Member Briefing February 24, 2022
Russia Invades Ukraine, Roils Markets, Draws Condemnation
Missiles and airstrikes hit more than a dozen cities across Ukraine, minutes after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a military operation. President Biden called the move unprovoked and unjustified, pledging further action against Russia.
- Read more at the Hill
- U.S., Allies Poised to Hit Russia With Broad Sanctions – WSJ
- Stocks Sink and Oil Prices Jump as Markets Reel – New York Times
- Brent Tops $100 for First Time Since 2014 – CNBC
- Russia-Ukraine Conflict Raises Big Risks for Global Economy – The Hill
- Fear and Defiance Grip the Citizens of Ukraine’s Capital -The Economist
IHS: Manufacturing, Service Activity Increased in February
Data firm IHS Markit said on Tuesday its flash U.S. Composite PMI Output Index, which tracks the manufacturing and services sectors, rebounded to a reading of 56.0 this month from 51.1 in January. It attributed the sharp rise to “employees returning from sick leave, increased traveling and greater availability of raw materials.” The acceleration in business activity in the survey mirrors the recent improvement in the so-called hard data.
- The flash composite orders index climbed to 57.5 from 55.2 in January, with customers making additional purchases to avoid future price hikes. Consumer prices notched their largest annual increase in 40 years in January.
- The pick up in activity this month was across the board. The IHS Markit survey’s flash services sector PMI rose to a reading of 56.7 from 51.2 in January.
- Services industry businesses continued to face higher prices for inputs.
- Activity also regained momentum in the manufacturing sector, with strong order growth and rising employment. The survey’s flash manufacturing PMI climbed to 57.5 from 55.5 in January.
- Manufacturers also reported some easing in the cost of inputs, though prices still remained very high.
BBA.2 Subvariant Now Accounts for More Than a Third of Global Cases
A more infectious type of the Omicron variant has surged to account for more than a third of global Covid-19 cases sequenced recently, adding to the debate about whether countries are ready for full reopening. Health authorities are examining whether the subvariant of Omicron, known as BA.2, could extend the length of Covid-19 waves that have peaked recently in Europe, Japan and some other places. BA.2 accounted for only 3.9% of Covid-19 infections in the U.S. in the week through Feb. 12, according to the most recent estimate released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. After an Omicron surge in December 2021, the U.S. has experienced an equally sharp and steady fall.
Evidence so far suggests BA.2 is some 30% more infectious than its cousin, the BA.1 subvariant that kicked off the Omicron wave in southern Africa in November 2021. Studies so far suggest that both types of Omicron pose about the same risk of severe disease in humans. That risk is lower than last year’s Delta variant, but with so many people getting infected, the death toll from Omicron is still high.
US Trucker Protest Heads to DC – Pentagon Approves National Guard Deployment
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has approved hundreds of unarmed National Guard troops to be deployed in Washington, D.C., ahead of a truck convoy protest against pandemic restrictions that is expected to coincide with President Biden’s first State of the Union address. According to the DOD, the approval will allow about 400 D.C. National Guard members to “provide support at designated traffic posts, provide command and control, and cover sustainment requirements.”
Bob Bolus, the organizer of the truck convoy protest, said earlier this week that his group is planning to shut down the Capital Beltway. Online discussions about convoys started as a way for people to demonstrate their displeasure with Covid-19 vaccine mandates but “morphed” to include talk of shutting the government down.
US COVID – Major Study on Mental Health and COVID-19
Results from the largest cohort study to date on the impact of acute COVID-19 on mental health were published February 16 in The BMJ. The cohort consisted of 153,848 individuals who survived 30 days after initial SARS-CoV-2 infection, and 2 control groups: 5.6 million individuals who did not have recorded SARS-CoV-2 infection and 5.8 million historical control individuals pulled from pre-pandemic data. All of the data came from a US Department of Veterans Affairs database.
Overall, the study found that people who had COVID-19 were 60% more likely to experience subsequent mental health problems than people who never had the disease. Individuals who had COVID-19, even mild cases, had a 41% increased risk of developing sleep disorders, 39% increased risk of developing depression, 38% increased risk of heightened stress levels, 35% increased risk of developing anxiety, 34% increased risk of developing an opioid use disorder, and 80% higher risk of developing other cognitive symptoms, such as “brain fog.”
NYS Vaccine and COVID Update –
Vaccine Stats as of February 23:
One Vaccine Dose
- 88.7% of all New Yorkers – 16,344,419 (plus 2,824 from a day earlier).
- In the Hudson Valley 1,701,058 (plus 601).
- 75.3% of all New Yorkers – 14,592,131 (plus 3,035).
- In the Hudson Valley – 1,489,361 (plus 648).
- All New Yorkers – 6,939,990
- In the Hudson Valley – 834,909
The Governor updated COVID data through February 23. There were 38 COVID related deaths for a total reported of 69,054
- Patients Currently in Hospital statewide: 2,404.
- Patients Currently in ICU Statewide: 385
7 Day Average Positivity Rate – Cases per 100K population
- Statewide 2.02% – 14.46 positive cases per 100,00 population
- Mid-Hudson: 1.98% – 12.88 positive cases per 100,00 population
More States Wagering on Vaccine ‘Passports’ Technology to Stay Open Safely
Several states that eschewed so-called vaccine passports over concerns that they limited freedom are now embracing the technology behind them so that their residents can travel and get their immunization and health records online. The technology allows proof of Covid-19 vaccination to be digitized and often includes a QR code.
The technology is gaining momentum in at least five states — Arizona, Mississippi, South Carolina, Oklahoma and Utah — despite bans on “vaccine passports” or governors opposing them. These states do not plan to require vaccine “passports” or proof of immunization to enter indoor spaces like New York City and Los Angeles have. And they’re not called “passports,” a term that has become politically charged. Many are opting to roll out the credentials with little to no fanfare, for example, placing portals to get them inconspicuously on websites, amid potential political opposition.
Logistical Challenges – Africa CDC to Ask World to Pause COVID-19 Vaccine Donations
John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, said the primary challenge for vaccinating the continent is no longer supply shortages but logistics challenges and vaccine hesitancy — leading the agency and the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust to seek the delay.
“At the time of a pandemic, we don’t want waste. There’s always waste in vaccines campaigns, but we want to minimize that as much as possible,” Seth Berkley, the CEO of Gavi, said in a recent interview with POLITICO. “Early on, people wanted whatever they could get. But now we’re moving to a much more sophisticated place.”
Moderna, Thermo Fisher Partner to Manufacture COVID Vaccine, Other Drugs
Moderna Inc has entered into a long-term agreement with Thermo Fisher Scientific for the manufacturing of its COVID-19 vaccine and other experimental medicines based on mRNA technology, the companies said on Wednesday. Thermo Fisher had already partnered with Moderna last year to help scale up production of its COVID vaccine, branded as Spikevax.
As a part of the 15-year expanded deal, Thermo Fisher would provide dedicated manufacturing capacity in the United States for fill/finish services as well as labeling and packaging services for Spikevax and other mRNA drugs in Moderna’s pipeline. The company last week said it was developing three new vaccines based on the same messenger RNA (mRNA) technology used for its COVID-19 shot, including one for viral infection shingles.
The Worker Shortage is Pushing Companies to Offer More Perks and Benefits. Here are the Most Common
Employers have had their backs up against a wall for months as turnover woes continue to roil the workforce. Most businesses have been forced to throw money at the problem in the form of higher wages and better benefits. In fact, in the wake of the so-called Great Resignation, 51% of workers report their employers have added new or increased their existing benefits over the last six months, according to a new survey conducted by The Harris Poll for Fortune of more than 2,000 U.S. workers.
The quality of benefits that companies are offering to placate their employees can vary dramatically. And adding benefits doesn’t always have to break the bank. The low-hanging fruit for businesses in terms of adding benefits are programs like wellness or lifestyle stipends, as well as adding more health plan options.
BLS: More People Had an Illness-Related Work Absence Last Month
Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that in January 2022, about 3.6 million people didn’t work because of an illness, injury or medical problem or appointment.
Last month stands out because the numbers are the highest they’ve been during the pandemic.
Of the 129.7 million people who usually worked full time (defined as 35 hours or more), about 4.2 million (3.3%) were working part time in January 2022 because of an illness, injury or medical problem or appointment. This is one-tenth of a percent below the highest percentage, set in January 1978 with 3.4%
Only Nine Percent of Plastic Recycled Worldwide: OECD
A new report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development report found that 460 million tons of plastics were used in 2019, the number nearly doubling since 2000. The amount of plastic waste had more than doubled during that time to 353 million tons, the Paris-based OECD said.
“After taking into account losses during recycling, only nine percent of plastic waste was ultimately recycled, while 19% was incinerated and almost 50% went to sanitary landfills,” it said in its Global Plastics Outlook. “The remaining 22% was disposed of in uncontrolled dumpsites, burned in open pits or leaked into the environment.” The report comes less than a week before the UN Environment Assembly begins on February 28 in Nairobi, where formal talks are expected to begin on a future international plastics treaty, the scope of which will be discussed.
Cashless Tolling Begins on the Mid-Hudson Bridge Tuesday, March 1
Cashless tolling on the Mid-Hudson Bridge over the Hudson River, connecting Highland to Poughkeepsie, begins at midnight on the morning of Tuesday, March 1. Motorists will no long have to stop- at a toll booth but will rather drive non-stop under gantries with sensors and cameras that read E-ZPass tags and take license plate images.
This is the last of the New York State Bridge Authority’s five bridges to go cashless. The system is already in use on the Bear Mountain, Newburgh-Beacon, Kingston-Rhinecliff, and Rip Van Winkle bridges.
Passengers Using London’s Heathrow Airport Fall to Lowest Level Since 1972
The number of passengers travelling through Heathrow airport fell to 19.4 million in 2021, its lowest level for nearly 50 years, the airport has said as it reported a pre-tax loss of £1.8bn. As a result, its cumulative losses during the pandemic have reached £3.8bn, despite having cut £870m in costs, as international travel was disrupted by travel restrictions, and Covid testing and quarantine requirements.
The airport said it was the only European hub to see a reduction in traffic last year, falling to levels last seen in 1972, which it blamed on tighter restrictions in the UK than EU countries. Cargo, which was mainly carried on passenger planes, was 12% lower than pre-pandemic levels.
Rio Tinto Announces Record Financial Results for 2021
As expected, Rio Tinto reported exceptional annual results on Wednesday. The global mining giant earned $21.4bn during 2021, its highest-ever profit. Revenues were helped by the soaring price of iron ore, which has jumped by two-thirds since November. The prices of other metals, including aluminium and nickel, have climbed too. Constrained supply and resurgent demand, as economies reopen, are behind the rally. BHP and Glencore, two other miners, also published handsome profits. Anglo American is expected to do the same on Thursday.
Corporate culture is still a problem for the industry. This month Rio published the findings of an external investigation it had commissioned, which found that almost half of its employees said they have been bullied in the past five years. Glencore has troubles too. This month it put aside $1.5bn to cover expected fines from bribery and corruption investigations in Brazil, Britain and America. Despite rosy results, the industry is struggling to shake off a reputation for bad behavior.