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Daily Briefing – 245

Post: Feb. 17, 2021

COVID Update – More UK Variant Detected

Governor Cuomo issued a press release yesterday morning providing an overview of New York’s COVID-19 tracking data from Tuesday February 16th. Twelve additional cases of the UK variant were identified in New York State. Eleven were in New York City and one is in Broome County. To date, there are 82 known cases of the UK variant in New York State.

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


  • Patients Currently in Hospital statewide: 6,574
  • Hospitalizations Mid-Hudson Region: 691

ICU Beds In Use (All Uses)

  • Occupied ICU Beds Statewide: 4,254
  • Occupied ICU Beds Mid-Hudson Region: 416

Other Data

  • Statewide Transmission Rate (R0):  .82
  • Statewide Positivity Rate: 3.66%
  • Mid-Hudson Positivity Rate: 4.43

Useful Websites:

NYS Vaccine Update – 75% of Hospital Workers Vaccinated Statewide

As of 11AM Tuesday, New York’s health care distribution sites have received 2,192,675 first doses and already administered 92  percent or 2,024,22, first dose vaccinations. In total the state has administered  and 87 percent of first and second doses (2,924,528) of the 3,371,025 received. In the Mid-Hudson Region a cumulative total of 316,155 FIRST and SECOND doses have been distributed, 256,032 have been administered (81%).

According to statistics on the state vaccine tracker 75% of hospital workers have been

US Vaccination Rollout – US Ups Supply

The White House on Tuesday said that states collectively would begin receiving 13.5 million doses each week — a jump of more than two million doses due in part to a shift in the way the government is allocating doses of Pfizer’s vaccine.

On Tuesday evening, President Biden said that every American who wanted a Covid-19 vaccination would be able to get one by the end of July, offering a more encouraging forecast than he delivered a week earlier when he warned that logistical and distribution hurdles would delay vaccinations beyond the end of the summer. He then qualified the remark slightly, saying that the doses would “be available” by then. But he also said he did not expect it to take months to get the shots into people’s arms.

Read more at the New York Times

Impeachment Trial Over, Democrats Focus on Passing Covid Relief Bill

Democrats are moving to pass another coronavirus relief package within weeks.  Both Democratic-held chambers of Congress and President Joe Biden will now turn their full attention to pushing a $1.9 trillion aid bill through before key unemployment programs expire on March 14.

House panels have advanced major parts of the bill, which the Budget Committee is set to combine into one mammoth proposal in the coming days. Congress has to go through a more drawn-out process than usual to approve the plan under budget reconciliation, a tool that will enable Democrats to pass it with no Republican votes in the Senate.  

Read more at CNBC

American-Made PPE for All Is Within Reach

Since the onset of the pandemic, many manufacturers have stepped up and pivoted to increase face mask production domestically. But increasing mask production is only one component of domesticating the supply chain for PPE. What is much more complicated, yet just as crucial, is locally sourcing the filtration material that goes inside a mask to trap harmful particles. In both N95 respirators and surgical masks, this filtration material is called “meltblown,” because it is made by melting polypropylene and blowing it onto a conveyer belt to create a nonwoven fabric. There are only a few companies in the U.S. and the world capable of manufacturing meltblown.

The U.S. Department of Defense, to its immense credit, recognizes the essential role meltblown plays in the domestic production of face masks, and last year, it granted $16 million to U.S. manufacturers. This funding went a long way toward investing in the equipment and supplies needed to ramp up production – but more can and must be done.

Read more at IndustryWeek

NY Fed Survey: Area Manufacturers Report More Unfilled Jobs, Little Impact From Minimum Wage Increases 

In the supplemental questions for the New York Federal Reserve’s Empire Manufacturing Report, businesses were asked how many employees they had and how many job openings they had at the time of the survey: the median figure for job openings as a share of the workforce was 2.9 percent among manufacturers—almost double the proportion from last February’s survey.

Respondents in those parts of our region seeing a minimum hike were asked how much of an effect, if any, the recent increase in the state’s minimum wage had on their decisions about compensation and employment. (A parallel question was asked in our February surveys in both 2020 and 2019, following earlier phases of the minimum wage hike.) Among manufacturers, 44 percent indicated no effect (up from 41 percent), while 10 percent noted a significant effect (down from 18 percent).

Read the survey report

… Also Widespread Supply Disruptions

In the same NY Fed survey participants were also asked a series of questions about supply disruptions and delays and how these might be affecting their business. Three-quarters of manufacturers indicated that they have encountered at least some disruptions so far this year. A little less than a third of those businesses with supply issues, in turn, characterized them as substantial. Of those businesses experiencing supply disruptions, the most commonly cited source was domestic suppliers either  having limited supplies or being shut down, followed by trucking delays. Issues with foreign suppliers and shipping delays at the ports were also fairly widely cited by manufacturing firms. When asked about the extent to which recent supply disruptions were affecting their bottom line, 40 percent of manufacturers indicated moderate to substantial effects. 

Read about supply disruptions at the NY Fed

U.S. Oil Output Slumps by Record One-Third as Texas Freezes

Total U.S. oil production has plunged by one-third — the most ever — as an unprecedented cold blast freezes well operations across the central U.S., according to traders and industry executives with direct knowledge of the operations.

Crude output has now fallen by about 3.5 million barrels a day or more nationwide, they said, asking not to be identified because the information isn’t public. Before the cold snap, the U.S. was pumping about 11 million barrels a day, according to last government data. Production in the Texas’s Permian Basin alone — America’s biggest oil field — has plummeted by as much as 65%.

Read more at Bloomberg

 Meanwhile – Oil Prices Settle Near Their 13-Month Highs

Oil prices settled near 13-month highs on Tuesday, supported by a deep freeze in the U.S. South that shut wells and oil refineries in Texas. Prices have been buoyant for months, with major oil producing countries restricting supply and vaccines rolling out to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures settled up 1% to $60.05, after touching their highest since early January 2020. Brent settled up 5 cents, or 0.1%, to $63.35 a barrel, near the 13-month peak reached the previous session.

Read more at Reuters

U.S. Retail Sales Rose Strongly on Stimulus in January

Retail sales, a measure of purchases at stores, at restaurants and online, rose by a seasonally adjusted 5.3% in January from a month earlier, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. The increase followed three months of decline during the holiday season. It was the strongest gain since last June, when the economy was in the process of reopening from pandemic-related closures.

Consumer spending is the main driver of the U.S. economy, accounting for more than two-thirds of economic output. Spending rose across the board, including in categories hit hard by social distancing and pandemic-related restrictions, such as bars and restaurants.

Read more at the WSJ

Fed Minutes Highlight Willingness to Steer Past Coming Inflation

Federal Reserve officials last month debated how to lay the groundwork for the public to accept coming higher inflation, and also the need to “stay vigilant” for signs of stress in buoyant asset markets, according to minutes of the U.S. central bank’s Jan. 26-27 policy meeting. With a jump in some prices expected this spring, “many participants stressed the importance of distinguishing between such one-time changes in relative prices and changes in the underlying trend for inflation,” according to the minutes, which were released on Wednesday.

In the drive to explain the difference to the public, “participants emphasized that it was important to abstract from temporary factors affecting inflation – such as low past levels of prices dropping out of measures” and more persistent price trends, the minutes showed. Others were concerned about the potential for stress to bubble up in the financial system.

Read more at Reuters

Bond Prices Rally in the US and Around the World

The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose above 1.33% in overnight trading, hitting the highest level since February 2020. While that move has eased somewhat in European trading, volatility markets are signaling that U.S. bonds could be in for more wild gyrations in the coming months. There are plenty of reasons for the move, as investors try to price in the impact of a still-to-be-completed stimulus bill, and the reopening of the U.S. economy. Rising yields are not a uniquely American phenomenon, with the Bloomberg Barclays Global Aggregate Index having its worst start to a year since 2013

Italy attracted more than €110bn ($133bn) in orders for the sale of a ten-year government bond. The offering is the first since Mario Draghi became prime minister, raising investors’ hopes that the former boss of the European Central Bank can fix Italy’s COVID-stricken economy.

Read more at Investing.com

New York State Sues Amazon Over Worker Treatment During Covid-19 Pandemic

New York’s attorney general has filed a lawsuit against Amazon.com Inc. that accuses the online retailer of not doing enough to protect workers in the state from the coronavirus. Last week, Amazon sued New York’s attorney general to prevent the state from taking legal action against the company over its handling of worker safety during the pandemic and the firing of one of its warehouse workers last year.

In its complaint last week, Amazon argued that New York lacked the legal authority to regulate the company’s warehouse activities, saying that those operations are governed by federal law and regulators such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, a federal agency that oversees workplace safety. Amazon said Ms. James had threatened to sue the company if it didn’t agree to demands that included reducing its production and performance requirements and paying “large sums” to Mr. Smalls.

Read more at the WSJ