Daily Briefing – 380

Pelosi: Spending Package Will Be Less Than $3.5 Trillion Proposed

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on Sunday that it “seems self-evident” that the final price tag for the Democrats’ spending plan will be smaller than $3.5 trillion originally proposed. Pelosi also voiced confidence that the bill would pass and called the legislation “transformative.”

“Yeah, that seems self-evident. That seems self-evident” she said on ABC’s “This Week” when asked if she would acknowledge that there will be a lower total for the package.  “I think even those who want a smaller number support the vision of the president,” Pelosi added, referring to Democratic divisions regarding the reconciliation measure. 

Read more at The Hill

WHO Seeks to Revive Stalled Inquiry Into Origins of Covid-19 With New Team

A new team of about 20 scientists—including specialists in laboratory safety and biosecurity and geneticists and animal-disease experts versed in how viruses spill over from nature—is being assembled with a mandate to hunt for new evidence in China and elsewhere. The possibilities that the new team is charged with examining include whether the Covid-19 virus could have emerged from a lab, according to WHO officials, a hypothesis that has especially angered China.

Washington and its allies have been urging the WHO, the United Nations’ public-health arm, to push ahead with a probe. China has resisted, arguing that any new inquiry should focus on other countries, including the U.S.

Read more at the WSJ

JPMorgan Chase: Only Half of the People Who Lost Jobs During COVID Are Going Back to Work

The pandemic is dragging on and people aren’t rushing back to work, despite anecdotes of signing bonuses, the end of federal unemployment benefits, and rising wages. Now, a note from JPMorgan’s Jesse Edgerton shows just how many people haven’t returned. 

“Loosely speaking, about half of the people who lost jobs during COVID are still actively looking for work, while the other half are not,” Edgerton writes. That comes from a comparison of pre-COVID employment to today. When the pandemic first hit, employment dropped by 15% — meaning that 22 million jobs were shed. Notably, JPMorgan finds that 900,000 of those who departed the labor force are age 55 or older; they might be part of the flock of early retirees driven by the pandemic.

Read more at Business Insider

Worker Wages Have Stagnated

Tens of millions of American households were already struggling long before the coronavirus came to call. Lately, it’s become increasingly clear that the problem is systemic – especially in cities. In fact, a recent study found that 63% of U.S. workers living in metro areas are struggling to break out of the paycheck-to-paycheck financial cycle. While the situation is better for rural workers, it’s hardly an encouraging differential; more than a third of rural workers – 39%, to be precise – are also dependent on the next paycheck keeping them off the streets.

Cost of living increases have far outpaced wages.  Housing costs, for example, are hitting record highs, pricing many folks out of the cities in which they work. This is especially true in metro areas where the median rent can push $1,500 for even modest homes, and the  median housing prices are well over $300,000 in all but the smallest cities.

Read more at USA Today

US COVID-19 Update – 

The US has passed a peak in terms of daily incidence. The most recent high was 160,200 new cases per day on September 1, and the trend began to decline slightly before the Labor Day holiday weekend. The current average is approximately 121,532 new cases per day and appears to be decreasing. Daily mortality continues to increase slowly, now up to 1,556 deaths per day—the highest average since February 27. If the daily incidence peaked on September 1, mortality could peak in the next week or so.

The US has administered 388 million cumulative doses of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines.  There are 212.6 million individuals who have received at least 1 dose, equivalent to 64.0% of the entire US population. Among adults, 76.7% have received at least 1 dose, and 66.2% of adults are fully vaccinated.

Read more at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security

NYS Vaccine and COVID Update 

Vaccine Stats as of Sunday September 26th.:

One Vaccine Dose 

  • 70.7 of all New Yorkers – 13,750,864 (plus 26,148 from a day earlier) 
  • In the Hudson Valley 1,445,244 (plus 1,174) 

Fully Vaccinated

  • 63.27% of all New Yorkers – 12,323,981 are fully vaccinated (Plus 23,368)
  • In the Hudson Valley – 1,281,435 (plus 1,279) are fully vaccinated. 

The Governor  updated COVID data through Saturday September 25th.  There were 31 COVID related deaths for a total of 56,462.


  • Patients Currently in Hospital statewide: 2,299.

Seven Day Average Positivity Rate:

  • Statewide 2.71%
  • Mid-Hudson: 2.87%

Useful Websites:

State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker Resigns

State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker, who leads the state Health Department and has played a key role in shaping New York’s pandemic response, is resigning from his post. Zucker worked closely with former Governor Andrew Cuomo and, in recent weeks, some state politicians and commentators have called for him to follow his former boss out the door.

Zucker also played a key leadership role during the pandemic, helping to implement policies to mitigate the spread of the virus. He came under fire for his decision last spring to allow people who were in the hospital for COVID-19 to be transferred directly into nursing homes. A subsequent investigation by the state attorney general found that the number of nursing home deaths in New York had been severely undercounted. 

CDC Backs COVID-19 Boosters for High-Risk Adults, Elderly, Front Line Workers

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday backed a booster shot of the Pfizer and BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for Americans aged 65 and older, adults with underlying medical conditions and adults in high-risk working and institutional settings.  The decision by CDC Director Rochelle Walensky broke from a recommendation on Thursday by a group of outside advisors to the agency who had said that a narrower group of people would be helped by the shot. 

The panel specifically excluded people in high-risk jobs and those in close living conditions. It recommended boosters for older people and some people with underlying medical conditions.

Read more at Reuters

Hochul Prepares for Healthcare Worker Shortage Ahead of Monday Deadline

In preparation for Monday’s vaccination deadline, Governor Kathy Hochul released a comprehensive plan on Sunday to address preventable staffing shortages in hospitals and other health care facilities statewide. “We are still in a battle against COVID to protect our loved ones, and we need to fight with every tool at our disposal,” Governor Hochul said. 

The plan includes preparing to sign an executive order if necessary to declare a state of emergency that seeks to increase workforce supply and allow qualified health care professionals licensed in other states or countries, recent graduates, retired and formerly practicing health care professionals to practice in New York State.

Read more at Mid-Hudson News

China’s Regulatory Storm Risks Triggering Wider Economic Damage

China’s high-profile crackdowns on property developers, technology firms and other private enterprises are starting to weigh on business activity and add to financial risks in the country, raising the potential that Beijing’s campaigns could harm the broader economy.

The regulatory clampdowns are gathering momentum at a time when China’s growth already appeared to be losing steam. Consumer spending faltered in August, growing only 2.5% from a year earlier as efforts to contain the Delta variant outbreaks hurt services industries. Higher commodity and raw materials prices have squeezed manufacturers’ profits, damping their appetite for investment.

Read more at the WSJ

Another 351,000 Individuals Filed New Unemployment Claims Last Week

U.S. states posted a surprise increase in initial jobless claims last week, rising further above a pandemic-era low from earlier this month. 

  • Initial unemployment claims, week ended September 18: 351,000 vs. 320,000 expected and a revised 335,000 during the prior week.
  • Continuing claims, week ended September 11: 2.845 million vs. 2.600 million expected and a revised 2.714 million during the prior week.

A growing list of companies have highlighted the operating disruptions and cost pressures resulting from labor scarcities. Earlier this week, shipping giant FedEx (FDX) said its first-quarter results “were negatively affected by an estimated $450 million year-over-year increase in costs due to a constrained labor market.” 

Read more at Yahoo News

IHS Markit Survey: U.S. Business Activity Grows, but at Slowest Pace in 12 Months 

Data firm IHS Markit said on Thursday its flash U.S. Composite PMI Output Index, which tracks the manufacturing and services sectors, fell to 54.5 this month. That was the lowest reading since September 2020 and followed 55.4 in August. A reading above 50 indicates growth in the private sector.

Businesses are struggling with perennial shortages of raw materials and labor as the economy normalizes following unprecedented disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. There had been optimism that the supply chains would adjust soon, but the Delta variant of the coronavirus has worsened the scarcity of some raw materials, produced primarily in Southeast Asia. Congestion at ports in China is also contributing to keeping the supply chains tight.

Read more at Reuters

FedEx Shipping Rates to Rise in January

FedEx has announced a new set of parcel rate increases set to go into effect Jan. 3. The changes are complex, but the company says that in general, shipping rates will increase by an average of 5.9% for its plane-based FedEx Express services including U.S. domestic, U.S. export and U.S. import. 

Shipping rates will increase 5.9% as well for its FedEx Ground and FedEx Home Delivery services. FedEx Freight rates are increasing, too, by an average of 5.9% for customers who use FXF PZONE and FXF EZONE, and by 7.9% for customers.  The rate increase is the largest in a decade and due to increased labor and transportation costs. 

Read more at Shipping News

Yellen Presses Ireland on ‘Once in a Generation’ Tax Reform

U.S. Treasury Janet Yellen stressed the need to finalize a global agreement on taxation to end the “race to the bottom” in a meeting with Irish Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe.  Both officials called the discussion late Wednesday “constructive,” but earlier this week Donohoe said his country would not agree to a deal until it was in the best interests of Ireland.

Ireland has been a haven for major multinational companies seeking to lower their tax burden, and has resisted signing onto the OECD initiative to set a tax floor of 15 percent, which has support of 134 countries.

Read more at IndustryWeek

What Are DNA Vaccines?

Conventional vaccines work by turning a virus against itself. A significantly weakened or inactivated form of the virus is injected into the body, training the immune system to act rapidly against the live virus, should it attack.  Starting in the late 20th century, scientists tried to devise a simpler way of teaching the body to fight off an illness.

This led to a new generation of immunisation: genetic vaccines. Most of these being used against covid-19, such as the vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna, use messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA), a molecule that carries instructions for how to make a protein from a cell’s DNA in the nucleus to the molecular factories. But DNA vaccines, such as ZyCoV-D, begin one step back in the process. Developers start by finding DNA that will develop the spike protein (the part of the virus that helps it bind to its host) and carry it into the cell. The DNA is then transcribed into mRNA which instructs the cell to make the target viral protein, priming the immune system.

Read more at The Economist