5.2 Million COVID Tests Shipped to Schools, Boosters Required for SUNY Students, Mask Mandate Extended
Gov. Kathy Hochul announced a “military-style operation” to deliver 5.2 million Covid-19 tests to schools this week for children to bring home, including 375,430 for schools in Western New York.
Hochul also announced returning SUNY and community college students, when eligible, will need a booster shot and a negative Covid-19 test upon returning to campus, and that faculty now must be vaccinated. The governor also extended for two weeks, to Feb. 1, her executive order requirement that businesses require customers to wear a mask or be vaccinated to enter indoor public places.
Hochul continued to stress, as she has repeatedly, the importance of getting vaccinated, boosted, wearing a mask and getting tested to stem Covid-19 infections. She urged parents and caregivers of children ages 5 to 11 to get them vaccinated if they haven’t already, noting only 28% of that age group has received shots since vaccines became available for them on Nov. 14.
K-12 Schools Press to Reopen as Omicron Variant Surges
K-12 schools around the country are pressing forward with tentative plans to reopen after the holiday break in the midst of a surge in Covid-19 cases. Their biggest challenge: getting enough rapid tests to be able to step up or launch “test-to-stay” strategies. In contrast to 2020, there is much broader support to continue school in-person following the grim record of remote teaching on student mental health and learning loss.
School-district superintendents are weighing how—and when—to reopen, a decision driven partly by the availability of tests. The superintendents have different appetites for risk, and the level of teacher enthusiasm for returning to the classroom varies. Regional surges in pediatric hospitalizations for Covid-19 are contributing to differences across the country.
Hochul Announces 6 New State Testing Sites
Governor Kathy Hochul Saturday announced 6 new State testing sites to address the recent surge in COVID-19 cases. Sites are currently being mobilized with all locations slated to open on January 4, 2022. Upon launch, all sites will offer rapid antigen tests. New Yorkers are strongly encouraged to make appointments.
Locations: Hudson Valley
- Grace Baptist Church, 52 S 6th Avenue, Mount Vernon, NY 10550
- Hours of Operation: Monday – Saturday: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
- Patriot Hills Golf Club, 19 Club House Lane, Stony Point, NY 10980
- Hours of Operation: Monday – Saturday: 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Almost 2,000 Flights Canceled on Sunday in the US COVID/Weather to Blame
A total of 1,956 flights within, into or out of the U.S. were canceled as of 8:30 a.m. ET on Sunday, according to FlightAware. Another 870 flights within, into or out of the U.S. had been delayed. In the past 10 days, including Sunday and Christmas Eve, airlines have canceled more than 14,000 flights in the US.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) warned on Thursday that more travel delays are likely in the coming days because of COVID-19 infections among FAA employees and “weather and heavy seasonal traffic.” Despite the large number of cancellations and delays, however, people are still traveling in the U.S. this holiday season. The Transportation Security Administration said it screened more than 1.6 million travelers on Saturday.
US COVID – CDC to Reconsider Latest Quarantine Guidance Amid Backlash
A decision by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week to cut isolation time in half, from 10 days to five days for asymptomatic COVID-19, was met with backlash after officials said it was due in part to allow people to return to work faster. It came one week after some companies, including Delta Air Lines, wrote to the CDC requesting such a change.
Now, Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser, says the testing part of that guidance may change to now require one as officials struggle with rising cases that at times are breaking pandemic records.
NYS Vaccine and COVID Update
Vaccine Stats as of January 2:
One Vaccine Dose
- 84.0% of all New Yorkers – 15,748,313 (plus N/A from a day earlier).
- In the Hudson Valley 1,635,835 (plus N/A).
- 71.8% of all New Yorkers – 13,970,820 (plus 3,345).
- In the Hudson Valley – 1,426,088 (plus 166).
The Governor updated COVID data through January 1. There were 83 COVID related deaths for a total of 61,242.
- Patients Currently in Hospital statewide: 8,773.
7 Day Average Positivity Rate – Cases per 100K population
- Statewide 20.87% – 316.80 positive cases per 100,00 population
- Mid-Hudson: 20.79% – 284.44 positive cases per 100,00 population
5 Things to Know About COVID-19 Tests in the Age of Omicron
Tests are in short supply right now. The Biden administration has announced a plan to deliver a half billion free rapid tests to Americans who want them. Unfortunately, those tests won’t be available until later in January. Rachael Piltch-Loeb, a researcher at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, says that tests offer sorely needed insight even when there’s still much unknown about Omicron—including how likely it is for fully vaccinated people to get infected.
In the meantime, here’s what you need to know about testing in the age of the Omicron variant—and what experts say you should do if you test positive.
Hospitalization Surge among U.S. Children Spurs New Omicron Concerns
Within weeks, the Omicron variant has fueled thousands of new COVID-19 hospitalizations among U.S. children, raising new concerns about how the many unvaccinated Americans under the age of 18 will fare in the new surge. The seven-day-average number of daily hospitalizations for children between Dec. 21 and Dec. 27 is up more than 58% nationwide in the past week to 334, compared to around 19% for all age groups, data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show. Fewer than 25% of the 74 million Americans under 18 are vaccinated, according to the CDC.
Omicron cases are expected to surge even faster across the United States as schools reopen this week after the winter holiday, experts cautioned. Doctors say it is too early to determine whether Omicron causes more severe illness in children than other variants of the coronavirus, but that its extremely high transmissibility is one key factor that is driving up hospitalizations.
Unemployment: 198,000 Individuals Filed New Claims Last Week
First-time unemployment filings fell by 8,000 claims from the previous week’s reading, marking the second lowest print during the pandemic and signaling continued recovery in the labor market as high demand for workers pours into the new year.
- Initial jobless claims, week ended Dec. 25: 198,000 vs. 206,000 expected and upwardly revised to 206,000 during prior week.
- Continuing claims, week ended Dec. 18: 1.716 million vs. 1.875 million expected and downwardly revised to 1.856 million during prior week.
The newest print brings the four-week moving average to 199,300 in the week ending Dec. 25, Bloomberg data reflected. Continuing claims dropped to a fresh pandemic low of 1.716 million.
Many U.S. Construction Contractors are Turning Down Work Because They Don’t Have Enough Workers
Even before the pandemic, commercial contractors had serious concerns about having enough skilled workers to fill open positions. According to the latest data from the U.S. Chamber’s Commercial Construction Index, those concerns remain at chronically high levels and are leading to serious consequences.
- 91% of contractors report moderate to high levels of difficulty finding skilled labor
- 62% of contractors report high levels of difficulty finding skilled workers.
- Almost half (45%) of contractors who report difficulty finding workers say they have turned down work because they can’t find enough skilled workers.
- 74% say they are asking skilled workers to do more work
- 72% report a challenge in meeting project schedule requirements
- Over half (60%) are putting in higher bids for projects (up from 58% in 2020 Q4).
Overcoming Supply Chain Bottlenecks in 2022
It started with shortages of computer chips forcing automakers to temporarily shutter facilities. Then, lumber prices grew exponentially. And at some point in 2021, it’s likely that everyone in the world had to wait longer for a finished product than they would have wanted because global supply chains had been so overtaxed.
So, when Industry Week asked people how the past few years have changed their outlooks, many responses focused on the need to rethink the supply chain. With manufacturing experts saying these challenges could persist throughout 2022, many are encouraging long-term planning that focuses on localization of supplies and flexibility in operations.
How Well do Lateral-Flow Tests for COVID-19 Work?
The federal government–which had made the roll-out of vaccines its priority, rather than widespread testing–has said it will provide 500m rapid antigen tests free of charge to consumers, as the Omicron variant of covid-19 sweeps the country. Greater use of such tests would more closely align America’s covid-19 strategy to that in other developed countries. Britain, which started providing free lateral-flow test (LFT) kits to the general public in April 2021, has the biggest testing program in Europe.
But increasing demand for rapid tests and supply-chain disruptions are creating shortages worldwide. In the weeks before Christmas pharmacies globally complained of delayed shipments. Despite this growing popularity, LFTs have gained a spotty reputation over the course of the pandemic because of doubts over their accuracy. How do they work, and are they reliable enough to help to curb covid-19?
U.S. Companies Are Thriving Despite the Pandemic—or Because of It
Nearly two years after the coronavirus pandemic brought much of the U.S. economy to a halt, public companies are recording some of their best ever financial results. Profit growth is strong. Most companies’ sales are higher than where they were before Covid-19—often well above. The liquidity crunch many feared in 2020 never materialized, leaving companies with sizable cash cushions.
The rebound is real for smaller companies, but it is the biggest companies that have fared the best, a Wall Street Journal analysis of corporate financial data shows. For large-capitalization companies in the S&P 500 index, profits and revenue were hurt less by the pandemic’s initial economic slowdown. The biggest companies also rebounded more quickly than smaller ones, even as uncertainty deepened over Covid-19 infection rates and the spread of variants, rising inflation and supply-chain woes.