U.S. Industrial Production Edges Lower in December
Industrial production slipped 0.1% in December, the Federal Reserve reported Friday. Output in November was revised up to 0.7% from the prior estimate of 0.5%. Manufacturing, however, remains a bright spot in the economy. For the fourth quarter as a whole, total industrial production is up 4%. For the year, industrial production is up 3.7%.
Capacity utilization inched lower to 76.5% in December from 76.6% in the prior month. The capacity utilization rate reflects the limits to operating the nation’s factories, mines and utilities. Economists had forecast a 77% rate. Auto production sank 1.3% in December and was about 6% lower for the year. Total manufacturing declined 0.3%. Utility output fell 1.5% on the relatively warm weather for the month. Mining, which includes oil and gas production, rose 2%.
Omicron Surge Spurs New Covid-19 Relief Push in Congress
Hotels, fitness clubs, tour bus companies and minor league ball clubs are part of a long line of businesses seeking billions of dollars in new Covid-19 relief aid. Lobbyists for the businesses say their campaign has taken on new urgency as the Omicron variant sweeps across the country, forcing many companies to scale back or shut down operations as employees call in sick and customers cancel orders and reservations.
A few Republican lawmakers support more relief funding for targeted industries, but most are generally opposed to spending more funds to help struggling businesses. These opponents say that the government has already provided sufficient relief, including more than $900 billion through the Paycheck Protection Program, and that more government spending will fuel inflation and budget deficits.
State Clarifies Five-day Quarantine Policy for K-12, Restricts Unboosted Teens
In a letter to school leaders, State Department of Health officials addressed questions from school districts about guidance published by the Centers for Disease Control on Thursday that reduces quarantine and isolation time from 10 days to five. “We are providing the following clarifications to assist school leadership in continuing to provide in-person instruction.” Acting Health Commissioner Mary T. Bassett wrote.
Anyone who tests positive must quarantine for five days regardless of vaccination status. On day six, the student or employee may return to school wearing a mask as long as symptoms are resolved or resolving. The student must continue to isolate at home before and after school for the full 10-day period. The guidance did not address questions around whether these students may eat lunch around their peers.
In Wake of Court’s Stay on OSHA’s Vax-or-Test Rule DOL Reminds Employers of their Responsibilities
In a news release on the U.S. Department of Labor’s website, Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, reminded employers that they are responsible for the safety of their workers on the job, and pointed employers to OSHA’s COVID-19 Guidance to assist with upholding these obligations. Secretary Walsh stated that OSHA will do “everything within its existing authority to hold businesses accountable for protecting workers.” OSHA is also working on a permanent rule that addresses the workplace and COVID-19.
Employers must also keep in mind that state and local governments may have their own vaccination, testing, paid COVID-19 leave, and quarantine and/or isolation requirements. These requirements are not impacted by the Supreme Court’s decision and employers must still ensure compliance with safety practices and other requirements stipulated by these laws, as applicable.
US COVID – Hospitalizations Up
The US CDC is currently reporting 62.5 million cumulative cases of COVID-19 and 840,286 deaths. The US is averaging 761,535 new cases and 1,656 deaths per day. Notably, the US reported 1.35 million new COVID-19 cases on January 10. This exceeds the previous single-day record, set on January 3, by 397,521 cases.
COVID-19 hospitalizations in the US set a record high this week, passing the previous record of 16,497 new hospitalizations per day (January 8, 2021). The 7-day average as of January 10 is 20,269. The CDC is also reporting a surge in the number of current hospitalizations, up from an average of 91,030 hospitalized COVID-19 patients on January 3 to 124,163 on January 10, an increase of 36.4% over that period.
NYS Vaccine and COVID Update
Vaccine Stats as of January 16:
One Vaccine Dose
- 86.1% of all New Yorkers – 16,011,651 (plus 16,217 from a day earlier).
- In the Hudson Valley 1,663,525 (plus 928).
- 73.0% of all New Yorkers – 14,175,828 (plus 11,280).
- In the Hudson Valley – 1,447,004 (plus 496).
- All New Yorkers – 5,413,473
- In the Hudson Valley – 644,740
The Governor updated COVID data through January 16. There were 154 COVID related deaths for a total of 62,891.
- Patients Currently in Hospital statewide: 11,713.
7 Day Average Positivity Rate – Cases per 100K population
- Statewide 16.37% – 271.02 positive cases per 100,00 population
- Mid-Hudson: 16.31% – 252.59 positive cases per 100,00 population
9 Additional Sites to Open on SUNY and Community College Campuses Statewide – Rockland, Sullivan and Ulster In Our Region
Governor Kathy Hochul today announced nine testing sites will open on SUNY and community college campuses across New York State. This follows the 20 sites on SUNY campuses the Governor has announced throughout the month of January.
Beginning the week of Jan. 18, these sites will be open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Sites to open include:
Rockland Community College
145 College Road
Suffern, NY 10901
Beginning Jan. 18, Hours of Operation 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Appointments can be made here.
The Paul Gerry Field House Upper Lobby
112 College Road
Loch Sheldrake, NY 12759
Beginning Jan. 18, Hours of Operation: 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Appointments can be scheduled here.
491 Cottekill Road
Stone Ridge, NY 12484
Beginning Jan. 20, Hours of Operation 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Appointments can be scheduled here.
Studies: COVID Vaccines Effective, With Limited Waning
A trio of new studies last week in the New England Journal of Medicine report encouraging results on the effectiveness and durability of protection of COVID-19 vaccines against hospitalization and death, including teens.
One study, led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) COVID-19 Response Team, involved 445 hospitalized COVID-19 patients 12 to 18 years old and 777 uninfected matched controls at 31 hospitals in 23 states from Jul 1 to Oct 25, 2021, after the emergence of the Delta variant. Seventeen case patients (4%) and 282 controls (36%) had received two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Among case patients, 180 (40%) were admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU), and 127 (29%) needed life support. Of all ICU patients, only two were fully vaccinated. Overall vaccine effectiveness (VE) against hospitalization was 94%.
Europe’s Drug Regulator Warns Excessive Boosters Could Lead to ‘Problems With Immune Response,’ Joining WHO in Pushback
On Tuesday, EMA vaccine strategy chief Marco Cavaleri said there was still no data supporting the need for a fourth COVID vaccine dose. And even if multiple boosters do prove to be necessary, they would need to be spaced out in the style of annual flu jabs, rather than delivered every several months. He also warned that overly frequent booster doses could potentially lead to “problems with immune response.”
The World Health Organization also said Tuesday that vaccination strategies “based on repeated booster doses of the original vaccine composition [are] unlikely to be appropriate or sustainable.” The WHO also repeated its frequently expressed warning that giving primary vaccinations to those in poorer countries was a higher priority, and urged vaccine makers to provide data on the vaccines they are developing to target new variants.
China’s Hard-Line COVID-Zero Response to Omicron Could Trigger Supply-Chain Chaos
Omicron’s spread to Dalian has raised fears that a fresh outbreak of COVID-19—coupled with Beijing’s heavy-handed “COVID-zero” response—could snarl already strained global supply chains.
The world could face the “mother of all supply-chain stumbles” this year, Frederic Neumann, co-head of Asian economics research at HSBC, warned clients earlier this week, citing the growing epidemic in China. The U.S. government is concerned that the outbreaks could lead to more chaos in global supply chains, too. On Tuesday, U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell told U.S. lawmakers that “if China sticks to a no-COVID policy, Omicron can really disturb the supply chains again.”
Retail Sales Dropped 1.9% in December as Higher Prices Caused Consumers to Curb Spending
Retail sales fell much more than expected in December as surging prices took a big bite out of spending, the Commerce Department reported Friday. The advance monthly sales report to close out the year showed a decline of 1.9%, considerably worse than the Dow Jones estimate for just a 0.1% drop. In addition to the weak December numbers, the November gain was revised down to 0.2% from the initially reported 0.3% increase.
Excluding autos, sales fell 2.3%, a number that also fell well short of expectations for a 0.3% rise. Considering that the sales numbers are not adjusted for inflation, the data point to a slow ending to what had otherwise been a strong 2021 in which sales rose 16.9% from the pandemic-scarred 2020.
Jobless Claims: Another 230,000 Americans Filed New Claims
Initial unemployment claims unexpectedly jumped to total 230,000 last week, but still remained low compared to their pandemic-era averages.
- Initial jobless claims, week ended Jan. 8: 230,000 vs. 200,000 expected and an unrevised 207,000 during prior week.
- Continuing claims, week ended Jan. 2: 1.559 million vs. 1.733 million expected and a revised 1.753 million during prior week .
The latest weekly jobless claims data comes amid a bevy of labor market prints showing demand — and leverage — for many workers remains strong. Still, with the size of the civilian labor force still down by more than 2 million individuals compared to pre-pandemic levels.
Wholesale Prices Jump Nearly 10% in 2021
The Economist: America Resorts to Remote Learning, Against Pupils’ Interests
Across America, more than 5,000 public schools, about 5% of the total, switched to remote learning for one or more days during the first week of January due to covid-19. It is a controversial call. Early in the pandemic remote classes led to a huge learning loss. The evidence on the health risks in schools is mixed. A study published in October in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that American counties that opened schools saw an increase in the growth rate of cases of five percentage points on average. Another study, published in April by the American Academy of Paediatrics, found that opening schools in North Carolina led to little virus spread. The authors credit the schools’ public-health measures, including daily screening and mask-wearing for pupils and adults, for minimising the impact.
According to NWEA, an education-research firm, pupil achievement declined by 3-7 percentile points in reading and 9-11 points in maths by the end of the 2020-21 school year. McKinsey, a consulting firm, estimates pupils lost four to five months of learning that year. The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that pupils engaging in remote learning also had more mental-health difficulties than children attending school in person.