COVID-19 Federal Responses: Thursday, July 16, 2020

COVID-19 Federal Responses: Thursday, July 16, 2020
Key points in this update:

  • Democrats and Republicans have both crafted drafts for the next COVID-19 legislation. Negotiations are to begin soon and ideally will be completed by the time Congress’ August recess.
  • CMS Administrator Seema Verma published an article in Health Affairs that describes the positive effects that expansions to Medicare telehealth policies had on providers and beneficiaries during the pandemic.
  • The CDC updated many of its policies and guidelines.
  • Four companies have presented promising vaccine clinical trial results.


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced that Republicans will introduce new Coronavirus legislation, slated to focus on liability protections, reopening schools, Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funding and more, with a $1 trillion cap.

  • Bipartisan negotiations are expected to begin shortly after the Senate Republicans introduce their bill.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) requesting a report on it efforts to address racial health disparities.

White House and Federal Agencies

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) published FAQs to provide clarification about the taxation of Provider Relief Fund payments. Generally, provider relief fund payments are taxable for for-profit entities but not taxable for non-profit entities.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield stated that habitual use of face coverings by all Americans could help reduce COVID-19 rates within four to eight weeks.

CMS Administrator Seema Verma published an article in Health Affairs that describes the positive effects that expansions to Medicare telehealth policies had on providers and beneficiaries during the pandemic.

The Trump Administration will now require hospitals to report COVID-19 data directly to HHS instead of to the CDC. Critics believe this move undermines the CDC’s role in managing the COVID-19 response. HHS says it made this decision because its data collection system allows for more real time action compared to the CDC’s system. 

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) created the NIH Public Health Emergency and Disaster Research Response (DR2) website to serve as a centralized location for COVID-19 related data collection tools.

The U.S. plans to extend border restriction agreements with Canada and Mexico prohibiting non-essential travel between these countries. The previous agreement is set to expire on July 21. The restrictions will reportedly be extended into late August.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

The CDC updated its social distancing guidelines, which include tips for social distancing both indoors and outdoors.

The CDC updated its General Public Toolkit, which includes videos, fact sheets, and other resources that provide guidance to the public on how to best prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The CDC has updated its Businesses and Workplaces Toolkit, which provides employers with best practices for employee and community safety and reopening strategies.

The CDC updated its Young Adults Toolkit that provides guidance for going out and social activities especially tailored to young adults between the ages of 15 and 21.

The CDC updated guidelines for U.S. healthcare facilities. New guidelines are available by facility type.

The CDC updated its infection control guidance, which provides general recommendations to healthcare providers about their interactions with patients during the pandemic.

The CDC has updated testing guidelines for healthcare workers with sections covering different settings, broad-based testing, and testing for animals.

The CDC has updated guidance for domestic travelers, providing tips and best practices on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 when travelling by air, car, train, bus, etc.

The CDC released a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) detailing the demographic and clinical differences of those who died of COVID-19. Findings confirmed that people of color, including those under 65, are disproportionately affected by the virus.

The CDC released a MMWR that details the sociodemographic differences between mask-wearers and non-mask-wearers and suggests that public health officials use this data to target mask-wearing messages to audiences who have not yet adopted the use of face masks.

The CDC has published a graphic that provides step-by-step guidance on how to collect anterior nasal swab samples for COVID-19 testing.

The CDC has released guidelines, planning documents, and communications tools for colleges and universities to use as they try to develop reopening plans.

Reopening, Vaccine and Treatment

The NIH has created the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) Open Data Portal. The Open Data Portal is aimed at providing data to scientists about the effectiveness of certain drugs repurposed as potential treatments for COVID-19.

An experimental COVID-19 vaccine developed by Moderna Inc. shows promising results after all 45 volunteers who participated in Phase 1 trials developed neutralizing antibodies.

Johnson and Johnson will begin human trials next week for a vaccine they are developing.

A report from the Federal Reserve shows that economic activity increased in May and June, but now faces uncertainty in July as the country starts to see a resurgence in COVID-19 cases.

Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Brett Giroir continues to urge Americans to wear masks and socially distance as public health officials predict a rise in COVID-19-related deaths.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he believes young people participating in social events, while acting innocently, are adding to infection rates and risk spreading the virus further.

A report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine supports reopening schools full-time in the fall, especially for grades K-5 and students with special needs, to reduce the risk of students falling behind.

The Food and Drug Administration has updated its Coronavirus Treatment Acceleration Program (CTAP) webpage. The webpage includes information on the developments of potential COVID-19 therapies.

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