Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines – COVID-19 D.C. Update – August 2020 #9

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In Washington

  • White House officials and top Democrats have no plans to meet in the coming days. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-A) said today that Democrats and the Trump administration remained far apart regarding any agreement over further economic aid and noted that Republicans are also divided amongst themselves. “We’re miles apart. ... It’s a chasm...but as a practical matter, they’re going to have to come to the table,” Pelosi said. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin reached out to Pelosi by phone on Wednesday but in a joint statement, Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) signaled they would not yet restart discussions after the Treasury secretary again rejected their offer to find a middle ground at around US $2 trillion. “We have again made clear to the Administration that we are willing to resume negotiations once they start to take this process seriously,” Pelosi said. Mnuchin later made a statement that Democrats refuse to meet “unless we agreed in advance to her proposal costing at least $2 trillion...The Democrats have no interest in negotiating.” The Senate will adjourn for its August recess, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced Thursday, despite not reaching an agreement on a COVID-19 relief bill. He says the Senate will continue to hold its pro forma sessions during its recess and if a Phase Four deal is reached there would need to be bipartisan consent in order for the Senate to return to vote on a bill.
  • President Trump admits that the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is in great need of funding to facilitate mail-in voting resulting from COVID-19, but has made clear that he has no intention of releasing funds he recently blocked saying that the USPS and its limited funds will perpetuate “one of the greatest frauds in history.” Speaking yesterday at his daily coronavirus news briefing, the president said he would not approve US $25 billion in emergency funding for USPS, or US $3.5 billion for funding for election resources in the Phase Four coronavirus stimulus. “If we don’t make a deal, that means they don’t get their money, that means they can’t have universal mail-in voting,” Trump said when talking to Fox Business News this morning. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi this morning noted that the US $25 billion was not a Democratic proposal, but rather the funding numbers game from the Postal Service Board of Governors, which were all appointed by President Trump.
  • The Supreme Court rejected the Republican National Committee’s request to intervene in a case against Rhode Island relaxing a witness requirement because of the coronavirus pandemic. The decision clears the way for Rhode Island voters to cast mail-in ballots without having to submit a witness-signature.
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, on Thursday said that he was not happy with the state of the pandemic in the U.S. Fauci told a National Geographic panel “Bottom line is, I'm not pleased with how things are going.” He said that while some states like Florida and California have been able to fight against recent coronavirus spikes, he warned “When you look at other parts of the country – this is the thing that's disturbing to me – is that we're starting to see the inkling of the upticks in the percent of the tests that are positive.”
  • Adm. Brett Giroir, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, told reporters Tuesday that he was concerned that COVID-19 data has been misrepresented. During a call organized by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Giroir said “I’m very concerned about the statistical shell games that are being played with the data that are misrepresenting the actual situation on the ground in the country right now.” Giroir said that it’s clear that the number of COVID-19 cases is going down and that the number of tests that are needed is being misrepresented. “You beat the virus by smart policies supplemented by strategic testing. You do not beat the virus by shotgun testing everyone all the time," he said.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield warned that Americans must follow basic COVID-19 guidelines now to avoid "the worst fall" we've ever seen. He advised all Americans to wear masks, socially distance, wash their hands and avoid crowds in the next few months. "I'm not asking some of America to do it. We all have to do it," Redfield told WebMD. "Or this could be the worst fall, from a public health perspective, that we have ever had."

In the News

  • For the first time since late March, first time jobless claims fell below 1 million, according to the Labor Department. The total claims of 963,000 for the week ended 8 Aug. was well below the estimated 1.1 million.
  • ​Experts are expanding their COVID-19 guidance for children. The American Academy of Pediatrics (APP) today released three new sets of guidance on face coverings for children, testing protocols for children, and personal protective equipment for pediatric medical providers.
  • New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced today that when schools reopen this fall, every single New York City public school building will have a certified nurse working in the building. De Blasio said that he is not planning to delay any reopenings, and that schools have a month to prepare.
  • In the U.S. more than 1,500 people died from COVID-19 on Wednesday, making it the deadliest day for the country since the end of May. The U.S. is averaging roughly 52,000 new cases per day, about 10.5 percent fewer than last week. Meanwhile, new coronavirus cases have slowed in 21 states, including Arizona, Florida, Texas and Southern states that experienced dramatic outbreaks.
  • The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) top medical officer is warning that it is on a “very narrow path” to pick sports back up again in the fall. Dr. Brian Hainline, said that the organization is moving into “very troubled waters right now” due, in part, to a lack of a national testing strategy in the U.S.
  • Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said Thursday that there are weaknesses at every level of public health in the US, and there needs to be a reset in the approach to it. During a live Washington Post event, Friedman said “We need to make sure that we never again are this underprepared for an emergency.”

[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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