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Daily Briefing – 264

Post: Mar. 16, 2021

COVID Update 

Governor Cuomo issued a press release yesterday afternoon providing an overview of New York’s COVID-19 tracking data from Tuesday March 16th.  

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


  • Patients Currently in Hospital statewide: 4,657
  • Hospitalizations Mid-Hudson Region: 487

ICU Beds In Use (All Uses)

  • Occupied ICU Beds Statewide: 4,064
  • Occupied ICU Beds Mid-Hudson Region: 373

Other Data

  • Statewide Positivity Rate: 3.24%
  • Mid-Hudson Positivity Rate: 4.65%

Useful Websites:

Empire Center: Legislature Seeks Huge Tax and Spending Hikes in Next NY Budget

With two weeks to go before the start of New York State’s 2022 fiscal year, Democratic majorities in the Assembly and Senate have staked out similar budget priorities calling for the biggest spending hikes on record while boosting business taxes for the first time since the early 1990s—and permanently increasing the state’s top personal income tax rate to its highest level in more than 40 years

This year marks the first time that both the Senate and Assembly majorities have endorsed similarly large tax increases, raising a total of $7 billion each. And it comes during an existential political crisis for Governor Cuomo, who retains strong constitutional budgeting powers but whose long-term job security appears to be in jeopardy.

Read more at the Empire Center

NYS Vaccine Update – Additional Essential Workers Are Eligible

Beginning today, March 17, the following essential workers are eligible:

  • Public-facing government and public employees
  • Not-for-profit workers who provide public-facing services to New Yorkers in need
  • Essential in-person public-facing building service workers

As of 11 am Tuesday 4,576,614 (plus 82,857 from yesterday) New Yorkers have received at least one vaccine dose and 2,375,411 are fully vaccinated (Plus 57,859).  In the Hudson Valley 437,451 (plus 9,349) have at least one dose and 221,153 (plus 4,435) are fully vaccinated. 

New York Times: Biden Got the Vaccine Rollout Humming, With Trump’s Help

Beyond President Biden’s triumphant tone, a closer look at the ramp-up offers a more mixed picture, one in which the new administration expanded and bulked up a vaccine production effort whose key elements were in place when Mr. Biden took over for President Donald J. Trump. Both administrations deserve credit, although neither wants to grant much to the other.

The Biden administration has taken two major steps that helped hasten vaccine production in the near term. Even before Mr. Biden was inaugurated, his aides determined that by invoking the Korean War-era Defense Production Act, the federal government could help Pfizer obtain the heavy machinery it needed to expand its plant in Kalamazoo, Mich. The Trump administration had repeatedly invoked that law, but its order for Pfizer only covered single-use supplies like plastic liners, not durable factory equipment.

Read more at the New York Times

EU Countries Pause AstraZeneca’s Vaccine Over Safety Fears – This Abundance of Caution Could Backfire

In recent days worries about speed and a botched vaccine procurement process have been joined by concerns about safety. On March 15th France, Germany and Italy became the latest in a growing list of European countries, now more than a dozen, to announce that they were temporarily halting the use of a covid-19 vaccine made by AstraZeneca, a British-Swedish pharmaceutical firm.

Is the AZ vaccine safe to use?  Almost certainly, yes.  The World Health Organization and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) have likewise said they have no reason to believe the jab is unsafe. But there may be more to the question than matters of immunology.

Read more at the Economist

OSHA to Ramp Up Coronavirus-Related Inspections

he Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) launched a national emphasis program (NEP) March 12 in response to President Joe Biden’s Executive Order on Protecting Worker Health and Safety during COVID-19.

The NEP means OSHA will focus enforcement efforts in the coming months on coronavirus-related inspections. In a press release announcing the NEP, the agency made clear it will prioritize companies that put the largest numbers of workers at serious risk of contracting the coronavirus and employers that retaliate against workers who exercise rights protected by federal law or make complaints about unsafe or unhealthy conditions.

Read more at EHS Today

U.S. Industrial Production Unexpectedly Slumps 2.2% In February

Industrial production fell 2.2% in February, marking the largest monthly decline since the lockdown halted output in March and April of last year. With broad-based declines across industries, it is more than just storms holding up industrial activity.

While February’s extreme weather wreaked havoc on utilities and mining, the manufacturing sector is also dealing with a logistics problem, and there is evidence it is getting worse. Motor vehicle & parts production, for example, was down in three out of the previous five months going into today’s report, but the 8.3%drop in February is larger than the three prior monthly declines put together. This is not a demand problem; many dealers are having trouble keeping adequate inventory in stock, but the lack of availability has pushed many buyers into the used car market driving up prices of used autos.

Read more from Council Associate Member Wells Fargo

Chinese Economy Continues its Pandemic Bounce Back

China’s key economic indicators for January and February, published yesterday, were buoyant. Industrial production and retail sales, for example, are soaring—35.1% and 33.8% higher than a year ago, respectively, beating consensus forecasts. Fixed-asset investment surged by 35% year on year, but still fell below expectations.

The rocket-fuelled figures are harder to decipher than usual because they are compared to record lows last year, during the first wave of covid-19 outbreaks. Macquarie, a bank, says that, if you remove the effect of the pandemic, underlying retail sales were up by 3.1% for the first two months of 2021. This implies consumption accelerated after a few small outbreaks were brought under control in Beijing in January. Oxford Economics, a research group, says it expects household consumption to become a key driver of economic growth from the second quarter of 2021, as travel restrictions are eased. 

Read more at the BBC

Retail Sales: Harsh Weather Temporarily Weighs Them Down

U.S. retail sales fell more than expected moderately in February amid bitterly cold weather across the country, but a rebound is likely as the government disburses another round of pandemic relief money to mostly lower- and middle-income households.

Retail sales dropped by a seasonally adjusted 3.0% last month, the Commerce Department said on Tuesday. Data for January was revised up to show sales rebounding 7.6% instead of 5.3% as previously reported. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast retail dropping 0.5% in February.

Read more at CNBC

History Tells Us Cities Will Once Again Thrive

Since the outset of the pandemic, we’ve been inundated by alarmist news and talking heads decrying the end of civilization as we know it. Executives and financial experts have boldly claimed that once COVID-19 is under control and a vaccine is available for mass consumption, people will continue with the quarantine lifestyle—living in exurban areas, shopping only online, cooking at home, and connecting virtually with friends and colleagues instead of gathering in-person in the major metropolitan centers of the world.

Sure, declaring human behavior is forever changed makes for a good headline, but it ignores all of human history. Humanity has survived war, pestilence, disease, and pandemic. Yet it has inexorably continued its march toward the citification of the world.

Read more at Fortune

Companies Rethink How Offices Fit Into Their Plans

The pandemic has prompted companies to rethink how to use workspaces, both from a standpoint of managing physical real estate and in managers’ expectations for employees. “We’re going to be very cautious that managers don’t shift into patterns that you have to come into the office for an important meeting, since that’s not possible if people move away,” says Yelp Chief People Officer Carolyn Patterson.

Read more at CNBC

A Once-In-A-Generation Opportunity For US Manufacturers And Policymakers

While the crisis is far from over, there is now an incipient window of opportunity. A chance for firms to be reimagined and, crucially, for the US manufacturing industry to take its place at the forefront of a post-pandemic future. Naturally, this opportunity must be seized not awaited. Yet responsibility for doing so shouldn’t rest solely with manufacturing companies. Yes, there are some things they – both individually and collectively – must do to grasp the nettle, particularly when it comes to attracting fresh talent and closing the skills gap. But it also requires decisive action from the government to make the US a more attractive investment proposition for manufacturers at home and abroad. In the words of NAM’s chief economist, Chad Moutray: “We have to understand we’re in a global competition here. The dollars will flow to where the market is best.”

Read more at Forbes