Member Briefing September 1, 2022

Posted By: Harold King Daily Briefing,

Covid-19 Booster Shots Targeting Omicron Authorized, Likely to Be Offered Soon

U.S. health regulators cleared use of retooled Covid-19 vaccines that target the latest versions of Omicron, in preparation for a fall booster campaign that could start within days.  The action by the Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday permits people 12 years and older to receive an additional shot of the vaccine from Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE, and people 18 and older to receive a Moderna Inc. booster at least two months after their most recent dose.

The clearance marks the first changes to the composition of the Covid-19 vaccines since their distribution began in the U.S. in December 2020. The action also makes the booster doses widely available, rather than limiting them to people who are at high risk of developing severe disease, as earlier booster authorizations had done. Health authorities have been preparing to roll out the rejiggered boosters to protect people from the virus in the fall and winter, a period when cases have often ticked up as people spend more time indoors.

Read more at STAT News

War in Ukraine Headlines

China’s Factory Activity Contracts for Second Straight Month in August

China’s factory activity shrank in August for the second month in a row, official data showed Wednesday, as the sector was hit by strict zero-Covid restrictions and extreme heat. Sporadic Covid-19 lockdowns around China have dampened consumer enthusiasm and business confidence, while searing temperatures across large parts of the country this summer prompted power rationing for factories.

The Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), a key gauge of manufacturing in the world’s second-biggest economy, came in at 49.4, up from July’s 49.0 but still below the 50-point mark separating growth from contraction, National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) data showed.

Read more at IndustryWeek

Inflation Tops 9% in Eurozone, Piling Pressure on Policy Makers

Inflation in the eurozone rose to a fresh record in August, underscoring the economic shock dealt by Russia’s war in Ukraine and increasing the pressure on the European Central Bank to respond by raising interest rates aggressively next week.  Eurozone consumer prices were 9.1% higher than a year earlier, a pickup from the 8.9% rate of inflation recorded in July, the European Union’s statistics agency said Wednesday. That is the highest rate since records began in early 1997.

Inflation in the 19-nation eurozone has surpassed U.S. levels in recent weeks. Worryingly for the ECB, the core rate of inflation—which excludes volatile items such as energy and food—increased to 4.3% in August from 4% in July. That suggests high inflation rates could linger even if energy and food prices stabilize. The ECB aims to keep inflation at 2% over the medium term.  Eurozone inflation is likely to rise toward 10% over the coming months.

Read more at the WSJ

US COVID Update – Biden Officials Plan to Shift COVID-19 Vaccine Coverage to Private Market as Soon as January

The Biden administration said Tuesday that it anticipates shifting COVID-19 vaccine distribution to the private market as soon as January 2023, marking a new phase in fighting the pandemic.

The move to the private market for vaccines, as well as treatments, would be another sign that the administration views the acute emergency phase of the pandemic as ending, and that purchasing and distribution of measures to fight COVID-19 should work more like the rest of the health care system, rather than the government playing the leading role.  

Read more at The Hill

Scientists Boost Immune Response to COVID-19 Vaccine by 25 Times

Ironically, some vaccines need their own “boosters.” An ingredient called an adjuvant can be added to vaccines to help elicit a more robust immune response, better training the body to fight a pathogen. Scientists report a substance that boosted the immune response to an experimental COVID-19 shot in mice by 25 times, compared to injection with the vaccine alone. Details of the research are described in a new paper published today (August 31, 2022) in the journal ACS Infectious Diseases.

Even though the first COVID-19 shots authorized in the U.S. apply cutting-edge mRNA genetic technology, the tried-and-true strategy of using proteins from the pathogen can produce vaccines that are less expensive to make and easier to store. So far, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized only one protein-based vaccine, made by Novavax, against SARS-CoV-2. However, many currently available inoculations against other diseases depend on proteins or pieces of them, and these shots contain adjuvants to boost their effectiveness.

Read more at SciTech Daily

Outdated Already? Gallop Poll Has Confidence in Economy Rising

Americans’ confidence in the economy has improved compared to July, but the public still evaluates the economy negatively, according to a new Gallup poll. Gallup’s economic confidence index improved from -51 in July to -39 in August, returning to the levels seen in March in April.  The poll was conducted prior to Fed Chairman Powell’s Hawkish remarks in Jackson Hole triggered a market sell-off. 

Sixteen percent of U.S. adults rated current economic conditions as “excellent” or “good,” compared to 14 percent in July. Forty-seven percent of respondents described conditions as “poor,” a five-point drop from when 52 percent said so last month. One-quarter of respondents indicated they believe the economy is getting better, up from 16 percent in July, while the proportion saying the economy is worsening dropped from 80 percent to 72 percent.

Read more at The Hill

States Get Stingy as Sour Economy Drains Their Surpluses

While not every state is seeing signs of trouble — record-high tax revenues in Texas, for instance, will give lawmakers an extra roughly $27 billion to throw around in their next legislative session — many legislators and governors are squirreling billions of dollars into rainy-day funds just in case. They fear the economy might crash, or Washington could become more hostile to handouts under Republican control of Congress, or both.

New York started its 2022-23 fiscal year on April 1 with a $2.3 billion surplus, allowing state leaders in an election year to approve record spending on education, expand child care subsidies, provide bonuses to health care workers and institute a temporary cut in the gas tax.  Then the state lowered its revenue projections this month, citing the toll wrought by inflation and a rocky fiscal picture ahead. Now, after projecting surpluses, the state estimates deficits that could reach $6.2 billion by the 2027-28 fiscal year.

Read more at Politico

Fast-Food Operators Mobilize Against California Wage Bill

Restaurant operators and business advocates mobilized Tuesday to try to persuade California Gov. Gavin Newsom to veto a bill that would set wages for fast-food workers, a move they said could increase costs and set a precedent other states and cities might follow.  The bill, known as the Fast Act, passed California’s Legislature on Monday. It was backed by labor unions, which say a government council setting minimum wages for fast-food workers could create a model to ensure fair wages and other protections for hourly workers in an industry where unions have struggled to organize workers.

The effort is being pushed by franchise owners, including many who would have to take on the cost of paying workers a minimum wage as high as $22 an hour starting next year, set by a government-run council created by the bill. Chains that operate their own restaurants, such as Starbucks Corp., Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. and In-N-Out Burger, would also be affected.

Read more at the WSJ

Power Plants, Unions Worry About Moving Too Fast to Wind, Solar Power

A coalition of unions, business groups and power plant operators are calling for caution in enacting the state’s ambitious plan to reduce carbon in energy production and other phases of the economy. They worry that moving too quickly from traditional power sources like natural gas to alternatives such as wind or solar power could put the state in an energy bind in the next few years.

“As we move toward a 100 percent zero-emission electric generation fleet and net-zero carbon economy, we also need to maintain a reliable energy system, be open and honest about the cost and benefits of compliance options, and keep all reasonable options on the table,” said Heather Briccetti Mulligan, president and CEO of the Business Council.

Read more at The Times Union

Elon Musk says the world still needs to use oil and gas or ‘civilization will crumble’

Elon Musk said the world still needs oil and gas in order to avoid civilization from crumbling, Reuters reported. He made the comments at an oil and gas conference in Stavanger, Norway and also mused on climate change, renewable energy, and population decline. The CEO of Shell, Ben van Beurden, told the same conference that Europe may need to continue rationing energy for several years because the crisis was likely to continue for more than one winter,

“Realistically I think we need to use oil and gas in the short term, because otherwise civilization will crumble,” Musk told delegates.  “One of the biggest challenges the world has ever faced is the transition to sustainable energy and to a sustainable economy. That will take some decades to complete.” He also said “at this time, we actually need more oil and gas, not less,” and would not “demonize” fossil fuels in comments reported by Bloomberg.

Read more at Business Insider

Workplace Violence by Occupation

From 1992-2019  workplace violence has killed almost 18,000 people. This number comes from a recent study conducted by NIOSH, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics provides a broad view of workplace violence in the United States during the 27 years from 1992 to 2019. they define workplace violence as incidents that occurred outside the workplace but stemmed from work-related issues.

For non-fatal incidents of workplace violence, during 2015–2019 the average annual rate was 8 per 1,000 workers. Law enforcement and security professionals had the highest average annual victimization rate at 77.5 per 1,000 workers, followed by mental health professionals (45.2 per 1,000) and medical professionals (15.1 per 1,000). For workers in corrections professions, a subcategory of law enforcement and security, the victimization rate was 149.1 per 1,000.

Read more at EHS Today

India’s Q1 GDP grows at 13.5 percent

India’s economy grew at the fastest pace in a year from April-June quarter, as a favourable base effect and improved activities following the relaxation of pandemic-led restrictions outweighed the rippling effects of geopolitical and global concerns. Asia’s third-largest economy posted double-digit growth of 13.5 percent in the fiscal first quarter, lagging the 15.2 percent estimate by Reuters and sharply higher than the 4.1 percent growth rate in the preceding quarter.

A rebound in private consumption – one of the key factors for the economy – and growth in contact-intensive sectors amid declining Covid-19 fears aided economic momentum in the first quarter. Moreover, a severe coronavirus Delta wave in the comparable year-earlier period had impeded growth as consumption demand slackened with state-enforced movement restrictions.

Read more at Economic Times

Look For the Union Label… LRB Finds Tesla Unlawfully Restricted Union Apparel

In a decision Monday, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that Tesla Inc. was unlawfully restricting its employees from displaying union insignia. In a 3-2 ruling August 29, the NLRB found that any company restriction on wearing union apparel are “presumptively unlawful” unless the company gives a good reason. A previous NLRB standard, set in 2019 in a case with Wal-Mart, held that employers could restrict union apparel without giving special circumstances as long as they didn’t completely prohibit employees from wearing union insignia. Monday’s decision overrules the 2019 decision, and reinstates an earlier standard, which requires employers that “interfere in any way” with an employee’s right to display union iconography have to provide special circumstances justifying the interference.

The Tesla policy targeted by the decision requires that company employees wear one of two t-shirts: a plain black t-shirt, or a black t-shirt with a company logo. Black t-shirts displaying union iconography were restricted, according to the UAW, which brought the initial complaint alongside Tesla employees.  

Read more at IndustryWeek

UN Weather Agency Predicts Rare ‘Triple-Dip’ La Nina in 2022

The World Meteorological Organization on Wednesday said La Nina conditions, which involve a large-scale cooling of ocean surface temperatures, have strengthened in the eastern and central equatorial Pacific with an increase in trade winds in recent weeks. La Nina is a natural and cyclical cooling of parts of the equatorial Pacific that changes weather patterns worldwide, as opposed to warming caused by the better-known El Nino — an opposite phenomenon. La Nina often leads to more Atlantic hurricanes, less rain and more wildfires in the western United States, and agricultural losses in the central U.S.

Together El Nino, La Nina and the neutral condition are called ENSO, which stands for El Nino Southern Oscillation, and they have one of the largest natural effects on climate, at times augmenting and other times dampening the big effects of human-caused climate change from the burning of coal, oil and gas, scientists say.

Read more at US News and World Report