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Daily Briefing – 268

Post: Mar. 22, 2021

COVID Update – 

Governor Cuomo issued a press release yesterday morning providing an overview of New York’s COVID-19 tracking data from Sunday March 21st. 

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


  • Patients Currently in Hospital statewide: 4,370
  • Hospitalizations Mid-Hudson Region: 499

ICU Beds In Use (All Uses)

  • Occupied ICU Beds Statewide: 4,085
  • Occupied ICU Beds Mid-Hudson Region: 396

Other Data

  • Statewide Positivity Rate: 3.29%
  • Mid-Hudson Positivity Rate: 4.62%

Useful Websites:

NYS Vaccine Update – Vaccine Eligibility Expands to 50-Plus Age Group Today

The governor announced at a press event yesterday that the age requirement for COVID-19 vaccines was dropping from 60-plus to 50-plus, beginning Tuesday.  “Tomorrow morning, 50 and above, make your appointment and get your vaccine,” Gov. Cuomo said. 

 As of 11 am Monday 5,198,113 (plus 65,947 from a day earlier) New Yorkers have received at least one vaccine dose and 2,692,691 are fully vaccinated (Plus 38,557).  In the Hudson Valley 511,939 (plus 8,134) have at least one dose and 242,125 (plus 2,231) are fully vaccinated. 

U.S. Cases Falling Overall, But Rising in Several Northern States

The Johns Hopkins database reports 33K new cases yesterday, down
13% from Sunday last week. Hospitalizations and deaths are still falling, thanks to vaccination. There is some upward pressure  concentrated in northern states where the weather is still cool. Michigan remains the most troubling state; cases have almost tripled over the past month, and the rate of increase is accelerating. Cases are rising steadily in New Jersey, up 36% from their late February low, and the trend also is clearly increasing in Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, Delaware, and New Hampshire. 

The most open southern states are performing better, with cases flat in Florida and falling in Texas and Mississippi. It seems likely that warmer weather is helping,

Read more at US News and World Report

AstraZeneca Vaccine Is Safe, 79% Effective in U.S. Trials

AstraZeneca’s vaccine was shown to be safe and 79% effective in preventing symptomatic disease in U.S. clinical trials involving more than 32,000 people, the U.K. drugmaker said.

The company said it would prepare to request emergency authorization in the U.S., a move that—if approved—will add another vaccine available for Americans.

Read more at the AP

Chip-Plant Fire Spreads Concerns About Global Auto Production

A fire at a factory of one of the world’s leading auto chip makers has added to the troubles of car makers that already have slashed production because of a semiconductor shortage. The fire Friday left a swath of charred equipment in the factory owned by a subsidiary of Renesas Electronics Corp.  in Hitachinaka, northeast of Tokyo. The company said it would take at least a month to restart the damaged operations.

Car makers have already been struggling with a shortage of semiconductors stemming in part from an unexpectedly strong comeback after the coronavirus pandemic hit last year. That left factories ill-prepared to increase production quickly.

Read more at the WSJ

Covid-19 Vaccine Manufacturing in U.S. Expanding

After a slow start, Pfizer Inc., its partner BioNTech SE and Moderna Inc. have raised output by gaining experience, scaling up production lines and taking other steps like making certain raw materials on their own.  Pfizer figured out how to stretch scarce supplies of special filters needed for the vaccine production process by recycling them. Moderna shortened the time it needed to inspect and package newly manufactured vials of its vaccine. The companies—along with Johnson & Johnson, which recently launched a Covid-19 vaccine—also are teaming up with other firms to further increase production.

In addition, the U.S. government has helped vaccine makers access supplies under the Defense Production Act, suppliers and government officials say. The Biden administration this month said it used the act to provide $105 million in funding to help Merck & Co. make doses of J&J’s Covid-19 vaccine and to expedite materials used in its production.

Read more at the WSJ

Vaccine Battle Heats Up With EU Ready to Halt U.K. Shipments

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said that the EU will not share its vaccine supply with poorer countries until it has achieved “a better production situation”. Her volte-face on the spirit of the bloc’s commitment to COVAX, an international initiative to provide poor countries with vaccines, comes as many EU members face a third wave of covid-19 infections (see main stories). Meanwhile, Britain will reportedly go on a diplomatic drive this week to persuade individual member-states to veto any move to block exports of vaccines across the English Channel.

Read more at Bloomberg

Stimulus Checks Have Left U.S. Households Flush to Spend

Last week a third round of relief payments started showing up in the accounts of millions of Americans, $1,400 payments so far sent to roughly 90 million adults totaling about $242 billion. That is on top of $600 per recipient payments sent in December and $1,200 sent earlier last year and in all will add up to more than $800 billion.

It turns out there is a lot we already know to answer that. Americans have spent some of it, saved a lot of it and used large portions to pay down burdensome debt. That leaves the economy primed for a consumer boom once business fully reopens and poses risks that worry some people on Wall Street, including higher inflation and an asset bubble. Moreover, it leaves a different debt overhang — federal debt — that poses new uncertainties for business, households and Uncle Sam himself.

Read more at Morningstar

DOL Creates New Whistleblower Protocols

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has announced that OSHA will now be responsible for overseeing worker retaliation complaints that are filed under the Criminal Antitrust Anti-Retaliation Act (CAARA) and the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA). In addition to enforcing whistleblower protections for workers regarding federal health and safety laws, over the years OSHA also has been made responsible by Congress for overseeing the enforcement of the whistleblower provisions of 25 different statutes. In fact, only about 62% of the whistleblower claims OSHA investigates deal with safety and health violations.

OSHA’s staff handles complaints of retaliation arising from—among other things—employees reporting violations of securities and tax laws as well as violations of consumer product, food, nuclear industry, motor carrier, pipeline and maritime safety, and health insurance reform laws.

Read more at EHS Today

McMahon: Tax Increases On The Highest Earners 

A year after the Empire State was clobbered by the coronavirus, New York’s Legislature confronts an embarrassment of revenue riches. State taxes have rebounded more strongly than expected from the pandemic meltdown — capped by a massive injection of $12.6 billion in no-strings-attached federal stimulus funds. 

Yet among their budget priorities for the fiscal year starting April 1, the Democratic super-majorities in the state Assembly and Senate want to raise $7 billion or $8 billion more in new taxes — mostly from a few thousand multimillionaire earners.

Read more at the Empire Center

NY Income Tax Deadline Extended

The Department of Tax and Finance will be extending the New York State income tax deadline to May 17. This aligns with the federal decision to do the same and provides New Yorkers still coping with the complications of the COVID-19 pandemic ample time to file. 

Read more at the Department of Taxation and Finance

Some Schools Have Been Open for Months – Here’s What They Learned

Teachers and administrators whose buildings have been open for many months have come to some hard-earned conclusions about how to make it all work. Some of what they learned is consistent with what many scientists have been touting—that masking, ventilation, distancing and regular testing when possible are effective ways to reduce transmission of Covid-19 in schools. Other once-lauded tactics, such as daily temperature checks and deep cleaning of surfaces, have become lower priorities.

They also have learned that teachers, not their students, are likely the primary transmitters of the virus in grade schools, that children are likely most at risk of infection during lunch time, and that tools such as portable air cleaners and carbon-dioxide monitors can help.

Read more at the WSJ