Boston Mayor Michelle Wu Announces Covid-19 Vaccine Mandate for Businesses Salem - December 20: Protesters hold signs reading my body my choice, stop medical tyranny, and more, at Boston City Hall. Boston Mayor Michelle Wu holds a press conference in City Hall, to discuss the citys response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in Boston on Dec. 20, 2021. She announced a vaccine mandate to enter businesses in Boston. (Photo by Pat Greenhouse/The Boston Globe via Getty Images) Boston Globe / Contributor
Pat Greenhouse/The Boston Globe / Boston Globe / Contributor via Getty Images

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Cities Reimplement Strict COVID Mandates

It’s Friday, December 24th, and this is your Morning Wire. Listen to the full podcast:

1) Cities Reimplement Strict COVID Mandates

The Topline: As the Omicron variant continues to spread ahead of the holidays, cities nationwide are renewing past mask mandates, and implementing new vaccine mandates for businesses and government employees. 

Quote Of The Day: “…I have not been this concerned about COVID-19 since the early days of the pandemic…”

– Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D)

Joseph Prezioso/JOSEPH PREZIOSO/Contributor/AFP via Getty Images

The Cities

The cities now implementing new COVID mandates already had some of the strictest measures early on in the pandemic, such as Chicago, New York, DC and Boston. 

In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced a vaccine mandate for everyone in the city, including children as young as 5 years old. Any adult or child wanting to eat in a restaurant, go to a movie, or workout at a gym will now have to show proof of a vaccine. 

In D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) declared a state of emergency and announced that all government workers in the city, including contractors, would be required to have a booster shot, and the indoor mask mandate would be reinstated for all businesses through at least the end of January.

In Boston, Mayor Michelle Wu announced sweeping vaccine mandates for patrons at gyms, restaurants, movie theaters, and government employees in the city. Workers used to have the option to remain unvaccinated if they were tested weekly, but the exemption has now been removed. 

Universities

Meanwhile, some Ivy League schools are implementing stringent vaccine requirements. Harvard announced this month it is requiring students to not only get fully vaccinated but also get booster shots in order to return to campus. Harvard’s COVID cases are at an all time high right now, and the administration said the Omicron variant is “likely already present” on campus. 

Princeton, Brown, and Boston University have also mandated booster shots. Elsewhere, Johns Hopkins University announced it is requiring faculty, staff, and students to get booster shots of a Pfizer or Moderna COVID vaccine by February 1st. 

Pushback

Multiple public sector unions say they plan to file lawsuits against the new measures. Boston First Responders United, for example, has said they’re “going to fight this through every legal means possible.”

There has also been pushback from business owners, particularly in the restaurant industry. Owners said they’re already short-staffed due to the labor shortage, and now they have to add extra employees to monitor the vaccine status of patrons. They’ve also pointed out how a mandate will cut into their profits by forcing them to turn away a portion of customers. Many have also pointed out how states like Texas and Florida have resisted vaccine and mask mandates, and have far fewer COVID cases and hospitalizations than New York, Illinois, and Massachusetts.

Omicron

The new omicron variant is quickly becoming the most dominant strain in America, and it is highly contagious. Infection rates are up across the country, but there is a debate over whether these lockdowns are necessary given how minor the symptoms are for most who are infected with Omicron. 

According to a study from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, Omicron patients are 80% less likely to be hospitalized than Delta patients. Some doctors say Omicron could be a blessing in disguise. Since it’s so transmissible, but not nearly as deadly, it could serve as a natural immunizer without killing as many as was originally feared. 

Smith Collection/Gado/Contributor/Getty Images

2) Is There A ‘California Exodus’?

The Topline: Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, states across the country have experienced major population shifts with California experiencing some of the most significant changes.

Quote Of The Day: Despite California losing a congressional seat for the first time in history due to slow population growth and some high-profile technology companies and billionaires leaving the state, there is no evidence of an abnormal increase in residents planning to move out of the state.” 

 University of California in July

‘California Exodus’

The idea that people are fleeing California has been disputed as recently as this summer, but an often ignored factor is the relatively low number of people entering California.

Current residents are migrating to other states and far fewer people are moving into the state. In the past, people moving to the state would counter-balance – or even outweigh – the number of people leaving, but this doesn’t appear to be the case anymore.

According to the California Policy Lab, every county in California has seen fewer people moving in from out of state since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of people moving to California from other states is down 38%. In the same time period since the spring of 2020, the number of Californians leaving the state has gone up 12%.

In the first quarter of 2020, 60,000 more people were leaving California than coming into the state. By the third quarter of 2021, that number had more than doubled, with 150,000 more people leaving than coming in.

While this appears to be in line with the rate of people leaving California before the pandemic, the same is not true for people moving to California.

Political Point: Due to low population growth, California is losing a congressional seat for the first time in history.

Regions

Data suggests people are fleeing high taxes and the high cost of living, as well as some quality of life issues, like homelessness and crime.

The San Francisco Bay Area is the most volatile region in the state. Compared to 2020, 45% fewer people have moved into the Bay Area from outside California. San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties have all lost residents to migration for the first time in at least six years.

El Dorado County, home to what used to be a massive tourist destination pre-COVID in South Lake Tahoe, has seen an increase in people leaving and a decrease in people moving in.

Yolo County saw an 11.3% increase in people moving out, and a 33.9% decrease of people moving in. 

Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg/Contributor via Getty Images

3) Most Popular Gifts Of 2021

The Topline: With Christmas a day away, last minute shoppers are feeling the pinch of a weaker dollar and long shipping delays as they try to get their hands on the season’s most popular gifts. 

Top Gifts

Various sites and organizations release lists of top gifts, with one being Google’s “Shopping Holiday 100,” released last month. It predicts the most popular items of the year for the holiday season using google searches.

According to those google searches, coffee makers, gaming devices, and fitness equipment were top items this year, suggesting many people are continuing to spend time at home.

However, beauty products, outdoor sports items, perfume, and cologne were also popular searches, showing that Americans are beginning to venture out. 

Google inquiries for “best perfume” went up 40% around the world in 2021, prompting the google gift blog to call 2021 “the year of the fragrance.”

The top gaming console was the Nintendo Switch OLED, but the Nintendo 64 and the Game Boy were also high on the list. Queries for “wireless gaming headset” increased by 100%, and searches for the phrase “single player games” increased 600%.

Timing: The term “Christmas gift ideas” went up 30% from the middle of October to the final full week of October, showing how people were starting to ramp up their search for gifts at that time. The supply chain crisis was in full swing at that point and dominating the news. 

Sales

Last week, the Commerce Department announced its advance monthly sales for retail and food services in November.

It showed that sales at retail shops and restaurants in the U.S. went up by 0.3%, seasonally-adjusted. 

The report also showed electronics store sales down 4.6% in November from the month prior, and general merchandise store sales down 1.2%. However, some industries were up significantly since last year. Food and drinking services were up around 37%, and clothing sales were up around 35%.

Wang Dongming/China News Service/Contributor via Getty Images

Other Stories We’re Tracking

Dinosaur Embryo

An “exquisitely preserved” dinosaur embryo has been discovered in southern China. The embryo, preserved in a fossilized dinosaur egg, has been named “Baby Yingliang,” and is believed to be approximately 70 million years old. Scientists believed the embryo is that of a toothless theropod dinosaur, a feathered species closely related to modern-day birds.

Pfizer

The first pill for treating COVID was authorized Wednesday by the FDA. Pfizer’s oral medication, Paxlovid, was 89% effective at reducing serious illness and death – and has been shown to be effective against the Omicron variant. 

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