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Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Update

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12/30/2020

Congress

  • After passing a $900 billion COVID-19 stimulus bill before Christmas, Congress is now considering legislation to increase the one-time payment to individual taxpayers in that bill from $600 ($1,200 for families) to $2,000 ($4,000 for families). Before signing the bill into law, President Trump criticized the $600 as not enough and called for $2,000 instead. The House passed a standalone bill that would increase that payment to $2,000. The bill faces an uphill battle in the Senate but there is growing momentum in that Chamber for increasing the payment to $2,000.

White House and Federal Agencies

  • New guidance provides a three-month extension for recipients for certain federal COVID-19 relief funds to audit their funding.
  • The NIH has awarded over $107 million to support new, non-traditional approaches and reimagined uses of existing tools to address gaps in COVID-19 testing and surveillance. A part of the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) initiative, the awards from the RADx Radical (RADx-rad) program will support 49 research projects and grant supplements at 43 institutions across the United States. It will focus on non-traditional viral screening approaches, such as biological or physiological markers, new analytical platforms with novel chemistries or engineering, rapid detection strategies, point-of-care devices, and home-based testing technologies.
  • President-elect Joe Biden plans to invoke the Defense Production Act to increase COVID-19 vaccine production.
  • The Department of Defense launched its COVID-19 vaccine availability page to let DOD members know where and when they may find access to a vaccine. The general population will find answers to vaccine availability on the CDC site.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Updates

Economy, Vaccine, Testing and Treatment

  • The U.K. approved AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine.
  • A new, potentially more contagious, strain of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is confirmed to exist in the U.S. after being detected in other countries earlier this month.
    • According to the CDC, at this time, there is no evidence that this variant causes more severe illness or increased risk of death. CDC, in collaboration with other public health agencies, is monitoring the situation closely. CDC will communicate new information as it becomes available.
  • The federal government ordered an additional 100 million doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.
  • The FDA posted an updated letter of authorization, health care provider fact sheet and frequently asked questions regarding the number of Pfizer-BioNTech doses in a vial. These updates are consistent with previous FDA advice that it would be acceptable to use every full dose obtainable (the sixth, or possibly even a seventh) from each vial, pending resolution of the issue. However, since the vaccine does not contain preservative, it is critical to note that any further remaining product that does not constitute a full dose should not be pooled from multiple vials to create one. 
  • The NIH is enrolling participants in a study of allergic reactions to Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.
  • As of December 23rd, just over 1 million Americans have received the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Novavax began enrolling adult volunteers in its Phase 3 trial for its COVID-19 vaccine candidate.
  • FDA has posted translations of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine fact sheet for recipients and caregivers in languages including: Arabic, Burmese, Cherokee, Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), Chuukese, German, Haitian Creole, Hindi, Hmong, Korean, Mam, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Somali, Tagalog, Vietnamese, and Yiddish.
  • Pregnant women who are infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, during the third trimester are unlikely to pass the infection to their newborns, suggests a study funded by the NIH.
  • FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn explains in a new video how all vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccines, must adhere to specific FDA guidelines for safety, including ongoing surveillance.