Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines – COVID-19 D.C. Update – September 2020 # 3

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In Washington

  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Republicans released the text of their “skinny” or “targeted” coronavirus relief bill. McConnell said a vote to proceed to the bill is expected Thursday. Democratic leadership condemned the proposals inadequate in funding and full of “poison pills” that prevent Democrats from supporting the legislation. McConnell currently doesn’t have enough Republican votes to pass the legislation but is considering further narrowing the bill to gain Republican support.
  • President Trump told author Bob Woodward that he intentionally misled America about the COVID-19 virus. On 7 Feb., Woodward recorded Trump on tape saying, ”You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed,” Trump said, “And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flu. This is deadly stuff.” On 19 March, Trump told Woodward that he minimized the danger saying, “I wanted to always play it down,’ the president said, adding that he did so to avoid a panic. White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany defended the President in a briefing on Wednesday, saying that he “never downplayed the virus” but rather “expressed calm” and prevented chaos. Democrats swiftly slammed the President Wednesday. Speaker Pelosi told MSNBC, "The way to avoid a panic is to show leadership, to say 'this is what the challenge is, we're going to use the best scientific evidence that is available to us to contain it, we are going to make sure that we can stop the spread of it.' That is what stops a panic, not ignoring it," Pelosi said. "What he said about the virus early on, he understood better than he let on, when he was calling it a hoax, his delay, distortion and denial about the threat is responsible for many of the deaths and infections that we have today, not all of them, but many of them, could have been prevented.”
  • On Tuesday, nine pharmaceutical companies issued a joint pledge stating that they would not seek Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for their vaccines until a rigorous phase 3 clinical trial shows that it is safe and effective. The move aims to reassure the public about the safety and efficacy of their potential COVID-19 vaccines as concerns rise that President Trump will push regulators to rush the vaccine approval process in time for November’s election.
  • The Senate Committee on Health, Education Labor, and Pensions held a hearing Wednesday on the development of COVID-19 vaccines amid debate over the potential effectiveness of a fast-tracked vaccine’s potential effectiveness. The Committee heard from advisers to the president's coronavirus response, including National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins and U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams. Collins emphasized that neither he nor scientists could predict whether a vaccine would be ready by November’s election, as President Trump has reportedly pushed for. "I do have cautious optimism that by the end of 2020, at least one of these vaccines will have emerged and turned out to be safe and effective.”
  • AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford are pausing their large Phase 3 study with testing a COVID-19 vaccine due to a suspected severe adverse reaction to a study participant. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease public health official, told CBS’s This Morning Wednesday that AstraZeneca’s pause in its vaccine clinical trial is “not uncommon.” But he emphasized that researchers out of caution “always make the presumption that it’s due directly to the actual vaccine...that’s in the clinical trial.”
  • President Trump told the crowd at his campaign rally in North Carolina on Tuesday that their state should be “open” while accusing the state’s governor of using coronavirus restrictions to hurt his re-election chances. The crowd of thousands gathered with most attendees refusing to follow Gov. Roy Cooper's (D) order for individuals to wear a face covering when unable to socially distance.
  • Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden called on President Trump to answer three specific questions before releasing a coronavirus vaccine: 1) What criteria will be used to ensure that any vaccine meets the scientific standard of safety and efficacy? 2) Who will validate that those standards were met? 3) What is the plan to distribute the vaccine cost-free and safely?
  • The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and more than a dozen other trade groups wrote a letter to heads of the Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and Department of Transportation urging the administration to move forward with pre-travel Covid-19 testing as a substitute for a contact tracing program that that never manifested before it could be implemented. The groups want to establish globally accepted guidelines in order to support the return of international travel.

In the News

  • Total consumer borrowing rose in July, as Americans increased purchases of new vehicles and borrowed for college tuition for the second month in a row, the Fed's latest credit report shows. Outstanding consumer credit increased by US$12.3 billion in July from the month before, a 3.6 percent increase. Credit rose at a revised 3.3 percent annual rate in June.
  • Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Axios on HBO that Facebook doesn’t plan to take the same kind of action against anti-vaccination misinformation that it has for the coronavirus pandemic. Anti-vaccine sentiments are expected to hinder the distribution of a coronavirus vaccine once it becomes available.
  • A new Edelman Trust Barometer special report entitled "Workplace Trust and the Coronavirus" shows that 14 percent of employees trust CEOs or senior managers to lead the return to work; only half believe their offices are safe.
  • The coronavirus is reshaping holiday shopping as companies anticipate increased e-commerce shopping, including “BOPUS” sales (buy online, pick up in-store) and commerce deliveries. This will move to merchants preparing for and running promotions earlier than typical Black Friday and preparing for crowd controls.
  • Sales of camping and outdoor recreational equipment are surging during the pandemic. Sales of bicycles jumped 63 percent in June from a year earlier, data from the NPD Group shows. Spending on paddle sports such as kayaking, which had faced declines before the pandemic, bounced up 56 percent. There were similarly big gains in sales of golf equipment, camping equipment, and binoculars, as more people go bird-watching.
  • Japan's Olympic minister, Seiko Hashimoto, says the Tokyo Olympics should go forward in 2021 "at any cost." International Olympic Committee officials have stressed in the past week that the games will proceed regardless of the state of the global pandemic.
  • At least 38 hospitals in 12 states reported shortages of Gilead’s coronavirus drug remdesivir since early July, according to Citizen.org. The Trump administration could allow other companies to make generic versions of the drug, but so far has refused to do so.

[View source.]

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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