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Daily Briefing – 212

New Cluster Zone Restriction Metrics and Matrix

On December 10, Governor Cuomo announced new metrics by which micro-cluster focus zones will be determined to help control COVID-19 spread and protect hospital capacity.  Those restrictions were released Monday Evening. The initiative continues to divide clusters and the areas around them into three categories with successively higher restrictions within each one: Red Zones, Orange Zones and Yellow Zones.

In the Red Zones all non-essential businesses are closed. Most manufacturing will be essential, and the definition of essential has evolved slightly since April. We do encourage you to confirm you essential status of the list and, again, should your region become a Red Zone you will self determine if you are essential or non-essential. 

COVID and “Winter Plan” Update

Governor Cuomo issued a press release yesterday afternoon providing an overview of New York’s COVID-19 tracking data from Monday, December 14th. “Right now, New York is focused on growing hospital capacity through our Surge and Flex program and requiring hospital systems to begin working together so they are prepared. As those operations continue, it’s on all of us to be smart, tough, and do what we know stops the spread – socially distance, wear masks and wash our hands. The goal is to avoid another shut down and we will only be able to do that if we all do our part.”

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

  • Hospitalizations Statewide
    • Patients Currently in Hospital in Region   =  5982
    • COVID Hospitalizations as Percent of Region Population =  .003%
    • Percent of Hospital Beds Available in Region  = 23%
  • Hospitalizations Mid-Hudson Region: 
    • Patients Currently in Hospital in Region   =  735
    • COVID Hospitalizations as Percent of Region Population =  .003%
    • Percent of Hospital Beds Available in Region  = 27%
  • ICU Beds Statewide
    • Total ICU Beds   =  5775
    • Occupied ICU Beds =  3799
    • Percent of ICU Beds Available  = 33%
  • ICU Beds Mid-Hudson Region: 
    • Total ICU Beds   =  767
    • Occupied ICU Beds =  431
    • Percent of ICU Beds Available  = 47%
  • Transmission Rate (R0): 1.12
  • Statewide Positivity Rate: 5.33%

Here are some useful websites:

Moderna’s Vaccine Found Highly Effective, Clearing Way for a Second Vaccine

The Food and Drug Administration said its preliminary analysis confirmed the effectiveness and safety of the vaccine developed by Moderna and the National Institutes of Health, bringing it to the cusp of U.S. authorization.  A panel of outside experts will offer their recommendation Thursday, with a final FDA decision expected soon thereafter.

The positive news comes as hospitals ramped up vaccinations with the shot developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, which the FDA cleared last week. Packed in dry ice to stay at ultra-frozen temperatures, shipments of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine will arrive at 400 additional hospitals and other distribution sites, one day after the nation’s death toll surpassed a staggering 300,000. The first 3 million shots are being strictly rationed to front-line health workers and elder-care patients, with hundreds of millions more shots needed over the coming months to protect most Americans.

Read more at Yahoo News

Democratic Leaders Under Pressure to Agree to Slimmed-Down COVID-19 Relief Deal

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) are under growing pressure from fellow Democrats to back off their insistence that a year-end COVID-19 relief package include another large tranche of federal aid for cash-strapped state and local governments.

On Tuesday, the two Democrats met with McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to discuss attaching a relief package to the $1.4 trillion omnibus package funding general government operations. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin joined by phone.  Schumer and Pelosi have eased up on their demands in recent days amid growing calls from fellow Democrats for a coronavirus relief deal before Congress leaves for the Christmas break.

Read more at The Hill

Empire State Manufacturing Survey: Slight Uptick in Business Activity

Business activity edged slightly higher in New York State, according to firms responding to the December 2020 Empire State Manufacturing Survey. The headline general business conditions index was little changed at 4.9. New orders increased marginally, and shipments were modestly higher. Inventories continued to move lower, and delivery times edged up. Employment posted its strongest gain in months, and the average workweek lengthened somewhat. Input prices increased at the fastest pace in two years, while selling prices increased at about the same pace as last month. Looking ahead, firms remained optimistic that conditions would improve over the next six months.

Read the full report

Pandemic Supplies Production Act Proposes to Nationalize Production, Distribution of Essential Supplies for COVID-19.

US Reps. John Larson (D-CT) and Joe Courtney (D-CT) recently introduced the Pandemic Supplies Production Act designed to nationalize the production and distribution of supplies deemed essential to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new legislation would seek to gather information on the private sector’s manufacturing capabilities surrounding equipment, supplies, therapeutics, and vaccines needed to combat COVID-19. It would then mandate the Defense Production Act be invoked to match the supply and capacity needed to meet the demand for these supplies — both through COVID-19 and future pandemics. It would also create a new agency to lead the acquisition and distribution of such supplies: the Defense Logistics Agency.

Read more at Homeland Preparedness News

CDC Guidance for Strategies to Address High Levels of Community Transmission 

COVID-19 pandemic control requires a multipronged application of evidence-based strategies while improving health equity: universal face mask use, physical distancing, avoiding nonessential indoor spaces, increasing testing, prompt quarantine of exposed persons, safeguarding those at increased risk for severe illness or death, protecting essential workers, postponing travel, enhancing ventilation and hand hygiene, and achieving widespread COVID-19 vaccination coverage.

These combined strategies will protect health care, essential businesses, and schools, bridging to a future with high community coverage of effective vaccines and safe return to more activities in a range of settings.

Read more at the CDC

Withholding of State Aid Puts Additional Crunch on Region’s Cities

The withholding of 20 percent of the state’s Aid and Incentives for Municipalities (AIM funding) puts the City of Poughkeepsie in a “cash crunch,” Mayor Rob Rolison said.

“We are looking at an anticipated shortfall with falling funding because the revenues were drying up during the pandemic, which at one point was $2 million and we were able to make some cuts and some savings and we were looking at a potential $1 million shortfall by the end of the year,” he said. “Now with the 20 percent withholding of AIM, which is $800,000, that is $1.8 million.”

Port Jervis Mayor Kelly Decker said the state’s withholding of aid is across the board, meaning more belt-tightening for that city.

Read more at Mid-Hudson News

States Urge Congressional Funding for COVID-19 Vaccine Education 

A key state health regulator told the panel that state health agencies are sorely lacking in capabilities to educate the public on the new vaccines and on their effectiveness and to dispel myths and vaccine hesitancy and the states have asked Congress for $8.4 billion in supplemental funding to help the cause.

Read more at Homeland Preparedness News

FDA Authorizes First Direct-to-Consumer COVID-19 Test System

The US Food and Drug Administration authorized LabCorp’s Pixel COVID-19 Test Home Collection Kit for use by any individual 18 years and older without a prescription. This product, which is authorized as the first COVID-19 direct-to-consumer (non-prescription) test system, allows an individual to self-collect a nasal swab sample at home and then send that sample for testing to LabCorp. Positive or invalid test results are then delivered to the user by phone call from a health care provider. Negative test results are delivered via email or online portal. This home sample collection kit can be purchased online or in a store without a prescription.

Read the FDA Press Release

A Little More Clarity On CDC Quarantine Lengths 

Up until the CDC’s Dec. 2 announcement, the agency had advised that employers impose a blanket 14-day quarantine for those individuals who came into close contact with other individuals who tested positive or were presumed-positive. While the agency continues to hold that the original 14-day quarantine period is best after a close contact, the revised guidelines now allow for quarantine periods it deems acceptable, if the individual remains symptom-free.

The new periods are: 10 days after close contact with the positive person; and seven days following close contact if the returning employee has a negative result for a test within 48 hours of the final day of the seven-day quarantine (that is, at least five days following close contact).  The CDC also says the seven-day alternative should be available only when the use of tests to discontinue a quarantine will not have an impact on community diagnostic testing. It also makes the point of emphasizing that testing for infection-evaluation should be the priority.

Read more at EHS Today

Busy Factories, Wary Consumers: China’s Uneven Rebound

Factories in China have been buzzing for months, a sign that the supply side of the country’s economy has staged a recovery since covid-19 shut it down in February. Data released today show an improvement in that effort. Industrial production increased by 7% in November from a year earlier, having grown by 6.9% year-on-year in October. In 2020 China’s policymakers have focused on raising production, in order to keep unemployment low. But a recovery on the demand side of the economy has lagged behind. Retail sales rose by 5% in November, up from 4.3% in October. That represents a healthy increase from earlier in the year but it also shows the government is still struggling to stimulate consumer demand. Despite a miraculous rebound from the pandemic, progress has been lopsided.

Read more at MarketWatch