COVID-19 UPDATE | MONDAY, NOV. 16 (AFTERNOON)
November 16, 2020
– While Monday morning brought promising news regarding a vaccine, the weekend’s COVID-19 news was less positive. One week after reaching 10M cases, the United States on Sunday crested 11M cases of COVID-19. Recorded fatalities have reached 245,000.
· With cases continuing to surge, states that had shied away from implementing mask mandates in earlier stages of the pandemic have revisited the policy. In North Dakota, Governor Doug Burgum (R) issued an executive order Friday night to require the wearing of masks in all public settings and to limit the size of gatherings, effective until December 13.
· Ohio Governor Mike Dewine (R) issued an executive order on Saturday to implement a mask mandate for retail and all other businesses in Ohio, effective today. The order also provides guidance for reasonable accommodation of those who cannot or will not wear a mask, such as providing pickup options or wearing a full-size face shield.
· Other states are also considering additional restrictions. On Friday, Oregon governor Kate Brown (D) announced a two-week freeze on non-essential travel. New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio (D) on Saturday warned that the city’s public schools, which have been tentatively open for in-person attendance this Fall, could be closed if cases continue to track upwards.
– Vivek Murthy, co-chair of the Biden COVID-19 taskforce, commented over the weekend that a national lockdown would be a “measure of last resort.” Murthy further commented that the U.S. needs a national alert system to help inform state and local decisions on COVID-19 restrictions.
– Moderna released an initial analysis that indicates its COVID-19 vaccine candidate is close to 95% effective, a similar effectiveness rate to Pfizer’s vaccine candidate. Moderna also announced that its vaccine candidate can be stored at refrigerator temperatures for up to a month, unlike Pfizer’s vaccine candidate which needs extremely low temperature conditions.
· Unlike Pfizer, Moderna was a participant in the Administration’s Operation Warp Speed.
– With both chambers back in session this week, below is a non-exhaustive list of major legislation still on tap before the end of this Congress:
· Fiscal year 2021 government spending, which is currently under a continuing resolution that expires on December 11. Negotiations are expected to begin in earnest now that the Senate has released its appropriations legislation.
· The Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which has been negotiated for much of the summer but for which formal conference has not yet begun.
· The Water Resources Development Act for 2020, which is on track to maintain its schedule to pass every two years.
· Tax extenders legislation to reauthorize certain tax provisions that expire at the end of the year.
· Potential additional COVID-19 relief.
– The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a markup on Wednesday covering the following pieces of pending legislation:
· S. 1031, the Duck Boat Safety Enhancement Act of 2019
· S. 1166, the Internet Exchange Act of 2019
· S. 3730, the Registered Traveler Act of 2020
· S. 3824, the Protecting Seniors from Emergency Scams Act
· S. 3969, the Aircraft Safety and Certification Reform Act of 2020
· S. 4472, the Ensuring Network Security Act
· S. 4577, the TSA PreCheck Mobile Enrollment Act
· S. 4613, the Contact Lens Rule Modernization Act
· S. 4719, the Helping Manufacturers Respond to COVID-19 Act of 2020
· S. 4803, the Beat China by Harnessing Important, National Airwaves (CHINA) for 5G Act of 2020
· S. 4827, the Space Preservation and Conjunction Emergency (SPACE) Act of 2020
· S. 4847, the Protecting Tourism in the United States Act
· S. XXXX, the COVID-19 Home Safety Act
– The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on Tuesday on “Breaking the News: Censorship, Suppression, and the 2020 Election” which will feature testimony from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
· On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will markup related legislation, Chairman Lindsey Graham’s (R-SC) Online Content Policy Modernization Act (S. 4632), which would reform Section 230 protections for tech companies as well as copyright law.
– The House returns to session this week and both parties will hold their leadership elections, where current leadership is expected to be reelected. The House will also consider a number of pieces of legislation. A full list of those bills can be found here but below are some we wanted to highlight:
· H.R. 7310, the Spectrum IT Modernization Act
· H.R. 8408, the Aircraft Certification Reform and Accountability Act
· H.R. 8294, the National Apprenticeship Act of 2020
§ The House Rules Committee will meet to consider H.R. 8294 on Tuesday, November 17 at 10:00am.
– Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) sent a letter to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield requesting that the CDC reinstate the no-sail order for the cruise industry. The request was made in the context of COVID-19 cases on the Norwegian-based SeaDream Yacht Club cruise last week, the first cruise ship to sail in the Caribbean since March.
· As a reminder, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) has voluntarily extended the timeline before resuming cruises in the U.S. until December 31.
– House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) along with former Chairs Mike McCaul (R-TX) and Peter King (R-NY) sent a letter to House leadership last week requesting consolidation of jurisdiction over the Department of Homeland Security in a single committee in the next Congress. The letter can be found attached.
– U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis of the Eastern District of New York on Saturday ruled that the Department of Homeland Security did not follow the proper order of succession in naming an Acting Secretary of Homeland Security and that Acting Secretary Chad Wolf was therefore not legally serving in that position when he issued a memorandum in July denying new applications to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
– The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is expected to formally unground the Boeing 737 MAX this week, but this does not mean the aircraft will immediately be reintroduced to commercial service. Airlines will still need to prepare the aircraft for return to service, including implementing new training routines and software updates approved by the FAA.
– The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued an alert Friday on Chevrolet Bolts for select Model Year 2017-2019 vehicles.
· General Motors is expected to recall over 50,000 Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicles after five reported incidents involving fires and two injuries sustained from smoke inhalation.
– Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt issued an order Friday that would, among other things, require a written expression of support by any affected governor or local county for land acquisition under the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) created by the Great American Outdoors Act (H.R. 1957). The order also prioritizes acquisitions by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service.
· The order drew criticism from Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) in a letter and from Diane Regas, CEO of the conservation group The Trust for Public Land. Both argued that the order further restricts the LWCF.
– The Department of Interior could call for nominations of parcels of land in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge to open for oil and gas leases as soon as today. Calling for these nominations could, according to published reports, result in a lease sale for parcels by January 16, just before the new administration is set to take over. However, since final approval would take weeks after that, Biden Administration nominees would be unlikely to approve them.
– Fifteen Asia-Pacific countries signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a major trade deal, over the weekend. The RCEP creates a regional trading bloc in Asia covering almost one third of world economic output. Signatories of the RCEP include China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, and Cambodia.
· The RCEP increases pressure for the incoming Biden Administration to engage with the Asia-Pacific region after the U.S. withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which has since been renamed the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
Federal Register Notices – The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a virtual meeting of the National Vaccine Advisory Committee (NVAC) that will take place on December 4. The notice can be found here.