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

Hogan Lovells

Hogan Lovells

In Washington

  • There’s still been no movement on the Phase Four coronavirus stimulus bill. White House Council of Economic Advisers Tyler Goodspeed appeared on Fox Business touting President Trump’s executive actions in response to Congress's “abdication” of economic leadership. Godspeed did note that Secretary Steven Mnuuchin remains open and willing to engage with Congress on an agreement. White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said, “We have never stopped talking. The President said yesterday they have his phone number. They know where he lives and works, also we have our chief negotiators still very much involved in the game. And I think what the President did this weekend showed America two big things. Number one is in the absence of Congressional leadership and action, this President will always step into the breach. And number two, what the President did is he basically told America when you look at your monthly bills, I’m trying to help you.”
    • Despite their objections to President Trump bypassing Congress, Democratic members are well aware of the optics of going on the attack and looking as if they are seeming to try and block much needed-aid. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told reporters Tuesday that she hasn’t heard from Mnuchin or White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows but there are no signs from either party that there will be a quick resumption of the negotiations. Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has now called for talks to restart. McConnell told Fox News it is “time for everybody to get back to the table.”
  • Tuesday morning President Trump tweeted that higher coronavirus case levels, which he said are a result of more testing, are “Fake News Gold” that the media uses to “demean the great job being done” to combat the virus. Trump wrote, “More Testing, which is a good thing (we have the most in the world), equals more Cases, which is Fake News Gold. They use Cases to demean the incredible job being done by the great men & women of the U.S. fighting the China Plague!”
  • White House economic council Larry Kudlow said Tuesday that the administration had “slightly modified” Trump’s executive order on the modified unemployment benefits which would make the making the benefits more “likely to be just US$300 for jobless Americans” due to most states raising concerns that they could not afford their share of the cost. Under the reworked plan, “most eligible claimants will get an extra US$300 in federal benefits on top of what they already receive from the state.” Kudlow said “We felt that was a good, generous compromise.” Adding that “the checks should start going out in a couple of weeks and will be retroactive to 1 Aug.”
  • President Trump further weighed in on the Big Ten and PAC 12 canceling the rest of their sports season saying he thinks football is making “a tragic mistake.” On Fox Sports Radio Tuesday, the president suggested that college athletes should not be concerned with catching the coronavirus because they are strong and healthy compared to older adults. “These people are so powerful and so strong, not lots of body fat—maybe none in some cases, and they are very healthy people…People don’t realize it’s a tiny percentage of people that get sick. They are old.”
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said Tuesday that he seriously doubted announcements that Russian vaccine Sputnik-V was ready to be rolled out, stating: “Having a vaccine and proving that a vaccine is safe and effective are two different things,” while speaking at a panel discussion with National Geographic.
  • House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and Immigration and Citizenship Subcommittee Chair Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) led 40 Members of Congress in opposing a Trump administration proposed rule that uses the COVID-19 global health crisis as a pretext to ban asylum seekers. “The proposal is the latest in a series of administrative actions that seeks to exploit the pandemic to dismantle our nation’s asylum laws, “ the lawmakers said. The Members said in their public comment that the proposal “categorically bars individuals from applying for asylum whether or not they have COVID-19 or otherwise pose any health risk, making it clear that the Administration is more concerned with shutting down our asylum system rather than protecting our public health.” The full text of the public comment is available here.
  • The New York Times printed a previously unpublished letter by thirty-four current and former health department advisors. It warned that the Trump administration’s new coronavirus database is placing an undue burden on hospitals and has “serious consequences on data integrity.”

In the News

  • The U.S. government will purchase 100 million doses of Moderna’s experimental coronavirus vaccine, President Trump announced on Tuesday. The vaccine is currently in late-stage human trials. Moderna says the deal for its drug, mRNA-1273, is worth US$1.53 billion and will give the federal government the option to purchase up to 400 million additional doses.
  • A mid-July Gallup survey suggests that Americans are undergoing a “deepening despair” due to the coronavirus, according to the Washington Post. The survey showed “73 percent of adults viewed the pandemic as growing worse – the highest level of pessimism recorded since Gallup began tracking that assessment in early April.”
  • Facebook said Tuesday that it removed 7 million posts for sharing disinformation about the coronavirus during the second quarter of 2020. Some of the information promoted fake preventative measures or false cures. The data was released as part of Facebook’s sixth Community Standards Enforcement Report.
  • More than 2,000 Mexican nationals have died of COVID-19 in the U.S., putting a strain on the country's 50 U.S. consulates as they handle increased requests for death certificates, repatriation of remains, and other services. “I would not rule out a bigger number,” than 2,000, said Martha Bárcena, Mexico's ambassador to the United States.
  • A team of scientists confirmed what many experts have long suspected: tiny aerosol droplets that float in the air can contain live, infectious coronavirus. The finding results in significant changes in how the public can fight the disease, but will also lead to many challenges in how to protect oneself from the virus.
  • Stein Mart is the latest retail chain to announce it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The store also says that it will permanently close most of, if not all, of its locations across 30 states in the U.S.
  • In July, consumer prices excluding food and energy rose the most in one month in nearly 30 years. Core inflation was up 0.6 percent, and is now running at a 1.6 percent rate year over year on an unadjusted basis, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics

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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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