Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines, May 2021 # 6

Hogan Lovells

Hogan Lovells

Your guide to the latest Hill developments, news narratives, and media headlines from Hogan Lovells Government Relations and Public Affairs practice.

In Washington:

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Thursday that fully vaccinated individuals don’t need to wear masks. The new guidance says people who have waited for two weeks after receiving their final vaccine dose can go maskless indoors and out. They also don’t need to physically distance. The new guidelines do not apply to health care settings, prisons, and jails, or homeless shelters. The CDC urged fully vaccinated people to mask up where required by laws or regulations, including on airplanes, trains, and public transportation. It urged immune-compromised people to consult doctors before forgoing masks.
  • A federal judge on Friday agreed to delay the enforcement of her ruling invalidating the CDC’s nationwide freeze on evictions enacted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich’s decision means the ban will remain in force while the Biden administration appeals the May 5 ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. 
  • The Defense Department is dropping its mask mandate for fully vaccinated personnel. Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks wrote in a Friday memo that Department personnel who are two weeks out from their final dose can go maskless "indoors or outdoors at DoD facilities.” Military vaccination rates have lagged officials’ hopes. The Pentagon has said it wouldn’t require troops to get vaccinated while the shots are under an emergency use authorization.
  • Rules requiring all lawmakers and staff on the House floor to wear masks will remain in place until they are all fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the Capitol physician said in a memo. But people who are fully vaccinated are free to go maskless in House office buildings and elsewhere in the Capitol, according to the memo. 
  • All congressional Democrats are vaccinated for COVID-19, according to a CNN survey and collection of public responses. The figure is 45 percent for House Republicans, but 112 Republican officers, or over half the caucus, didn’t respond to CNN’s inquiries, so the true number is unclear. All 50 Senate Democrats and 46 out of 50 Republicans reported being vaccinated, CNN found. 
  • The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has diverted more than $2 billion meant for other health initiatives to cover the cost of caring for unaccompanied immigrant children. The redirected funds include $850 million that Congress initially allocated to rebuild the nation’s Strategic National Stockpile and another $850 million is being taken from an account intended to help expand coronavirus testing.

In the News:

  • On Thursday the U.S. recorded over 38,000 new COVID-19 cases and 802 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. According to the CDC, over 120 million Americans are now fully vaccinated. That’s about 36 percent of the total U.S. population.
  • States are beginning to scrap their mask mandates after the CDC’s new mask guidance. Washington, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky immediately adopted the CDC guidance. Democratic Governors Tim Walz (MN) and Ned Lamont (CT) said their states’ restrictions would soon ease. J.B. Pritzker (D-IL) announced he’s revising his mask orders. Yet many states are taking a more wait-and-see approach.
  • The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines were found to be 94 percent effective in health care workers, according to the CDC’s ongoing largest effectiveness study. Workers who were partially vaccinated had an effectiveness rate of 82 percent. The research involved 1,843 health care professionals between January and March of this year.
  • Delta Air Lines announced on Friday that all new hires will be required to get vaccinated against COVID-19, effective Monday. Delta will make exceptions for employees who “qualify for an accommodation.” The company also announced that it has made progress in achieving widespread vaccination its workforce in the U.S. Sixty percent of the company's employees are vaccinated.
  • Walmart will no longer require customers and employees to wear face masks inside of its stores if they are fully vaccinated. The retail giant sent a memo to employees Friday announcing that customers can shop without a mask effectively immediately and workers will not need a mask starting Tuesday. Walmart did not specify how it will verify that a customer or employee is fully vaccinated.
  • Eight members of the New York Yankees have tested positive for COVID this week, with shortstop Gleyber Torres being the first player sidelined by the positive result. All eight team members who tested positive were vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Only one player showed symptoms, while the rest were asymptomatic.

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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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