Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines, October 2020 # 18

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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:

  • The Trump administration will pay Eli Lilly $375 million to supply 300,000 doses of its experimental antibody drug to treat COVID-19, the Department of Health and Human Services said Wednesday. If the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorizes the use of the drug, the federal government will allocate the doses to state and territorial health departments which, in turn, will determine which health care facilities receive the drug. Eli Lilly said it anticipates only high-risk patients will receive the drug initially. The agreement is for delivery over two months following authorization, with the option to purchase up to 650,000 additional doses through the end of June 2021 for up to an additional $812.5 million.
  • A press release claiming that President Trump ended the coronavirus pandemic was "poorly worded" and Trump does not believe the pandemic is over, a White House spokesperson Alyssa Farah said Wednesday. "The intent was to say that it is our goal to end the virus," she told Fox News. "Cases are still rising and we need the American public to remain vigilant." Farah added. Farah was attempting to clarify a press release sent Tuesday from the White House science office, which listed "ENDING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC" in bold capital letters as the top accomplishment of President Trump's first term.
  • On Tuesday night, a federal judge ordered the U.S. Postal Service to immediately reverse limits on mail collection implemented by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. Judge Emmet Sullivan of the District Court for the District of Columbia granted the plaintiff states’ emergency motion to enforce a preliminary injunction he issued last month stopping and reversing DeJoy’s changes, and commanding the USPS to inform workers of the order by 9 am Wednesday. A record number of Americans have already cast their November election ballots by mail as a safety precaution during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sullivan last week ordered the USPS to restore high-speed mail sorting machines at facilities that cannot process First Class election mail efficiently amid the coronavirus pandemic.
  • President Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner, boasted in a taped, mid-April interview with author Bob Woodward about how Trump had strategically cut out the doctors and scientists advising him and went forward opening the country despite the Center for Disease Control and Prevention advising against it. Kushner explained to Woodward that Trump was "getting the country back from the doctors" in what he called a "negotiated settlement." Kushner also detailed how the White House planned to move the U.S. through the "panic phase" and "pain phase" of the pandemic so that they could begin the “comeback phase” in time for Trump’s election to label him the “open-up president.”
  • Three western states announced Tuesday that they would join California's working group set to review any COVID-19 vaccine approved by the FDA independently. A press release from California Gov. Gavin Newsom's (D) office indicated that Washington, Oregon, and Nevada would join the “Western States Pact” and would identify public health experts to help verify the efficacy and safety of a federally-approved vaccine. The panel would be an “independent review conducted” by “doctors, scientists, and health experts,” said Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D). Republicans, including Vice President Mike Pence, have called Democratic-led doubts about a Trump administration-approved vaccine as “playing politics with people’s lives.”

In the News:

  • France announced that it would enter a second lockdown President Emmanuel Macron announced. France has been overwhelmed as daily infections have more than doubled from 17,000 to 36,000 in two weeks. Germany is imposing a four-week partial lockdown of bars, restaurants, cinemas, theaters, and other leisure facilities to slow down the virus.
  • A new study finds that coronavirus hospitalizations increased significantly more in areas without mask requirements, boosting public health experts’ mask-wearing recommendations. The Vanderbilt University study compared Tennessee counties with and without mask requirements. Hospitals, where less than 25 percent of the patients came from counties with mask requirements, had the largest increase in coronavirus hospitalizations, up more than 200 percent since July 1. In hospitals where more than 75 percent of the patients came from counties with a mask requirement, hospitalizations were about flat compared to July 1.
  • The University of Wisconsin paused its football activities on Wednesday because of a spike in COVID-19 cases within the program. Officials announced the program will stop activities for at least seven days, including canceling without rescheduling Saturday’s game against Nebraska. As of Wednesday morning, 12 people in the program tested positive, including six student athletes and six staff, while additional tests are pending. Head coach Paul Chryst was one of the staff members who tested positive.
  • Novavax delayed the start of Phase 3 U.S. trial of its experimental COVID-19 vaccine to the end of the November to make some improvements in its manufacturing process. Phase 2 data is expected this Friday after early-stage results showed the vaccine producing high levels of antibodies being produced against the virus.
  • A new study released by researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (APHI) on COVID transmission and risk mitigation while flying further supports airline company claims that air travel is safe during the pandemic. The report found that with a “layered approach to risk mitigation,” including social distancing, masks and air filtration, the risk of coronavirus transmission aboard planes is low. “Ventilation of air on aircraft reduces the possibility of exposure to COVID-19, lower than other common settings, such as a grocery store or indoor restaurant,” the researchers said. But the news comes just as nearly 100 federal air marshals have contracted the virus and some of them think they were exposed during flights.

[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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