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Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Update

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03/12/2021

Congress

  • The House of Representatives passed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan (ARP) which provides new COVID-19 relief and includes other policies such as expanding access to ACA premium assistance subsidies and new incentives for states to expand Medicaid. President Biden, who championed the bill as his top legislative priority, signed the bill into law this afternoon.
  • Congress will vote on a bipartisan bill to extend the application deadline for new Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans from March 31st to May 31st.
  • On March 18th, the Senate HELP Committee will hold a hearing on the Federal COVID-19 response featuring NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, CDC Dr. Rochelle Walensky, HHS Chief Science Officer Dr. David Kessler and FDA Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research Director Dr. Peter Marks.

White House and Federal Agencies

  • Tonight, President Biden will address the nation outlining the “next phase” of the COVID-19 response. 
  • 200,000 people have enrolled in health insurance through the federal health insurance exchange (healthcare.gov) since the February 15th special enrollment period (SEP) began. President Biden directed HHS to create a three-month SEP in an Executive Order he signed soon after his inauguration.
  • The CMS Office of Minority Health (OMH) developed a COVID-19 Vaccine Resources website of the many Federal resources on the COVID-19 vaccines and organized them for health care professionals, partners, consumers, and for assistance in additional languages.
  • CMS issued new guidance for nursing home visitation requirements. According to the updated guidance, facilities should allow responsible indoor visitation at all times and for all residents, regardless of vaccination status of the resident, or visitor, unless certain scenarios arise.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Updates

Economy, Vaccine, Testing and Treatment

  • The Federal Government ordered an additional 100 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine.
  • A new study found that Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine was effective against three COVID-19 variants.
  • Eli Lilly & Co. released new data that shows its COVID-19 antibody combination treatment bamlanivimab-etesevimab was 87 percent effective at preventing patients from developing severe COVID-19 symptoms. This combination therapy already received an emergency use authorization from the FDA.  
  • New research shows very low rates of allergic reactions to COVID-19 vaccines.
  • HHS announced it is making $250 million in grants available to local governments to improve health literacy and increase COVID-19 vaccination rates for racial and ethnic minorities.
  • Former Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama participated in a new ad campaign to encourage COVID-19 vaccination.
  • New unemployment claims fell by 42,000 to 712,000 the first week of March.