Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines, April 2021

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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:

  • Congress returns this week from their two-week spring recess.   The Senate will continue its consideration of President Biden’s health care nominees.   On April 15, the Senate Finance Committee will consider the nominations of Chiquita Brooks-LaSure to lead the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and Andrea Palm to be deputy secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  
  • President Biden released his $1.52 trillion FY 2022 discretionary budget request on April 9, focusing on domestic programs.  The HHS budget request asks Congress to anticipate the next pandemic and provides more than a 23 percent increase for HHS over the 2021 enacted level.  The proposal delivers the most significant budget discretionary funding increase for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in nearly two decades.  The budget request also creates a new  National Institutes of Health (NIH) initiative that will initially focus on diseases such as cancer and diabetes.
  • On April 15, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra will testify before the House Appropriations subcommittee on the FY fiscal 2022 HHS budget request.  Various committees with jurisdiction across several sectors will hold COVID-19 related hearings this week, including a Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing where Biden Administration health officials will testify on the nation’s vaccine progress.
  • White House health officials are reassuring the public that manufacturing will soon resume following the news that Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine allocations to states will by dip 86 percent next week. 
  • CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters on April 7 that the highly contagious B.1.1.7 variant is now the main form of COVID-19 in the U.S.  The CDC is concerned that the variant can lead to greater hospitalization rates and deaths, and highlights the importance of testing. 
  • CDC's most recent data shows the country is now averaging 63,000 cases per day, which is up 2.3 percent compared to the prior seven-day average. Hospital admissions are also going up to about 5,000 per day, up about 2.7 percent from the previous week. Deaths have decreased by 19.7 percent, though, with a seven-day average of 745 deaths per day.

In the News:

  • The U.S is averaging 3 million vaccinations per day over seven days. But across the country, there are growing case clusters associated with daycare centers and youth sports. Many new hospitalizations are in younger adults in their 30s and 40s with severe disease.
  • The CDC says that 11 states have already vaccinated 50 percent of adults with at least one vaccine dose.  Dr. Anthony Fauci says that over half of U.S. adults will have at least received their first shot of the vaccine by next week. 
  • A late-stage clinical trial of 1,500 people suggests that the antibody cocktail made by Regeneron reduced the risk of symptomatic Covid-19 by 81 percent in people living with a person infected with the virus, the company said Monday. The company is pursuing FDA approval for the cocktail as a preventative treatment.
  • On April 9, the Supreme Court ruled late April 9 to prevent California from enforcing restrictions on in-person religious meetings in homes such as prayer groups in a 5-4 ruling.    California had limited indoor gatherings to three households or fewer, with different rules for other non-secular places.
  • New York City announced that more than 50,000 families across all grade levels have opted into in-person learning. Governor Andrew Cuomo also said Monday that New York would send Covid-19 vaccines to state colleges and universities to help ramp up vaccination rates among students.  Gov. Andrew Cuomo also announced on Monday that schools may host in-person graduation ceremonies starting May 1, though a series of restrictions will be in place based on the venue, event size, and location.

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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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