Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines – COVID-19 D.C. Update – September 2020 # 16

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In Washington

  • President Trump announced a plan Monday to deploy 150 million rapid tests to states and vulnerable communities. This comes one month after the administration initially announced the purchase. During a Rose Garden briefing, the President said that the U.S. is “rounding the corner” on the disease. Coronavirus testing czar Adm. Bret Giroir gave an update on the nation’s testing progress. So far, the country has run 111 million tests, Giroir said. Trump reiterated his regular remarks that total cases are not the best metric of success on the disease. Health experts say the tests will be modestly helpful, noting that everyone needs access to testing.
  • Dr. Deborah Birx is not the only person on the White House coronavirus task force to question the task force’s newest member Dr. Scott Atlas. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Robert Redford told a colleague during a 25 Sept. phone call that “everything” Dr. Atlas says “is false.” Redfield warned his colleague that Atlas was misleading President Trump with everything from mask efficacy to herd immunity. Atlas, who has also contradicted Redfield’s testimony and data. Atlas’s qualifications for his position have been under in-depth criticism by former and current colleagues for “falsehoods and misrepresentations of science,” and his medical experience has only been in the field of diagnostic radiology, rather than epidemiology.
  • Friday, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar is scheduled to testify in front of House Oversight’s select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis. Expect Azar to be grilled on the administration’s lack of a “science-based national strategy” to contain COVID-19, a question that Azar has been persistent in avoiding.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) had a “brief conversation” on Sunday with Treasury Secretary Steven Munichin about a coronavirus relief package. “When he’s ready to come back to the table, we’re ready to have that conversation, but it has to come back with much more money to get the job done. So I’m hopeful. I’m optimistic.”
  • The United States is “not in a good place” as colder months loom and the number of newly reported coronavirus cases continues to swell beyond 40,000 people every day, White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Monday. “There are states that are starting to show an uptick in cases and even some increase in hospitalizations in some states,” Fauci told ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “And I hope not, but we very might well start seeing increases in deaths,” Fauci said.
  • On Monday, the CDC issued new guidance discouraging Americans from packing into malls or standing in long lines for Black Friday shopping. The guidance adds Black Friday to a list of activities with a higher likelihood of spreading COVID-19. The CDC is also discouraging Turkey Trots and crowded parades. Instead, it recommends moderate risk activities like small outdoor dinners with geographically-close family and friends or pumpkin patch or apple orchard visits featuring masks and hand sanitizer. Lower risk activities include household-only dinners or virtual dinners.
  • Half of all states have depleted their funding for the extra US$300 in weekly unemployment benefits that President Trump ordered after failing to strike a deal with Congress for more unemployment benefit increases. Trump signed an executive order to redesignate the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds for an additional US$300 in weekly benefits. While 25 states have reached their funding limit, only seven had already sent out their final payments. Ten states still haven't sent out their first payment under the order.
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) on Friday joined a growing chorus of lawmakers questioning the Pentagon’s use of US$1 billion in coronavirus relief funds. In a Friday letter to the Department of Defense Inspector General, the lawmakers asked the watchdog to “review the department’s potential misuse of funds.” The Washington Post reported last week that the Pentagon used most of a US$1 billion CARES Act money on non-coronavirus-related spending. Two House Democrats called for an investigation last week.

In the News

  • United Airlines’ pilots’ union has approved a plan to avoid furloughs set to begin as early as next month. The company said Monday, marking the latest pandemic-related airline cost-cutting deal. The airline is still planning to cut more than 13,000 jobs beginning next month. Unions and airline executives are urging federal lawmakers to pass another round of airline industry aid totaling US$25 billion.
  • Hunger is increasing nationwide as the spread of coronavirus and the recession continue. Before the pandemic, about 14 million households, or 10.5 percent of all U.S. households, experienced food insecurity at some point during 2019, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That works out to over 35 million Americans. Northwestern University researchers now estimate that food insecurity has more than doubled, now hitting perhaps 23 percent of households earlier this year. Food insecurity is defined as a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life.
  • So far, Florida has yet to see a surge in COVID-19 cases among children ages 5 to 17 after opening up many of its schools for in-person learning this fall but it has seen a surge in its college-age population.
  • Trials for Inovio's vaccine candidate have been put on hold as the Food and Drug Administration reviews the company's delivery device. The company said the delay was not caused by any adverse effects from the potential vaccine in the first stage of its trial.
  • Only ten states are seeing downward trends in new COVID-19 cases. New York has seen clusters of COVID-19 cases cause a spike in statewide numbers in recent days. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday he would deploy rapid COVID-19 testing machines to target the areas.

[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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