Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines, January 2021 # 15

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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:

  • House Democrats are altering the House calendar to speed up passing a COVID-19 relief through a reconciliation package by mid-March. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) announced that the House will not have any floor votes the week of Feb. 8-Feb 15. Committees will work instead on marking up a reconciliation bill, allowing the Senate to pass the COVID-relief bill with 51 votes. The House will begin taking up the package on Feb. 23. Hoyer also canceled the House's two-week recess that was supposed to begin on March 1.
  • On Tuesday evening President Joe Biden said he plans to purchase another 200 million doses of coronavirus vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna to have enough vaccine doses to fully vaccinate all 300 million adult Americans by the end of this Summer. The administration says it will also increase the number of vaccines being shipped weekly to states from 8.6 million to 10 million. The comments follow the White House clarifying Biden’s remarks from a day earlier in which he said he hoped for 1.5 million daily vaccinations in the coming weeks, denying he set a concrete goal. "The president didn't actually say 'the new goal is,' the president said I hope we can do even more than that," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a daily briefing.
  • The standoff between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has come to an end. The Senate can start organizing its committees and getting to work on Biden's COVID relief agenda. Neither side seems to have won the battle; while Schumer did not back down to McConnell's demands and commit to keeping the filibuster, McConnell scored points getting two Democratic senators, Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Krysten Sinema(D-AZ), to reiterate their long-standing commitments to keeping the filibuster.
  • Research related to the ongoing debate over in-person schooling remains inconclusive. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) researchers found in a report issued on Tuesday that schools are not major transmission drivers. They characterized their findings as "reassuring.” But the same report acknowledged that schools must take heavy precautions like universal mask-wearing, physical distancing, improving ventilation, and testing to prevent transmission. When some of those precautions were not followed, a significant school outbreak was reported in Israel. The CDC experts also warned that school sports pose a greater risk.
  • The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced it is launching a new database to record COVID-related neurological symptoms, complications and as COVID-19 effects on pre-existing neurological conditions. NYU Langone Health created and will maintain the database with support from the NIH National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
  • President Biden signed an executive order directing the Department of Health and Human Services to work with the White House’s new Covid-19 Health Equity Task Force to investigate how it can use the pandemic response to address anti-Asian bias and discrimination. The order also directs HHS and other agencies to look for ways to mitigate the harm done by President Donald Trump’s frequent use of anti-Asian language when talking about the COVID-19 virus.
  • Several hundred White House staff have started receiving the coronavirus vaccine, aiming to vaccinate all staff over the next few weeks. The administration is also requiring daily employee COVID tests and N95 masks at all times.

In the News:

  • Johnson & Johnson said Tuesday that it is on track to meet its target of 100 million coronavirus vaccine doses for the United States by the end of June. The company said Tuesday that it expects results from its vaccine’s Phase 3 trial “by early next week.” The Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires one shot, in contrast to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines that require two shots.
  • Regeneron says that an antibody cocktail it developed prevented COVID-19 infections in a late-stage clinical trial. The study tested the monoclonal antibody treatment on people who were at high risk of Covid-19 infection because they lived with a coronavirus patient. The findings suggest that the drug, which was authorized for use in patients who were infected with COVID-19 but do not require hospitalization, could be used to prevent infection, instead of just treating it. The early-findings have not been peer-reviewed or published in a scientific journal.
  • A combination treatment of two monoclonal antibodies developed by Eli Lilly can significantly reduce hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19, the company said Tuesday. The results from a final-stage clinical trial testing the combination of bamlanivimab and etesevimab found a significant decrease in hospitalizations in patients taking the therapy. Monoclonal antibodies could be an important stopgap treatment for people with COVID-19, especially with the slow vaccine rollout. But supply of antibody treatments is currently limited and administering them requires special settings because they are infusion treatments.
  • On Tuesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued new guidance for treatment of coronavirus patients, including those with persistent post-recovery symptoms. The advice includes the use of at-home oxygen saturation testing for those who have been discharged from hospitals and low-dose anticoagulants for patients who remain hospitalized to prevent thrombosis.
  • A wealthy Canadian couple reportedly flew to a remote area largely inhabited by indigenous people and falsely claimed to be front-line workers in order to receive coronavirus vaccines. The couple were reportedly fined $1,150 each for their actions. Canadian health officials are putting significant effort into vaccinating remote native populations, who are at greater risk of contracting and suffering complications from COVID-19.

[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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