COVID-19 Weekly Newsletter: Biden Announces School Reopening Goals
Despite obstacles posed by severe winter weather on a seemingly national scale, the past week included some significant milestones in the vaccination rollout and national COVID-19 response.
School Opening Plan?
President Biden stated this week he believes by the end of his first 100 days, which is the end of April, K-8 schools will have returned to near-normal in-person learning — with smaller classroom sizes and more protections in place. He indicated that schools may be extended into the summer to make up for days lost to virtual learning. He wants all school staff — teachers, cafeteria workers and administrative staff — to be prioritized for vaccination. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and President Biden’s chief medical adviser, has supported President Biden’s school opening ambitions, but noted this week that opening schools based on the requirement that every teacher must be vaccinated is a “non-workable” situation.
All Vaccine Distribution: Delays and Potential Big Tech Involvement
Vaccine deployment has already had its fair number of hiccups in the past few months, and winter weather events over the last week have created another stumbling block. With nearly 70% of the United States under snow and many without power, weather has delayed the delivery of vaccine shipments, forced vaccine appointments to be cancelled, and rushed public health departments to find storage spots for vaccines that were stored in places that lost power. However, despite the weather delays elsewhere in the country, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was able to open its first COVID-19 mass vaccination site in Los Angeles and Oakland this week. There is a plan to establish 100 similar centers throughout the country. Concurrently, for the past month, Silicon Valley has offered the federal government a helping hand in leveraging their networks, capabilities and real estate. Airbnb suggested creating vaccine depots in their vast network of accommodation sites; Amazon offered its IT operations support; and Google wants to give free ad space to public health authorities to tackle vaccine misinformation.
WHO Includes Oxford/AstraZeneca Vaccine on Emergency Use Listing
This week the World Health Organization (WHO) authorized two versions of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to be placed on the emergency use listing (EUL). This will allow countries who have signed an agreement with the UN-backed global vaccine supply mechanism, COVAX, to start receiving shipments of the vaccine. The two producers of the vaccines are Serum Institute of India and AstraZeneca-SKBio of South Korea. In contrast, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that other vaccines be prioritized — especially with South Africa rolling back its implementation of the AstraZeneca vaccine, as it was found to be less effective against the new COVID-19 variant. This will be the second COVID-19 vaccine to be placed on the EUL, the first being the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine in December.
Congress Readies $1.9 Trillion COVID Relief Package
House Democrats are hoping to pass their $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, named the American Rescue Plan, and send it for the Senate’s consideration next week. The House Budget Committee will meet to advance the legislation Monday at 1 pm. Next, the combined package will be brought to the House Rules Committee for consideration and to establish rules for debate on the full House floor. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said this week he hopes the House will be able to vote on the package by February 26.
Some U.S. States Are Dropping Mask Mandates and Other Restrictions
As COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to trend downwards in the U.S. and vaccines are distributed, some state governors are loosening mitigation strategies, such as mask mandates and limits on social gatherings. These moves have prompted concerns from public health authorities and city leaders as new strains are detected in those states. While some statewide mandates have been discontinued, some localities have decided to keep their restrictions in place.
Information regarding the status of each foreign patent office and the availability of extensions of time in each jurisdiction.
Tracking executive orders, legislation, and other government actions related to COVID-19 by state and major locality across the U.S.
Tracking federal and state law enforcement and regulatory actions taken against bad actors who have exploited the COVID-19 emergency to defraud consumers and payers.