Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines, February 2021 # 9

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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 managers finished presenting their case against former President Trump at his impeachment trial on Thursday. They argued that Trump's statements prior to and at the January 6 "Stop the Steal" rally directly motivated the rioters to storm the Capitol and that his lack of remorse for the violence necessitates his conviction. They warned that acquittal risks Trump or a different future president again stoking political violence. The case against Trump took two days. Trump's attorneys plan to present their entire argument in one day on Friday according to NBC News. After the argument, senators will question the two sides for four hours.
  • President Joe Biden was able to secure an additional 200 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine—100 million doses each of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines.  The amount doubles the supply in the U.S. to roughly 600 million doses.  Biden made the announcement while touring the National Institutes of Health on Thursday, adding that the U.S. is on track to have enough supply of the vaccine to inoculate 300 million Americans by the end of July. "We've now purchased enough vaccine supply to vaccinate all Americans, and now we're working to get those vaccines into the arms of people," Biden said. It's unlikely the purchase will make the vaccine widely available sooner than originally planned, but it may prevent shortages later this year, said the Post.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued new guidance advising fully vaccinated people that they do not need to quarantine if they are exposed to someone who is infected with COVID-19, provided they received both vaccine shots at least two weeks before exposure. Additionally, exposed people should quarantine if more than three months have passed since they received the second shot, given it is unclear how long protections last. People should also quarantine if they experience coronavirus symptoms. 
  • The real unemployment rate in the U.S. is close to 10 percent when factoring errors into the calculation, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said Wednesday. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a 6.3 percent jobless rate last week. But in a virtual speech to the Economic Club of New York, Powell said that the Bureau itself "reports that many unemployed individuals have been misclassified as employed.” He added, speaking of Fed policymakers, “[w]e will not tighten monetary policy solely in response to a strong labor market,” underscoring that the Fed won't look to hike rates until all sectors of the workforce have recovered.
  • National Institutes of Health (NIH) official Dr. Anthony Fauci sounded an optimistic note on vaccine availability on NBC's Today show Thursday. Fauci said he thinks that by April it will be "open season" for vaccinations in the country, and anyone who wants a shot will be able to get one. Fauci based his prediction on the possible effects of the administration's allowing pharmacies and community health centers to administer shots. While the vaccination pace has picked up to about 1.5 million people a day, the nation's vaccine rollout has been uneven, plagued by supply shortages and differing approaches in every state. 
  • Dr. Fauci also said that the CDC on Wednesday did not recommend that people wear two masks. The agency updated guidance about mask fitting to emphasize that the tighter the fit, the better the protection will be. "What the CDC is saying is at minimum, wear a mask," Fauci said. "Then you want it to fit better, so one of the ways you could do it, if you would like to, is put a cloth mask over...That's all they're saying," Fauci added.
  • The New York Times revealed that the severity of former President Donald Trump’s infection with COVID-19 was far more serious than the president and his officials admitted.  Trump showed signs of potential pneumonia, had extremely low blood oxygen levels, and there were discussions of putting him on a ventilator. While hospitalized, his medical team repeatedly downplayed the severity of the former President’s condition and provided misleading information to reporters.   

In the News:

  • AstraZeneca said in a company document published Thursday that producing vaccines focused on combating new COVID-19 variants could take at least six months. The drugmaker said that it “hopes to reduce the time needed to reach production at scale to between six to nine months, by utilising existing clinical data and optimising its established supply chain.” The AstraZeneca vaccine, now rolling out in the U.K. and European Union, may offer “minimal protection” against a COVID-19 variant that was first discovered in South Africa, according to recent initial research.
  • Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti announced the city would temporarily close a majority of its vaccine sites on Friday and Saturday, including the megasite at Dodger Stadium, because of a shortage of shots. The city only received 16,000 doses this week from the federal government.
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended her government's decision to extend a COVID-19 lockdown into March, as she issued a stark warning that new strains of the coronavirus "may destroy any success" already achieved in keeping the pandemic in check. Merkel told federal lawmakers that extending the national lockdown until March 7, with an option to reopen schools, daycare centers and hairdressers earlier gradually, was a prudent measure. 
  • The University of Massachusetts Amherst announced this week that the campus is now considered "high risk" and all students are directed to self-sequester. At the University of California Berkeley, a self-sequester mandate was extended through least Feb. 15.
  •  Ohio will add as many as 4,000 previously unreported COVID-19 deaths to the state's records after the Ohio Department of Health discovered errors in how coronavirus deaths are confirmed.
  • Instagram has blocked Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. after he repeatedly spread anti-vaccine messages on the site. Kennedy has also promoted conspiracy theories about Bill Gates, accusing him of profiteering off vaccines and attempting to take control of the world's food supply. Kennedy, has been a prominent anti-vaccine activist for years, promoting controversial and disproven claims linking vaccines with autism. 
  • Japan could waste 12 million Pfizer vaccine doses because of a shortage of special syringes capable of extracting more of the vaccine from vials.

[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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