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

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

We wish all of our readers a happy and safe Thanksgiving. We will return next week on November 30.

In Washington:

  • House and Senate Appropriators have reached a bipartisan spending deal “in principle” on Tuesday to allocate funding for the 12 FY21 spending bills and moving forward in the process of passing a nearly $1.4 trillion omnibus appropriations package before the current stopgap resolution expires on 11 Dec. There are still several policy issues to iron out. It is not yet known if additional pandemic-related relief will be included in the massive bill. The House-passed bill included $233 billion in Covid-19 funding. Congress will most likely address Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which provides unemployment insurance for gig workers, and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), which extends unemployment benefits for up to 13 weeks; both expire on December 26th. If an agreement is not reached, Congress would have to pass another continuing resolution (CR) to avoid a government shutdown.
  • The Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee will meet on Dec. 10 to discuss Pfizer and BioNTech's emergency use authorization (EUA) application for its coronavirus vaccine. The FDA tweeted, that starting Friday, the public will be able to submit comments to the public docket for this meeting, and the FDA will review those comments.
  • NIAIS Director Dr. Anthony Fauci again warned Americans to keep indoor holiday gatherings as small as possible due to the latest surge in COVID-19 infections. “By making that sacrifice, you are going to prevent people from being infected,” he said. More than 50 percent of Americans are staying home and not celebrating Thanksgiving beyond their immediate circles. However, according to the New York Times, 27 percent of Americans plan to dine with people outside their households. The Transportation Security Authority (TSA) has said that they have screened over 4.8 million people since the CDC had first warned the public not to travel. Furthermore, AAA predicts as many as 50 million Americans will travel for Thanksgiving, which equates to only a 10 percent drop since last year’s holiday.
  • The Biden transition team is closing in on their decision on a Health and Human Services Secretary. New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy are reportedly at the top of the list to join Biden’s cabinet. Gov. Grisham ran New Mexico’s health agency before becoming Governor. She is seasoned and knows how to navigate Washington and the Hill as a three-term member of Congress. Her track record with the pandemic has been aggressive. She also has the support of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus who has been lobbying the Biden team to make her the first Latina HHS secretary. Dr. Murthy brings a unique perspective as a medical professional and a former surgeon general which affords him the benefit of preexisting relationships. Murthy has been overseeing the transition’s pandemic planning as a co-chair of Biden’s Covid-19 advisory board.
  • President-elect Joe Biden said Tuesday that transition staffers have been in touch with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious diseases expert and a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force. Biden told reporters that while he has not spoken with Fauci himself, “He’s been very, very helpful.” Fauci confirmed the conversations to CNN and added that he hopes to stay on in his role as the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
  • The White House is strongly considering lifting sweeping travel bans from Europe and the United Kingdom, according to CNN. An administration official told CNN that the CDC has expressed some reservations about lifting the restrictions, but the agency is not expected to block the move.
  • On Tuesday, HHS testing czar Brett Giroir told reporters that CDC and HHS are ramping up their efforts with their Strategic Surveillance Program to aggressively screen certain communities for Covid-19 on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. The agency hopes to see if more aggressive testing can effectively curb new spread of the virus. The agencies will focus on testing in Colorado, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Veterans Affairs, and certain tribes.

In the News:

  • Initial jobless claims rose to a seasonally adjusted 778,000 in the third week of November, increasing for the second week in a row as rising levels of COVID-19 cases weakened demand and prompted more business-restricting public health measures. Another 311,675 people claimed benefits through Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, an emergency program that expands eligibility for benefits. Together that brings overall new claims to nearly 1.1 million. Initial claims remain at nearly four times their pre-pandemic average.
  • Americans are lining up in historic numbers at food banks across the country this week as the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates levels of food insecurity for millions of people. In Dallas, Texas, North Texas Food Bank representatives told the Dallas Morning News that they handed out roughly 8,500 meals to local families during a giveaway on Saturday that has seen fewer than 1,000 show up for donations in years past. San Jose, California’s CityTeam, a local charity, told local news that demand has more than tripled over the course of 2020.
  • Nearly every U.S. Navy installation in the U.S. is tightening COVID-19 restrictions to curb the virus's spread on bases and protect military families. The new measures could close some daycare centers, eliminate community activities, restrict travel, and mandate remote work. To date, the Defense Department has seen nearly 75,000 service members diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • Several top Democrats have come under criticism in recent days for violating the coronavirus restrictions they imposed on their own states. California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) attended a largely mask-less dinner party at one of the nation’s priciest restaurants, flouting state restrictions. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) urged New Yorkers to avoid Thanksgiving holiday travel, then said that his 89-year-old mother and two of his daughters would travel to his residence in Albany for a holiday dinner. Cuomo has since cancelled the dinner.
  • The US could see the number of COVID-19 infections almost double by Inauguration Day on Jan. 2, based on a model from Washington University.

[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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