Daily Briefing – 429

Justice Kavanaugh Receives Flurry of Requests for Supreme Court to Block Biden’s Employer Vaccine Mandate

A series of businesses, trade groups, conservative groups, and religious organizations have asked the Supreme Court of the United States to step in and block the Biden administration from enforcing its vaccine mandate for large companies requiring that employees be vaccinated against coronavirus or submit to weekly testing. The applications for an emergency injunction were directed to Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the justice assigned the Sixth Circuit, and will likely refer the matter to the full court. They mainly contend that the Biden administration overstepped its constitutional authority by issuing the emergency temporary standard (EST) in response to the virus.

The Biden administration is required to respond to the OSHA mandate challenges by Dec. 30, which is the same deadline the administration must respond to a separate challenge to its vaccine mandate aimed at healthcare workers.

Read more at Law and Crime


What’s Next for Firms with 100 Plus Employees After Court Reinstates Biden’s Vaccine Mandate?

Although the mandate rule is bound to continue to face more legal challenges (see above) it means that company and HR leaders are wise not to waste any more time in preparing for compliance, says Dr. Jeff Levin-Scherz, population health leader, Willis Towers Watson.

“…employers should move forward with finalizing their vaccine and testing policies and move toward implementation,” he says. “Employers should continue developing the policies and procedures and the infrastructure necessary to comply with the OSHA ETS, including testing for those who have medical or religious exemptions.”  Just as critical, he says, is that company and HR leaders continue to emphasize the importance of vaccination and booster shots to employee populations—especially as the Omicron variant takes hold and wreaks havoc on workplaces.


Trump’s Tax Law Hits Four-Year Anniversary and Appears to be Here to Stay

Four years after former President Trump signed his 2017 tax-cut law, most of the measure is unlikely to be reversed in the near term, even under a Democratic president and Congress. Democratic lawmakers were united in voting against the legislation  and not are struggling to undo major portions of the law, and it increasingly looks like the Trump bill will be lasting.

The law cut individual income tax rates, increased the standard deduction and child tax credit, slashed the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent and overhauled how the U.S. taxes corporations’ foreign earnings, among other things.  Business Groups, including the National Association of Manufacturers Supported the Trump tax cut and credit it with spurring capital investment and economic growth. 

Read more at The Hill


Consumer Confidence Perks Up – Economy Poised for Strong 2021 Finish

Consumer confidence improved further in December, suggesting the economy would continue to expand in 2022 despite a resurgence in COVID-19 infections and reduced fiscal stimulus. The survey from the Conference Board on Wednesday showed more consumers planned to buy a house and big-ticket items such as motor vehicles and major household appliances as well as go on vacation over the next six months. Inflation concerns eased a bit and households remained upbeat about the labor market.

The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index increased to a reading of 115.8 this month from an upwardly revised 111.9 in November. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the index rising to 110.8 from the previously reported reading of 109.5. The cut-off date for the survey was Dec. 16.

Read more at Reuters


US COVID – Omicron Spread Leads to More Interest in Booster Shots but Not New Vaccinations

Among vaccinated adults who haven’t had a booster shot, 54% are more likely to do so because of Omicron, according to a survey released by the Kaiser Family Foundation Tuesday. Half of those surveyed in the Kaiser Family Foundation survey—which polled 1,065 adults between Dec. 15 and Dec. 20—said they worried they would become seriously ill from Covid-19. That is up from 30% who expressed such concerns in a similar survey in November, before the news of the Omicron variant. The new survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

But nearly half of unvaccinated respondents said they couldn’t be persuaded to get the shots no matter what. A report detailing the survey findings quoted a person described as a 23-year-old Black woman in Washington, D.C., as saying, “I feel they are trying to kill us with the vaccine.” Another person identified as a 32-year-old white woman in North Carolina told researchers, “Jesus himself would have to come down from heaven and speak with me personally.”


NYS Vaccine and COVID Update  

Vaccine Stats as of December 22:

One Vaccine Dose 

  • 82.4% of all New Yorkers – 15,504,902 (plus 29,358 from a day earlier).
  • In the Hudson Valley 1,614,762 (plus 2,478).

Fully Vaccinated

  • 71.1% of all New Yorkers – 13,841,875 (plus 15,981).
  • In the Hudson Valley – 1,414,467 (plus 1,894). 

The Governor  updated COVID data through December 21 .  There were 57 COVID related deaths for a total of 60,689. 

Hospitalizations:

  • Patients Currently in Hospital statewide: 4,452.

7 Day Average Positivity Rate  – Cases per 100K population

  • Statewide 8.58%    –    115.69 positive cases per 100,00 population
  • Mid-Hudson: 7.71%   –  89.63 positive  cases per 100,00 population

Useful Websites:


FDA Authorizes Pfizer Pill to Treat COVID-19 

he Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday authorized a new COVID-19 treatment from Pfizer, the first pill to treat the virus to become available. The pill, known as Paxlovid, is seen as a major step forward in the fight against the virus, with trials showing it reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by 89 percent in high-risk patients.

The fact that Paxlovid is a pill, rather than previous treatments which required injections, should make it more accessible and easier to take. It has also shown very promising results in trials in reducing the worst outcomes from the virus, putting the country on the path to defanging COVID-19.

Read more at The Hill


Israel’s COVID-19 Team Recommends 4th Shot for 60+, Medical Workers

The Pandemic Response team ruled on Tuesday night that anyone over the age of 60 and medical workers could receive a fourth shot of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine, the Health Ministry said.  
The shot will be available four months after receiving the third dose.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention already provides a fourth shot to immunocompromised people. In October, the CDC updated its guidelines saying that moderately or severely immunocompromised people who receive three shots as their primary dose can receive a booster dose, too, for a total of four COVID-19 vaccine doses.

Read more at the Jerusalem Post


UK, Germany Opt Not to Add Strict COVID Measures Ahead of Christmas

Amid rapid Omicron variant spread and uncertainty about its impact, leaders in the United Kingdom and Germany have ruled out imposing strong new COVID-19 measures before Christmas, though measures are being planned or considered for the following week as New Year’s Day nears.

In a video message posted on Twitter, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there isn’t yet enough evidence to justify imposing tough measures before Christmas, but he didn’t rule out ordering new steps after Dec 25. He said the situation is complex, but added that people need to make their Christmas plans. In Germany, federal and state leaders yesterday agreed to impose contact restrictions starting after Christmas, according to Deutsche Welle. The measures are slated to start on Dec 28 at the latest and are aimed at discouraging large New Year’s parties.

Read more at University of Minnesota’s CIDRAP


Pandemic Drove Largest New York Population Loss Ever

As of last July 1, the Empire State’s total population had dropped by 319,020 residents, or 1.6 percent, below the Census Bureau’s “estimates base” headcount of 12 months earlier, during a period when the total U.S. population increased at the slowest annual pace on record (just 0.1 percent, a gain of 392,665).  The population decline wiped out nearly half of the Empire State’s cumulative population gain of 823,147 people during the previous decade, pulling the statewide total back to below 20 million.

New York’s population decrease as of mid-2021 was due mainly to its net domestic migration loss of 352,185 residents—meaning 352,185 more people moved out of the state than moved in during the previous 12 months. This shattered all out-migration records, exceeding New York’s record annual migration losses during the late 1970s.

Read more at the Empire Center


November Home Sales Rise on Concerns Over Rising Rates Next Year

Sales of previously owned homes in November rose 1.9% from October to 6.46 million units, according to the National Association of Realtors’ seasonally adjusted count. Sales were 2.0% lower than November 2020.  These sales reflect home closings, so contracts that were likely signed in September and October. Regionally, month-to-month, sales in the Northeast were unchanged. In the Midwest, they rose 0.7% and in the South they rose 2.9%. In the West, sales increased 2.3%. 

Sales likely increased due to a strengthening job market and concerns among potential buyers that mortgage rates will be significantly higher next year, according to the NAR’s chief economist Lawrence Yun.

Read more at CNBC


Five Predictions for 2022, ‘The Year of the Smart Factory’

Spurred by a global pandemic, massive supply chain challenges, skills gaps and labor shortages, some companies are realizing that dabbling in technology adoption won’t be enough not only to compete, but even to survive. They have to go all in.

Now we’re at an inflection point. Here are five smart factory predictions for 2022, “The Year of the Smart Factory.”

Read more at Industry Week


UPS to Purchase 19 Boeing 767 Freighters as e-Commerce Expands

United Parcel Service Inc (UPS.N) has placed an order for 19 of Boeing Co’s (BA.N) 767 freighters as a surge in e-commerce has raised demand for air cargo. The deal adds to a “record-breaking year” for Boeing freighter sales, the planemaker said. Sales include 80 firm orders for new widebody freighters and more than 80 orders for Boeing Converted Freighters.

The freighter market has been a rare bright spot for planemakers after facing pandemic lows, as a boom in online shopping, supply chain disruptions and a drop in passenger plane flights has stoked demand.  UPS, which has been a key beneficiary of the pandemic shift to online shopping, will take the delivery of aircraft between 2023 and 2025, its U.S. Operations President Nando Cesarone said.

Read more at Reuters


Maersk Strikes Deal to Buy LF Logistics for $3.6 Billion

Container shipping giant Maersk (MAERSKb.CO) on Wednesday agreed to buy Hong Kong-based LF Logistics for $3.6 billion in an all-cash deal that will add hundreds of warehouses in Asia and help it expand beyond its core ocean freight business. The deal is one of the group’s largest takeovers to date and follows a series of acquisitions including logistics and e-commerce firms, a freight forwarder specialised in air freight and its smaller rival Hamburg Sud.

With the deal, Maersk will own 549 warehouses globally and increase total warehouse floor capacity by 40%, creating the world’s seventh largest contract logistics company behind the likes of UPS, DHL and Kuehne+Nagel.

Read more at Reuters


Biden Extends Student Loan Freeze to May 1

President Biden on Wednesday extended the pandemic moratorium on federal student loan payments and interest accrual through May 1 amid surging cases of COVID-19. The president announced the extension in a Wednesday statement that touted the strength of the economy during his first year in office but acknowledged the new threat posed by the omicron variant.

Those who owe student loans to the federal government have not been required to make payments on their debt since former President Trump initially issued the moratorium in March 2020. Trump’s order also froze the accrual of interest on federal student loans, effectively freezing $1.6 trillion in debt owed by more than 40 million Americans.

Read more at The Hill


Bad Weather Delays James Webb Space Telescope Launch to Christmas 

The James Webb Space Telescope, also known as JWST or Webb, has been in the works for decades. During a news conference held on Tuesday (Dec. 21), project officials confirmed that the observatory is ready to launch. However, within hours, NASA and its partners on the project announced that the long-delayed launch would be postponed by yet one more day, to Saturday (Dec. 25).

Scientists have been anticipating JWST’s revolutionary view on the cosmos for years. When JWST can get past its weather woes, its launch will begin a nerve-wracking deployment during a one-month journey covering 1 million miles. Work on JWST, which also includes the European and Canadian space agencies, began in 1996 targeting a 2007 launch; 14 years later, the observatory finally got the all-clear for blast-off during a launch readiness review held on Tuesday, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said during the news conference.

Read more at Space.com


 

 

 

 

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