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Daily Briefing – 215

Post: Dec. 20, 2020

Moderna COVID-19 Vaccines Begin Shipping NYS Expects 348k Doses

Vials of Moderna’s vaccine were filled in pharmaceutical services provider Catalent Inc’s facility in Bloomington, Indiana. Distributor McKesson Corp is shipping doses from facilities in places including Louisville, Kentucky, and Memphis, Tennessee – close to air hubs for United Parcel Service Inc and FedEx Corp.  Governor Cuomo said New York State anticipates receiving 346,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine next week.

The start of delivery for the Moderna vaccine will significantly widen availability of COVID-19 vaccines as U.S. deaths caused by the disease have reached more than 316,000 in the 11 months since the first documented U.S. cases.

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 Saturday, December 19th.  In response to news of a new variant of COVID-19 in the UK, the Governor called on the federal government to consider imposing multiple restrictions in the including  mandatory testing of individuals traveling from the United Kingdom on flights to the United States, as well as a new travel ban from Europe. 

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

  • Hospitalizations Statewide
    • Patients Currently in Hospital in Region   =  6185
    • COVID Hospitalizations as Percent of Region Population =  .003%
    • Percent of Hospital Beds Available in State  = 29%
  • Hospitalizations Mid-Hudson Region: 
    • Patients Currently in Hospital in Region   =  748
    • COVID Hospitalizations as Percent of Region Population =  .003%
    • Percent of Hospital Beds Available in Region  = 33%
  • 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   =  713
    • Occupied ICU Beds =  432
    • Percent of ICU Beds Available  = 43%
  • Transmission Rate (R0): 1.09
  • Statewide Positivity Rate: 5.05%

Here are some useful websites:

Congress Reaches Final Agreement on Pandemic Relief

Lawmakers reached a final agreement on the $900 billion coronavirus relief package, moving Congress closer to approval of a fresh infusion of aid to households, small businesses and schools after months of gridlock. The relief package includes $300 a week in enhanced unemployment benefits, a second round of stimulus checks and funding for schools, health-care providers, vaccine distribution and small businesses. Negotiations accelerated this week after congressional leaders agreed to drop two provisions: funding for hard-hit state and local governments, which Democrats and some Republicans had sought, as well as liability protections for businesses and other entities operating during the pandemic, a top GOP priority.

The House voted on a 24-hour extension of government funding Sunday evening, setting up votes on the relief agreement and broader spending bill for Today. The aid package is tied to a roughly $1.4 trillion annual spending package and Congress has passed a series of temporary spending bills in recent days to keep the government funded while it finished the negotiations.

Read more in the WSJ

Countries Ban Travel From U.K. in Race to Block New Covid-19 Strain

Countries across Europe and beyond barred travelers from Britain on Sunday in an effort to keep out a highly infectious new strain of the coronavirus that is spreading rapidly in England.

The British government said on Saturday the new strain appeared to be spreading 70% faster than earlier variants and is responsible for a surge in cases in London and its surrounding areas. Recorded cases across the U.K. in the week to Sunday rose 51% over the week before. The emergence of the variant presents a serious setback for suppressing the pandemic before new vaccines can be rolled out across the country, suggesting major restrictions will continue into the new year.

Read more at the WSJ

EEOC Issues Guidance on COVID-19 Vaccination Mandates

US employers that are considering mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations must be ready to allow exceptions for those with disabilities or religious disagreements, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Employers are only allowed to ask workers why they have decided not to be vaccinated if the matter is “job related and consistent with business necessity,” the EEOC says.

Read more at Reuters

Companies Offer Home COVID-19 testing

Employers including insurer TIAA, software provider Appian and digital health care provider Buoy Health are offering their staff members at-home COVID-19 tests as an added employee benefit. “Given the recent rise in COVID-19 cases nationwide, it felt like the right time to make testing available to ease the burden of associates needing to find testing facilities and risking being exposed to the virus when leaving their homes,” said Sean Woodroffe, TIAA’s chief HR officer.

Read more at Employee Benefit News

More Americans Are Too Sick to Work as Virus Cases Surge

The number of employed Americans fell by 4.3 million in the two weeks ended Dec.7, according to the latest edition of the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey. That’s following a 2.4 million rise in the number of workers with jobs during the prior two week period.

Nearly 5 million Americans said they can’t work because they’re sick with coronavirus, a figure which has more than doubled in less that two months. Another 5.2 million said they weren’t working because of fears about getting sick or spreading the virus, up from 4.8 million in the prior tally.  The data underscores the threat surging cases pose to the rebounding labor market and the importance of getting the virus under control to bolster economic growth. On top of illness, more than 6 million Americans were out of work as a result of employers temporarily or permanently shuttering their businesses because of virus lockdowns, compared with 5.2 million in the previous survey, the data showed.

Read more at Bloomberg

Shorter Quarantines Could Actually Help Prevent COVID-19 Outbreaks

While caution is wise, researchers are now wondering if lengthy 14 day quarantine measures are necessary and are uncovering shorter alternatives that retain public safety. Quarantines are costly, straining the mental health and finances of those in isolation, as well as the resources of governments and companies implementing these precautions. Shorter quarantines could ease that burden, but this pivot will also require better logistics such as spaces where people can quarantine, access to fast testing, and support for meals and other necessities like medicine. Making these investments could potentially increase people’s compliance with voluntary guidelines.

This push for shorter quarantines is supported by academic reports that show that people with coronavirus don’t appear to be contagious after nine or 10 days. In addition, new research shows that shorter quarantines combined with smarter testing strategies can actually do more than 14-day quarantines to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Read more at Nat Geo

State Tax Receipts Strong Again in November, But Jobs Recovery Remains Slow

New York State’s tax receipts in November were a whopping $800 million above Governor Cuomo’s projections for the month—further evidence that the current-year budget gap is probably much smaller than Cuomo has been claiming.

Meanwhile, however, private employment in New York continued to recover only slowly in November—failing to increase at all across much of upstate, where employers are about to be hit with an increase in state-mandated minimum wage.

Read more at the Empire Center

Private Sector Jobs in the Hudson Valley 9.0 percent Year on Year

Private sector jobs in the Hudson Valley declined by 73,700 or 9.0 percent, to 749,200 in the 12 months ending November 2020.  Job losses were centered in leisure and hospitality (-29,700), trade, transportation and utilities (-10,300), professional and business services (-8,700), educational and health services (-8,600), other services (-6,800), manufacturing (-4,000), financial activities (-2,900), and natural resources, mining and construction (-2,400). 

There are 39,200 people working in manufacturing in the region, 9.3% fewer than a year ago. 

Hudson Valley Labor Market Profile – NOV 2020

Suspected Russian Hack is Much Worse Than First Feared

The scale of a sophisticated cyberattack on the U.S. government that was unearthed this week is much bigger than first anticipated. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said in a summary Thursday that the threat “poses a grave risk to the federal government.”

CISA said those behind the attack used network management software made by SolarWinds, a Texas-headquartered IT firm, to breach the government networks. As many as 18,000 SolarWinds Orion customers downloaded a software update that contained a backdoor, which the hackers used to gain access to the networks. Microsoft was one of the hack victims. Like with the cyberattack of SolarWinds, hackers infiltrated Microsoft products and then went after others, Reuters said, citing people familiar with the matter.

School Closing Have Hit Poor American Children’s Learning

A recent analysis of standardized tests by McKinsey, a consulting firm, found that pupils examined in the autumn had learned 33% less math and 13% less reading than expected. For schools that are majority non-white, the learning losses were much steeper: pupils there had learned 41% less math and 23% less reading. NWEA, a producer and administrator of standardized exams used in primary and secondary schools, published its own review of autumn scores that was less worrying. Pupils slid back substantially in math, but not reading, with few detectable differences along racial or socioeconomic lines. But a substantial share of students, disproportionately poor and non-white, simply did not take the tests this year—which may have flattered the results.

Read more at The Economist