SMALL BUSINESS GRANT OPPORTUNITIES
- Restaurants Care Resilience Fund - $5,000, Applications open April 15, due May 7. SoCalGas will contribute $1 million in aid from its donor advised fund to help small restaurants with improvements, upgrades, employee retention and to manage debt, losses and rising costs. Funding for these grants is made possible by SoCalGas, PG&E, and SDG&E.
- Verizon Small Business Digital Ready – $10,000, Applications due May 12. A specific focus on helping diverse and under-resourced business owners. Small businesses can unlock the application for this round of grant funding by first registering on Verizon Small Business Digital Ready and completing at least two of the following, in any combination: courses, live coaching or community events.
- Economic Opportunity Grants – Up to $20,000, Applications due May 20. The Los Angeles County Department of Economic Opportunity will disburse more than $54 million in grants to small businesses, microbusinesses and non-profits. Register for a free info session on how to apply.
Cases (and a new variant):
First cases of new subvariant are identified in L.A. County-Anecdotal reports link Arcturus to what has been a rare COVID-19 sympto m: pink eye. By Rong-Gong Lin II and Luke Money for the LA Times.
Los Angeles County has identified its first cases of an emerging Omicron coronavirus subvariant dubbed Arcturus, a strain global health authorities are watching closely as it has been linked to an upswing in cases in India.
Officially designated XBB.1.16, the subvariant also has attracted attention after anecdotal reports linking it to what has been a rare COVID-19 symptom: pink eye.
However, it remains unclear whether this symptom is more pronounced in Arcturus than earlier Omicron strains. The latest subvariant has not been shown to cause more severe illness.
It is possible, however, that Arcturus is even more infectious than the dominant coronavirus strain in the U.S., XBB.1.5. Though that probably isn’t enough to trigger another surge in cases, any uptick in transmission heightens the risk for vulnerable individuals — and, health officials say, reinforces the value of protective measures.
Because Arcturus is an Omicron subvariant, Ferrer said, it’s likely that current vaccines and therapeutic drugs will be effective on this strain.
Still, she said in an interview,
It’s now believed to be the second-most common coronavirus strain in circulation nationwide, accounting for an estimated 7.2% of cases, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s up notably from its estimated share of 2.1% over the week ending April 1.
XBB.1.5, meanwhile, comprised an estimated 78% of new cases nationwide over the week ending Saturday.
For the southwestern U.S. — including California, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii and the Pacific territories — Arcturus accounted for an estimated 9.8% of cases, up from an estimated 2.6% over the week ending April 1.
In India, authorities say Arcturus has begun replacing older versions of the coronavirus.
There have also been anecdotal reports of pink eye , or conjunctivitis, in coronavirus-infected people in India, particularly in children.
Before Arcturus, pink eye had been associated as a symptom in 1% to 3% of coronavirus cases, according to Chin-Hong and Ferrer.
If left untreated, pink eye can go beyond mere pain and itchiness to damage the cornea, Ferrer said.
Pink eye can be caused by other viruses and bacteria.
Coronavirus cases are relatively stable at lower levels in California. As of Thursday, there was no sign of an increase in coronavirus levels in L.A. County wastewater or in officially reported coronavirus cases.
For the most recent week, L.A. County reported 44 COVID-19 deaths.
In general, people at higher risk of dying are older and not up to date on their COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters, or haven’t been treated with anti-COVID drugs, experts say.
Just 42% of eligible L.A. County seniors have received the updated vaccine since it became available in September.
Though many believe the time of hospitals being overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients is over, any bump in cases could still lead to an increase in hospitalizations, underscoring the importance of staying up to date on vaccines (particularly for older people) and asking for therapeutic anti-COVID drugs such as Paxlovid and molnupiravir — which are free — should you become infected.
People who got the updated booster were roughly one-tenth as likely to die compared with unvaccinated L.A. County residents. Immunity from surviving a past infection alone doesn’t reliably provide the same kind of protection as vaccines.
Chin-Hong said he suspected the rise in the latest subvariant was a factor in federal officials moving this week to make another booster dose available to older and immunocompromised people.
L.A. County’s COVID-19 vaccination clinics began offering the additional updated doses Thursday.
Angelenos who need help accessing the updated vaccine, anti-COVID therapeutic drugs or other COVID-19 resources can call (833) 540-0473, seven days a week, from 8 a.m. and 8:30 p.m.
FDA clears another COVID-19 booster-Older or vulnerable people would be able to get an extra dose of bivalent vaccine this spring.
(From the Associated Press): U.S. regulators on Tuesday cleared another COVID-19 booster dose for older adults and people with weak immune systems so they can shore up protection this spring — while taking steps to make the vaccinations simpler for everyone else.
The Food and Drug Administration said anyone 65 or older can opt to roll up their sleeves again as long as it’s been at least four months since their first dose of the so-called bivalent vaccine that targets Omicron strains of the coronavirus.
And most people who are immune-compromised can choose another bivalent booster shot at least two months after their first dose, with additional doses in the future at the discretion of their physician.
For everyone else, regardless of whether it’s a first shot or a booster, the FDA also said the original versions of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are outdated and will no longer be used. Instead, anyone getting a Pfizer or Moderna shot will receive the newer Omicron-targeted version. For most people, if it’s their first-ever vaccine, just one dose of the bivalent vaccine will be enough. Anyone who’s gotten their original vaccinations but hasn’t yet had an Omicron-targeted booster can still get one, but the agency will decide over the summer whether younger, healthy people will eventually be offered a second bivalent booster.
The Pfizer and Moderna boosters contain protection against both the original version of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and the Omicron strains known as BA.4 and BA.5. While newer Omicron cousins now are circulating, recent studies show the bivalent shots still are effective.
For many Americans, COVID-19 has become less of a health fear and more of an inconvenience, and masking, routine testing and other precautions have largely fallen by the wayside.
The FDA’s simplification also means changes for unvaccinated children. If their parents now want them vaccinated, tots under 5 may receive two doses of bivalent Moderna vaccine or three doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech bivalent vaccine. Those who already are 5 may get a single bivalent Pfizer shot or two Moderna doses. Children already fully or partially vaccinated with the original Pfizer or Moderna shots may get a bivalent vaccine, but how many doses will depend on their vaccination history, the FDA said.
From the Financial Times: China’s economy grows 4.5% in first quarter-China’s gross domestic product grew 4.5 per cent year on year in the first quarter, exceeding analysts’ expectations, as strong growth in exports and infrastructure investment as well as a rebound in property prices drove a recovery in the world’s second-largest economy.
From the New York Times: How strong is the US economy? from David Leonhardt:
My colleagues David Brooks and Paul Krugman have engaged in a running debate for much of their time as Times Opinion columnists, and I often find their exchanges illuminating.
Their latest argument revolves around how strong the American economy really is. The Economist magazine sparked the debate with a recent cover story titled “Riding high: The lessons from America’s astonishing economic record.” Today, I’ll use the disagreement to pose two different questions — one that may challenge conservative readers of this newsletter and the other that may challenge liberal readers.
G.D.P. or life expectancy?
In David’s recent column, he endorsed The Economist’s sunny picture: “You can invent fables about how America is in economic decline. You can rail against ‘neoliberalism.’ But the American economy doesn’t care. It just keeps rolling on.”
The standard measure of a nation’s economic performance is per capita gross domestic product — the value of the economy’s output divided by the size of the population. Over the past three decades, the U.S. has widened its lead over Europe and Japan:
Source: World Bank | Data is adjusted for inflation. | By The New York Times
Today, the U.S. still accounts for almost 25 percent of global output, nearly the same share as in 1990, even as China’s share has soared.
The U.S. remains a uniquely dynamic society in some important ways, home to top universities, a thriving venture-capital industry, a stable government (most of the time) and a population comfortable with risk taking. Apple, Google, Tesla and OpenAI are all American companies. So are Moderna and Pfizer, key developers of the mRNA Covid vaccines.
When it comes to economic innovation and productive might, no country can match the U.S.
As Paul notes, however, G.D.P. does not measure a typical person’s standard of living. Per capita G.D.P. is an average, and an average can be distorted by outliers. The U.S. is highly unequal, which means that the wealthy take home a larger share of output than in other countries.
Since 2000, per capita G.D.P. in the U.S. has risen 27 percent, but median household income has risen only 7 percent. Income for the top 0.1 percent of earners, by contrast, has jumped 41 percent.
When you look at broad measures of well-being, the U.S. stops looking so good. We have the lowest life expectancy of any high-income country, a relatively recent development. Americans have uniquely poor access to health insurance and paid parental leave. Surveys show that Americans are deeply dissatisfied with the country’s direction.
CNBC, describing the results of a survey it has been conducting since 2006, reported the following last week: “A record 69 percent of the public holds negative views about the economy both now and in the future, the highest percentage in the survey’s 17-year history.”
Paul put it this way in his most recent newsletter:
… it’s always important to bear in mind that G.D.P., at best, tells us how much a society can afford. It doesn’t tell us whether the money is well spent; high G.D.P. need not translate into a good quality of life. Individuals can be rich but miserable; so can countries.
And there are good reasons to believe that America is using its economic growth badly.
Conservatives sometimes respond to this data by trying to separate the economy from the rest of society. The former, they argue, is performing magnificently. The latter is beset by fraying social bonds and other ills.
But I think it’s a mistake to imagine that the economy is somehow distinct from living standards. The unequal American economy continues to churn out an impressive array of goods and services while also failing to deliver rapidly improving living standards. And polls suggest that most people aren’t fooled.
Voting with their feet
So is the solution simply more government intervention in the economy — following the model of Europe and U.S. states that are run by Democrats? Not quite. Consider these facts, from another recent column of David’s:
Between 2010 and 2020, the fastest-growing states were mostly red — places like Texas, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and South Carolina. During the pandemic, that trend accelerated, and once again, most of the big population-gaining states are governed by Republicans.
If you go back farther, you see decade after decade of migration toward the more conservative South. The Brookings Institution demographer William Frey has noted that in 1920, the Northeast and the Midwest accounted for 60 percent of America’s population. A century later, the Sun Belt accounts for 62 percent of the nation’s population. These days we are mostly a Sun Belt nation.
I found some of the reader comments on that column to be jarring. They didn’t grapple with why so many Americans, including young families and immigrants, were moving to Republican-run states. These comments instead argued that blue America was better and red America was backward. “I, for one, will never live in a red state,” read the comment that has received the most endorsements from other readers. “Never have, never will.”
Evidently, growing numbers of Americans feel differently.
Red America offers less expensive housing partly because its zoning laws are less onerous. To over-generalize only somewhat, blue America believes in NIMBYism (“not in my backyard”), while red America is more comfortable with YIMBYism. Red America also reopened its schools more quickly during Covid, and long school closures appear to have been one of the biggest policy mistakes of the pandemic.
The full picture is nuanced. The same laissez-faire, anti-regulation, low-tax instincts that make housing relatively affordable in Houston, Tampa, Fla., and Greenville, S.C., also contribute to high American inequality and stagnant quality of life — because some regulations are more conducive to human flourishing than others. The U.S. simultaneously has too much government and too little.
That combination helps explain why our economy looks so good by some measures and so bad by others.