Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines, May 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:

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said it is looking to let cruise lines resume trips in the U.S. by mid-July and changing some of the rules to allow the ships to sail.  A spokeswoman for the Cruise Lines International Association says the group’s experts are still reviewing the CDC comments but said discussions are making progress in restarting cruising.   The CDC will update its testing and quarantine requirements for passengers and crew to closely align with the CDC’s guidance for fully vaccinated persons.
  • Health and Human Resources announced Monday a new reimbursement program for providers that vaccinate patients enrolled in health plans that either does not cover vaccination fees or cover them with patient cost-sharing. 
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is reportedly preparing to authorize the Pfizer vaccine to children 12 to 15 years old early next week.  The agency will clear the vaccine in the form of an amendment to the emergency use authorization for the vaccine.  If granted, the CDC advisory panel will meet the following day to review the clinical trial data and make its recommendations.
  • President Biden's choice to continue wearing a mask outdoors, despite CDC advice that vaccinated American’s are no longer required to so, has sparked political criticism.  White House adviser Anita Dunn Sunday defended President Joe Biden over his continued use of a mask outdoors.   Dunn told CNN's Jake Tapper on State of the Union that "extra precautions" were being taken for the President and that mask-wearing was "a matter of habit." 
  • The Transportation Security Administration announced Friday that they would extend the face mask requirement for individuals across all transportation networks throughout the U.S., including at airports, onboard commercial aircraft, on over-the-road buses, and on commuter bus and rail systems through September 13.

In the News:

  • More than 150 million Americans have received at least one dose of a vaccine, but the widespread consensus among scientists is saying that "herd immunity" against COVID-19 be unlikely.  With a quarter of Americans saying they might not want to be immunized, herd immunity is simply not an attainable goal.    “It's theoretically possible but we as a society have rejected that," said Dr. Gregory Poland, director of the Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group. “There is no eradication at this point, it’s off the table. The only thing we can talk about is control.”
  • On Monday, vaccine developer Novavax announced it has begun a clinical trial of its coronavirus shot in adolescents ages 12 to 17.   Up to 3,000 children will be enrolled in the trial.
  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order to suspend all the remaining local COVID-19 restrictions statewide.  DeSantis said the state is no longer in a state of emergency and he thinks that's the "evidence-based" thing to do.
  • Denmark announced on Monday that they would no longer use the Johnson& Johnson vaccine.  Demark said it agrees with EU regulators that the vaccine is safe and effective but given the blood-clotting issues reported in the U.S., it will proceed with using the viral vector shot in its vaccination campaign.
  • New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut are lifting most Covid-19-related restrictions on May 19, allowing many businesses to reopen fully.  NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the easing of pandemic restrictions on Monday, including lifting curfews for food and beverage service. New York City will also return to 24-hour subway service on May 17.
  • India set another daily global record of new cases Saturday, with more than 400,000 new cases and 3,500 deaths, according to official totals experts suspect are undercounts. Less than 2% of the country is fully vaccinated.  Oxygen has been in short supply at medical facilities at hospitals as citizens are trying to obtain oxygen themselves. This week, the U.S. sent supplies to the country, including rapid tests, N95 masks, and oxygen cylinders.
  • The World Health Organization has approved Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use. Many countries without their own advanced medical regulatory and assessment offices rely on the WHO listing to decide whether to use vaccines.   Moderna will supply COVAX with up to 500 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine starting at the end of the year. 

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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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