Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines, February 2021 # 7

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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 Senate began former President Trump’s second impeachment trial Tuesday afternoon, voting to affirm its own jurisdiction to hear the case. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) led the House managers’ presentation of an article of impeachment charging the former President with incitement of insurrection against Congress on January 6. Bruce Castor led the former President’s defense. The afternoon’s arguments addressed whether the Senate has jurisdiction under the Constitution to try an official impeachment while in office but subsequently leaves office before a Senate trial. The Senate voted 56-44 in favor of jurisdiction. Republicans voting in favor were Sens. Bill Cassidy (LA), Susan Collins (ME), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Mitt Romney (UT), Ben Sasse (NE), and Pat Toomey (PA). The trial resumes at noon Wednesday.
  • President Biden said Tuesday he agrees with a proposal from House Democrats to begin phasing out the next round of direct coronavirus relief payments to Americans who make more than $75,000. Biden signaled his support for the threshold during an Oval Office meeting. House Democrats’ coronavirus relief proposal calls for direct payments of $1,400 to single taxpayers with annual income up to $75,000 and married couples that make up to $150,000. The payments would quickly phase out above those income thresholds. Democrats disagree internally over whether to include phase-outs, and if so, at what level.
  • Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) vowed on Tuesday that former President Trump’s second impeachment trial in the Senate wouldn't "throw a wrench" into Democrats’ plans to pass a COVID-19 relief bill by mid-March. "We can do both at once," Schumer said at a press conference. While the Senate proceeds with the trial, the House will take up its $1.9 trillion package in committee this week. The full House is out of Washington until February 22.  
  • Community health centers will receive coronavirus vaccines directly from the federal government next week, the White House announced Tuesday. The volume of doses delivered will increase with time as vaccine supply increases, officials added. The administration will first send doses to at least one health center in every jurisdiction across the country, with 1 million doses divided across 250 clinics as the program phases in coming weeks. Nationwide, there are nearly 1,400 federally-funded health centers that provide primary and preventive care to nearly 30 million patients each year. 
  • Senate Commerce Chair Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Ed Markey (D-MA) introduced the Essential Transportation Employee Safety Act introduced a bill Monday that would prioritize coronavirus testing for transportation workers and ensure employers implement requirements for precautions such as personal protective equipment (PPE). The legislation would codify President Joe Biden’s federal mask mandate on airplanes, trains and transit during the pandemic and is supported by dozens of transportation unions.

In the News:

  • A new study, commissioned by Case Western University, found that Americans with dementia are twice as likely to contract the coronavirus and experience severe complications from COVID-19 as people who do not have dementia. “It’s pretty convincing in suggesting that there’s something about dementia that makes you more vulnerable,” Kristine Yaffe, a professor of neurology and psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco who was not involved in the study, told The New York Times. An estimated 5.8 million Americans age 65 and older and 50 million people worldwide are living with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias.
  • The union representing Washington, D.C. teachers has filed a complaint against D.C. Public Schools, alleging violations of safety protocols at a high school where a teacher recently died from coronavirus. In a grievance filed Tuesday, the Washington Teachers’ Union alleged the system failed to properly warn students and staff after the now-deceased teacher contracted the virus. Union President Elizabeth Davis said the school system did not inform White’s students she was sick or make public that someone at the school had tested positive until 11 days after the fact. 
  • A World Health Organization (WHO) expert said Tuesday that the coronavirus probably didn't leak from a Chinese lab and most likely spread to humans from some other species. WHO food safety and animal diseases expert Peter Ben Embarek made the statement in a summary of a WHO team's investigation into the coronavirus’s origins. The team will no longer pursue research into whether the coronavirus leaked from a Wuhan lab.   
  • Japan has found success in suppressing Covid-19 by running its economy mostly as normal except for closing restaurants and bars after 8 p.m. The Government provided support to those restaurants of about $600 a day to incentivize them to close early.  Infections have fallen more than two-thirds nationwide since implementing the restrictions.

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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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