Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines, March 2021 # 19

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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:

  • President Biden on Thursday doubled to 200 million his administration’s goal for the number of COVID-19 vaccination shots to administer in his first 100 days in office. The U.S. is set to reach Biden’s original goal of 100 million shots on Friday, the president’s 59th day in office. The U.S. currently has a seven-day average of about 2.5 million doses per day, which would allow the country to reach 200 million by April 23, a week before the 100-day mark, according to CNBC.
  • The Senate voted 92-7 on Thursday to extend the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which provides loans to small businesses impacted by the coronavirus. The bill moved the deadline from March 31 to May 31. The measure now heads to President Biden's desk for his expected signature. In addition to extending the window for applying for the loans, which can be forgiven if borrowers meet certain requirements, the bill also gives the Small Business Administration (SBA) until June 30 to process the applications.
  • Initial unemployment claims for the week ending March 20 fell below 700,000, coming in at a seasonally adjusted 684,000. It was the first week since the pandemic began that weekly claims fell below the pre-pandemic record of 695,000 set in 1982, though they remain above the Great Recession high of 665,000. As of March 6, the last week for which data was available, nearly 19 million people were receiving benefits of any kind from a variety of programs.
  • The Social Security Administration has sent information to the IRS that will help clear the way for almost 30 million people to receive their $1,400 stimulus checks, lawmakers said on Thursday. The development comes after Democratic leaders on the House Ways and Means Committee gave the agency 24 hours to turn over the payment information so that the IRS could process the payments. As of this morning, the necessary files were transferred to the IRS, thus allowing the payments to make their way to beneficiaries, according to the statement.
  • The Biden administration is planning to launch the new $28.6 billion restaurant grant program in early April after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and other lawmakers pressed the SBA for a rapid rollout. The SBA hadn’t set a public timeline for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) prior to today.

In the News:

  • Pfizer said Thursday that it began a clinical trial testing its COVID-19 vaccine in children under 12 this week, another milestone in expanding access to vaccinations beyond adults. Trials in children 12 and over have already started, and results are expected in the next few weeks, said Sharon Castillo, a company spokesperson. Moderna likewise said it was moving forward with trials for children under 12 earlier this month.
  • AstraZeneca has released an updated efficacy rate of 76 percent for its coronavirus vaccine, two days after federal scientists accused the company of cherrypicking data included in a press release announcing the results of its Phase III U.S. trial. On Monday the company said the vaccine was 70 percent effective.
  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) administration reportedly gave his family members preferential access to coronavirus testing in the early days of the pandemic last March. The allegations originated in New York’s Albany Times Union and later in The Washington Post and The New York Times. Family members reportedly included Cuomo’s "brother, his mother and at least one of his sisters[.]" At the time, coronavirus tests were scarce in New York. Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi did not confirm or deny the reports in a statement to NPR.
  • Moncef Slaoui, the former head of the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccine development program, Operation Warp Speed, has left two more drug companies amid sexual harassment allegations. Centessa Pharmaceuticals announced on Thursday that Slaoui stepped down as the company’s chief scientific officer effective immediately amid the allegations of sexual harassment toward an employee at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). Vaxcyte said Wednesday that Slaoui resigned as chair of the company’s board. Also, Wednesday GSK terminated Slaoui from the board of directors of Galvani Bioelectrics, a medical device startup that GSK runs.
  • Rutgers University will require students who are enrolling for the 2021 fall semester to show they've received a COVID-19 vaccine. The New Jersey state school says the requirement will help it make "a full return to our pre-pandemic normal" on campus for the next school year. The university is the first in the country to require proof of vaccination to attend classes on campus.

[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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