Coronavirus Update
November 12, 2020
Information and resources on federal responses to the coronavirus crisis for state, local, and regional government.
Top News
President-elect Joe Biden announced the names of health experts who will serve on his Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board. Members of the Advisory Board served in previous administrations and have experience responding to nationwide and worldwide public health crises. “Dealing with the coronavirus pandemic is one of the most important battles our administration will face, and I will be informed by science and by experts,” said President-elect Biden. “The advisory board will help shape my approach to managing the surge in reported infections; ensuring vaccines are safe, effective, and distributed efficiently, equitably, and free; and protecting at-risk populations.” The Advisory Board is part of the President-elect’s COVID-19 Plan and broader Transition Plan.

Also on Monday, Pfizer announced that an early analysis of its coronavirus vaccine trial suggests the vaccine is more than 90 percent effective. The U.S. stock market surged on Monday after Pfizer made the announcement. Moderna said trial results for its own vaccine candidate may be available by the end of the month, and trail results for several other vaccines are not far behind.

The U.S. hit another record high number of daily coronavirus cases Wednesday with over 140,000 new cases reported.

Capitol Hill. President-elect Joe Biden’s election, President Trump’s objection to the results, and the unresolved status of Senate control in the next Congress means passage of major coronavirus relief before the end of the year is highly unlikely. Conversations on a relief bill could still pick up again this week, however, with the Senate back in session. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) cited falling unemployment in arguing for a “highly targeted” relief bill, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) rejected that idea, saying “that isn’t something we should be looking at.” Additionally, members of President-elect Biden’s transition team are expected to begin conversations with Congressional Democrats and aides this week to map out a strategy for the lame-duck session, with the aim of getting funding for their priorities in spending legislation before the end of the year (as reported by Bloomberg Government).

Please visit our TFG Coronavirus Legislative Trackers public health & safety, local government relief, and business assistance for detailed information on recently introduced bills.

Administration. HHS Secretary Alex Azar outlined on NBC his view of the timing of availability of a COVID vaccine.  “We have anticipated that we will have enough vaccine by the end of December to have vaccinated our most vulnerable citizens in nursing homes and otherwise…” and “…by the end of January, enough for all health care workers and first responders, and enough for all Americans by the end of March to early April to have general vaccination programs.”

CDC published a scientific brief on the positive effects of community use of cloth masks; the brief notes benefits to both individual wearers and the public generally. CDC recommends community use of masks, specifically non-valved multi-layer cloth masks, to prevent transmission of COVID. Masks are primarily intended to reduce the emission of virus-laden droplets, which is especially relevant for asymptomatic or presymptomatic infected wearers who feel well and may be unaware of their infectiousness to others, and who are estimated to account for more than 50% of transmissions. Masks also help reduce inhalation of these droplets by the wearer.

CDC published guidance regarding risk levels associated with holiday celebrations and small gatherings. Essentially, CDC warns against hosting or attending gatherings with people other than those living in your immediate household. “Holiday celebrations will likely need to be different this year to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Avoid activities that are higher risk for spread. Consider fun alternatives that pose lower risk of spreading COVID-19.”

HHS published an interim final rule and requested comments on its plan to implement certain CARES Act requirements, including the requirement that providers of COVID diagnostic tests make public their cash prices for tests.

A judge ordered SBA to release the names and precise loan amounts of all PPP borrowers. SBA previously released information on loans exceeding $150,000. The ruling came in a case brought by the Center for Public Integrity against SBA; the Memorandum Opinion is here.

DOL reports unemployment insurance weekly claims at 709,000, a decrease of 48,000 from the previous week's revised level. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 4.6 percent for the week ending October 31, a decrease of 0.3%. The New York Times reports that, while new claims declined to a new low from high levels reached in the spring, they “continue to outrun records set in previous recessions.” The Times also notes that “many people already collecting unemployment insurance have been hitting the 26-week limit on benefits that exist in most states.”

HUD released a notification of an expedited process for review of requests for waivers, administrative flexibilities and alternative requirements for numerous statutory and regulatory requirements for the Public Housing program, the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program, Indian Housing Block Grant (IHBG) program and the Indian Community Development Block Grant (ICBG) program.

The Census Bureau responded to allegations of respondent information falsification reported in the press. “The Census Bureau knows of no attempts to systemically falsify respondent information. We employed new information technologies and safeguards to prevent and identify mistakes or misreporting of data. We also conducted extensive follow-up quality assurance interviews. The Census Bureau takes falsification allegations very seriously. Intentional falsification of respondent information by a Census Bureau employee is a serious federal offense, will be fully investigated, and referred for prosecution, if appropriate.”
Industry & Advocacy
New research published in The Lancet Psychiatry Journal indicates COVID survivors are at a greater risk of developing mental illness. Twenty percent of COVID patients are diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder such as anxiety, depression, or insomnia within 90 days after being diagnosed, according to the research. The research was funded by NIH.

The National Association of Manufacturers commended President-elect Joe Biden for calling on all Americans to wear masks. Similarly, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce applauded Biden’s call for mask wearing and said in a statement that the group is encouraged that Biden announced a COVID-19 task force as one of his first actions following the election. The National Retail Federation also released a statement of appreciation regarding the President-election’s comments on the importance of mask-wearing and in his “calls for science-based solutions to this health emergency…”  

The Nature of Immunology published a report finding that children infected with the coronavirus produce weaker antibodies and fewer types of them when compared to adults, suggesting they clear their infection much faster. According to the New York Times, other studies have suggested that an overly strong immune response may be the cause of people who are severely ill or die from COVID-19.

Gallup released a survey finding that 49 percent of people would be very likely to stay at home for a month if officials order a lockdown due to COVID-19. Gallup found that support for lockdowns has been trending downward since peaking at 67 percent in March and April. The survey also found that Americans feel safer being out in public than before, with about 82 percent reporting somewhat or very confident in not contracting the virus while out.

The Hill reported that an estimated 100,000 restaurants will shut down by the end of December – some temporarily, some permanently. The Independent Restaurant Coalition is pushing for the bipartisan Restaurant Act, which would provide $120 billion in grants to restaurants that are not publicly traded and that had annual revenue less than $1.5 million before the pandemic. 
Webinars, Events and Resources
NACo Webinar: COVID-19 Testing Solution available through NACo/CVS Health Partnership
November 13, 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM ET

NACo Webinar: Local Response to COVID-19 Housing Impacts
November 13, 2:00 – 3:00 PM ET

CRS Reports of interest:
For more information please contact Mike Miller: (707) 224-8648