Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines, March 2021 # 14

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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 on Thursday confirmed California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) as Secretary of Health and Human Services by a 50-49 vote. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) was the only Republican to vote in favor of his confirmation. Becerra is likely to play a major role in the federal government's COVID-19 response.
  • The Biden administration plans to send millions of doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, which is not approved for use in the U.S., to Mexico and Canada. Press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed the plans, saying, "[o]ur first priority remains vaccinating the U.S. population, but the reality is the pandemic knows no borders...Ensuring our neighbors can contain the virus is mission critical to ending the pandemic.” Psaki said that officials are working to finalize plans to give Mexico 2.5 million doses and give Canada 1.5 million doses.
  • Children who attended school in-person in the fall reported less stress and anxiety than those who learned either online or in a combined setting, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The report found similar results for parents of students learning in-person. The report comes as school districts across the country weigh physical health, mental health, and educational benefits as they consider a return to in-person learning.
  • President Biden and Vice President Harris will meet with Asian American leaders in Atlanta on Friday to express support following Tuesday’s deadly shootings there. While the shooting suspect claims a sex addiction motivated his spree, authorities say it’s too early to determine whether the killings were racially motivated, and psychologists question such an addiction’s existence and its frequent use as a purported crime motive. By some researchers’ estimates, anti-Asian crimes jumped 150 percent in the nation’s largest cities in 2020, amid the pandemic.
  • Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a senior member of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee (SBC), issued a statement calling for the Senate to swiftly pass House-approved legislation that would extend the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) application deadline for another two months to May 31, 2021. The bill passed the House on Mar.  16 by an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 415-3. 

In the News:

  • Mexico’s customs agency seized thousands of fake doses of Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, the Mexican government announced Wednesday. The seizure of the fake vaccine batch of 5,775 doses was confirmed Thursday by the Russia Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which oversees exports of the inoculation. The doses were seized at the Campeche International Airport on the Mexican Gulf coast. Russia’s two-dose vaccine is authorized for emergency use in at least 20 countries, but not in the U.S.
  • Organizers of the effort to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) have submitted more than 2.1 million signatures to get the question onto a ballot this fall. The recall appears likely to qualify even if many signatures are tossed. California Secretary of State Shirley Weber (D) will certify whether the signatures are sufficient on September 17 following a months-long verification process. The recall effort has largely focuses on Newsom’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, with critics bashing his lengthy school and business closures. 
  • As of March 16, CDC data show 21.7 percent of the total U.S. population has received at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose, and 11.8 percent have been fully vaccinated. Vaccination rates are higher for the 65 and older group: About 64.6 percent of older adults have received at least one dose, and 36.6 percent are fully vaccinated.
  • WHO officials reiterated on Thursday their recommendation against requiring vaccine certificates for international travel because of inequity issues created by COVID-19 vaccines not being universally available.   WHO added that they are working on what such certification should look like if and when it is required.  
  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Florida will not require travelers to and from the state to have a vaccine passport. The governor said some states are requiring vaccine passports to attend sporting events or other activities.

[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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