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Daily Briefing – 249

Post: Feb. 23, 2021

COVID Update – UK and South African Variants

Governor Cuomo held a press briefing yesterday morning providing an overview of New York’s COVID-19 tracking data from Sunday February 22nd. To date, there are 154 known cases of the UK variant in New York State. A second South African variant has been identified In Nassau County.  

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


  • Patients Currently in Hospital statewide: 5,977
  • Hospitalizations Mid-Hudson Region: 617

ICU Beds In Use (All Uses)

  • Occupied ICU Beds Statewide: 4,144
  • Occupied ICU Beds Mid-Hudson Region: 383

Other Data

  • Statewide Transmission Rate (R0):  .80
  • Statewide Positivity Rate: 3.46%
  • Mid-Hudson Positivity Rate: 4.23

Useful Websites:

NYS Vaccine Update

As of 11 am Tuesday, New York’s health care distribution sites have received 2,477,825 first doses and already administered 93 percent or 2,252,945 first dose vaccinations. In total the state has administered and 89 percent of first and second doses (3,436,944) of the 3,868,075 received. In the Mid-Hudson Region a cumulative total of 364,585 first and second doses have been distributed, 290,2879 administered (80 percent). 

The state continues  to focus on vaccine equity. Governor Cuomo said “starting this week our largest-yet vaccination sites in Brooklyn and Queens will each begin vaccinating 3,000 eligible New Yorkers daily, prioritizing individuals in communities that were hit hardest by the pandemic.”

US Vaccination Rollout – 16.9 Percent of Adult US Population Have One Dose

The US CDC reported 75.21 million vaccine doses distributed and 64.18 million doses administered nationwide (85.3%).

In total, 44.14 million people (13.3% of the entire US population; 16.9% of the adult population) have received at least 1 dose of the vaccine, and 19.44 million (5.9%; 7.5%) have received both doses. The average daily doses administered decreased slightly to 1.46 million doses per day*, including 664,618 second doses per day*. These decreases could be a result of delays in vaccine distribution and administration stemming from severe winter weather affecting much of the country.

Read more at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security

Fed Chair Says Interest Rates Will Remain Low, Inflation May Temporarily Be “Volatile”

In congressional testimony Tuesday Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell reaffirmed the central bank’s commitment to maintaining easy-money policies until the economy has recovered further from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The Fed will therefore continue to support the economy with near-zero interest rates and large-scale asset purchases until “substantial further progress has been made,” a standard that Mr. Powell said “is likely to take some time” to achieve.

He added that inflation could be somewhat volatile over the next year and might rise due to a potential burst of spending as the economy strengthens. But that, he said, would be a “good problem to have” in a world where economic and demographic forces have been pulling inflation down for a quarter of a century.

Read more at the WSJ

CDC Report: First Month of COVID-19 Vaccine Safety Monitoring “Reassuring”

Monitoring, conducted as part of the US vaccination program, indicates reassuring safety profiles for COVID-19 vaccines. Local and systemic reactions were common; rare reports of anaphylaxis were received. No unusual or unexpected reporting patterns were detected. Health care providers and vaccine recipients can be reassured about the safety of Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. Counseling vaccine recipients to expect transient local and systemic reactions might ease concerns and encourage completion of the 2-dose vaccination series.

Read the Report at the CDC website

Novavax Completes Enrollment in Mexico and the US for the Phase 3 Clinical Trials

The vaccine maker announced its phase 2 trial is set for its candidate SARS-CoV-2 vaccine. Combined, the trials will include approximately 30,000 participants, many of whom are in “communities and demographic groups most impacted by the disease.” Study sites were deliberately assigned to areas with elevated community transmission, with the aim of accelerating the timeline for obtaining the data needed to conduct the efficacy analysis.

Novavax is using a different vaccine technology than previously authorized SARS-CoV-2 vaccines. The Novavax vaccine is protein-based, and it contains recombinant nanoparticles constructed of synthetic SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins to generate the desired immune response. The vaccine also contains a proprietary adjuvant to boost the immune response. It requires 2 doses, administered 21 days apart.

Read more at Barons

USDA, FDA: No Transmission of COVID-19 Through Food or Food Packaging 

A Studies by the USDA and FDA and Underscore Current Epidemiologic and Scientific Information Indicating No Transmission of COVID-19 Through Food or Food Packaging After more than a year since the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak was declared a global health emergency, the US Department of Agriculture, the US Food and Drug Administration and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continue to underscore that there is no credible evidence of food or food packaging associated with or as a likely source of viral transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus causing COVID-19.

Read more at the FDA

FDA Looks to Quickly Authorize Covid-19 Vaccine Booster Shots as New Variants Emerge

The agency issued new guidance for vaccine manufacturers as it looks to establish speedier procedures to deal with virus mutations that could worsen the pandemic. Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock said in a statement the agency is seeking “efficient ways to modify medical products that either are in the pipeline or have been authorized for emergency use to address emerging variants.”

The agency also announced new guidelines for makers of diagnostic tests and monoclonal-antibody drugs about how those companies can best adapt their products to address mutations now cropping up in the U.S.

Read more as the WSJ

Will Employees Be Able to Sue Over OSHA Violations?

Attorneys at Council Associate Member Jackson Lewis write that as the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) turned 50 last December, the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) issued “OSHA’s Next 50 Years: Legislating a Private Right of Action to Empower Workers,” in which it suggested that Congress provide a private right of action for employees under the OSH Act.

CPR has expressed optimism recently that the new political climate in Washington, D.C. will make reality this and other goals.

Read more at Jackson Lewis

Biden Immigration Bill: What it Means for Employment-based Immigration

The Dreamers and border control issues garner most of the media attention around immigration reform, but there are also real impacts to employment-based immigration included in this bill.  There is the good news, that certain green card categories (EB-2 and EB-3) would enjoy increased numbers, clearing up some of the backlog for those professionals here in limbo and waiting years if not decades for the ability to apply for permanent status.

The bad news for many employers is that we can also anticipate that any smaller targeted bill on temporary workers will include some rather problematic wage-based provisions, making it difficult for small employers, start-ups in certain industries and rural hospitals and medical employers to be able to obtain an H-1B (temporary professional worker visa) for entry-level positions.

Read more from Harris Beach

Boeing Grounds 777s After Engine Fire in Colorado

Dozens of Boeing 777 planes were grounded worldwide Monday following a weekend scare on a United Airlines’ plane that suffered engine failure and scattered airplane debris over suburban Denver.

The incident on the flight out of Denver — which quickly returned to the airport after part of the engine caught fire and broke off — prompted United and other airlines to ground planes with the same Pratt & Whitney engine. Boeing said all 128 of the 777s with Pratt & Whitney engines were grounded following Saturday’s emergency landing of United flight 328 to Hawaii.

Read more at IndustryWeek

Steel Supply, Pricing Squeeze Manufacturers

Manufacturers are struggling to source steel and fill orders, with hot-rolled steel prices at a 13-year high, although market prices have been beneficial for steel producers. Steel is in short supply in the United States and prices are surging. Unfilled orders for steel in the last quarter were at the highest level in five years, while inventories were near a 3-1/2-year low, according to data from the Census Bureau. The benchmark price for hot-rolled steel hit $1,176/ton this month, its highest level in at least 13 years.

Soaring prices are driving up costs and squeezing profits at steel-consuming manufacturers, provoking a new round of calls to end former President Donald Trump’s steel tariffs.

Read more at Reuters