Congress Forced to Go into December Overtime
Both the House and Senate were scheduled to leave Washington, D.C., for the year at the end of the week. The House has formally added a week to its schedule, meaning the lower chamber will now start its break by Dec. 20, while senators are warning they could remain in session right up until Christmas.
Congress passed a short-term government funding bill last week, taking one item off its plate. But it still faces a legislative slog that could eat up weeks of floor time, with negotiations continuing this week on a sweeping defense bill, President Biden’s social and climate spending plan and how to raise the debt ceiling.
Senate Will Vote on Bill Barring Biden Vaccine Mandate, Likely to Pass with Manchin Support
All 50 Senate Republicans, led by Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., backed a challenge to the vaccine mandate last month under the Congressional Review Act (CRA). That law allows Congress to officially disapprove of an executive branch regulation via a resolution passed through each chamber. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said last week he also supports the Braun resolution.
Even if Republicans and potentially a handful of Democrats manage to force a House vote on the CRA resolution, such resolutions are subject to a presidential veto. And it’s highly unlikely Biden would sign a bill canceling a rule he ordered his administration to make.
Fauci: First Data on Omicron COVID Variant’s Severity is ‘Encouraging’
The Omicron variant of covid-19 has now been identified in 40 countries, with the World Health Organization warning that all countries should prepare for a surge of cases. Omicron has now been detected in 16 of America’s 50 states. Anthony Fauci, the White House’s chief medical adviser, said that “thus far” the variant does not appear to have produced severe cases—although he said it is too early to draw firm conclusions. Even so, rules on travel continued to be tightened around the world.
However, Fauci cautioned that more data was needed to draw a complete picture of omicron’s risk profile. The World Health Organization said the variant was “of concern” on Nov.26, prompting a flurry of international travel bans and new COVID restrictions.
Clues to Omicron Variant’s U.S. Spread Include Test Samples, Sewage
Researchers are racing to determine how widespread the Omicron variant might be across the U.S., scouring Covid-19 test samples and in some cases even examining wastewater. Federal regulators said Sunday that cases have been identified in 16 states and that the Food and Drug Administration is in conversations about streamlining authorization for revamped vaccines if necessary. Covid-19 surveillance is more robust in the U.S. than when the Alpha or Delta variants emerged, public-health officials and experts say. A fault in some commonly used Covid-19 tests also helps scientists flag potential Omicron cases.
Public-health, commercial and academic laboratories in the U.S. analyze genomic samples from positive PCR tests and report results to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some laboratories send the agency test samples directly. Between 5% and 10% of positive Covid-19 samples are sequenced in the U.S., according to Kelly Wroblewski, director of infectious diseases at the Association of Public Health Laboratories.
US COVID Update – Post-Booster Breakthrough Covid-19 Cases Are Happening – Rarely
A small number of Covid-19 breakthrough cases are beginning to show up among people who got both a full round of vaccinations and a booster shot. Despite low levels of post-booster breakthrough cases now, the emergence of the new Omicron variant has raised questions about how well the vaccines will hold up against it. There is currently little data as scientists race to understand Omicron. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracks breakthrough cases, but doesn’t break out post-booster infections specifically.
Doctors strongly recommend that patients get a booster. They say the fraction of people who might become infected with Covid-19 despite having received a booster can expect to have milder symptoms and a shorter illness. They are also much less likely to be hospitalized or die than people who aren’t vaccinated.
NYS Vaccine and COVID Update
Vaccine Stats as of Monday December 6:
One Vaccine Dose
- 79.3% of all New Yorkers – 15,040,058 (plus 14,236 from a day earlier).
- In the Hudson Valley 1,578,239 (plus 1,174).
- 69.1% of all New Yorkers – 13,434,900 (plus 17,222).
- In the Hudson Valley – 1,379,984 (plus 1,515).
The Governor updated COVID data through Sunday December 5. There were 49 COVID related deaths for a total of 59,522.
- Patients Currently in Hospital statewide: 3,285.
7 Day Average Positivity Rate – Cases per 100K population
- Statewide 4.82% – 47.51 positive cases per 100,00 population
- Mid-Hudson: 4.50% – 40.99 positive cases per 100,00 population
Study: Mix-and-Match J&J COVID Booster Raised Immune Response After Pfizer Vaccine
Using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as a booster for people initially immunized with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine produces a strong immune response and may do more to elicit protection against severe disease, researchers reported Sunday. Their small study of 65 volunteers who all initially got two doses of Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine showed that using the J&J Janssen vaccine as a booster produced a slower but more sustained antibody response against the original strain of the virus, as well as the Delta and Beta variants, they said.
The Pfizer/BioNTech booster produced a quicker and stronger immune response that dropped off faster, their study suggested.
Study: Intention to Vaccinate Children Against COVID-19 Among Vaccinated and Unvaccinated US Parents
Vaccinating children against COVID-19 is the most effective way to reduce disease burden and ensure safe return to in-person schooling and other social activities. National surveys show hesitancy among parents to vaccinate children, even when they are vaccinated themselves. The survey measured parental intention to vaccinate children and related sociodemographic factors in a national sample of US parents.
Vaccine-willing/vaccinated parents were more likely to have already vaccinated their eligible children or intended to immediately vaccinate them when they become eligible, compared with vaccine-hesitant parents (64.9% vs 8.3% for children aged 2-4 years; 77.6% vs 12.1% for those aged 5-11 years; 81.3% vs 13.9% for those aged 12-15 years; and 86.4% vs 12.7% for those aged 16-17 years Among vaccine-willing/vaccinated parents, 10% would not immediately vaccinate their children. The most common reason for hesitancy was concern about vaccine-related long-term adverse effects in children.
Jobs Growth in Manufacturing Slows on Auto Industry Loss
Manufacturing jobs growth slowed in November as employment in durable and nondurable goods production rose by 31,000, about 17,000 fewer jobs than the 48,000 industrial jobs created in October. While most other sectors performed well, a sharp loss in motor vehicle and parts employment offset significant gains in miscellaneous durable goods and food production.
Fabricated metal goods companies hired about 8,000 more people, and electrical equipment and appliances, nonmetallic mineral products, and wood products all also added more than a thousand new employees. The Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that “a major strike” brought machinery employment down by an estimated 6,000 people. That’s likely a reference to the monthlong Deere & Co. strike, which affected about 10,000 agricultural equipment workers represented by the United Auto Workers.
Wells Fargo Sees U.S. 2022 Inflation, GDP Around 4% – CIO
U.S. inflation and economic growth are likely to come in at around 4% next year, suggesting inflation will remain higher than anticipated, Wells Fargo’s Wealth & Investment Management CIO said on Monday. “We think inflation remains sticker that people expect, around 4%,” Darrell Cronk, told the annual Reuters Investment Outlook Summit, referring to the 2022 outlook.
Speaking on the same panel debate, Standard Chartered Bank CIO Steve Brice, said the Federal Reserve was likely to deliver less monetary tightening that currently priced by financial markets. “We know the markets are pricing around two Fed rate hikes next year, at one point it was nearly three,” he said.
The 2021 Fortune 50
Resilience and the capacity for reinvention have never been more important. In a world evolving at the speed of tech and roiled by the pandemic, organizations that have innovation woven into their DNA enjoy a distinct advantage. The index is based on a system that analyzes dozens of factors to identify companies built for robust growth—and outsize market returns.
Tech companies took the top three spots—CrowdStrike, Twilio, and DataDog. Sustainability also looms large, with companies like Adani Green Energy in India and Longi Green Energy in China ranking. There are also some familiar names that frequent other Fortune lists, like Workday and Nvidia. And then there’s one company whose big bet on the future paid off sooner than expected—vaccine maker Moderna.
A Rocky Ride for Oil Prices
Oil prices are likely to continue their bumpy ride this week, as fears about the Omicron variant of covid-19 rattle markets. The price of Brent crude, an international benchmark, fell by 15% in the week to December 2nd, on fears that the variant could trigger fresh lockdowns and a concomitant fall in the demand for oil. Prices fell further on December 3rd when OPEC+, the oil producers’ cartel and its allies, agreed to keep increasing production. T
Why OPEC+ did not lower production remains unclear. Some think the cartel could be downplaying the risk of Omicron. Another possibility is that OPEC+ is growing more friendly to America. Either way, until the world understands more about the variant, oil prices will remain volatile.
Are Employers that are Offering Lavish Work-From-Home Perks Making a Strategic Blunder?
They’re driven by desperation. Frustrated business owners in Springfield, Mo., for example, joined to put up billboards: “GET OFF YOUR BUTT! Get. To. Work. Apply Anywhere.” The U.S. labor market hasn’t been this tight in decades, and the emerging consensus is that employers can gain a competitive advantage by adopting liberal remote-work policies. Laszlo Bock, Google’s former HR chief, tells Fortune that “traditional banks, which emphasize primarily in-person cultures, are indeed worried about losing top talent to tech companies that offer more flexibility.”
It’snNot so clear, says Fortune’s Geoff Colvin, if that is the right answer. The “get back to the office” hard line being pushed by New York bank CEOs Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase and David Solomon of Goldman Sachs doesn’t seem to be dampening the desire of aggressive young bankers to work for them—“those who want to hustle,” as Dimon put it. Will those companies be better off in the long term?
Warehouse Rents to Climb Through End of 2023, Cushman and Wakefield says
Net absorption for North American industrial real estate will total more than 507 million square feet by the end of this year — a new record — with 3.8% vacancy versus 4.9% at the end of 2020, according to a Cushman & Wakefield report.
Rents will also break a record this year with an average increase of 8.5% over 2020, and the report predicts warehouse and industrial space availability will not surpass demand until 2023.
MTA to Spend $100M on COVID Tests for Workers Who Refuse to Get Vaccinations
The MTA has proposed spending $100 million over the next year on weekly COVID-19 tests for thousands of transit workers who refuse to get vaccinations. That works out to about $5,000 for each transit worker not now vaccinated. Metropolitan Transportation Authority data show about 20,000 of its employees — about 30% of the workforce — have not submitted proof that they have received at least one vaccine dose.
The MTA is one of the least vaccinated public workforces in downstate New York. Gov. Hochul to date has not mandated vaccines for the agency’s 66,500 workers. Instead, unvaccinated workers must get weekly COVID tests.