1.5.2022

Record Quits, Nightmare on I-95, and America's Most Relaxed Cities Everything you need to know for today in five minutes.

Good morning. It's Wednesday, Jan. 5, and we're covering the continuing shift in the labor market, a precarious traffic jam outside the nation's capital, and more. Have feedback? Let us know at [email protected].

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NEED TO KNOW

 

One Million Cases (in 24 Hours)

The US reported more than 1 million COVID-19 cases Monday, far surpassing previous peaks seen last winter and during the summer's delta variant surge. Officials say the surge is driven by a reporting backlog from the New Year's weekend, holiday travel, and the emergence of the omicron variant. 

 

More than 1 in 100 Americans has tested positive for COVID-19 over the past week, 95% of which were caused by the omicron variant. Almost 113,000 patients have been hospitalized with the virus—around 20,000 are occupying ICU beds or 26% of total ICU beds from reporting hospitals (see dashboard). 

 

The US is averaging near 1,250 COVID-19 deaths per day, a figure that has thus far held steady while cases skyrocket. The most recent data on breakthrough infections suggest fully vaccinated patients accounted for less than 10% of deaths (data here).

 

In related news, the Chicago Teachers Union voted to temporarily revert to remote learning, prompting city officials to cancel school today. Track school closures from around the country here.

Job Exits Hit Record High

An estimated 4.5 million workers voluntarily quit their jobs in the month of November, according to government data released yesterday. The quits rate, the percentage of resignations relative to total employment, hit 3% for the month—matching the rate in September. Both figures are the highest on record. 

 

Economists say workers being able to quit their gigs for better jobs is a sign of a healthy economy, though some analysts fear high quit rates could lead to higher wage inflation. The data showed 6.7 million new hires were made in November, with 10.6 million job openings on the last business day of the month.

 

Experts have cited pandemic burnout, a shift in worker priorities, and better opportunities as reasons for what’s been known as the Great Resignation. The data on the labor market—including the government’s employment report expected to be released Friday—helps the Federal Reserve determine interest-rate policy.

Nightmare on I-95

Hundreds of drivers were stuck on a 50-mile stretch of Interstate 95 in Virginia in below-freezing temperatures for more than 24 hours yesterday, many passengers with no food or water. The traffic pileup was caused after multiple trucks crashed during a major winter storm Monday. Also contributing to the gridlock was ice accumulating around the stranded vehicles, making it difficult for workers to clear the roads. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) declined calls to bring in the National Guard.

 

The storm blanketed several states Monday, dumping nearly a foot of snow on the Washington, DC, area. At one point, more than 300,000 people were without power, and many schools were closed by the storm. In addition, five deaths across three states were reported.

 

A family traveling home from Florida handed out oranges to hungry passengers, including Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), who was among those stuck on the interstate.

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IN THE KNOW

 

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

In partnership with The Ascent

> The 2022 Golden Globes to proceed Jan. 9 despite omicron concerns; ceremony will not have audience in attendance or celebrity red carpet (More)

 

> Washington Football Team to unveil new name Feb. 2; officially rule out fan favorites Wolves and RedWolves as options due to trademark concerns (More)

 

NBC late night talk show hosts Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers both test positive for COVID-19; Meyers' "Late Night" canceled for rest of week (More)

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Science & Technology

> China sets record with experimental fusion reactor, sustaining a 216-million-degree plasma for more than 17 minutes (More) | How tokamak reactors work to drive fusion power (More)

 

> BlackBerry formally ends service for classic smartphones; once claiming 85 million users, the company rapidly lost market share to Android and iPhone devices over the past decade (More)

 

> Hundreds of new bacteria and viruses identified on the human skin; species shed light on the diversity of the skin microbiome (More) | What is a microbiome? (More)

Business & Markets

> Industrial stocks lead Dow (+0.6%) to another record high; tech stocks weigh down broader markets: S&P 500 -0.1%, Nasdaq -1.3% (More)

 

> Toyota sold the most cars in the US in 2021; first time since 1931 General Motors hasn’t been top US auto seller (More) | Shares of Ford up over 10% after announcing company will nearly double production of electric F-150 to meet demand (More)

 

> Sports e-commerce giant Fanatics to acquire Topps trading cards in deal valued at approximately $500M (More)

Politics & World Affairs

> Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) will not face criminal charges linked to sexual misconduct allegations; Albany County district attorney says the complaint was credible but evidence insufficient to meet the burden of proof in court (More)

 

> Federal judge hears motion to dismiss sexual abuse complaint against Britain's Prince Andrew; 38-year-old Virginia Giuffre alleges she was forced to have sex with the prince as part of Jeffrey Epstein's underage sex trafficking ring (More)

 

> Canada reaches $31B deal to compensate Indigenous children and families harmed by the on-reserve child welfare system; marks the country's largest class-action settlement (More)

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ETCETERA

 

America's most relaxed cities (based on 311 complaints).

 

One hundred ways to improve your life without really trying.

 

Why humans love being in a "flow state."

 

The best books since 1897. (paywall, NYT)

 

Exploring America's most extreme places.

 

Oregon Zoo residents wish you a Happy New Year.

 

Mercedes electric concept car has seats made of mushrooms.

 

Nirvana's naked baby lawsuit gets dismissed

 

Clickbait: What is Wordle?

 

Historybook: Actress Jane Wyman born (1917); Dancer and choreographer Alvin Ailey born (1931); Construction of Golden Gate Bridge begins (1933); RIP scientist and inventor George Washington Carver (1943); Singer and congressman Sonny Bono dies in skiing accident (1998).

 

"The creative process is not controlled by a switch you can simply turn on or off—it's with you all the time."

- Alvin Ailey

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