Welcome to the 76th issue of the California Coronavirus Weekly Recap newsletter. Before we get started with this week’s news, we want to make sure you’re aware the recording of a California rent relief webinar C.A.R. held this week is now available to watch at your convenience. The webinar covered how residential landlords and housing providers can get rental assistance under the California Rent Relief Program. Additionally, to help guide members and their tenants through the rent relief available, C.A.R. has created a new C.A.R. Housing Provider Rent Relief page, which includes fact sheets, application information, videos, flyers and social media graphics.
In This Issue:
- The Economy & Your Finances: Jobless claims dropping nationally, rising in California; ending unemployment early did not help states; PUA ending Sept. 4
- The Market & Industry: Interest rates hit historic lows; Biden asks U.S. Supreme Court to uphold eviction moratorium
- Around the State: Cases and hospitalizations rise as schools open, but vaccinations still protect
- Health Check-Up: U.S. FDA formally approves COVID-19 vaccine; breakthrough infections rise
The Economy & Your Finances: US jobless claims dropping nationally, rising in California; ending unemployment early did not help states; PUA ending Sept. 4U.S. jobless claims fell for a fourth straight week, down to 348,000 from 375,000 the week prior, which is much lower than economists had predicted. The drop may be evidence that the labor market is improving as the economy recovers and employers hire more workers to meet a surge in consumer demand, despite concerns about the spread of the Delta variant. Continuing claims across all programs were also down, to 11.7 million, as compared to 32.8 million at the height of pandemic unemployment in June 2020.
The waning number of initial jobless claims has coincided with the widespread administration of vaccines, which allowed businesses to reopen or expand their hours and draw consumers back into shops, restaurants, airports and entertainment venues.
By comparison, California’s unemployment rate continued to soar, with initial jobless claims increasing for the fourth straight week. Workers filed approximately 68,100 jobless claims, up by 2,600 from the week before.
This summer, 26 states cut off the extra $300 in weekly benefits for those who are unemployed (California was not among them), and 22 states canceled the pandemic unemployment assistance programs that offered unemployment benefits to self-employed people. The push to end the programs arose from a theory that people were not taking jobs because they fared better on unemployment. However, a new study shows that only one in eight people in the programs were able to procure employment between June and August, and those regions that canceled the programs saw a $2 billion drop in income, largely from the drop in federal money influx. Ending the programs early does not seem to have paid off in terms of labor shortages or local prosperity.
On September 4, 2021, the following federally-funded unemployment programs will end: the federal increase of $300 per week for all unemployment benefits; the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program; and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program. An estimated 2 million Californians will lose benefits, which can range from $467 to $750 per week. EDD has confirmed that those benefit payments will end even for claimants that show a remaining claim balance. EDD will continue to accept PUA applications through October 6, though they must relate to eligibility before September 4. We encourage all claimants to certify as promptly as possible for each benefit week through September 4.
Sources: AP, Bloomberg, YahooNews, Columbia University and Harvard University, the Sacramento Bee, EDD
The Market & Industry: Interest rates hit historic lows; Biden asks U.S. Supreme Court to uphold eviction moratorium
Key mortgage rates eased further on Monday. The 30-year fixed mortgage rate dropped 4 basis points in one week, to 3.01 percent. The 15-year fixed refinance rate lowered by 2 basis points, to 2.31 percent. The 5/1 ARM fell by 5 basis points, to 3.02 percent.
On Monday, the Biden Administration asked the U.S. Supreme Court to leave in place an eviction moratorium imposed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), extending from Aug. 3 through Oct. 3. In Monday’s filing, acting solicitor general Brian Fletcher wrote that the rise of the Delta variant has made conditions very different than they were back in June, when four justices indicated that they would let the moratorium lapse in the future.
California is seeing a swifter rise in new cases of COVID-19, as schools open up. During the first week of school in Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), 6,500 students missed at least one day of school due to either testing positive for COVID (3,000) or being asked to quarantine (3,500) because they were in close contact with someone else who had. Hospitals in six California counties are fuller than they have ever been with COVID-19 patients, due primarily to Delta’s quick spread, lifted masking mandates and low vaccination rates in Del Norte, Tuolumne, Lake, Humboldt, Nevada and Mendocino counties. Counties with high vaccination rates are faring better, such as Marin and Santa Clara Counties, where more than 80 percent of the population is vaccinated. Breakthrough infections are on the rise even for people who are fully vaccinated, although the severity of the illness is generally vastly reduced. Accordingly, more than 10 counties are requiring masks in indoor locations, regardless of vaccination. Last week, San Francisco joined New York and parts of Seattle in requiring not only masks, but proof of vaccination for anyone who wants to eat, drink or exercise indoors. Diners who forget to bring proof of vaccination will still have the option to eat outdoors if the venue has that capacity.
This week, California reported about 14,565 new cases per day, up 23.3 percent over the last two weeks. As of 5:40 p.m. on Tuesday, cases in California numbered 4,237,799 and hospitalizations stood at 8,245, up 32 percent over two weeks. The statewide average for ICU bed availability was 21.6 percent.
As of Tuesday, 64.4 percent of Californians have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccinations, and 45,345,509 doses have been administered.
The American Academy of Pediatrics reported that over 180,000 children were infected with COVID-19 last week, nationwide. Children accounted for 22.4 percent of last week’s cases. The opening of schools across the country have likely contributed to a four-fold increase in children testing positive for COVID-19, up from just 38,000 cases at the end of July. The California Department of Public Health recently mandated that all K-12 teachers and school staff must either be vaccinated or be tested weekly for COVID-19; all students, teachers and staff must be masked in school; and anyone indoors in a public setting must be masked; and all healthcare workers must be vaccinated, in order to ameliorate the spread of the virus.
Sources: CBS News, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Los Angeles Times, Cal Matters, California Department of Public Health
Health Check-Up: U.S. FDA formally approves COVID-19 vaccine; breakthrough infections rise
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Monday officially gave full approval for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for people 16 years and older. (The vaccine can still be used for people ages 12-15 through emergency use authorization.) The process for full approval required a 360,000-page application and rigorous inspections. More than 200 million Pfizer doses have been administered in the U.S., and hundreds of millions more have been given worldwide since Dec. 2020, when the vaccine was granted emergency approval. Moderna has applied to the FDA for full approval of its vaccine, and Johnson & Johnson plans to apply later this year. Pfizer plans to market its vaccine under the name Comirnaty (koe-mir’-na-tee). The name is designed to evoke mRNA (on which the vaccine is based) yielding COVID-19 immunity, and to sound like the word “community.”
As for the FDA approval of third, booster shots, only people with compromised immune systems are currently eligible. Boosters will start to become available to the general, vaccinated population the week of Sept. 20, at least eight months after people received their second dose. Only people who received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna coronavirus vaccines will be eligible for a booster shot. Experts predict that people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will also need booster shots, but because the J&J vaccine was not rolled out until March 2021, more data is needed before the recommendation can be made.
Breakthrough infections, or fully vaccinated people who subsequently test positive for COVID-19, are on the rise, mostly thanks to the highly transmissible Delta variant. In July, people who had been fully vaccinated made up 26 percent of confirmed COVID-19 cases, and 8 percent of hospitalizations. By comparison, unvaccinated people made up three times as many infections, despite being the minority of California’s population. Also, the communities seeing high rates of transmission are no longer the higher-density, lower-income communities like East Los Angeles and the northeast San Fernando Valley, but the lower-density, higher-income areas such as downtown LA, West Hollywood, and Beverly Hills.
Sources: AP, the Sacramento Bee, the Los Angeles Times, U.S. Food and Drug Administration