Our Blog

Daily Briefing – 431

Post: Dec. 27, 2021

CDC Cuts Isolation Time for Americans Who Test Positive from 10 Days to 5

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday cut the amount of time it recommends people should isolate after testing positive for COVID-19, reducing the number of days from 10 to five. Health officials similarly reduced the amount of time one should quarantine after coming into contact with someone who tests positive. 

The changes come amid a recent surge in cases spurred by the omicron variant and concerns about staffing shortages at hospitals, airlines and businesses across the country. Research has suggested omicron, while more infectious, causes milder illness. CDC officials say the new guidance is in keeping with growing evidence that people with the coronavirus are most infectious in the two days before and three days after symptoms develop.

As Omicron Bears Down, Schools Seek Ways to Stay Open

School officials are analyzing constantly evolving data to help them determine whether they can safely reopen after the holiday break. They are studying case counts, the severity of the illness, vaccination rates and vaccine efficacy. Administrators are also considering how much control they could exercise to prevent large gatherings outside school, even if classes were to go remote.

Nearly two years in, the Covid-19 pandemic has led to significant learning loss among students, upticks in misbehavior and scars from deteriorated mental health. Social skills have diminished, gun violence has increased, and fights have multiplied. As of last Thursday, officials in roughly 30 U.S. school districts had announced closures affecting more than 800 schools during the first week of January. The closings are concentrated in the Northeast.

Read more at the WSJ

Biden Signs $768 Billion Defense Bill

President Biden on Monday signed a sweeping $768 million defense policy bill, setting up top lines and policy for the Pentagon. He signed the fiscal year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) after Congress scrambled to pass the annual bill earlier this month. While passing the NDAA is an important step, the measure does not authorize any spending, meaning Congress still needs to pass an appropriations bill.

The NDAA provides $740 billion for the Department of Defense, which is $25 billion more than what the president requested for agency for fiscal year 2022.  It also includes $27.8 billion for defense-related activities in the Department of Energy and another $378 million for other defense-related activities. 

Read more at The Hill

Natural Gas Prices Rise on Colder Weather Forecasts

Natural-gas prices rose Monday after weather forecasts showed a bout of cold temperatures that could spur heating demand for parts of the U.S. this week.  U.S. natural-gas futures recently traded at $4.013 per million British thermal units, up 7.5% from $3.731 per million btus at Friday’s close. 

The Weather Prediction Center predicted heavy snow, freezing temperatures and strong winds in the northern and western parts of the country. As the weather turns colder this week, Refinitiv is projecting average U.S. gas demand, including exports, to jump to 126.7 billion cubic feet per day, up from 110 billion.

Read more at the WSJ

US COVID – What It Means to Be Fully Vaccinated Is Changing

Omicron is changing the definition of what it means to be fully vaccinated, because early studies suggest that current Covid-19 vaccines will require three doses to offer sufficient protection against the variant. A booster shot is already becoming a fact of life at some places, however. More than 75 universities have required boosters for students returning to campus in the winter, according to data compiled by the Chronicle of Higher Education. New Mexico mandated the extra dose for some state employees.

Yet given resistance to vaccinations, requiring a booster dose could be a thorny decision for policy makers and health authorities.

Read more at the WSJ

NYS Vaccine and COVID Update  (Some data is from both Saturday and Sunday) 

Vaccine Stats as of December 27:

One Vaccine Dose 

  • 82.9% of all New Yorkers – 15,606,487 (plus 6,809 from a day earlier).
  • In the Hudson Valley 1,622,845 (plus 2,478).

Fully Vaccinated

  • 71.3% of all New Yorkers – 13,892,877 (plus 1,007).
  • In the Hudson Valley – 1,419,127 (plus 583). 

The Governor  updated COVID data through December 26 .  There were 132 COVID related deaths for a total of 60,941. 


  • Patients Currently in Hospital statewide: 5,526.

7 Day Average Positivity Rate  – Cases per 100K population

  • Statewide 12.41%    –    180.82 positive cases per 100,00 population
  • Mid-Hudson: 11.55%   –  141.03 positive  cases per 100,00 population

Useful Websites:

‘We Have More Work to do,’ Biden Says of COVID Test Shortage

U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday pledged to ease a shortage of COVID-19 tests as the Omicron variant spreads across U.S. states this holiday week, threatening to overwhelm hospitals and stifle travel plans.  Biden said the administration’s steps include using a law called the Defense Production Act to increase production of at-home tests and making it easier to use Google (GOOGL.O) to find a nearby testing location.

Biden conceded that the efforts have not gone far enough. “Seeing how tough it was for some folks to get a test this weekend shows that we have more work to do,” Biden said as he joined a call with the administration’s COVID-19 response team and a group of state governors.

Read more at Reuters

The Oxford-AstraZeneca Vaccine – Despite Setbacks, It has Probably Saved More Lives than any Other

Astra Zeneca has taken flak for data-presentation issues, delayed deliveries and rare adverse events. The share prices of Moderna and Pfizer have soared since covid-19 struck; AstraZeneca’s is pretty much back where it started.

Yet on some measures, it manufactures the most successful covid vaccine there is. According to Airfinity, a data firm, 2.2bn doses have been delivered, compared with 2bn by Pfizer and 0.5bn by Moderna (see chart 2). Because rich countries increasingly use other jabs, and poor countries mostly use their supply for initial doses rather than for boosters, Astra Zeneca’s vaccine is almost certain to have saved more lives than any other.

Read more at The Economist

Health Expert: Surge in Cases Should no Longer be ‘Major Metric’ of Pandemic

A leading health expert said the largely more mild symptoms reported by vaccinated people against the coronavirus proves the inoculation is the best way to protect yourself from being seriously sick or dying from the disease and that a surge in case numbers should no longer be the central metric by which to measure the pandemic. 

“For two years, infections always preceded hospitalizations which preceded deaths, so you could look at infections and know what was coming,” Ashish K. Jha, dean of Brown University and a former Harvard health expert said “Omicron changes that. This is the shift we’ve been waiting for in many ways.”  The country has shifted, Jha said, to a place where people who are vaccinated and especially those who have received a booster shot “are gonna bounce back” if they become infected with the coronavirus. 

Read more at The Hill

China’s Continues Zero-COVID Policy Ahead of Big Events

China is the last large country with a zero-covid policy. That means a single case can lead to city-wide testing and lockdown, and most foreigners are being kept out. Those allowed in must spend at least 14 days in strict hotel quarantine. 

Such draconian measures will persist for much, if not all, of 2022. The Communist Party has several important events it does not want disrupted by outbreaks, including the Winter Olympics in February and the five-yearly party congress in November, when Xi Jinping is expected to be confirmed as the country’s leader for at least another five years.

Read more at South China News

Global Steel Tonnage Evening Up as 2021 Ends

Global steel production slipped to 143.3 million metric tons in November, down -1.7% from the October total and -9.9% from November 2020, according to figures supplied by the World Steel Assn. The month-to-month decline continues a slowing trend that is mainly confined to China – but relevant on the worldwide basis owing to the overwhelming scale of the steelmaking industry there.

The slowing also matches the updated near-term outlook for global steel demand issued by World Steel in October, reducing the 2021 forecast by 200 million metric tons to 1.85 billion metric tons; and cutting the 2022 forecast by 500 million metric tons to 1.89 billion metric tons – both figures anticipating further retraction in Chinese steel output. By contrast, steelmakers in other developed regions – notably the U.S., European Union, and Japan – are regaining the production rates that dropped as manufacturing and construction activities paused and slowed during 2020.

Read more at American Machinist 

Mastercard: Holiday Retail Sales Rise 8.5% as Online Shopping Booms

U.S. retail sales rose 8.5% during this year’s holiday shopping season from Nov. 1 to Dec. 24, powered by soaring ecommerce sales, a report by Mastercard Inc said on Sunday.

U.S. ecommerce sales jumped 11% in this year’s holiday shopping season, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse report, yet again underscoring the COVID-19 pandemic’s role in transforming customers’ shopping habits. Shoppers also rushed to stores amid supply chain concerns as COVID-19 cases surged, sending sales at physical stores up 8.1% compared with 2020, the report added.

Read more at Reuters

Omicron Threatens Consumer Electronics Show

Several major companies as of last Wednesday have cancelled or will limit their attendance to the 2022 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) — the tech industry’s annual mass-gathering in Las Vegas — due to Covid-19 variant Omicron’s rapid spread. Major tech firms such as Facebook parent company Meta, Amazon, T-Mobile, and Twitter canceled their appearances.

The popular four-day conference, which had planned for a grand return next month, is still scheduled to start January 5, with the press getting an early peek two days before. Key tech world publications including CNET, The Verge, and TechCrunch said they will no longer send reporters to cover the event, adding to growing suspicions that CES might have to be delayed or canceled.

Read more at IndustryWeek

NY Has New Slate of Environmental Laws

New legislation signed by Governor Hochul amends the state’s public health law to establish the first emerging contaminants list as well as expand the list of chemicals to be included. The legislation requires the list be published within 90 days as well as updated every three years. The list will include the EPA’s chemical list as well as some of the most recent emerging contaminants. 

Other new laws include:

  • Eliminating certain plastic bottles and he Soil Health and Climate Resiliency Act,
  • The Lead-Free Water in Schools bill reduces from 0.015 milligrams per liter to 0.005 milligrams per liter that level at which action must be taken for lead in school water supplies. Part of this should be paid for by the state’s Clean Water Infrastructure Act and the new federal Infrastructure and Jobs Act.
  • A new law prohibits pesticides on playgrounds or athletic fields on summer camps.
  • Another bill directs the state Health Department to conduct a study on the incidences of asthma in cities and towns having a population of more than 90,000.
  • A bio-heating bill establishes minimum levels of bio-diesel used for heating. By July 2022 heating oil must contain 5% bio-diesel with the rate going to 10% by July 2025. 

Read more at the Olean Time Herald

ITIF Report: More Chinese Mercantilism, Less Global Innovation

China’s long-standing and rampant “innovation mercantilist” policies harm global innovation by taking market share and revenues from more-innovative foreign competitors, thereby diminishing the resources they can invest in research and development toward further innovation. If China were to reduce its unfair mercantilist policies, the pace of global innovation would increase. But in a classic win-lose dynamic, China shows no inclination to do so.

ITIF compiled case studies of five industries: solar panels, high-speed rail, telecom equipment, semiconductors, biopharmaceutical products. In each case, our economic models suggested significant negative impact on global R&D and patenting. In the semiconductor industry alone, ITIF found that if Chinese firms had 80 percent less market share, there would be 5,000 more U.S. patents annually.

Read the report at ITIF

Hyundai Unveils New Robot for Your Home

Soon a personal robot could be at your beck and call to carry groceries, haul package deliveries and even take a baby for a walk, as car maker Hyundai revealed the company’s first small mobility platform using robotic technologies. Called the Mobile Eccentric Droid (MobED), Hyundai created a high-tech platform that can maneuver around all sorts of environments and move up to 18 miles per hour, about the speed of an average electric scooter. The MobED is 26 inches long and 23 inches wide in the shape of a rectangle and weighs about 110 pounds.

The platform is attached to four large wheels that have independent suspensions, giving it stability even if it’s on an incline or uneven roads. The wheels are also equipped with ‘Eccentric Wheel’ drive which gives them steering, braking and altitude control systems indoors or outdoors.

Read more at The Hill