Member Briefing February 22, 2022
Congress Races to Clinch Government Funding Deal
Congressional negotiators are moving quickly to try to finalize work on a sprawling package to fund the government through the remainder of the fiscal year, though sticking points remain. Lawmakers have roughly three weeks to finish crafting — and ideally pass — a bill to fund the government through Sept. 30, after advancing the latest stopgap last week.
Until just weeks ago, negotiators struggled to find their way out of a months-long stalemate over top-line numbers, how to divide funds and legislative riders dealing with thorny issues like abortion. And while negotiators have made strides in recent weeks after top leaders announced a bipartisan framework deal for an omnibus package, which would fund the government through September, appropriators have made clear there is still much more work to be done.
Inflation and Supply Constraints Hinder Small Business – But You Knew That Already
Small businesses are bearing the brunt of supply-chain pressures and rising prices, with many tapping their cash reserves or taking on debt just to compete with larger rivals. High inflation, a tight labor market, stressed supply chains and dwindling liquidity are straining many small businesses, exacerbating the existing power imbalance between small and big firms.
Two-thirds of small businesses impacted by supply-chain constraints said suppliers are favoring large businesses because of the volume of orders, according to a recent Goldman Sachs survey of more than 1,400 businesses. Eighty-four percent of small businesses said inflationary pressures had worsened since September, according to the Goldman survey, with more than three-quarters reporting that inflation had hurt their business’s financial health.
A Mild U.S. Flu season is Waning, But is it Really Over?
This winter’s mild flu season is fading to a trickle of cases in much of the U.S., but health officials aren’t ready to say it’s over. “The question we’re asking ourselves now is: ‘Is this it, or is there more to come?’” said Lynnette Brammer of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Since the beginning of the year, positive flu test results and doctor’s office visits for flu-like illness are down. But second waves of influenza are not unusual, and some experts said it’s possible a late winter or spring surge could be coming.
FDA Considers Approving a Second COVID-19 Booster Shot -WSJ
The Food and Drug Administration has been reviewing data to authorize a second booster dose of the messenger RNA vaccines from Pfizer Inc and partner BioNTech SE ( and vaccines from Moderna Inc. The agency last month cut the interval to get a booster dose of COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and BioNTech as well as from Moderna, in a bid to provide better protection sooner against the Omicron variant.
The planning is still in early stages, and authorization would depend on determinations as to whether the second booster should be authorized for all adults or particular age groups, and whether it should target the Omicron variant or be formulated differently.
US COVID – Steady Downturn Seen in COVID-19 Cases
The United States is seeing a steady decline in the number of new COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations. Total confirmed coronavirus cases nationwide reported Saturday only slightly topped 100,000, a sharp downturn from around 800,850 five weeks ago. At the same time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the seven-day average for COVID-19 hospitalizations was down to 80,185 for the week ending on Feb. 13 compared to 146,534 for the week ending on Jan. 20.
More states are beginning to roll back mask mandates, distancing guidelines and other pandemic-related restrictions as the massive surge in cases over the winter, driven by the omicron variant, begins to die off.
NYS Vaccine and COVID Update –
Vaccine Stats as of February 21:
One Vaccine Dose
- 88.5% of all New Yorkers – 16,337,663 (plus 398 from a day earlier).
- In the Hudson Valley 1,699,423 (plus 38).
- 75.2% of all New Yorkers – 14,583,769 (plus 2,262).
- In the Hudson Valley – 1,487,420 (plus 381).
- All New Yorkers – 6,917,117
- In the Hudson Valley – 830,356
The Governor updated COVID data through February 21. There were 38 COVID related deaths for a total reported of 68,628.
- Patients Currently in Hospital statewide: 2,574.
- Patients Currently in ICU Statewide: 443
7 Day Average Positivity Rate – Cases per 100K population
- Statewide 2.23% – 17.75 positive cases per 100,00 population
- Mid-Hudson: 2.49% – 15.36 positive cases per 100,00 population
Why Children Fare Better With Covid-19
Children’s seeming imperviousness to Covid-19’s worst effects has been one of the biggest mysteries—and reliefs—of the pandemic. Now the reasons are coming into focus, scientists say: Children mobilize a first line of defense known as the innate immune system more effectively than adults. Although some children do fall seriously ill after coming down with Covid-19, the most have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all.
To understand why children fare better than adults against Covid-19, said Kevan Herold, a professor of immunobiology and internal medicine at Yale University, imagine the immune system as a medieval fortress. The innate response, which includes mucus in the nose and throat that helps trap harmful microbes, is like the moat, keeping assailants out. Innate immunity also includes proteins and cells that trigger the body’s initial immune response. Dr. Herold likens them to cannonballs launched as the enemy is beginning an invasion.
COVID Pill from Merck Showed More Promise in Reducing the Risk of Hospitalization in a Recent Study
The antiviral pill molnupiravir reduced the risk of Covid-19 hospitalization by 65 percent in a new study by Indian researchers that offered stronger results than previous research about the drug’s effectiveness.
The study, led by a researcher at the Chennai Antiviral Research and Treatment Clinical Research Site, split 1,218 Indian adults infected with the coronavirus and experiencing mild symptoms into comparably sized groups. Only 1.5 percent of the group that received the pill required hospitalization, compared with 4.3 percent of the group that didn’t receive the pill
Goldman: Markets Pricing Some Geopolitics, but Risk Premia can Grow Further
Global markets are already pricing chunky geopolitical risks, but there is scope for risk premia to rise further across all sectors, if a conflict breaks out between Russia and Ukraine, Goldman Sachs strategists said in a note on Monday.
Current market levels imply a 5% discount is already priced into U.S. stocks (.SPX), while European stocks carry an 8% geo-political discount (.STOXX), Goldman wrote. It estimated the U.S. 10-year Treasury discount at 25 basis points and 2% on the euro.
OSHA, Trade Group Update Safety Guide for Working with Robots
While the robots can provide benefits to the workplace, they also introduce new hazards. in 2017, OSHA, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the Association for Advancing Automation (formerly the Robotic Industries Association) formed an alliance to share technical knowledge, improve awareness about workplace hazards and appropriate safeguards, and identify needed research on the use of traditional industrial and emerging collaborative robotic technologies.
Recently, the alliance updated and expanded a chapter in the OSHA Technical Manual on Industrial Robot Systems and Industrial Robot System Safety. Updates include technical information on the hazards associated with industrial and emergent robot applications, safety considerations for employers and workers, and risk assessments and risk reduction measures.
Cyber Security Report: One Big Surprise, and the Same Old Lessons
Data, technology and insight provider Kroll on Wednesday delivered its Q4 2021 Threat Landscape report, tracking the most common cyberattack vectors and results of successful attacks at the end of last year. The report reinforces what hopefully has become common wisdom by now, the value of teaching your employees how to recognize phishing attempts.
One particularly nasty phishing technique, described in the webinar held by Kroll on Wednesday, involved bogus emails informing employees they had been terminated, with all relevant information included in an attached Excel spreadsheet. This was actually a campaign to spread Dridex malware that steals information from infected computers.
Ship Backup Off Port of Charleston Swells to 30 Vessels
A backup of container ships waiting for berths at South Carolina’s Port of Charleston has reached 30 vessels from 19 last month as the supply-chain congestion that has frustrated U.S. importers extends to more gateways. Jim Newsome, head of the South Carolina Ports Authority that owns and operates the port, said he now expects the backlog to be cleared by mid-April after earlier estimating that the armada of vessels offshore would dissipate by mid-March.
The backup at Charleston, the fourth-busiest gateway for container imports on the East Coast, is growing as the lengthy backlog that has continued for more than a year at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach appears to be easing, but remains extensive by historical standards. The number of ships in the queue for the California ports slipped to 72 on Thursday, according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California, down from a peak of 109 on Jan. 9.
Nissan to Spend $500 Million for EV-Focused Renovations in Mississippi
The electrification of U.S. car plants took another step February 17, as Nissan Motor Co. announced it would spend $500 million to remodel a Mississippi assembly plant to produce two new electric vehicle models. The Canton Vehicle Assembly Plant remodeling, Nissan says, will involve upskilling almost 2,000 jobs at the 5,000-employee plant. The renovations are expected to become operational by 2025.
Nissan has stated it plans to offer at least 23 “electrified” Nissan and Infiniti model vehicles and 15 all-electric vehicles by 2030, and that it wants 40% of its U.S. vehicle sales to be fully electric by 2030.
Johnson Scraps COVID Restrictions in England
British Prime Minister Boris on Monday said he would end all coronavirus restrictions in England including mandatory self-isolation for people with COVID-19 and free testing, drawing scepticism from some scientists and political opponents. The “living with COVID” plan has sparked alarm that it is premature and will leave the country vulnerable to new viral variants, but the government says it has provided more testing than most other countries, and must now curb the cost.
“Restrictions pose a heavy toll on our economy, our society, our mental well being and on the life chances of our children, and we do not need to pay that cost any longer,” Johnson told parliament. He said that the legal requirement to self-isolate for people who test positive for COVID would be removed on Feb. 24 while free universal testing would end on April 1.
Baseball Labor Talks to Heat Up in Final Effort to Save Opening Day
The calendar appears to be causing real urgency for the first time in Baseball’s labor dispute. The sides will meet potentially every day next week in a final effort to avoid missing regular-season games for the first time since the strike of 1994 that resulted in the cancellation of the World Series. Commissioner Rob Manfred has described losing games as a “disastrous outcome.”
Key issues include: increased compensation for young players, who are more integral to rosters than ever before but whose pay hasn’t grown commensurately with overall revenues; the competitive balance tax, or “luxury tax,” which penalizes teams for spending over certain payroll thresholds; and disincentivizing “tanking,” a rebuilding strategy where teams field subpar rosters on purpose to accumulate talent for the future.