At the March 6 council meeting, Pasadena City Council voted to adopt a resolution to terminate the local public health emergency. This action was recommended by Acting Director of Public Health Manuel Carmona and Interim Health Officer Dr. Eric G. Handler. With City Council’s adoption of the resolution, the COVID-19 local public health emergency in Pasadena ends effective immediately.
Lab Leak Responsible?: New intelligence has prompted the Energy Department to conclude that an accidental laboratory leak in China most likely caused the coronavirus pandemic, though U.S. spy agencies remain divided over the origins of the virus, American officials said on Sunday.
The conclusion was a change from the department’s earlier position that it was undecided on how the virus emerged.
Some officials briefed on the intelligence said that it was relatively weak and that the Energy Department’s conclusion was made with “low confidence,” suggesting its level of certainty was not high. While the department shared the information with other agencies, none of them changed their conclusions, officials said.
Officials would not disclose what the intelligence was. But many of the Energy Department’s insights come from its network of national laboratories, some of which conduct biological research, rather than more traditional forms of intelligence like spy networks or communications intercepts.
Intelligence officials believe the scrutiny of the pandemic’s beginnings could be important to improving global response to future health crises, though they caution that finding an answer about the source of the virus may be difficult or even impossible given Chinese opposition to further research. Scientists say there is a responsibility to explain how a pandemic that has killed almost seven million people started, and learning more about its origins could help researchers understand what poses the biggest threats of future outbreaks.
Long COVID: Stomach pain, constipation, diarrhea, vomiting, bloating — these are symptoms frequently reported by people with long Covid. Now, a large new study reports that Covid patients were significantly more likely to experience gastrointestinal problems a year after infection than people who were not infected.
The study, published on Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, compared medical records of 154,068 Covid patients in the Veterans Health Administration system with about 5.6 million patients of similar age and other characteristics who had not contracted the coronavirus. Covid patients were 36 percent more likely to have long-term gastrointestinal problems that they did not have before their infection, with 9,605 of them experiencing issues affecting the digestive system, intestines, pancreas or liver.
The most common diagnoses were acid-related disorders, like gastroesophageal reflux disease (known as GERD) and peptic ulcer disease, which were identified in more than 2,600 patients.
California's reported unemployment rate (seasonally adjusted) in January dipped to 4.2%. The December numbers show employment up 21,300 for the month. Unemployment rose 23,500. The labor force grew 44,700.
The reported national numbers show US unemployment rate (seasonally adjusted) improved to 3.4% in January and edged down to 3.6% in February as the national labor force showed a strong gain of 1.3 million workers over the two months. In January, employment was up 894,000, unemployment down 28,000, and the labor force up 866,000. The labor force participation rate improved 0.1 point to 62.4%.
US jobs growth eased to 311,000 in February but remained elevated. US jobs growth slowed in February from the breakneck pace of the previous month, but remained elevated enough to keep pressure on the Federal Reserve to consider switching back to bigger interest rate increases.
From the New York Times: Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, made clear on Tuesday that the central bank is prepared to react to recent signs of economic strength by raising interest rates higher than previously expected and, if incoming data remain hot, potentially returning to a quicker pace of rate increases.
Mr. Powell, in remarks before the Senate Banking Committee, also noted that the Fed’s fight against inflation was “very likely” to come at some cost to the labor market.
His comments were the clearest acknowledgment yet that recent reports showing inflation remains stubborn and the job market remains resilient are likely to shake up the policy trajectory for America’s central bank.
The Fed raised interest rates last year at the fastest pace since the 1980s, pushing borrowing costs above 4.5 percent, from near zero. That initially seemed to be slowing consumer and business demand and helping inflation to moderate.
And: President Biden on Thursday proposed a $6.8 trillion budget that sought to increase spending on the military and a wide range of new social programs while also reducing future budget deficits, defying Republican calls to scale back government and reasserting his economic vision before an expected re-election campaign.
The budget contains some $5 trillion in proposed tax increases on high earners and corporations over a decade, much of which would offset new spending programs aimed at the middle class and the poor. It seeks to reduce budget deficits by nearly $3 trillion over that time, compared with the country’s current path.
It reaffirms Mr. Biden’s case that he can prevent the growing debt burden from weighing on the economy while expanding spending and protecting popular safety-net programs — almost entirely by asking companies and the wealthy to pay more in taxes.
But after claiming credit for a $1.7 trillion decline in the annual deficit over the past year, Mr. Biden now sees the deficit increasing again in the 2024 fiscal year, to $1.8 trillion. The jump is larger than other forecasters, like the Congressional Budget Office, have projected. It is driven by rising costs of servicing the national debt as the Federal Reserve raises interest rates to curb inflation and by new programs the president is proposing that are not fully offset by tax increases in their first year.
The plan drew swift criticism from Republicans, who are locked in an economically perilous debate with Mr. Biden over the borrowing limit, which House conservatives refuse to raise unless he agrees to sharp spending cuts.
Also from the New York Times: The U.S. economy could quickly shed a million jobs and fall into recession if lawmakers fail to raise the nation’s borrowing limit before the federal government exhausts its ability to pay its bills on time, the chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, Mark Zandi, warned a Senate panel on Tuesday.
The damage could spiral to seven million jobs lost and a 2008-style financial crisis in the event of a prolonged breach of the debt limit, in which House Republicans refuse for months to join Democrats in voting to raise the cap, Mr. Zandi and his colleagues Cristian deRitis and Bernard Yaros wrote in an analysis prepared for the Senate Banking Committee’s Subcommittee on Economic Policy.
Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, held the subcommittee hearing on the debt limit, and its economic and financial consequences, at a moment of fiscal brinkmanship. House Republicans are demanding deep spending cuts from President Biden in exchange for voting to raise the debt limit, which caps how much money the government can borrow.
That debate is likely to escalate when Mr. Biden releases his latest budget proposal on Thursday. The president is expected to propose reducing America’s reliance on borrowed money by raising taxes on high earners and corporations. But he almost certainly will not match the level of spending cuts that will satisfy Republican demands to balance the budget in a decade.
The report also warns of stark economic damage if Mr. Biden, in an attempt to avert a default, agrees to those demands. In that scenario, the “dramatic” spending cuts that would be needed to balance the budget would push the economy into recession in 2024, cost the economy 2.6 million jobs and effectively destroy a year’s worth of economic growth over the next decade, Mr. Zandi and his colleagues wrote.
What is the debt ceiling? The debt ceiling, also called the debt limit, is a cap on the total amount of money that the federal government is authorized to borrow via U.S. Treasury securities, such as bills and savings bonds, to fulfill its financial obligations. Because the United States runs budget deficits, it must borrow huge sums of money to pay its bills.
The limit has been hit. What now? America hit its technical debt limit on Jan. 19. The Treasury Department will now begin using “extraordinary measures” to continue paying the government’s obligations. These measures are essentially fiscal accounting tools that curb certain government investments so that the bills continue to be paid. Those options could be exhausted by June.
What is at stake? Once the government exhausts its extraordinary measures and runs out of cash, it would be unable to issue new debt and pay its bills. The government could wind up defaulting on its debt if it is unable to make required payments to its bondholders. Such a scenario would be economically devastating and could plunge the globe into a financial crisis.
Can the government do anything to forestall disaster? There is no official playbook for what Washington can do. But options do exist. The Treasury could try to prioritize payments, such as paying bondholders first. If the United States does default on its debt, which would rattle the markets, the Federal Reserve could theoretically step in to buy some of those Treasury bonds.
Why is there a limit on U.S. borrowing? According to the Constitution, Congress must authorize borrowing. The debt limit was instituted in the early 20th century so that the Treasury would not need to ask for permission each time it had to issue debt to pay bills.
Mr. Zandi’s analyses are frequently cited by the Biden administration in support of its economic policy proposals. In this case, Ms. Warren is using the Moody’s work to push Mr. Biden, in a letter sent to the White House this week, to resist Republican demands for spending cuts and instead continue insisting on a debt-limit increase that is not tied to any changes in fiscal policy.