and training replacement staff.

Mental ill health accounted for 19% of all lost working time in the U.K. up to Nov. 28, slightly more than confirmed cases of Covid-19. That was the case across every industry except transport and logistics, consumer and retail, and workplace services. 

Read more at Bloomberg


People Are Spamming Kellogg’s Job Portal to Keep it from Replacing Striking Workers

Reddit users are flooding the Kellogg Company’s job portal with fake applications after the company recently announced it will replace its striking union workers with new permanent employees. The spammers say they stand in solidarity with the strikers. As of Friday, the Reddit post has been upvoted more than 62,000 times. In descriptions of the job listings posted, Kellogg specifically notes that prospective workers would be hired to fill positions from employees on strike. 

In the tentative five-year agreement announced last week, the changes would have brought both a 3% wage hike for longtime “legacy” employees as well as increases for newer, “transitional” workers and new hires, based on how many years they put in with the company. That agreement was rejected by the rank and file. “Because we have an obligation to our customers and consumers to continue to provide the cereals that they know and love …we are hiring permanent replacement employees in positions vacated by striking workers, as is permitted by law.” A company spokesman said

Read more at NPR


 

 

 

 

 

 

read more »

Daily Briefing – 422

New Indoor Mask Mandate Begins Today

Governor Hochul announced Friday that masks will be required to be worn in all indoor public places unless businesses or venues implement a vaccine requirement. The State Health Commissioner issued a determination solidifying the requirement. This determination is based on the State’s weekly seven-day case rate as well as increasing hospitalizations. 

  • This measure is effective Dec. 13, 2021 until Jan. 15, 2022, after which the State will re-evaluate based on current conditions.
  • A violation of any provision of this measure is subject to all civil and criminal penalties, including a maximum fine of $1,000 for each violation.
  • Local health departments are being asked to enforce these requirements.
  • Businesses and venues that implement a mask requirement must ensure all patrons two years and older wear a mask at all times while indoors.

The State’s masking requirements continue to be in effect for pre-K to grade 12 schools, public transit, homeless shelters, correctional facilities, nursing homes, and health care settings per CDC guidelines.    


Inflation Surged 6.8% in November, Fastest Rate Since 1982 Putting Pressure on Fed

The consumer price index, which measures the cost of a wide-ranging basket of goods and services, rose 0.8% for the month, good for a 6.8% pace on a year over year basis and the fastest rate since June 1982. Excluding food and energy prices, so-called core CPI was up 0.5% for the month and 4.9% from a year ago, which itself was the sharpest pickup since mid-1991.  The report put pressure on the economic recovery and raising the stakes for the Federal Reserve.

Energy prices have risen 33.3% since November 2020, including a 3.5% surge in November. Gasoline alone is up 58.1%. Food prices have jumped 6.1% over the year, while used car and truck prices, a major contributor to the inflation burst, are up 31.4%, following a 2.5% increase last month.

Read more at CNBC


Manufacturing Had More Than 1 Million Job Openings in October

There were more than 1 million job openings in manufacturing in October, a more than 6.4% increase from the 948,000 openings in September, according to Job Openings and Labor Turnover numbers from the Department of Labor. October also saw record paces in job openings for both durable (584,000, from September’s 568,000) and nondurable (425,000, from September’s 380,000) goods firms. Manufacturers hired 495,000 people in October, an increase from September’s 483,000 and the most new hires since January 2001. 

In the larger economy. nonfarm business jobs increased from 10.6 million in September to just more than 11 million in October, close to the record number in July. There were 7.4 million unemployed Americans in October, the equivalent of 0.67 unemployed people for every one job opening in the U.S. economy.

Read the DOL press release


Inflation Hits Workers Already Worn Down by Covid-19

A dichotomy is unfolding around the U.S..  Lately jobs abound, consumer demand is up and roadside signs tout signing bonuses as the economy improves. Yet many workers and small-business owners say they are frustrated with inflation, which hit a 39-year high in November, and with the still-disruptive effects of the pandemic.

While nearly two-thirds of the largest U.S. public companies have reaped higher profit margins as executives across industries raise prices on consumers, most Americans say inflation is causing them at least some financial strain, a recent Wall Street Journal poll found. November’s consumer prices were up 6.8% from a year earlier, the Labor Department said Friday, amid continuing high demand and supply shortages.

Read more at the WSJ


US COVID Update – 60.4% of All Americans Fully Vaccinated

The US CDC reports 49.3 million cumulative COVID-19 cases and 788,903 deaths. Daily incidence has increased steadily since the most recent low on October 24, up from 64,151 new cases per day to 117,488 on December 7—+83% over that period. Daily mortality is currently 1,097 deaths per day, which is higher than the average prior to the US Thanksgiving holiday weekend. At the current pace, the US could surpass 800,000 cumulative deaths in the next 11 days and 2.5 deaths per 1,000 population—or 1 death per 400 population—in the next month. The US is #19 globally in terms of per capita cumulative mortality. 

The US has administered 476 million cumulative doses of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines. There are 237 million individuals who have received at least 1 vaccine dose, equivalent to 71.4% of the entire US population. Among adults, 83.8% have received at least 1 dose, as well as 20.7 million children under the age of 18. A total of 200 million individuals are fully vaccinated, which corresponds to 60.4% of the total population.  Since August 13, 48.9 million fully vaccinated individuals have received an additional or booster dose.

Read more at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security


NYS Vaccine and COVID Update  

Vaccine Stats as of  December 12:

One Vaccine Dose 

  • 80.8% of all New Yorkers – 15,177,649 (plus 221,047 from a day earlier).
  • In the Hudson Valley 1,591,824 (plus 1,415).

Fully Vaccinated

  • 70.3% of all New Yorkers – 13,568,858 (plus 21,365).
  • In the Hudson Valley – 1,395,550 (plus 1,975). 

The Governor  updated COVID data through December 11 .  There were 60 COVID related deaths for a total of 59,784. 

Hospitalizations:

  • Patients Currently in Hospital statewide: 3,474.

7 Day Average Positivity Rate  – Cases per 100K population

  • Statewide 4.61%    –    51.98 positive cases per 100,00 population
  • Mid-Hudson: 4.55%   –  45.78 positive  cases per 100,00 population

Useful Websites:


CDC: Most Reported U.S. Omicron Cases Have Hit the Fully Vaccinated With (So Far) Mild Symptoms – Boosters Make a Difference

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that of the 43 cases attributed to Omicron variant, 34 people had been fully vaccinated. Fourteen of them had also received a booster, although five of those cases occurred less than 14 days after the additional shot before full protection kicks in. Most of them only had mild symptoms such as coughing, congestion, and fatigue, the report said, and one person was hospitalized for two days. Other symptoms reported less frequently including nausea or vomiting, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, diarrhea and loss of taste or smell.

Meanwhile an Israeli study appears to support findings from Pfizer and BioNTech that three doses of their vaccine, including a booster as well as an initial two-shot regimen, provide strong protection against the omicron variant, Reuters reported.

Read more at The Hill


How Many Workers Have Quit to Avoid Vaccine Mandates?

Just 5% of unvaccinated workers—and 1% of all workers overall—said they left a job because of a COVID-19 vaccine mandate from their employer, more evidence that a feared exodus of workers due to mandates isn’t as severe as some predicted.

The statistic comes from a new survey released by the Kaiser Family Foundation, which found that one-quarter of workers surveyed in October said their employer has required them to get vaccinated, up from 9% in June and 19% last month. While about a quarter of all adults say they know someone who has left a job because of a vaccine requirement, just 5% of unvaccinated workers (1% of all adults) say they have personally done so. The nonpartisan organization surveyed 1,519 adults Oct. 14-24.

Read more at HR Executive 


CDC Urges kids Ages 16-17 to Get Newly Cleared Boosters

U.S., federal authorities are giving booster shots for 16- and 17-year-olds a strong endorsement. Hours after the Food and Drug Administration on Thursday authorized the extra doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents in that age group, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that those teens get the added protection as soon as they’re six months past their initial shots.

The third dose is identical to the other two. Booster doses are already encouraged for people over 18 who had their previous Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines at least six months earlier, or the Johnson & Johnson shot at least two months prior. The U.S. government has pre-purchased enough doses to provide boosters free of charge to anyone who qualifies.

Read more at USA Today


Campaign to Vaccinate Young Children off to Sluggish Start Despite Abundant Supply

The United States rushed millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses for children ages 5 to 11 across the nation, but demand for inoculations for younger kids has been low, more than a dozen state public health officials and physicians said.

Of the 28 million eligible U.S. children in that age group, around 5 million have received at least one dose, according to federal data, likely satisfying initial pent up demand from parents who were waiting to vaccinate their kids.

Read more at Reuters


New Jobless Claims Totaled 184,000, Lowest Since 1969

New initial jobless claims improved much more than expected last week to reach the lowest level in more than five decades, further pointing to the tightness of the present labor market as many employers seek to retain workers. 

  • Initial unemployment claims, week ended Dec. 4: 184,000 vs. 220,000 expected and an upwardly revised 227,000 during prior week.
  • Continuing claims, week ended Nov. 27: 1.992 million vs. 1.910 million expected and a downwardly revised 1.954 million during prior week.

“Beyond weekly moves, the overall trend in filings remains downward and confirms that businesses facing labor shortages are holding onto workers,” wrote Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist for High Frequency Economics, in a note on Wednesday. 

Read more at Yahoo Finance


U.S. Third-Quarter Labor Costs Revised Sharply Higher

The Labor Department said on Tuesday that unit labor costs, the price of labor per single unit of output, accelerated at a 9.6% annualized rate last quarter. That was revised up from the 8.3% pace reported in November.  Labor costs rose at a 5.9% pace in the April-June quarter. They increased at a 6.3% rate compared to a year ago, instead of the previously reported 4.8% rate.

Hourly compensation increased at a 3.9% rate in the third quarter, rather than at a 2.9% rate as previously reported.  The surge in labor costs came at the expense of worker productivity, which fell at a downwardly revised 5.2% rate last quarter. Productivity was previously reported to have tumbled at a 5.0% pace. It grew at a 2.4% pace in the April-June quarter.

Read more at Reuters


Starbucks Workers in Buffalo Vote to Join Union

Workers at a Starbucks store in Buffalo voted to join a union, making it the first company-owned store in the United States to organize. The 19-8 vote to join a union by workers at the Starbucks store on Elmwood Avenue was a major victory for union organizers after an organizing campaign that was staunchly opposed by Starbucks and drew national attention. But it was a mixed victory. Workers at a Starbucks store in Hamburg voted 12-8 against joining a union. And the results at a third store in Cheektowaga were undetermined after the ballots were counted. 
 
The organizing campaign was closely watched nationally because of its implications elsewhere for Starbucks and potentially other fast-food chains, where worker turnover is high and pay is toward the bottom end of the pay scale.


UK Economy Almost Flatlined in October, Adding to Rate Hike Doubts

Britain’s economy barely grew in October, even before the emergence of the Omicron coronavirus variant, further denting expectations that the Bank of England (BoE) will raise interest rates next week for the first time since the pandemic struck.  The world’s fifth-biggest economy remained 0.5% smaller than it was just before Britain was first hit by COVID-19 in early 2020, the Office for National Statistics said.

Gross domestic product edged up by just 0.1%, slowing sharply from September’s 0.6% growth and much weaker than a forecast of 0.4% in a Reuters poll of economists. 

Read more at Reuters


Ulster County Secures 33,000 Rapid at-Home COVID-19 Tests

Ulster County has secured 33,000 COVID-19 at-home rapid test kits in an effort to allow local schools and businesses to remain open safely while increasing testing capacity and access throughout the county.

The county will partner with schools, towns and non-profits to assist with distribution. Those tests will be provided at no cost to residents, helping to ensure fair and equitable access to the testing resource.

Read more at Mid-Hudson News


The Economist – Regardless of Policy or the Pandemic, Price Surges Have Their Own Remorseless Mathematics

If these headlines about inflation highs seem like clockwork in America, that is because, to a significant extent, they now are. Such are the basic mathematics of year-on-year price trends. The surge in inflation since the start of 2021 means that it is guaranteed to remain elevated in annual terms for a while to come. A relatively optimistic forecast would have inflation returning to its pre-pandemic norm only at the very end of 2022.

The challenge is to bend the price curve towards the more benign outcome. In this regard, there is some cause for optimism, even if it will take a while to see results. First, the giant fiscal stimulus that helped stoke demand in America is running its course. Second, the Fed is moving towards tighter monetary policy.  In the meantime, brace for a few more months of multi-decade highs in inflation. It is in the stars and, most crucially, in the sums.

Read more at The Economist


 

 

 

 

read more »

Daily Briefing – 421

US Job Openings Rose to 11 Million in October

Open positions in the US rose to 11 million from 10.4 million in October, according to Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS, data published Wednesday. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expected openings to climb to 10.5 million. That means October’s figure was just shy of the all-time record of 11.1 million openings, from July.

The report suggests the labor market remained unusually tight with millions still out of work compared to early 2020. US job growth sharply accelerated in October as the Delta wave faded and companies ramped up their holiday hiring efforts. But while payroll creation surged, the latest JOLTS data shows openings still sitting close to record highs.

Read more more at Business Insider


4.2 Million Americans Quit Jobs in October

Roughly 4.2 million workers quit their jobs in October, down slightly from a record 4.4 million in the prior month, the U.S. Labor Department said Wednesday. The decline in October come after three straight months of record highs.  The so-called quit rate slipped to 2.8% overall from 3%. while quits for private-sector employees inched down to 3.1% from 3.3%.

More people tend to quit when the economy is doing well or they think they can find a better job. That largely explains the huge increase in people leaving their jobs this year. Companies are boosting pay and benefits.

Read more at MarketWatch


Senate Passes Resolution to Nullify Biden Vaccine Mandate

The Senate on Wednesday voted to nix President Biden’s vaccine mandate for larger businesses, handing Republicans a symbolic win. Senators voted 52-48 on the resolution, which needed a simple majority to be approved. Democratic Sens. Jon Tester (Mont.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.) voted with Republicans, giving it enough support to be sent to the House. 

The resolution faces an uphill path in the House, where Republicans aren’t able to use a similar fast-track process to force a vote over the objections of Democratic leadership. Instead, Republicans are hoping to get the simple majority needed to force a vote through a discharge petition, which will require support from a handful of House Democrats. 

Read more at The Hill


JPMorgan: 2022 Will Mark the End of the Pandemic and a Full Economic Recovery

JPMorgan Chase is predicting 2022 will usher in a return to normalcy and a full healing of the economic wounds caused by the health crisis. “Our view is that 2022 will be the year of a full global recovery, an end of the global pandemic and a return to normal conditions we had prior to the Covid-19 outbreak,” Marko Kolanovic, JPMorgan’s (JPM)chief global markets strategist, wrote in a note to clients on Wednesday. “This is warranted by achieving broad population immunity and with the help of human ingenuity, such as new therapeutics expected to be broadly available in 2022.”

America’s biggest bank expects progress on the health front will spark a “strong” recovery in the economy, marked by a return of global mobility and robust spending by consumers and businesses.  
JPMorgan is forecasting continued growth for the stock market, albeit at a slower pace. The bank set a year-end target of 5,050 for the S&P 500, up by 8% from current levels.

Read more at CNN


US COVID Update – 19 U.S. States Now Have Detected the Omicron COVID-19 Variant

The  omicron variant of the coronavirus has now been reported in 50 countries and 19 states, said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She added, “we expect that number to continue to increase.”  States that have detected the variant range from Hawaii to Texas to Massachusetts. The reports are part of a new surge in COVID-19 cases in the U.S. that now tops 100,000 cases per day.

Experts say it will likely be weeks before meaningful data about patient outcomes will emerge from South Africa, which first reported the variant. The country has seen an exponential rise in COVID-19 cases in Gauteng Province, the epicenter of the outbreak.

Read more at NPR


NYS Vaccine and COVID Update  

Vaccine Stats as of  December 8:

One Vaccine Dose 

  • 79.5% of all New Yorkers – 15,083,186 (plus 24,476 from a day earlier).
  • In the Hudson Valley 1,583,273 (plus 2,943).

Fully Vaccinated

  • 69.2% of all New Yorkers – 13,477,363 (plus 23,356).
  • In the Hudson Valley – 1,385,556 (plus 3,242). 

The Governor  updated COVID data through December 7 .  There were 40 COVID related deaths for a total of 59,689. 

Hospitalizations:

  • Patients Currently in Hospital statewide: 3,489.

7 Day Average Positivity Rate  – Cases per 100K population

  • Statewide 4.75%    –    48.96 positive cases per 100,00 population
  • Mid-Hudson: 4.63%   –  42.85 positive  cases per 100,00 population

Useful Websites:


Pfizer and BioNTech Say Third Dose Provides High Level of Protection Against Omicron Initial Lab Study

Three doses of Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine provide a high level of protection against the omicron variant of the virus that causes Covid-19, the companies announced on Wednesday.  The companies said two-doses of the vaccine showed a significant reduction in the ability of antibodies to target and neutralize omicron, though they may still protect against severe disease.

A booster shot of the vaccine increases antibody protection 25-fold compared with the initial two-dose series, according to a preliminary lab study. A third shot shows virus fighting abilities comparable to the 95% protection provided by two-doses against the original strain of the virus.

Read more at CNBC


Study: Covid-19 Vaccine Effectiveness in New York State

As of September 29, 2021, more than 2.4 million people in New York State have been diagnosed with coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), and more than 56,000 have died.1 Covid-19 vaccines are a critical prevention tool. In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine researchers found that The effectiveness of the three vaccines against Covid-19 declined after the delta variant became predominant. The effectiveness against hospitalization remained high, with modest declines limited to recipients 65 years of age or older. 

The study compared cohorts defined according to vaccine product received, age, and month of full vaccination with age-specific unvaccinated cohorts by linking statewide testing, hospital, and vaccine registry databases. 

Read more at the New England Journal of Medicine


Kellogg’s Says It Will Hire Replacements After Striking Workers Reject Latest Contract

Kellogg employees represented by the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers union, or BCTGM, voted December 7 to reject the latest tentative offer from Kellogg and opted to continue striking for higher wages. Workers there have been on strike since October 5. In a company statement, Kellogg North America President Chris Hood struck a skeptical tone on whether or not negotiations would continue after almost 20 failed sessions.

“After 19 negotiation sessions in 2021, and still no deal reached, we will continue to focus on moving forward to operate our business,” Hood said. “The prolonged work stoppage has left us no choice but to continue executing the next phase of our contingency plant including hiring replacement employees in positions vacated by striking workers.” Hood insisted that hiring replacements is necessary for business continuity.

Read more at IndustryWeek


Take if from a “Sinologist” The Fallout from Frayed Goodwill with China Will Be Swift and Intense

Eamon McKinney, Ph.D., M.B.A., (sinologist) writes that companies whose supply chain extends to China should be prepared to revise their material acquisition budgets. The advice he offers to any company dealing with China is to focus on relationships. Make contact, explain the issues and problems you are experiencing—and based on the level of remaining goodwill, they may try to make some accommodation.

As COVID started disrupting all aspects of business and industry, including supply chain, U.S manufacturers began leaning heavily on the existing goodwill they had with their Chinese suppliers to resolve supply-chain-related issues. This has been possible because the Chinese historically have believed in building relationships with their business partners. Goodwill is a critical factor of such a policy. However, over the last couple of months it’s become apparent that the goodwill reservoir is draining fast.

Read more at IndustryWeek


McMahon: NY is Leaking Millionaires

New York’s share of the nation’s income millionaire households continued to fall in 2019, capping a decade of sluggish growth in the high earners Albany depends on for an outsized chunk of state revenue. According to just-released data from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)New York’s share of the nation’s total millionaire earner population dropped to 9.9 percent, down from 12.7 percent as of 2010, the year after the state enacted a supposedly temporary and ultimately permanent higher rate on millionaire earners. 

In 2019 the number of New York tax filers with adjusted gross incomes above $1 million dropped to 55,100, from 57,210 in 2018. That 3.7 percent decrease came even as the number of millionaire filers nationally was growing to 554,340 from 541,410, an increase of 2.4 percent. Only five other states experienced a decrease in millionaire filers in 2019—and the only state to experience a bigger drop than New York was Oklahoma (down 5.1 percent), whose oil barons were clobbered by an industry-wide slump that year.


CEO: BlackRock Investment of  $15.5 Billion in Aramco Gas Pipeline Not at Odds with Green Pledge

BlackRock supposedly went green a couple years ago, but now the financial giant is leading an investment into a new Saudi Aramco gas pipeline. BlackRock sees no contradiction, with CEO Larry Fink claiming Aramco and Saudi Arabia are “making meaningful, forward-looking steps to transition the Saudi economy toward renewables, clean hydrogen, and a net-zero future [and] responsibly managed natural gas infrastructure has a meaningful role to play in this transition.”


Germany’s Scholz Takes Power in Germany After Merkel’s 16-Year Rule

Olaf Scholz has, as expected, been elected by German parliamentarians as the country’s new chancellor. The Merkel era is now officially history. Scholz’s new coalition government has a lot on its plate: the pandemic, a troubled economy, the energy transition, and a potential diplomatic crisis over the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline if Russia goes ahead and invades Ukraine.

Read more at the WSJ


WSJ Poll Shows Pessimism on the Economy and Inflation is an Increasing Concern

According to the poll Republicans are in a strong position heading into the midterm election year, though Democrats have advantages in some policy areas. Voters are pessimistic about the economy and said they believe Republicans have the better economic policy, 43% to 34%. Some 41% approve of Mr. Biden’s job performance, with 57% disapproving.
 
​Inflation is emering as a key concern. Some 56% in the new survey said inflation was causing them major or minor financial strain, including 28% who said they felt major pressures. Fifty percent of voters said they support Mr. Biden’s vaccine requirements for the private sector, while 47% oppose them.

Read more at the WSJ


Tyson Foods to Spend $50M on Bonuses at its Meat Plants

After spending more than $500 million in bonuses and wage hikes this year, Tyson Foods is giving its more than 80,000 hourly meatpacking employees a total of $50 million in year-end bonuses. CEO Donnie King said the company is also responding to employee needs by offering flexible scheduling and on-site health care services at little to no cost.

The meatpacking industry was especially hard hit by the virus that spread quickly through plants where workers stand shoulder-to-shoulder on production lines. A U.S. House report released this fall said that at least 59,000 meatpacking workers caught COVID-19 and 269 workers died when the virus swept through the industry. That estimate included workers at the largest meat companies, including Tyson, JBS, Smithfield Foods, Cargill and National Beef.

Read more at the AP


 

 

 

read more »