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Daily Briefing – 214

Post: Dec. 17, 2020

New York’s Cluster Zones: Frequently Asked Questions Answered By Bond Schoeneck & King

There have been significant changes to New York’s cluster action initiative. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has changed the metrics for designating a cluster zone and changed the applicable restrictions in cluster zones. Additionally, the Governor announced on Monday, December 14 three new yellow zones in Genesee, Niagara and Oneida Counties. In this article BSK attorneys discuss frequently asked questions about the clusters and updated maps for the cluster zones.

Read more as BSK

COVID and “Winter Plan” Update

Governor Cuomo held a press conference yesterday morning (in Kingston to declare a state of storm related emergency in 18 Counties) and provide an overview of New York’s COVID-19 tracking data from Wednesday, December 16th.

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

  • Hospitalizations Statewide
    • Patients Currently in Hospital in Region   =  6147
    • COVID Hospitalizations as Percent of Region Population =  .003%
    • Percent of Hospital Beds Available in State  = 26%
  • Hospitalizations Mid-Hudson Region: 
    • Patients Currently in Hospital in Region   =  743
    • COVID Hospitalizations as Percent of Region Population =  .003%
    • Percent of Hospital Beds Available in Region  = 29%
  • ICU Beds Statewide
    • Total ICU Beds   =  5850
    • Occupied ICU Beds =  3955
    • Percent of ICU Beds Available  = 33%
  • ICU Beds Mid-Hudson Region: 
    • Total ICU Beds   =  725
    • Occupied ICU Beds =  416
    • Percent of ICU Beds Available  = 46%
  • Transmission Rate (R0): 1.09
  • Statewide Positivity Rate: 5.38%

Here are some useful websites:

Today at 11:00: NAM COVID-19 Vaccine Town Hall for Manufacturers 

As the world prepares for the release of the COVID-19 vaccine, manufacturers have many questions as they prepare for its deployment. Please join us on Friday, December 18 at 11:00 a.m. EDT for a special NAM/MLC Town Hall meeting to discuss the current status of the vaccine timeline, implications for its deployment, and framework-building considerations to prepare companies from health and safety, legal and business operations angles. A question-and-answer session will be part of the meeting.

Register Here

McConnell Says Congress Will Keep Working Through the Weekend to Pass a Stimulus Deal

Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell opened his floor remarks on Thursday by saying Congress in no stranger “to December funding deadlines or the occasional pre-Christmas cliffhanger.” The Kentucky Republican suggested that it was likely the chamber would stay in session at least through Saturday.

“For the information of all Senators, we are going to stay right here until we are finished, even if that means working into or through the weekend, which is highly likely” he said. “And if we need to further extend the Friday funding deadline before final legislation can pass in both chambers, I hope we only extend it for a very, very short window of time.”  A similar attitude was reflected in Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s remarks on the Senate floor. The New York senator said “we are very close to an agreement.”

Read more at Business Insider

Major CEOs Signal they Could Mandate Covid Vaccines

Seventy-two percent of current and recent CEOs of major companies signaled an openness to vaccine mandates, according to a poll held Tuesday at a virtual summit by the Yale Chief Executive Leadership Institute.

The broad question did not specify whether the mandate would apply to all employees or just ones who needed to work in close proximity to customers and colleagues.  Several CEOs indicated that such a mandate has not yet been formulated at their companies and they want to see how early rounds of vaccinations go. Companies may also be reluctant to require that employees take vaccines until they have been fully approved by the FDA.

Read more at CNN


IHS Market: U.S. Business Activity Cools in Mid-December

Data firm IHS Markit said on Wednesday its flash U.S. Composite PMI Output Index, which tracks the manufacturing and services sectors, fell to a reading of 55.7 early this month from 58.6 in November. A reading above 50 indicates growth in private sector output.

According to IHS Markit, though new orders continued to grow, temporary shutdowns and customer uncertainty weighed on the upturn. It also noted that companies reported a fall in new export sales as renewed lockdowns in key export markets dampened foreign demand.

Read more at Reuters

U.S. Jobless Claims Unexpectedly Jump to Highest in Three Months

Applications for U.S. state unemployment benefits unexpectedly jumped to the highest level in three months, suggesting the labor market’s recovery is faltering amid the surge in Covid-19 cases and widening business restrictions. Initial jobless claims in regular state programs rose by 23,000 to 885,000 in the week ended Dec. 12, Labor Department data showed Thursday. On an unadjusted basis, the figure fell by about 21,000.

Continuing claims for state programs declined by 273,000 to 5.51 million in the week ended Dec. 5. That figure roughly approximates the number of people receiving state unemployment benefits, but doesn’t include the millions of people who have already exhausted those benefits or are receiving assistance through federal pandemic jobless aid programs. A Bloomberg survey of economists had called for 818,000 initial state claims and 5.7 million continuing claims on an adjusted basis.

Read more at Bloomberg

New York State DOL: $15 Minimum Wage Phase-in to Continue 

The New York State Department of Labor today announced the state’s $15 minimum wage phase-in will continue, with the next stage taking effect December 31, 2020. This announcement comes after a statutorily required report by the Division of the Budget found the Upstate, Long Island and Westchester labor markets — where the minimum wage is scheduled to rise — are leading New York’s economic recovery from the downturn caused by the global pandemic. The report found that, just prior to the pandemic, the State had achieved record low unemployment following four years of increases to the minimum wage. In addition, the report showed that minimum wage workers need support today, as they were disproportionally impacted by the pandemic’s economic toll, with those earning the minimum wage representing a large portion of the hardest-hit industries, including retail trade and leisure and hospitality.

DiNapoli: Total New York Wages Fell $12.5 Billion in Second Quarter

In the second quarter of 2020, total wages paid in New York State declined by $12.5 billion or 7.4 percent in comparison to the second quarter of 2019, according to new data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The decline is primarily attributable to the historic loss of 1.9 million jobs in March and April, with a limited employment rebound in May and June.

Total wages in accommodation and food services fell by $3.5 billion, a drop of nearly 60 percent from the prior year’s second quarter. Other New York industries with large declines in wages included construction, retail and wholesale trade, and the arts, entertainment and recreation sector. In three sectors with comparatively higher compensation—finance and insurance, information, and professional and technical services—overall wages increased in the second quarter compared to a year earlier. The government sector also saw a modest gain.

Read more at the Comptroller’s website

FDA Says Pfizer Vaccine Vials Hold Extra Doses Expanding Supply By as Much as 40%

The Food and Drug Administration said late Wednesday that those extra doses could be used, clearing up confusion that had caused some pharmacists to throw away leftover vaccine for fear of violating the rules the agency set last week.

The Pfizer vials are supposed to hold five doses, but pharmacists have found they have enough for a sixth or even a seventh dose. Putting those into use could significantly increase the United States’ scarce early supply of the shot, reducing the likelihood of a “vaccine cliff” this spring as demand outpaces supply.  Manufacturers typically overfill vaccine vials to safeguard against spills and other waste, said Erin Fox, a pharmacy expert at University of Utah who monitors drug shortages. “It’s pretty unusual to have a full extra dose or more though — but it does seem to be there!” she said in an email.

Read more at Politico