posted on 04 October 2020

Written by rjs, MarketWatch 666

News posted last week about economic effects related to the coronavirus 2019-nCoV (aka SARS-CoV-2), which produces COVID-19 disease, has been surveyed and some articles are summarized here. We cover the latest economic data, especially GDP, the jobs report, banking oversight, mortgage delinquencies, local schools & universities, plus the sound of one hand clapping on coronavirus relief. Also, a handful of utility shutoff moratoriums ended on Oct 1st. There’s a selection of about 20 articles on Trump & his team getting infected. The bulk of the news is from the U.S., with a few articles from overseas at the end. (Picture below is morning rush hour in downtown Chicago, 20 March 2020.) News items about epidemiology and other medical news for the virus are reported in a companion article.


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Fed’s Low-Rate Strategy Confronts Concerns over Bubbles – WSJ — Federal Reserve officials’ promises to hold interest rates very low for a long time could pose a dilemma once the pandemic is over: how to deal with the risk of asset bubbles. Those concerns flared when Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan dissented from the central bank’s Sept. 16 decision to spell out those promises. The Fed committed to hold short-term rates near zero until inflation reaches 2% and is likely to stay somewhat above that level – something most officials don’t see happening in the next three years. “There are costs to keeping rates at zero for a prolonged period,” Mr. Kaplan said in an interview. He added that he worries such a commitment “causes people to take more risk in that they know it’s much less likely that they’re going to be able to earn on savings.” The question of whether the Fed should raise rates to prevent bubbles from forming has long vexed officials. Mr. Kaplan’s concerns show how the lack of consensus could one day sow doubts over the central bank’s ability or willingness to follow through on the new lower-for-longer rate framework Fed Chairman Jerome Powell unveiled last month.The new strategy, adopted unanimously by the Fed’s five governors and 12 reserve-bank presidents, alters how the central bank will react to changes in the economy. The Fed is now seeking periods of inflation above its 2% target to compensate for periods like the current one, when inflation is running below that goal and short-term rates are pinned near zero. This means the Fed will effectively abandon its prior approach of raising rates pre-emptively, before inflation reaches 2%.The Fed’s statement spelling out the new framework included an escape clause of sorts by saying that achieving its inflation and employment goals “depends on a stable financial system.”The Fed’s subsequent Sept. 16 rate guidance alluded obliquely to financial bubbles by saying officials would adjust their current lower-for-longer policy stance “if risks emerge that could impede the attainment of the committee’s goals.”Mr. Kaplan said his concerns were reinforced in March after the coronavirus pandemic triggered a near financial panic. “I saw … a lot of forced selling,” he said. “There were just some people who came into this with too much risk.”

Dallas Fed’s Kaplan Lays Out Path for Additional Federal Reserve Aid, If Needed – If the Federal Reserve has to provide more aid to the U.S. economy, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas President Robert Kaplan said Friday he would expect it in the form of an extended lifespan for the central bank’s emergency lending efforts. In a video appearance for The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Kaplan also reiterated what he and his central bank colleagues have said repeatedly in recent weeks: Continued strong support from the federal government is critical to helping the economy and Americans navigate the coronavirus pandemic….

Q2 GDP Revised up to -31.4% Annual Rate – From the BEA: Gross Domestic Product (Third Estimate), Corporate Profits (Revised), and GDP by Industry (Annual Update), Second Quarter 2020: Real gross domestic product (GDP)decreased at an annual rate of 31.4 percent in the second quarter of 2020, according to the “third” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the first quarter, real GDP decreased 5.0 percent. The “third” estimate of GDP released today is based on more complete source data than were available for the “second” estimate issued last month. In the second estimate, the decrease in real GDP was 31.7 percent. The upward revision with the third estimate primarily reflected an upward revision to personal consumption expenditures (PCE) that was partly offset by downward revisions to exports and to nonresidential fixed investment. From the BEA revision information, here is a Comparison of Third and Second Estimates. PCE growth was revised up to -33.2% from -34.6%. Residential investment was revised up from -37.9% to -35.6%. This was close to the consensus forecast.

Q2 GDP Third Estimate: Real GDP at -31.4%, Record Low – The Third Estimate for Q2 GDP, to one decimal, came in at -31.4% (-31.38% to two decimal places), a major drop from -5.0% (-4.96% to two decimal places) for the Q1 Third Estimate. Investing.com had a consensus of -31.7%. Here is the slightly abbreviated opening text from the Bureau of Economic Analysis news release: Real gross domestic product (GDP) decreased at an annual rate of 31.4 percent in the second quarter of 2020 (table 1), according to the “third” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the first quarter, real GDP decreased 5.0 percent. The “third” estimate of GDP released today is based on more complete source data than were available for the “second” estimate issued last month. In the second estimate, the decrease in real GDP was 31.7 percent. The upward revision with the third estimate primarily reflected an upward revision to personal consumption expenditures (PCE) that was partly offset by downward revisions to exports and to nonresidential fixed investment (see “Updates to GDP” on page 3). The decline in second quarter GDP reflected the response to COVID-19, as “stay-at-home” orders issued in March and April were partially lifted in some areas of the country in May and June, and government pandemic assistance payments were distributed to households and businesses. This led to rapid shifts in activity, as businesses and schools continued remote work and consumers and businesses canceled, restricted, or redirected their spending. The full economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic cannot be quantified in the GDP estimate for the second quarter of 2020 because the impacts are generally embedded in source data and cannot be separately identified. For more information, see the Technical Note. [Full Release] Here is a look at Quarterly GDP since Q2 1947. Prior to 1947, GDP was an annual calculation. To be more precise, the chart shows is the annualized percentage change from the preceding quarter in Real (inflation-adjusted) Gross Domestic Product. We’ve also included recessions, which are determined by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). Also illustrated are the 3.06% average (arithmetic mean) and the 10-year moving average, currently at 1.26%.

Q2 Real GDP Per Capita: -31.69% Versus the -31.4% Headline Real GDP – The Third Estimate for Q2 GDP came in at -31.4% (-31.39% to two decimals), down from -5.0% (-4.99% to two decimals) in Q1. With a per-capita adjustment, the headline number is lower at -31.69% to two decimal points. Here is a chart of real GDP per capita growth since 1960. For this analysis, we’ve chained in today’s dollar for the inflation adjustment. The per-capita calculation is based on quarterly aggregates of mid-month population estimates by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, which date from 1959 (hence our 1960 starting date for this chart, even though quarterly GDP has is available since 1947). The population data is available in the FRED series POPTHM. The logarithmic vertical axis ensures that the highlighted contractions have the same relative scale. The chart includes an exponential regression through the data using the Excel GROWTH function to give us a sense of the historical trend. The regression illustrates the fact that the trend since the Great Recession has a visibly lower slope than the long-term trend. In fact, the current GDP per-capita is 17.4% below the pre-recession trend (2008). The real per-capita series gives us a better understanding of the depth and duration of GDP contractions. As we can see, since our 1960 starting point, the recession that began in December 2007 is associated with a deeper trough than previous contractions, which perhaps justifies its nickname as the Great Recession. The standard measure of GDP in the US is expressed as the compounded annual rate of change from one quarter to the next. The current real GDP is -31.4%. But with a per-capita adjustment, the data series is lower at -31.69%. The 10-year moving average illustrates that US economic growth has slowed dramatically since the last recession and has dropped significantly during the COVID recession.

Business Cycle Indicators as of 1 October – Menzie Chinn – Deceleration continues, according to some key indicators noted by the NBER’s Business Cycle Dating Committee (BCDC). Figure 1: Nonfarm payroll employment (dark blue), Bloomberg consensus for September as of 10/1 (light blue square), industrial production (red), personal income excluding transfers in Ch.2012$ (green), manufacturing and trade sales in Ch.2012$ (black), and monthly GDP in Ch.2012$ (pink), all log normalized to 2019M02=0. Source: BLS, Federal Reserve, BEA, via FRED, Macroeconomic Advisers (10/1 release), NBER, Bloomberg, and author’s calculations. IHS/MarkIt provides a projection of the September GDP number consistent with their forecast for Q3: essentially 0% growth in September. So, we are already decelerating rapidly along a number of dimensions, as passage of a pre-election package becomes ever more unlikely. Deutsche Bank’s conditional forecast is zero growth on Q4. With the political – and hence policy – uncertainty possible in the election’s wake, don’t rule out another leg downward in economic activity.

Seven High Frequency Indicators for the Economy –These indicators are mostly for travel and entertainment – some of the sectors that will recover very slowly. The TSA is providing daily travel numbers. This data shows the seven day average of daily total traveler throughput from the TSA for 2019 (Blue) and 2020 (Red). This data is as of September 27th. The seven day average is down 68% from last year (32% of last year). The second graph shows the 7 day average of the year-over-year change in diners as tabulated by OpenTable for the US and several selected cities. This data is updated through September 26, 2020. This data is “a sample of restaurants on the OpenTable network across all channels: online reservations, phone reservations, and walk-ins. For year-over-year comparisons by day, we compare to the same day of the week from the same week in the previous year.” The 7 day average for New York is still off 63% YoY, and down 33% in Arizona. There was a surge in restaurant dining around Labor Day – hopefully mostly outdoor dining. This data shows domestic box office for each week (red) and the maximum and minimum for the previous four years. Movie ticket sales have picked up over the last few weeks, and were at $9 million last week (compared to usually under $200 million per week in the late Summer / early Fall). This graph shows the seasonal pattern for the hotel occupancy rate using the four week average. This data is through September 19th. Hotel occupancy is currently down 31.9% year-over-year (and that is boosted by fires and a hurricane). This graph, based on weekly data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), shows gasoline supplied compared to the same week last year of . At one point, gasoline supplied was off almost 50% YoY. As of September 19th, gasoline supplied was only off about 8.9% YoY (about 91.1% of normal). This graph is from Apple mobility. From Apple: “This data is generated by counting the number of requests made to Apple Maps for directions in select countries/regions, sub-regions, and cities.” This is just a general guide – people that regularly commute probably don’t ask for directions. There is also some great data on mobility from the Dallas Fed Mobility and Engagement Index. This data is through September 25th for the United States and several selected cities. According to the Apple data directions requests, public transit in the 7 day average for the US is still only about 58% of the January level. It is at 51% in Los Angeles, and 58% in Houston. Here is some interesting data on New York subway usage (HT BR). This data is through Friday, September 25th.

The U.S. Economy Was Laden With Debt Before Covid. That’s Bad News for a Recovery. – WSJ – The coronavirus brought an end to the longest economic expansion in U.S. history. That wasn’t the only problem. When the U.S. barreled into the deep downturn that followed, it was laden with debt.Why does this matter? Economies carrying a lot of debt generally have weaker recoveries. Businesses and consumers focus on cutting their liabilities during downturns rather than spending cash – and spending is what an economy needs to rebound. All told, the borrowing spurred by years of low interest rates adds up to $64 trillion in consumer, business and government debt. How much is that? It’s more than triple the country’s gross domestic product. The series of charts below illustrate how we got here and what it means for any recovery. Some kinds of debt matter more than others. The most important piece of a recovery is consumer spending, which accounts for nearly 70% of the U.S. economy. High household debt levels tend to lengthen recessions and amplify their severity, according to a study of advanced economies over 30 years by researchers at the International Monetary Fund.Economic growth over the past decade – including big gains in the stock market and in U.S. home prices – has benefited wealthier households the most, while those with lower incomes fell behind. Real median household income fell after the financial crisis and didn’t surpass the inflation-adjusted 1999 record of $61,526 until 2016. Mortgage debt, mostly held by better-paid workers, hasn’t changed much. Lower-income households, by contrast, have increased their borrowing with auto loans, student debt and credit cards. Before the pandemic, the percentage of delinquent auto-loan balances had nearly reached levels last seen in the financial crisis. Middle- and low-income consumers tend to spend more of their earnings, so high debt levels mean they will likely consume less. Businesses have also borrowed at a record pace in recent years, leading some economists to raise alarms last year that high levels of corporate debt during a recession could force companies to slow spending and hiring to repay what they owe – or get simply overwhelmed by their repayments. Rather than use cash to invest in their businesses, many companies bought back stock to boost share prices. Buybacks hit a record $806 billion in 2018, following the tax overhaul that lowered rates for many companies.The quality of corporate debt suffered, with the amount of corporate triple-B rated bonds – the lowest quality investment-grade debt – more than doubling in the past decade. Companies with such ratings risk downgrades, defaults and higher borrowing costs when times get tough.

Democrats Unveil $2.2 Trillion Pandemic Relief Bill – WSJ – House Democrats released a $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package that would restore $600 weekly jobless benefits, a last-ditch effort to revive stalled talks with the White House.The roughly $2.2 trillion legislation was unveiled Monday evening, with a vote possible later this week, according to multiple Democratic aides. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) spoke with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin Monday evening and the two agreed to talk again Tuesday morning, her spokesman said on Twitter.Democrats say a large package is needed to support American households and businesses still experiencing the economic impacts of the pandemic. Any legislation would face immediate hurdles in the GOP-led Senate, where many Republicans have resisted a large new round of deficit spending and expressed more confidence that the economy is recovering, after a sharp slump earlier this year. “It takes money to crush the virus. It takes money to make the schools safe. It takes money to put money in people’s pockets. And, of course, we want some resources to make sure that the state – that the elections are held,” Mrs. Pelosi said Monday on MSNBC.Many Republican and Democratic lawmakers have pushed for another round of economic stimulus for months, but they have remained far apart on the amount seen as necessary to combat the pandemic that is heading into its ninth month of spreading through the U.S.Lawmakers have been split on the level of weekly unemployment assistance and aid to provide states and cities.Centrist House Democrats wanted to vote on the legislation before House lawmakers leave Washington this week for the October recess. Mrs. Pelosi initially resisted voting on the bill, pointing out that the House had already passed a roughly $3.5 trillion bill in mid-May and was still trying to negotiate with the administration on a path forward. Previously, deals that have passed both chambers have been negotiated ahead of time. Though the legislation appears to have little immediate prospect of moving forward in the Senate and becoming law, several of the centrist Democrats pushing for a new bill are facing tough races and want to show that they have tried to secure more aid money for their districts.

House Passes $2.2 Trillion Coronavirus Relief Bill in Absence of Bipartisan Deal – The House passed a $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill Thursday as bipartisan negotiations with the Trump administration dragged on, with Democrats moving forward on their legislation in the absence of a deal with Republicans. The vote had earlier been postponed to give House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin more time to agree on an aid package. But those conversations haven’t yet yielded a bipartisan agreement. “We’re still far apart,” Mrs. Pelosi said Thursday. “Hopefully, we can find our common ground on this and do so soon.” Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Mnuchin spoke multiple times on Thursday. Mrs. Pelosi said Thursday evening she was going to review documents from Mr. Mnuchin, but no deal was likely Thursday evening. The legislation passed 214-207, with 18 Democrats joining Republicans in opposition to the bill.

“BIG Change Here”: Airline Stocks Surge As Pelosi Announces “Imminent” Standalone Relief Package – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced on Friday that she will move for a standalone airline relief package following a flurry of layoff announcements. WHOA … PELOSI announces she will move stand-alone airline relief. BIG change here.PELOSI: “As relief for airline workers is being advanced, the airline industry must delay these devastating job cuts.” – Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) October 2, 2020Pelosi urged airlines to delay planned furloughs, as an agreement is “imminent” on government assistance, according to Bloomberg.”As relief for airline workers is being advanced, the airline industry must delay these devastating job cuts,” she said. Meanwhile, House Majority LEader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), the House may advance the airline bill today. Stocks, particularly airline stocks, bounced on the news – though as @ForexLive notes, “The market is mis-reading this. The newswire headlines hint it’s a broader deal but it’s airlines only.”The market is mis-reading this. The newswire headlines hint it’s a broader deal but it’s airlines only. https://t.co/9ym4OY1UVL – ForexLive (@ForexLive) October 2, 2020

Government says it will start forgiving PPP loans within days –The federal government is set to begin forgiving emergency loans made to small businesses under the Paycheck Protection Program. But the exact start time for application approvals and whether loans of a certain size would automatically qualify for forgiveness remain uncertain. On Thursday, a spokesperson for the Treasury Department confirmed by email that the Small Business Administration would start approving forgiveness applications for PPP loans this week or early next week. The department and the SBA oversee the program. The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post previously reported the forgiveness plan. An SBA spokeswoman declined to comment on the specific date forgiveness would begin or whether automatic forgiveness would be possible for certain loans. The news comes as bankers grow weary of waiting for the SBA – which opened its forgiveness portal on Aug. 10 – to sign off on forgiveness requests. To date, the SBA has not acted on tens of thousands of applications that have been submitted in the seven weeks since. The $659 billion program was designed to provide emergency funding for small businesses struggling to stay afloat during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic. By Aug. 8, when the program closed, the SBA had approved 5.2 million PPP loans totaling $525 billion. More than $133 billion remains unallocated. More than 100 trade groups, including the American Bankers Association, the Independent Community Bankers of America and the Consumer Bankers Association, sent a letter to lawmakers on Sept. 17 urging automatic forgiveness for PPP loans of $150,000 or less. The coalition estimated a streamlined process would eliminate $7 billion in administrative costs. The ABA and 51 state banking associations sent a similar letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza the next day.Lenders have been pressing lawmakers to resume and revamp PPP, saying they want the streamlined forgiveness process and permission to make new loans to PPP borrowers who show ongoing stress from the coronavirus pandemic.Congress is considering several proposals that would restart the program, but for now it sits idle as lawmakers negotiate over a possible second stimulus package.

Outrage Grows Over Pentagon Funneling $1BN In COVID Relief To Defense Contractor Wish Lists – A coalition of 40 ideologically diverse organizations on Thursday demanded that federal lawmakers investigate allegations from earlier this week that the Pentagon misused much of $1 billion in congressionally appropriated Covid-19 relief funding for what one critic called “a colossal backdoor bailout for the defense industry.” The groups’ call came in a letter (pdf) addressed to Reps. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) Steve Scalise (R-La.), leaders of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis. The push for a probe was prompted by Washington Post reporting that some tax dollars directed to the Defense Department in March for building up U.S. supplies of medical equipment have “instead been mostly funneled to defense contractors and used to make things such as jet engine parts, body armor, and dress uniforms.” In addition to a probe, the National Taxpayers Union, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), Win Without War, and 37 other groups urged Clyburn and Scalise to determine whether Congress should pass a bill suspending the Pentagon’s spending authority for the funds, arguing that the department’s decision-making “violates congressional intent at minimum, and represents a significant breach of trust with the taxpayers who fund the military’s budget and its emergency spending.”Win Without War advocacy director Erica Fein said in a statement that “this gross misuse of Covid-19 relief funds provides yet another example of the Pentagon’s wasteful, unaccountable spending, which puts the corporate profits of the weapons industry over the lives and well-being of everyday people.” “This scandal should be a wake-up call,” she added. “The greatest threats to human security cannot be addressed by funneling money into weapons of war. We must resist the corrupting influence of the military contracting industry, stop pouring our resources into the bloated, unaccountable Pentagon coffers, and instead invest in meeting our country’s, and the world’s, real human needs.” The United States continued to lead the world in Covid-19 cases and deaths Friday afternoon. There have been more than seven million confirmed infections and over 203,000 deaths nationwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s global tracker. President Donald Trump’s administration and Congress have come under fire for inadequately responding to the public health crisis. As the letter the highlights, the Post reported that the Defense Department – which is run by former Raytheon lobbyist Mark Esper – gave at least $183 million to contractors “to maintain the shipbuilding industry” and $80 million to an “aircraft parts business suffering from the Boeing 737 Max grounding.” Additionally, the Pentagon gave $25 million to a firm that also “received between $5 million and $10 million” from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP); $3 million to a firm that also received between $150,000 and $350,000 from the PPP; and “$2 million for a domestic manufacturer of Army dress uniform fabric.”

New document reveals scope and structure of Operation Warp Speed and underscores vast military involvement – When President Trump unveiled Operation Warp Speed in May, he declared that it was “unlike anything our country has seen since the Manhattan Project.” The initiative – to accelerate the development of Covid-19 vaccines and therapeutics – lacks the scale, and the degree of secrecy, of the effort to build the atomic bomb. But Operation Warp Speed is largely an abstraction in Washington, with little known about who works there other than its top leaders, or how it operates. Even pharmaceutical companies hoping to offer help or partnerships have labored to figure out who to contact.Now, an organizational chart of the $10 billion initiative, obtained by STAT, reveals the fullest picture yet of Operation Warp Speed: a highly structured organization in which military personnel vastly outnumber civilian scientists. The labyrinthine chart, dated July 30, shows that roughly 60 military officials – including at least four generals – are involved in the leadership of Operation Warp Speed, many of whom have never worked in health care or vaccine development. Just 29 of the roughly 90 leaders on the chart aren’t employed by the Department of Defense; most of them work for the Department of Health and Human Services and its subagencies.Operation Warp Speed’s central goal is to develop, produce, and distribute 300 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine by January – and the military is intimately involved, according to Paul Mango, HHS’ deputy chief of staff for policy. It has already helped prop up more than two dozen vaccine manufacturing facilities – flying in equipment and raw materials from all over the world. It has also set up significant cybersecurity and physical security operations to ensure an eventual vaccine is guarded very closely from “state actors who don’t want us to be successful in this,” he said, adding that many of the Warp Speed discussions take place in protected rooms used to discuss classified information. Despite the military’s dominance, the chart also includes Nancy Messonnier, the director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases who was almost fired by Trump in February for warning the public about the growing Covid-19 pandemic. Public health and drug industry officials told STAT that Messonnier and Gen. Paul Ostrowski, her direct superior, serve as the initiative’s main contacts on all questions related to the distribution of an eventual vaccine. One public health official said that Ostrowksi, an expert on military acquisition, defers to Messonnier on matters of public health. The military’s extensive involvement in the development and distribution of a vaccine is a departure from pandemics of the past, but it is fitting for Trump, who has gushed about his love for “my military” and “my generals.” While the military was tangentially involved in public health crises like the H1N1 pandemic of 2009, some public health leaders have raised concerns about what they see as their marginalization during the pandemic.

Top House lawmakers launch investigation into Pentagon redirecting COVID-19 funds — The heads of several House subpanels on Friday called for the Pentagon to turn over documents into how it used $1 billion in coronavirus relief funds, citing the Defense Department’s use of much of the money to pay defense contractors rather than buy medical supplies. “We are investigating whether the Department of Defense (DOD) inappropriately used hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars appropriated by Congress in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act,” lawmakers wrote in a letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper. “These funds were intended to prioritize the domestic production and distribution of urgently needed medical supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE) – many of which are still in short supply – but DOD has reportedly diverted a significant portion of these funds to provide lucrative contracts to defense contractors for non-medical projects.” The letter was sent by the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis Chairman Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.); Committee on Financial Services Chairwoman Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.); Committee on Oversight and Reform Chairwoman Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.); and Subcommittee on National Security Chairman Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.). The Washington Post first reported last month that the Pentagon has used most of the $1 billion on defense contractors rather than medical supplies. The department awarded contracts for jet engine parts, body armor and dress uniforms, among other military equipment, which critics argue is in contravention of the CARES Act stipulation that the funds be used to “prevent, prepare for and respond to coronavirus.” Following the report’s release, the Pentagon defended itself, arguing the money was never intended to be restricted to medical supplies, that it kept Congress fully informed of its plans and that helping the defense industrial bases through the pandemic is an appropriate response to the COVID-19 crisis. The department had also notified Congress in late May that it planned to use $688 million of the funding to shore up the defense industrial base. The lawmakers, however, point to medical supplies and PPE shortages which have persisted more than six months after the Trump administration declared the coronavirus pandemic a national emergency. While DOD may rightly argue that the goal of its spending was to offset financial distress in the defense industrial base caused by the pandemic, the lawmakers say, the use of CARES Act dollars in this manner “runs counter to Congress’ intent that these appropriations be prioritized to address shortages in medical supplies and equipment.” The lawmakers asked Esper to hand over documents that show how the Pentagon spent its CARES act money, including the recipient of every contract funded by the money, the amount, the date of the award, what was provided and which senior contracting officer signed off on it. They also want to know whether the contract recipient received other CARES Act funding, whether they had relevant past performance with DOD, and “all documents related to the decision to use CARES Act funding to stimulate the defense industrial base rather than to support production and distribution of PPE.”

US military suicides spike 20 percent in 2020 – Suicides in the US armed forces have jumped by 20 percent compared to the same period last year according to the latest Defense Department data reviewed by the Associated Press (AP). The US Army has seen the greatest rise with a 30 percent increase, going from 88 suicides last year to 114. The US National Guard saw a 10 percent spike from 78 last year to 86 this year. This comes after an initial decline in suicides among active duty and reserve soldiers from January through March. There have been 4,231 suicide deaths in the military between 2006 and 2020, accounting for nearly one quarter of all active duty and reserve fatalities during the period. Suicide ranks second behind accidents as the leading cause of death in the military. US Army leaders have suggested that the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic has played a part in the rise in suicides. In an AP interview Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said “We cannot say definitively it is because of COVID. But there is a direct correlation from when COVID started, the numbers actually went up.” Last year was the worst year in the US Air Force for suicides in 30 years. Air Force Chief Gen. Charles Brown told the AP that “from a suicide perspective, we are on a path to be as bad as last year.” Air Force reserves have seen 98 suicides as of September 15. The Pentagon refused the AP’s request to publicly release the 2020 data or to discuss the issue of suicides in the military. US Navy and Marines officials also refused to discuss suicides happening in their respective branches. James Helis, director of the Army’s resilience programs, which focuses on soldier’s mental and physical health, cited isolation, financial disruptions, loss of childcare, and remote schooling as causes for the strain on the rank-and-file.

“Everyone Dies”: Elon Musk Says He Won’t Get COVID Vaccine, Calls Bill Gates A “Knucklehead” — Continuing his weeks-long feud with Bill Gates, whom he lambasted days ago for having “no clue” about electric pickup trucks, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has now taken more shots at the Microsoft founder while decrying the idea of taking the coronavirus vaccine during a podcast with Kara Swisher. Musk said on the recent podcast that neither him, nor his children, are at risk of dying from Covid-19 and that, as a result, they would be unlikely to need the vaccine, according to RT. “I’m not at risk, neither are my kids,” he said. Musk said: “This is a no-win situation. It has diminished my faith in humanity, this whole thing … The irrationality of people in general.” He also spoke out against the global lockdowns (again), calling them a mistake and saying only the vulnerable should be in quarantine until after the virus passes. Musk had previously called the lockdowns “unethical” and “de facto house arrest”. Speaking about Bill Gates, Musk said: “Gates said something about me not knowing what I was doing. It’s like, hey, knucklehead, we actually make the vaccine machines for CureVac, that company you’re invested in.” Gates had previously said of Musk that he hoped he “doesn’t confuse areas he’s not involved in too much.” When he was asked about the risk of the virus to his employees and their families, Musk responded: “Everybody dies.” He continued: “We’ve been making cars this entire time and it’s been great. Through this entire thing, [SpaceX] didn’t skip a day. We had national security clearance because we were doing national security work. We sent astronauts to the space station and back.” Recall, just hours ago, we reported that Tesla’s Nevada Gigafactory had the highest Covid case count out of all businesses in its county. The Gigafactory beat out many of the largest casinos in Reno and Sparks – and Saint Mary’s Regional Hospital and the VA Hospital.

Yale Prof Calls Trump’s COVID Plan, “A Lazy Man’s Ethnic Cleansing” – A professor at Yale University made the claim that “#TrumpKilledAmericans” and that coronavirus is a “lazy man’s ethnic cleansing.” Timothy Snyder, a Yale history professor, took to Twitter in early September to claim that COVID-19 is a “lazy man’s” ethnic cleansing. In the Twitter thread, Snyder first tweeted, “Coronavirus in America: A lazy man’s ethnic cleansing #OurMalady #TrumpGenocide #TrumpLiedPeopleDied #TrumpKilledAmericans Kushner’s team: “because the virus had hit blue states hardest, a national plan was unnecessary and would not make sense politically.”Coronavirus in America: A lazy man’s ethnic cleansing #OurMalady #TrumpGenocide #TrumpLiedPeopleDied #TrumpKilledAmericans Kushner’s team: “because the virus had hit blue states hardest, a national plan was unnecessary and would not make sense politically” https://t.co/TbYZiBlbmX – Timothy Snyder (@TimothyDSnyder) September 9, 2020Snyder linked to an article by Kathrine Eban of Vanity Fair, titled “How Jared Kushner’s Secret Testing Plan ‘Went Poof Into Thin Air.'” The article claims the reason Trump did not roll out a national testing plan is that “more testing would only lead to higher case counts and more bad publicity.” The Twitter thread continued with Snyder claiming, “Coronavirus in America: A lazy man’s ethnic cleansing. #OurMalady #TrumpGenocide #TrumpLiedPeopleDied #TrumpKilledAmericans “Senior advisers began presenting Trump with maps and data showing spikes in coronavirus cases among ‘our people.'”

US governors told in February that pandemic would get “much worse,” but did not alert public -In a secret Feb. 9 meeting, 25 US governors were told by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield, “The coronavirus outbreak is going to get much, much worse before it gets better,” even as those same governors publicly downplayed the pandemic. The report of the meeting was detailed in Bob Woodward’s recently published book, Rage. Woodward made headlines earlier this month when he published transcripts of Trump admitting that he sought to downplay the pandemic in the eyes of the public. But no attention has been given in the media to the growing evidence, including in Woodward’s book, that Trump’s cover-up involved not just the White House, but both houses of Congress and a wide range of government officials. Woodward says the briefing included National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIH) Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, Redfield and “other members of the Coronavirus Task Force” who all “took their seats at a table in a large conference room in Washington” that was attended by “over 25 state governors.” “The coronavirus outbreak is going to get much, much worse before it gets better, Redfield warned. We have not even seen the beginning of the worst, Redfield said, letting his words sink in. There is no reason to believe that what’s happening in China is not going to happen here, he said. There were nearly 40,000 cases in China then, with more than 800 deaths, barely five weeks after announcing the first cases. I agree completely, Fauci told the governors. This is very serious business. You need to be prepared for problems in your cities and your states. Fauci could see the alarm on the governors’ faces. ‘I think we scared the shit out of them,’ Fauci said after the meeting.” Although the author of Rage does not name the other officials on the panel, a Health and Human Services (HHS) press release – which reports the briefing without mentioning Redfield’s warning – says that they were Acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli, HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Robert Kadlec and CDC Deputy Director for Infectious Diseases Jay Butler. Not one of the governors among the group of more than 25 who sat through the presentation in Washington D.C. on Feb. 9 reported to news media or to the public that Redfield and Fauci told them, “we have not seen the beginning of the worst” and that “there is no reason to believe that what’s happening in China is not going to happen here.” Instead, the NGA meeting was followed by a campaign of silence, misinformation and lies spearheaded by the White House and President Trump. On Feb. 9, there were a total of 12 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the US and the primary concern of the entire ruling establishment was not the dangerous and deadly threat to public health posed by the pandemic but making sure that the truth about it did not get out.

The US Excess Mortality Rate from COVID-19 Is Substantially Worse than Europe’s – The US has 4% of the world’s population but 21% of the global COVID-19-attributed infections and deaths. This column shows that when comparing excess mortality rates, a more robust way of reporting on pandemic deaths, Europe’s cumulative excess mortality rate from March to July is 28% lower than the US rate, contradicting the Trump administration’s claim that Europe’s rate is 33% higher. The US Northeast – the region most comparable with individual European countries – has experienced substantially worse excess mortality than Europe’s worst-affected countries. Had the US kept its excess mortality rate down to the level in Europe, around 57,800 American lives would have been saved.The US has the highest COVID-19-attributed infections and deaths, accounting for 21% of global deaths. Defenders of the US’s pandemic policy record assert that such figures are misleading since reported COVID-19 cases depend on the testing regime and many countries under-count COVID-19-related deaths. Using excess mortality data is a more rigorous way to compare the pandemic’s death toll. Excess mortality counts deaths from all causes relative to what would normally have been expected. This avoids miscounting deaths due to the under-reporting of COVID-19-related deaths and other health conditions left untreated, or potentially misattributing deaths to COVID-19 that had other causes. Measures taken by governments and individuals may influence death rates – for example, deaths from traffic accidents may decline but suicide rates may rise. Excess mortality captures the net outcome of all these factors. We show that the P-score – a measure of the rate of excess deaths (actual deaths minus ‘normal’ deaths) relative to normal deaths – is preferable to measuring excess deaths relative to population. President Trump has claimed that ‘Europe’1 has had a 33% higher rate of excess mortality than the US. It is unclear what measure of excess mortality and which comparison period he was using – he may have been considering excess deaths per capita. It is also unclear how he defined ‘Europe’ – possibly Italy or Spain were the countries he had in mind in his intended comparison with ‘Europe’.2 Our figures suggest the opposite: Europe had a 28% lower excess mortality rate than the US during March to July, using the most reasonable comparative measure. From end-February to 25 July, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calculates that excess deaths were about 207,000 above ‘normal’. If the US excess mortality rate had matched that of Europe, around 57,800 US citizens would have survived.3 Yet US policymakers had at least four advantages over their European counterparts in countries such as Italy and Spain that should have led to lower excess mortality rates than in Europe:

  • First, there was more time to prepare. Genomic evidence suggests that Europe was the source of most infections that became evident in New York in early March. The US administration had three weeks’ more warning given the lag between initial rises in excess mortality in Italy and Spain versus the US Northeast. For the South, West and Midwest (accounting for 83% of the US population), the delayed spread of the virus should have provided an even greater advantage.
  • Second, the US has a younger population4 and COVID-19 mortality is significantly correlated with age.
  • Third, the US has a lower population density than Europe as a whole and for large conurbations within, and viral spread is greater in more dense populations.5
  • Fourth, the later onset should have enabled US authorities to take advantage of rapidly improving medical knowledge and capacity (the nature of the disease, treatment regimes, testing capacity, and the effectiveness of policies such as social distancing and masks).

Census Bureau says count will continue through end of October – The Census Bureau said Friday that its count will continue through Oct. 31, yielding after a back-and-forth battle with a federal judge in California.Late last month, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh ruled that the decennial count must continue, ordering that the schedule the Census Bureau’s attempt to wrap up enumeration was inoperative due to the coronavirus pandemic, and counting should extend until the end of October.Despite Koh’s ruling, the Bureau issued a brief statement on Monday saying that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross ordered the “target date” to “conclude 2020 Census self-response and field data collection operations” was Oct. 5.Koh rejected the Bureau’s decision to cut the count off on Oct. 5, writing that the Bureau was disobeying her original order. She said the Census Bureau was “chaotic, dilatory, and incomplete” in following her original injunction, and issued a clarified injunction, directing the Bureau that it must continue its count through Oct. 31, and publicize its efforts to do so, including texting employees on Friday to inform them.On Friday evening, a release from the Bureau said that it had messaged employees to say the count will go on. “As a result of court orders, the October 5, 2020 target date is not operative, and data collection operations will continue through October 31, 2020,” the message read. “Employees should continue to work diligently and enumerate as many people as possible. Contact your supervisor with any questions.”The final schedule still remains in flux: The government has appealed Koh’s rulings, but a circuit court rejected a plea for a stay earlier in the week. Like much of American life, the decennial count of every person in the country was thrown into disarray by the pandemic. The Census Bureau initially pleaded with Congress to extend deadlines for the count for 120 days.

Trump slashes refugee cap to record low, leaving some families torn apart – The odds of Semere Tekle Tesfatsion’s family getting to join him in the United States just got slimmer. The 36-year-old Eritrean refugee has been waiting for his wife and two young daughters to join him for four years. He applied just before President Donald Trump took office and dramatically reduced the number of refugees who can be resettled in the United States. Late Wednesday night, the Trump administration lowered the number even further, just 34 minutes before a statutory deadline to do so. Now, a maximum of 15,000 refugees will be allowed to enter the U.S. in fiscal year 2021 – 3,000 fewer than the ceiling set by the administration for fiscal year 2020, which expired at midnight Wednesday. The 15,000 figure is the lowest refugee cap announced since President Ronald Reagan signed the Refugee Act in 1980. Until the Trump administration, and throughout most of the 40-year history of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, annual targets for admission have averaged 95,000 refugees, with annual admissions averaging 80,000. During his time in office, Trump has cut the number of refugees admitted by 80%. “The program is virtually at a standstill,” said Sunil Varghese, policy director at the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP). As of Sept. 25, some 10,892 refugee had been resettled, well below the 18,000 ceiling, according to the U.S. State Department. Refugee resettlement was halted for a few months in the spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but restarted in July. The latest reduction falls in line with all kinds of restrictions that the administration has placed on both legal and illegal immigration since Trump took office. In its statement late Wednesday, the State Department combined the new refugee ceiling with a projection of more than 290,000 new claims for asylum this year. However, asylum seekers and refugees are two different groups. Asylees seek legal status while already living in the United State, while refugees are handpicked by the government after they have been vetted while they are still abroad. Refugees often live in camps in other countries or on their own in tumultuous, often dangerous circumstances, waiting for years to be resettled.

Thousands of U.S.-bound migrants cross into Guatemala without authorization (Reuters) – Guatemala invoked special measures for security forces on Thursday, after thousands of Central American migrants crossed the border without authorization as part of a caravan aiming to reach the United States. President Alejandro Giammattei’s declaration gives security forces additional powers to disperse public gatherings in six of Guatemala’s departments, as more Central American migrants are expected to try to enter the country in the coming days. On Thursday morning, more than 2,000 caravan members, many wearing face masks, barged past armed Guatemalan troops at the border, as they sought to escape poverty exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. Guatemalan officials expressed concern about contagion. “We’re talking about a caravan in the middle of a pandemic. The situation is complicated because they broke the health protocols and we don’t know who has entered (the country),” said Guatemala’s migration director Guillermo D’az. One member of the caravan died in Guatemala on Thursday after falling from a trailer and getting trapped under its wheels, the Guatemalan Red Cross reported. The caravan is the biggest since the coronavirus pandemic hit Central America in March, triggering strict government shutdowns that battered already precarious economies, leading to rises in unemployment and poverty. It is likely to face challenges crossing through Mexico, where President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has deployed the National Guard to the border with Guatemala and dispersed previous caravans under pressure from the United States. Republican President Donald Trump has made cracking down on unauthorized immigration a key part of his platform, ahead of the U.S. presidential election in a month’s time.

Trump to Quarantine After Top Aide Tests Positive – President Trump said he and the first lady would begin quarantining while they await the results of their Covid-19 tests, after Hope Hicks, a senior White House adviser who traveled with the president this week, tested positive for the coronavirus.”The First Lady and I are waiting for our test results,” Mr. Trump tweeted late Thursday, after confirming Ms. Hicks’s positive test. “In the meantime, we will begin our quarantine process!”Ms. Hicks traveled with the president aboard Air Force One to and from the debate in Cleveland on Tuesday. She also traveled with Mr. Trump on Air Force One to and from a rally in Minnesota on Wednesday, along with a number of top White House advisers, including Stephen Miller; Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law: and Dan Scavino, deputy chief of staff for communications.Earlier in the evening, the White House had released a schedule for Friday that showed Mr. Trump attending an indoor fundraiser at the Trump hotel in Washington and traveling to Florida for a campaign rally. The White House didn’t immediately respond to a question on whether that schedule would be changed.Ms. Hicks wasn’t tested Wednesday evening, a person familiar with the matter said. She began showing minor symptoms and quarantined during the return flight from Minnesota on Wednesday out of an abundance of caution, the person said. She tested positive Thursday.The White House typically uses a rapid test to assess whether the president and other officials have Covid-19, so it wasn’t clear why Mr. Trump doesn’t yet have results.In a Fox News interview earlier Thursday, Mr. Trump said of Ms. Hicks: “She’s a hard worker, a lot of masks, she wears masks a lot.”He said he and first lady Melania Trump had been tested because they spend a lot of time with Ms. Hicks. “So whether we quarantine or whether we have it, I don’t know,” he said. He later added: “We’ll see what happens.” His tweet announcing he would start quarantining came nearly an hour later. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance says that a person should quarantine for 14 days after coming in close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19. “People in quarantine should stay home, separate themselves from others, monitor their health, and follow directions from their state or local health department,” the CDC guidance says.

Trump’s Health: What A Positive Coronavirus Diagnosis Means : Latest Updates: Trump COVID-19 Results – The coronavirus can be very serious for anyone at any age but is especially concerning for a man of President Trump’s age, 74.People 65 to 74 years old are five times more likely than younger adults to be hospitalized and 90 times more likely to die, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Eight out of 10 deaths from COVID in the United States have occurred among older people, the CDC says.And from what’s known about his weight, the president may be officially obese, which is considered another top risk factor.That said, many people who get infected with the virus do not develop any symptoms – even many of those with risk factors such as their age and weight. Even when people do get sick, lots of them develop cold or flu-like symptoms that are mild. And many people who develop serious complications recover. So there’s no way to predict what’s going to happen to any specific individual. “There is quite a broad range for how COVID-19 progresses,” said Raj Gandhi, an infectious diseases physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. “Some people with COVID-19 never develop symptoms. For those who develop symptoms, they typically do so at about 4-5 days after acquiring the infection but sometimes it takes up to 2 weeks to develop symptoms.” Trump hasn’t released as many details about his health as previous presidents have. But his doctors have said that despite his age and weight, he is in excellent health. Trump takes medication to lower his cholesterol, but his doctors haven’t reported any other health problems that would increase his risk, such as diabetes, heart disease or high blood pressure. First lady Melania Trump is 50, so she’s not in as high a risk group as the president. She underwent a procedure for a benign kidney condition in 2018, but isn’t known to have any health problems that would put her at increased risk.The White House says the president and first lady are feeling well, but the coronavirus can affect people in many different ways. Some people start to feel sick within days. Other people feel fine for longer before developing symptoms. Still others are sick for a while and then seem to be getting better, only to suddenly crash and get seriously ill. That’s what happened, for example, to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Johnson eventually recovered, but only after receiving intensive care.

Trump experiencing ‘mild symptoms’ after coronavirus diagnosis – President Donald Trump was experiencing “mild symptoms” after testing positive for the coronavirus, NBC News reported Friday morning, citing a White House official. The news came hours after the president disclosed over Twitter that he and first lady Melania Trump had tested positive. Trump is “in good spirits,” and spoke Friday morning to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, according to NBC News. The White House is discussing whether Trump will address the country in some manner about his diagnosis. Trump, who is 74 years old and overweight, is in categories of people considered high at risk for adverse effects from the disease. Vice President Mike Pence and his wife both tested negative for the virus, the White House announced later on Friday. Pence is next in line for the presidency. White House physician Dr. Sean Conley said in a memo early Friday that he expects Trump to “continue carrying out his duties without disruption while recovering.” A White House official told CNBC some staffers who were in contact with the president on Thursday are working from home on Friday. Trump said in his early morning tweet Friday that he and his wife were beginning their quarantine process after the positive test. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines recommend people who believe they may have been exposed to the virus should quarantine for 14 days. Trump debated Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday and is scheduled to appear in the second debate on Oct. 15, 13 days after he disclosed his diagnosis. The Commission on Presidential Debates didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on how Trump’s diagnosis would impact the debates.

Nuclear Doomsday Planes Take Flight As Trump Contracts COVID – President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday morning. Around the time the news broke, planespotters on social media reported two Boeing E-6B Mercury planes flying on either side of the US mainland’s coasts. The Pentagon uses the E-6B as airborne nuclear mission-control, commanding a fleet of the Navy’s Ohio class nuclear-powered submarines, armed with nuclear ballistic missiles, in US waters and or around the world. “There was speculation the airborne command posts were deployed as a warning to any of America’s enemies after news broke of Trump’s positive test for the novel coronavirus,” Fox News said. Fox News continued, “while military planes generally turn off their transponders in order to avoid being tracked, the two E-6Bs in the air early Friday morning had left theirs on, with the assumption being that their crews want to be seen.” Tim Hogan, an American open-source intelligence analyst, tweeted: There’s an E-6B Mercury off the east coast near DC. I looked because I would expect them to pop up if he tests positive. It’s a message to the small group of adversaries with SLBMs and ICBMs. Hogan said: Here’s another E6-B that just popped up visible on MLAT on the west coast. IMO Stratcom wants them to be seen.Hogan said the E6-Bs have the “ability to order the killing of everyone on earth if someone attacks the US with nukes in a first strike. It can talk to our missile subs underwater even if DC is gone.” The Navy has 16 of these planes, and it’s not uncommon for two to be flying at the same. However, the timing of Friday’s flights is noteworthy.

Trump Faking Covid- Michael Moore, Other Leftists Peddle New Conspiracy Theory – Filmmaker Michael Moore peddled a conspiracy theory on Thursday night, suggesting that President Trump might be “lying about having COVID-19” in order to “gain sympathy.” “He’s an evil genius and I raise the possibility of him lying about having COVID-19 to prepare us and counteract his game,” Moore posted to Facebook, just hours after President Trump announced his positive test result “He knows being sick tends to gain one sympathy. He’s not above weaponizing this.” “Democrats, liberals, the media and others have always been wrong to simply treat him as a buffoon and a dummy and a jackass. Yes, he is all those things. But he’s also canny. He’s clever. He outfoxed Comey. He outfoxed Mueller. He outfoxed 20 Republicans in the GOP primary and then did the same to the Democrats, winning the White House despite receiving fewer votes than his opponent,” Moore continued. Moore also suggested (in all caps): “HE MAY USE THIS TO PUSH FOR DELAYING/POSTPONING THE ELECTION.” And “He may use his Covid as a pretext to drop out of the race and move Pence to the top of the ticket. Pence would temporarily become President, and then Pence could pre-emptively pardon Trump for all of his crimes.” Meanwhile, as Summit News notes, the ‘Trump faking it’ conspiracy theory is gaining steam.

Update from White House doctor on Trump’s COVID-19 treatment – The White House on Friday afternoon released an update on President Trump‘s treatment for COVID-19 from his physician Sean Conley.The doctor revealed that Trump has been treated with one dose of Regeneron’s polyclonal antibody cocktail, as well as zinc, vitamin D, the antihistamine famotidine, melatonin and aspirin.Conley wrote that Trump is in “good spirits” though “fatigued” but did not detail his other symptoms, which have been described by the White House as “mild.””He’s being evaluated by a team of experts, and together we’ll be making recommendations to the president and first lady in regards to next best steps,” the doctor wrote.The memo follows another from earlier in the day that revealed Trump and first lady Melania Trumpplan to quarantine within the White House after testing positive for COVID-19. Read the full letter below. (embedded)

Three White House reporters test positive for COVID-19 – Three White House reporters tested positive for COVID-19 Friday after President Trump confirmed he was diagnosed with the coronavirus earlier in the day. The White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) said in a letter to White House reporters that the three unidentified individuals had all been at the building within the last week and that the White House Medical Unit is beginning the process of contact tracing for each person. The WHCA added that several White House journalists are self-isolating pending testing. “Due to cases linked to the pools last weekend and the large number of press credentialed for the 9/26 Rose Garden event, we ask that if you were on the White House grounds or in the pools those days, that you pay extra attention to any changes in your health,” said WHCA President Zeke Miller. Miller told reporters that the White House has committed to testing journalists who were on Air Force One in the last week this coming Monday and that the WHCA is “strongly [encouraging] other journalists who may have been exposed this week to avail themselves of other testing options, through their local health department, personal physician, employer or other accommodation before returning to the White House complex.” “For seven months, we have been clear-eyed about the inherent risks in fulfilling our obligation to keeping the American public informed. Today those risks are more evident than ever, but our work is only growing more vital,” he said. The WHCA said it is “insisting” that that reporters who are not part of the White House press pool and do not have enclosed workspaces refrain from going to the White House. The association also urged people to wear masks in shared spaces, telling reporters to “minimize risk” when not at the building.

Amy Barrett Infected With COVID-19 Months Ago, Tested Negative Friday -Notre Dame President Father John Jenkins, who traveled to the White House on Saturday to attend the press briefing announcing Judge Barrett as Trump’s SCOTUS nominee, has tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, according to media reports citing a memo that was sent out to ND students Friday. BREAKING: Notre Dame President Fr. John Jenkins, who was at the WH SCOTUS announcement on Saturday and was criticized for not wearing a mask and shaking hands, has tested positive for COVID-19.This was just sent out to the campus.Unclear if he had it during the WH event. pic.twitter.com/2cR4eaVMzb According to several sources, Judge Amy Coney Barrett has already had COVID-19, and has tested negative many times, virtually assuring that she wasn’t infected, and likely didn’t infect the president, or the president of her alma mater (as well as where she teaches), per the Washington Post.Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett was diagnosed with the coronavirus earlier this year but has since recovered, three officials familiar with her diagnosis told The Washington Post.Two of the officials said she tested positive for the virus in the summer. All of the people spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose her medical condition.As the Supreme Court nominee, Barrett is now tested daily and most recently had a negative diagnosis for covid-19 on Friday morning, according to deputy White House press secretary Judd Deere. Deere said she was last with President Donald Trump, who has tested positive for the virus, on Saturday, at her Rose Garden ceremony announcing her nomination to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Barrett has been on the Hill at least three times this week, meeting with roughly 30 senators in one-on-one meetings to discuss her nomination.“She is following CDC guidance and best practices, including social distancing, wearing face coverings, and frequently washes hands,” Deere said.Unfortunately, this adds little insight into how President Trump was infected.

GOP Sen. Mike Lee Tests Positive For COVID-19 – Sen. Mike Lee has become the latest GOP lawmaker to test positive for COVID-19, according to a statement from the Senator. pic.twitter.com/V3kSLogoDP – Mike Lee (@SenMikeLee) October 2, 2020 Lee, whose mask use on the Hill was described as “inconsistent” by one reporter, met with Barrett on Tuesday, though she tested negative Friday. Utah Sen. Mike Lee, Judiciary Committee member, is positive for COVID – and will remain isolated for the next 10 days. As @NBCNews Cap Hill team reports, Lee met with Judge Barrett on Tuesday. His mask use on the hill could be described as inconsistent at best. Without Lee, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the GOP might have more trouble voting Barrett’s nomination out of committee. His colleague Lindsey Graham, who is also on the Judiciary Committee, wished Lee a “speedy recovery”.Talked to Senator Lee earlier today and wished him a speedy recovery. Look forward to welcoming him back to the @senjudiciary to proceed with the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barret on October 12. https://t.co/OVm0OQbnQF – Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) October 2, 2020 This photo of Lee standing just feet from Barrett, with both mask-less and indoors, has been circulating.Sen. Mike Lee just announced he tested positive for COVID-19. Here he is indoors, no mask, less than 6 feet from the SCOTUS nominee, just a few days ago. https://t.co/LIJQoDuTlO – Elise Foley (@elisefoley) October 2, 2020And this footage of Lee greeting supporters while holding his mask in his hand is also being widely shared by MSM reporters and their activist allies. Ah, yes, the best place for your mask as you hug and kiss and greet multiple people is IN YOUR HAND pic.twitter.com/xNDl1Z1fEK

Republicans vow no delay on Barrett, but virus spreads in GOP – Senate Republicans insisted Friday they have no plans to delay Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation – but two key members of the Senate Judiciary Committee tested positive for the coronavirus and Washington was roiled by a possible outbreak. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Friday morning said the chamber intends to move “full steam ahead” on Barrett’s nomination. And the Judiciary Committee will proceed with hearings later this month, according to a GOP aide, though some portions of it may be conducted remotely.But hours after President Donald Trump announced he had contracted the virus and later moved to Walter Reed military hospital, Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) said they had tested positive, too. Both are critical members of the Judiciary panel and attended a ceremony for Barrett on Saturday at the White House. They also both met with Barrett this past week and attended committee meetings and party lunches later in the week where they may have infected other senators.In his statement, Lee said he planned to quarantine for 10 days and expected to be able to provide support for Barrett in the committee.”I have spoken with Leader McConnell and Chairman Graham, and assured them I will be back to work in time to join my Judiciary Committee colleagues in advancing the Supreme Court nomination,” Lee said. Tillis similarly said he plans to self-isolate for 10 days, but said he has no symptoms and feels well.Republican senators are eager to hold a confirmation vote on the floor before the Nov. 3 election, despite outrage from Democrats who say the winner of the upcoming election should fill the vacancy left by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Senate Judiciary Chair Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is scheduled to begin hearings for Barrett on Oct. 12, and is planning to hold a committee vote on the nomination on Oct. 22. On that timeline, both Lee and Tillis would be present for hearings and a committee vote.But the virus’ spread is already having some impact on Republicans’ efforts.The Judiciary Committee postponed a mark-up scheduled for next week after Lee’s announcement, according to two sources with knowledge of the matter.On Friday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Dianne Feinstein(D-Calif.) called on McConnell and Graham to postpone Barrett’s hearings due to the possibility of an outbreak among senators. “It is premature for Chairman Graham to commit to a hearing schedule when we do not know the full extent of potential exposure stemming from the president’s infection and before the White House puts in place a contact tracing plan to prevent further spread of the disease,” Schumer and Feinstein said in a joint statement.

Trump COVID-19 updates: President heads to Walter Reed hospital – President Donald Trump arrived at the hospital Friday after he and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for COVID-19, raising fresh questions about the president’s health. Trump, 74, went to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, in what aides said was a precautionary move. Officials said they expected him to be there for a few days. Trump boarded Marine One, the presidential helicopter, en route to Walter Reed, which is about 9 miles away from the White House, in his first public appearance since he tested positive for the coronavirus. Wearing a mask and a navy suit and blue tie, he gave reporters the thumbs up as he walked across the lawn but did not stop to take questions. In taped remarks before his departure, Trump tried to assure the public that he and the first lady were doing well. “I’m going to Walter Reed Hospital, I think I’m doing very well, but we’re going to make sure that things work out,” Trump said. “The first lady is doing very well. So thank you very much. I appreciate it.” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the president “remains in good spirits, has mild symptoms, and has been working throughout the day.” “Out of an abundance of caution, and at the recommendation of his physician and medical experts, the President will be working from the presidential offices at Walter Reed for the next few days. President Trump appreciates the outpouring of support for both he and the First Lady,” she added. The president’s diagnosis, which he tweeted just before 1 a.m. on Friday, sent shockwaves through Washington and across the country, causing markets to plummet just weeks before the presidential election. The president received a single 8 gram dose of Regeneron’s polyclonal antibody cocktail as a precautionary measure, according to a memo from White House physician Dr. Sean Conley. The antibody cocktail is being studied in four late-stage clinical trials and its safety and efficacy have not been fully evaluated by any regulatory authority, the company said on its page. The president also has been taking zinc, vitamin D, famotidine, melatonin and a daily aspirin, Conley said. “As of this afternoon, the President remains fatigued but in good spirits,” Conley said, according to the memo. Conley said the first lady was experiencing only a “mild cough and headache.” He added that other members of the president’s family are well and tested negative for COVID-19.

Confusion, concern infiltrate White House as Trump heads to hospital – Inside an eerily quiet White House Friday morning, a barebones staff scrambled to contain the fallout from a nightmare scenario: President Donald Trump and his wife Melania hobbled by the coronavirus in the final weeks of the 2020 campaign.Trump spent the morning quarantined in the residence with his wife, calling key senators and consulting in-house doctors about his symptoms, which included fatigue and cold-like congestion, according to a senior administration official. But he remained silent publicly throughout the morning and afternoon, causing some concern. And by Friday evening, he was being transferred to Walter Reed hospital for the coming days “out of an abundance of caution,” according to the White House.As the president’s diagnosis ricocheted through the West Wing, daily meetings were converted to conference calls and White House officials were advised not to come in. Among those who arrived at work anyway, many wore masks as they moved around the executive complex – adopting a preventative measure they previously dismissed. Vice President Mike Pence, who would take over for the president if he becomes incapacitated, remained at home but soon announced he would resume his campaign schedule after testing negative.At the Trump campaign’s headquarters in the Washington suburbs, a morning meeting was canceled and aides were advised by Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien to stay home if they felt they may have been exposed to the virus themselves. Some staffers who were in close proximity to the first family at the presidential debate earlier this week nevertheless reported for work, while others left the office shortly after receiving Stepien’s memo.”There’s a pretty good number of people here,” said one senior campaign official working from the Arlington, Va., campaign office Friday morning.Campaign officials and Trump aides who were contacted by the White House Medical Unit as part of contact tracing measures were asked to report for testing early Friday afternoon, while others who believed they may have been at risk of exposure were left to procure coronavirus tests on their own. The Friday confusion was largely reflective of the haphazard protocols White House officials have grown accustomed to in the last few months, as the president has crisscrossed the U.S. to rally with thousands of maskless supporters and used the executive complex to host large ceremonies flaunting social distancing guidelines. Some officials expressed concern about the startling lack of contingency planning, particularly after witnessing the scramble that ensued earlier this summer when Pence spokesperson Katie Miller, who is married to the president’s top policy adviser, tested positive immediately after traveling with the vice president and interacting with other staffers.

Former White House counselor Kellyanne Conway tests positive for COVID-19 – Kellyanne Conway, who left her role as a senior counselor in the White House at the end of August, has tested positive for COVID-19, she announced on Twitter Friday night. “My symptoms are mild (light cough) and I’m feeling fine. I have begun a quarantine process in consultation with physicians,” she said. Conway is the latest person in President Donald Trump’s orbit to test positive after both he and first lady Melania Trump received diagnoses. Two Republican senators and another White House staffer also tested positive. White House adviser Hope Hicks tested positive before the Trumps, prompting them to quarantine before they got results. The president is currently at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he will remain for a few days working out of presidential offices there. Officials have said he is there out of precaution, but he is feeling “fatigued” and “in good spirits.” Conway was present in the Rose Garden on Saturday, Sept. 26 when Trump announced his nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, before a crowd of an estimated 180 people, many of whom were not wearing masks. So far at least seven people who were in attendance at that event have confirmed they tested positive, raising questions about whether it was a “super spreader” event, where the virus may have been transmitted. It may be impossible to determine how Washington officials were infected, though.

Kushner, Ivanka Trump test negative for COVID-19 – President Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner both tested negative for the coronavirus on Friday. White House spokeswoman Carolina Hurley revealed their negative tests hours after Trump said that he and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for the virus. They both also serve as senior White House advisers. “[email protected] and Jared Kushner were tested again today for COVID-19 and both are negative,” Hurley tweeted Friday morning. They join other White House officials who have also tested negative for the virus following the president’s positive test, including Vice President Mike Pence, second lady Karen Pence and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. Ivanka Trump and Kushner both accompanied President Trump to the first presidential debate in Cleveland, Ohio, on Tuesday in addition to other aides and members of the president’s family. It is unclear when the Trumps were first exposed to the virus. . The president and first lady tested positive for COVID-19 after news broke that Hope Hicks, one of Trump’s closest aides, had tested positive for the virus. Hicks traveled aboard Air Force One with the president to the debate Tuesday. According to The New York Times, aides first became aware that she had contracted the virus on Wednesday evening. The White House says that aides who spent ample time with the president, such as Ivanka Trump and Kushner, are regularly tested for the virus. It is unclear whether both of the senior aides plan to self-quarantine as a precautionary measure.

Trump campaign manager tests positive for Covid-19 -Donald Trump’s campaign manager has tested positive for Covid-19, dealing another blow to his reelection effort on a day that saw the president and the head of the Republican National Committee report contracting the disease as well.Bill Stepien received his diagnosis Friday evening and was experiencing what one senior campaign official described as “mild flu-like symptoms.” People familiar with the situation said the 42-year-old Stepien plans to quarantine until he recovers.Deputy Campaign Manager Justin Clark is expected to oversee the Trump team’s Arlington, Va. headquarters while Stepien works remotely, though advisers stressed that he would maintain control of the campaign.Stepien’s disclosure means the two heads of the president’s political apparatus have now contracted the coronavirus: RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel announced earlier Friday that she, too, is infected. The news comes at a perilous moment for Trump, with polls showing him trailing former Vice President Joe Biden in an array of battleground states and dwindling days to make up the lost ground.After White House adviser Hope Hicks tested positive Thursday, senior members of the reelection campaign underwent tests of their own. Each of the others, including Clark, tested negative.Stepien traveled to and from Cleveland for Tuesday’s presidential debate. He joined Trump and Hicks aboard Air Force One. The campaign manager was also with the president in the White House on Monday. With Trump hospitalized at Walter Reed Hospital as of Friday afternoon, his advisers are rushing to reassess their plans for the final month of the campaign. They canceled plans for a Friday rally in Florida and postponed Saturday rallies in Wisconsin. They have also postponed a West Coast swing next week through Nevada and Arizona. Trump’s diagnosis has thrust his management of the coronavirus to the forefront of the campaign, which he has strenuously tried to avoid. And it has rippled through his political operation: Earlier Friday, Stepien sent a memo to staff saying that anyone who has had exposure to someone testing positive should immediately begin self-quarantine.””While we do not believe anyone without symptoms needs to self-quarantine at this time, it is on all of us to continue to exercise the smart judgment and practices the campaign has long encouraged,” he added, including mask-wearing and handwashing.

Next 48 Hours ‘Critical’ For Trump, White House Official Says : Live Updates: Trump Tests Positive For Coronavirus : NPR — Conflicting reports emerged Saturday about President Trump’s health and the timeline of when he was first tested positive for the coronavirus.Trump is “doing very well,” his physician told reporters on Saturday morning, but a source familiar with the president’s health later told White House pool reporters, that “the president’s vitals over the last 24 hours were very concerning.” The Associated Press identified that information as coming from White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. The timeline of Trump’s diagnosis laid out by doctors in a Saturday news conference was quickly walked back by the White House, raising questions about when the president actually first began experiencing symptoms and receiving treatment for the coronavirus. Speaking outside the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where Trump was taken Friday evening, White House physician Dr. Sean Conley made reference to “72 hours into the diagnosis.” That would be midday Wednesday, before Trump traveled to Minnesota for a fundraiser and an outdoor rally.Trump revealed his positive coronavirus test publicly in a tweet at about 1 a.m. Friday. Another physician at the news conference, Dr. Brian Garibaldi, said the president began an experimental antibody therapy “about 48 hours ago,” which would be Thursday midday, around the time Trump flew to New Jersey for a fundraiser and before he shared his test results.

Chris Christie Tests Positive for COVID a Day After Saying Nobody Wore Masks in Trump’s Debate Prep Room – Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey, announced Saturday morning he tested positive for COVID-19, one day after revealing nobody wore a mask while preparing for the first presidential debate with President Donald Trump. Christie announced his diagnosis in a tweet, writing: “I just received word that I am positive for COVID-19. I want to thank all of my friends and colleagues who have reached out to ask how I was feeling in the last day or two.” The Trump ally had tweeted Friday that he felt fine and wasn’t experiencing any symptoms, but said in his message Saturday that he would be receiving medical attention. Christie said he’d last been tested Tuesday ahead of the first presidential debate, and again Friday morning following Trump’s announcement that he had tested positive. Christie appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America that day to discuss Trump’s interactions before his diagnosis and what precautions the Trump administration took to prevent the virus’s spread before Tuesday’s debate. “No one was wearing a mask in the room when we were prepping the president during that period of time,” Christie said on the show. “The group was about five or six people in total.” Along with Christie, the president’s debate prep team included former New York City mayor and Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who has since been tested and reported negative results.

Ron Johnson: Senate GOP’s third positive Covid-19 case threatens quick Barrett confirmation – – Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin has tested positive for coronavirus after being exposed to someone with the virus earlier this week, according to his spokesman, making him the third GOP senator to test positive in 24 hours and threatening the quick confirmation prospects of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, who sit on the Judiciary Committee, tested positive for Covid-19 on Friday — just days after attending a White House event where President Donald Trump nominated Barrett. Multiple attendees of that event, including Trump, have tested positive in the week since the ceremony, which featured many people not wearing masks and not observing social distancing protocols. Johnson did not attend the Barrett nomination ceremony – where several people appeared to have been exposed to the virus – because he was quarantining from a prior exposure, during which he twice tested negative for the virus, according to the spokesman. Unlike Democratic senators, Senate Republicans meet three times a week for lunch. And while they sit in a large room, they remove their masks to eat and to speak. Johnson, Lee and Tillis all attended Senate GOP lunches this week. If the three senators remain out this month, it would effectively prevent Barrett from being confirmed to the Supreme Court until they return, which could be after Election Day during a lame-duck session. A lame-duck confirmation is a situation that GOP leaders are eager to avoid in case they lose control of the chamber next month.

Sen. McConnell cancels scheduled senate floor votes for next two weeks after 3 senators test positive for COVID-19 – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has canceled Senate votes that were scheduled for the next two weeks after at least three Republican senators tested positive for coronavirus. But McConnell said confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett would go ahead as planned starting Oct. 12. Senators will be given 24 hours notice if floor votes are needed during the two-week period. Senators Mike Lee of Utah, Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin had all tested positive for COVID-19 as of Saturday afternoon, after attending a Rose Garden event last Saturday at which most attendees did not wear face masks.

Explainer: What happens to the U.S. presidential election if a candidate dies or becomes incapacitated? (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Friday that he had tested positive for COVID-19 and was going into isolation. Trump has mild symptoms, according to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. But the diagnosis, less than five weeks before the Nov. 3 election, has raised questions about what happens if a presidential candidate or the president-elect dies or becomes incapacitated. Here’s how U.S. law and party rules address those scenarios. – Can the Nov. 3 election be postponed? Yes, but that is very unlikely to happen. The U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to determine the election date. Under U.S. law, the election takes place on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, every four years. The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives would almost certainly object to delaying the election, even if the Republican-controlled Senate voted to do so. The presidential election has never been postponed. – What happens if a candidate dies ahead of the election? Both the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee have rules that call for their members to vote on a replacement nominee. However, it is likely too late to replace a candidate in time for the election. Early voting is underway, with more than 2.2 million votes cast, according to the U.S. Elections Project at the University of Florida. The deadline to change ballots in many states has also passed; mail ballots, which are expected to be widely used due to the coronavirus pandemic, have been sent to voters in two dozen states. Unless Congress delays the election, voters would still choose between the Republican Trump and Democrat Joe Biden even if one died before Nov. 3. If the winner is deceased, however, a new set of questions emerges. Under the Electoral College system, the winner of the election is determined by securing a majority of “electoral votes” allotted to the 50 states and the District of Columbia in proportion to their population. The Electoral College’s electors will meet on Dec. 14 to vote for president. The winner must receive at least 270 of the 538 total Electoral College votes. Each state’s electoral votes typically go to the winner of the state’s popular vote. Some states allow electors to vote for anyone they choose, but more than half of the states bind electors to cast their votes for the winner. Most state laws that bind electors do not contemplate what to do if a candidate dies. In the event of a candidate’s death, the opposing party might challenge in court whether bound electors should be allowed to vote for a replacement, “The most interesting question is really going to be, how will the Supreme Court handle a controversy like this?” But Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School, said he viewed it as unlikely that a party would try to defy the will of voters if it was clear a particular candidate won the election. After the Electoral College votes, Congress must still convene on Jan. 6 to certify the results. If a presidential candidate won a majority of electoral votes and then died, it is not entirely clear how Congress would resolve the situation. The Constitution’s 20th Amendment says the vice president-elect becomes president if the president-elect dies before Inauguration Day. But it’s an open legal question whether a candidate formally becomes the “president-elect” after winning the Electoral College vote, or only after Congress certifies the count. If Congress rejected votes for a deceased candidate and therefore found no one had won a majority, it is up to the House of Representatives to pick the next president, choosing from among the top three electoral vote-getters. Each state delegation gets one vote, which means that even though Democrats have a majority, Republicans currently hold the advantage in a contingent election, as they control 26 of 50 state delegations. All 435 House seats are up for election in November, so the makeup of the next Congress is still unknown.

Update on Federal Covid-19 Data at HHS: Hysteria on TeleTracking Data Manipulation Unwarranted, but Concern on Palintir Surveillance Oddly Muted – – Lambert Strether – This is a tale of two companies, TeleTracking and Palantir, and their roles in data processing for the United States Department of Heatlh and Human Services. For TeleTracking, my unpopular stance in July’s “Hysteria Ensues as Trump Administration Orders Hospitals to Send COVID-19 Data to HHS, not the CDC” proved out, insofar as anything can be said to have proved out these days). For Palantir, the alpha dog of Surveillance Valley, I’ll do a quick summary of their role at HHS, and add a little speculation. But first, let anybody think that data management in the United States during Covid needed to be jolted out of its Third World-level status, I’ll take a quick look at public health agencies and CDC, states, and hospitals (along with some entertaining hospital whinging). Then I’ll look at TeleTracking, and then at Palantir. First, CDC[1] data. From Politico,”Virus hunters rely on faxes, paper records as more states reopen”: “Public health departments are unable to share data on cases, persons under investigation, laboratory tests and person-to-person transmission with the CDC seamlessly – instead they are forced to rely on a combination of methods: ,” a group of nine senators led by Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) wrote to Senate leaders … . [D]isease trackers say they’re drowning in paper reports and using outdated spreadsheets for critical tasks like contact tracing, or determining how many people were exposed to an infected individual. “Our ability to do the detection work we need to do is hampered,” said Raquel Bono, the coordinator of Washington state’s coronavirus response. “We don’t have a single data repository for tracing per se,” she said, adding that record-keeping and reporting is “primarily manual.” That’s playing out nationwide. And even when officials can tap data, like cell phone location tracking, they can’t connect the dots for an up-to-the-minute picture of disease spread. So they comb over unconnected, at times incomplete, bundles of information – including health provider reports of symptoms like respiratory distress or lab test results. Hence, the enormous HHS effort to update and centralize Covid-19 data collection. Second, the States. USA Today, “Former CDC chief Tom Frieden says states should make more COVID-19 data easily accessible“: Frieden recommended Tuesday that states release 15 categories of information deemed “essential” to understanding the pandemic.The categories include things like a rolling average of new cases and deaths, hospitalizations per capita, testing turnaround time, number of contacts of infected people traced within 48 hours, and percentage of people wearing masks in indoor settings such as stores and on mass transit. No state provides all 15 categories of data, , Frieden said in a video call with reporters. Hence, the enormous HHS effort to update and centralize Covid-19 data collection. Third, hospitals. From WXXI News, “Trump Administration Plans Crackdown On Hospitals Failing To Report COVID-19 Data“: The federal government is preparing to crack down aggressively on hospitals for not reporting complete COVID-19 data daily into a federal data system, according to internal documents obtained by NPR. The draft guidance, expected to be sent to hospitals this week, also adds new reporting requirements, asking hospitals to provide daily information on influenza cases, along with COVID-19. It’s the latest twist in what hospitals describe as a maddening flurry of changing requirements as they deal with the strain of caring for patients during a pandemic.

Hospital chain targeted in one of the largest cyberattacks on US medical systems: report – Universal Health Services (UHS), a large hospital chain, has reportedly been targeted by hackers in what may be one of the nation’s largest cyberattacks on a medical system to date. NBC News reported Monday that computer systems began to crash over the weekend across different locations operated by UHS, which has roughly 400 facilities across the U.S., Puerto Rico and the United Kingdom and employs 90,000 employees, according to its website. One source told NBC News that the breach appears to be a ransomware attack, where hackers use malicious software to lock up computer networks and then demand payment to return access to these systems. The Hill reported earlier this year that hospitals are increasingly bracing for such attacks, particularly with health care facilities being seen as easy prey amid a surge in patients and critical equipment shortages stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. Nurses, speaking to NBC across various UHS U.S. locations, described how the computers began failing and shutting off over the weekend, leaving medical staff to instead turn to pens and pads. And while the medical professionals back up their systems daily, it isn’t done until the end of the day so they were operating on information last saved from Friday, according to the report. Still, while they reportedly still have access to patients’ charts and medication information in paper form, one nurse in Arizona told NBC News that most of their medical system is done online, which has made work even more difficult.

Here’s how the ultrawealthy got even richer during the pandemic while millions of Americans faced job loss, hunger, and homelessness – The coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent economic shutdown altered millions of Americans’ financial futures – but not always for the worst.In the six months between when the coronavirus shutdowns began on March 18 and September 15, American billionaires have become 29% richer than they were before the pandemic crippled the American economy in March, according to research from think-tank the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS).Elon Musk alone made over $67.4 billion during that period, growing his net worth by 273.8%, according to IPS. Mark Zuckerberg‘s fortune grew by $49.9 billion (an increase of 83.9%) between March and September, while Jeff Bezos profited so much that in August he briefly became the first person in history with apersonal net worth over $200 billion, per IPS.Though the total number of unemployed Americans has fallen from its April peak, the national unemployment rate is still 8.4%, Business Insider’s Carmen Reinicke reported on September 4. At the same time, 29 million adults reported their households sometimes or often didn’t have enough to eat in the past week, 15 million renters are falling behind on their payments, and a growing share of furloughed workers fear they may never get their jobs back.”One way to think about the current economy is that two trends are soaring pretty solidly upward,” economist Dr. Jared Bernstein during a virtual press conference on New York State’s wealth tax debate September 10, “one is the stock market, and one is hunger.”Many of the largest net worth gains by billionaires are closely tied to their company’s performance on the stock market, which has hit record highs despite the turmoil in the rest of the economy since an initial drop in February. The spike in Musk’s net worth, for example, was driven almost entirely by a spike in Tesla’s share price, which then unlocked various parts of his complex compensation package.Economists fear that billionaires’ recent success indicates that while businesses in the technology and retail sectors are rebounding, many businesses that once employed low wage workers in travel, entertainment, and food services might not. “This is a K-shaped recovery, meaning that it is being experienced very differently by those at the top and those at the middle and the bottom,” Bernstein said. “The finance sector is currently reaping windfalls.”

Trump is using the coronavirus as an excuse to go full kleptocrat, and the GOP is going right along with him Trump and his associates are using the confusion and desperation of the coronavirus to enrich themselves like kleptocrats, and the GOP is going right along with it. We are living in a strange moment. The entire whole world is hanging on to any and every word about a vaccine for COVID-19. The entire world needs the same supplies to get through pandemic. These conditions have created a low information environment where certain goods and information are extremely valuable. It just so happens that those with access to those goods and that information are in the White House. And it just so happens that the people in the White House have no scruples to speak of. From the beginning, Trump has handled the scientific, economic, financial, and logistical challenge of the coronavirus like a kleptocrat would – by keeping things within the family/inner circle. This set up is why kleptocracies are rife with fraud, waste, and incompetence. Those with experience need not apply.Trump’s family beneficiary during the pandemic has been his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who was placed in charge of the coronavirus response. Once in charge Kushner then, according to Vanity Fair,hired his friends. He eschewed government agencies with the capabilities to fight the pandemic and conducted his task force’s business in secret, off of government emails and other official modes of communication. Secrecy and opacity are a key elements of kleptocracy.That task force prioritized friends of the president when it came to distributing personal protective equipment. Kushner ignored and subverted the needs of Americans in order to reward and punish his father-in-laws friends and enemies. That is what kleptocrats do with resources. While all of this was going on at the White House, Wall Street was starting to experience the kinds of peculiarities one might expect in a market where there is something strange afoot. The one thing linking all of these odd bubbles and distortions was and is the Trump administration. To address these and other market inconsistencies that have resulted from the pandemic, a subcommittee of the House Financial Services committee held a hearing called “Insider Trading and Stock Option Grants: An Examination of Corporate Integrity in the COVID-19 Pandemic” earlier this month. What was shocking about the hearing was not what the witnesses said. Everyone agreed that the pandemic has created irregular conditions in the market, and that some actors are benefiting. What was strange was the petulance from Republicans who insisted – despite the strangeness of our times – that the hearing was completely unnecessary. They did not want more transparency around why, when, or how companies make disclosures related to the pandemic. They did not want there to be more scrutiny around executive share compensation. In short: Nothing to see here.

GOP asks Supreme Court to halt mail voting extension in Pennsylvania — Republicans on Monday asked the Supreme Court to halt a major Pennsylvania state court ruling that extended the due date for mail ballots in the key battleground, teeing up the first test for the high court since the death of its liberal leader Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The filing comes after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled against the GOP in an election lawsuit that could help shape the race between President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden in the Keystone State, which the president won by just over 44,000 votes in 2016. The Pennsylvania court’s decision earlier this month requires election officials to accept ballots postmarked by Election Day, as long as they arrive within three days. The ruling was seen as a win for Democrats, since Biden voters are more likely than Trump supporters to vote by mail in November. In their Monday filing, top officials from Pennsylvania’s GOP-held legislature asked the U.S. Supreme Court to pause the ruling while they formally appeal to the justices. “In the middle of an ongoing election, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has altered the rules of the election and extended the 2020 General Election beyond the ‘Time’ established by the state legislature,” they wrote. “In doing so, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has violated federal law and the federal Constitution.” #160;

September 29, 2020 – 5 Federal Courts Have Ruled Against the USPS – Prof. Steve Hutkins at Save the Post Office adds information on court rulings. The Postal Service is now 0 and 5 in the eleven lawsuits filed against it as a result of the mail delays caused by the operational changes that went into effect in July. Yesterday two more orders were against the Postal Service. In Pennsylvania v DeJoy, Judge Gerald McHugh of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled that the Postal Service can’t restrict extra or late trips for mail delivery and can’t prohibit overtime. In Vote Forward v DeJoy, Judge Emmet Sullivan issued his second order against the Postal Service. Here are the five orders that have been issued in federal courts banning the Postal Service from making the kinds of operational changes that caused delays over the summer:

  • Pennsylvania v DeJoy, Judge Gerald A. McHugh, Pennsylvania Eastern District Court (Sept. 28, 2020)
  • Vote Forward v DeJoy, Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, District Of Columbia District Court (Sept. 28, 2020)
  • New York v USPS, Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, District of Columbia District Court (Sept. 27, 2020)
  • Jones v USPS, Judge Victor Marrero, New York Southern District Court (Sept. 25, 2020)
  • Washington v Trump, Judge Stanley A. Bastian, Washington Eastern District Court (Sept. 17, 2020)

As a result of these five preliminary injunctions, the Postal Service has had to walk back all the changes it made over the summer as well as making all sorts of commitments about what it will do to ensure timely delivery of mail ballots. That’s good news for voters and others who depend on the Postal Service for things like their medications. These five rulings should mean something else as well. The Postmaster General and the Board of Governors have received the strongest of rebukes from four federal judges in five cases representing twenty-four states, several national organizations, and many individuals. This turn of events has to be unprecedented, and it has been a total embarrassment for the Postal Service’s leaders. It won’t happen, but they should be thinking about resigning.

How Bankers Hide Losses – In view of the severity of the Covid-19 crisis, regulators have decided to be less sneaky this time around. They have openly advised examiners and bank accountants to help troubled bankers to make loan losses disappear from their firms’ balance sheets and income statements. Allowing too-big-to-fail banks to misrepresent the depth of their accumulating losses is one leg of a conscious strategy through which bankers and regulators hope to lessen the threat of destructive Covid-driven systemic runs on the world’s banking systems. The second leg of the strategy rests on another fiction. Prudential regulators around the world are telling us that they can and do maintain financial stability by assuring the adequacy of what they call “bank capital.” But the statistical measures of bank capital on which regulators focus their efforts are nothing more than repurposed variants of a bank’s accounting net worth. With accountants able to conceal the impact of losses on accounting net worth, until and unless unsophisticated household depositors begin to fear that a bank may have let itself become deeply insolvent, the effectiveness of this control framework is being badly oversold.In an industry crisis, this disposition toward supervisory informational deception and regulatory forbearance creates a risk-hungry herd of what economists now characterize as “zombie” banks. A zombie bank is a financial institution whose economic net worth is less than zero, but which can continue to operate because its ability to repay its debts is credibly backed up by a combination of implicit and explicit government credit support.A zombie’s managers can not only keep themselves in business, they can grow their assets massively. But they can only do this when and as long as creditors are confident that government officials somewhere are ready and able to force their country’s taxpayers to make good on any missed payments. Almost no matter what interest rate a central bank or deposit insurer charges a zombie for its emergency credit support, the funding is almost always being offered at what isde facto a subsidized rate. In providing this subsidy, taxpayers accept a poorly compensated equity stake in the survival of the zombie enterprise. This blog seeks to explain that teams of financial illusionists stand ready to conceal developing losses and other forms of dishonest behavior. Bankers’ and regulators’ capacities for deception make it self-defeating for taxpayers to accept a social contract that turns on accounting measures of capital and self-administered stress tests. I believe that the world’s system for penalizing accounting misrepresentation at government-insured financial institutions desperately needs to include the possibility of imposing criminal as well as civil penalties on violators. The processes through which bankers extract benefits from the safety net closely resemble those of embezzlement and the rewards bankers garner usually rise to the level of grand larceny. The difference between street crime and safety-net abuse lies mainly in the class and clout of the criminal and the subtlety of the crime.

Fed will extend freeze on stock buybacks, cap on dividends – The Federal Reserve is extending its ban on stock buybacks for banks with more than $100 billion of assets into the fourth quarter and will cap dividend payments using a formula based on recent income. The move will “ensure that large banks maintain a high level of capital resilience,” the Fed said Wednesday in a news release. It mirrors one the central bank took in June after conducting its annual stress tests, which found that each of the 34 banks tested were generally able to maintain the minimum capital requirements under hypothetical economic recoveries from the coronavirus pandemic, although several breached the minimum in the most severe scenario. The Fed had restricted share repurchases during the third quarter, and it had limited dividend distributions to the levels banks paid out in the second quarter or the average of the last four quarters, whichever was less. “The capital positions of large banks have remained strong during the third quarter while such restrictions were in place,” the Fed said. Fed Gov. Lael Brainard voted against the action. Her reason was not immediately available, but Brainhard had voted against the Fed’s similar decision in June, arguing that while she agreed with the agency’s move to limit stock repurchases and dividend payouts, even more dramatic actions were likely warranted. The Fed is holding the first-ever “midcycle” stress test to get a firmer grasp of banks’ capital strength since onset of the coronavirus pandemic, with the results of those tests expected by the end of this year. The most recent results of the Fed’s normal test were based significantly on year-end 2019 financial data, while the supplemental tests will use data from this year’s economic shock and could be used to make a decision on dividend payments and share repurchases for the first quarter of 2021.

The New York Fed, Pumping Out More than $9 Trillion in Bailouts Since September, Gets Market Advice from Giant Hedge Funds by Pam Martens – ~ The New York Fed, the unlimited money spigot in times of need by Wall Street’s trading houses, has been conducting meetings with hedge funds to get their input on the markets. More on that in a moment, but first some necessary background. { … ] According to a research report released in December by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), four large banks and hedge funds were responsible for the repo blowup in September.Which brings us to the New York Fed’s Investor Advisory Committee on Financial Markets (IACFM) which it initiated in the midst of the last financial crisis on July 24, 2009. Today, half of the Committee’s participants are executives of giant hedge funds, including: William A. Ackman, Chief Executive Officer, Pershing Square Capital Management, L.P.; Paul Tudor Jones, Co-Chairman & Chief Investment Officer, Tudor Investment Corp.; Ray Dalio, Chairman & Co-Chief Investment Officer, Bridgewater Associates, LP; Dawn Fitzpatrick, Chief Investment Officer, Soros Fund Management; Bob Jain, Co-Chief Investment Officer, Millennium Management; Scott Minerd, Global Chief Investment Officer and Managing Partner, Guggenheim Partners.The group meets quarterly. The minutes are so scrubbed that they barely provide any idea of what was actually discussed. The October 9, 2019 meeting minutes, which followed the onset of the New York Fed’s massive repo loan operations, contains this well-scrubbed assessment:”They [the participants] also noted that the Fed repo operations had alleviated funding strains, though they remained focused on year end pressures. Some of these attendees thought that over time some investors may set aside cash to deploy in the event of a reoccurrence of funding pressures, which may also mitigate some of these pressures in the future.”Since the Fed’s inception in 1913, the statutory role of the Federal Reserve has been to serve as lender of last resort to commercial banks – so that those commercial banks could help the overall economy by making sound business and consumer loans. The statutory role of the Fed has never been to be a lender of last resort to the trading houses on Wall Street or hedge funds. But beginning with the 2007 to 2010 financial crisis, the New York Fed has simply arbitrarily decided to provide an unlimited money spigot to Wall Street’s trading houses whenever they are at risk of blowing themselves up as a result of their own hubris.To say that Congress has been negligent in reining in this abuse barely captures the reckless irresponsibility of what the New York Fed has been allowed to continue to do with barely a whimper from Congress or mainstream media. For just a sampling of its captured regulator status, see the related articles below.

Fed aims to give less complex banks relief in capital planning rule – The Federal Reserve proposed aligning new capital planning and stress test requirements for large banks with a supervisory regime that it established last year. The central bank has recently updated how it assesses banks’ capital strength under a variety of economic scenarios, including finalizing the new stress capital buffer in March. The proposal unveiled Wednesday would link those updates with the tailoring framework created last year. The supervisory framework, mandated in part by the 2018 regulatory relief law, created four distinct categories of institutions facing differing levels of requirements based on their complexity. The most demanding Category 1 banks includes the eight most complex firms – the U.S.-based global systemically important banks – with banks in the three other categories facing gradually less rigorous standards. The new proposal would align the Fed’s capital plan rule and stress capital buffer requirements with the four-tier tailoring framework. For example, Category 4 banks – defined as institutions with between $100 billion and $500 billion of assets – would have greater flexibility in developing capital plans and be excused from certain reporting requirements. However, the proposal would not alter any bank’s capital requirements. Under the proposal, Category 4 banks would still be required to submit a capital plan to the Fed each year, but would no longer be required to calculate estimates of projected revenues, losses, reserves and minimum capital levels using the Fed’s stress test scenarios. Those firms would still have to submit a forward-looking income analysis as well as projected capital levels under baseline and severely adverse conditions. However, the Fed would retain the ability to have Category 4 banks submit a capital plan under the Fed’s scenarios based on either the economic outlook or a firm’s financial condition, the regulator said in its proposal. “While the proposal would no longer require firms subject to Category IV standards to include certain elements in their capital plans, all banking organizations, regardless of size and complexity, are expected to have the capacity to analyze the potential impact of adverse outcomes on their financial condition, including on capital,” the Fed said. The Fed also proposed that for years when Category 4 banks are not subject to the stress testing cycle, those firms would get an up-to-date stress capital buffer requirement that would account for planned dividend payments. But those banks would also be able to undergo a stress test in an off-year in order to get a new stress capital buffer requirement to better reflect its risk profile.

House PPP forgiveness plan is better than nothing, bankers say – Bankers have mixed views of the latest proposal to revamp the Paycheck Protection Program.Though underwhelmed by the PPP plan outlined in a new stimulus bill introduced by House Democrats, lenders are eager to see any progress on legislation to reauthorize and improve the program. And they are still concerned the effort will remain mired in an ongoing impasse over a new round of economic stimulus.Under a proposed $2.2 trillion stimulus package, PPP loans of $50,000 or less would be automatically forgiven. A simplified forgiveness application would be offered for loans of $50,000 to $150,000. “If this is an opening salvo, it’s a good first step,” said James Ballentine, executive vice president of congressional relations at the American Bankers Association. “Our goal is for them to get something done before they leave town.” Bankers who have lobbied for automatic forgiveness for loans of up to $150,000 expressed disappointment with the lower cutoff. About 85% of all PPP loans would benefit from the higher cap, said John Buhrmaster, president and CEO of the $559 million-asset 1st National Bank of Scotia in Scotia, N.Y. “Those are the small businesses that really needed the money,” Buhrmaster said, adding that a smaller threshold “statistically doesn’t make a lot of sense.” But any progress would be welcome news. The PPP has been on hiatus since early August, and lenders have grown increasingly frustrated with the complexities of having their borrowers’ loans forgiven. Ten trade groups, including the ABA and the Independent Community Bankers of America, recently sent a letter to legislative leaders urging them to pass legislation reauthorizing the Paycheck program.

Community bankers adopt bunker mentality as pandemic drags on – Community banks entered a holding pattern in the initial months of the pandemic, reflecting an abrupt shift in concerns from liquidity and growth opportunities to deteriorating economic conditions, according to a new survey. Very few have been pursuing acquisitions or investing heavily in new technologies, and staffing has been reduced, according to this year’s poll of 396 bankers by the Conference of State Bank Supervisors. The results of the survey, conducted between April and July, were presented Wednesday in conjunction with the annual community banking research and policy conference hosted by the Federal Reserve, the CSBS and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Only 13% of the respondents had tried to buy another bank over the prior 12 months. While banks are expected to embrace technology over time, more than half have no plan to add online loan closings over the next year. Nearly 70% aren’t looking at automated underwriting. Interactive teller machines remained unpopular; two-thirds of bankers said they have no interest in adding them over the next 12 months. Community banks cut 9,900 full-time equivalent jobs during the second quarter, or roughly 2% of the staff they employed on March 31, according to data compiled by the FDIC. The CSBS survey found that about 5% of respondents reduced staff in response to the pandemic. Community banks, defined by the survey as those with assets of $10 billion or less, are contending with uncertain operating conditions that have stunted loan growth and threatened credit quality. More than a third of respondents said business conditions were their biggest challenge. Core deposit growth, bankers’ greatest challenge a year earlier, was less of a concern after deposits surged once small businesses banked their Paycheck Protection Program proceeds.

Coronavirus dims outlook for new credit union charters – Launching a new credit union is a daunting task in an optimal operating environment, but doing it during a global pandemic can be a monumental challenge. Organizers of de novo credit unions “are going to need a loyal and decent-sized member base and a lot of patience from the regulator,” said Peter Duffy, an analyst for Piper Sandler. The industry already loses more than 150 credit unions each year due to mergers or, more rarely, liquidations, so the number of new charters isn’t nearly enough to keep up with the rate of consolidation. And with most of the credit unions being merged out showing up at the lower end of the asset spectrum, any slowdown in new charters only exacerbates the divide between large and small institutions. According to recent NCUA data, credit unions over $1 billion in assets make up just 7% of the total industry but hold more than 70% of total assets. New credit unions typically need one to three years from conception to the time they’re awarded a charter, after which the issue becomes whether they can survive in the current economic climate, said Geoff Bacino, an industry consultant and former member of the National Credit Union Administration board. Because credit unions don’t raise capital, he said, retained earnings then become the security net. The coronavirus pandemic and the increase in remote examinations has stretched NCUA’s resources, limiting the attention and guidance the agency can provide for startups, Bacino added. “Since the pandemic doesn’t show signs of receding, it should be assumed that this is the new normal and the impact will be felt for a while,” he said. The credit union industry has seen very little new blood enter the space in the form of de novos. Since 2014, the NCUA has granted only 16 new charters, including two last year. One of those was Maine Harvest Federal Credit Union in Unity, Maine, which today holds $2.6 million in assets. The credit union’s second-quarter call report shows losses of more than $59,000, with noninterest expenses having doubled since March.

Oversight council warns of systemic threat from Fannie, Freddie – The Financial Stability Oversight Council has acknowledged for the first time that any financial strain at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would threaten financial stability, and it said the companies may need more of a capital cushion than its regulator has proposed. The FSOC – created by the Dodd-Frank Act to monitor the financial system for looming risks and currently chaired by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin – came to that conclusion after conducting a review of the secondary mortgage market as part of its recent shift to an activities-based approach to identifying systemic dangers. The announcement occurred Friday, weeks after the public comment period closed on the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s post-conservatorship capital framework for Fannie and Freddie. The FHFA proposal would require the government-sponsored enterprises to hold more than five times their current capital levels and align their capital standards more closely with those of banks. The FHFA is aiming to finalize the proposed requirements by the end of this year so that Fannie and Freddie can begin the process of raising the capital needed to exit conservatorship in 2021. In a statement approved during a council meeting, the FSOC said that capital requirements that are “materially less than those contemplated by the proposed rule” would likely not address the risk that Fannie and Freddie pose to financial stability. “Moreover, it is possible that additional capital could be required for the enterprises to remain viable concerns in the event of a severely adverse stress, particularly if the enterprises’ asset quality were ever to deteriorate to levels comparable to the experience leading up to 2008 financial crisis,” Howard Adler, deputy assistant secretary for the council, said during a presentation at Friday’s meeting. The working group that the FSOC set up during the summer – which included staff from Treasury, the FHFA and the Federal Reserve – also found that the proposed framework’s use of a stress capital buffer and a stability capital buffer could be risk-insensitive, because the buffers are based on total adjusted assets and not risk-weighted assets. “For that reason, the statement encourages FHFA to consider the relative merits of alternative approaches for more dynamically calibrating the capital buffers,” Adler said. However, the council stopped short of designating Fannie and Freddie as “systemically important financial institutions.” But the FSOC also added that if it finds that FHFA’s final capital framework and other regulatory requirements, like stress testing and resolution planning, are inadequate, it would consider such a designation for either the GSEs or their activities. That designation would accompany banklike supervision from the Federal Reserve and supplementary regulatory requirements that could include stress tests, higher capital standards and the need to submit “living wills.” The FSOC finalized a new process in December that moved emphasis away from designating “systemically important” nonbanks for tougher regulation in favor of looking at potentially risky activities in a certain sector across multiple institutions, but the panel still has the authority to designate individual firms as SIFIs. In a statement, FHFA Director Mark Calabria, who has a seat on the oversight council, applauded the FSOC for recognizing the risk Fannie and Freddie pose to the financial system, and said that the agency would consider the panel’s findings as it looks to finalize the capital rule “in the coming months.” “As the council found, risk-based capital and leverage ratio requirements materially less than those in the proposed rule would likely not adequately mitigate the potential stability risk posed by the enterprises,” Calabria said. “Indeed, more capital might be necessary.”

Fed’s Wells Fargo review should consider forbearance snafu- Warren – Wells Fargo is once again drawing criticism from Sen. Elizabeth Warren – this time for placing homeowners in forbearance plans during the pandemic without their consent. Warren is asking the Federal Reserve Board to consider Wells’s flawed approach to forbearance in the COVID-19 crisis as the Fed reviews the status of the asset cap placed on the bank in February 2018. “This recent incident is another stark reminder that Wells Fargo has not yet implemented the types of structural reforms needed,” the Massachusetts Democrat wrote in a letter Wednesday to Fed Chair Jerome Powell, “and that much additional progress is necessary before the Fed begins to consider permanently lifting the asset cap.” The San Francisco bank provided Warren information about the unrequested forbearance plans early last month. On Thursday, Warren publicly released Wells Fargo’s Sept. 4 letter, as well as certain documents that the bank also shared. Wells Fargo’s letter states that the bank has received approximately 1,600 complaints from customers saying that they did not request a forbearance. The bank did not provide a total number of customers who received a forbearance without their consent, though it did provide additional details about what it has learned so far. Wells has identified 904 instances in which homeowners who were in bankruptcy proceedings were placed into forbearance plans that they did not request, according to the bank’s letter. Roughly 38% of those borrowers have since confirmed that they did not want to be placed into forbearance. Forbearance plans allow borrowers to skip their monthly payments, which will be due at a later date. Wells also acknowledged that an unspecified number of homeowners who contacted the bank about a pandemic-related hardship were placed into forbearance even though they did not request that option. “We subsequently changed our practices to ensure that customer service representatives expressly confirmed a customer’s intent before providing a forbearance,” Kristy Fercho, Wells Fargo’s head of home lending, wrote in the letter to Warren. Wells has been contacting borrowers who may not have wanted forbearances they received, including some who did ask for a payment deferral on a mortgage or home equity account, but also received one on another linked account. The bank has not said how many borrowers fall into that category. “We have been proactively reaching out to customers to resolve these concerns,” Wells Fargo spokesman Tom Goyda said in an email Thursday. “We are removing forbearances when requested, adjusting credit reporting and working directly with any customer who received an unwanted payment suspension.”

State regulator group offers guidance for mortgage servicing oversight – The Conference of State Bank Supervisors unveiled a proposed set of best practices for state oversight of nonbank mortgage servicers. The proposal, with public feedback due Dec. 31, pointed to “a changed nonbank mortgage market” as the driving force behind the plan. “Given their credentialing, licensing and examination authority over nonbank mortgage servicers, state regulators play a central role in ensuring that these entities conduct servicing operations in a safe and sound manner and have strong consumer protections in place,” the CSBS said. The proposal released Thursday “would only become effective through state law, rule or other formal undertaking,” the group said. According to the CSBS, the proposal is structured around codifying existing best practices for supervising nonbank mortgage servicers. The plan would be modeled after federal servicing standards developed by the Federal Housing Finance Agency and other agencies and be used to oversee companies that currently are subject to state regimes. While the proposal would ostensibly cover any business that services a mortgage under state supervision, the CSBS indicated it would be open to establishing some type of minimal threshold, even for requirements it described as “baseline.” “Nonbank servicer coverage in this proposal is intentionally unspecific,” the CSBS wrote, but the group also included a question for comment about whether there should be “a de minimis threshold.” On data standards, the CSBS said that while most federal regulation requires only entities that service more than 5,000 loans in a given year to comply with certain requirements, such as those under the Truth in Lending Act, the states’ proposal would “apply to all nonbank mortgage servicers and all serviced loans.” The organization’s proposal also distinguishes between “baseline” and “enhanced” supervisory requirements for more complex servicing operations, with mortgage servicing rights that total “the lesser of $100 billion or representing at least a 2.5% total market share.” Servicers meeting the definition of “enhanced” would be subject to more robust capital and liquidity requirements, in addition to stress testing and being required to have living wills. Under their proposal, state supervisors would have the option of designating certain servicers as “complex” depending on “a unique risk profile, growth, market importance, or financial condition of the institution.” On risk management, servicers would be required to “establish a risk management program under the oversight of the board of directors” with “appropriate processes and models in place to measure, monitor and mitigate financial risks and changes to the risk profile of the firm and assets being serviced.”

Fannie Mae: Mortgage Serious Delinquency Rate Increased in August -Fannie Mae reported that the Single-Family Serious Delinquency increased to 3.32% in August, from 3.24% in July. The serious delinquency rate is up from 0.67% in August 2019. This is the highest serious delinquency rate since October 2012. These are mortgage loans that are “three monthly payments or more past due or in foreclosure”. The Fannie Mae serious delinquency rate peaked in February 2010 at 5.59%. By vintage, for loans made in 2004 or earlier (2% of portfolio), 5.79% are seriously delinquent (up from 5.57% in July). For loans made in 2005 through 2008 (3% of portfolio), 9.74% are seriously delinquent(up from 9.36%), For recent loans, originated in 2009 through 2018 (95% of portfolio), 2.86% are seriously delinquent (up from 2.79%). So Fannie is still working through a few poor performing loans from the bubble years. Mortgages in forbearance are counted as delinquent in this monthly report, but they will not be reported to the credit bureaus. This is very different from the increase in delinquencies following the housing bubble. Lending standards have been fairly solid over the last decade, and most of these homeowners have equity in their homes – and they will be able to restructure their loans once they are employed.

MBA Survey: “Share of Mortgage Loans in Forbearance Declines to 6.87%” Note: This is as of September 20th. From the MBA: Share of Mortgage Loans in Forbearance Declines to 6.87% The Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) latest Forbearance and Call Volume Survey revealed that the total number of loans now in forbearance decreased by 6 basis points from 6.93% of servicers’ portfolio volume in the prior week to 6.87% as of September 20, 2020. According to MBA’s estimate, 3.4 million homeowners are in forbearance plans….”The share of loans in forbearance continues to decline and is now at a level not seen since mid-April. Many homeowners with GSE loans are exiting forbearance into a deferral plan and resuming their original mortgage payment, but waiting to pay the forborne amount until the end of the loan,” said Mike Fratantoni, MBA’s Senior Vice President and Chief Economist. “However, the overall picture is still somewhat of a mixed bag. The recent uptick in forbearance requests, particularly for those with FHA or VA loans, is leaving the Ginnie Mae share elevated, as the pace of new requests meets or exceeds the pace of exits.”Added Fratantoni, “The continued churn in the job market is likely keeping many homeowners who have been in forbearance reluctant to exit, given the level of economic uncertainty.”…By stage, 30.26% of total loans in forbearance are in the initial forbearance plan stage, while 68.37% are in a forbearance extension. The remaining 1.37% are forbearance re-entries.This graph shows the percent of portfolio in forbearance by investor type over time. Most of the increase was in late March and early April, and has been trending down for the last few months.The MBA notes: “Total weekly forbearance requests as a percent of servicing portfolio volume (#) increased relative to the prior week: from 0.10% to 0.11%”There hasn’t been a pickup in forbearance activity related to the end of the extra unemployment benefits.

Commercial Real Estate Scarring – Here is an article related to some of the commercial real estate (CRE) scarring from the pandemic recession. From the Financial Times: Destruction of value in US real estate revealed by appraisal data. The article suggests some CRE valuations have declined 25% since early this year. We will also see a decline in new CRE construction next year based on the recent architect billings, from the AIA: “Architectural billings in August still show little sign of improvement” And hotel occupancy is down 32% year-over-year, and RevPAR (Revenue per available room) is down over 50% year-over-year. The most significant damage will be to malls, hotels and some office properties, and also some losses for commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) investors. The goods news is the CMBS market is much smaller than the residential MBS market, and loan-to-values (LTV) are typically much lower for commercial properties than residential. So this will not be a repeat of the housing bubble (or the S&L crisis of the 1980s and early ’90s).

Hotels: Occupancy Rate Declined 31.5% Year-over-year – From HotelNewsNow.com: STR: U.S. hotel results for week ending 26 September: U.S. hotel occupancy remained nearly flat from the previous week, according to the latest data from STR through 26 September.

20-26 September 2020 (percentage change from comparable week in 2019):

Occupancy: 48.7% (-31.5%)

Average daily rate (ADR): US$96.38 (-29.6%)

Revenue per available room (RevPAR): US$46.96 (-51.7%)

Most of the markets with the highest occupancy levels were those in areas with displaced residents from natural disasters. Affected by Hurricane Sally, Mobile, Alabama, reported the week’s highest occupancy level at 74.9%. Amid continued wildfires, California South/Central was next at 74.3%. The following graph shows the seasonal pattern for the hotel occupancy rate using the four week average.

San Francisco Rents in Free-Fall. New York Rents Swoon. Expensive Cities, College Towns, Cities in Texas, Other States Sag. But in 16 Cities, Rents Jump Double-Digits -The combination of work-from-anywhere, ridiculously expensive rents, and coronavirus-fears associated with being on crowded elevators in apartment towers, is doing a job on the rental market in San Francisco. And not just in San Francisco, but also in New York, Seattle, Boston, San Jose, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Denver, and other expensive big-city rental markets. But it’s hitting San Francisco, the most expensive rental market, the hardest.In some other markets, rents are skyrocketing. So here we go with our roller-coaster ride through the cities.San Francisco rents in free-fall but still ridiculously crazy expensive.The median asking rent for one-bedroom apartments in San Francisco plunged by 6.9% in September from August, after having plunged by 5.0% in August from July, to $2,830. This brings the five-month decline since April to 19%, and the 12-month decline to 20%, according to data from Zumper’s Rent Report. From the peak in June 2019 – which had eked past by a hair the prior high of October 2015 – the median asking rent for 1-BR apartments has plunged 24%!For 2-BR apartments in San Francisco, the median asking rent plunged by 6.6% in September from August, after having plunged by 3.3% in August from July, to $3,800, bringing the five-month decline since April to 16% and the 12-month decline to 20%. And 24% from the peak in October 2015.To convert this plunge from percentages into fiat, so to speak, the median asking rent for a 2-BR apartment has plunged by $950 from September a year ago, and by $1,200 from the peak in October 2015. This is no longer a rounding error.These median asking rents do not include concessions, such as “one month free” or “two months free” or “free parking for a year” and the like. These concessions have the effect of drastically lowering the rent further. “Two-months free” lowers the rent over the 14-month period by 16%. Concessions, instead of rent cuts, allow landlords to show the monthly rents, as they’re spelled out in the lease, without the concessions, to their now very nervous banks.Despite this huge drop in rents, in terms of cities, San Francisco remains the most ridiculously crazy-expensive rental market in the US. But in terms of zip codes, there are a handful of zip codes in Manhattan and in Los Angeles that are more expensive than the most expensive zip code in San Francisco. “Free upgrades” is what the people who have decided to stay in San Francisco are now looking for. This is the strategy of shopping around among the soaring vacancies for an apartment with the same rent or even lower rent, but of much higher quality and in a better location. It creates churn. Landlords that lost a tenant to a “free upgrade” now have to price their vacant unit competitively, meaning undercutting other offers. This churn and the high vacancies explain the rapid reaction of the market to the current situation. The City of Boom and Bust always. And now is the bust.

Six Months After The Pandemic Started- Manhattan Offices Are Only 10% Full – A vibrant economic recovery of America’s largest city that is New York City, depends on the return of office workers; otherwise, the absence of white-collar folks means a painful recovery is ahead. As of Sept. 18, about six months after the virus pandemic began, only 10% of Manhattan office workers were back, according to The Wall Street Journal, quoting commercial real estate services and investment firm CBRE Group Inc.’s latest report. That represents a slight uptick from the 6% to 8% level seen in July, a month after strict social distancing measures were eased because of the virus pandemic. Months and months of empty office buildings across the borough paralyzed the local economy, which resulted in a collapse in consumption as workers stayed home. The spillover effect has since led to a collapse in small businesses across the area. CBRE’s report noted on a national level, about a quarter of office workers returned to their desks in September. The figure was higher in certain metropolitan areas such as Dallas at 40% and the Los Angeles metro area at 32%. The reoccupation rate across NYC is 32%. The low rate of office workers returning to Manhattan is a significant disappointment for anyone who remotely thought NYC’s economic recovery would resemble a “V” by the fourth quarter of 2020. With new clusters of cases emerging in Brooklyn and NYC’s northern suburbs in recent days, new fears of restrictions to businesses and schools could be nearing. Already, mobility trends around the city, according to Apple’s Mobility Trends Tracker, shows driving, walking, and transit is slumping as the virus cases are increasing in the city.

Half of NYC restaurants, bars may close for good due to COVID-19: audit – As many as half of all New York City bars and restaurants could shutter permanently within the next six months due to the coronavirus, according to a stunning new audit released Thursday by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. The report lays bare the extent of the pandemic’s fiscal impact on one of the city’s lifeblood industries, which only saw a return to indoor dining on Wednesday – at a meager 25 percent of normal seating capacity. “The industry is challenging under the best of circumstances, and many eateries operate on tight margins,” said DiNapoli. “Now they face an unprecedented upheaval that may cause many establishments to close forever.” In the next half-year, a third to half of all city bars and eateries could fall past the point of no return, potentially taking over 150,000 jobs with them, DiNapoli found. Nearly three-quarters of those employed in the city’s restaurant industry already found themselves jobless at the height of the pandemic, according to the report. In 2019, the city’s restaurant industry accounted for 317,800 jobs, paid out $10.7 billion in wages and made more than $27 billion in taxable sales, the report said. By April, as the coronavirus gripped the city and government mandates nixed indoor service, the industry’s employment tanked to 91,000 jobs, according to the audit. A city initiative to expand and expedite applications for outdoor dining – recently approved as a permanent, year-round program – helped boost employment numbers to 174,000 by August, DiNapoli found.

Construction Spending Increased 1.4% in August – From the Census Bureau reported that overall construction spending decreased in June: Construction spending during August 2020 was estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1,412.8 billion, 1.4 percent above the revised July estimate of $1,392.7 billion. The August figure is 2.5 percent above the August 2019 estimate of $1,379.0 billion. Both private and public spending increased: Spending on private construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1,061.4 billion, 1.9 percent above the revised July estimate of $1,041.7 billion. … In August, the estimated seasonally adjusted annual rate of public construction spending was $351.4 billion, 0.1 percent above the revised July estimate of $350.9 billion.This graph shows private residential and nonresidential construction spending, and public spending, since 1993. Note: nominal dollars, not inflation adjusted. Residential spending is 13% below the previous peak. Non-residential spending is 14% above the previous peak in January 2008 (nominal dollars), but has been weak recently. Public construction spending is 8% above the previous peak in March 2009, and 34% above the austerity low in February 2014. Year-over-year Construction SpendingThe second graph shows the year-over-year change in construction spending. On a year-over-year basis, private residential construction spending is up 6.7%. Non-residential spending is down 4.3% year-over-year. Public spending is up 5.5% year-over-year. This was above consensus expectations of a 0.7% increase in spending, and construction spending for the previous two months was revised up. Construction was considered an essential service in most areas and did not decline sharply like many other sectors, but it seems likely that non-residential, and possibly public spending, will be under pressure.

Household Wealth Rose in Years Before Pandemic, Fed Says – WSJ – U.S. families’ income and wealth rose in the years heading into the coronavirus pandemic, with those in lower-income and lower-wealth categories reaping relatively large gains, the Federal Reserve said in a report on household finances. As property and stock prices increased, households’ median net worth, or wealth, rose 18% to $121,700 from 2016 to 2019, according to the Fed’s Survey of Consumer Finances released on Monday. The report is produced every three years. Median household income – the level at which half are above and half are below – rose 5% to $58,600, before taxes and adjusted for inflation. The rise in incomes came as the economy grew 2.5% a year on average, inflation remained low and the unemployment rate fell. The data suggest households were on a relatively solid financial footing headed into the coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic triggered an initial shock that hurt all aspects of the economy, including income, but government stimulus, recent improvement in the labor market and enhanced unemployment benefits have helped prop up household finances. The most recent Commerce Department data for July show that Americans’ personal income was higher that month than in February, just before the pandemic. Household spending in July was lower than in February and Americans saved nearly 18% of their disposable personal income, more than double the rate in February. The recession and high rate of unemployment triggered by Covid-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus, threaten to erode income and wealth gains of recent years, economists say. Many say that government stimulus, including enhanced unemployment benefits, has helped bolster incomes and the economy.

Consumer Confidence Bounces Back in September – The headline number of 101.8 was an increase from the final reading of 86.3 for July. Today’s number was above the Investing.com consensus of 89.2.“Consumer Confidence increased sharply in September, after back-to-back monthly declines, but remains below pre-pandemic levels,” said Lynn Franco, Senior Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board. “A more favorable view of current business and labor market conditions, coupled with renewed optimism about the short-term outlook, helped spur this month’s rebound in confidence. Consumers also expressed greater optimism about their short-term financial prospects, which may help keep spending from slowing further in the months ahead.” Read more The chart below is another attempt to evaluate the historical context for this index as a coincident indicator of the economy. Toward this end, we have highlighted recessions and included GDP. The regression through the index data shows the long-term trend and highlights the extreme volatility of this indicator. Statisticians may assign little significance to a regression through this sort of data. But the slope resembles the regression trend for real GDP shown below, and it is a more revealing gauge of relative confidence than the 1985 level of 100 that the Conference Board cites as a point of reference.

Personal Income decreased 2.7% in August, Spending increased 1.0% –The BEA released the Personal Income and Outlays report for August: Personal income decreased $543.5 billion (2.7 percent) in August according to estimates released today by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Disposable personal income (DPI) decreased $570.9 billion (3.2 percent) and personal consumption expenditures (PCE) increased $141.1 billion (1.0 percent). Real DPI decreased 3.5 percent in August and Real PCE increased 0.7 percent. The PCE price index increased 0.3 percent. Excluding food and energy, the PCE price index increased 0.3 percent.The decrease in personal income was below expectations, and the increase in PCE was above expectations. The August PCE price index increased 1.4 percent year-over-year and the August PCE price index, excluding food and energy, increased 1.6 percent year-over-year.The following graph shows real Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) since January 2019 through August 2020 (2012 dollars). Note that the y-axis doesn’t start at zero to better show the change.

Real Disposable Income Per Capita in August –With the release of this morning’s report on August Personal Incomes and Outlays, we can now take a closer look at “Real” Disposable Personal Income Per Capita. At two decimal places, the nominal -3.24% month-over-month change in disposable income was at -3.55% when we adjust for inflation. This is a decrease from last month’s 0.30% nominal increase and 0.09% real decrease last month. The year-over-year metrics are 4.85% nominal and 3.44% real.Post-recession, the trend was one of steady growth, but generally flattened out in late 2015 with increases in 2012 and 2013. As a result of the CARES Act and the COVID pandemic, a major spike is seen in April 2020. The first chart shows both the nominal per capita disposable income and the real (inflation-adjusted) equivalent since 2000. This indicator was significantly disrupted by the bizarre but predictable oscillation caused by 2012 year-end tax strategies in expectation of tax hikes in 2013 and more recently, by the CARES Act stimulus.The BEA uses the average dollar value in 2012 for inflation adjustment. But the 2012 peg is arbitrary and unintuitive. For a more natural comparison, let’s compare the nominal and real growth in per-capita disposable income since 2000. Nominal disposable income is up 104% since then. But the real purchasing power of those dollars is up 42%.

PCE Price Index: August Headline & Core – The BEA’s Personal Income and Outlays for August was published this morning by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The latest Headline PCE price index was up 0.38% month-over-month (MoM) and is up 1.38% year-over-year (YoY). Core PCE is well below the Fed’s 2% target rate. The adjacent thumbnail gives us a close-up of the trend in YoY Core PCE since January 2012. The first string of red data points highlights the 12 consecutive months when Core PCE hovered in a narrow range around its interim low. The second string highlights the lower range from late 2014 through 2015. Core PCE shifted higher in 2016 with a decline in 2017 and 2019.The first chart below shows the monthly year-over-year change in the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index since 2000. Also included is an overlay of the Core PCE (less Food and Energy) price index, which is Fed’s preferred indicator for gauging inflation. The two percent benchmark is the Fed’s conventional target for core inflation. However, the December 2012 FOMC meeting raised the inflation ceiling to 2.5% for the next year or two while their accommodative measures (low FFR and quantitative easing) are in place. More recent FOMC statements now refer only to the two percent target.The index data is shown to two decimal points to highlight the change more accurately. It may seem trivial to focus such detail on numbers that will be revised again next month (the three previous months are subject to revision and the annual revision reaches back three years). But core PCE is such a key measure of inflation for the Federal Reserve that precision seems warranted.For a long-term perspective, here are the same two metrics spanning five decades.

U.S. retail bankruptcies, store closures hit record in first half –Retail bankruptcies, liquidations and store closings in the U.S. reached records in the first half of 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated industry changes, particularly the shift to online shopping, according to a report by professional-services firm BDO USA LLP. In the first six months, 18 major retailers filed for chapter 11 protection, mostly concentrated in apparel and footwear, home furnishings, grocery and department stores, according to the report. They include department-store operators Neiman Marcus Group Ltd., J.C. Penney Co. and Stage Stores Inc. , home-goods retailers Pier 1 Imports Inc. and Tuesday Morning Corp. and vitamin seller GNC Holdings Inc. From July through mid-August, 11 more retailers filed, including apparel retailers Lucky Brand Dungarees LLC, Brooks Brothers Inc., Ann Taylor parent Ascena Retail Group Inc., Stein Mart Inc., and Men’s Wearhouse and Jos. A. Bank parent Tailored Brands Inc. This year is on pace to rival 2010, when 48 retailers filed for bankruptcy in the wake of the 2007-09 recession, BDO said. Retail bankruptcies in 2020 have already surpassed the 22 such filings recorded last year.”This is almost certainly the worst year in recent history for retail,” said Kyle Sturgeon, a managing partner at Atlanta-based turnaround advisory firm Meru LLC. Government-mandated store closures and social-distancing measures have intensified challenges that were facing bricks-and-mortar retailers before the pandemic, according to BDO.

The Impending Food-Service Sector Disaster – Menzie Chinn – From Torsten Slok, now at Apollo. A survey of 457 New York City restaurants, bars, and nightclubs shows that 87% could not pay their full rent in August, up from 80% in June, see chart below. Of the 87% who could not pay their rent, 48% paid some of their rent, and of those, 49% paid half of their rent. The survey also shows that 40% of landlords have waived rent in relation to Covid-19. And for 43% of those restaurants, bars, and nightclubs that had their rent waived, the rent waived was 50%. With colder weather coming, this continues to be a difficult balance between keeping the virus under control versus limiting the economic damage. This trade-off also describes the US macro outlook, and we should expect a magnified negative seasonal impact on employment and GDP in Q4. Which is yet another good reason to expect the Fed to remain very dovish. Here’s the associated graphic: I think a good number of Republican policymakers think the crisis is over, given the economy is growing (although back to nowhere near 2019Q4 levels). They are wrong, particularly as it pertains to the food service sector, which accounted for about 20% of all February payroll employment in the US, on the eve of the pandemic’s impact. Employment growth was already flattening in early August; maybe there’ll be a recovery in the statistics for early September – but going forward, it’s going to look bad.We need a policy to support this sector, while NOT increasing the transmission of Covid-19. If we can bail-out the airline industry to the tune of billions, I think we can spare some funds for this sector. Two personal observations:

  1. While outside dining can continue elsewhere, with the exception of some hardy long-time Wisconsinites, I can’t imagine outside dining in January in Madison.
  2. A typical person working in the food services sector is not high income. If we truly want to allocate some resources to the lower-income deciles, then we should be even more in support of measures to buttress this industry and its employees.

Surge in gun sales set to break record: ‘They’re buying everything’ – Pistols, revolvers, rifles and shotguns are flying off the shelves this year, with gun shops reporting huge demand for models geared toward self-defense. The run on guns coincides with the coronavirus crisis and deadly riots that have put Americans on guard. Nearly 26 million background checks were run through the FBI’s national instant check system through August, and this month’s totals could push the numbers past the record 28.3 million checks from all of 2019. PHOTOS: Top 10 handguns in the U.S. “They’re buying everything,” said Steve Clark, who owns Clark Brothers Gun Shop in Fauquier County, Virginia. Some of his customers are opting for less popular firearms, figuring it will be easier to find ammunition for those models amid reports of ammo shortages among some retailers. “It’s across the board – it’s everything,” he said. “You can’t get near enough shotguns because people are looking for those for house defense.”

September Vehicles Sales increased to 16.3 Million SAAR – The BEA released their estimate of light vehicle sales for September this morning. The BEA estimates sales of 16.34 million SAAR in September 2020 (Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate), up 7.6% from the August sales rate, and down 4.3% from September 2019. This graph shows light vehicle sales since 2006 from the BEA (blue) and the BEA’s estimate for September (red). The impact of COVID-19 was significant, and April was the worst month. Since April, sales have increased, but are still down 4.3% from last year. The second graph shows light vehicle sales since the BEA started keeping data in 1967. Note: dashed line is current estimated sales rate of 16.34 million SAAR.Sales-to-date are down 18.8% in 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. In 2019, there were 12.70 million light vehicle sales through September. In 2020, there have been 10.31 million sales.

U.S. factory orders miss expectations; business spending improving (Reuters) – New orders for U.S.-made goods increased less than expected in August, though business spending on equipment appeared to be recovering, which likely supported the economy in the third quarter. The Commerce Department said on Friday that factory orders rose 0.7% after accelerating 6.5% in July. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast factory orders would increase 1.0% in August. Manufacturing, which accounts for 11.3% of U.S. economic activity, is recovering from its pandemic lows as businesses replenish inventories. The pace of expansion, however, is slowing as the coronavirus crisis lingers and the boost from fiscal stimulus ebbs. The Institute for Supply Management reported on Thursday that its measure of national factory activity fell in September as new orders retreated from more than a 16-1/2-year high. Unfilled orders at factories dropped 0.6% in August after falling 0.7% in July. Inventories at factories were unchanged, while shipments of manufactured goods rose 0.3%. The government also reported that orders for non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft, which are seen as a measure of business spending plans on equipment, rose 1.9% in August instead of increasing 1.8% as reported last month. Shipments of core capital goods, which are used to calculate business equipment spending in the GDP report, increased 1.5% as previously reported. Business investment tumbled at a record 26% annualized rate in the second quarter, with spending on equipment collapsing at an all-time pace of 35.9%. Investment in equipment has contracted for five straight quarters.

ISM Manufacturing index Decreased to 55.4 in September – The ISM manufacturing index indicated expansion in September. The PMI was at 55.4% in September, down from 56.0% in August. The employment index was at 49.6%, up from 46.3% last month, and the new orders index was at 60.2%, down from 67.6%. From ISM: PMI at 55.4% September 2020 Manufacturing ISM Report On Business: “The September PMI registered 55.4 percent, down 0.6 percentage point from the August reading of 56 percent. This figure indicates expansion in the overall economy for the fifth month in a row after a contraction in April, which ended a period of 131 consecutive months of growth. The New Orders Index registered 60.2 percent, a decrease of 7.4 percentage points from the August reading of 67.6 percent. The Production Index registered 61 percent, down 2.3 percentage points compared to the August reading of 63.3 percent. The Backlog of Orders Index registered 55.2 percent, 0.6 percentage point higher compared to the August reading of 54.6 percent. The Employment Index registered 49.6 percent, an increase of 3.2 percentage points from the August reading of 46.4 percent. The Supplier Deliveries Index registered 59 percent, up 0.8 percentage point from the August figure of 58.2 percent. Here is a long term graph of the ISM manufacturing index. This was below expectations of 56.2%, and the employment index improved, but indicated some further slight contraction. This suggests manufacturing expanded at a slightly slower pace in September than in August.

Markit Manufacturing Inches Up in September -The September US Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index conducted by Markit came in at 53.2, up 0.1 from the 53.1 final August figure.Here is an excerpt from Chris Williamson, Chief Business Economist at IHS Markit in their latest press release: “US manufacturers rounded off a solid quarter which should see the sector rebound strongly from the steep second quarter downturn.“Encouragingly, companies reported a maked upturn in demand for plant and machinery, which suggests firms are increasing their investment spending again after expansion plans were put on hold during the spring. Similarly, fuller order books helped drive further job creation as firms continued to expand capacity.“But it was not all good news. Supply shortages worsened as companies increasingly struggled to source enough inputs to meet production requirements. With demand often exceeding supply, prices rose sharply again across many types of inputs, especially metals. “Growth of new orders for consumer goods also waned during the month, hinting at some cooling of demand from households, commonly blamed on Covid-19. Overall order book inflows consequently slowed compared to August.“The outlook also darkened, as companies grew more concerned about the sustained economic disruption from the pandemic alongside uncertainty caused by the upcoming presidential election. The sector therefore looks to be entering the fourth quarter on a slower growth trajectory, adding to signs that fourth quarter GDP growth will wane considerably from the third quarter rebound.” [Press Release] Here is a snapshot of the series since mid-2012.

Dallas Fed: “Texas Manufacturing Recovery Picks Up Steam” in September –From the Dallas Fed: Texas Manufacturing Recovery Picks Up Steam: Texas factory activity expanded in September for the fourth month in a row following a record contraction due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to business executives responding to the Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey. The production index, a key measure of state manufacturing conditions, rose nine points to 22.3, its highest reading in two years. Other measures of manufacturing activity point to above-average growth this month. The new orders index advanced five points to 14.7, and the growth rate of orders index held fairly steady at 13.2. The capacity utilization index rose from 10.9 to 17.5, while the shipments index was largely unchanged at 21.5. Perceptions of broader business conditions continued to improve in September. The general business activity index pushed up six points to 13.6, its highest reading since November 2018. The company outlook index held mostly steady at 14.9, a reading well above average. Uncertainty regarding companies’ outlooks continued to rise, with the index positive but largely unchanged at 6.7. Labor market measures indicated stronger employment growth and a continued increase in workweek length. The employment index pushed up from 10.6 to 14.5, suggesting more robust hiring. This was the last of the regional Fed surveys for September. Here is a graph comparing the regional Fed surveys and the ISM manufacturing index: The New York and Philly Fed surveys are averaged together (yellow, through September), and five Fed surveys are averaged (blue, through September) including New York, Philly, Richmond, Dallas and Kansas City. The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) PMI (red) is through August (right axis). The ISM manufacturing index for September will be released on Thursday, October 1st. The consensus is for the ISM to be at 56.2, up from 56.0 in August. Based on these regional surveys, the ISM manufacturing index will likely increase in September from the August level. Note that these are diffusion indexes, so readings above 0 (or 50 for the ISM) means activity is increasing (it does not mean that activity is back to pre-crisis levels).

Weekly Initial Unemployment Claims decreased to 837,000 –Special technical note this week on California (see release). The DOL reported: In the week ending September 26, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 837,000, a decrease of 36,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The previous week’s level was revised up by 3,000 from 870,000 to 873,000. The 4-week moving average was 867,250, a decrease of 11,750 from the previous week’s revised average. The previous week’s average was revised up by 750 from 878,250 to 879,000. This does not include the 650,120 initial claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) that was up from 615,599 the previous week. (There are some questions on PUA numbers). The following graph shows the 4-week moving average of weekly claims since 1971. The second graph shows seasonally adjust continued claims since 1967 (lags initial by one week). At the worst of the Great Recession, continued claims peaked at 6.635 million, but then steadily declined. Continued claims decreased to 11,767,000 (SA) from 12,747,000 (SA) last week and will likely stay at a high level until the crisis abates.

September Employment Report: 661 Thousand Jobs Added, 7.9% Unemployment Rate — From the BLS: Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 661,000 in September, and the unemployment rate declined to 7.9 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. These improvements in the labor market reflect the continued resumption of economic activity that had been curtailed due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and efforts to contain it. In September, notable job gains occurred in leisure and hospitality, in retail trade, in health care and social assistance, and in professional and business services. Employment in government declined over the month, mainly in state and local government education….In September, the unemployment rate declined by 0.5 percentage point to 7.9 percent, and the number of unemployed persons fell by 1.0 million to 12.6 million. Both measures have declined for 5 consecutive months but are higher than in February, by 4.4 percentage points and 6.8 million, respectively….The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for July was revised up by 27,000, from +1,734,000 to +1,761,000, and the change for August was revised up by 118,000, from +1,371,000 to +1,489,000. With these revisions, employment in July and August combined was 145,000 more than previously reported. The first graph shows the year-over-year change in total non-farm employment since 1968.In September, the year-over-year change was negative 9.65 million jobs. Total payrolls increased by 661 thousand in September.Payrolls for July and August were revised up 145 thousand combined. The second graph shows the job losses from the start of the employment recession, in percentage terms. The current employment recession is by far the worst recession since WWII in percentage terms, and is still worse than the worst of the “Great Recession”.The third graph shows the employment population ratio and the participation rate. The Labor Force Participation Rate decreased to 61.4% in September. This is the percentage of the working age population in the labor force. The Employment-Population ratio increased to 56.6% (black line). I’ll post the 25 to 54 age group employment-population ratio graph later. The fourth graph shows the unemployment rate. The unemployment rate decreased in September to 7.9%. This was below consensus expectations, however July and August were revised up by 145,000 combined. …

September jobs report: a drastic slowdown in improvement, but further demonstrating an economy that *wants* to get better HEADLINES:

  • 661,000 million jobs gained. The gains since May total a little over half of the 22.1 million job losses in March and April. The alternate, and more volatile measure in the household report was 275,000 jobs gained, which factors into the unemployment and underemployment rates below.
  • U3 unemployment rate fell -0.5% from 8.4% to 7.9%, compared with the January low of 3.5%.
  • U6 underemployment rate fell -1.6% from 14.2% to 12.8%, compared with the January low of 6.9%.
  • Those on temporary layoff decreased 4.6 million to 1.5 million.
  • Permanent job losers increased by 345,000 to 3.756 million.
  • July was revised upward by 27,000. August was also revised upward by 118,000 respectively, for a net gain of 145,000 jobs compared with previous reports.
  • the average manufacturing workweek rose 0.2hours from 40.0 hours to 40.2 hours. This is one of the 10 components of the LEI and will be a positive.
  • Manufacturing jobs rose by 66,000. Manufacturing has still lost -647,000 jobs in the past 7 months, or 5% of the total. A little over half of the total loss of 10.6% has been regained.
  • Construction jobs rose by 26,000. Even so, in the past 7 months -394,000 construction jobs have been lost, 5.2% of the total. About 1/3rd of the worst loss of 15.2% loss has been regained.
  • Residential construction jobs, which are even more leading, rose by 6,600. Even so, in the past 7 months there have still been -14,000 lost jobs, or about 1.7% of the total.
  • temporary jobs rose by 8,100. This is a *drastic* slowdown from the gains of the past few months, which typically were over 100,000. Since February, there have still been -463,800 jobs lost, or 15.8% of all temporary help jobs.
  • the number of people unemployed for 5 weeks or less rose by 271,000 to 2.552 million, compared with April’s total of 14.283 million.
  • Professional and business employment rose by 89,000, which is still -1.386 million, or about 6.4% below its February peak.
  • Average Hourly Earnings for Production and Nonsupervisory Personnel: rose $0.01 from $24.78 to $24.79, which is a gain of 3.4% in the 7 months since the pandemic began. Gains had previously reflected that job losses were primarily among lower wage earners, who have been disproportionately recalled to work. That we have increased employment and increased wages as well is a very positive development.
  • the index of aggregate hours worked for non-managerial workers rose by 1.2%. In the past 7 months combined this has nevertheless fallen by about -7.4%.
  • the index of aggregate payrolls for non-managerial workers rose by 1.2%. In the past 6 months combined this has nevertheless fallen by about -4.3%.
  • Full time jobs were responsible for 54,000 of the gain in the household report.
  • Part time jobs were responsible for 188,000 of the gain in the household report.
  • The number of job holders who were part time for economic reasons fell by -1,272,000 to 6.300 million. This is still an increase since February of 1.982 million.

A special note: government job losses were 216,000, most of them temporary census workers. Without these, the net gain in jobs was 877,000. This was certainly a positive report, but a drastic slowdown in improvement compared with prior months. Most noteworthy that that part-time jobs constituted about 3/4’s of the improvement. That permanent job losers increased substantially is not a good sign for the months going forward. A “not so bad” element of the report is that both unemployment and underemployment have dropped to “normal” recession levels. The best news in this report – the last before the November election – was that all of the leading job sectors and indicators were positive. As I have said many times in the past few months, this is an economy that *wants* to improve. All that remains is gaining control over the pandemic, which has proved impossible for this Administration.

US Unemployment Rate Unexpectedly Plunges Below 8% As 661K Jobs Added – (10 graphs) In a repeat of last month when the monthly payrolls came in as expected but the unemployment rate dropped far more than expected, moments ago the BLS report that in September a total of 661K jobs were added, below the 868K expected, and less than half the 1.489MM in August, led by a sharp 216,000 drop in government jobs (with local government education and state government education falling by 231,000 and 49,000 while hospitality, retail, construction and transportation saw some gains)…… but offsetting these disappointment was the plunge in the unemployment rate which tumbled by a whopping 50bps from 8.4% to 7.9%, with rates for both blacks and Hispanic plunging as well.How did the unemployment rate drop as the Household survey showed just modest growth, with the ranks of employed workers rose by just 275K to 147.563MM.Simple: it appears that the BLS is back to its old gimmicks of inflating the number of people not in the labor force, which increased by 1.9MM, from 99.720MM to 100.599MM.At the same time, the number of unemployed workers declined by 1MM from 13.550MM to 12.580MM. So the biggest reason for the drop in the jobless rate was people no longer looking for work. That could be because of frustration, or retirement, or going to back to school. But it underscores unemployment isn’t falling mainly because of people getting jobs.Then there were the usual gimmicks: the BLS said that for the March-August period, the BLS published an estimate of what the unemployment rate would have been had misclassified workers been included. Repeating this same approach, the overall September unemployment rate would have been 0.4 percentage point higher than reported.In other words, the true unemployment rate is likely 8.4%, unchanged from last month.Going back to the Establishment Survey, we find that the change in total nonfarm payroll employment for July was revised up by 27,000, from +1,734,000 to +1,761,000, and the change for August was revised up by 118,000, from +1,371,000 to +1,489,000. With these revisions, employment in July and August combined was 145,000 more than previously reported.The one series tracked by all, the number of “temporarily” unemployed surprised as it dropped by more than 1.5 million to just 4.6 million, from 6.2 million the month before. As usual, debate over what defines “temporary” unemployment remains in the foreground. This was offset by the number of people in the U.S. seeing permanent job losses, which rose by 340K to 3.756 million, the highest level since 2013, and points to the ongoing business closures, bankruptcies, and investment cuts across the country.Meanwhile, the number of workers unemployed for more than 15 weeks posted an unexpected reversal, declining by 800K to 7.323MM. The average hourly earnings also printed generally in line, rising by 4.7% in September, up from the 4.6% revised in August, but below the 4.8% expected.The labor force participation rate dropped modestly, from 61.9 to 61.4 as the Civilian Labor Force dropped by nearly 700,000 to 160.1 million in September while the population rose by just 200K to 260.742MM. Why the decline in the participation rate? According to Bloomberg it ticked down for men aged 20+, but fell even more for wome, some -0.8%. With the start of the academic year and schools closed and running zoom sessions from home, many are likely opting out of the labor market. Despite the overall improvement, let’s not forget that In September, nonfarm employment was below its February level by more than 10.7 or 7% million. Looking at the sector breakdown, job gains occurred in leisure and hospitality, in retail trade, in health care and social assistance, and in professional and business services. Employment declined in government, mainly in state and local government education. Some more details:

Warehouse, Parcel Operators Add Thousands of Jobs Ahead of Holidays – WSJ -Companies are adding tens of thousands of warehousing jobs as they scale up e-commerce fulfillment and distribution capacity ahead of a high stakes fourth quarter. Warehousing and storage payrolls jumped by 32,200 jobs in September, according to seasonally adjusted preliminary employment figures the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released Friday. The jump in a sector that includes online fulfillment centers followed an addition of 34,400 jobs in August and came as retailers and logistics operators say they are planning to hire large numbers of seasonal workers for the coming holidays. Overall warehouse and storage employment by the BLS measure nearly doubled over the past decade, to 1.25 million jobs.Courier and messenger companies that deliver packages to homes and businesses added 10,300 jobs in September, the seventh straight month of gains. Trucking companies added 4,600 positions.Those gains are in contrast to the broader U.S. economy, where hiring slowed sharply in September as some pandemic-driven layoffs became permanent. Employers added 661,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate fell to 7.9%.The rush of logistics hiring comes as analysts warn that soaring e-commerce demand amid the coronavirus pandemic could strain distribution networks during the holiday season.”It’s just been one big spike. I think we saw maybe a 500% uptick in e-commerce business since March,” said Jeff Kaiden, chief executive of Capacity LLC, a third-party logistics provider that handles order fulfillment for consumer goods. The company is bringing on 30% more warehouse workers for the peak season than it did last year, he said.Three-quarters of U.S. consumers said they would do at least some of their holiday shopping online this year, and 43% said they planned to shop online exclusively, according to an August survey of 1,517 people by consulting firm Accenture PLC.Retailers and logistics companies are staffing up accordingly. Walmart Inc. said last month it plans to hire more than 20,000 seasonal workers for its e-commerce facilities. Target Corp. is keeping its overall seasonal hiring steady with last year, when it added some 130,000 jobs, but is increasing the number of workers who will go to distribution centers and to bolster the retailer’s curbside and in-store pickup of online orders.XPO Logistics Inc. said it would bring on 10,000 seasonal staff in the U.S., while e-commerce logistics company Radial plans to bring on 25,000 seasonal workers, up 19% from 2019.Companies are struggling to fill open logistics and distribution jobs despite high unemployment during the pandemic, in part because of worker safety concerns, said Melissa Hassett, vice president of client delivery for ManpowerGroup Talent Solutions RPO, a subsidiary of staffing agency ManpowerGroup Inc. ” Many of the clients do not have enough people to fill their distribution center, and they’re hiring as fast as they can,” she said. Light-truck and delivery drivers are also in short supply, Ms. Hassett said. “We talk to people every day who have supervisors and seasonal managers out in the trucks,” she said, because they can’t hire enough people.

U.S. Job Gains Slow as More Layoffs Become Permanent – WSJ – Hiring gains slowed sharply heading into the fall as more layoffs turned permanent, adding to signs that the U.S. economy faces a long slog to fully recover from the coronavirus pandemic. Employers added 661,000 jobs in September, the Labor Department said Friday. The increase in payrolls showed the labor market continued to dig out of the hole created by the pandemic, but at a much slower pace than over the summer. The U.S. has replaced 11.4 million of the 22 million jobs lost in March and April, at the beginning of the pandemic. Job growth, though, is cooling, and last month marked the first time since April that net hiring was below one million. Friday’s Labor Department jobs report is the final one before the presidential election, which faces fresh uncertainty after President Trump and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for Covid-19. Mr. Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden have promisedto create millions of jobs to advance the economy’s recovery from the pandemic-induced shock in the spring.Other signs of a slowing U.S. recovery include a drop in household income at the end of the summer and smaller gains in consumer spending, the economy’s main driver.The unemployment rate fell to 7.9% in Septemberfrom 8.4% the prior month. Though the jobless rate is down sharply from a pandemic high of near 15% in April, last month’s drop partially reflected an increase in permanent layoffs and more people leaving the labor force. That could stem from more workers quitting their job searches due to weak employment prospects or child-care responsibilities. Large corporate layoffs are sweeping across the U.S. Walt Disney Co. earlier this week announced permanent layoffs for 28,000 theme park workers who were previously on temporary furlough. American Airlines Group Inc. and United Airlines Holdings Inc. will proceed for now with a total of more than 32,000 job cutsafter lawmakers were unable to agree on a broadcoronavirus-relief package.The recent layoff announcements aren’t reflected in the September jobs report, which includes data gathered in the first half of the month.Employers continue to bring back workers, but many factors are converging to hinder the economic recovery. For one, the initial hiring rebound from business reopenings is easing as states lift restrictions at a slower pace than earlier in the summer. Further, layoffs remain elevated compared with pre-pandemic peaks as business uncertainty persists. “The pace of jobs recovery apparent in today’s report suggests that we will be counting the employment recovery in years, not months or quarters,” said Marianne Wanamaker, a labor economist at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. “We’re not going to gain jobs as rapidly as we did in May and June.”A decline in government jobs, particularly at public schools, weighed on September payrolls. Economists attributed the drop to many schools’ pursuit of online learning this fall. Large payroll gains occurred in the leisure-and-hospitality, retail and health-care sectors, some of the hardest hit at the onset of the pandemic. The number of unemployed individuals saying their layoffs were temporary declined in September, which could reflect more people returning to work. Meanwhile, the number of workers who saw their layoffs as permanent rose for the month, a sign workers may be in for long spells of unemployment.

The U.S. Jobs Recovery Is Sputtering – WSJ -In normal times, a monthly employment report that showed the U.S. economy adding 661,000 jobs would be fantastic news. These aren’t normal times, though. If anything, the September employment figures counted as bad. The month’s gain was a step down from the 1.5 million jobs added in August and beneath the 800,000 that economists had predicted. The unemployment rate fell to 7.9% in September from 8.4% in August, but that was largely because of a drop in the number of people actively looking for work. The survey of households upon which the unemployment rate is based – separate from the one for the main payrolls figure – showed a September employment gain of 275,000. The report leaves the U.S. jobs count 10.7 million below where it was in February, before the Covid-19 crisis took hold in the country. The slowdown in job gains, if it persists, is worrisome because the longer people are out of work, the more their skills typically erode and the harder it can be for them to find jobs once the recovery takes hold.In another unsettling sign, the number of unemployed who say their loss of employment is permanent – meaning they have no job to go back to – rose again in September, to 3.8 million from 3.4 million in August. In February, that figure was 1.3 million. It is, of course, possible that September was a fluke and that job gains will rev back up again this month. But there has been a worrisome pickup in companies announcing significant layoffs, including Walt Disney and Allstate earlier this week. Many small businesses are financially strapped.The risk that more of them fail in the months ahead, leaving unemployed workers with fewer jobs to return to, is pronounced. The recent uptick in coronavirus infections in many parts of the country – to say nothing of the news that the president of the United States has tested positive for the virus – threatens to throw a damper on continued reopening plans as many people step up their caution.Ultimately, the job market’s ability to recover fully will hinge on how soon a vaccine is widely available. Until then, much will depend on how effectively state and local officials can come up with protocols for mitigating the public-health crisis without sacrificing more jobs. Further relief for unemployed workers and struggling businesses to the end of the pandemic also might be in order. It was good, back in the spring, to see jobs come bouncing back as hard shutdowns came to an end. But as far as a continued recovery in the labor market goes, now comes the hard part.

Long-Term Unemployment Poses Rising Risk to the Economy – WSJ – More workers identified themselves as permanently laid off and unemployed for the long term in September, a sign the labor market’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic is likely to be slow and protracted. While millions of workers have returned to jobs that were suspended this spring due to the virus, those that weren’t called back face the rising prospect of prolonged joblessness and income loss. Those same challenges were a feature of the slow economic recovery from the 2007-09 recession.In April, the most severe month for job loss in the current downturn, 88% of those who recently lost jobs reported their layoff as temporary, meaning they expected to return to the same role within six months, according to the Labor Department. In September, the share of such optimists fell to 51%, Friday’s jobs report showed. Meanwhile, those reporting themselves as permanent job losers rose to 3.8 million in September, from 2 million in April. That figure could rise further in October as airlines and Walt Disney Co. informed thousands of workers this week that temporary furloughs will become permanent layoffs. Many of those who lost jobs are struggling to find other work. Last month, 58% of unemployed workers had been out of a job for at least three months, including 19% off the job for at least six, and who are considered long-term unemployed.During the third quarter of 2020, 23% of those long-term unemployed were Latino workers and 21% were Black workers, both disproportionately large relative to their shares of the population.”It will be much harder to bring back that workforce in an economy that’s moving into a long, slow recovery,” said Beth Ann Bovino, chief U.S. economist at S&P Global Ratings. “A lot of the businesses where those workers lost jobs are now gone.” Online business directory Yelp said as of Sept. 15, 60% of the closed businesses it tracks, nearly 100,000, had no plan to reopen. Those closures, largely among small businesses, particularly hit restaurants and stores. The growing length of the pandemic that took hold in the U.S. in March is one reason temporary job losses are becoming permanent, Ms. Bovino said. The longer it runs, the higher the chances of business failures, which result in more layoffs and fewer job opportunities. That would mean longer spells of unemployment, she said.

How Donald Trump Abandoned Workers After Promising to Bring Manufacturing Back to the U.S. – Although Donald Trump won the White House with a vow to reinvigorate a manufacturing base essential for America’s future, he failed to stanch the torrent of U.S. corporations absconding to countries with abysmal working conditions and lax environmental regulations.Right under Trump’s nose, America lost hundreds of factories to offshoring, and corporations relocated nearly 200,000 U.S. jobs, all before the COVID-19 pandemic sent the economy into a nosedive. Some of these callous employers, including FreightCar America, even soaked taxpayers for millions of dollars in subsidies and other aid before they cut and run.”They’re like parasites,” observed Bulman, who will lose his job when FreightCar Americaabandons its mile-long, 2.2-million-square-foot factory by the end of 2020. “They get what they want and leave.” Bulman, who formerly worked at a United Steelworkers (USW)-represented paper mill, helped lead two organizing drives at FreightCar America because he knew a union would compel the company to provide safer working conditions and give a voice to those performing demanding, hazardous jobs.But FreightCar America waged vicious anti-union campaigns that included threats to close the plant and – the company’s very name notwithstanding – move the jobs to Mexico. After defeating both organizing drives, the company still sold out its workers.Although Trump promised to stop companies from playing these heartless games with families’ livelihoods, he refused to intervene with FreightCar America or lift a finger to save manufacturing jobs in a state where workers deeply trusted he’d fight for them.He gave the cold shoulder to FreightCar America workers who called and emailed the White House with pleas for help, just as he ignored USW members who sought assistance early in 2020 before Goodyear closed its nearly-100-year-old Gadsden, Alabama, tire plant and moved several hundred remaining jobs to Mexico. Although the plight of the Gadsden workers elicited no response from the White House, Goodyear’s longstanding policy banning political attire, including Trump hats, from its shop floors aroused Trump’s fury. He threatened to remove Goodyear tires from Secret Service vehicles and fired off a tweet calling for Americans to boycott the company, even though that would mean the loss of even more American jobs.

Utility services in Maryland to send shut-off notices starting Oct. 1st – – In Maryland, Starting October 1st, utility companies will be allowed to start sending out shut-off notices to residents in the state ending a nearly seven-month moratorium. The moratorium, which started around mid-March, will still prohibit companies from shutting off water, gas, and electric services for residents through November 15th. But if you’re behind on payments you will start getting these shut off notices in the mail. Early last week a number of Maryland lawmakers met to discuss the concerns people had about possible shut-offs as we head into the winter months. “The briefing that we had last week was sort of a warning sign of here is where we stand as a state, here are the things that we’re doing, and here’s perhaps where the challenges are moving forward,” said Delegate Chris Adams (R-District 37B). State officials add that residential customers who owe money will have 45 days from the day they get their notice to work out a payment plan with their utility company or apply for energy assistance programs.

Georgia Power ends pandemic moratorium on collecting bill payments – Georgia Power’s moratorium on disconnecting homes for non-payment has ended, even as the pandemic rolls on.Beginning this month, 132,000 customers of the state’s dominant power company must begin paying down past-due balances that built up during the economic distress caused by pandemic. Otherwise, customers face having their electricity cut off, as tens of thousands already experienced.As many jobs went into hibernation, the state’s Public Service Commission backed and later extended Georgia Power’s decision in March to halt disconnecting customers. Later, the PSC’s five elected commissioners unanimously lifted the moratorium, effective July 15.Some activists warned that many Georgians were still without jobs or were working fewer hours because of COVID-19s gut-punch to the economy. Low-wage and hourly front-line workers have been those most likely to have jobs disrupted.But with the moratorium over, Georgia Power shut-off electricity to just over 40,000 customers from mid-July through August, say company reports. August’s number was about 25% higher than for a typical month. Most of those cut off didn’t jump into the special payment option, which the company said it aggressively publicized. Electricity was eventually restored in the vast majority of the cases, according to the company. Georgia Power has about 2.6 million customers.Typically, customers don’t face disconnections until they are at least 60 days behind on what they owe.

Disney, Rivals Take Aim at California’s Park-Reopening Rules – An industry group representing Walt Disney Co. and other theme-park operators lashed out at new guidance from California, which would only allow attractions like Disneyland to reopen under strict conditions. The organization called for changes to the rules, which haven’t been formally released yet but began to surface on Thursday. Parks would be allowed to reopen at just 25% of capacity and would have to limit visitors to people living within a certain distance, according to Carlye Wisel, an industry podcaster. They’ll also require advance reservations and mandatory face coverings.In a sign of the tensions between Disney and California, Chairman Bob Iger has resigned from the governor’s Covid-19 recovery task force, the company confirmed on Thursday. The Sacramento Bee previously reported his exit.”While we are aligned on many of the protocols and health and safety requirements, there are many others that need to be modified if they are to lead to a responsible and reasonable amusement park reopening plan,” the industry group, the California Attractions & Parks Association, said in an emailed statement.

NYC wedding with nearly 300 guests ‘shut down’ by police – Officials said authorities dispersed an indoor wedding reception with hundreds of attendees in Queens Friday night. New York City sheriffs said they received an anonymous complaint about a large gathering flouting social distancing guidelines at the Royal Elite Palace catering hall late Friday night. Officials said they found 284 guests inside the venue and that the wedding was serving food and alcohol without adhering to guidelines, according to NBC New York. The sheriff’s office said the manager of the venue received four citations, while the owner received two for nonadherence to Mayor Bill De Blasio’s (D) pandemic guidelines. The city, once an epicenter of the pandemic, saw its numbers decline in recent months but has recently seen a surge in Queens and Brooklyn. “This may be the most precarious moment that we’re facing since we have emerged from lockdown,” Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi said at a Friday press conference. “We will move as swiftly as the situation warrants. If this growth continues, it will turn into widespread transmission potentially citywide.” Eight neighborhoods have seen outbreaks more than three times the citywide average in the last two weeks, officials said Sunday, although Woodside, where the venue is located, was not one of them.

Teachers in Little Rock announce they will not report to in-person classes A union representing Little Rock, Ark., teachers has notified the school district that members will not return to in-person teaching Monday, citing the coronavirus pandemic. In its statement, the union said it had identified numerous unsafe conditions in Little Rock schools, including a quarter of schools saying people who entered the building are not consistently being given full questionnaires. The Little Rock Education Association also said 37 percent of facilities are reportedly not being properly cleaned and disinfected, and that numerous students and employees either do not wear masks or pull them down to speak to people. The statement also claims that ventilation systems have not been upgraded even though poor indoor ventilation has been identified as a major driver of infections, and that immunocompromised staff members are being required to teach in person. “This is not a work stoppage. We are completely and totally willing to work and serve our students virtually in a manner that keeps everyone safe and alive,” the statement reads. The Little Rock Education Association says teachers will only do virtual learning starting tomorrow. This is not a strike, but a work stoppage. LREA President Teresa Knapp Gordon says they will not be responsible for anyone getting sick or dying. Full letter >>> pic.twitter.com/WjPKZN5xrF .. “As we have stated previously, we understand that our parents need our schools to be open and we are committed to doing everything we can to avoid disruption to the learning environment,” the statement reads. “We all want our lives to return to normal. That isn’t going to happen unless we take the necessary steps to keep everyone safe and healthy. We are willing to do what it takes,” Little Rock Education Association President Teresa Knapp Gordon said in the statement. “If we do not transition to virtual instruction now, someone is going to get sick. Someone is going to die. We will not be responsible for that happening.”

W.Va. teachers union says it’s ready to sue over changes to virus map that determines school status– The West Virginia Education Association says it will seek an injunction over changes to the state’s map that determines school status based on the spread of coronavirus. “Listening to the comments from the governor and his health advisors, the focus has clearly been on getting teams back on the playing field and getting students in school,” WVEA President Dale Lee stated today. “They forget that in many classrooms and buses across our state it is impossible to practice appropriate social distancing and enforce mask wearing.” The teachers union is questioning whether continued changes to the map have compromised the safety of students and employees in public schools. “Our members have watched the constant manipulation of the map. As each rendition failed to provide the desired results sought by our state leaders, additional changes were made,” Lee stated. “The map manipulation has gone on long enough. Citizens and educators have lost confidence and trust that the changes made to the map are in the interest of safety and public health.” Changes over the past few weeks have included placing smaller counties on a 14-day rolling average; having nursing home residents, corrections inmates and now some isolating college students count as one unit; altering the cutoff points for colors meant to indicate county status; and adding an additional color, gold. The most recent change had a dramatic effect last week. Initially the map counted just daily positive cases on a rolling average and adjusted for 100,000 population. State officials concluded people were holding back on getting tested because positives would count against their local numbers. So state officials now allow use of a percent positive figure. Counties are assessed by whichever is better, the average daily positives or the percent positive. A daily state map appeared with that change for the first time Friday, and then a dominant Saturday map that dictates school status also reflected the switch. Significantly more counties were depicted as green, the lowest levels, on the map. Monongalia County, which has been red for weeks, very quickly went to green.

New York City resumes in-person schools as COVID-19 infections continue to rise – Hundreds of thousands of New York City students are returning to schools today as the country’s largest school district starts its next phase of in-person instruction even as COVID-19 infections continue to rise in the city and state. The reopening order by Mayor Bill de Blasio threatens to create a catastrophe in a city where nearly 25,000 people have succumbed to the deadly disease. Schools are opening after a week in which the Department of Education (DOE) acknowledged that teachers, support staff and students in over 100 schools have already been infected. On Sept. 21, the DOE began bringing students in 3K (full-day programs for three-year-old children), Pre-K and special education classes back into buildings. Roughly 90,000 students and teachers across 700 school buildings were ushered into schools to serve as veritable canaries in the coal mine. New York state’s health department has announced a significant increase in the overall positivity rate from those who have been tested. Kings County (Brooklyn) nearly doubled to 2.6 percent positivity, and two ultra-orthodox Jewish communities in Rockland County, 25 miles north of the city, have positivity rates of 25 and 30 percent. The DOE’s figures obscure the true scale of the spread of the virus in schools because they refer exclusively to the number of facilities in which students or staff have tested positive and not the actual number of those infected. The same is undoubtedly true of the city and state’s positivity rate. The situation for many special education students as well as the staff who work with them is particularly hazardous. In addition to the specialized services frequently requiring close contact that many special education students receive while in school, a significant number of these children also rely on school buses to get to class. The vehicles are often under-sized and bus attendants must physically assist them while boarding and exiting buses. The upcoming fall and winter seasons pose additional risks due to the use of heating systems on buses, which could hasten the circulation of COVID-19 aerosols. The next phase of the homicidal school reopening plan includes bringing K-5 students into school buildings on Sept. 29, followed by middle- and high-school students, for whom in-person classes are scheduled to start on Oct. 1. Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, initially justified reopening schools with in-person classes by referencing the 0.34 percent positivity rate within New York City. Even a week ago, this figure obscured the fact that several neighborhoods in the city, particularly in Brooklyn and Queens, had sustained positivity rates as high as six percent and others had seen recent spikes. De Blasio also ignored the fact that the positivity rate in New York State was rising and at least 20 school districts in neighboring New Jersey had recently experienced outbreaks forcing superintendents to reintroduce fully remote learning.

After teacher dies of COVID-19 in rural Michigan, Detroit educators call for unified fight against unsafe school openings – In early September, the Detroit Educators Rank-and-File Safety Committee formed our organization with a clear statement declaring, “It is not safe to reopen Detroit schools.” We insisted that educators, students and parents should not lay down their lives in a poorly designed, underfunded and deadly experiment whose sole aim is to get children out of their homes so their parents can be sent back into the factories and other workplaces to produce corporate profit. From the beginning, our committee called on educators across the state to join us to prevent the spread of the deadly disease, which infects its victims whether they are from urban, suburban or rural areas and no matter what their race, gender or ethnic background. We have now learned of the first death of an educator in Michigan since the reopening of schools for the fall semester. Michelle McCrackin, an educator and 53-year-old mother of five, died last week in Carson City, a rural town of 1,100 residents in central Michigan. Michelle died just three days after calling in sick at the Carson City-Crystal Area School District (CC-C), a small district with around 900 students located 135 miles northwest of Detroit. The Carson City-Crystal schools opened on August 24 with about three-quarters of its students attending in person. A month after opening, the first infection was reported. One week later, Michelle was dead and 15 other staff and students tested positive. The schools are now under remote learning only. Michelle had worked in the small district for 14 years, most recently as a Title I Reading Specialist working in grades 1-6. She was described as “beloved” by school officials. From a farming family, she is reported to have had no health conditions putting her at increased risk. That she succumbed so quickly to the disease only underscores the acute danger staff and students face across the state. Marcus Cheatham, director of the mid-Michigan district health department, told Bridge Michigan that well over half of school districts in the three Central Michigan counties he covers have had to quarantine students because at least one student tested positive. In September, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer reversed her order to stop contact sports at state high schools, and games resumed in mid-September. This included CC-C, which played against another league team while the outbreak was in the school. Whitmer, a Democrat, was given her marching orders from GM, Ford and other corporations to reopen the schools. In the weeks since they reopened, cases are once again on the rise in many areas of the state, putting Michigan on a list with 31 other US states whose cases and deaths are rising again. It is alarming that a relatively small district like Carson City-Crystal, which local health department said it “did everything right,” has produced the state’s first teacher death of the fall. Michigan has reported 46 K-12 schools with new or ongoing outbreaks. This is not the total number of infections in schools, however. The state defines “outbreaks” as “two or more cases that share exposure on school grounds that come from different households.” Cases are ticking up as more schools open even as positivity rates are over 3 percent. Opening school buildings, many of them a half-century old or more, with poor ventilation, are creating new vectors for the spread of COVID.

Nineteen-year-old North Carolina university student in “tremendous shape” dies from COVID-19 – On Monday, a 19-year-old college student at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, died from neurological complications after contracting COVID-19. Chad Dorrill, described as being in “tremendous shape” by his uncle, contracted the virus after his return to Boone for fall classes. After developing flu-like symptoms, Dorrill returned home, where he tested positive on September 7. After quarantining for 10 days, and being cleared by his doctor, he returned to school. Soon afterward, he began suffering serious neurological problems. “When he tried to get out of bed his legs were not working, and my brother had to carry him to the car and take him to the emergency room,” his uncle, David Dorrill, told the New York Times. “It was a COVID complication that rather than attacking his respiratory system attacked his brain.” Chad Dorrill (Family photo) Dorrill was a long-distance runner and former high school basketball player. “He was healthy. … Skinny. Could run six miles without any issue. He ran with us less than three weeks ago, in fact. He was healthy – until this hit,” his uncle explained. According to Tonia Maxcy, a family friend, doctors suspect that COVID-19 triggered an undetected case of Guillain-Barre syndrome in Dorrill. Guillain-Barre causes the body’s immune system to attack nerve cells. It was also linked to the Zika virus outbreak in Brazil in 2015, where it caused paralysis in those affected by the syndrome. As of June 29, according to the journal Neurological Sciences, there have been approximately 31 reported cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome caused by COVID-19 worldwide. Significantly, Dorrill was living off-campus, taking only online courses and, according to his uncle, “told us he was always careful to wear a mask.” Yet, he still contracted the virus, leading to his completely avoidable death. His mother, Susan Dorrill, said that “if it can happen to a super healthy 19-year-old boy who doesn’t smoke, vape or do drugs, it can happen to anyone.”

Michigan State University pushes forward with football amid a mass spike in COVID-19 cases – Since August 24, there have been 1,250 cases of COVID-19 linked to the reopening of Michigan State University (MSU). The university has officially recorded 499 positive cases, which both the university and the Ingham County Health Department have acknowledged is an underestimation of the true number of cases. The sheer speed at which the virus is spreading is expressed by the fact that only 41 cases were known before the first of September. Just over a week ago, the Ingham County Health Department recommended the entire MSU campus self-quarantine after nearly 350 new cases emerged on campus. The health department followed this suggestion by instating a mandatory quarantine for 23 fraternity and sorority houses, and seven rental houses. Even with these measures, cases have exploded, reinforcing the basic fact that college and university campuses, where thousands of students live in dorms and other forms of student housing, cannot reopen safely. The outbreak at MSU is only the latest indictment of the ruling class’s homicidal back-to-work and back-to-school campaigns, spearheaded by the Trump administration and supported by the Democrats. Despite this massive outbreak, testing numbers are declining on the campus. In a statement given to the press last Tuesday, Linda Vail, a health officer of Ingham County, noted that MSU’s case count only includes self-reported positive cases. Vail also acknowledged the university’s refusal to use the official health department case data even though MSU relies on the county health department to carry out part of its contact tracing. In spite of this, Vail has called MSU “amazing partners” in fighting COVID-19. In the latest demonstration of her kowtowing to the MSU administration, Vail made clear she would not directly order MSU to cancel its first football game and would only “advise” them to do so. This dangerous complicity from local health officials is being promoted at the highest levels. Just in the past few weeks alone, the CDC modified its health guidelines to facilitate the reopening workplaces, schools, and college university campuses, under immense pressure from Washington.

Ohio State Prof Pens Hyperbolic Apology For His “Whiteness” After Suggesting College Football Could Unify The Nation – Last week, Ohio State professor Matthew Mayhew wrote an article called “Why America Needs College Football.” The article advocated for, you guessed it, a return to college football – arguing it would be good for the nation.In his initial article, Mayhew wrote:As college campuses attempt to find a new normal suitable for the COVID-19 realities, college athletics, especially college football, have garnered much attention. Debates continue about whether players should be required to play this fall season.Although many people have been outspoken about the financial and health ramifications of allowing – or requiring – players to gear up, few, if any, have addressed the essential role that college football may play toward healing a democracy made more fragile by disease, racial unrest and a contested presidential election cycle.“Essentializing college football might help get us through these uncharacteristically difficult times of great isolation, division and uncertainty. Indeed, college football holds a special bipartisan place in the American heart,” he said. This week, Mayhew is writing a lengthy and possibly immensely hyperbolic apology for advocating for a sport that “places Black bodies at disproportional risk”. “I recently led a piece in Inside Higher Ed titled ‘Why America Needs College Football.’ I am sorry for the hurt, sadness, frustration, fatigue, exhaustion and pain this article has caused anyone, but specifically Black students in the higher education community and beyond,” Mayhew wrote in a part two, published in Inside Higher Ed. He continued, in an apology that was dripping with so much emotion that Reason suggested it could be satirical: I learned that I could have titled the piece “Why America Needs Black Athletes.” I learned that Black men putting their bodies on the line for my enjoyment is inspired and maintained by my uninformed and disconnected whiteness and, as written in my previous article, positions student athletes as white property. I have learned that I placed the onus of responsibility for democratic healing on Black communities whose very lives are in danger every single day and that this notion of “democratic healing” is especially problematic since the Black community can’t benefit from ideals they can’t access. I have learned that words like “distraction” and “cheer” erase the present painful moments within the nation and especially the Black community. He continues: I am just beginning to understand how I have harmed communities of color with my words. I am learning that my words – my uninformed, careless words – often express an ideology wrought in whiteness and privilege. I am learning that my commitment to diversity has been performative, ignoring the pain the Black community and other communities of color have endured in this country. I am learning that I am not as knowledgeable as I thought I was, not as antiracist that thought I was, not as careful as I thought I was. For all of these, I sincerely apologize.

Washington’s inability to agree on COVID relief puts future of colleges, universities at risk – A new academic year for the nation’s 4,300 colleges and universities has dawned with a little less of its customary pomp and pageantry. The excitement of move-in day was muted. There was less laughter at curbsides as students pulled bags out of cars (and parents suppressed welling tears). Fewer kickoffs are soaring into crisp blue skies. The angst that many Americans feel also exists on the nation’s campuses that educate 20 million students annually and employ 4 million people. As presidents of university systems, we are concerned about the health and safety of our university communities, and about the social and economic well-being of our states and of the nation. We are alarmed about the future of higher education institutions – indispensable centers of research, innovation and discovery – in America. Today, we serve as presidents of the University of Colorado and the University of Massachusetts, but in our previous lives, we served together in the U.S. House of Representatives. Though we were members of different parties, we believed in the absolute importance of collaboration and collegial engagement – and still do. Simply put, it would be a tragic mistake to allow the institutions that have driven America’s success and are essential to its future to wither during the COVID-19 siege. The CARES Act signed into law in March provided an initial round of pandemic-relief funding, but Washington’s inability to agree on a second comprehensive bill leaves higher education in significant jeopardy. We urge decision-makers to consider the severe pandemic-driven disruptions to these powerful drivers of economic development and social mobility. For colleges and universities across the nation, pandemic-related expenses already have been enormous and continue to mount. At the same time, our institutions are suffering severe revenue losses. As a recent Brookings Institution report noted, no institution is escaping the pandemic’s financial impact. “COVID-19 puts higher-ed finances at risk. For some universities, revenue shortfalls are going to bring pain – for other universities the shortfall may be a disaster,” the report said.

Millennials Say They’re Even Less Likely To Have Kids Now Thanks To COVID-19 –The world’s most developed countries are seeing population growth slow to a crawl, with the population of Japan, the EU and the US now expected to shrink between now and the beginning of the latter half of the 21st Century. As we noted on Jan. 1, the US recorded the slowest rate of population growth in a century between 2018 and 2019, thanks to the one-two punch of lower birth rates and declining immigration. But the US is in comparatively good shape relative to Japan, which is already seeing deaths outstrip births. With more younger people delaying family formation to focus on their careers, millennials are having children later than any prior generation. And as economists try to parse the long-term impact on the coronavirus pandemic on long-term demographic trends, it looks like – if anything – the outbreak has further soured many millennials on the notion of child-rearing. A new study from Morning Consult found that 15% of millennials are less interested in having children because of the pandemic, while 17% said they would delay having children because of it. Another 7% said they’re now more interested in having children (perhaps after bonding with a relatively new partner during the lockdowns). To be sure, MC surveyed 4,400 adults from Sept. 8-10, with a margin of error of 1 percentage point; the number of childless adults surveyed totaled 2,201 people with a 2 percentage point margin of error, and the margin of error for the childless millennials subsample is 4 points.”That’s a very dramatic change in behavior,” said Dr. Phillip Levine, a professor of economics at Wellesley College and former senior economist at the White House Council of Economic Advisers who studies the economics of fertility. “All these things are foreshadowing what we might expect to see happen in a few months, when we see the first of the children conceived during the pandemic start being born.”When asked why they don’t want kids, millennials cite myriad reasons all of which relate back to not feeling financially secure enough (though a few cited climate change).

“Supply Has Been Decimated”: California Mask Shortage Has Worsened Due To Wildfire Smoke -N95 masks were already in hot demand when wildfires on the West Coast started blanketing the entire coast with smoke. It seems that it isn’t just the pandemic that California is doing a poor job at managing – but also the state’s growing wildfire problem.The kicker is that both issues are spurring a massive demand for masks – and the state is having a shortage. Now, West Coast residents like Lindsey Major, who is 25 and has asthma, are desperate to find N95 masks. “You can breathe, but it’s like something weighing on your chest. My lungs felt like they were full of wet bands,” she told Bloomberg. She was able to finally get one mask after posting desperately on a Facebook group. The very same masks that are being recommended by the CDC to filter out Covid were “almost unfindable” as air quality on the West Coast deteriorated due to the wildfires. Supply has been “decimated”. Now, with weeks to go in wildfire season, dozens of fires across California resulted in 3.7 million acres burning. Smoke from the fires has been pushed into major cities, resulting in orange skies – some photographs of which we posted days ago here. Health departments have been urging citizens to stay inside as much as possible, despite the fact that most homes lack high grade air filters. President Trump used the Defense Production Act back in April to force 3M to continue to make N95 masks. The company is predicting output of 95 million masks per month in October, which is up from 50 million in June. But officials from many states still claim they are having trouble purchasing PPE, including masks. And emergency mask shipments “are hardly making it into the hands of the general public,” according to Bloomberg. Instead, many requests for masks are going directly to first responders and health-care workers. Aaron Bourne, the general manager at W.C. Winks Hardware in Portland, said he sold out of a shipment of 100 masks in less than 2 business days. Joel Kaufman, a doctor and professor of epidemiology at the University of Washington, concluded that the masks should be saved for emergency workers close to fires that have been fitted for them: “The people we worry most about — the people with chronic lung conditions – aren’t good candidates to wear these masks, because the masks increase the amount of work it takes to get air in and out. The folks who need it the most are, sort of, the least able to tolerate wearing them.”

One-third of US parents say they won’t vaccinate their kids against flu this year -Despite contrary public health messaging encouraging influenza vaccinations with the looming threat of duel outbreaks of the flu and COVID-19 this winter, new data suggest that approximately 32 percent of parents will not have their children get a flu vaccine. Results from a survey conducted by Michigan Medicine’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital reveals 1 in 3 parents doesn’t plan to have their children get a flu vaccine this year, the Detroit Free Press reports. Health experts have reiterated the importance of getting a flu vaccine this year as the U.S. still battles the coronavirus. In preparation for mass demand, the U.S. government has ordered around 194 to 198 million doses of the influenza vaccine – a record order number. If the population develops a broad immunity against the flu, it will help prevent hospitals and health care systems from being overrun with both influenza and COVID-19-related illnesses. Unfortunately, this public health messaging may not have resonated with the entire population. “The pandemic doesn’t seem to be changing parents’ minds about the importance of the flu vaccine,” the poll analysis says. “It could be a double whammy flu season this year as the nation already faces a viral deadly disease with nearly twin symptoms.” The hospital polled roughly 2,000 parents of children aged 2 to 18 in August, and found many parents don’t regard the flu vaccine as “more urgent or necessary” against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. One leading reason prompting some parents not to vaccinate their children comes from wanting to keep them away from health care facilities and potential COVID-19 exposure during the pandemic, with 14 percent of respondents avoiding vaccine sites for this reason. Longstanding misinformation surrounding flu vaccines also motivates some parents to opt out of the flu vaccine for their child, such as misinformation about side effects or the efficacy of the vaccine. Children have been found to be major spreaders of COVID-19 largely due to the asymptomatic effect it has on young patients, but they also spread influenza with similar ferocity. The National Foundation for Infectious Disease (NFID) says that children are major spreaders of the flu because they may pass on larger viral loads of bacteria for a longer period of time than adults.

China’s Export Machine Looks Inward as Global Risks Rise – WSJ – Chinese makers of goods for export are seeking to turn inwards and sell domestically, a pivot considered key to making the world’s second-largest economy more self-sufficient. In recent weeks, Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for the country to embrace what he calls domestic circulation – a policy designed to bolster local supply chains and encourage domestic consumption to make China more resilient to future commercial or geopolitical disruption, such as the coronavirus pandemic and the U.S.-China trade war.While China’s exports have bounced back after the pandemic, the benefits have yet to wash through places such as this eastern China export hub, where struggling merchants say foreign orders remain depleted by the coronavirus.Reorienting China’s formidable export machineto sell more domestically is easier said than done, say merchants in Yiwu, a city of 1.2 million people whose Yiwu International Trade City, a vast emporium of more than 75,000 wholesale stores, contributed about 2% of China’s $2.5 trillion in exports last year.Many of the products made here, such as Christmas decorations and other low-cost, labor-intensive commodities, simply aren’t needed domestically in significant quantities. Only a small percentage of China’s 1.4 billion people are openly Christian, according to the U.S. human-rights group Freedom House.Zhang Jiying, whose company produces umbrellas primarily for export, is keen to develop Chinese markets as a hedge against future export shocks. But she acknowledges that going local will be slow and complex.”We’ve spent decades learning how to operate smoothly in overseas markets,” said Ms. Zhang, hinting at the enormity of trying to replicate those relationships back home. “Shifting to the domestic market won’t be easy. The journey will be long.”

Beijing Limits Frozen Food Imports After Multiple ‘COVID Scares’ -Global COVID-19 cases have breached the 33 million mark as infections continue to soar worldwide. The official death count is around one million, as China is at it again, urging domestic companies to halt frozen imports of food from countries that have been severely impacted by the pandemic due to the risk of transmission through packaging, reported Bloomberg. This isn’t the first time China has tried to portray imported foods as a threat. Readers may recall, when the first post-lockdown cluster was found in Beijing and traced to a wholesale market in the southwestern parts of the city, officials there said traces of salmon tested positive. This resulted in a nationwide boycott that led to thousands of tons of imported salmon being thrown in the trash. In July, we also noted imports of shrimp from Ecuador were found to be carrying the virus, well, not the shrimp itself, but, according to China, the packaging had traces of the virus. Now the Beijing city government on Monday warned companies to avoid importing frozen food from countries where the virus is rampant. This comes after China found its first local asymptomatic infection in more than a month as two workers at a port in Qingdao city tested positive after unloading frozen seafood. In recent weeks, China halted seafood imports from two Russian vessels and a Brazilian company after the virus was found on packaging. Individual food plants in Ecuador, Brazil, and Indonesia have seen their exports to China ground to a halt as well. Bloomberg notes that “cold-storage facilities and meat-processing plants are ideal environments for the virus to thrive, there has been no concrete evidence the virus can be transmitted through food and packaging, and experts remain doubtful that it’s a major threat.” In August, China’s top virus expert advised the government to limit imports of frozen food to mitigate the spreading of the virus. The FDA has said it’s “not aware of any evidence” that links the transmission of the respiratory virus to food.

Pakistan Digital Gig Economy Surged 69% Amid COVID19 Pandemic — Pakistan’s digital gig economy has surged 69% during the COVID19 pandemic, putting the country among the world’s top 4 hottest online freelancer markets, reports Payoneer, a global payments platform company based in Silicon Valley, in its latest report. Payoneer attributes it to government programs such as Punjab government’s e Rozgaar program that has been offering free online courses in digital freelancing. The sudden rush to learn skills online boosted the demand for instructors. The Pakistan government filled this demand by hiring alumni of programs like e Rozgaar who were successfully participating in the gig economy. After a brief dip in January 2020, the demand for freelancers took off in February and increased by double digits each month starting in March until June when it surged 47% at the time the data was compiled by Payoneer for its report.” Likewise, this response is reflected in the revenue figures where freelancing continued to grow year-on-year but temporarily slowing from 21 per cent growth in March to 16 per cent growth in May,” the report noted. e-Rozgaar‘s latest group of graduates earned the highest ever income for a new class of the program–earning over Rs. 25 million in three months during the Covid-19 lockdown. PITB Chairman Azfar Manzoor told Profit magazine that e-Rozgaar was playing a pivotal role in curbing youth unemployment. “One factor that goes a long way to explain this is that in April, local government authorities took the initiative to rapidly shut down educational institutes as a way to contain the spread of the virus,” the report said, adding that this led to the development of a new online education system and as part of this initiative, government training programs, such as e-Rozgaar, expanded its services throughout the country, offering people a new way to enhance their professional capabilities. “The mission was to help expedite freelancing skills for thousands and enable them to earn a living in the most in-demand fields and ultimately lead to a higher employment rate,” the report highlighted. A global survey conducted by Payoneer, shows that Pakistani women freelancers are earning $22 an hour, 10% more than the $20 an hour earned by men. While Pakistani male freelancers earnings are at par with global average, Pakistani female earnings are higher than the global average for freelancers. Digital gig economy is not only helping women earn more than men but it is also reducing barriers to women’s labor force participation in the country. The survey also concludes that having a university degree does not help you earn more in the growing gig economy. The survey was conducted in 2015.

Bridgestone, Total shut plants as COVID-19 layoffs sweep Europe – After receiving trillions of euros of public money from the European Union (EU) supposedly to alleviate the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, French and European employers are restructuring the economy with mass layoffs and austerity plans. Last week, the Total oil group announced the conversion of its Grandpuits refinery near Paris into a “zero oil platform.” That involves 150 job losses at Total itself, and the firing of 50 temp workers and 500 employees of Total subcontractors. In mid September, the Bridgestone tire company said closing its factory in Bethune was the only option to “safeguard the competitiveness of its operations in Europe.” After having received millions of euros from the French state, supposedly to improve the Bethune factory’s competitiveness, Bridgestone declared that the plant could not face competition from Chinese tires. The corporation refused any further investment that would allow the factory to make more high-quality tires. According to well-known Paris labour lawyer Fiodor Rilov, “there is simply a determination on the company’s part to boost profitability. Bridgestone Group’s operating profits were euro 4 billion in 2018 and euro 3 billion in 2019, more than Michelin and Goodyear. … Politicians’ last-minute intervention is hypocritical and cynical. Most of the laws that ordinarily would have avoided the dismantling of a factory like Bridgestone have been dismantled. This is the product of reforms introduced by Emmanuel Macron when he was the Economics minister.” After announcing the destruction of 15,000 jobs worldwide, global giant Airbus unveiled an “adaptation plan” for COVID-19 last week to the European works committee at Blagnac, near Toulouse. Airbus France presented a collective performance plan involving wage freezes and the destruction of fringe benefits (bonuses and accumulated time for holiday periods). Using European bailout funds, the French state is leading a restructuring of the economy to massively destroy jobs and companies deemed uncompetitive. It pursues a violent class policy. Bailed out with trillions taken from the public purse, the financial aristocracy and top corporate executives aim to reduce millions of workers and small businesses to poverty. Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire virtually boasted that companies “will be obliged to reduce their staff. Consequently, we expect in the coming weeks and months a high number of layoffs and bankruptcies.” “When you anticipate a 50 percent drop in your turnover, your options are limited,” one economist told Europe1 radio. A government inter-ministerial delegation on industrial restructuring has recently received a large increase in its budget.

More than 2,000 schools in UK hit by COVID-19 outbreaks as thousands of children and staff sent home – Almost four weeks into the full reopening of UK schools by the Conservative government and the lie that schools were ever “COVID-19 secure” has been shattered. This week, almost one in five positive tests in England were in the under-19 age group, 19.7 percent of all tests. Latest figures form the Weekly Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) surveillance report show that educational settings account for 45 percent of positive cases. Confirmed outbreaks of COVID-19 had hit 2,072 schools by noon Monday. Of these, 1,483 schools are in England, 313 Wales, 166 Scotland and 110 in Northern Ireland, according to research complied by the Tory Fibs organisation. Many schools have suffered multiple infections. Thousands of children are being sent home to self-isolate, in some cases to isolate with vulnerable parents. The government is keeping no central record of infections in schools, but the huge scale of what is being concealed was revealed by Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson. He tweeted Monday, “New infections of COVID-19 in this last week in Liverpool is 1,254, this has increased the numbers infected to approx. 5,000, it is doubling every six days. There are currently 8,000 school children at home self-isolating and over 350 teachers & staff.” All 1,700 pupils were sent home to isolate at one Liverpool school, after testing revealed 48 asymptomatic positive pupils – confirming in-school transmission – reported the Skwawkbox blog yesterday. Matt Ashton, Liverpool’s director of public health, reported that there were 242 positive coronavirus infections per 100,000 people in the week to September 24. This compares to Bolton’s 211 cases per 100,000, previously the highest rate in the UK. He said Liverpool’s cases were doubling every eight to nine days and 12.8 percent of people being tested were confirmed positive, which is classed as a high rate. There were infections in all age groups and “sharp increases” in COVID hospital admissions. He warned “increases in deaths are likely to follow.”

Lockdown child sexual abuse ‘hidden by under-reporting’ – A significant drop in the number of child sexual abuse cases reported to police during lockdown masks the true extent of what’s happened to vulnerable children, police chiefs say.National Police Chiefs Council data shows reports in England and Wales fell by 25% between April and August, compared with the same period in 2019.But officers told BBC Newsnight this does not represent the true picture. And senior officers are warning child protection referrals will now rise.Chief Constable Simon Bailey said he suspected the 25% fall was “a false and misleading picture” of what children may have experienced during those months.

“Those children that would have been exposed to those adverse experiences during lockdown, it is only going to emerge when they spend time within the safe environment of a school, in contact with their teachers, who are very, very good and adept at identifying those signs – the indicators that something is not right within that child’s life,” he said.Supt Chris Truscott, of South Wales Police, agreed there were limited opportunities during lockdown for vulnerable children to disclose harmful behaviour, which would start to come to light only now schools were back.He too expected an increase in referrals officers would have had no way of identifying during lockdown.”If they were vulnerable before the pandemic, then the likelihood is that vulnerability will have increased over that period of time,” Supt Truscott said.”So I think what we are likely to see is that trickle effect turning more into a river type effect where all of that six months of lockdown experiences which children perhaps have been through [are] aired.”

The new 10 p.m. curfew on UK pubs, bars, and restaurants will ‘devastate’ the industry, owners say. ‘It’s hard to understand how this is the solution to fighting the disease.’ – England’s new 10 p.m. curfew at pubs, bars, and restaurants – designed to push down COVID-19 cases – is “another crushing blow” to struggling businesses now facing closure, owners have said. Nearly a quarter (23%) of members of the UK’s biggest pub and hospitality trade bodies expect to fail in the next three months unless the government gives them more support, a survey by market research company CGA shows – and the curfew “will only make the situation worse,” the British Beer and Pubs Association (BBPA) said. One in eight hospitality staff have already been made redundant, the survey said. Two in five adults said they will go out less often as a result of curfew, according to a CGA survey carried out immediately after the announcement. The curfew will “devastate” the sector, said Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the BBPA, describing it as “particularly heart-breaking” for pubs in areas with low infection rates, such as Reading, Bristol, and Cambridge. Kate Nicholls, CEO of the trade body UKHospitality, described the restrictions as “another crushing blow” for struggling hospitality businesses, adding that it is “now inevitable that the sector will struggle long into 2021.” The government introduced new lockdown measures in England on Monday as coronavirus cases in the country rose towards what scientists fear will be a second peak. This included a 10 p.m. curfew for pubs, bars, and restaurants, and compulsory table service from September 24. The curfew also covers other leisure sites such as casinos, social clubs, and funfairs. Nicholls said that it is “hard to understand how these measures are the solution to fighting the disease.” She added that the curfews in north England “merely damaged business and cost jobs.”

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