The daily rate of positive coronavirus tests hit 3.25% in New York City, Bill de Blasio said Tuesday. That’s the highest since June.
The city, which is currently in the process of gingerly attempting to resume in-person learning and indoor dining, uses a 3% threshold, on a seven-day rolling basis, to determine whether schools can remain open. That figure (the seven-day rolling average) is still just 1.38%.
De Blasio called the uptick “a cause for real concern”, but expressed confidence in the city’s ability to keep things under control. The problem is largely confined to a handful of Orthodox communities resistant to face coverings.
As The New York Times notes, the mayor last week “ordered the Police Department and the Sheriff’s Office to enforce public health guidelines in… areas, where residents often do not wear masks. Fines will start being handed out “on a large scale today”, de Blasio remarked. 300,000 children went back to classrooms Tuesday.
While a 3% test rate is low in the grand scheme of things, this serves as a subtle reminder that in the absence of vigilance, the virus will spread even in locales like New York, where officials have gone to extraordinary lengths to stamp it out entirely (compared to some states in the Sunbelt, for example, which have taken a more laissez-faire approach). It also comes on a grim day for the world, as the global death toll passed 1 million.
Meanwhile, the Conference Board’s consumer confidence survey showed the largest gain in 17 years, printing 101.8 from an upwardly revised 86.3 in August.
As you can see, even with the 15.5 point increase, we’re a long way from recovering levels seen prior to the crisis.
“Consumer Confidence increased sharply in September, after back-to-back monthly declines, but remains below pre-pandemic levels”, Lynn Franco, Senior Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board said. “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”.
Suffice to say markets simply did not care about that on Tuesday. There’s just too much on the docket, between the first debate (Tuesday evening), September payrolls (Friday), and stimulus talks (ongoing).
As expected, Democrats told The White House that in the absence of a compromise deal on additional virus relief, the House will vote (and pass) the $2.2 trillion package unveiled on Monday evening. That bill includes funding for airlines, restaurants, and small businesses, as well as another round of $1,200 checks for individuals (the amount for dependents was lowered to $500 from Democrats’ initial $1,200 demand).
The extra $600/week in federal unemployment benefits included in the CARES Act would be extended through January, and state and local governments would get $436 billion, markedly less than the $915 billion figure which was considered a total nonstarter by Republicans. Tens of billions more would be made available under the legislation for testing, contact tracing, vaccine distribution, and, you know, things that generally make sense to spend money on during a pandemic.
Unfortunately, Republicans seem unlikely to go for it. This is one case where The White House isn’t the main problem, although the administration is a problem. Steve Mnuchin and Nancy Pelosi spoke Tuesday and will chat again Wednesday, but the Trump administration isn’t likely to come all the way up to $2.2 trillion. Even if they did, though, Senate Republicans were still down around $650 billion at last check. Mitch McConnell is likely to skate through November unscathed, but some of his GOP compatriots may not. You might think that would motivate them to get on board with additional spending, but they’re a recalcitrant bunch.
Larry Kudlow — because no discussion about the economy would be complete without a quote from a man who, for the past several decades, has made a career of playing an economist on television frequently enough that many Americans actually believe he is one — told CNBC Tuesday that “the other team wants a gigantic package and we don’t think we need that”.
Newsflash, Larry, there is only one “team” when what’s being discussed is virus relief. America’s political divisions are turning deadlier by the day.
Kudlow continued: “For some reason, we just can’t get it done”.
Right. And “for some reason”, the US public’s perception of their elected officials “just can’t” seem to get off the mat, according to Gallup.