Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines, October 2020 # 14

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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:

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) continued talks with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin again on Thursday as they continued negotiations on a fourth COVID-19 stimulus bill. Pelosi on Thursday said both sides are “just about there” on reaching a nearly US $2 trillion deal, but she cautioned that passing it into law will take time as she and the Trump administration try to resolve outstanding issues. “If we can resolve some of these things in the next few days, it’ll take a while to write the bill,” Pelosi told reporters. Pelosi said both sides still have not come to a consensus on several issues including aid to state and local governments, liability protections for businesses and funding for the U.S. Census and election systems.
    • If a deal is worked out, the largest hurdle is likely passing the bill through the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told reporters during a weekly press conference, "If a presidentially supported bill clears the House at some point we’ll bring it to the floor,” although its prospects there are dim as a majority of Republican senators oppose a coronavirus relief package with a large price tag.
    • President Trump on Wednesday appeared to throw cold water on the prospects of a coronavirus relief deal coming together quickly, just hours after his own top aides projected optimism that negotiations were moving in the right direction. The President tweeted "Just don’t see any way Nancy Pelosi and Cryin' Chuck Schumer will be willing to do what is right for our great American workers, or our wonderful USA itself, on Stimulus.”
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated the amount of time it takes for someone to be considered a "close contact" of a person with COVID-19. Previous language defined a close contact as someone who spent at least 15 minutes within 6 feet of a person with a confirmed case. The CDC now defines a close contact as someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. People considered close contacts are supposed to quarantine and get tested for the virus. In a study published Wednesday, the CDC and Vermont health officials found that multiple short exposures to people confirmed to have COVID-19 led to transmission of the virus.
  • Once a coronavirus vaccine becomes available, the CDC plans to monitor vaccine recipients for any health problems through text messages and online surveys, as part of a new program called V-SAFE. "V-SAFE is a new cell phone-based active surveillance program for Covid-19," Dr. Tom Shimabukuro, deputy director of the CDC's Immunization Safety Office, said during a US Food and Drug Administration open meeting on Thursday, according to CNN. Through V-SAFE, which stands for "vaccine safety assessment for essential workers," health checks can be conducted via text messages and email daily in the first week after a person receives the vaccine and then weekly thereafter for six weeks, according to the CDC's website.
  • Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar said Wednesday that a COVID-19 vaccine may be available for vulnerable Americans by January, including “seniors, as well as our health care workers and first responders.” A vaccine could be made available to wider swaths of the population by April, he added, speaking at a CDC press conference in Atlanta. April is a faster timeline than CDC Director Robert Redfield’s second- or third-quarter of 2021 estimate. President Trump called this slower estimate a “mistake” and had promoted an October 2020 ready date instead.
  • The coronavirus pandemic was front and center as President Trump debated Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden for the second and final time Thursday night in Nashville. The debate featured six sections on six topics, leading with "Fighting COVID-19," and followed by "American Families," "Race in America," "Climate Change," "National Security" and "Leadership." The broadcast started at 9 pm ET.

In the News:

  • There are at least 8,354,300 cases of coronavirus in the U.S. and at least 222,416 people have died from the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University.
  • New filings for jobless claims in the U.S. totaled 787,000 last week, according to the Labor Department, the lowest total since the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Moderna announced a major milestone on Thursday in its progress toward winning approval for a COVID-19 vaccine, saying it has secured all 30,000 participants for its Phase 3 study, more than a third of whom are of color. “Completing enrollment of the Phase 3 COVE study is an important milestone for the clinical development of our vaccine," CEO Stéphane Bancel said.
  • Researchers at Penn State College of Medicine said certain oral antiseptics, mouthwashes and a baby shampoo “may have the ability to inactive human coronaviruses” when talking, sneezing or coughing, though further testing is needed, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Medical Virology. The study did not specifically test the SARS-CoV-2 strain of coronavirus but rather a strain of coronavirus structurally similar to SARS-CoV-2.
  • Southwest Airlines says it will stop blocking middle seats on its planes in December. The airline cites recent studies that conclude there is a low risk of Covid-19 transmission on planes.
  • Target is making changes to help increase safety for shoppers this holiday season. The company will hold your spot in line and also dedicate twice as many parking spots to curbside pickup and give employees mobile devices that allow them to check out customers in different parts of the store.
  • About 210,000 businesses have reopened since temporarily closing in March according to researchers at Yelp. Many of these reopenings occurred in September. Yelp's data released Thursday indicates that food-based and restaurant businesses in particular are edging toward their 2018 and 2019 open rates.

[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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