Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines – COVID-19 D.C. Update – September 2020 # 11

Hogan Lovells

Hogan Lovells

In Washington

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suddenly reverted back to an old guidance after posting an updated version 18 Sept. on the aerosol transmission of COVID-19. The CDC reports that it was “a mistake” to post this draft and will update the recommendations soon. The guidance reflects growing evidence that COVID-19 also the virus can linger in droplets in the air and can be spread beyond 6 feet. The highly unusual retraction comes after a very similar situation happened when the CDC posted changes to coronavirus testing guidelines that were supposedly posted in error, taken down, but eventually reinstated. The move stoked more questions about whether the CDC has succumbed to political pressure from the Trump administration to alter the information on how the disease is spread. The newer guidelines posted Friday would have consequences such as emphasizing the need to wear a mask, what kind of masks one wears, and changes to some places’ indoor ventilation.
  • President Donald Trump said Monday that a coronavirus vaccine would become available “within a matter of weeks.” Trump’s prediction goes against the assessments from his administration’s top health officials. In an interview with Fox and Friends, Trump said, “I’m getting it very soon, within a matter of weeks,” he said, “I would say that you’ll have it long before the end of the year, maybe. Maybe by the end of October,” Trump also claimed that the U.S. “rounding the corner, with or without a vaccine.
  • According to a 15 Sept. memorandum from Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar, all government health agencies are barred from signing any new rule regarding food, medicines, medical devices, and other products, including vaccines. Instead, such power “is reserved to the Secretary.” The New York Times says that it is unclear how this would change the coronavirus vaccine’s vetting and approval process. Dr. Peter Lurie, president of the Center for Science in the Public Interest and a former associate commissioner of the F.D.A., called the new policy “a power grab.”
  • Health and Human Services officials hit the Sunday news programs touting a decline in COVID cases and deaths. Meanwhile, the networks report that the U.S. reached the 200,000 death milestone and 6.8 million cases. HHS Secretary Azar said on NBC’s Meet The Press 20 Sept., “We’ve seen an almost 50 percent decline in cases and 50 percent declines in hospitalizations and an even greater decline in fatalities since the high point. So the American people have stepped up to the plate and responded to President Trump’s and my call to action to individual responsibility.” HHS “testing czar” Brett Giroir on CNN’s State Of The Union, “From the peaks in early July and late July, the number of cases are down by 41 percent. The number of people in an ICU are down 62 percent. The number of deaths are down almost 30 percent. But we have to stay strong and do the things that could decrease the spread.”

In the News

  • Black doctors who distrust the FDA are forming a task force to screen federal decisions about coronavirus vaccines and treatments. The National Medical Association is assembling panel. “It’s necessary to provide a trusted messenger of vetted information to the African-American community,” Dr. Leon McDougle, the association’s president, told STAT news.
  • The World Health Organization says that 156 countries, accounting for 64 percent of the world’s population, support their “COVAX global vaccine allocation plan” for buying and distributing coronavirus vaccine doses around the world. While most countries have joined, the U.S., China, and Russia notably have not. The participation of rich countries is essential for combining the resources needed to distribute the doses equitably worldwide.
  • Bill Gates said it was “outrageous” that most people’s coronavirus test results are not returned within 24 hours. “We need to own up to the fact that we didn’t do a good job,” Mr. Gates, a founder of Microsoft, said on “Fox News Sunday.” “You know, part of the reluctance, I think, to fix the testing system now is that nobody wants to admit that it’s still outrageous.”
  • The Emmys were still held via “COVID style,” with most of the nominees appearing virtually and audience-free. The awards show was without longtime E! host Giuliana Rancic and special correspondent Vivica Fox, who both pulled back on covering the virtual red carpet show after testing positive for COVID-19.
  • The cruise industry shared what a return to sailing would look like for travelers. The protocols include crew and passenger testing, as well as enhanced ventilation.
  • New York City public schools reopened for up to 90,000 students for in-person instruction. Children in pre-K and students with advanced disabilities are being sent to about 700 school buildings on Monday.

[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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