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Post: Dec. 10, 2020

COVID and Cluster ‘Surge & Flex’ Update

Governor Cuomo issued a press release yesterday morning providing an overview of New York’s COVID-19 tracking data from Wednesday, December 9th.  The State’s focus has shifted from positivity rates to regional hospitalization rates.  

If statewide and regional hospitalization rates do not stabilize by today indoor dining will be banned in New York City and capacity would be reduced from 50% to 25% for the rest of the state. 

Hospitalization tracking data for the Mid-Hudson region and the rest of the State are below.  

  • Hospitalizations Statewide
    • Patients Currently in Hospital in Region   =  5164
    • COVID Hospitalizations as Percent of Region Population =  .003%
    • Percent of Hospital Beds Available in Region  = 22%
  • Hospitalizations Mid-Hudson Region: 
    • Patients Currently in Hospital in Region   =  694
    • COVID Hospitalizations as Percent of Region Population =  .003%
    • Percent of Hospital Beds Available in Region  = 25%
  • ICU Beds Statewide
    • Total ICU Beds   =  5889
    • Occupied ICU Beds =  3981
    • Percent of ICU Beds Available  = 35%
  • ICU Beds Mid-Hudson Region: 
    • Total ICU Beds   =  744
    • Occupied ICU Beds =  378
    • Percent of ICU Beds Available  = 49%
  • Transmission Rate (R0): 1.18
  • Statewide Positivity Rate: 5.15%

Here are some useful websites:

US Panel Endorses Widespread Use of Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine

A U.S. government advisory panel endorsed widespread use of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine Thursday, putting the country just one step away from launching an epic vaccination campaign against the outbreak that has killed close to 300,000 Americans.  Shots could begin within days, depending on how quickly the Food and Drug Administration signs off, as expected, on the expert committee’s recommendation.

Next week, the FDA will review a second vaccine, from Moderna and the National Institutes of Health, that appears about as protective as Pfizer-BioNTech’s shot. A third candidate, from Johnson & Johnson, which would require just one dose, is working its way through the pipeline. Behind that is a candidate from AstraZeneca and Oxford University.

Read more at the AP

ICU Beds Filling Up –  Latest US Map and COVID Case Count

More than a third of Americans live in places where intensive-care beds in hospitals are close to capacity, according to fresh federal data. An analysis by the New York Times of detailed geographical information on covid-19 in hospitals, published for the first time, showed that one in ten Americans lived in areas where intensive-care units were either full or had less than 5% of beds available. Many of them are in the Midwest and the South.

See the map and analysis at the NYT

McConnell signals no Republican support for COVID-19 deal from bipartisan group

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is hitting the brakes on the emerging COVID-19 aid package from a bipartisan group of lawmakers, saying Republican senators won’t support $160 billion in state and local funds as part of a potential trade-off in the deal.

McConnell’s staff conveyed to top negotiators that the GOP leader sees no path to an agreement on a key aspect of the lawmakers’ existing proposal – a slimmed-down version of the liability shield for companies and organizations facing potential COVID-19 lawsuits – in exchange for $160 billion in state and local funds that Democrats want.   The hardened stance from McConnell, who does not appear to have the votes from Republicans for a far-reaching compromise, creates a new stalemate over the $900-billion-plus package, despite days of toiling by a bipartisan group of lawmakers toward a deal.

Read more at ABC News

U.S. Unemployment Claims Rise to Highest Level Since September

Weekly initial claims for jobless benefits from state programs, a proxy for layoffs, increased by a seasonally adjusted 137,000 in the week ended Dec. 5, the Labor Department said Thursday. Last week’s level of applications was the highest since September, but was still well down from a peak of nearly seven million in late March.

Jobless claims have mostly trended down since the spring, when the coronavirus pandemic caused widespread business shutdowns. Since falling below 1 million a week in August, the pace of improvement slowed. That matches with other measures showing the economy is recovering, but at a slower pace in recent months.

Read more at the WSJ

GAO Report – Jobless Data Flawed

Jobless claims data has been viewed as a bellwether for economists and policy makers for a half-century. However, the Government Accountability Office, a federal watchdog, last month said jobless claims data was flawed.

The GAO said states have provided inconsistent data to the Labor Department and incidents of fraud have distorted the numbers. The Labor Department on Thursday said the measurement of ongoing benefits, known as continued claims “reflect a good approximation” of the number of insured unemployed workers filing for benefits.  That number rose by 230,000 to 5.8 million in the week ended Nov. 28. State programs provide unemployment insurance to most U.S. workers.

Read more in the WSJ


A Little More Detail from the JOLTS Report – Manufacturing Job Openings Rise

Manufacturing job openings increased from September to October, according to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  There were 525,000 manufacturing job openings in October, up from 492,000 in September and a new record high. Postings for durable (up from 267,000 to 290,000—the best since August 2019) and nondurable goods (up from 225,000 to 235,000—an all-time high) both strengthened in October.

According to NAM Chief Economist Chad Moutray, “One sign of improved health is the ‘churn’ seen in the labor market, and the number of quits has rebounded in recent months. This is reassuring and a sign that the market is strengthening.”

See the full report at the BLS

Empire Center’s McMahon: NY’s Need for Federal Aid Is Real—But Inflated

A solid case can be made for providing relief geared to the sudden and unforeseeable revenue losses of state governments and localities across the country, whose revenue estimates were severely disrupted by a pandemic with consequences far more severe than anything they could have planned for in 2019.

But Cuomo has not helped his case by playing games with the numbers involved, repeatedly exaggerating the amount he actually needs—and by avoiding any action to permanently reduce spending, lest it suggest to Congress that he actually needs less. As framed in this week’s letter to the congressional delegation, the real budgetary needs of the state and the city (but not the MTA, which is in truly dire shape) are exaggerated.

Read more at the Empire Center

Pandemic Means Employers Need to Know How Workers Spend Time Off

Employers have wide latitude during a pandemic in what they can ask regarding your holiday plans. That includes asking workers to take a pledge to refrain from any risky behavior—as some companies did right before Thanksgiving—and cautioning employees against any conduct that would violate federal or local health guidelines. It varies by state, but if it is a matter of protecting the safety of the workplace, employers can also discipline workers for what they do during off hours. That could include if workers don’t disclose potential exposure to the virus and return to the workplace without quarantining after personal travel or after attending large celebrations.

Read more at the WSJ

ECB Expands Stimulus Program in Bid to Prop up Pandemic-Hit Eurozone Economy

The European Central Bank expanded and extended its asset-buying program Thursday and vowed to keep an eye on the euro exchange rate as it attempts to shore up the eurozone economy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The moves were largely in line with expectations and aimed to keep borrowing costs low for governments as they ramp up spending to address the fallout from the health crisis.

The centerpiece of Thursday’s actions was an expansion of the size of its pandemic emergency purchase program by 500 billion euros ($606.2 billion) to 1.85 trillion euros and extending it by at least nine months to March 2022. Lagarde said the ECB didn’t necessarily have to use the entire PEPP “envelope” if conditions improve, but could also expand it if needed.

Read more at Market Watch

Boeing 737 Takes Off On First Commercial Flight in 20 Months

Boeing’s 737 Max jet is flying commercial routes once again, as Brazil’s Gol Airlines brought the jetliner back into service Wednesday. The worldwide fleet of 737 Max planes has been grounded since March 2019, after two deadly crashes raised concerns over the aircraft’s safety and airworthiness.

Gol flew passengers on a 737 Max 8 Wednesday from São Paulo to Porto Alegre, along Brazil’s eastern coast. The trip lasted roughly an hour and 15 minutes, with the plane landing on schedule,

Read more at NPR