Header graphic for print
Focus on Regulation

Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines – COVID-19 D.C. Update – July 15, 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:

  • The White House denies that it is trying to undermine the nation’s top disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci. Today the President’s trade advisor, Peter Navarro blasted Dr. Fauci’s handling of the coronavirus in a scathing USA Today op-ed entitled, “Anthony Fauci has been wrong about everything I have interacted with him on” and says he listens to Fauci with “skepticism and caution.” White House spokeswoman Alyssa Farah tried distancing the White House from the op-ed claiming in a tweet that the op-ed didn’t go through “normal White House clearance processes” and only Navarro’s opinion. Later, President Trump told reporters he had a good relationship with Dr. Fauci and Navarro’s comments were his own adding “shouldn’t be doing that.”  This afternoon, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said that Navarro “violated” instructions by him and other staff to “de-escalate” the situation between the White House and Dr. Fauci. Dr. Fauci called the White House’s efforts to discredit him “bizarre” and responded that it ultimately harms President Trump.
  • Chairs from five House Committees wrote a letter to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, seeking answers as to why the Administration has not used funding in the CARES Act for the Defense Production Act to boost production of critical medical supplies and equipment needed to combat COVID-19, such as personal protection equipment and diagnostic testing.
  • Retired Gen. Joseph Dunford, the former chair of the joint chiefs of staff, has withdrawn himself from consideration to chair a coronavirus oversight panel tasked with managing the implementation of the US$500 million coronavirus relief fund.
  • A White House campaign released Tuesday is advocating for new “pathways” to jobs as the coronavirus pandemic has left many Americans out of work. The campaign entitled “Find Something New” encourages Americans who are unemployed or unhappy in their jobs or careers to seek new opportunities and promote vocational training rather than two-or-four year college programs. 
  • In a sudden reversal of his previous comments and opinion on masks, President Trump urged Americans to wear masks to prevent coronavirus spread. When asked about mandates on wearing masks during a CBS News interview on July 14,  Trump responded that governors should go by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, but stopped short of saying there should be a federal mandate.  Despite yesterday’s comments, the President did not wear a mask as he landed and greeted officials today in Georgia. 
  • CDC Director Robert Redfield warned that this fall and winter will be “one of the most difficult times we’ve experienced in American public health” and urged young people to wear face coverings in a tweet saying, “I believe if everyone, including #Millenials and #GenZ, wear a cloth face covering for the next 4 to 6 weeks, we can get the #COVID19 epidemic under control.”
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has added three more hand sanitizers to its rolling list of products recalled because of possible contamination with a toxic chemical.  In total, over 65 of the cleansers have now tested positive for methanol, which can be poisonous if absorbed through the skin or ingested, according to the FDA’s latest update. The items have been introduced into the market at a time of heightened risk, with more consumers relying on sanitizers to help insulate themselves from infection with COVID-19.

In the News:

  • Republicans are looking for ways to ensure participants at the Republican National Convention in Jacksonville, Florida are safe, as the state remains one of the major COVID-19 hotspots.  Officials are exploring alternative outdoor venues around the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena for the evening programs.  Many Republican elected officials have already announced that they will not be attending the event that is scheduled from August 25-27 and it is still unknown how many people will be allowed to attend.   
  • Walmart and Sam’s Club will require customers at all of its US stores to wear masks beginning next week, becoming the largest retailer to mandate facial coverings as coronavirus cases continue to rise.
  • Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt (R) announced Wednesday that he has tested positive for COVID-19, becoming the first U.S. governor known to have the virus. Stitt had pushed an aggressive reopening plan and rarely wears a mask.  The Governor also attended the President’s Tulsa campaign rally.  Stitt says that he feels “fine,” other than being a “little bit achy.” He said he’ll be quarantining and working from home.
  • Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) announced a state-wide mask order beginning Thursday that will be in effect until July 31. The order will replace all local rulings on masks for the two weeks it is in effect. 
  • JC Penny says it will close an additional 152 stores and cut 1,000 jobs as it tries to fight its way out from under bankruptcy protection.  The retailer said Wednesday that the jobs to be eliminated will include corporate, field management, and international positions.