Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines, May 2021 # 4

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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 Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized the use of the Pfizer vaccine for 12 - 15 years old. An advisory committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to meet shortly to review the data and make recommendations for the vaccine’s use in children in that age group. The timing is important as it could allow high schools to fully reopen for in-person learning this fall.
  • The Biden administration is working with state health officials to get more COVID-19 vaccines administered through doctors’ offices.  Doctors have been advocating the White House to be able to vaccinate their patients but there are still many hurdles in the process to assure proper handling and distribution through physicians’ offices.  
  • Sixty-three percent of Americans approve of President Biden's job performance, according to an Associated Press-NORC poll released Monday. That’s up 2 percentage points from late March. Biden's overall rating is buoyed by his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, health care, and the economy, according to the poll. On the pandemic, 71 percent of Americans approve of Biden's performance, including 47 percent of Republicans. 
  • On May 10, the Treasury Department announced it will begin distributing the $350 billion in funding that Congress allocated for aid states and cities.  The Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds were established by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, to provide emergency funding that can be used for public health expenditures, address negative economic impacts caused by the pandemic, aid communities and populations hardest hit by the crisis, provide premium pay for essential workers, or invest in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure.
  • White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci says federal guidance on wearing face coverings indoors may change soon. Sunday on ABC News, Fauci was asked whether it's time to start relaxing indoor mask requirements. Fauci replied, "I think so, and I think you're going to probably be seeing that as we go along, and as more people get vaccinated."  The message is also being echoed by White House covid crisis coordinator Jeff Zients.  Dr. Fauci also said the U.S. is unlikely to see a surge of COVID-19 infections over the fall and winter like it did last year.
  • On May 7, the Treasury Department announced an additional $21.6 billion in emergency rental assistance allocation.   The agency is working with the White House American Rescue Plan Implementation Team and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to distribute the funding. Treasury also issued updated guidance to expedite funds to renters and target those most severely in need of assistance.

In the News:

  • UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to ease public health restrictions that barred hugging. The country lowered its coronavirus “threat level” from four to three on Monday, and Johnson announced hugging can begin in the UK again on May 17, according to the Associated Press. Johnson is also expected on Monday to announce that people from different households can mix in pubs and restaurants as vaccination numbers rise and new cases numbers fall.
  • Vaccine-maker Novavax said Monday that its combined COVID-19 and flu vaccine produced a positive immune response in animal tests. The vaccine produced “robust” antibody responses to both coronavirus and the flu in a study in ferrets, the company said. Novavax plans clinical trials in people “by the end of the year.” Novavax is also preparing to file for authorization for a vaccine solely aimed at COVID-19 as soon as next month.
  • Dutch researchers announced this week that they have trained more than 150 bees to identify the coronavirus based on its scent. The researchers work for start-up InsectSense and Wageningen University in the Netherlands. InsectSense said in a press release that it has developed a prototype machine that can train bees to detect the virus and that could be distributed worldwide. 
  • The CEO of coronavirus vaccine-maker BioNTech said Monday that he opposes waiving intellectual property protections for the vaccines. Ugur Sahin argued in an investor call that there will be enough vaccine for the entire world without the waiver. He added that new manufacturing capacity to produce doses could take a year to set up. Sahin acknowledged, however, that it would take "9 to 12 months” to produce enough vaccines for the whole world. The Biden administration backs the proposed World Trade Organization waiver.
  • Health officials in Colorado have identified five cases of a coronavirus variant first discovered in India. The cases involve five females in Mesa County who are all from different households, according to a news release posted Thursday.

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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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