Daily Briefing – 175

NYS Micro Cluster and Covid Update

At a briefing for reporters yesterday Governor Cuomo provided an overview of New York’s COVID-19 tracking data from Tuesday, October 20th.  The “micro-cluster” initiative seeks to detect small outbreaks and contain them within a geographic area, with buffer zones with fewer restrictions to monitor the spread from “micro-clusters”. The State has placed restrictions on social and economic activities within “micro-clusters” based on the extent of COVID-19 spread. A “red zone” is an area with the highest positivity rates, an “orange zone” is the area immediately surrounding the “red zone,” and a “yellow zone” is an area surrounding the “orange zone.”
The initiative began fourteen days ago, during which time the NYSDOH has studied the data to determine whether “micro-cluster” areas have successfully reduced viral spread to a level where restrictions can be eased. New York will begin to adjust zones based on the following metrics:
  • To exit a “red zone”: under 3% after 10 days (4% in less populated areas)
  • To exit an “orange zone”: under 2% after 10 days (3% in less populated areas)
  • To exit a “yellow zone”: under 1.5% after 10 days (2% in less populated areas)
  • Additional considerations include hospitalization trends, source of new cases, local government enforcement efforts, and community cooperation.
Tracking data for the clusters and the rest of the State is below.
Summary of positivity rates:
  • 20 Cluster zip codes: 6.61%
  • Orange Red Zone (10 Day Average): 4.20%
  • Rockland Red Zone (10 Day Average): 4.80%
  • Statewide: 1.62%
  • Statewide excluding hotspots: 1.42%
Here are some useful links:

Some Further Details on the  New York Paid Sick Leave Law Guidance from Harris Beach

On the Monday New York State released long-anticipated guidance on the state’s new Paid Sick Leave Law, or “PSL.” The new law is not limited to coronavirus-related situations. It is instead a new, permanent sick leave mandate for almost all businesses and non-profit employers in New York State. The guidance is available here.

The law functionally goes into effect on January 1, 2021. On that date, employees may start using Paid Sick Leave. As of September 30, however, employees were to begin “accruing” Paid Sick Leave at a rate of 1 hour of leave for every 30 hours worked. Employers should keep track of how much leave their employees will have accrued as of January 1. Alternatively, employers may choose to “frontload” employees’ Sick Leave allotment at the beginning of the year.

Read more from Harris Beach 

Coronavirus Stimulus Talks Make Progress 

White House and Democratic negotiators said they would press ahead with efforts to reach a sweeping coronavirus relief deal after making progress Tuesday, even as the prospect of a roughly $2 trillion package sparked opposition from Senate Republicans.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) had indicated that she hoped to pin the White House down on enough issues by the end of the day Tuesday to be able to determine whether a deal could be passed before the Nov. 3 election. After Tuesday’s discussion, both sides said they were willing to continue their discussions without decisively establishing whether a deal will be possible.

Read more in the WSJ

Meanwhile… The Senate Takes Up $500 Billion Package

The Republican-controlled Senate on Wednesday will take up a $500 billion COVID-19 stimulus package, a bill unlikely to make it out of the Senate as relief negotiations drag on less than two weeks before Election Day.

The bill would give a federal boost to weekly unemployment benefits, send over $100 billion to schools, and allocate funding for testing and vaccine development. Democrats are expected to block the legislation, arguing more money is needed to combat the virus and help Americans.  Its $500 billion price tag is far less than the roughly $1.8 trillion package the White House has offered and the $2.2 trillion package Democrats have backed. The two parties have spent months attempting to find a bipartisan agreement for one last batch of coronavirus stimulus relief before the election. 

Read more in USA Today

Single-Family Homebuilding Increases

U.S. single-family homebuilding raced to a more than 13-year high in September, cementing the housing market’s status as the star of the economic recovery amid record-low mortgage rates and a migration to the suburbs and low-density areas in search of more room for home offices and schooling.

The report from the Commerce Department on Tuesday also showed building permits and housing completions scaling levels last seen in 2007. That could help to ease an acute shortage of homes for sale, which has fueled house price inflation.  The data reinforced expectations that the economy rebounded sharply in the third quarter after suffering its deepest contraction in at least 73 years in the second quarter.

Read More are Reuters

Meanwhile… Mortgage Demand Falls for the Fourth Straight Week

Homebuyer demand is incredibly strong compared with last year, but there appears to be a slight pullback this month.  A drop in buyer demand caused total mortgage application volume to fall 0.6% last week compared with the previous week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s seasonally adjusted index.

Applications to purchase a home fell 2% for the week, the fourth straight week of declines. Purchase demand is down nearly 7% compared with four weeks ago. Volume, however, is still 26% higher than one year ago. The drop may be seasonal, although not much has conformed to normal patterns in the year of Covid-19. It may be more a factor of the incredibly low supply of homes for sale. Inventory continues to set record lows, especially at the entry level of the market.

Read more at CNBC

DOD Researchers Collaborate on Universal Antibody Test for COVID-19

Researchers from the U.S. Army Futures Command, in collaboration with Houston Methodist, Pennsylvania State University, and UT Austin, tested alternative ways to measure COVID-19 antibody level resulting in a process that is faster, easier and less expensive to use on a large scale. Their method holds promise for accurately identifying potential donors who have the best chance of helping infected patients through convalescent plasma therapy.

Read more at Global Biodefense

How Pfizer Plans to Distribute Coronavirus Vaccines

Pfizer has spent roughly $2 billion developing a coronavirus vaccine and is setting up its logistics network to ensure speedy distribution if the vaccine receives authorization. The drugmaker’s logistics plan involves reusable frozen containers, along with cargo planes and trucks to handle the delivery of up to 100 million doses this year and 1.3 billion next year.

Read the full story at the WSJ

Big Ten Football, The Midwest and COVID-19

With the first Big Ten football games scheduled for this weekend, Johns Hopkins looks at the current state of the COVID-19 epidemic in these states compared to where they were on August 11 when the season was originally put on hold. In mid-August, most of the states that are home to Big Ten Schools were beginning to come down from the peak of their respective summer COVID-19 surges. Since that time, however, nearly every one of these states has reported increased COVID-19 incidence.

Notably, all except Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania have reported new record high daily incidence since the first announcement in August. Additionally, Wisconsin and Nebraska are currently reporting higher per capita daily incidence than New Jersey did at its first peak in April. Most of the Big Ten states are also reporting increased test positivity since August. 

Read More at Johns Hopkins