Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines – COVID-19 D.C. Update – June 2020 #5

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[author: Shelley Castle]

Your guide to the latest Hill developments, news narratives, and media headlines provided by the Hogan Lovells Government Relations and Public Affairs team.

In Washington

  • House Republicans sent a letter to leadership asking that unemployment benefits be excluded from the next coronavirus relief package. Rep. James Comer (R-TN) said “Numerous employers in my home state of Kentucky have told me that they’re having to persuade employees to return because their UI assistance is simply greater than their earnings before. This is moving the mission of regaining our economy backwards.” A few weeks ago on a phone call, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) promised that the unemployment benefits would not be extended again. But with 40 million Americans out of work, some conservatives are growing worried that the Senate GOP will cut a deal with Democrats to boost unemployment insurance.
  • Late Wednesday, President Trump met with White House economic advisers Larry Kudlow and Kevin Hassett to discuss the next COVID-19 stimulus package. Although a final decision hasn’t been made, the administration would like to include an infrastructure package, changes to unemployment benefits, a back-to-work tax credit for workers returning to their jobs, a payroll tax cut, liability protections, and tax deductions for companies for workers’ restaurant and entertainment expenses. Administration officials increasingly expect to spend up to US$1 trillion in the next bill and action on any such measure would occur after July 20.
  • The White House’s coronavirus task force is now reduced to weekly closed-door meetings with Vice President Mike Pence. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the government, says he hasn’t spoken publicly at the White House since April 29. In his last task force news conference, a week earlier, he cautioned that the country must “proceed in a very careful, measured way” to reopen.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield told lawmakers on the House Committee on Appropriations on Thursday that the U.S. remains underprepared for major pandemic health threats, citing major shortfalls revealed by the coronavirus in state, local, and federal authorities’ ability to spot and track disease and develop countermeasures. He also suggested they are maintaining ties with the World Health Organization (WHO) even after President Trump said last week he planned to terminate the U.S. relationship with the group for being too deferential to China.

In the News

  • Today, the Labor Department unveiled the nation’s unemployment rate is currently at 13.3 percent. Surprisingly, the U.S. added 2.5 million jobs in May, and unemployment dropped shattering economist expectations that there would be another steep rise in joblessness.
  • In the U.S., coronavirus cases have been on a gradual rise since Memorial Day weekend, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The country is nonetheless pushing forward with reopening. Some of the largest Las Vegas casinos reopened on Thursday, and New York City, the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, is slated to move into its first phase of reopening on Monday.
  • Wednesday marked the first day of zero confirmed COVID-19 deaths in New York City since March, according to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The city’s COVID-19 related deaths peaked on April 7 at a high of 590, according to the city’s data.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) is now calling for nations to encourage the public to wear fabric masks in areas where there continues to be intense spread of the novel coronavirus. The updated recommendations announced on Friday, are a shift from what the WHO previously advised on masks, which was to not wear them if you are not sick or not caring for someone who is sick, in an effort to keep masks available for health workers.
  • U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor temporarily blocked a judge’s order that would require federal prison officials to move hundreds of inmates out of an Ohio facility where nine people have died from the coronavirus. Sotomayor stopped the transfers while the matter goes before a federal appeals court that will hear arguments Friday.
  • Federal health officials announced Thursday that laboratories will be required to report race and ethnic data about each person who is tested for coronavirus to ensure the tests are being carried out in an equitable way.
  • Nearly three weeks after JCPenney filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the company has announced it will close down 154 stores nationwide in 38 states as a first step in reorganizing the business.
  • A large, randomized U.K. trial found “no clinical benefit” of hydroxychloroquine to treat hospitalized Covid-19 patients, researchers announced Friday. Patients receiving hydroxychloroquine died at about the same rate — about one in four — as those receiving regular care.

[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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