Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines, October 2020 # 7

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Your guide to the latest Hill developments, news narratives, and media headlines from Hogan Lovells Government Relations and Public Affairs practice.

In Washington:

  • Hopes for a quick resolution to the stimulus talks continue to fade though House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin continue talking this week to try and bridge the gap between the Democrat’s $2.2 trillion proposal and the administration’s $1.8 trillion counteroffer. The House lawmakers have been told not to expect action this week as Speaker Pelosi is trying to keep her caucus united in holding out for a better coronavirus package from the administration. In a Dear Colleague letter to her caucus, she said the administration’s counteroffer was “one step forward, two steps back” and continues to fall “significantly short” of what the pandemic and deep recession demands. The letter includes statements from the House Chairs of the Committees of Jurisdiction of their concerns about the “inadequacy” of the Trump proposal. Pelosi emphasized during a Democratic caucus call that she would not give in saying, “We can’t get an agreement just by folding. Our leverage has never been greater.”
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced Tuesday that the Senate would vote on a “targeted” coronavirus relief for American workers, including new funding for the PPP.” By introducing the bill, McConnell is daring Democrats to once again reject it just two weeks before the elections. Democrats voted down a similar proposal in September. “Republicans do not agree that nothing is better than something for working families. The American people need Democrats to stop blocking bipartisan funding and let us replenish the PPP before more Americans lose their jobs needlessly,” McConnell said.
  • Trump resumed his campaign rallies on Oct. 12 after his doctor claims that he tested negative on consecutive days. Some questioned the results given that the White House used an antigen test, the Abbott BinaxNOW, that is known to have more irregularities than the standard test suggested by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Furthermore, the doctor did not reveal which two days that Trump he tested negative. The President told a mostly maskless crowd in Florida that he was fully recovered from the virus. Trump said, “I feel so powerful. I’ll walk in there and kiss everyone in the audience. I’ll kiss the guys; I’ll kiss the beautiful women.” The president spoke for more than an hour, and at times mocked the health precautions.
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says President Trump’s quick bounce-back from COVID-19 may reinforce a mistaken belief that the disease does not present significant health risks. Fauci, in an interview with STAT, said, “We’re all glad that the president of the United States did not suffer any significant consequences of it...But … because he is such a visible figure, it amplifies some of that misunderstanding that people have that it’s a benign disease and nobody has anything to worry about.” Trump recently declared himself immune to COVID-19.
  • President Trump took a swipe at Dr. Anthony Fauci's coronavirus response in a tweet on Tuesday saying, “Actually, Tony’s pitching arm is far more accurate than his prognostications. “No problem, no masks”. WHO no longer likes Lockdowns - just came out against. Trump was right. We saved 2,000,000 USA lives!!!” The tweet follows a blistering interview where Fauci warned the Trump campaign that featuring him in another ad “could backfire on them.” The Trump campaign had released an ad where they used Fauci making comments out of context. "The comments attributed to me without my permission in the GOP campaign ad were taken out of context from a broad statement I made months ago about the efforts of federal public health officials," Fauci told CNN.
  • The federal government will spend $481 million on California-based start-up Cue Health to boost the manufacturing of its coronavirus test that produces results in about 20 minutes and does not require processing at a lab, U.S. agencies announced Tuesday. Cue, which is backed by Johnson and Johnson among other investors, will increase production to 100,000 test kits per day by March, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. The federal government will acquire 6 million tests and 30,000 lab instruments used to process the tests.

In the News:

  • Johnson & Johnson announced Monday that it was pausing its COVID-19 vaccine trial after a volunteer had an “unexplained illness,” according to their press release. They will be reviewing the situation. Eli Lilly also announced that it has halted its clinical trial on its ACTIV-3 monoclonal antibody treatment.
  • San Francisco-based tech company Dropbox announced Tuesday that it will stop asking employees to come into its offices and instead make remote work standard, even after the coronavirus pandemic ends. “Remote work (outside an office) will be the primary experience for all employees and the day-to-day default for individual work,” the company said in a blog post. For employees who need to work together in person, the company is setting up “Dropbox Studios” in San Francisco, Seattle, Austin, and Dublin when it’s safe to do so. Dropbox had more than 2,800 employees as of Dec. 31, according to its latest 8K.
  • Facebook said Tuesday it is launching a new global policy that bans ads that discourage people from getting vaccines. The company previously had a policy against vaccine hoaxes that were publicly identified by global health organizations. Facebook will still allow ads that advocate against government policies around vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccine. However, ads that explicitly discourage vaccines -- including portraying them as ineffective or unsafe, among other things -- will be banned. Reports do not indicate and a spokesperson’s statement did not clarify how the company plans to differentiate between these two categories or handle ads that do both.
  • AMC, the largest cinema chain in the U.S., warned investors on Tuesday is in danger of running out of cash by early 2021. Shares of the company tanked by 7.8% in early trading Tuesday. AMC’s stock, which has a market value of $446 million, has plunged 44% this year. In a public filing, the movie exhibitor said a bare movie slate and lackluster attendance has left its business hemorrhaging cash with little hope of recouping losses in the near future.

[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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