Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines, January 2021 # 8

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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 House voted 232-197 to impeach President Trump for a second time on a charge of inciting insurrection over the Jan. 6 siege on the U.S. Capitol that left five people, including a Capitol Police officer, dead. Ten Republicans, including House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney of Wyoming, voted in favor of impeachment; four Republicans voted not present. Outgoing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that the Senate trial won't start until after President-elect Joe Biden's Inauguration. McConnell also left the Senate’s path to convict President Trump, saying he hasn't decided yet on how he will vote and intended to listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate.
  • Moncef Slaoui, the chief adviser to Operation Warp Speed, on Wednesday submitted his resignation effective next month, according to CNBC. Slaoui will stay on long enough to transition his duties to Biden administration officials. The president-elect has yet to name a new chief scientific adviser for the federal government's vaccine deployment program. Gen. Gustave Perna told CNBC that Biden's team has not asked him to step down from overseeing the nation's vaccine distribution efforts.
  • The Small Business Administration (SBA) has forgiven 1.1 million Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans amounting to over $100 billion, the agency announced Tuesday. The PPP was a central COVID-19 economic relief program in March's CARES Act, offering small businesses forgivable loans to keep workers on the books and stay afloat. The program was renewed last month as part of the year-end COVID-19 $900 billion relief package. But of the 4.9 million loans made, SBA said that it has only received forgiveness applications for about 1.3 million of the loans.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Defense (DoD) on Tuesday said they had bought 1.25 million additional doses of the Regeneron coronavirus treatment that was given to President Donald Trump in October. The government will continue allocating the drug to states on a weekly basis and will base its allocation on the number of coronavirus cases in each state.
  • States are struggling with the repercussions of the Trump administration's blindside Tuesday halting current guidance and policy on vaccine distribution and telling states to start vaccinating anyone 65 and older or high-risk medical conditions. The abrupt change of plans also further burdens the incoming Biden transition as the Centers for Disease Control's (CDC) blueprint has now been gutted. CDC Director Robert Redfield downplayed the new policy’s impact, saying the guidance never guaranteed that everyone in those groups would be immunized before moving on to lower-priority groups. State health experts continue to be concerned with the slow vaccine rollout, lack of leadership, and inequities in getting the vaccine to underprivileged communities.
  • The IRS “generally performed well” carrying out last year’s tax-filing season and issuing the first round of coronavirus stimulus payments, but millions of taxpayers encountered significant problems, according to a report issued Wednesday by the agency's top watchdog, National Taxpayer Advocate Erin Collins. While most taxpayers quickly received the correct stimulus payment amount, others faced lengthy delays in getting theirs, due, Collins wrote, to a combination of a quick shift to remote work plus significant budget cuts to the agency.

In the News:

  • Johnson & Johnson has hit a production delay that could amount to a two-month interruption in the company’s projected delivery of its one-shot vaccine. The company had originally pledged to deliver 12 million doses by the end of February, with plans to reach 100 million over the next four months.
  • Coronavirus deaths climbed to another record high on Tuesday in the United States, with 4,327 people dying in a single day, according to Johns Hopkins University. The seven-day average for daily deaths rose from about 2,600 per day to about 3,300 per day in the past week, a New York Times tracker shows. Hospitalizations are also at a record high, with more than 131,000 people in hospitals with the coronavirus.
  • The European Medicines Agency (EMA) announced Tuesday that hackers had leaked information on COVID-19 vaccines stolen as part of an attack on the agency discovered late last year. “[S]ome of the unlawfully accessed documents related to COVID-19 medicines and vaccines belonging to third parties have been leaked on the internet,” the EMA said in a statement. “Necessary action is being taken by the law enforcement authorities.” The stolen data may include documents submitted to the EMA by Pfizer and BioNTech and Moderna for approval to use their COVID-19 vaccines in EU countries.
  • The NBA is facing multiple postponements as teams grapple with COVID-19 cases in their locker rooms. The league announced stricter health measures on Tuesday, but at least one player, Oklahoma City's George Hill, pushed back on the new rules. “I’m a grown man, so I’m gonna do what I wanna do,” Hill said.

[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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