Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines, October 2020 # 9

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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 Trump said Thursday that he is willing to go higher than his current $1.8 trillion offer for the next coronavirus stimulus package as negotiations continue. “Go big or go home,” Trump told Fox Business News. But he said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) $2.2 trillion offer is too high. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Thursday shot down the prospect of a deal between $1.8 and $2.2 trillion. “I don’t think so...My members think half a trillion dollars, highly targeted, is the best way to go," McConnell told reporters, adding that a deal above $1.8 trillion is "not what I'm going to put on the floor."
  • Two Democratic campaign staffers working with the Biden campaign have tested positive for the coronavirus. The news caused Sen. Kamala Harris to cancel all her scheduled vice presidential travel through the weekend as a precaution. The campaign said Thursday that Harris’s communications director and a member of the flight crew have are those that have tested positive, but neither has had close contact with Harris or Biden, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control. Harris has tested negative three times this week and has been off the campaign trail as she attends the Judiciary Committee's Supreme Court confirmation hearings.
  • NIH official Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, on Thursday called a herd immunity proposal being embraced by the White House “total nonsense.” The proposal calls for quickly reaching herd immunity by letting COVID-19 spread uncontrolled among the young and healthy population while protecting the vulnerable. Fauci questioned the premise that vulnerable people could be adequately protected during such a spread, noting that 30 percent of Americans have underlying health conditions that make them vulnerable and that older people are also vulnerable. “What that will do is that there will be so many people in the community that you can't shelter, that you can't protect, who are gonna get sick and get serious consequences...and you'll wind up with many more infections of vulnerable people[.]”
  • Nevada and federal officials turned away Chinese-made COVID-19 tests donated by the United Arab Emirates, the AP reports. Officials worried about the accuracy of the tests, patient privacy, and involvement by the Chinese government. The office of Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) instructed a hospital not to use 250,000 donated test kits after officials rejected a laboratory set-up deal from the company, a decision made after the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department notified the governor's office of the concerns. The company at issue is Shenzhen-based BGI Group.
  • The Food and Drug Administration is pushing back against the White House’s attempts to rebrand the emergency authorization of a COVID-19 vaccine as a “pre-licensure.” FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn rejected the attempts in fear that straying from the FDA’s technical language would diminish the agency’s credibility and open it to accusations of politicization. White House officials proposed the new terminology to close a Medicare loophole mandated by Congress.
  • President Trump and Joe Biden participated in separate town hall forums Thursday evening following the second presidential debate’s cancellation. Biden appeared on an ABC News town hall, while Trump appeared on NBC.  The second debate was canceled after the Biden campaign refused to debate Trump in-person, who recently contracted COVID-19. President Trump refused a virtual debate.
  • COVID-19 “has dramatically impacted the IRS and the taxpayers that it serves,” according to Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) J. Russell George. In its annual report the agency listed responding to the pandemic as its top concern. Areas of unease include: ensuring the accuracy of economic impact payments to individuals, monitoring how businesses use tax credits approved by Congress, and combating scams related to pandemic relief efforts.

In the News:

  • Countries in Europe are now scrambling to face a second wave of the Coronavirus. Germany and other countries are looking at introducing new restrictions and increased testing. France has declared a national state of health emergency and the U.K. is considering a second national lockdown. Europe now has over 7.2 million confirmed cases of Covid-19, according to the World Health Organization. Meanwhile, the U.S. is increasingly looking like it too may be seeing the start of a second wave. Forty-five states are seeing dramatic increases in cases over the past two weeks.
  • Colorado Governor Jared Polis (D) says that his state’s hospitals are approaching capacity and will soon be in jeopardy. The state has seen a 60 percent increase in hospitalizations since Oct. 1, and 77 percent of ICU beds currently in use.
  • Initial jobless claims for the week ending Oct. 10 spiked to 898,000. The figure was up 53,000 from the previous week, and the number of claims has remained persistently high over the past few months. Thursday's report from the Labor Department showed that the total number of people claiming benefits across a slew of programs (beyond initial jobless claims) in late September fell by 215,270, to 25.3 million.
  • The city of El Paso, Texas, will be imposing new coronavirus restrictions on Friday after reporting a record number of new cases, Mayor Dee Margo (R) announced in a press conference. The city on Thursday reported an all-time high of 717 new COVID-19 cases and 20 delayed testing results. There are now 6,887 active cases and 30,624 cumulative cases. There have been 554 deaths so far.
  • On Thursday, Queen Elizabeth II made her first public engagement outside of a royal residence since March, as coronavirus cases in the United Kingdom rise. The 94-year-old has been taking extra precautions since COVID-19 numbers began to rise in March. During her outing alongside grandson Prince William, the queen visited the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down, located about 90 miles from London. The British government’s new coronavirus restrictions tighten in London on Friday amid a rise in cases.

[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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