Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines, October 2020 # 17

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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:

  • White House communications director Alyssa Farah said Tuesday that the White House still hopes for a coronavirus relief package, probably post-election. Speaking on Fox & Friends, Farah said President Trump has been in contact with congressional leaders and that Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin continue to negotiate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has not committed to putting a deal on the floor before the elections and adjourned the Senate after it voted to confirm Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation Monday evening.
  • Monday, the Supreme Court rejected the Democratic request to extend the deadline for counting mail-in ballots in Wisconsin. A lower court judge had agreed with Democrats and civil rights groups, who argued the coronavirus pandemic and an accompanying surge in mail voting required accommodations for voters and to ensure ballots are counted. Earlier this month, a divided panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit reinstated the requirement that mail ballots be returned by 8 p.m. on Election Day.
  • On Monday, President Trump broke with his chief of staff and “insisted that his administration was still working to curb the spread of the coronavirus,” even as Mark Meadows “doubled down on his acknowledgment that the United States would not ‘control’ the pandemic.” While speaking to reporters in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Trump addressed Meadow's controversial remarks saying his administration is doing “absolutely the opposite.” “No, not at all. In fact, the opposite. Absolutely the opposite. We’ve done an incredible job."
  • On the campaign trail, Trump has maintained his message that the virus is actually under control or soon will be. "It's ending anyway," Trump said in Allentown of the pandemic, one day after the U.S. set a record for new cases averaged over a seven-day period. "We're rounding the turn. It's ending anyway, but the vaccines are going to be incredible."
  • HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Adm. Brett Giroir said Monday that the pandemic can be controlled in response to Meadow’s comments that “we’re not going to control the pandemic.” “Americans have already proven they can do that through basic safeguards shown to work. Giroir said, “I want to be clear that what we have done – what the American people have done – has been able to put out very significant outbreaks...all across the Deep South.”
  • NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci warned that too much emphasis and time is being spent on what wave the coronavirus pandemic is in. Speaking to a Yahoo! financial forum, Fauci asserted, “It’s kind of semantics. You want to call the third wave or an extended first wave.” Fauci continued, “No matter how you look at it, it’s not good news.”
  • Former President Barack Obama on Tuesday blasted President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, mocking Trump's concern over the media coverage. Speaking to a drive-in rally in Orlando, Florida, Obama said, "What's his closing argument? That people are too focused on COVID," Obama said, referencing what has become a staple of Trump's rallies and Twitter feed. "He's jealous of COVID's media coverage." Obama added, referring to Chief of Staff Mark Meadows’ statement that the U.S. would not control the pandemic, "They're waving the white flag of surrender."

In the News:

  • The average number of new daily cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. hit another record on Monday as 36 states reported rises in the number of hospitalized patients according to the Covid Tracking Project. Hospitalizations lag cases but indicate an outbreak’s scale better than new case numbers, which can fluctuate based on testing. The U.S. is now testing more people than ever. Nonetheless, new cases are skyrocketing as well. Over the past seven days, the U.S. reported an average of 69,967 new cases every day, the highest seven-day average recorded yet, according to Johns Hopkins University.
  • A new UK study shows the number of people with COVID-19 antibodies declined significantly over the summer, suggesting that immunity might wear off and widespread, long-term herd immunity would be challenging to achieve. The three-month study, conducted by Imperial College London and the Ipsos Mori polling organization, was funded by the British government, which announced the results and published the study on Monday night.
  • Federal researchers are ending a clinical trial of Eli Lilly & Co.’s antibody drug bamlanivimab in hospitalized COVID-19 patients after the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases concluded the therapy produced no marked improvement. The company halted the same study on Oct. 13 because of potential safety concerns. The study was studying the antibody combined with remdesivir.
  • Pfizer's Chief Executive, Dr. Albert Bourla, confirmed Tuesday that it would be nearly impossible to present coronavirus vaccine results by the end of the month and prior to the presidential election.
  • Russia is implementing a new national mask mandate as COVID-19 cases surge across the country, The New York Times reports. The government announced Tuesday that Russians must wear masks in public spaces and any place where more than 50 people can gather. The measure comes after the country recorded 16,550 new cases Tuesday, the fifth consecutive day with more than 16,000 new cases, the Times reports.

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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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