Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines – COVID-19 D.C. Update – September # 4

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  • The Senate failed Thursday to advance the Republican “skinny” coronavirus relief bill, the latest blow to stalled efforts to pass another package to mitigate the pandemic’s economic damage. The measure fell short of the 60 votes needed on a procedural step to move toward passage. All Democrats present, and one Republican — Rand Paul of Kentucky — opposed it in a 52-47 vote.
    • GOP senators after the vote expressed pessimism about the possibility of getting a deal in the coming months. "Congress is not going to pass another COVID relief bill before the election," Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said in a video posted on Twitter. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) said that the coronavirus talks were at a "dead end street." Asked if it was unlikely Congress would pass another coronavirus relief bill before the election, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) said, "it looks that way."
    • As hopes of reaching a deal diminish, the White House is discussing unilateral executive actions to direct funding to some of the industries that continue to struggle in economic recovery. The executive actions being discussed include aid to the airlines, unemployed, school vouchers, and changes to make the President’s recent payroll tax changes more effective.
  • Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) told the press Wednesday that he will fight to help airline workers to get aid and save their jobs from layoffs in the next coronavirus relief bill. "We have major airlines headquartered in Texas where hundreds of thousands of people are going to be laid off, and the airlines are going to be some of the last ones to recover, and so they need the help," Cornyn told reporters on Capitol Hill 9 Sept.
  • The Trump administration is rolling back the limitations it placed on where international flights can land and the requirement for enhanced medical screening for incoming international flights next week. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is “shifting its strategy and prioritizing other public health measures to reduce the risk of travel-related disease transmission.” The agency says that fewer than 15 of 675,000 passengers screened were positive for Covid-19.
  • President Trump and the White House continue to do damage control from the release of the tapes and excerpts of Bob Woodward’s new book claiming that the President knew the coronavirus was “deadly” even as he was publicly downplaying it. The White House continues to push that the President was trying to avoid a state of panic. When asked during a White House briefing Wednesday evening why he didn’t take more preemptive measures based on his understanding of the virus before the disease spread in the US, Trump said, “You didn’t really think it was going to be to the point where it was.” However, POLITICO adds, “Trump acknowledged to Woodward in February how easily transmissible and deadly the disease was.” By Wednesday evening, President Trump tweeted that Woodward’s book was a “political hit job” and suggesting it was the latest in a series of “fake stories and investigations” against him.
  • NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci told Fox News that he didn’t recall stating that the President was “unfocused in meetings,” that “his sole purpose is to get re-elected,” that his leadership was “rudderless,” and his “attention span is like a minus number.” Fauci said, “If you notice, it was ‘others’ who have said that. You should ask ‘others.’ I don’t recall that all. ... I didn’t read the book, but according to what I saw in the newspapers, it said, ‘others have said that,” and refused to speak further on the subject.
  • Dozens of Stanford University doctors and researchers published an open letter warning about their colleague Dr. Scott W. Atlas, an influential member of the White House coronavirus task force. The infectious, epidemiological, and health policy experts published an open letter on 9 Sept., saying they “have both a moral and ethical responsibility to call attention to the falsehoods and misrepresentations of science recently fostered by” Dr. Atlas.
  • According to a CDC study, more than 40 percent of U.S. adults said they have delayed or avoided medical care during the coronavirus pandemic and about 12 percent avoided emergency medical care.

In the News

  • The U.S. is seeing some improvement as new coronavirus cases fell by almost 13% over the past week. The U.S. is now averaging about 37,000 new cases every day. The novel coronavirus has infected over 6.36 million and killed close to 191,000 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
  • United Airlines reached an agreement with its pilot union to avoid furloughs for nearly 3,000 employees. The deal needs to be approved by union members and leaders.”
  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced 9 Sept. that New York City restaurants can resume indoor service on 30 Sept. at 25 percent capacity and with other safety measures in place. Additional safety measures will be required including: the temperature of customers being taken at the door; mandatory mask-wearing, except when seated; one member of each group providing details for potential contact tracing purposes; and restaurants closing by midnight and not offering bar service.
  • A wave of major companies is now letting customers finance everything from video game consoles to hair products in smaller, monthly payments. Installment loans typically finance big-ticket purchases like furniture. But amid the coronavirus-caused recession and consumer cash crunch, fintech companies are rushing to launch their own version of a “pay later” product for online items in the hundreds of dollars. This week, Microsoft announced it would let consumers finance the new US$499 XBox in monthly payments, through a partnership with Citizens Bank in the U.S. PayPal, Mastercard, and Fiserv both announced new partnerships to expand installment options in recent days as well.
  • Colleges or universities in all 50 states now report clusters of coronavirus cases. More than 40,000 Covid-19 infections have been reported among students, faculty, and staff at higher ed institutions nationwide. The actual tally is likely higher due to a lag from schools that update their data every few days.
  • If Pfizer's vaccine is approved, the company will face multiple difficulties to distributing the vaccine because deep freeze storage capacities are required which is not the refrigerating system most doctors’ offices have. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), providing a single dose of the vaccine to 7.8 billion people will require the use of 8,000 Boeing 747 cargo aircraft.

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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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