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Focus on Regulation

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

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

In Washington:

  • Just as some federal agencies are calling for federal employees who are teleworking to return, several Virginia and Maryland lawmakers are warning that it might be too early.  “Reopening too quickly by ending maximum telework threatens to erase the progress made against the virus and endanger the health and safety of federal employees and everyone else in an agency’s region through increased community spread,” Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Ben Cardin (D- MD), Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Mark R. Warner (D-VA) wrote in letters to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).  Van Hollen said it was “grossly irresponsible” to bring back federal employees at this point and said that Congress has several legislative options to block the return of federal workers.
  • NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday that states need to face problems with their coronavirus responses because “if you don’t admit it, you can’t correct it.” Fauci told a Wall Street Journal podcast. Fauci suggested that states experiencing a surge in cases should consider shutting down and warned against being “mindful of what happens when you throw caution to the wind” and ignore health advice.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected the White House’s calls to limit the next coronavirus relief package to $1 trillion dollars. In a press conference today, the Speaker said that $1 trillion does not come anywhere near enough given the recent surge in cases.  “We need $1 trillion for state and local. We need another $1 trillion for unemployment insurance and direct payments. Something like that, but probably not as much, for the testing, tracing, treatment,” Pelosi said.  Pelosi aims to clear the package by the end of the month and vowed to not “cave” to Republican demands to scale back worker protections.
  • Dr. Robert Redfield announced today that it will not revise its guidelines for reopening schools despite pressure from President Trump to do so.  Redfield said the agency will provide additional reference documents.  “Our guidelines are our guidelines, but we are going to provide additional reference documents to aid basically communities in trying to open K-through-12s,” Redfield said. “It’s not a revision of the guidelines; it’s just to provide additional information to help schools be able to use the guidance we put forward.”
  • Rep. Mark Pocan wrote a letter to  American Airlines and United Airlines chastising the companies for operating at full capacity rather than using social distancing policies like their competitors.   The congressman called for the companies to reconsider their booking practices immediately.  Pocan ended the letter with “P.S. It is neither “American” or standing “United” with the people who’ve bailed out your industry – the taxpayers – to throw them under the proverbial flying airbus to make a few extra bucks.”
  • The Independent Restaurant Coalition organized a letter with American Express, Coca-Cola, Delta Air Lines, Hyatt Hotels, Resy, Sysco and US Foods to Sens. Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) supporting the legislation the senators introduced that would create a $120 billion Independent Restaurant Revitalization fund to help the restaurant industry that has been ravaged by the coronavirus. “Without restaurants, every one of our businesses would be impacted and the economic framework of cities and towns across all parts of the United States would be dramatically altered for the worse,” they wrote.
  • Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, cast doubt on the use of “challenge trials” when testing for a COVID-19 vaccine saying it could cause “ethical heartburn.”  In human challenge studies, people are exposed to the disease and with no cures existing for COVID-19, could be lethal to vulnerable patients. “If something bad happens, you don’t have a perfect fix for it,” said the FDA’s Peter Marks.
  • The Washington Post is reporting that Trump administration and congressional Republicans are exploring whether to restrict the number of Americans receiving the next round of stimulus payments. Proposals include dropping the $75,000 income threshold.  Senate Majority Leader has been advocating that payments should be targeted to help those earning under $40,000 a year.


In the News:

  • California and Florida were among 12 states that hit a record-breaking, seven-day average for daily new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.  Nationally, cases grew by more than 20 percent from a week ago.
  • The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) is investing $42 million to help Becton, Dickinson, and Company, ramp up its production of syringes and needles ahead of the future coronavirus vaccination push.
  • Wells Fargo is preparing to cut thousands of jobs later this year in an effort to reduce costs, according to a report from Bloomberg Law. The plans being drawn up by Wells Fargo executives could eventually lead to tens of thousands of jobs being cut, Bloomberg reported citing people with knowledge of the confidential talks.
  • Starbucks customers will have to wear masks to enter company-owned locations starting July 15.  Customers who are not wearing facial coverings at locations without a local government mandate can use curbside pick-up, drive-thru lanes or delivery to receive their Starbucks drinks.
  • Rates on 30-year mortgages have fallen to record lows for the third consecutive week as inflation remains muted in a weakened economy, even in the face of persistent demand from homebuyers.
  • Dartmouth College is eliminating five varsity athletic teams and 15 staff positions, including eight coaches, to help ease a budget deficit made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.  110 students are impacted and it reduces the number of varsity teams to 30 the college said Thursday in a statement.