Biden Aims to Win Manchin’s Support for $2 Trillion Spending Plan
President Biden this week will lobby Sen. Joe Manchin, the centrist West Virginia Democrat, in an attempt to lock in a deal on a roughly $2 trillion social-policy and climate bill that Democrats hope to finish by Christmas.
Passage hinges largely on the support of Mr. Manchin, who hasn’t endorsed the legislation. He has repeatedly raised concerns about the cost of the bill and the potential effect of new government spending on inflation. Messrs. Biden and Manchin plan to talk early this week, a Senate aide said.
CBO: Fully Extended “Build Back Better” Reconciliation Bill Could Cost $3 trillion
The Democratic tax and spending package to expand the social safety net and combat climate change would increase federal deficits by $3 trillion over 10 years if most programs were made permanent, the Congressional Budget Office said Friday.
The Democratic reconciliation bill, as passed by the House, would increase deficits by $231 billion over 10 years, after accounting for spending for increased tax enforcement and interest costs on the debt, the nonpartisan budget agency said. To keep costs down, Democrats called for many of their programs to be temporary — particularly the child tax credit, which would expire in a year. And some programs would take years to get started. But if those programs were made permanent, the CBO said, costs would soar, increasing deficits in the first decade by more than $3 trillion, under a set of assumptions requested by Republican lawmakers.
Supreme Court Rejects Religious Challenge to New York Vaccine Mandate
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected challenges brought by Christian doctors and nurses and a group that promotes vaccine skepticism to New York’s refusal to allow religious exemptions to the state’s mandate that healthcare workers be vaccinated against COVID-19. The justices denied emergency requests for an injunction requiring the state to allow religious exemptions while litigation over the mandate’s legality continues in lower courts.
The Supreme Court previously rejected other challenges to vaccine mandates including one focusing upon Maine’s lack of a religious exemption for healthcare workers. The New York challengers said the mandate, which allows a narrow medical exemption but no religious one, violates the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment prohibition on religious discrimination by the government, or a federal civil rights law requiring employers to reasonably accommodate employees’ religious beliefs.
Health Officials Ratchet Up Calls for Boosters Amid Threat of Omicron Wave
Health officials are intensifying their calls for all American adults to get booster shots amid the threat of the omicron variant, a strain of COVID-19 first discovered in South Africa. Even before the discovery of omicron, many experts pointed to evidence of waning immunity over time from two doses, arguing for a need for a third dose after six months, but the new variant has added to the urgency.
Data released by Pfizer this week showed a significant drop in the antibody response to the omicron strain with two doses, but that response, according to the pharmaceutical company, was restored with a third dose. Early data from the United Kingdom on Friday showed two doses of the Pfizer vaccine were only about 30 percent effective against preventing symptomatic infection from omicron, but that effectiveness rose to about 75 percent after a third dose.
US COVID Update – Covid-19 Cases Rise in Many States After Thanksgiving
Health authorities in some hard-hit states, like Vermont, New Jersey and Maine, say people who became infected after traveling or gathering indoors for Thanksgiving are likely adding to the Covid-19 numbers. By Saturday, some 34 states had higher seven-day averages for new cases than they did before Thanksgiving, according to Johns Hopkins University data, with some of the biggest increases in the Northeast.
The U.S. seven-day average for new cases is about 119,000 a day, according to Johns Hopkins, up from a recent low near 71,000 in late October, when surges triggered by the Delta variant slowed in the South before starting to hit hard in northern states.
NYS Vaccine and COVID Update
Vaccine Stats as of December 13:
One Vaccine Dose
- 81.0% of all New Yorkers – 15,190,860 (plus 13,211 from a day earlier).
- In the Hudson Valley 1,5912,538 (plus 714).
- 70.4% of all New Yorkers – 13,579,586 (plus 10,728).
- In the Hudson Valley – 1,396,378 (plus 828).
The Governor updated COVID data through December 12 . There were 46 COVID related deaths for a total of 59,990.
- Patients Currently in Hospital statewide: 3,683.
7 Day Average Positivity Rate – Cases per 100K population
- Statewide 4.62% – 54.11 positive cases per 100,00 population
- Mid-Hudson: 4.57% – 46.90 positive cases per 100,00 population
Some Hospitals Drop Covid-19 Vaccine Mandates to Ease Labor Shortages
Hospital operators including HCA Healthcare Inc. and Tenet Healthcare Corp. as well as nonprofits AdventHealth and the Cleveland Clinic are dropping the mandates. Labor costs in the industry have soared, and hospitals struggled to retain enough nurses, technicians and even janitors to handle higher hospitalizations in recent months as the Delta variant raged. Vaccine mandates have been a factor constraining the supply of healthcare workers, according to hospital executives, public-health authorities and nursing groups.
Many hospitals already struggled to find workers, including nurses, before the pandemic. The shortages were compounded by burnout among many medical workers and the lure of high pay rates offered to nurses who travel to hot spots on short-term contracts.
Omicron Cases May Already be Peaking in South Africa, Less Than a Month After the COVID-19 Variant First Surfaced
Nearly three weeks after the Omicron variant was first identified by South African scientists, the COVID-19 mutation has whipped across the world, with infections in at least 63 countries. But in South Africa itself, the cases seem to be nearing their peak, and could already be headed for decline.
Cases of Omicron in Gauteng, South Africa’s most populous province and home to its biggest city, Johannesburg, rose slightly from a seven-day daily average of 9,645 last Thursday, to 10,131 on Sunday. At the same time, the positivity rate of those being tested and the number of hospitalizations have both been falling. Data from the country’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases shows positivity rates dropping from 30% to around 15% between Thursday and Saturday, while the number of new hospitalizations fell from 207 to 64 over the same period.
Twenty Central Banks Hold Meetings as Inflation Forces Split
The world’s top central banks are diverging, as some turn to tackling surging inflation while others keep stoking demand, a split that looks set to widen in 2022. The differences will be on full display this week with the final decisions for 2021 due at the U.S. Federal Reserve, European Central Bank, Bank of Japan and Bank of England, which are together responsible for monetary policy in almost half of the world economy.
Fed Chair Jerome Powell is tipped to confirm on Wednesday that he’ll deliver a quicker withdrawal of stimulus than planned just a month ago. He may even hint at being open to raising interest rates sooner than expected in 2022 if inflation persists near its highest in four decades. The outlook for his central banking peers is less clear, marking an end of two years in which they largely synchronized their efforts to tackle the coronavirus recession, only to find inflation surging back stronger than anticipated in many key economies.
Two Major Stewart Passenger Airlines Have no Immediate Plans to Return
Before the pandemic struck, New York Stewart International Airport at Newburgh was served by a number of airlines, but only Allegiant Airways, with flights to Florida and Myrtle Beach, continues uninterrupted.
Jet Blue, Delta and American Airlines suspended operations, but returned temporarily when the federal government funded their expenses until last September when the CARES Act expired.
Delta and American pulled all of their equipment out of Stewart so airport officials are not optimistic that they will return any time soon. Delta had flown to Detroit and American flew to Philadelphia. Jet Blue continues to have its equipment at Stewart, but the airline has not responded to several inquiries about possibly returning to the Hudson Valley.
Disaster Strikes – Kentucky Candle Plant Hit Hard by Devastating Tornado
U.S. emergency workers on Sunday desperately searched for survivors of ferocious late-season tornadoes that killed at least 94 across several states and left towns in ruins, including in the debris of a Kentucky candle factory, a symbol of the widespread devastation.
More than 80 people are dead in Kentucky alone, many of them workers at the Mayfield factory, Beshear said Sunday as he raised the confirmed toll by 10 fatalities. “That number is going to exceed more than 100,” Beshear told CNN. Of the 110 employees working Friday night in the candle factory, “about 40 of them have been rescued and I’m not sure we’re going to see another rescue,” Beshear said.
OSHA Probes Amazon’s Fatal Warehouse Collapse
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is launching a probe into the fatal collapse of an Amazon facility in Illinois after it was hit by a tornado, the agency said Monday. Six people died and one was transferred to a regional hospital after a tornado hit the 1.1-million-square-foot delivery center on Friday, according to officials.
The National Weather Services issued a tornado warning at 8:06 p.m., about 23 minutes before the tornado hit Edwardsville. Amazon spokesperson Alisa Caroll said the onsite team at the facility “immediately moved to ensure all team members went to the designated shelter in place locations” when the tornado warning came in from local authorities.
Mental Health Absences Drive U.K. Sick Leave Costs Up 31%
Poor mental health was the leading cause of British workers taking off work for illness in 2021, costing employers an estimated 43 billion pounds ($56.9 billion). That’s according to data from GoodShape, which manages workplace absences for companies and has a database of 750,000 employee records. GoodShape estimated that the cost of sick leave to employers rose by 31% from before the pandemic, not accounting for the cost of hiring and training replacement staff.
Mental ill health accounted for 19% of all lost working time in the U.K. up to Nov. 28, slightly more than confirmed cases of Covid-19. That was the case across every industry except transport and logistics, consumer and retail, and workplace services.
People Are Spamming Kellogg’s Job Portal to Keep it from Replacing Striking Workers
Reddit users are flooding the Kellogg Company’s job portal with fake applications after the company recently announced it will replace its striking union workers with new permanent employees. The spammers say they stand in solidarity with the strikers. As of Friday, the Reddit post has been upvoted more than 62,000 times. In descriptions of the job listings posted, Kellogg specifically notes that prospective workers would be hired to fill positions from employees on strike.
In the tentative five-year agreement announced last week, the changes would have brought both a 3% wage hike for longtime “legacy” employees as well as increases for newer, “transitional” workers and new hires, based on how many years they put in with the company. That agreement was rejected by the rank and file. “Because we have an obligation to our customers and consumers to continue to provide the cereals that they know and love …we are hiring permanent replacement employees in positions vacated by striking workers, as is permitted by law.” A company spokesman said