Coronavirus: The Hill and the Headlines, March 23 2021

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

In Washington:

  • Federal health officials on Tuesday suggested the efficacy rate of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine may reflect “outdated information.” AstraZeneca on Monday reported a 79 percent efficacy rate for preventing symptomatic COVID-19 cases, and also no serious side effects like the blood clots some in Europe suspect are linked to the shot. But the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) released a statement saying that the Data and Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) “expressed concern” that AstraZeneca may have included “outdated information” from its U.S. trial and urged the company to work with the DSMB to review the efficacy data. The Board said that the vaccine’s efficacy may have actually been between 69 and 74 percent. The drug company’s spokesperson said they are “looking into it.” 
  • A group of House Democrats is calling for answers on reported delays in getting the current round of $1,400 direct payments under the recently passed coronavirus relief bill to people who do not have to file a tax return, including veterans and some Social Security beneficiaries. In a letter released by signatory Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), the lawmakers ask the heads of the Internal Revenue Service and the Social Security Administration (SSA) to speed the payments.
  • The Biden administration announced Tuesday that it will extend the special pandemic enrollment period for ObamaCare plans until August 15. New and current enrollees will have an additional three months to enroll in coverage or change their plans, and to have access to additional subsidies from the American Rescue Plan that could make coverage cheaper.
  • The Senate on Tuesday voted to confirm Vivek Murthy for surgeon general.  The vote was 57-43 with seven Republicans joining Democrats in supporting Murthy.   
  • A group of nearly 200 businesses worth a combined $539 billion is urging Congress to expand access to paid family and medical leave in the next expected spending bill. The signers of a letter sent to Capitol Hill on Tuesday include Spotify, Pinterest, Levi Strauss & Co., and Patagonia. Two of the existing COVID-19 relief packages included paid family and medical leave for some workers at a reduced pay rate. The companies and advocates at groups such as PL+US are now pushing to expand it in the Biden administration’s next spending proposal. 
  • President Biden traveled to Columbus, Ohio on Tuesday, the latest stop in a publicity blitz to sell the coronavirus relief package. The president’s message while in Columbus was focused on health care, a message timed with the 11-year anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Care Act. He toured a new cancer center at Ohio State University that received a grant through the ACA, and later delivered remarks touting how the relief law would help lower health care costs. 

In the News:

  • COVID-19 and stay-at-home order necessitated a change in many aspects of the U.S. health system, including exponentially increasing the use of telemedicine, a trend that many health insurance companies believe will stay even as the U.S. returns to normal business.  It is expected that trends such as mental health appointments, primary care, and same-day appointments will continue to be embraced.
  • A new study found Regeneron’s antibody cocktail reduces the risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19 in high-risk patients, according to the company.
  • More than 1 Million people traveled through U.S. airports on March 21, the largest number of travelers since the pandemic started in the U.S. more than a year ago. 
  • Sales of new homes plunged in February as harsh winter weather and supply issues interrupted a housing market that heated up amid the coronavirus pandemic as many homeowners moved. The new data was released Tuesday by the Commerce Department. The seasonally adjusted number of new homes sold fell 18.2 percent in February, dropping to an annualized rate of 775,000 from a revised 948,000 in January. 
  • American adults gained half a pound on average for every 10 days spent under stay-at-home orders, a new study finds. In a study posted online by the JAMA Network health journal, researchers from the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) found that participants under stay-at-home orders gained on average 0.59 pounds every 10 days spent under lockdown — a finding that could indicate as many as 20 pounds gained over the course of 2020 and early 2021 for some newly-remote workers.
  • A new study finds that more than half of the world’s 10-year-olds could be unable to read and understand a sentence by the end of 2021, a figure exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. The report released Monday from anti-poverty nonprofit One Campaign, drawing on numbers from the World Bank and the United Nations, warned that 70 million 10-year-olds in 2021 could lack basic literacy, a result directly attributable to the pandemic for 12 million among them. Inadequate technology has hampered poor countries’ transitions to remote or hybrid learning.
  • Texas will open COVID-19 vaccinations to all adults beginning March 29, two weeks after expanding vaccine eligibility to those 50 and older.

 

Authored by Ivan Zapien

Contacts
Ivan Zapien
Partner
Washington, D.C.
Shelley Castle
Legislative Specialist
Washington, D.C.
Jared Crum
Associate
Washington, D.C.

 

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