Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines, November 2020 # 13

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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:

  • The Senate headed out for the Thanksgiving recess with no coronavirus stimulus bill is in sight. During a press conference Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) suggested that there might be a break in the coronavirus aid impasse, telling reporters that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) agreed to staff-level talks on a new coronavirus aid package. “There’s a little bit of good news, as of today,” Schumer said. “They’ve agreed to sit down, and the staffs are going to sit down today or tomorrow to try to begin to see if we can get a real good COVID relief bill. So there’s been a little bit of a breakthrough in that McConnell’s folks are finally sitting down and talking to us.” NBC News reports that “Republican aides are disputing Schumer’s characterization and said that Democrats were conflating the omnibus spending bill and a COVID relief bill.” A senior Democratic aide who was not authorized to speak publicly confirmed with Roll Call that staff for Pelosi, McConnell, Schumer and McCarthy were scheduled to meet Thursday to discuss both the omnibus spending bill and COVID relief.
  • Meanwhile, House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy (D-CA) told reporters Thursday that he has only spoken to Leader McConnell (R-KY) about a COVID relief bill. He called House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) a “big wall” standing in the way of a COVID deal. “Things are still at the same place. There’s one roadblock. There’s one big wall that’s stopped this the entire time and it’s Speaker Pelosi,” McCarthy said during his weekly press conference on Thursday. McCarthy calls on the 23 moderate Democrats who had previously written the House leadership urging for bipartisan negotiations on a COVID package to help force a vote on emergency aid for small businesses and extend the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). “They admitted that, if Pelosi failed, that a discharge petition would be the only resort,” McCarthy said, “They can sign the discharge petition and this could be done today. Help could be on the way.”
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, is urging Americans to "think twice" about traveling and having indoor gatherings for the holidays. Fauci said seemingly “innocent” family and friend dinner gatherings at home are where many of the infections are now stemming from. This follows the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention again warning Americans against any travel for Thanksgiving. “We’re alarmed,” said Dr. Henry Walke, Covid-19 incident manager at the CDC, citing an exponential increase in Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths. “What we’re concerned about is not only the actual mode of travel — whether it’s an airplane or bus or car, but also the transportation hubs we’re concerned about, as well.”
  • According to a number of sources familiar with the matter, several current and former Trump administration officials have privately reached out to President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team, despite President Trump’s continuing refusal to concede. Two officials on Biden’s transition team said that only a few officials had reached out so it was “not a big deal,” nor was it at all an adequate substitute for receiving official nation security, intelligence and COVID-19 briefings. A current administration official confirmed to CNN that there had been an informal outreach, but that it was “Nothing that would get us in trouble … just an offer to be of help. They know what we mean, and what we can-and-can't do or say.”

In the News:

  • New York City Mayor de Blasio has closed public schools while keeping open bars, restaurants, nail salons, and other businesses. On Thursday, Gov. Cuomo told reporters that he was not ready to shut down businesses in NYC saying that the positivity rate would have to rise about another 0.5% before he’ll end indoor dining.
  • The U.S. has reported more than 11.5 million cases and 250,000 deaths. Globally, there have been 56.4 million cases and 1.3 million fatalities. See the numbers in your area here, and check out where cases are rising here.
  • New cases of COVID-19 in Europe decreased to 1.8 million cases last week, down from over 2 million the week before.
  • The COVID-19 vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca (AZN) produces a strong immune response in healthy adults 56 to 69 years old and people over 70 according to their Phase 2 data published in The Lancet. The data suggests one of the groups most vulnerable to serious illness and death from Covid-19 could build immunity. Early efficacy readings from the Phase 3 trials of the vaccine may be possible in the coming weeks.
  • A former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lambasted a Danish study released on Wednesday that concluded that surgical masks do not protect against the coronavirus. In an editorial in the Annals of Internal Medicine (AIM), former CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden wrote, "widespread masking in the community can mitigate spread,” and that an “N95 mask is better than a surgical mask. A surgical mask is better than most cloth masks. A cloth mask is better than nothing[.]” A CDC report released last week found that mask-wearing protects both the general public and the mask wearer.
  • COVID-19 has delayed the first federal execution of a woman in nearly 60 years. A federal judge on Thursday temporarily stopped the execution, citing her lawyers testing positive for coronavirus. The federal government must wait until at least next year to execute Lisa Montgomery, convicted of murdering a child, U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss ruled. Her execution had been scheduled for Dec. 8.

[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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