Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines, March 2021 # 11

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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:

  • To see our client alert on the major provisions that were passed in the American Rescue Plan, click here.
  • President Joe Biden is considering Gene Sperling for a role to oversee the implementation of the administration’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan.   Sperling served as the director of the National Economic Council, a White House office, during the Clinton and Obama administrations.
  • National Institutes of Health (NIH) official Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is examining a new study indicating that social distancing measures could be just as effective at 3 feet as at 6 feet. Speaking to CNN, he added the agency “will be giving guidelines according to the data that they have” after doing their own follow-up tests and analyzing the robustness of the results.
  • The White House is preparing to launch a new campaign to tackle the issue of vaccine hesitancy as the Biden administration works to administer shots to all Americans by May 1.   Agencies will coordinate to reach out to Americans that are skeptical of getting vaccinating while also working to combat misinformation.  The campaign starts as every former president and first lady, except Donald and Melania Trump, appeared in a public service announcement urging Americans to get vaccinated.   Mr. and Mrs. Trump got vaccinated before leaving the White House but did not publicly disclose the information.
  • Treasury officials say the new round of stimulus checks from the $1.9 American Rescue Plan Act will go out immediately, with some Americans receiving them as early as this coming weekend.
  • Most people who have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna are receiving the second dose on time, according to new research from the CDC. During the first two months of the U.S. vaccination program, the CDC found that 95 percent of people had completed both two-dose vaccinations within the recommended time period. The agency added that prioritized recipients such as health care workers had better access to a second dose because they were more likely to have been vaccinated at their work or residence.
  • Recent comments from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) suggest that a quarter of members of the House of Representatives are unvaccinated. In a March 10 letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), McCarthy urged a “return to regular order” and in-person House proceedings. He said about 75 percent of House members are fully vaccinated. Media reports suggest that the remaining quarter have either refused vaccination or are ineligible due to health conditions. 

In the News:

  • Health officials in Ireland have halted the distribution of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine, citing concerns from officials in Norway over potential blood-clotting. Reuters reported that Irish authorities said the move was taken out of "an abundance of caution," while explaining that officials had reported blood-clotting in recipients of the AstraZeneca vaccine similar to those reported by several Norwegian health workers. Similar reports have cropped up in Denmark, and Ireland joins that country alongside Norway and Iceland in deciding to halt the vaccine's distribution. The AstraZeneca shot is not authorized for emergency use in the U.S.
  • Mayor of Miami Beach, Florida Dan Gelber (D) said Monday that the city arrested hundreds of spring break-goers this past weekend for ignoring coronavirus guidelines. Speaking to CBS News, Gelber said that people were gathering in too large of groups and that at least two police officers had been injured while handling the crowds. Police reportedly dispersed an "unruly" crowd of spring breakers in Miami Beach on Friday, shooting pepper balls at the crowds of people. The incident began when officers encountered a crowd of 200 blocking an intersection. 
  • Facebook will start labeling all posts that discuss COVID-19 vaccines in an effort to combat misinformation, the company said Monday. Facebook will initially add labels with information from the World Health Organization to posts that discuss the safety of vaccines, the company said in a blog post. The labels will state that vaccines go through testing for safety and efficacy before they are approved. The social media giant said it will then roll out labels in the coming weeks for more general posts about the vaccines that will point users to information about them.
  • An aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is also state’s vaccine czar in charge of rolling out the vaccine, reportedly called county officials to gauge their loyalty to the governor.  In response, Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday called for a state or federal investigation into whether there were any distributions based on the allegations.

[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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