Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines, October 2020 # 8

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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

  • Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke for an hour Wednesday morning and plan to speak again tomorrow. Mnuchin says they continue to “make progress” while Pelosi’s spokesperson says the talks are “productive.” POLITICO reports that they are discussing proposals on a national testing program and state and local funding. Mnuchin was not hopeful of a deal before the elections when speaking at the Milken Institute Global Conference on Wednesday. “At this point, getting something done before the election and executing on that will be difficult,” he said.
  • As reported Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will attempt to pass a new Republican “targeted” stand-alone coronavirus relief bill on Monday. Text of the bill has not been released, but McConnell said the new legislation would include “roughly US$500 billion" in relief, including unemployment assistance, more money for schools and health care, and new funding for the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses. It will also contain liability protections so businesses, schools and health care providers. The last “skinny” bill Republican’s attempted to pass but was rejected by Democrats, provided only US$300 billion in relief. McConnell said that bills are similar except for the increased amount of funding.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on a Tuesday evening defended her stand to hold steady for US$2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill rather than accept the US$1.8 trillion offer from the White House. In a combative exchange with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Pelosi pushed back when he kept asking why she would not accept some relief at this point rather than none. Blitzer also noted that some progressive Members are also for calling for her to accept the deal. Pelosi defended her position saying, “With all due respect, you really don't know what you're talking about,” Pelosi told Blitzer. Pelosi said that there are details within the bill that are being negotiated that the Democratic chairs with jurisdiction understand and support her decision.
  • The White House is touting a controversial proposal from three scientists to let COVID-19 spread freely among much of society to achieve herd immunity, according to Washington Post reporting. Herd immunity is achieved when a large portion of the population becomes immune to a virus through vaccination or by getting infected and building antibodies. The three scientists from Harvard, Oxford, and Stanford propose letting the virus spread freely among young, healthy people, while protecting vulnerable populations, to achieve herd immunity without lockdowns. The document 447,000 signatures from concerned citizens, including fake names like Dr. Johnny Bananas and Dr. Person Fakename. Public health experts largely oppose herd immunity proposals that rely on free viral spread rather than vaccination. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said most people who contract COVID-19 develop an immune response, but it’s unknown how long the immunity lasts and how powerful it is. National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins told the Post, “This is a fringe component of epidemiology.” In August, NIH official Dr. Anthony Fauci warned that a free spread-herd immunity strategy would require millions of deaths to work.
  • The First Lady Melanie Trump revealed today that their son Barron Trump had tested positive for COVID-19 the same time that she and the President did, but has displayed no symptoms. He is now testing negative and the President told the press that Barron is “fine.” Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia’s wife also tested positive for the virus, according to an announcement Tuesday. Trish Scalia and her husband both attended the White House superspreader event for the nomination of SCOTUS nominee Amy Coney Barrett.
  • Small gatherings are increasingly becoming a source of COVID-19 infection nationwide, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield warned governors on a call Tuesday. Redfield's comments come as dozens of states see increases in new cases. "Particularly with Thanksgiving coming up, we think it's really important to stress the vigilance of these continued mitigation steps in the household setting," Redfield said. The U.S. averaged 52,000 new cases per day over the past seven days, according to the New York Times.

In the News

  • YouTube will ban content containing misinformation about coronavirus vaccines, the company said Wednesday. The Google-owned video platform said it will remove any content that includes claims about COVID-19 vaccinations that contradicts information from health authorities. The platform said it has already removed more than 200,000 videos related to dangerous or misleading COVID-19 information since early February.
  • Early, stringent lockdowns in developed countries that suffered coronavirus outbreaks probably lessened the number of excess deaths in those countries from COVID-19, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature Medicine. Researchers at Imperial College London found that the timing and extent of state-ordered lockdown procedures contributed to the length of time it took for infection levels to return to low rates. Authors pointed to early lockdown measures in Bulgaria, Hungary, Finland, New Zealand, and elsewhere as being particularly effective in depressing infection rates enough to facilitate national contact tracing programs.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic could leave an additional 10,000 children a month to die from starvation, according to the WHO. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday that he expects an increase of nearly 14 percent in the number of children suffering from malnutrition this year, Reuters reported. Tedros predicted most of the 6.7 million more children to become malnourished will live in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. UNICEF shared similar concerns in a July report coupled with ways to help.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday claimed that Russia has registered the country’s second vaccine against coronavirus, the Russian news agency TASS reported. However, Bloomberg reports that the vaccine, EpiVacCorona, has not gone through Phase 3 of a standard vaccine trial.

 

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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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