Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines – COVID-19 D.C. Update – September 2020 # 10

Hogan Lovells

Hogan Lovells

In Washington

  • On Friday, the CDC reversed its guidance advising that it was unnecessary to test people without symptoms of COVID-19. The change came after it was revealed that CDC scientists did not write it. The controversial guidance was posted to the agency's website despite their serious objection by the agency's scientists. A federal official says the wording came from political officials within Health and Human Services (HHS) and didn't go through the normal review process by CDC scientists and fact-checkers.
  • Emails from President Donald Trump's top HHS spokesman, Michael Caputo, and Caputo's top aide Paul Alexander, show how they routinely worked to revise and delay the CDC's closely guarded and internationally admired health bulletins. The New York Times also provided emails revealing that the officials tried to portray the Trump administration's pandemic response more positively.
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on 17 September, guaranteed that he would warn the public of any faults with a potential coronavirus vaccine and take the blame for any problems with its distribution himself. Fauci told MSNBC that there are "fail-safes" put in place to protect the vaccine development process.
  • President Trump announced another US$13 billion in aid for farmers, who've financially suffered due to the coronavirus pandemic, during his Wisconsin rally on Thursday. The newly announced aid would be the second tranche of money issued as part of the Trump administration’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. The funds came from coronavirus-relief legislation passed by Congress earlier this year as well as from the Department of Agriculture's Commodity Credit Corp.
  • President Trump announced Friday that vaccines will be available for all Americans by April. "Hundreds of millions of doses will be available every month and we expect to have enough vaccines for every American by April," he said at a Friday White House press briefing. President Trump earlier in the week said that doses would be broadly available by March, though his health officials estimate that it won't be available to everyone until mid-2021. President Trump added, "We essentially have it — we will be announcing it soon." The President did not mention the vaccine will be authorized by the election day as he has regularly said in the past few weeks.
  • House Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and the Heath Subcommittee chair Anna Eshoo (D-CA) say the White House has blocked U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Stephen Hahn from testifying at the committee's hearing about the FDA's pandemic response. "The American people deserve to hear Commissioner Hahn's response to those concerns during a public hearing and what actions he is taking to ensure that the agency's COVID-19 decisions remain science-based," said Pallone. Hahn will still appear at a Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions hearing on September 23 with Dr. Anthony Fauci, CDC Director Redfield, and HHS testing czar Brett Giroir.
  • President Trump is facing backlash from Democrats after using his September 16 briefing to single out and blame blue states for the coronavirus death toll. "And that’s despite the fact that the blue states had had tremendous death rates. If you take the blue states out, we're at a level that I don't think anybody in the world would be at. We're really at a very low level. But some of the states, they were blue states and blue state-managed," President Trump said. The Democratic National Committee responded by tweeting: "Trump continues to politicize the coronavirus. COVID isn't a red state or blue state issue. 9 of the 10 states with the most infections per capita have Republican governors. This virus has impacted all Americans." Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) also strongly rebuked the President’' remarks on the floor, asking "what kind of a demented person" would say that American lives lost in certain states don't count. New York (D), New Jersey (D), Texas (R), California (D), and Florida (R) have to date reported the highest number of deaths from the virus in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University.
  • At the CNN town hall in Pennsylvania on September 17, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said that President Trump should step down over his handling of the COVID-19. Biden said President Trump's actions have been solely motivated by re-election and financial self-interest, and his downplaying of the pandemic is "criminal." Biden also questioned the talks on the vaccine's timing and slammed Attorney William Barr's comments comparing pandemic restrictions to slavery.

In the News

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) European officials warn governments and residents to redouble efforts to fight the virus. Hospitalizations are spiking and Europe's COVID-19 cases are rising faster than the peak in March. At a virtual news conference, Dr. Hans Kluge, regional director of WHO in Europe, cautioned nations to keep up virus quarantines, saying, "We do have a very serious situation unfolding before us."
  • On Friday, Britain's health minister said that the novel coronavirus was accelerating across the country, with hospital admissions doubling every eight days, but refused to say if another national lockdown would be imposed next month.
  • Moderna, one of the companies leading the effort to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, announced it could have enough clinical trial results to know if the vaccine works as soon as November to confirm its candidate vaccine's effectiveness. Moderna (MRNA) CEO Stéphane Bancel dismissed suggestions that there is political pressure. "We’re not solving to be the first vaccine, we want to have the best vaccine," Bancel told Yahoo Finance.
  • Americans are still divided over whether they would get vaccinated. According to a Pew Research Center survey, nearly half of U.S. adults say they definitely or probably would not get vaccinated at this time. Intent to get a COVID-19 vaccine has fallen by 21 percent since May.
  • Texas Governor Greg Abbot (R) is authorizing some businesses - including restaurants, retail stores, gyms, and museums even though the state is close to becoming the second state with 700,000 cases.
  • Nevada public health officials are allowing bars in and around Las Vegas to reopen Sunday after being closed for six months.

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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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