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Daily Briefing – 324

Post: Jun. 14, 2021

“Targeted, Responsible” – Collins Pushes Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal

Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine advocated Sunday for a “targeted, responsible” infrastructure package with bipartisan backing as a group of senators attempts to broker a deal with the White House to rebuild the nation’s roads, bridges and waterways. The plan includes $579 billion in new spending over five years, a significant increase from the offer by the GOP senators, and is focused specifically on physical infrastructure. The package would not include a gas tax increase nor roll back the changes made in the 2017 tax reform bill.

To pay for their measure, Collins detailed three mechanisms: an infrastructure financing authority; repurposing funding approved by Congress in March for COVID-19 relief; and a provision for electric vehicles for use of roads and bridges. 

Read more at CBS News

Jamie Dimon on Inflation Concerns

CEO Jamie Dimon says that JPMorgan Chase has been “effectively stockpiling” cash rather than using it to buy Treasuries or other investments because of the possibility higher inflation will force the Federal Reserve to boost interest rates, Dimon said Monday during a conference. The biggest U.S. bank by assets has positioned itself to benefit from rising interest rates, which will let it buy higher-yielding assets, he said.

 “We have a lot of cash and capability and we’re going to be very patient, because I think you have a very good chance inflation will be more than transitory,” said Dimon, the longtime JPMorgan CEO.

Read more at CNBC

Federal Judge: Texas Hospital System Can Require Employees to Get Covid-19 Vaccine

A federal judge in Texas ruled that a major hospital system in Houston can require its employees to be vaccinated against Covid-19, dismissing a lawsuit brought by workers who claimed the mandate unlawfully forced them to be human “guinea pigs.”

In late March, Houston Methodist became the first major healthcare system in the U.S. to require Covid-19 vaccinations for its existing employees and new hires. The system, which employs more than 26,000 people, says employee vaccinations are essential to keeping patients safe.  More than 100 of its workers filed suit against the requirement in late May.  Among other claims, the suit said the system’s policy violated a federal law governing the protection of “human subjects.”

Read more at the WSJ

Is the United States Capable of Industrial Policy in 2021?

Advocates for the United States to pursue a more active industrial policy had a good week. On June 8, the Senate passed the Endless Frontier bill, pledging about $250 billion over the next five years to bolster U.S. economic competitiveness toward China.  That same day, the Biden administration published, “Building Resilient Supply Chains, Revitalizing American Manufacturing, and Fostering Broad-Based Growth,” a report that report lamented how “as U.S. investment in the domestic industrial base has declined, our allies, partners and competitors have adopted strategic programs to advance their own domestic competitiveness.”

For there to me an effective industrial policy the United States would have to  that ensure these sectors will survive and thrive in a world of global competition. These policies would have to be sustainable across administrations, insulated from political capture, flexible enough to react to market shocks, wise enough to anticipate their second-order effects, and open enough to not alienate allies. 

Read more at the Washington Post

US COVID Update – 6 Months Into the COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout

COVID-19 vaccine rollouts began six months ago, and approximately 309 million vaccine doses have been administered nationwide since then. As of June 13, the CDC reported 64 percent of American adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine. More than 143 million people are fully vaccinated, amounting to about 54 percent of adults. 

Meanwhile, the Delta variant, first detected in India, is on its way to becoming the dominant one in the United States. Former Food an Drug Administration commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said it’s about 60 percent more transmissible than the Alpha variant first detected in the United Kingdom. 

Read more News 13 (Orlando)

NYS Vaccine and COVID Update – Statewide Vaccination Rate is 69.9%

Governor Cuomo Announced yesterday that the percent of New Yorkers 18 and older with at least one dose is 69.9%.  The 7-day average positivity is 0.41% and is now the lowest in the nation.

Vaccine Stats as of Sunday morning:

One Vaccine Dose

  • 55.7% of all New Yorkers – 11,127,696 (plus 11,693 from a day earlier) 
  • In the Hudson Valley 1,1183,240 (plus 1,015) 

Fully Vaccinated

  • 49.2% of all New Yorkers – 9,808,073 are fully vaccinated (Plus 27,648)
  • In the Hudson Valley – 1,035,204 (plus 3,087) are fully vaccinated. 

The Governor  updated COVID data through Saturday June 12th.   There were 7 COVID related deaths for a total of 42,872. 


  • Patients Currently in Hospital statewide: 617

Seven Day Average Positivity Rate:

  • Statewide 0.41%
  • Mid-Hudson: 0.39%

Useful Websites:

Novavax Says Its COVID Vaccine Is Extremely Effective

The first results from a large efficacy study of a new kind of COVID-19 vaccine are now out, and they are good. Very good.  According to Novavax, the vaccine’s manufacturer, it had a 100% efficacy against the original strain of the coronavirus and 93% efficacy against more worrisome variants that have subsequently appeared.

The Novavax vaccine is what’s known as a protein subunit vaccine. All COVID-19 vaccines are based on something called the coronavirus spike protein. That’s the protein that prompts the immune system to make antibodies to the virus.

Read or listen to more at NPR

Empire Center: Lawmakers Add to the High Cost of Health Insurance in New York

State lawmakers ended their session by passing a flurry of bills making health insurance even less affordable. One measure voted through in the final week increased a tax on health insurance by $40 million. Four other last-minute approvals would impose new coverage mandates, regulations and paperwork requirements on health plans—each of which would drive up insurance premiums that are already among the highest in the U.S.

As of 2019, family coverage cost an average of almost $23,000 a year in New York, which was 12 percent above the national average and second only to Alaska. One factor behind those high costs are the many coverage mandates imposed by Albany. Most are proposed in the name of expanding or improving medical coverage, but rarely are they subject to rigorous cost-benefit analysis.

Read more at The Empire Center

Consumers Find Shortages and Higher Prices as COVID-Impacted Supply Chains Shift for Recovery

Early in the pandemic, some shoppers heading to the grocery store to stockpile food and other items were greeted with empty shelves. Businesses worked feverishly to shift distribution away from restaurants, cafeterias and other away-from-home dining venues that were now off limits during lockdowns.  

Now with vaccines rolling out and consumers heading back out into the world, there’s renewed demand for things that were of no use during COVID. “There’s a part of the economy that’s been relatively quiet for the last year that’s reopening,” said Chedly Louis, vice president and senior credit officer at Moody’s. “The part of the economy that was quiet is revving up at a faster pace than the manufacturer thought at the beginning of the year. That’s the rebalancing that’s happening in the supply chain.”

Read more at MarketWatch

England Is Expected to Pause Reopening

Concerned by the spread of a new coronavirus variant, Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain was preparing on Monday to announce a delay of up to four weeks on the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions in England, effectively postponing a long-awaited moment described in the news media as “freedom day.”

In a statement scheduled for Monday afternoon, Mr. Johnson is expected to say that rising cases of the Delta variant, first detected in India, make it impossible to remove the remaining curbs on June 21, as had been envisioned, because a rapid growth in infections would pose a risk to the health service.

Read more at the New York Times

Visa Backlogs – Travel Curbs Strain Businesses in Need of Workers

For U.S. companies that rely on seasonal hires or foreign professionals like Mr. Ryder, an already tight labor market is being further strained by coronavirus-related immigration backlogs and travel restrictions that prevent employees from coming to the country.

Although federal officials have eased Covid-19 restriction guidelines, the U.S. still has kept travel bans on 33 countries, including the U.K., much of Europe, China and India. Citizens of those countries for the most part aren’t being granted work visas even if they are vaccinated or test negative for Covid-19. In countries that aren’t banned, monthslong backlogs at consulates make it difficult for foreign workers to get visas. Of the 223 U.S. consulates that normally process work visas, 160 are currently accepting appointments, the State Department said.

Read more at the WSJ

Rare Earth Metals at the Heart of China’s Rivalry with US, Europe

Amid the transition to green energy in which rare earth minerals are sure to play a role, China’s market dominance is enough to sound an alarm in western capitals. “The expected exponential growth in demand for minerals that are linked to clean energy is putting more pressure on US and Europe to take a closer look at where the vulnerabilities are and the concrete steps these governments can take,” said Jane Nakano, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

In 2019, the United States imported 80 percent of its rare earth minerals from China, the U.S. Geological Survey says. The European Union gets 98% of its supply from China, the European Commission said last year.

Read more in IndustryWeek

Flagship Pioneering, The Investor Behind Moderna, Raises $3.4 Billion For New Fund

Flagship Pioneering, the investor behind Covid-19 vaccine maker Moderna, said today that it had raised $3.4 billion for a new fund. The fund is a giant one even at a time when investment has been flowing into biotechnology and therapeutics.

Flagship founder Noubar Afeyan, who is worth $2.9 billion, has helped start more than 50 public and private healthcare and life sciences companies over the course of his career. “Biotechnology is at the leading edge of technological progress, challenging us to think beyond incremental advances and take big leaps – and Flagship Pioneering is focused on actively leaping to the scientific spaces ripe for disruption.” Afeyan said in a statement.

Read more at Forbes