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Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Update

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05/04/2020

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Key Updates:

  • As the Senate prepares to return to the Capitol on Monday (and as the House prepares to return later in May), leadership of both parties are beginning to dig in on their positions for the next major relief bill. Republicans are continuing to advocate for liability protections for healthcare workers, individuals and for businesses as they begin to reopen. Democrats are championing more funding for state and local governments.
    • Emphasizing their respective priorities appears to be the starting points of negotiations to reach a compromise. Neither party seems completely opposed to the other party’s priorities. However, they will each need to tailor their priorities in a way that the other party can accept.
  • The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is clarifying that Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) recipients cannot receive a business expense tax break for employee salaries that are paid for by the loan if the PPP loan is converted into a grant.
  • The White House did not extend its social distancing recommendations after they expired. The White House instead outlined a plan for how states should reopen. Some states are planning to begin a process to re-open their economies from lockdown. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) Director Dr. Anthony Fauci warned that states could be taking risks if they re-open too soon.
  • Dr. Fauci also expressed optimism that an effective vaccine could be available as early as January.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration officially issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for Remdesivir to treat COVID-19. The EUA is limited to hospitalized patients with certain clinical conditions. Remdesivir is not a cure but it has been shown in studies to quicken recovery time.
  • Beginning on Monday at 10 a.m. the U.S. Supreme Court will live stream an audio and visual feed of oral arguments. The Supreme Court has never televised its oral arguments but is doing so in response to the Court building being closed to the public for social distancing. Audio and transcripts of oral arguments are available on the Court’s website but people must attend a hearing in person to observe oral arguments in real time. A few weeks ago, the Court announced it would take the unprecedented step of live streaming ten cases in May while the Court is closed to the public. The arguments will broadcast on CSPAN. These cases could be the only opportunity for people to observe oral arguments from outside the Court building.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) added new terms and conditions for the reimbursements providers can apply for to cover the costs of providing COVID-19 testing and treatment to uninsured people.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced it is bringing together 75 labs will collaborate to research COVID-19. The SARS-CoV-2 Sequencing for Public Health Emergency Response, Epidemiology, and Surveillance (SPHERES) a new national genomics consortium to coordinate SARS-CoV-2 sequencing across the United States. The participants include government, non-profit, academic and commercial labs.
  • The CDC could begin tracking COVID-19 through sewage in wastewater. Since viruses tend to live in human stool, public health experts have tracked diseases through wastewater. This is not a new tactic. It has been used in the past to track viruses such as polio. More research is needed to see if this tactic can be employed to track the coronavirus.
  • The HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) updated its FAQs about how it will apply enforcement discretions during the public health emergency.
  • The CDC published new data on how COVID-19 is impacting meatpacking workers.