7% – U.S. Inflation Reaches Fastest Pace Since 1982
The Labor Department said the consumer-price index—which measures what consumers pay for goods and services—rose 7% (its highest level since 1982 ) in December from the same month a year ago, up from 6.8% in November. That was the fastest pace since 1982 and marked the third straight month in which inflation exceeded 6%. On a monthly basis, the CPI increased a seasonally adjusted 0.5% in December from the preceding month, decelerating from October and November.
The so-called core price index, which excludes the often-volatile categories of food and energy, climbed 5.5% in December from a year earlier. That was a bigger increase than November’s 4.9% rise, and the highest rate since 1991.
Could Today Be the Day? SCOTUS Signals Vaccine Decisions Might Be Released Today or Friday
The Supreme Court may have tipped its hand as to when employers can expect to learn the fate of both the OSHA Vaccine ETS and the CMS Healthcare Vaccine Mandate. SCOTUS released its updated calendar for the remainder of January yesterday, and the update noted that at least one new opinion will be released this Thursday, January 13. Given the fact that it is somewhat out of the norm for SCOTUS to issue opinions on a Thursday, some believe this could be a sign that the Court is reserving this day for the release of these monumental decisions.
Of Course the Supreme Court is notoriously secretive about its inner workings, and does not announce to the public which cases will be released ahead of time. Moreover, there are at least 25 other cases sitting on the SCOTUS docket that could be released at that time.
Omicron May be Headed for a Rapid Drop in Britain, US
Scientists are seeing signals that COVID-19′s alarming omicron wave may have peaked in Britain and is about to do the same in the U.S., at which point cases may start dropping off dramatically. The reason: The variant has proved so wildly contagious that it may already be running out of people to infect, just a month and a half after it was first detected in South Africa.
At the same time, experts warn that much is still uncertain about how the next phase of the pandemic might unfold. The plateauing or ebbing in the two countries is not happening everywhere at the same time or at the same pace. And weeks or months of misery still lie ahead for patients and overwhelmed hospitals even if the drop-off comes to pass.
Employers and Omicron: What’s the Best Response Amid the Surge?
As the Omicron variant surges across the nation, resulting in a record number of COVID-19 infections, it feels like déjà vu for many employers. And in some ways, the latest surge is more complex—adding more questions than answers—than even the beginning of the pandemic when lockdown and quarantine were the go-to strategies for organizations. “Omicron is disrupting all kinds of plans,” says Dr. Neal Mills, chief medical officer and senior vice president of Aon’s health and benefits practice “A lot of this is a more complex problem today than it was one year ago or two when we turned to lockdowns.”
So how are—and how should—employers respond to Omicron? How can they help employees facing problems from the new variant? For answers, HRE spoke to Mills.
US COVID – Hospitalizations on the Rise
COVID-19 hospitalizations are on track to reach a record high, as early as this week. The current 7-day average is at 109,874 as of January 8, up 34% over the prior week. Pediatric hospitalizations among children with COVID-19, while still lower than any other age group, also are up, with the rise attributed to hospitalizations of children under the age of five who are not yet eligible for vaccination and driven by the increased transmissibility of Omicron.
Hospitalization data does not always provide an accurate picture of COVID-19 severity and may include incidental infections; for example, in New York, 42% of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 were hospitalized for reasons unrelated to COVID-19 and tested positive during routine testing. However, Even incidental COVID-19 cases place incredible strain on hospitals, as coronavirus patients need to be isolated and require a greater amount of hospital resources than non-infected patients. Around 80% of hospital and ICU beds are occupied nationwide, according to US government data, with about 21% and 31%, respectively, occupied by COVID-19 patients.
NYS Vaccine and COVID Update
Vaccine Stats as of January 12:
One Vaccine Dose
- 85.6% of all New Yorkers – 15,929,927 (plus 21,484 from a day earlier).
- In the Hudson Valley 1,654,652 (plus 2,513).
- 72.6% of all New Yorkers – 14,114,364 (plus 17,375).
- In the Hudson Valley – 1,441,523 (plus 1,920).
- All New Yorkers – 5,196,875
- In the Hudson Valley – 617,314
The Governor updated COVID data through January 11. There were 166 COVID related deaths for a total of 62,698.
- Patients Currently in Hospital statewide: 12,671.
7 Day Average Positivity Rate – Cases per 100K population
- Statewide 20.22% – 364.35 positive cases per 100,00 population
- Mid-Hudson: 21.09% – 332.27 positive cases per 100,00 population
NYS #VaxForKids Campaign to Increase Vaccination Rates among Children Five and Older
Governor Hochul Yesterday announced a new campaign to increase vaccination rates among children five and older – urging pediatricians, parents, and guardians to help children get vaccinated and keep up with all recommended COVID-19 vaccine doses.
The multifaceted #VaxForKids effort includes new marketing efforts to reach parents and guardians in English and Spanish. This includes advertising on television, radio, and digital – including search and streaming. As part of the program, a new PSA featuring Acting State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett will launch statewide with a focus on reaching parents and guardians of children 5 – 11. Additional PSAs will be launched over the coming weeks.
Empire Center’s Hammond Asks: Since Downstate is the Epicenter of Omicron, Why are Upstate Hospitals Feeling the Crunch?
A puzzling pattern has emerged from New York’s latest wave of the pandemic: Downstate hospitals are dealing with the lion’s share of COVID patients, but upstate hospitals are the ones running out of beds. The paradox was highlighted on Tuesday when Governor Hochul ordered a halt to elective procedures in the Finger Lakes, Central New York and the Mohawk Valley, where the recent omicron surge has been relatively mild so far, because hospitals in those regions had collectively exceeded 90 percent of their capacity.
Meanwhile, hospitals in the areas hit hardest by omicron – New York City and its surrounding suburbs – are reporting occupancy rates low enough to remain fully operational under Hochul’s policy.
Biden Administration to Offer Schools Millions of Free Covid-19 Tests Each Month
Later this month, the administration will begin shipping five million rapid Covid-19 tests to K-12 schools each month, White House officials said. States will have to apply to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to receive the tests. The administration has previously distributed $10 billion in resources to states for testing at schools.
Though most U.S. schools remain open, some have temporarily closed as the Omicron variant spreads around the country, infecting children and staff. President Biden has repeatedly said he wants schools to remain open, and he has advocated for additional testing as a solution for keeping children in the classroom.
Fauci In the News: Calls Senator a “Moron” Says Everyone Will Get Omicron
Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious diseases expert, said in a recent interview that “just about everybody” will get the omicron variant of COVID-19. “Omicron, with its extraordinary, unprecedented degree of efficiency of transmissibility, will, ultimately, find just about everybody. Those who have been vaccinated and vaccinated and boosted would get exposed. Some, maybe a lot of them, will get infected but will very likely, with some exceptions, do reasonably well in the sense of not having hospitalization and death.”
There was a fiery back-and-forth with Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., during testimony before a Senate Committee Tuesday during which, Fauci could be heard whispering “what a moron” and “Jesus Christ” in response to Marshall’s questioning about his financial disclosure forms. Fauci was also questioned about the lack of theraputics, and his undermining of the Great Barrington Declaration which questioned the government’s lockdown strategy in 2020.
- Read more about the testimony at Yahoo News
- Read more about the Omicron spread at The Hill
- The Great Barrington Declaration
BOJ Offers Most Upbeat View on Regional Japan in 8 Years
The Bank of Japan offered on Wednesday its most optimistic view of the country’s regional economy in more than eight years, in a sign of its confidence that a recent resurgence in coronavirus infections would not derail the country’s fragile recovery. The upbeat assessment heightens the chance the BOJ will revise up its growth and price forecasts for the year beginning in April in fresh projections due next week.
Japan’s economy shrank in the third quarter of last year as supply constraints and curbs on activity to contain the pandemic hit factory output and consumption. Analysts expect growth to have rebounded in October-December and the current quarter as output and consumption pick up, though a recent spike in Omicron infections clouds the outlook.
Pfizer Cutting Sales Staff
Pfizer Inc. is reportedly moving to cut some of its U.S. sales staff. The company is preparing to move to remote interactions with health care professionals, eliminating the need for several roles. While Pfizer did not specify how many jobs will be cut, a source told Reuters that hundreds of jobs are expected to be shed. New positions will also be developed, however, the source added.
“We are evolving into a more focused and innovative biopharma company, and evolving the way we engage with healthcare professionals in an increasingly digital world,” the company said in a statement to the news service. “There will be some changes to our workforce to ensure we have the right expertise and resources in place to meet our evolving needs.”
World Bank: Pandemic Reversing Gains in Wealth Gap Globally
The coronavirus pandemic is reversing gains that had been made in the global wealth gap, according to a report released Tuesday by The World Bank. The report says the pandemic has increased extreme poverty rates and disproportionately affected lower-income populations.
The report says the pandemic has increased extreme poverty rates and disproportionately affected lower-income populations. The increase comes due to job and income losses amid the pandemic of low-skilled workers and low-income earners. Many jobs were lost over the pandemic due to government-mandated shutdowns that either forced small businesses to close their doors or shorten their hours.
Hochul Requests Rent Relief Aid from Biden as Eviction Moratorium Set to Expire
Gov. Kathy Hochul said that she’s requesting more federal aid from the Biden administration for New York’s since dried-up rental relief program, ahead of the likely expiration of the state’s eviction moratorium this coming weekend. The State is requesting an extra $1 billion.
The eviction ban – in place since March 2020 – is expected to lapse on Saturday, Jan. 15. It was first signed as an executive order by ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo to help struggling tenants and landlords with COVID-related financial hardship and has been extended multiple times, most recently by Hochul in September after a separate but similar federal moratorium expired in July.
China Inflation Fuels Rate-Cut Calls as World Starts to Tighten
China’s inflation pressures moderated in December, giving the central bank scope to cut interest rates to cushion the economy’s downturn just as most major nations look to tighten policy. The inflation surprise adds further impetus to calls for the central bank’s first cut in its key policy interest rate since April 2020, possibly as early as next week. Authorities have shifted to a more pro-growth bias this year as a property market slump and repeated virus outbreaks threaten the outlook.
The producer price index rose 10.3% from a year earlier, down from November’s 12.9%, while the consumer price index increased 1.5%, compared with 2.3% in November. Both came in lower than economists expected.
The COVID Generation: How is the Pandemic Affecting Kids’ Brains?
Although children have generally fared well when infected with SARS-CoV-2, preliminary research suggests that pandemic-related stress during pregnancy could be negatively affecting fetal brain development in some children. Moreover, frazzled parents might be interacting differently or less with their young children in ways that could affect a child’s physical and mental abilities. All this has prompted child-development researchers to ask whether the pandemic is shaping brains and behaviour.
Lockdowns — which have been crucial for controlling the spread of the coronavirus — have isolated many young families, robbing them of playtime and social interactions. Stressed out and stretched thin, many carers also haven’t been able to provide the one-to-one time that babies and toddlers need.