Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines, October 2020 # 5

Hogan Lovells

Hogan Lovells

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

In Washington:

  • After halting coronavirus stimulus negotiations on Tuesday afternoon, President Donald Trump hours later signaled he would support specific coronavirus relief measures on stimulus checks, help for the airline industry, and small business loans. “The House & Senate should IMMEDIATELY Approve 25 Billion Dollars for Airline Payroll Support, & 135 Billion Dollars for Paycheck Protection Program for Small Business...I will sign now!” Trump tweeted Tuesday. Later, Trump tweeted that he would also sign a bill giving some Americans $1,200 stimulus checks. The messages came after stocks nosedived Tuesday after Trump publicly pulled out of talks for a broader pre-election relief deal.
  • In reactions to the President’s abrupt halt in negotiations, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi released a Dear Colleague letter criticizing the President “walking away” from the talks. "Clearly, the White House is in complete disarray," Pelosi said in a statement to the press. The Speaker signaled a willingness to discuss standalone bills as her talks with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin take a new direction, but noted that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (D-KY) failed to pass the stand-alone bill for airline aid in the Republican Senate back in September.
  • President Trump has been “symptom-free” for more than 24 hours as he continues to be treated for the coronavirus at the White House, one of his doctors said Wednesday in a new memo. Trump has also been “fever-free for more than 4 days” and has not required supplemental oxygen since leaving Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Monday, said Dr. Sean Conley, the White House physician. Conley’s brief memo did not include any specific updates on the president’s drug regimen.
  • On Wednesday, President Trump filled the morning with a slew of tweets as he undergoes treatment for his COVID-19 infection from the residential wing of the White House. The President tweeted more than 50 times before noon. In the afternoon, CNN reported President Trump returned to the Oval Office despite being infected with the coronavirus. Both chief of staff Mark Meadows and social media advisor Dan Scavino were in the office with the President but wearing protective gear.
  • White House adviser Stephen Miller has tested positive for the coronavirus. Miller, who made his name as the architect of some of Trump's most controversial and severe immigration policies, had been working remotely for the previous five days. Nearly two dozen close contacts to the White House have tested positive for the virus in the last week.
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published guidance Tuesday detailing what's required for the emergency authorization of a coronavirus vaccine. Drugmakers must provide data showing they followed clinical trial participants for a median of two months after their final vaccine injection, according to guidelines posted on the FDA's website. The agency also wants companies to submit vaccines for authorization only after at least five severe cases of COVID-19 have been seen in volunteers who got the placebo, according to the guidance. The requirements make it unlikely a vaccine could clear the agency before Election Day.
  • Hospitals will lose Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements if they report incomplete COVID-19 data reporting, said Seema Verma, administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, in a call with reporters Tuesday. The penalty could go into effect as early as mid-January. Hospitals have struggled with the reporting requests, which increased in July and became mandatory in September. The hospital data reporting system drew controversy in mid-July when the Department of Health and Human Services instructed hospitals to stop reporting data to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and instead report to a newer system directly managed by HHS, which oversees the CDC, raising concerns among politicians and public health experts of political interference in public health surveillance.
  • Vice President Pence tested negative for COVID-19 on Wednesday, hours before he squares off with Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) in the lone vice presidential debate. Harris, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, also tested negative prior to the debate, a spokesperson said. Harris and Pence will be separated by more than 12 feet of distance, with two plexiglass barriers between them.
  • President Trump’s bout with COVID-19 is casting uncertainty over the second presidential debate. The President intends to participate in person at next week’s event in Miami, his campaign said Tuesday. Democratic nominee Joe Biden told reporters a day earlier that he would defer to medical experts on whether it would be safe to hold the event but appeared willing to take part if they signed off. As the debate commission mulls how to move forward, health experts suggested it’s not worth the risk for the two candidates, both in their 70s, and one with COVID-19, to debate in person when there are alternatives available.
  • The increase in mail-in and early voting due to the COVID-19 pandemic is setting voting records. The number of ballots mailed in and in-person votes cast early surpassed the 5.5 million mark Wednesday, according to the United States Elections Project, which compiles early voting data. That figure is more than 73 times the number of votes that were cast at this point in 2016. Florida and Virginia have led the spike in early voting, with more than 947,000 and nearly 770,000 votes being cast in each state, respectively.

In the News:

  • One in four rural U.S households have been unable to get medical care for serious problems during the pandemic according to a new survey. Among those households that had trouble getting care, more than half reported that a family member experienced negative health consequences as a result. The poll was conducted by NPR, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public School, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. While 14 percent of the U.S. population lives in rural counties, 20 percent of new cases and 23 percent of COVID-19-related deaths last week were in rural counties, according to an analysis by The Daily Yonder, an online newspaper that covers rural America.
  • Shares of Eli Lilly rose Wednesday after the company announced it submitted a request to the FDA for emergency authorization of its COVID-19 antibody treatment. Eli Lilly’s shares rose by more than 3 percent in morning trading. The company announced Wednesday that its drug, LY-CoV555, which has proven to reduce the rate of hospitalizations for coronavirus patients, showed similar results when combined with another antibody treatment made by the company.
  • Singapore plans to offer a one-time payment to encourage couples to have a baby during the pandemic, fearing that the economic impact of the outbreak is worsening the city state’s already low birth rate. The value of the payment has not been announced, but it will be provided on top of current benefits that are worth up to $10,000 Singapore dollars (about $7300 USD). Data on the pandemic’s effects on fertility is still emerging, but suggests a fall in birth rates in many wealthy countries, and an increase in low or middle-income nations, where barriers to accessing contraception have been exacerbated by the lockdown measures.
  • Less than 11 percent of people with federal student loans are repaying them during the pandemic. The government’s coronavirus forbearance measures for federal student loans have freed up money for basic essentials for many borrowers, many of whom have seen their income dry up. U.S. Department of Education press secretary Angela Morabito said that while “the vast majority of our loan portfolio is currently in forbearance,” borrowers made nearly $6.2 billion in federal student loan payments in May, June and July. Still, that’s a fraction of the outstanding $1.6 trillion U.S. student loan balance.
  • Seven states — Arkansas, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming — set new highs for COVID-19 hospitalizations on Tuesday.
  • NFL players on the New England Patriots, Tennessee Titans and Las Vegas Raiders tested positive for the novel coronavirus and this weekend’s game between the Titans and Patriots games in doubt.
  • Ruby Tuesday declared bankruptcy Wednesday, citing the need to reduce debt and survive the financial setback of temporary closures and slowed customer demand amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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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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