Daily Briefing – 246

“Seven Minutes of Terror:” Mars Rover Perseverance Lands Successfully In Jezero Crater

Including a bearing produced by Poughkeepsie based Schatz Bearing Corporation (along with thousands of other highly engineered parts from other small manufacturers) the Mars Rover Perseverance successfully landed on the surface of Mars some 127.76 million miles away.  

Perseverance is the most sophisticated rover NASA has ever sent to the Red Planet, with a name that embodies NASA’s passion, and our nation’s capability, to take on and overcome challenges. It will collect carefully selected and documented rock and sediment samples for future return to Earth, search for signs of ancient microbial life, characterize the planet’s geology and climate, and pave the way for human exploration beyond the Moon.  Perseverance is also ferrying several cutting-edge technologies to the surface of Mars – including a helicopter named Ingenuity, the first aircraft to attempt powered, controlled flight on another planet.

COVID Update – Positivity Continues to Decline from Holiday Highs

Governor Cuomo issued a press release yesterday morning providing an overview of New York’s COVID-19 tracking data from Wednesday February 17th.  The Governor noted the daily positivity rate was 3.15 percent yesterday, the lowest since November 23. The 7-day average positivity rate has declined for 41 straight days.

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


  • Patients Currently in Hospital statewide: 6,434
  • Hospitalizations Mid-Hudson Region: 669

ICU Beds In Use (All Uses)

  • Occupied ICU Beds Statewide: 4,313
  • Occupied ICU Beds Mid-Hudson Region: 417

Other Data

  • Statewide Transmission Rate (R0):  .82
  • Statewide Positivity Rate: 3.61%
  • Mid-Hudson Positivity Rate: 4.40

Useful Websites:

NYS Vaccine Update – County by County Data Now Available on State Tracker Site

As of 11AM Thursday, New York’s health care distribution sites have received 2,335,250 first doses and already administered 90 percent or 2,109,690, first dose vaccinations. In total the state has administered  and 85 percent of first and second doses (3,093,790) of the 3,619,550 received. In the Mid-Hudson Region a cumulative total of 340,370 FIRST and SECOND doses have been distributed, 270,048 administered (79 percent).

The State Vaccine Tracker site now includes county by county distribution and administration data. 

US Vaccination Rollout – Nearly 53 Million Jabs

The US CDC reported 70.06 million vaccine doses distributed and 52.88 million doses administered nationwide (75.5%).

In total, 38.29 million people (approximately 11.6% of the entire US population) have received at least 1 dose of the vaccine, and 14.08 million (4.3%) have received both doses. The average daily doses administered continues to increase, now up to a record high of 1.50 million doses per day. The number of people receiving their second dose is increasing at nearly 600,000 per day. The breakdown of doses by manufacturer continues to shift toward the Moderna vaccine. The CDC is still reporting slightly more Pfizer-BioNTech doses administered (27.27 million; 52%) than Moderna (25.51 million; 48%), but the gap is closing.

Read more at Johns Hopkins Center For Health Security

House Planning Vote on Covid Relief Bill By the End of Next Week 

The House aims to pass its $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan before the end of February as Democrats race to beat a deadline to extend key unemployment programs, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday. Some Republicans have backed a smaller bill based around vaccine distribution money.

The House Budget Committee on Monday plans to combine the separate aid bills advanced by other panels into one massive piece of legislation. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., has told lawmakers to prepare to work through next weekend to pass the final bill.

Read more at CNBC

What’s Included in the 1.9 Billion Democrat Plan

We’re beginning to see what the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 stimulus package might actually look like. The House of Representatives has been busy drafting its version of the budget reconciliation package, which includes $1,400 stimulus checks for those making up to $75,000, $400 expanded weekly unemployment insurance benefits through August 29, and, as it stands now, increasing the minimum wage to $15 by 2025. It also contains a restaurant rescue fund, money for reopening schools, and Democrats’ long-sought-after funding for state and local governments, among other items.

Read more at VOX

U.S. Sees Steepest Drop in Life Expectancy Since World War II

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics said life expectancy at birth was 77.8 years as of the end of June based on provisional estimates. The one-year decline from the previous year was the largest drop since World War II, when life expectancy fell 2.9 years between 1942 and 1943. It put life expectancy at its lowest level in the U.S. since 2006.

Demographers predict life expectancy will decline further when figures for the full year are published, which could occur in May or June. Before 2020, life expectancy had inched up for two consecutive years, after dipping earlier in the decade as drug overdoses and suicides rose and progress on heart-disease mortality stalled.

Read more at the WSJ

U.S. Seizes One Million More Counterfeit N95 Masks

One million counterfeit N95 masks were seized by federal agents on Wednesday as part of a sweeping fraud investigation stemming from the global coronavirus pandemic, the head of the Department of Homeland Security announced. The seizure brought the total number of knockoff masks that have been confiscated in recent weeks to more than 11 million, Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, said during a news conference.

Mr. Mayorkas appeared next to several boxes of masks that had been seized and were stamped with the name 3M, the largest remaining American producer of N95s.  Officials said that the company had been working with investigators to identify sources of counterfeit masks, which originated in China, and that the department expected to make arrests.

Read more at the New York Times

Jobless Claims Show Unexpected Move Higher

New claims totaled 861,000, the highest level in a month and above the Dow Jones estimate of 773,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday.  The total for the week ended Feb. 13 marked only a slight uptick from the 848,000 a week earlier. That number was revised up from the initially reported 793,000. Continuing claims declined again, edging lower to just below 4.5 million, a drop of 64,000. That data runs a week behind the headline first-time claims total.

The total of those receiving benefits dropped by 1.3 million to 18.34 million, primarily due to a falloff in those on Covid-19 pandemic-related claims in the final week of January. However, those numbers have accelerated in early February.

Read more at CNBC

Biden Continues to Push $15 Federal Minimum Wage

While he acknowledged that increasing the wage could squeeze some employers, he pointed to economists and studies that say the impact would be minor. Plus, the President argued, it would help those stuck at the minimum wage, which has been $7.25 an hour since 2009.

However, the effort is likely to encounter hurdles in the Senate, where two Democratic senators have already voiced opposition to it. That may ultimately doom the provision since Democrats can’t afford to lose any votes, assuming no Republicans support it. Democratic leaders are looking to pass the entire package through a procedure called reconciliation, which requires only a simple majority. Nevertheless,  Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, chair of the Senate Budget Committee, is committed to including it in the package.

Read more at CNN