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Daily Briefing – 129

Post: Aug. 16, 2020

Bowling Alleys and Fitness Centers Can Reopen Beginning this Week, NYC Cultural Centers Next Week

On a conference call with members of the press Friday morning Governor Cuomo announced that fitness centers and bowling alleys will be allowed to reopen. The State will release public heath protocols for fitness centers today, August 17th. Bowling alleys will be able to open today, August 17th at 50% capacity, mandatory face coverings, every other lane closed, cleaning protocols, and table service only for food and beverage.

Low-risk indoor cultural activities can reopen in New York City on Monday, August 24th with 25% occupancy, timed ticketing required with pre-set staggered entry, and mandatory face coverings.

The Governor issued a press release Sunday detailing New York’s COVID-19 tracking data from August 15th. The State announced of the 77,692 test results reported yesterday, 0.78% (607) were positive. This is the ninth day in a row that the positive cases have been below 1%. Additionally, Governor Cuomo announced that a total of 7 million COVID-19 tests have been conducted to date.

Second Stimulus Update – What’s The Holdup?

Both sides openly support another round of stimulus checks, extended unemployment benefits, small business relief, and other measures to support the economy. However, they disagreed about the levels of support needed for each of these measures, and they disagreed on other topics, such as providing extensive financial aid to state and local governments. 

Now here where are, several weeks after negotiations resumed, with no deal and both houses of Congress breaking until after Labor Day. 

Read more at Forbes

Retail Spending in July Topped Pre-Pandemic Levels

Retail sales—reflecting what households spent at service stations, stores, restaurants and online—rose 1.2% in July, the Commerce Department said Friday. That marked the third consecutive monthly gain as the U.S. strives to reopen its economy as much as possible despite the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

After accounting for seasonal factors, sales were 1.7% higher compared to February, the month before the pandemic shut down much of the economy. Consumers last month boosted spending on electronics and appliances, health products and restaurant meals.

More recent evidence suggests households moderated spending in certain areas. One factor: the July 31 expiration of an enhanced unemployment benefit.

Read more in the WSJ

NYS Comptroller: Local Sales Tax Collections Drop 8.2 Percent in July

Sales tax revenue for local governments in July fell 8.2 percent compared to the same period last year, according to State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. Collections for counties and cities in July totaled $1.3 billion, or $116 million less than in July 2019. Although revenue is still down compared to July 2019, the decline is less steep than any month since March, when the COVID-19 pandemic began to affect sales tax collections.

Read the press release

Empire Center: New York’s Post-Pandemic State Budget Picture Is Looking Worse

Without any added federal aid, and without touching his roughly $7 billion in reserves, he (Governor Cuomo) could squeeze, nip and tuck his way to achieving temporary budget balance without following through on his repeated (and exaggerated) threat to cut local aid (including school aid) by 20 percent. But again, that would only solve this year’s problem—assuming revenues don’t fall even further, which is quite possible.

The governor’s true, massive challenge begins in FY 2022 and thereafter when recurring budget shortfalls are projected to reach $19 billion, or nearly 20 percent of current state operating spending.

Read more at the Empire Center

Bond Schoeneck & King: Three Court Cases Challenging New York’s Response to COVID-19

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, New York has placed restrictions on many facets of our daily lives. For example, as we have reported previously, under the applicable executive orders, gatherings are limited to 50 people. In addition, many sporting events can take place, but without spectators. These types of restrictions are being challenged in court. On Friday, August 7, federal Judge Glenn Suddaby of the Northern District of New York held that New York’s limit of 50 attendees was “impermissibly arbitrary” when applied to a wedding in a restaurant facility. Then, on Tuesday, August 11, federal Judge Lawrence Kahn, also of the Northern District, rejected a case brought by five New York racetracks challenging the state’s ban on spectators at auto racetracks. Also on the same day, federal Judge David Hurd dismissed a case brought on behalf of an Arizona woman challenging New York’s travel advisory. BSK discussed each of the decisions and the potential impact on New York’s COVID-19 restrictions.

Read more at BSK


New York Legislative Hearing: Impact of COVID-19 on the Workforce

On August 13th, the Legislature held a public hearing examining the impact of COVID-19 on the State’s workforce. NYS Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon testified that the State prevented over $1 billion in unemployment insurance fraud during the pandemic, even as it paid out over $40 billion in benefits. The State identified over 42,000 fraudulent claims and referred more cases in the last five months to federal prosecutors than in the past ten years combined.

Video of the hearing and written testimony can be found here.

Deeper Dive in The Economist:  Fighting Covid-19 By Truly Understanding the Virus

Although the virus behind covid-19 is less deadly than the one that causes SARS in a given single case, that does not mean that it is less dangerous on the whole. On the contrary, it harms many more people. To understand why, consider two pathogens. Imagine that for every 1,000 people, the first pathogen makes 20 seriously ill and kills two. The case fatality rate is 10%.

Now imagine a second pathogen that again makes 20 seriously ill and kills two for every 1,000 people, but also infects a further 180 people making them mildly or moderately ill, but not killing them. Perhaps some of them are left seriously disabled, too. But the case fatality rate gets calculated as two deaths out of 200, for a mere 1%. The second disease seems much milder. In reality it is far worse: no one would prefer to be in a group facing the second pathogen rather than the first—with ten times as many people infected.

Read more at The Economist