Daily Briefing – 346

Senators Scramble to Finalize Deal on Infrastructure Package

Lawmakers pushed to finalize an infrastructure agreement Sunday and lock down enough support from Republicans to advance the bill in a Senate vote early this week.  GOP senators had blocked efforts by Democrats to begin consideration of the roughly $1 trillion infrastructure bill on Wednesday, saying too much of the package remained unresolved. 

A group of 11 Republican senators wrote to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) last week, saying they would vote to start debate on the bill, provided that the major issues are resolved and its official cost has been estimated. “I’m not looking for a perfect bill on Monday, but I’m looking for enough of a bill that we can move forward on and get to an amendment process and I expect that to happen,” Sen. Kevin Cramer (R., N.D.) told reporters.

Read more at the WSJ


Unilever Joins Rival P&G in Issuing Inflation Warning to Investors

In the face of rising input costs, the Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant—the makers of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, Hellman’s mayonnaise, Dove shampoo and Sunlight detergent—has slashed its forecasted profits for the rest of the year.

Unilever has joined rival consumer goods giant P&G in warning about the rising cost of raw materials. Unilever says it will need to raise its prices, though slowly so as not to shock consumers; profitability goals are being scaled back. CFO Graeme Pitkethly: “This is something that a business like Unilever is able to handle, but it takes time.”

Read more at Fortune


DiNapoli: Local Sales Taxes Jump 49.2 Percent in Second Quarter

Sales tax revenue for local governments in New York state rose by 49.2% in the second quarter (April to June 2021) compared to the same period last year, a dramatic increase from last year’s weak collections during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. Sales tax collections during this period totaled just over $1.6 billion and even surpassed collections reported during the second quarter of 2019, before the onset of the pandemic.

The size of the increase largely reflects extremely weak collections in the April to June period of 2020. However, even compared to pre-pandemic collections for the same period in 2019, statewide collections in 2021 were up 8.7% or $396 million. Every region outside of New York City experienced two-year growth over 18%. The Mid-Hudson and North Country regions both reported increases of more than 29%.

Read more at the Comptroller’s website


The Right and Wrong Ways to Reduce Vaccine Hesitancy

For countries with lots of covid-19 vaccines, the most important task is convincing people to get jabbed. In America most adults who want the shots already have them, leaving an unvaccinated population full of hardline refuseniks.  Fortunately, hesitancy has been falling steadily. YouGov has run surveys about vaccination in 20 countries. In January around 45% of respondents said either that they would not get a shot or that they were unsure. By late June just 20% did.

Among the many factors that could change sceptics’ minds, two can be measured readily with national statistics. One is the pace of vaccination. The more doubters see that shots are available and that people they know have not suffered ill effects, the more willing they may be to follow suit. The other is the gravity of the pandemic. If lots of people are dying, fear of the virus might trump fear of the vaccine.

Read more at The Economist (COVID Coverage Remains Free)


US COVID – Cases, Emergency  Room Visits Up

The US CDC reported 34.2 million cumulative COVID-19 cases and 607,684 deaths. With more than 40,000 new cases per day, the US surpassed both the peak of the initial surge—31,327 on April 12, 2020—and the low reported following the summer 2020 surge—35,082 on September 13, 2020. The current average is more than 3.5 times the most recent low on June 19 (11,467) and is still increasing steadily.

Daily mortality also continues to increase, up to 223 deaths per day, which is more than 40% higher than the most recent low on July 11 (159). Notably, the proportion of emergency department patients diagnosed with COVID-19 has tripled since June 21, up from 0.6% to 1.8%, which is an indication of increasing burden on health systems.

Read more at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security


NYS Vaccine and COVID Update 

Vaccine Stats as of  Sunday July 25th:

One Vaccine Dose 

  • 62.3% of all New Yorkers – 11,977,159 (plus 19,871 from a day earlier) 
  • In the Hudson Valley 1,271,545 (plus 1,213) 

Fully Vaccinated

  • 56.5% of all New Yorkers – 10,998,774 are fully vaccinated (Plus 15,769)
  • In the Hudson Valley – 1,153,206 (plus 1,744) are fully vaccinated. 

The Governor  updated COVID data through Saturday July 24th.  There were 7 COVID related deaths for a total of 43,055.

Hospitalizations:

  • Patients Currently in Hospital statewide: 505

Seven Day Average Positivity Rate:

  • Statewide 1.76%
  • Mid-Hudson: 1.40%

Useful Websites:


Scientists Urge Local Mask Mandates as Delta Sweeps the U.S.

infections from the Delta variant have soared throughout the country and spread faster than health experts anticipated. In the past few weeks, every state except Vermont has seen a sudden steep climb in cases. In response to the surge, Los Angeles County has led the way in reinstating a mask requirement for indoor spaces, even for vaccinated people, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that unvaccinated students—which includes all those under the age of 12 — wear a mask in school.

Many public health experts believe the CDC jumped the gun in loosening its mask recommendations.

Read more at Nat Geo


DOJ Won’t Investigate Nursing Home Deaths in New York, Other States

In a letter shared by Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), the DOJ said it had decided against opening an investigation into COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes in New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan and New Jersey.

“We have reviewed the information provided by these states along with additional information available to the Department. Based on that review, we have decided not to open a [Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act] investigation of any public nursing facility within New York, Pennsylvania, or Michigan at this time.” the DOJ said in its letter, signed by Deputy Assistant Attorney General Joe Gaeta.

Read more at The Hill


Intel CEO Says Chip Shortage Could Stretch Into 2023

Intel Corp. Chief Executive Pat Gelsinger sees the global semiconductor shortage potentially stretching into 2023, adding a leading industry voice to the growing view that the chip-supply disruptions hitting companies and consumers won’t wane soon. The world-wide shortage has fueled rising prices for some consumer gadgets. Meanwhile, the auto industry has been particularly hard-hit as the lack of a key component causes production delays.

It could take one or two years to get back to a reasonable supply-and-demand balance in the semiconductor industry, Mr. Gelsinger said in an interview after the company posted second-quarter earnings on Thursday. “We have a long way to go yet,” he said. “It just takes a long time to build [manufacturing] capacity.”

Read more at the WSJ


NAM Board Chair Visits the White House to Talk Infrasturcture

NAM Board Chair Michael Lamach, executive chair of the Trane Technologies board of directors, was among the business leaders who met with President Biden yesterday to discuss the bipartisan infrastructure framework.

“As an elected leader, you have the chance to realize the promise of American economic prosperity by working with your colleagues to enact the bipartisan framework that was recently announced.” The meeting with President Biden, which included business organizations and labor leaders, demonstrated the broad support that infrastructure investment has among disparate groups

Read the more at The Hill


Initial Jobless Claims Rise

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 51,000 to a seasonally adjusted 419,000 for the week ended July 17, the highest level since mid-May. Data for the prior week was revised to show 8,000 more applications received than previously reported. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast 350,000 applications for the latest week.

The four-week average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it strips out weekly volatility from the data, rose only 750 to 385,250.

Read more at Yahoo Finance


Startup Investments Continue for Automakers

Automakers have continued to invest in startups with a total of $9.6 billion invested since the beginning of 2020, per Crunchbase data. Sustainability looks to be the standout trend of the latest investment batch, with automakers pouring money into battery tech developers offering an alternative to fossil fuels and internal combustion engines. Close to half of lead rounds went to companies in battery tech or electric vehicle development.

Volkswagen, which also owns Porsche, has participated in 24 rounds, including leading a $3.4 billion investment in battery startup Northvolt, and Toyota has taken part in 20 rounds, with large rounds in electric aircraft maker Joby Aviation and autonomous car companies Momenta and Pony.ai.

Read more at Crunchbase


How Companies Can Defend Against Ransomware Attacks

Ransomware attacks are increasing in frequency, and companies need to safeguard industrial control systems and operational technology both to protect themselves and to avoid regulatory scrutiny, experts say. Grant Geyer of Claroty recommends organizations adopt the “three lines of defense” model, run real-time security exercises and understand where to focus safeguards.

“As more technology is integrated and added to industrial systems, new avenues for exploitation are created. Unlike IT system operators that have a large community to identify vulnerabilities, and history of security being integrated into products, OT operators may have limited insight into the vulnerabilities lurking on their system, just waiting to be exploited when they see the light of day (or the internet)”


Envoys: Canada and U.S. Are ‘Coordinated’ on Border Reopening – Out of Sync

Top Canadian and American envoys insisted Friday the countries remain committed to a coordinated easing of Covid-19 border restrictions — even if they’re moving at different speeds.  The diplomats’ arguments capped a week in which the Biden administration renewed its restrictions at U.S.-Canada land crossings until at least Aug. 21.

The countries put the restrictions in place in March 2020 to slow Covid-19. But as vaccination rates rise, families separated from loved ones, business leaders and lawmakers have been calling on the governments to reopen the land crossings to nonessential travel.

Read more at Politico


 

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