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Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines – COVID-19 D.C. Update – July 13, 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:

  • Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is defending President Trump’s push to reopen schools this fall despite the surge in COVID-19 cases.  DeVos said the combination of virtual or in-person learning is not a valid choice.  She says it is up to districts and local officials to reopen schools in their community and hotspots can be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.  DeVos said the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines for opening schools are meant to be flexible.   
  • The media is reporting that the White House is trying to undermine the reputation of Dr. Fauci as he continues to disagree with President Trump on the COVID-19 crisis.  White House officials have been distributing misleading “opposition information” on Dr. Anthony Fauci. The talking points include out-of-context and incomplete statements made by Dr. Fauci.  President Trump last week said Dr. Fauci “is a nice man, but he’s made a lot of mistakes” and on Sunday,  Coronavirus Task Force member Adm. Brett Giroir told NBC’s Meet the Press, “Dr. Fauci is not 100 percent right, and he also doesn’t necessarily, he admits that, have the whole national interest in mind.” 
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci said the U.S. is seeing a surge in new coronavirus infections because the country never shut down entirely.  Early in the outbreak, U.S. coronavirus cases peaked at around 30,000 new cases a day before falling and plateauing at roughly 20,000 new cases per day, according to Johns Hopkins University.  As some states began to reopen in late April through June, new cases began to surge, Fauci told Stanford Medicine Dean Lloyd Minor during an interview. “We did not shut down entirely,” Fauci said. “We need to draw back a few yards and say, ‘OK, we can’t stay shut down forever.’ …You’ve got to shut down but then you’ve got to gradually open.”
  • Former White House Chief of staff Mick Mulvany wrote an op-ed for CNBC criticizing the U.S. testing process and calling on another round of stimulus that should focus on the root cause of fighting COVID-19.  “Any stimulus should be directed at the root cause of our recession: dealing with COVID. I know it isn’t popular to talk about in some Republican circles, but we still have a testing problem in this country. My son was tested recently; we had to wait 5 to 7 days for results. My daughter wanted to get tested before visiting her grandparents, but was told she didn’t qualify.  That is simply inexcusable at this point in the pandemic,” he wrote.
  • Senate Democrats  released  proposals in eight key policy areas that are crucial to ensuring one or more safe, effective COVID-19 vaccines that are produced, distributed, and administered widely enough to end the COVID-19 pandemic.  Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Ranking Member Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) released the “roadmap” which includes $25 billion in new emergency funding to support vaccine development in the next coronavirus relief package.  
  • Despite Congres being in recess for the next two weeks, there are several coronavirus hearings this week.  On Tuesday, July 14, the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight, Management, and Accountability will hold a  hearing entitled “Reviewing Federal and State Pandemic Supply Preparedness and Response.”  The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, Energy and the Environment holds a hearing on “The Importance of Transatlantic Cooperation During the COVID-19 Pandemic.”  On Friday, July 17, the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security will hold a hearing on “The Impact of COVID-19 on Social Security and its Beneficiaries.”
  • A pot of money meant to help prop up small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic has run out of funds. The Economic Injury Disaster Loan Advance (EIDL) program, a federal measure offering grants of up to $10,000 to entrepreneurs, ended after reaching the $20 billion funding limit allowed by Congress, the Small Business Administration (SBA) announced Saturday. The EIDL Advance program, created by the CARES Act, gave emergency grants to small businesses within three days of their application being filed.   The grants don’t have to be repaid, even if an application for an EIDL loan, which offers up to $150,000 in funding,  was ultimately denied. However, the grants were plagued by long delays and changing rules.  

 In the News: 

  • On Monday, Officials from 17 states and the District of Columbia filed a federal lawsuit to stop the Trump administration requirement that international students take in-person classes at colleges and universities or risk deportation. The lawsuit was filed after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced on July 6 that students attending schools planning to stay online for classes in the fall would no longer be allowed to stay in the U.S. on F-1 or M-1 visas. 
  • This week we will learn a lot about COVID-19’s effects on the economy from company earnings to important data like June retail sales.  On Tuesday, the Consumer Price Index for June is released as well as earnings from Wells Fargo, JPMorgan, Citigroup and  Delta.  On Thursday, June retail sales information will be released. 
  • The Florida Department of Health reported the largest daily increase of COVID-19 infections in any state since the pandemic began over the weekend with 15,299 new cases.  Across the country, more than half the states are dealing with increased rates of new cases compared to last week.  And more than half the states have paused or rolled back their reopening plans in hopes of getting coronavirus under control.
  • Voters in Texas, Maine, and Alabama go to the polls tomorrow in races that could determine who controls the Senate come January. 
  • Some major U.S. airlines are keeping middle seats unoccupied to facilitate some social distancing on its planes, however, one report suggests the move may come at a price for passengers. With fewer seats to sell, airlines may be forced to ramp up the price of passenger fares in order to break even this year, according to the International Air Transport Association, which has openly opposed mandating social distancing measures that would leave middle seats empty.  
  • The Washington Post’s Eli Rosenberg reports that “Four months into the worst recession since the Great Depression, tens of thousands of workers” putting many Americans in dire financial straits.   State unemployment offices are overwhelmed and have been hampered by years of neglect and budget cuts.