C19 Open Discussion Week 11

From Science:

T cells found in COVID-19 patients ‘bode well’ for long-term immunity

Immune warriors known as T cells help us fight some viruses, but their importance for battling SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has been unclear. Now, two studies reveal infected people harbor T cells that target the virus—and may help them recover. Both studies also found some people never infected with SARS-CoV-2 have these cellular defenses, most likely because they were previously infected with other coronaviruses.

“This is encouraging data,” says virologist Angela Rasmussen of Columbia University. Although the studies don’t clarify whether people who clear a SARS-CoV-2 infection can ward off the virus in the future, both identified strong T cell responses to it, which “bodes well for the development of long-term protective immunity,” Rasmussen says. The findings could also help researchers create better vaccines.

The results suggest “one reason that a large chunk of the population may be able to deal with the virus is that we may have some small residual immunity from our exposure to common cold viruses,” says viral immunologist Steven Varga of the University of Iowa. However, neither of the studies attempted to establish that people with crossreactivity don’t become as ill from COVID-19.

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C19 Open Discussion Week 10c

Return to normalcy? We have the first signs of a return to normal weekly driving patterns in New Jersey. Almost want to call it a return to sinus rhythm after a period of afib. Maybe the patient isn’t dead just yet.

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C19 Open Discussion Week 10b

From CNBC:

Weekly mortgage applications point to a remarkable recovery in homebuying

If mortgage demand is an indicator, buyers are coming back to the housing market far faster than anticipated, despite coronavirus shutdowns and job losses.

Mortgage applications to purchase a home rose 6% last week from the previous week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s seasonally adjusted index. Purchase volume was just 1.5% lower than a year ago, a rather stunning recovery from just six weeks ago, when purchase volume was down 35% annually.

“Applications for home purchases continue to recover from April’s sizable drop and have now increased for five consecutive weeks,” said Joel Kan, an MBA economist. “Government purchase applications, which include FHA, VA, and USDA loans, are now 5 percent higher than a year ago, which is an encouraging turnaround after the weakness seen over the past two months.”

As states reopen, so are open houses, and buyers have been coming out in force, if masked. Record low mortgage rates, combined with strong pent-up demand from before the pandemic and a new desire to leave urban downtowns due to the pandemic, are driving buyers back to the single-family home market. It remains to be seen if this is simply the pent-up demand or a long-term trend.

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C19 Open Discussion Week 10

Aaaaaand, we’re back.

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C19 Open Discussion Week 9c

From the Star Ledger:

Gym owner says he’ll reopen Monday, whether or not Murphy allows it 

A business owner in Bellmawr has decided to “take matters into our own hands” by opening his gym in defiance of a state-ordered closing of nonessential businesses.

Ian Smith, co-owner of Atilis Gym, said he plans to open at 8 a.m. Monday for members.

Smith said they’ve decided to limit capacity to 20% or about 44 people at a time, but he expects “thousands” of people to show up after a primetime national television interview Wednesday.

“At the end of the day, we’re doing what we feel is right,” Smith told NJ Advance Media on Thursday. “This is not going to be fun for us. I didn’t want to be the person to stand up, take a punch in the face right for the greater good.”

But, he said, it had to be done. Smith appeared in a five-minute segment Wednesday on Tucker Carlson Tonight on Fox News.

Smith told Carlson he thought Gov. Phil Murphy’s order to close nonessential business was unfair and an infringement on his Constitutional rights.

“Our main objective is to show the world, but especially the governor, that we reject the premise of essential versus nonessential businesses. Our goal is to make a statement. We don’t need a nanny state to tell us you can’t go outside.”

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C19 Open Discussion Week 9b

Looks like folks largely stayed home for Mothers Day, but a good portion did venture out the day before. Looks like that weekend traffic is still sitting at the 20% under baseline level. The longer term trend is clearly back to baseline, folks clearly want out, and are heading out far more regularly. If the trend holds, we are back to baseline in 3-4 weeks.

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C19 Open Discussion Week 9

From NJ Spotlight:

Jersey Shore Towns Begin to Open Up — Cautiously: How Ready Are They?

New Jersey’s beach towns prepare for a summer season like no other.

For the bulk of the 41 municipalities stitched up and down the Atlantic coast, from Sea Bright to Cape May Point, the 15 weeks between Memorial Day and Labor Day are crucial to the survival of their economies. And not just for the towns themselves — nearly half of the state’s $46.4 billion in tourism spending is generated by the four counties that encompass the Jersey Shore.

Statewide, travel spending for the first four months of 2020 has dropped by 87%, compared to last year, according to the U.S. Travel Association and Tourism Economics. In a report released Thursday, the state projects that 2020 will see tourism spending decline by about a third from 2019. With an economic window as narrow as that of the Jersey Shore’s, many town mayors have reached the critical moment in which they must figure how to begin reopening in order to salvage the livelihoods of seasonal businesses without risking the lives of residents and visitors.

On Tuesday afternoon, after weeks of regular discussions with the governor’s office, the Cape May County-Wide Recovery Initiative, a coalition of freeholders, mayors and business leaders, submitted a formal reopening plan to Gov. Phil Murphy — a first among the Shore counties.

The 35-page document proposes a “progressive reopening” over the next several weeks, with full access to boardwalks and beaches, as well as reduced-capacity opening for indoor and outdoor restaurants and nonessential retail beginning on June 1. According to the report, Cape May County is uniquely vulnerable to a collapse in the tourism economy — in 2018, the industry created 26,572 jobs, and over 23% of the population is directly employed in retail or food service and accommodation.

In a joint statement, the mayors of Avalon and Stone Harbor, located on the county’s 7 Mile Beach island, said that they would open their beaches for “walking, running, fishing and surfing, from dawn until dusk” on Friday, May 8, but that “stationary activity” would remain unallowed. “The beaches will be patrolled to make sure that social distancing practices are followed and there are no large groups of people gathered,” the statement went on, adding that if the rules are not followed, “we will again close our beaches.”

Asked whether they are prepared for an increase in COVID-19 cases should the county’s beach towns reopen, Brian Cahill, spokesman for Shore Medical Center, said, “We have been preparing for an influx of COVID-19 patients since the beginning, and our staff has done an incredible job. We currently have seventy isolation rooms and we can add more if necessary.” With regard to the county’s recovery initiative, Cahill said the hospital is “continuing to follow the guidelines set forth by the CDC and New Jersey Department of Health.”

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C19 Open Discussion Week 8c

From the NJ DOL:

NJ Unemployment Payouts Approach $2B

The New Jersey Department of Labor has distributed $1.9 billion in income-supplementing benefits since the COVID-19 pandemic began in mid-March, and this week saw new unemployment claims for the period surpass 1 million, an all-time high. 

In the seven weeks since COVID-19 hit New Jersey in mid-March, 1,018,785 unemployment claims have been filed, by far the most ever recorded for a similar period.

With more than 642,000 now receiving unemployment in the Garden State — and an additional 72,000 federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claims processed last week — the Department has created online guides to walk people through the weekly certification process. Certifying for benefits each week is required by federal law. But the certification questions have been an obstacle for tens of thousands of claimants who have answered a question incorrectly and had their payments delayed. 

“As we pass the milestone of 1 million claims filed – a number so staggering, we never thought we would come close to reaching it in such a compressed period of time – I’m incredibly proud of the tireless work of our staff to get nearly $2 billion into the bank accounts of so many New Jersey workers, to support their families,” said Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo.

March 15 – 21
155,815
March 22 – 28206,253
March 29 – April 4
214,836
April 5 – 11141,420
April 12 – 18
140,139
April 19 – 25
71,996
April 26 – May 2
83,326*
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C19 Open Discussion Week 8b

NJ’s First “reopening” weekend – the last three data points on the chart are Friday, Saturday (peak), and Sunday. Saturday was clearly the most mobile day since mid-March. Will be interesting to see this develop over the next few weeks.

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C19 Open Discussion Week 8

Quarantine Fatigue in NJ

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C19 Open Discussion Week 7c

From NJBIZ:

NJ sees steep drop in new jobless claims, labor data shows

Despite record-high nationwide unemployment, New Jersey saw a steep drop in the number of people seeking jobless claims last week as the COVID-19 pandemic slams the breaks on nationwide commerce, according to federal labor data released Thursday.

For the week ending April 25, a total of 71,017 New Jerseyans filed for unemployment, compared to 140,139 state residents who applied for jobless benefits the week ending April 18, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

That brings the total number of jobless claims in New Jersey to almost 930,000 since the pandemic hit New Jersey nearly six weeks ago, and Gov. Phil Murphy enacted a virtual statewide lock down and sweeping restrictions to contain the spread of the virus.

Nationwide, more than 30 million Americans filed for unemployment since the onset of the pandemic. But 3.8 million Americans sought jobless claims last week, still 603,000 lower than the 4.4 million applications filed the week ending April 18.

Labor officials ensured that since Murphy’s March 16 stay-at-home order, the state paid out $1.4 billion in benefits to unemployed and furloughed workers. That includes $727 million from the state’s own pool of money, and $690 million from the additional $600 per week checks that started going out earlier in April.

Between April 20 and 24, the state paid out $211.1 million of jobless benefits, compared to $179.7 million the week before that, and $140.7 million between April 6 and 10.

Freelancers, independent contractors, and self-employed residents will see their long-awaited unemployment payments on May 5.

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C19 Open Discussion Week 7b

From News 4:

At Least One-Third of New York, New Jersey Residents Had Someone in Their Home Laid Off: Polls

Two polls released Monday offer new perspective into the far reaching impact of the coronavirus pandemic in New York and New Jersey.

Since the beginning of the pandemic’s grip on the region, millions were forced into unemployment as the result of business closures or dramatic declines in revenue as people were encouraged to stay inside their homes. 

Monmouth University poll found that 42 percent of New Jersey residents has had someone in their home lose their job. Broken down by income, the Monmouth researchers say 35 percent have a household income under $50,000, while an additional 34 percent earn between $50,000 and $100,000.

“Many New Jerseyans are just starting to feel the financial pinch, but these results suggest the economic impact will be much more widespread and particularly damaging to lower income families here than in other states,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

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C19 Open Discussion Week 7

From Barrons:

Home Buyers Are Looking for Price Cuts. Realtors Say Sellers Aren’t Budging.

The coronavirus pandemic has dampened the spring homebuying season by nearly every measure—but buyers still might not find the discounts they’re looking for. 

Of the nearly 3,000 agents surveyed by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) between April 19 and 20, 64% said buyers expect a decline in home prices, with the largest share of those predicting a drop between 5% and 10%.

The majority of home sellers aren’t budging, according to the realtors who work with them. According to the NAR survey, 74% of agents currently working with sellers said none have reduced the price to attract buyers. Of those agents whose clients have reduced their prices, the majority reported price reductions of less than 5%.

This dissonance between buyer and seller expectations is not necessarily surprising, says NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun. “Buyers—even in a normal market—they want to get a little discount,” Yun says. Sellers, meanwhile, “anticipate that once the economy reopens, given the housing shortage, that there is not a need to lower the prices.”

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C19 Open Discussion Week 6c

From the Record:

More than 850,000 NJ workers have filed for unemployment since COVID-19 crisis began

Close to 20% of New Jersey’s workforce has filed for unemployment benefits in the last five weeks to cover lost income, as businesses remain shuttered and social distancing measures to stop the coronavirus continue to be enforced. 

Between April 12 and 18, 140,139 new people submitted unemployment claims for the first time, compared with 10,737 claims that same week in 2019, according to data released Thursday by the state Department of Labor.

That brings a total of 858,000claims filed since mid-March, when these unprecedented spikes in applications began as Gov. Phil Murphy began ordering businesses closed in a piecemeal way.

These numbers don’t capture the many New Jerseyans who continue to experience technical issues when trying to trying to file, or can’t reach a claims agent to submit their applications. And while the federal stimulus CARES Act that expanded unemployment is mostly implemented in New Jersey, workers who previously used up their benefits are still awaiting guidance for how they can receive their extra 13 weeks of insurance. 

This historic flood of out-of-work individuals is reflected across the country: Nationwide, close to 4.4 millionpeople filed for unemployment last week. Over the last five weeks, close to 25 million people submitted claims across the country. 

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C19 Open Discussion Week 6b

From MarketWatch:

Existing-home sales slump 8.5% in March — but the worst is yet to come as the coronavirus hits the U.S. housing market

Sales of previously-owned homes slid 8.5% in March as the coronavirus pandemic began to exert pressure on the U.S. real estate market.

Existing-home sales occurred at a seasonally-adjusted annual pace of 5.27 million, the National Association of Realtors reported Tuesday. March represented a major reversal from the month prior, which featured the strongest sales figure for the month of February since 2007.

Despite the slowdown on a monthly basis, existing-home sales still occurred at a 0.8% faster pace than a year ago, representing the ninth consecutive month in which sales were higher year-over-year.

“Unfortunately, we knew home sales would wane in March due to the coronavirus outbreak,” said Lawrence Yun, the National Association of Realtors’ chief economist. “More temporary interruptions to home sales should be expected in the next couple of months, though home prices will still likely rise.”

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