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Daily Briefing – 218

Post: Dec. 23, 2020

Joy, Hope, Peace

Wishing all our readers, members and friends a safe and happy holiday season and prosperous New Year. 

COVID and “Winter Cluster Plan” Update

Governor Cuomo held a press briefing yesterday afternoon providing an overview of New York’s COVID-19 tracking data from Sunday, December 20th. The Governor announced that 89,000 New Yorkers have received the first COVID-19 vaccine dose to date. 22,000 New Yorkers have received the first dose in 90 nursing home facilities as part of a federal-private partnership program.   The Governor also announced that the New York State Department of Health has authorized the use of extra doses that have been found in Moderna vaccine vials. The vials were previously believed to contain 10 doses, but may now contain up to 11 doses.

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

  • Hospitalizations Statewide
    • Patients Currently in Hospital in Region   =  6,864
    • COVID Hospitalizations as Percent of Region Population =  .004%
    • Percent of Hospital Beds Available in State  = 30%
  • Hospitalizations Mid-Hudson Region: 
    • Patients Currently in Hospital in Region   =  796
    • COVID Hospitalizations as Percent of Region Population =  .003%
    • Percent of Hospital Beds Available in Region  = 31%
  • ICU Beds Statewide
    • Total ICU Beds   =  5,751
    • Occupied ICU Beds =  4,121
    • Percent of ICU Beds Available  = 31%
  • ICU Beds Mid-Hudson Region: 
    • Total ICU Beds   =  715
    • Occupied ICU Beds =  420
    • Percent of ICU Beds Available  = 42%
  • Transmission Rate (R0): 1.02
  • Statewide Positivity Rate: 5.84%

Here are some useful websites:

Trump Vetoes Defense Policy Bill

President Trump vetoed a $740.5 billion defense-policy bill and demanded last-minute changes to coronavirus relief legislation, adding fresh uncertainty to the closing days of 2020 as a government shutdown loomed. The annual defense bill sets pay rates for troops and authorizes funds for military construction projects, aircraft, ships, nuclear weapons and other national-security programs. It also includes items related to anti-money-laundering efforts, cybersecurity, and the U.S. border wall. Congress has passed it for 59 years in a row, nearly always on a bipartisan basis. This year, the House approved final passage 335-78 and the Senate passed it 84-13.

 To make the bill law over the president’s objections requires a two-thirds vote in each chamber. The House is scheduled to hold its override vote on Monday, Dec. 28, with the Senate to follow Tuesday.

Read more at the WSJ

Covid Aid in Limbo

Washington is grappling with a crisis related to a massive coronavirus relief package that also funds the government. Mr. Trump, in a video posted Tuesday night on Twitter, criticized the legislation and called on lawmakers to increase direct payments to Americans to $2,000 for individuals and $4,000 for couples, from $600 per adult and per child, the current level in the bill.

His sudden turn on the coronavirus relief package surprised lawmakers, many of whom had already left Washington after Congress overwhelmingly approved the relief bill in a 92-6 vote in the Senate and 359-53 in the House.

The 5,593-page year-end package combines the coronavirus relief and a $1.4 trillion spending bill needed to fund the government through September. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) told House Republicans on a call Wednesday he had spoken to Mr. Trump and that the president was still deciding whether to veto the package, according to people familiar with the call.

Read more at USA Today 

From Ethan Allen Personnel Group – 2021 Minimum Wage Summary and FLSA Overview

This Advisory summarizes the 2021 Minimum Wage Increases that are scheduled to go into effect 12/31/2020. Over the past 3 years, the minimum wage thresholds for employees in NY State have been increasing. In keeping with these increases, the new tiered rates across the State, for both HOURLY AND SALARIED employees effective December 31, 2020, are listed below.

Along with the increase to the minimum wage, the amounts that employers can deduct from employees’ wages for items such as uniform allowances and meals are also set to change on December 31.  The Department of Labor on its website has summarized the revisions applicable to hospitality employers, employers in “miscellaneous industries,” and employers in the “building service industry.”  Employers should consult these summaries to determine how much they can deduct for a uniform allowance and claim for meal, lodging and tip credits.

Minimum Wage Guidance Ethan Allen 1222 2020

Core Capital Goods Orders, Shipments Rise in November

Orders for non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft, a closely watched proxy for business spending plans, rose 0.4% last month. These so-called core capital goods orders jumped 1.6% in October. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast core capital goods orders increasing 0.7% in November. Core capital goods orders increased 0.8% year-on-year in November.

Business investment on equipment rebounded strongly in the third quarter after five straight quarterly declines. Spending on equipment could help to blunt the impact of slower consumer spending on GDP growth in the fourth quarter. Consumer spending is being hampered by a resurgence in new coronavirus infections and a delay by Congress to approve another rescue package. Growth estimates for the fourth quarter are mostly below a 5% annualized rate.

Read more at Reuters

Household Spending Drops for First Time in Seven Months

Personal spending—a measure of how much consumers spent on goods and services—fell 0.4% last month, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. Household income—how much Americans earned from wages, investments and government aid programs—fell 1.1%.  Consumer spending, the biggest driver of economic growth in the U.S., has weakened as a rise in coronavirus infections this winter prompted states and cities to order businesses to close or scale back operations. Consumers cut back sharply on purchases of goods. 

The drop in income in part reflects the fading effects of federal aid programs that Congress and states put in place earlier this year to help households and businesses weather the pandemic.

Read more at the WSJ

Alaska Airlines Raises Order for New 737 MAX Jets

Boeing and Alaska Airlines have restructured an earlier order for 737 MAX aircraft, resulting in 23 additional 737 MAX 9 jets for the carrier, or a total of 68 new aircraft plus options 52 more. Alaska Airlines, the fifth-largest U.S. airline, is restructuring its fleet around Boeing’s narrow-body 737 MAX series, and will take 13 new jets in 2021, 30 in 2022, 13 in 2023, and 12 in 2024.

The first deliveries will take place during Q1 2021, as Boeing resumes deliveries following the FAA’s recertification of the 737 MAX series last month.

Read more at American Machinist

EU is Giving Brexit Trade Talks ‘Final Push’: EU Negotiator

EU negotiator Michel Barnier vowed Tuesday to continue to push for a post-Brexit trade deal in the last 10 days before Britain leaves the single market. On Monday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and EU chief Ursula von der Leyen held a crisis call to discuss Brexit and the coronavirus crisis. 

If the talks between Barnier and his UK counterpart David Frost fail to reach a breakthrough in the coming days, the UK will leave without a follow-on trade deal. Tariffs would be reimposed on cross-Channel trade in food and goods, exacerbating the economic shock of a return to a border after 47 years of integration. But the talks are deadlocked over how to ensure fair trade rules are respected in the future and, especially, over how to assign fishing rights in UK waters.

Read more at IndustryWeek

The New York Fed DSGE Model Forecast—December 2020

The authors present an update of the economic forecasts generated by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s dynamic stochastic general equilibrium (DSGE) model, The December model forecast is summarized in a blog post, alongside the September forecast, and in numerous charts. The model uses quarterly macroeconomic data released through the third quarter of 2020, financial data available through November 19, 2020, and SPF forecasts for GDP growth.

  • In the forecast that combines the two scenarios described above, real GDP growth is expected to be -2.6 percent in 2020 on a Q4/Q4 basis, compared with a -4.1 percent projection in September.
  • Core PCE inflation is projected to be 1.3 percent in 2020, above the September forecast of 0.8 percent, but in spite of AIT it is expected to remain subdued throughout the forecast horizon, and below the projections in September. The change in the inflation projections relative to September mostly reflects the fact that the model is now more certain in interpreting the COVID-19 recession as a demand shock, leading to a decline in inflation.

Read the detailed forecast and see the charts at the NY Fed

What a Particle a Ten-Thousandth of a Millimetre in Diameter Has Taught the Inhabitants of a Globe 120 Billion Billion Times its Size

AS 2019 drew to a close, the virus that was later to be called SARS-CoV-2 burst out of stealth mode. On December 26th Zhang Jixian, a doctor at the Hubei Provincial Hospital of Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine, had noticed seven cases of unusual pneumonia, four of which were connected to the Huanan wet market in Wuhan. Subsequent research has suggested that by then the virus had made its way unnoticed to Europe and America, too. As 2020 draws to a close, the virus is rampant. There have been more than 70m confirmed cases and the number is growing by 4.3m a week. 

In between, covid-19 rapidly came to dominate life utterly. Like a fluorescent injection in the bloodstream, as the virus surged around the world it has illuminated the workings of the global body politic. For every symptom of resilience—including food supply-chains, the financial system and, most of all, science—there have been symptoms of frailty.

Read more from The Economist