Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines, March 19 2021

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

In Washington:

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released their new guidance for opening schools.  The new social distancing guidelines say that students attending in-person instruction only need to stay three feet apart, rather than six, as long as universal masking is maintained. Six feet is still recommended for schools that have positivity rates higher than 10 percent,  for adult staff and between staff and students, and during school activities where there is exertion.  Other provisions clarify the need for that ventilation; remove the recommendation for physical barriers; clarifies the role of community transmission levels in decision-making; and adds guidance on interventions when clusters occur. 
  • President Biden said on Thursday that his administration would achieve its initial goal of administering 100 million shots of the COVID-19 vaccines ahead of his initial 100-day benchmark. Biden said that the goal of 100 million shots would be achieved on Friday, which marked 58 days into his presidency. He said he would announce his next vaccination goal next week.
  • Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) on Thursday blocked legislation that would prevent private debt collectors from garnishing stimulus checks sent out under the latest coronavirus relief bill. Reconciliation rules had prevented Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) from including the provision in the latest relief bill. Toomey argued that the provision would prevent the money from getting to individuals that a court has determined should see the money, citing child support payments as an example.
  • Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) still experiences lingering symptoms following his COVID-19 infection one year ago, the senator told a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing on Thursday. Elaborating to reporters, Kaine said that he sometimes feels a tingling sensation all over this body and feels migrating hot spots. He added that the presence of lingering symptoms “suggests that the long-term consequence in our health system is probably a lot bigger than we’re thinking of right now,” the Washington Post reports.
  • On Friday, the Biden administration relaxed some of the Education Department’s restrictions on how colleges and universities may spend COVID relief assistance approved under former President Donald Trump.  The department says that colleges can use funding from December and any unspent CARES Act funding for costs dating back to March 2020, when the pandemic began.  Furthermore, colleges can use the federal relief money to make up for lost revenue.

In the News:

  • Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) announced Thursday that all residents ages 16 and older will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine on April 12. Pritzker said during a news conference that he has directed local health departments, vaccination sites, and pharmacy partners to expand eligibility. Chicago makes it own eligibility rules. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) on Wednesday said that vaccine eligibility in the city will expand to residents with certain medical conditions or essential workers that have not yet qualified on March 29, The Chicago Tribune reported.
  • India will likely take at least three to four months to complete COVID-19 vaccination efforts for frontline workers and people over 60 years old, or with underlying health conditions, the executive director of Serum Institute of India said Thursday. Suresh Jadhav told CNBC’s Capital Connection, “[t]he number of doses which are required in India are huge[.]” India has inoculated about 36 million people among the 300 million initial target groups, per data from the Indian health ministry. The Serum Institute is the world’s largest vaccine-maker by volume and is manufacturing the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine.
  • France has announced that Paris will enter a four-week lockdown along with northern parts of the country this week following the spread of highly contagious coronavirus variants within the region. French Prime Minister Jean Castex said that France is experiencing its third wave of COVID-19 cases, with the variant discovered in Britain accounting for nearly 75 percent of the new cases. The lockdown will begin on Friday at midnight in France's hardest-hit areas, Reuters reported. 


Authored by Ivan Zapien

Ivan Zapien
Washington, D.C.
Shelley Castle
Legislative Specialist
Washington, D.C.


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