House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke to reporters on Friday, offering a glimmer of hope that a new COVID-19 stimulus bill would be reached in the next week. As lawmakers wrangle over the details of the package, the predictions of a bleak winter due to the pandemic are coming to fruition.
Pelosi and McConnell Confirm They Are in Negotiations: During her weekly press conference, Pelosi confirmed that she was in discussion with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell about a COVID-19 relief package. Pelosi said that she and McConnell are in agreement that the bill should be bundled with the government funding bill that is set to be voted on next week. This funding bill has a deadline of December 11 in order to prevent a government shutdown. By tying the COVID-19 stimulus to the government funding package, lawmakers are hopeful that both pieces of legislation can be pushed through prior to when Congress breaks for the holiday.Read More »
Talks over a new stimulus package have fizzled out over the last few months. While Congress was quick to act during the beginning of the pandemic, passing the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) on March 27, there has been no additional federal funding since. Earlier in the fall, the Republicans proposed a $500 million deal that Democrats criticized as falling way short of what was needed, particularly struggling small businesses. The Democrats have countered with their own $2 trillion deal.
The goal now is to bridge the gap between the two proposals and find common ground to get the legislation passed through by the end of the year. This is important because many of the previous assistance provisions are set to expire on December 31.
Biden on Vaccine Plan: During his conference with reporters, Biden also discussed the vaccine distribution plan. The incoming president confirmed that the administration of President Donald Trump has shared information about the vaccine distribution with this team. However, Biden said that the plan is not detailed, conceding that there is still a lot that needs to be worked out for the rollout to be successful.
Biden also used this opportunity to stress that his administration was going to make it a goal to distribute the vaccine equitably. He reminded the gathering that Black and Hispanic people have been infected by the virus at disproportionate rates, making it important that they are reached with the vaccine campaign efforts.
State Department Under Fire for Planning Holiday Parties: Government officials on both sides of the aisle have been under fire over the last few weeks for not practicing what they preach. The pressure is now building for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to cancel a series of holiday events that his department has planned for the coming weeks. One of the parties under his direction has an invite list of approximately 900 guests.
In light of the State Department instructing employees to work from home when possible, the parties send a contradictory message about the importance of masking up and social distancing. On Friday, the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) urged the department to model responsible behavior and follow their own guidelines by calling off the planned events. As the statement noted, while the invitees can choose to decline the invitation, their contracted employees do not have this luxury.
San Francisco Bay Area Under New Stay at Home Order: Just like when the pandemic first began, officials in the San Francisco Bay Area are being aggressive about containing the virus. On Friday, government leaders announced a new stay at home order ahead of the statewide mandate. The regional order encompasses the counties Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Santa Clara, and San Francisco. In addition, the city of Berkeley is also under this order.
Nearly six million people are affected by this recent order. The new rules will begin on December 6 and continue through the holidays, ending on January 4. As part of the order, all restaurants must cease outdoor dining, relying on takeout and delivery only. All retail must reduce the maximum capacity to 20%. Additionally, all personal service operations have been ordered to close.
The order comes as health officials continue to warn that hospitals in the state are soon going to reach capacity in the ICU at the current infection trajectory. The Golden State saw 22,018 new COVID-19 cases Friday, shattering the previous daily record. Hospitalizations across the state are also setting new records. Of the 9,940 hospitalized patients, over 2,200 of those are in the ICU.
Vaccines Expected to Ramp Up Quickly: The US Assistant Secretary for Health, Adm. Brett Giroir, said on Friday that he believes that the US will be able to ramp up vaccine distribution quickly. In the remarks made at a meeting of the National Vaccine Advisory Committee, Giroir said that he expects that at least 20 million Americans will receive the vaccine by the end of this year.
Massive Ad Campaign to Begin Next Week: Knowing that many Americans are hesitant about taking the vaccine, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is launching a $250 million ad campaign designed to educate the public about the importance of the immunization efforts. The push will begin as soon as next week and will be spread out over social media and digital platforms. The first advertisements will air on YouTube, featuring advice from Dr. Anthony Fauci.
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