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Daily Briefing – 164

Post: Oct. 6, 2020

“Cluster Action Initiative” – Cuomo Imposes Tight Virus Rules on Areas Hit by Spikes Across State

Gov. Cuomo on Tuesday imposed tough new restrictions and guidelines aimed at curbing a surge of coronavirus clusters in parts of New York City and its northern suburbs. The State is declaring COVID-19 clusters in portions of Brooklyn, Queens, Orange and Rockland, as well as a “precautionary zone” in a portion of Binghamton. The “Cluster Action Initiative” will take dramatic actions within the cluster and precautionary measures in surrounding areas. The initiative will follow caseloads, not zip codes or census tract. 

Clusters will be labeled with colors based on their positivity rates. The cluster zones will be three different levels based on proximity to the cluster: red, orange, and yellow. Within each color code there will be capacity limits and gathering rules. Red zones will have the strictest restrictions. Within the red and orange zones, schools will be closed to in-person learning. Schools in a yellow zone must increase testing efforts.

The State is consulting with local governments on the maps of affected areas. The new rules will go into effect as soon as tomorrow, but no later than Friday, October 9th. Testing efforts for schools in a yellow zone will start no later than next Friday. The rules will be in effect for 14 days, at which time they will be reevaluated.

One State Added to Restricted List

Governor Cuomo announced that travelers from New Mexico are now required to complete a 14-day quarantine upon entering New York. No states or areas were removed from the travel advisory.

Pelosi Says Stimulus Talks Are Moving ‘Very Slowly’

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are continuing to hash out the terms of the next federal coronavirus aid bill this week, but progress is slow.

4.9 million people will cross the government’s long-term joblessness threshold (defined as looking for work for 27 weeks or more) over the next two months, according to Labor Department data released last week. While job losses have slowed since the peak of the pandemic and the U.S. last month added more jobs than it lost, layoffs still remain stubbornly high. The two top negotiators, who suddenly resumed urgent conversations last week after negotiations fell apart in August, plan to speak again Tuesday. 

Read more at Forbes

Powell Says U.S. Faces ‘Tragic’ Risks From Doing Too Little to Support Economy

“The expansion is still far from complete,” Fed Chair Jerome Powell said in remarks delivered at a virtual economics conference Tuesday. “At this early stage, I would argue that the risks of policy intervention are still asymmetric. Too little support would lead to a weak recovery, creating unnecessary hardship.”

By contrast, the risks of providing too generous relief are smaller, he said. “Even if policy actions ultimately prove to be greater than needed, they will not go to waste,” he said.

Read more in the WSJ

ISM Survey: U.S. Service Sector Activity Rises Above Pre-Pandemic Level in September

The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) said on Monday its non-manufacturing activity index rose to a reading of 57.8 last month from 56.9 in August. That put the index just above its 57.3 level in February. A reading above 50 indicates growth in the services sector, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the index slipping to 56.0 in September.

The improvement in services industry activity fits in with expectations for a record rebound in economic growth in the third quarter after a historic plunge in gross domestic product in the April-June period. The economy got a boost over the summer from fiscal stimulus.

Read more at Reuters

U.S. Trade Deficit Widened in August to Largest Since 2006

The U.S. trade deficit widened in August to the largest since 2006 as the nation imported a record amount of consumer goods amid a pickup in demand ahead of the holiday-shopping season.

Total imports increased 3.2% to $239 billion, while exports rose 2.2% from the prior month to $171.9 billion. The nation’s surplus in services shrank to the lowest since 2012. Meanwhile, the merchandise trade deficit expanded to a record high. The coronavirus pandemic undid some of the Trump administration’s deficit-reduction efforts which were starting to bear fruit before Covid-19 upended demand and supply chains. American businesses, which drew down inventories at the start of the lockdown, have recently increased imports to replenish stocks ahead of the holidays.

Read more at Bloomberg

COVID-19 Response Sparks Efforts to Strengthen Supply Chain

The COVID-19 pandemic revealed the fragility of the Defense Department’s supply chain. As a result, the department is taking a variety of steps to strengthen that supply chain, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment said. “One of our first actions was to ensure that the defense industrial base was essential and designated as critical infrastructure,” Ellen M. Lord said in an online discussion during the ComDef 2020 conference, a virtual conference providing insights and perspectives on issues facing the international defense communities.

Read the DOD press release

Nearly 20,000 Amazon Employees Could Have COVID-19

Amazon reported on its blog Oct. 1 that 19,816 employees have tested or been presumed positive for COVID-19. The company analyzed data on its 1,372,000 Amazon and Whole Foods Market frontline employees who were employed in the United States at any time between March 1 and Sept. 19, 2020. Amazon found 1.4% of workers were confirmed or presumed to have COVID-19.

The company has introduced or changed more than 150 safety measures since the pandemic began, including mandatory temperature checks, enhanced cleaning procedures and social distancing measures. Amazon has eliminated stand-up meetings during shifts, staggered break times and spread out chairs in breakrooms.

Read more in EHS Today

EU Reviewing Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine in Real Time

The European health regulator is reviewing a COVID-19 vaccine being developed by Pfizer PFE.N and BioNTech 22UAy.F in real time, days after launching a similar assessment process for AstraZeneca’s AZN.L vaccine.  The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said on Tuesday its human medicines committee was evaluating the first batch of data on the vaccine, and would continue to do so until enough data is available for a final decision. (bit.ly/34mAHiI)

Pfizer and BioNTech said in a joint statement the start of the review is based on data from laboratory and animal testing, as well as early testing on humans, while continuing talks to submit data as it emerged.

Read more at Reuters