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COVID-19 Update
April 28, 2020

IowaBio wants to provide our members useful information during the COVID-19 public health emergency. This newsletter compiles information on state, federal and industry action to combat the virus and its impacts.

If your company is helping respond to COVID-19, IowaBio wants to know about it. Please, send any information about what your biotechnology company or organization is doing to help, to Jessica Hyland at Jessica@iowabio.org.

If IowaBio can assist you in getting information out, connecting with public officials, or support your company in another way, please do not hesitate to reach out.

Past IowaBio COVID-19 Update newsletters are now available at www.iowabio.org/COVID19 and can be found under the Industry News tab on the IowaBio website.

Iowa Update

Governor Kim Reynolds will hold a press conference today from the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) in Johnston, IA at 11:00 a.m. to provide an update to the state of Iowa on COVID-19. That press conference will be livestreamed and posted in full on Governor Reynolds’ Facebook Page and on YouTube.
 
Yesterday, the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) was notified of 349 additional positive cases for a total of 5,868 positive cases. There have been an additional 1,668 negative tests for a total of 32,282 negative tests to date.  According to IDPH, an additional 9 deaths were also reported (totaling 127). 300 are currently hospitalized, and 2,021 Iowans have recovered. At this time, 1 in 82 Iowans have been tested. 
 
The Legislative Services Agency (LSA) published a paper on Iowa’s death rate versus that of the rest of the country, which shows Iowa’s death rate is much lower than the national average.
 
Yesterday at her press conference, Governor Reynolds said they have significantly expanded testing, and begun serology testing. Expanding serology testing will help expand information about who has had the virus. She said soon we will be able to expand our testing to 3,000 Iowans per day, and that’s on top of what they are already doing. This helps her administration manage the virus with data, in a targeted approach.

We must learn to live with the coronavirus, but not let it govern our lives, she said. Mitigation steps that have been taken were taken to slow the spread. She said this level of mitigation is not sustainable long term. The Governor said we must shift to containing and managing the virus long term, to balance the health of the people and the health of the economy, and that Iowa can protect life and secure livelihoods at the same time.

She announced a targeted approach to reopening the economy. Governor Reynolds signed a new proclamation continuing the State Public Health Emergency Declaration until May 27, 2020. The proclamation loosens social distancing measures in 77 Iowa counties effective Friday, May 1 and continues other restrictions until 11:50 p.m. on Friday, May 15, 2020.

In the 77 counties, the proclamation permits restaurants, fitness centers, malls, libraries, race tracks, and certain other retail establishments to reopen in a limited fashion, with public health measures in place. In addition, the proclamation lifts the restriction on religious and spiritual gatherings so long as churches and other gathering hosts implement reasonable public health measures. All other regulatory relief previously provided to affected Iowans is also extended until Wednesday, May 27, 2020.
 
The 22 counties still under strong mitigation measures through May 15 are: Allamakee, Benton, Black Hawk, Bremer, Dallas, Des Moines, Dubuque, Fayette, Henry, Iowa, Jasper, Johnson, Linn, Louisa, Marshall, Muscatine, Polk, Poweshiek, Scott, Tama, Washington, or Woodbury County
 
Watch the governor’s news conference here.  The full proclamation is online in its entirety: https://www.homelandsecurity.iowa.gov/documents/disasters/proclamations/2020/PROC_2020_44_COVID-19_April27.pdf

Coinciding with the May 15 extension, the Iowa House and Senate leadership announced that the suspension of the legislative session will be extended through May 15. The Legislative Council will meet over teleconference this week. A date for the meeting has not yet been set.

LSA published a state tax revenue document. The data used includes State tax deposits and tax refunds issued from March 19 through April 24 for calendar years 2019 and 2020. Over that time frame, net State tax revenue declined $307.3 million and 48.0% year-over-year. Much of the significant decrease experienced over the time frame resulted not from the business closures and other impacts of COVID-19, but instead from the tax due date delays. The full impact of COVID-19 business closures cannot yet be seen in this data set. LSA predicts in coming weeks and months, the tax revenue consequences of the current situation will likely become more severe.

Yesterday In a letter to Vice President Mike Pence – the head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force – Governor Kim Reynolds, U.S. Senators Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley along with Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig are asking for additional support from the administration for the state’s pork producers. See the letter here.
 
Federal Legislation

Supplemental IV – CARES 2.0. / Phase 4

Timeline: Attention has turned to the next bill, termed “CARES 2.0” by some and “COVID 4” by others. The House is still scheduled to return on May 4, but a bill likely won’t be ready for a vote until mid- or late-May. There have been rumblings that Speaker Pelosi may unveil the next coronavirus supplemental as early as later this week, but as some committees have yet to pass legislative text on to leadership, next week is more likely. House Democrats still see Phase 4 as the next step in supplementals with a vote in May, followed by an infrastructure-focused bill in June.

Process/Politics: It’s likely that House Democrats will take the lead on drafting the next bill. However, as far as negotiations with Republicans goes, finding common ground on this bill may be more difficult than earlier supplementals. Republicans have said they want to slow down and see how the spending so far has been used before moving forward. Additionally, there continues to be a push for remote voting. The New Democrat Coalition sent letter today supporting remote voting. If House leadership agrees to proxy voting, the process could move quicker.

Policy: Phase 4 will likely be a large package, totally at least $1 trillion. The bill Speaker Pelosi introduces will likely heavily mirror many of the priorities reflected in the “Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act”, which House Dems released prior to Senate passage of CARES. Text here, summary here, and one pager here. Ways and Means has been working on provisions to provide another round of stimulus checks, more unemployment assistance, and tax incentives to help address supply chain issues.

Highlights from the Democratic “Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act”, some of which were implemented in CARES include:
  • $150 billion for hospitals, CHCs, government medical systems, including $80 billion in low-interest loans to hospitals;
  • $1,500 to individuals in direct cash payment, up to $7,500 for a family of five;
  • Expansion of Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit;
  • Expands paid sick days and family medical leave (extends to 12/31/2021, paid sick leave required regardless of size of the company);
  • Health extenders extended to end of the fiscal year;
  • $500+ billion grants and interest-free loans (some forgivable) for small businesses, additional $184 billion for low-interest disaster loans;
  • $200 billion state stabilization fund, $15 billion in Community Development Block Grant for local governments;
  • $60 billion for schools/universities ($50 billion for states’ school funding and $10 billion for higher education);
  • $10 billion in grants to airports, $40 billion in grants to airlines and ground support contractors ($21 billion in loans), $100 million in grants to maintain service to small communities.
  • Housing support, including $100 billion for emergency rental assistance to low-income renters at risk of homelessness, $32 billion for state housing agencies, and $1.1 billion for HUD multi-family housing programs;
  • $25 billion for public transportation to ensure continued operations;
  • Over $250 million for investments in telemedicine (ReConnect, Distance Learning and Telemedicine), $2 billion for broadband hotspots/devices to for distance learning, and $1 billion for the expansion of broadband access to low-income Americans.
Last week, the President called for aid to state and local governments, infrastructure investment, a payroll tax cut, and tax breaks for restaurants, sports, and entertainment interests. Some Republican members have said they want a more economic stimulus and recovery-focused bill, with funding for infrastructure like broadband, roads, and bridges. Republicans have also voiced concern around energy industry losses and its implication for the broader economy.

Yesterday, the Republican Study Committee released a 37-point proposal outlining plans for combatting COVID-19 and facilitating economic recovery. Highlights include:
  • Offset future COVID-19-related deficits and implement a “spending control” mechanism such as tying spending to annual revenues or potential GDP;
  • Sanction Chinese officials, end visas for Chinese government officials, prohibit distribution of China Daily, pressure the Chinese government to allow the CDC access to China, and direct a Congressional probe of the World Health Organization and its relationship with China;
  • Further expand telemedicine services, relax restrictions of drone deliveries for medical purposes;
  • Remove barriers to production of drugs, ingredients, and medical devices and allow businesses to instantly expense investments in R&D and physical capital;
  • Direct the FDA to fast-track any COVID-19 related drug or device approved in an allied country;
  • Waive certain federal hiring requirements and alter the GS wage scale to give greater compensation to those within need skills;
  • Give all federal agencies access to death data, require sharing of death data by states, to ensure benefits are not distributed to deceased individuals;
  • Streamline certain federal permitting processes related to NEPA and endangered species’ habitats.
  • Ensure gig workers are treated as independent contractors and not as employees;
  • Allow investments in workers’ education to be tax deductible;
  • Allow employers to offer alternatives to overtime and pay above what is specified in a union contract;
  • Relax public housing voucher requirements;
  • Allow students in short-term career and technical education to be eligible for Pell Grants;
  • Allow 529 Accounts for homeschooling funds;
  • Remove CARES Act language that prohibits providers who receive funding from HUD’s Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) program to require participants to use certain support services.
Passed Legislation

New information and guidance regarding passed legislation:
  • 4/27 – Outline of the Provider Relief Fund with additions from COVID 3.5 here.
  • 4/26 – CMS suspended the Advance Payments Program, to the surprise of Democrats, who were actively negotiating with the department officials on modifying the program. For providers who have already applied for the program, the announcement doesn’t affect them. Press release here.
  • 4/24 – SBA released updated data on Economic Injury Disaster Loans here and EIDL Advance here.
  • 4/24 – SBA released an interim final rule on requirements for Promissory Notes, Authorizations, Affiliation, and Eligibility. Interim Final Rule here. Additional eligibility criteria and requirements for certain loans here.
  • 4/24 – SBA issued a procedural guidance on participation sales here.
  • Treasury released an interim final rule for the Paycheck Protection Program on how lenders will calculate loan amounts for employers with seasonal employees. Rule here.
Supplemental 3.5 – Interim Emergency Coronavirus Relief, formally titled “Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act” (HR 266)

The President signed the bill into law on April 24. Text here. Section by section here. Summary of hospital and testing provisions here. DPCC one pager here. Senate Democrats summary of health provisions. Overview of commitments regarding health funding and Medicare advance payments the Administration made as part of negotiations.
Highlights include:
  • $310 billion total for PPP with $250 billion unrestricted and a $60 billion set aside for smaller institutions:
    • $30 billion for assets less than $10 billion;
    • $30 billion for assets between $10 billion and $50 billion.
  • $50 billion for EIDL loans;
  • $10 billion for EIDL Advance grants;
  • $2.1 billion for SBA administrative expenses.
  • The bill also clarifies agriculture enterprises are eligible for PPP (they were eligible for 7(a) in the past, but they weren’t eligible for EIDL because they received disaster relief from USDA in the past). 
  • The bill did not expand PPP eligibility to 501(c)(6)s and 501(c)(7)s, but lawmakers have brought up the issue with Secretary Mnuchin, specifically regarding local and regional chambers of commerce. Treasury is currently looking into is whether they have enough regulatory authority to expand eligibility or if that requires a legislative fix.
  • $75B for hospitals and providers (summary of hospital and testing provisions here);
  • $25 billion for testing, broken into the following categories:
    • $11 billion for states, localities, territories, and tribes to develop, purchase, administer, process, and analyze COVID-19 tests, scale-up laboratory capacity, trace contracts, and support employer testing.
      • $2 billion for states using the Public Health Emergency Preparedness grant formula;
      • $4.5 billion provided to hotspot areas;
      • $750 million for tribes, tribal organizations, and urban Indian health organizations in coordination with IHS.
    • $1 billion for the CDC for surveillance, epidemiology, laboratory capacity, contact tracing, public health data, and analytics infrastructure modernization;
    • $1.8 billion to NIH for testing and associated technologies and for partnerships to research and implement the activities;
      • (Note: This bill will roughly double the amount that Congress has appropriated for NIH for COVID-19 purposes so far.)
    • $ 1 billion for BARDA for advanced research, development, manufacturing, production and purchase of COVID-19 tests and related supplies;
    • $22 million for the FDA for diagnostic activities;
    • $825 million for Community Health Centers and rural health clinics;
    • $1 billion to cover costs of testing for the uninsured;
    • $6 million for the HHS Office of Inspector General.
Supplemental III – Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act

After a unanimous vote by the Senate, the House passed the bill on March 27 and the President signed the bill into law shortly after. Final text here. Democratic summary here. Republican section by section here.

Small Business Loans
  • 4/24 – Data on Economic Injury Disaster Loans here, EIDL Advance here.
  • 4/23 – The Treasury Department asked all publicly traded companies that received funds under the program to return the funds within two weeks.
  • The Treasury Department released an interim final rule on the small business provisions in the bill. See here for a memo Cornerstone put together on the interim final rule.
  • Treasury FAQs on the Paycheck Protection Program
    • Top-line overview of the program here
    • Lender information here, Borrower information here, borrower application here
    • PPP FAQ here (as of 4/23)
Individual and Business Tax Relief
  • IRS guidance on deferral of payroll taxes here
  • House Ways and Means factsheet on Economic Impact Rebate portal here
  • IRS’s FAQ page on individual economic relief here.
  • Treasury Guidance on Employee Retention Tax Credit here
  • Treasury FAQ on Employee Retention Tax Credit here
Public Health Systems, Education, and Healthcare
  • 4/23 – As part of negotiations on 3.5, the Administration made commitments on how the next $60 billion in the health relief fund will be distributed. HHS has committed that it will send out an additional $60 billion dollars in the coming weeks, much of it coming within the next 10 days. That funding will be distributed as follows:
    • $10 billion for hotspots, which will be for the top 100 counties with Covid-19 cases to date. Payments are expected to be distributed by next Wednesday, April 29. The funding will be based on total ICU beds and Covid-19 patient admissions, cumulatively for the period from January 1 to April 10. An additional weighting factor, using Medicaid DSH status, will provide a greater proportion of this funding to those that treat underserved patients.
    • $10 billion in additional hotspot funding, expected to go out in the next 45 days.
    • $10 billion for rural health care.
    • $400 million for Native American health care systems. Payments are expected to be distributed on Friday, April 24.
    • $20 billion to reconcile the inequities from the initial $30 billion, which was based on Medicare fee-for-service payments and left out providers that rely heavily on non-FFS payers. When combined with the initial $30 billion, this total will be calculated based on the provider’s portion of 2018 net patient revenue. Of this total, $9.3 billion will be released by Friday, and the remaining $10.7 billion will require providers to submit an application attesting to their revenue. Those payments will go out weekly on a rolling basis.
    • $10 billion to cover the cost of providing treatment for the uninsured. Applications will be accepted within 10 days, with payments going out within 30 days.
  • 4/22 – CARES Act Provider Relief Fund overview here. State by state breakdown of first payment here.
  • 4/23 – As part of negotiations on 3.5, the Administration made commitments on changes to Medicare advance payment policies. The administration committed that, by the end of this week, Secretary Mnuchin and Chief of Staff Meadows will release a letter stating that they will:
    • Use their administrative authority to reduce the interest rate down from what is currently 10.25 percent to a rate that is more in line with a traditional federal interest rate.
    • Use their administrative authority to extend the repayment period beyond 12 months.
    • Work with Congress and support legislation in Corona 4 that will place the liability for these payments in Treasury’s General Revenue fund, rather than the Medicare Hospital Insurance and Supplemental Medical Insurance Trust Funds. The expansion of these programs must not adversely affect Medicare’s solvency or result in premium increases for seniors.
  • 4/9 – Secretary DeVos indicated that she would be moving to "immediately distribute" the $6 billion in CARES for emergency financial aid grants to college students. The grants can be used by college students for technology, course materials, food, housing, and healthcare. DeVos distributed the funding to colleges, which are meant to then distribute the aid among students. The Department did not issue guidance on how colleges are to structure the program, but colleges will be required to sign a form certifying that the funds were used in accordance with the law. See here for the specific allocations for each college.
Economic Stabilization
  • 3/30 – The Treasury Department released guidance on payroll support to airline industry employees, and on loans to the airline industry and businesses critical to national security. Guidance for payroll support here. Guidance on procedures and minimum requirements for loans here. Treasury press release here.
  • 4/10 – Treasury Q&A on Loans to Air Carriers and Eligible Businesses and National Security Businesses here. Loan application here.
State, Local, and Tribal Government Funding
  • 4/13 – Treasury launched its web portal for payments to state, local, and tribal governments. Treasury announced that eligible government entities must provide required information by Friday, April 17 to receive payment within the 30-day window allowed under CARES and those that miss that deadline may not receive funding. Submission page here. Some highlights from the announcement below:
    • Funds are only allowed to be used for expenses which:
      • Are necessary expenses during the coronavirus emergency;
      • Were not accounted in the most recent budget (as of March 27, 2020);
      • Were incurred between 3/1/2020 – 12/30/2020.
    • Eligible local governments are those below the state level (county, municipality etc.) with a population higher than 500,000. See here for data sources and the distribution methodology.  See here for a list of eligible local government units.
    • Amounts paid to governments will be based on population and the amounts allocated to states will be reduced by the total amount provided to local governments in the state. 
    • Payments to Tribal Governments will be determined by the Treasury Secretary in consultation with the Interior Secretary and Tribes. While consultation has been completed, more than a dozen tribes have sued the Treasury Department over its guidance identifying Alaska Native Corporations (ANCs) as eligible entities for the fund. On Wednesday, Secretary Mnuchin said that the department would not be releasing funding until Tuesday, April 28 – two days after the deadline outlined in the CARES Act.
  • 4/22 – Treasury issued guidance on the state/local/tribal governments fund here
    • The guidance further defines what expenses qualify as “necessary expenditures” and provides examples as well as examples of ineligible expenses.
Supplemental II – Families First Coronavirus Response Act (HR 6201)

The Senate passed the House bill on March 18 and the President signed the bill into law that evening. Bill text here. Factsheet here. Bill section by section here. A summary of paid leave provisions, incorporating changes made by technical correction, is here.
 
Supplemental I – Coronavirus Supplemental

Signed by the President March 6. Text here, summary here.

Congress

Session: Yesterday, Leader McConnell confirmed that the Senate will return next week on May 4. Leader Hoyer said on a call with House Democrats that the House would also return May 4, but mostly for committee work and minimal floor activity. D.C. is currently under a stay-at-home order, and Maryland and Virginia have similar orders in place. Speaker Pelosi has advised members to keep their schedule flexible and said that the House may meet during weeks previously scheduled as District Work Periods.

Appropriations/NDAA: While timing continues to be unclear, House Appropriations Committee (HAC) will likely stick to the original subcommittee order of markups, just shifting everything back by 2-3 weeks. The first markups were slated to begin April 22. SAC has given subcommittees direction to stick with the original plan of marking up all of the bills in June.

This year’s NDAA markup has been “indefinitely postponed”. Reps. Adam Smith and Thornberry (HASC Chair and RM) sent a letter to the committee members saying that they will schedule the date of the markup once the House schedule for the next few months becomes clear. SASC Chairman Inhofe has said he aims to write the FY21 NDAA by the end of May but is flexible considering the circumstances.

Remote voting: After pushback from Republicans, Speaker Pelosi pulled a proxy voting proposal, and instead tasked a bipartisan group to review proposals for proxy voting and procedures to reopen the House. The group includes Majority Leader Hoyer, Minority Leader McCarthy, Chairman McGovern (Rules), Ranking Member Cole (Rules), Chairwoman Lofgren (House Admin), and Ranking Member Davis (House Admin). There continues to be a push for remote voting. The New Democrat Coalition sent letter yesterday supporting remote voting. The resolution proposed by Chairman McGovern here and includes protocols for proxy floor voting, and remote committee hearings and markups. Rules Majority proxy voting FAQ here. Leader McConnell, as of right now, is not supportive of any form of remote voting. 

Other Floor Action: The House has issued guidance indicated that Floor materials are to be submitted through a secure email address instead of dropped off at the Speaker’s Lobby or Cloakrooms. Members are still allowed to drop off materials in person. Speaker’s Dear Colleague on the guidance here

Hearings and Meetings: Next week when the House is back, there will be in-person committee hearings and markups, but member attendance will be staggered and scheduled in large committee rooms to ensure members practice social distancing measures. Leader Hoyer has been working with Leader McCarthy to develop an official remote working plan. Under current rules, the House does not allow virtual hearings. Chairman McGovern’s proxy voting proposal would also allow remote hearings and markups.
 
The Senate Rules Committee Democrats released a one-pager guidance on “paper hearings”, which stated “paper hearings” are not official hearings. The Senate Sergeant at Arms is exploring technology that would allow for remote hearings, though Leader McConnell remains opposed to any form of remote voting. The Senate has advised offices to avoid using the video conferencing app Zoom over data security concerns. The Senate has not yet officially banned the application though.

Members of Congress in Quarantine or Treatment (new additions in bold)

Tested Positive (1): Rep. Neal Dunn (R-FL)

Currently Self-Quarantined (0):

Recovered (6): Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-SC), Rep. Ben McAdams (D-UT), Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA), Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY)

Completed Quarantine (37): Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), Rep. Sharice Davids (D-KS), Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO), Rep. Julia Brownley (D-CA), Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI), Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY), Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Rep. Vincente Gonzalez (D-TX), Rep. Drew Ferguson (R-GA), Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ), Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-NY), Rep. David Price (D-NC), Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO), Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY), Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA), Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL), Rep. Andy Kim (D-NJ), Rep. Kendra Horn (D-OK), Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA), Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA), Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D-TX), Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ)

Other Federal Actions
  • The White House released the Opening Up America Again Testing Overview and Testing Blueprint to facilitate state development and implementation of the testing plans and rapid response programs described in the President’s Opening Up America Again Guidelines. The blueprint describes a partnership between federal, state, local, and tribal governments, and the private sector. The overview and blueprint do not specify how states will be able to test at least 2 percent of their populations every month, which is what administration officials had promised.
  • The CDC has been busy uploading new guidance and updated resources for COVID-19 on their dashboard. On Sunday, the agency posted an interim guidance document for meat and poultry processing workers and employers. Today, there is more information about contact tracing, new symptoms associated with COVID-19, and a toolkit for transportation partners to inform road travelers.
  • Yesterday, CMS announced that it is reevaluating the amounts that will be paid under its Accelerated Payment Program (AAP) and suspending its Advance Payment Program to Part B suppliers effective immediately. Since expanding the AAP programs on March 28th, CMS approved over 21,000 applications totaling $59.6 billion in payments to Part A providers, which includes hospitals. For Part B suppliers, including doctors, non-physician practitioners, and durable medical equipment suppliers, CMS approved almost 24,000 applications advancing $40.4 billion in payments. 
  • USDA Sec. Sonny Perdue announced that Kansas and Virginia have been approved to operate Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT), authorized by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which provides assistance to families of children eligible for free or reduced-price meals dealing with school closures.
  • The USDA Agricultural Marketing Services posted to the federal register the availability of $3 billion in funds for the purchase and distribution of fresh produce and dairy and meat products for Americans facing challenges due to the COVID-19 national emergency.
  • The FDA provided an update today on the availability of alcohol-based hand sanitizer and said more than 1,500 additional manufacturers have registered with the agency to produce hand sanitizer. At the same time, the agency is addressing safety concerns related to products being sold that are not in line with the FDA’s policy and others being marketed with unproven claims.
  • On April 29th from 12:15 pm - 1:15 pm ET, the FDA will host a virtual Town Hall for clinical laboratories and commercial manufacturers that are developing or have developed diagnostic tests for SARS-CoV-2. The purpose of this Town Hall is to help answer technical questions about the development and validation of tests for SARS-CoV-2.
  • The FDA is hosting a webinar on April 30th at 1:00 pm about ET “Conducting Clinical Trials During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency.”
  • Education Sec. Betsy DeVos announced yesterday that more than $300 million in discretionary grant funds will be available for states to use to create adaptable, innovative learning opportunities for K-12 and postsecondary learners in response to COVID-19. The grants will be funded through the Education Stabilization Fund (ESF), authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
  • The Executive Office of the President posted a proclamation about the suspension of entry of immigrants who present a risk to the U.S. labor market during the economic recovery following COVID-19.
  • VA officials say five million masks ordered by the Veterans Health Administration to protect staff at VA hospitals were taken by FEMA for the Strategic National Stockpile. After an appeal from VA Secretary Robert Wilkie to FEMA, the agency provided the VA with 500,000 masks last week.
    • The number of veterans and healthcare workers diagnosed with COVID-19 at VA hospitals and clinics continues to surge. Over the weekend, cases among veterans topped 6,900 while cases among VA employees reached 1,900. 435 VA patients have died from the virus.
Updates from the States
  • Out of the cases under investigation detected by U.S. surveillance, there are total cases: 957,875 and 53,922 deaths  The CDC data closes out the day before reporting.
  • President Trump suggested on a call with governors yesterday that some should make an effort to reopen their public schools before the end of the academic year. Montana, which has among the fewest cases and deaths, will give schools the option to reopen starting May 7th.
  • Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) and Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) announced their states will be joining California, Oregon, and Washington in the Western States Pact – a working group of Western state governors who have a shared plan for modifying stay-at-home orders.
  • The Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) has provided masks to all inmates (approximately 18,500 total) and correctional staff amid the coronavirus pandemic. To date, four inmates within MDOC have tested positive for COVID-19 and 21 have tested negative.
  • New Jersey Gov. Murphy (D) said Monday that he would need to see four things before he would consider reopening businesses and schools: a prolonged decline in hospitalization and infection rates, expanded testing, more contact tracing and places for those who were sick with the virus to remain in isolation.
  • Updates on Lockdowns/Reopening:
    • Gov. Polis signed an executive order outlining the new “safer at home” level for the state’s response which includes some new benchmarks for reopening. Starting today, retail businesses can open for curbside delivery, starting Friday, personal services can open if they are implementing best practices, and on May 4th, offices can reopen at a 50 percent reduced in-person staffing capacity (but are still encouraged to allow employees to telecommute). Child care facilities can also expand or reopen if they are following Safer at Home requirements. 
    • Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced the reopening of the state’s businesses in phases starting Friday and said he was allowing the stay-at-home order to expire on April 30th.
    • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) outlined a multi-phase plan, based on regional analysis and determinations, to re-open New York. This will only be implemented once the region experiences a 14-day decline in the hospitalization rate.
    • Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) allowed retail businesses to become operational today or after if they adhere to requirements to limit capacity and maintain strict physical distancing. Restaurants, bars, breweries, and distilleries can begin providing some in-establishment services on May 4th.
    • Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) allowed restaurants and retailers to reopen at 50 percent capacity in the vast majority of counties.
    • Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) will allow restaurants, movie theaters, sporting venues, and gyms to reopen May 1st if they maintain "strict social distancing and sanitation protocols." Bars, schools, and sporting events, however, will still be closed.
    • In Minnesota, Gov. Tim Walz (D) said he will allow some businesses to reopen beginning Monday.
    • Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D) has opened beaches for exercising, but said people cannot loiter on the beach and must maintain social distance. Elective surgeries are also allowed to take place as long as there is enough capacity.
    • Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) is extending the state's current stay-at-home order through May 15th, keeping bars, dine-in restaurants and barber shops closed for two additional weeks before starting a phased reopening of the economy on May 16th.
  • Useful state data:
    • The NYT is now tracking which states are reopening and which are still shut down.
    • These charts show cumulative coronavirus cases and deaths for metropolitan areas over time.
    • Use Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 U.S. map as a resource for media, policymakers and communities to view a collection of critical public health data in one online destination and better understand and track the COVID-19 pandemic in populations both large and small across the country.
    • NASHP has developed a COVID-19 State Action Center which serves as a state-level policy dashboard.
    • This site from the Kaiser Family Foundation provides state-level information on cases/deaths, social distancing measures, health policy actions, and more.
    • This resource from Bloomberg Law is a database of State Quarantine and Public Health Laws related to the COVID-19 response.
    • This series of maps shows how states are responding to COVID-19, and this tracker, created and maintained by MultiState Associates, has an up-to-date list of executive orders and various travel restrictions.
    • Finally, this site offers COVID-19 projections assuming full social distancing and can be broken down by state.
International Affairs
  • As serological testing capacity increases worldwide, countries and businesses are developing plans to implement broader testing programs and evaluating mechanisms to use the available data. One particular tool that has been mentioned by health and elected officials in multiple countries is “immunity passports/certificates” that could enable those with antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 to resume normal activities; however, this concept presents a myriad of technical, social, ethical, and legal challenges. The WHO published a statement regarding the use of serological tests for this purpose. The WHO notes that there is not currently sufficient evidence to determine whether individuals who have been previously infected with SARS-CoV-2 are immune to future infections.
  • More than a million Australians have downloaded a coronavirus contact tracing app within hours of it being released by the government. The COVIDSafe smartphone app uses a Bluetooth wireless signal to exchange a "digital handshake" with another user when they come within five feet. The app then logs this contact and encrypts it.
  • Users will be notified if they have had more than 15 minutes of close contact with another user who tests positive.
  • Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a new rent subsidy program which would provide financial resources to property owners and businesses to cover rent payments. The program would pay 50 percent of the rent for three months to the building owners, but it requires them to reduce the rent cost and refrain from evicting tenants. The businesses themselves would be required to cover the remaining rent.
  • National and local health officials in South Korea published a case study of a COVID-19 outbreak at a call center. The cluster of COVID-19 cases was originally reported in early March, in a “commercial-residential mixed-use building,” and the outbreak resulted in 97 confirmed cases at the time of the investigation.
  • Paraguay President Mario Abdo Benitez announced Monday that in-person classes will remain closed through December.  Benitez said that although there is “scientific evidence suggesting children are less vulnerable to the virus,” the government has a “constitutional obligation” to care for the health of its citizens.
  • Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari has extended the country’s coronavirus lockdown in three major states —Abuja, Lagos and Ogun — for another week until May 4th.
  • UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson returned to work, several weeks after being diagnosed with and hospitalized for COVID-19. He addressed the country from 10 Downing Street, thanking first responders and citizens for their dedication, support, and cooperation. He emphasized that, while the economic and other hardships resulting from social distancing are difficult, the UK must resist the urge to resume normal activities too soon.
  • Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Russian President Vladimir Putin would meet tomorrow with regional governors to discuss the spread of COVID-19 around the country. On a conference call, Peskov was asked when Russians could expect their self-isolation orders to end, and he responded that it was too early for predictions.
  • The Russian military reported 2,090 cases of the coronavirus among its personnel, cadets and civilian employees, according to the country's defense ministry.
  • A village in India’s southern state of Kerala is distributing 10,000 umbrellas to residents to help maintain social distancing. The idea is to stand next to one another with open umbrellas to maintain a distance of at least a meter.
  • Global Cases:  2,878,196   (the U.S. now accounts for nearly 1/3 of global cases)       Total Deaths:  198,668
Lifestyle and Economy
  • As online shopping has increased, demand for Amazon delivery folks has skyrocketed. Amazon hired 175,000 more workers over the last two months to keep up with orders.
  • Food delivery apps like Grubhub, DoorDash, and UberEats have said they would suspend some or all of the commissions they take on orders to help restaurants continue to offer takeout. Restaurants have said other fees still apply.
  • Apple is pushing back the production ramp-up of its flagship iPhones coming later this year by about a month. Apple’s annual product refresh fuels the majority of iPhone sales for an entire year, making new phones the linchpin of a business segment that accounts for more than half of the company’s total revenue.
  • Stocks rose Monday, with investors betting that stimulus measures and the easing of coronavirus-lockdown measures around the world could help kick-start economic activity. The Dow increased 1.5 percent and the S&P 500 followed suit.
  • Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and other U.S. companies are scheduled to report their Q1 results in the next few days. The reports are likely to provide insights on how leaders of the biggest American businesses view prospects for the rest of the year, though the pandemic still makes these forecasts less reliable than in previous quarters.
  • WIRED recently published “An Oral History of the Day Everything Changed,” which documents prominent Americans looking back at when they realized COVID-19 was a big deal.
  • Demand for in-home care has increased as older adults shelter in place. The uptick in need is stretching thin an already burdened caregiver network.
  • Forbes is keeping a running list of all major international airline COVID-19-related change and cancellation policies.
  • The New York Times has started its own tracker of cases in the U.S. to fill in the gaps left by agency data.
  • Lists of canceled conferences and events can be found here (music), here (tech), here (general), and here (sports/entertainment).
Helpful Articles/Media
Please contact me directly with any questions and I would be happy to assist.

Sincerely,
Jessica

Jessica Hyland, J.D.
Executive Director
Iowa Biotechnology Association
Cell: (515) 822-1315
Office: (515) 327-9156
Fax: (515) 327-1407
jessica@iowabio.org
www.iowabio.org
Copyright © 2020 Iowa Biotech Association, All rights reserved.


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