Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines – COVID-19 D.C. Update – September 2020 # 8

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  • The White House Wednesday signaled it is open to supporting the Problem Solvers’ coronavirus relief bill released. The President encouraged Senate Republicans to support the deal that would increase spending to US$1.52 trillion. Trump tweeted: “Democrats are ‘heartless’. They don’t want to give STIMULUS PAYMENTS to people who desperately need the money, and whose fault it was NOT that the plague came in from China. Go for the much higher numbers, Republicans, it all comes back to the USA anyway (one way or another!).”
    • White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told CNBC Wednesday that he is “probably more optimistic about the potential for a deal in the last 72 hours than I have been in the last 72 days.”
    • Senate Republicans rebuffed the president’s call, suggesting that there is not enough Republican support for an additional aid package with less than two months left before Election Day.
    • Democrats continue to hold firm on a bigger package. Democratic House committee chairs issued a statement rejecting the centrist “Problem Solvers” Caucus’s proposal 15 Sept., reiterating their desire for a US$2.2 trillion deal.
    • “We are encouraged that after months of the Senate Republicans insisting on shortchanging the massive needs of the American people, President Trump is now calling on Republicans to ‘go for the much higher numbers’ in the next coronavirus relief package,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in a joint statement. “We look forward to hearing from the President’s negotiators that they will finally meet us halfway.”
  • Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) top spokesperson Michael Caputo is taking a 60-day leave of absence after making controversial and unfounded allegations on Facebook accusing government scientists of “sedition” and warning of left-wing violence. Trump’s political appointee and former campaign aide apologized 15 Sept. to HHS staff for his statements. The agency said Caputo will take the leave of absence “to focus on his health and the well-being of his family.” The agency also announced the permanent departure of Paul Alexander, a top aide to Caputo. Alexander and Caputo were accused of interfering with the agency's weekly scientific reports and criticized for promoting the president’s political interests over public health.
  • The Senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee held a hearing with government health officials updating the panel on the administration's pandemic response. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield testified that wearing facemasks is the most important, powerful public health tool the U.S has. He explained if all Americans wore face coverings for 6 to 12 weeks, the U.S. would bring the pandemic under control. "I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine. Because the immunogenicity may be 70%, and if I don't get an immune response, the vaccine's not going to protect me. This face mask will,” Redfield told the committee. Redfield also told the Committee that the U.S. should have enough COVID-19 vaccine doses for Americans to return to “regular life” by the third quarter of next year. He said it would take about “six to nine months” to get the entire American public vaccinated. Public health experts have predicted that most Americans likely won’t get immunized until the middle of next year due to a vaccine’s initial limited supply, the potential need for two doses at varying intervals, and logistical challenges such as setting up distribution sites and acquiring enough necessary needles, syringes, and bottles.
  • The Federal Reserve said Wednesday that the Fed expects to leave interest rates near zero through at least 2023 to cushion the economy as the U.S. tries to revive the labor market and economy. The committee also would allow inflation to run somewhat above the 2% target rate before hiking rates to control inflation.
  • The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA wrote a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urging him to take Senate action to save the tens of thousands of airline jobs by extending the CARES Act’s Payroll Support Program (PSP) that expires in two weeks. “You’ve got a simple way to prevent significant pain, but you’ve got to act now before our jobs are lost and small communities are cut off, causing more harm and more job loss,” AFA-CWA President Sara Nelson said. Meanwhile, Delta has avoided involuntary layoffs for all but about 2000 pilots through voluntary leaves of absence, buyouts, and shorter schedules.
  • President Trump took several voter’s coronavirus questions during the 15 Sept. ABC News town hall. The President said that a COVID-19 vaccine could be three or four weeks away and thinks that there was nothing more he could have done to stop the virus. Trump provided puzzling answers regarding the public health protections of wearing face masks. The President criticized Democratic nominee Joe Biden for not following through on a pledge to institute a mask mandate to control the spread of COVID-19, despite Biden not holding a public office and claimed that waiters don’t “think that masks are not good.” When asked why he downplayed the virus, the President responded that he "up-played" the severity of the coronavirus pandemic, even though he told Bob Woodward in March that he "wanted to always play it down." A full transcript of the town hall with other health-related issues can be found here.
  • Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden Wednesday said that the U.S. could not allow politics to interfere with the development and distribution of a vaccine. While he trusts the government scientists, the former vice president does not trust President Donald Trump. Biden said that Trump’s comments at the ABC town hall prove his “lack of seriousness” about the COVID-19, saying that the President’s handling of the pandemic is “utterly disqualifying.”
  • The CDC today announced the government’s plans to transport a COVID-19 vaccine across the U.S. within 24 hours after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) grants an emergency approval, senior administration officials said Wednesday. The plans were presented in a report to Congress and an accompanying “playbook” for states and localities. The government will use the medical supply company McKesson as its main distributor. The CDC’s plan envisions the vaccine being distributed for free. CDC Director Robert Redfield added that the vaccine will initially be very limited and will likely go to those most in need, such as health-care workers.

In the News

  • A 15 Sept. CDC study reports that coronavirus deaths among U.S. children and young adults mirror the same patterns seen in older adult patients. A CDC report examined 121 deaths of those younger than 21, as of the end of July. Like older adults, many of them had one or more medical conditions such as lung problems, including asthma, obesity, heart problems or developmental conditions. Racial disparities were also found, with two-thirds of the cases among Black and Hispanic youth. The CDC found 54 were Hispanic, 35 were Black, and 17 were white, even though overall there are far more white Americans than Black and Hispanic.
  • Housing demand and construction continues to surge, tempered somewhat by lumber and related shortages. Housing construction firms’ confidence in the market for single-family homes in September increased to 83 on the monthly National Assoc. of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index. That’s the highest reading in the survey’s 35-year history.
  • Big Ten college football is back on for the fall. The collegiate athletics conference announced Wednesday that it will scrap its previous plan to delay fall sports until spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, the fall season will begin on the 2324 Oct. weekend. The move came amid sharp pressure from coaches, parents, and even President Trump, all pushing for a Big Ten football season.
  • U.S. shoppers spent more cautiously in August and retail sales grew a tepid 0.6 percent compared to July, as tens of millions of unemployed people stopped receiving extra federal jobless benefits and families faced a confusing back-to-school season. Still, retail sales continued to grow for the fourth month in a row as people spent more at restaurants and bars and bought more furniture, electronics, cars and clothes. And for the first time in months, online stores saw no growth.

[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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