Afternoon Coffee: Hurricane Laura makes landfall, disrupts shipments; Amid COVID, demand for flu shots expected to rise; Fed releases plan for inflation, jobs

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Hurricane Laura made landfall around 1 a.m. Thursday with the most damage expected near the Texas-Louisiana border, according to Supply Chain Dive. The storm hit as a strong Category 4 hurricane but had reduced to a Category 1 by mid-morning.

Carriers and ports temporarily halted their operations Wednesday as the Gulf Coast braced for the hurricane. Mandatory evacuations restricted FedEx, UPS and U.S. Postal Service operations in many ZIP codes across Texas and Louisiana. FedEx recommended shippers contact shipment receivers to ensure facilities would be open and accessible.

Ports in Houston and Galveston closed throughout the early week in preparation, the article said. Hurricane Laura is a quick-moving storm, meaning it is unlikely to stall out over one area. However, the article warned that supply chain disruptions could still last for days because of high winds and flooding especially important to agriculture and energy supply chains.

"One of the good pieces of information here is the fact that it is making a direct landfall in an area of Texas and Louisiana that has about 600,000 people versus the Houston metro area — that is about 7 million people," said Jon Davis, chief meteorologist at Riskpulse. "Houston will be impacted, but the impact is not catastrophic in this overall situation coming up."

COVID-19 and flu season expected to increase demand for flu shot, hospital capacity

Rite Aid CEO Heyward Donigan told CNBC that the U.S. health situation is worrisome as the country transitions into autumn and the potential for people to become infected with COVID-19 and influenza increases. Rite Aid anticipates a significant surge in demand for flu shots this year.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hopes that about 65% of Americans will get the flu shot this year, compared to less than 50% last year. Rite Aid has already begun administering vaccinations for this year. The healthcare industry is also worried about flu and COVID-19 infections this fall because of the potential impact on hospital capacity, which has already been pushed to the limit because of the coronavirus, the article said.

“I’ve seen hospital intensive care units stretch by a severe flu season, and clearly, we’ve all seen it recently with COVID. So by getting that flu vaccine, you may be able to then negate the necessity to have to take up a hospital bed,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said. “Then that hospital bed can be more available for those that potentially get hospitalized for COVID.”

The Fed’s aggressive strategy for employment and inflation

The Federal Reserve on Thursday announced a plan to re-establish full employment and lift inflation to healthier levels, according to Reuters.

Weak inflation, low interest rates and slow growth have plagued the world economy for a while and are expected to last. The U.S. central bank seeks to achieve inflation rates averaging 2% over time, offsetting below-2% periods with higher inflation. The statement pledges to ensure employment doesn’t fall short of a “broad-based and inclusive goal” of maximum employment in a nod to racial equity in promoting economic growth, the article said.

In a speech, Fed Chair Jerome Powell detailed the policy goals.

“Our revised statement reflects our appreciation for the benefits of a strong labor market, particularly for many in low- and moderate-income communities, and that a robust job market can be sustained without causing an unwelcome increase in inflation," Powell said. "It is hard to overstate the benefits of sustaining a strong labor market, a key national goal that will require a range of policies in addition to supportive monetary policy.”

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