Policy News

A Giant Stamp and The Weather Girls: How Washington D.C. Tried to Become America’s New Year’s Eve Party

Hot Topics | December 23rd, 2020

1983 was to be the first year of a grand new Washington D.C. tradition: A 14-by-21 foot replica of the January 1984 “Love” U.S. Postal Service stamp was to be lowered from the spire atop the Old Post Office Building while the public was treated to a party with all the pomp and circumstance of Times Square. Performers included Lee Greenwood and The Weather Girls, with Tony Geary emceeing the festivities. In 1985, Mayor Marion Barry was quoted in The Washington Post saying, “Times Square has more of a history, tradition, but we’re gaining on them…We’re going to outdo New York. We think we might just take over and become the best single event [on New Year’s Eve].”

However, in 1988 Mayor Barry canceled the city’s participation in the New Year’s Eve party. With crime rates rising in the District across the board, Barry declared “it’s no time to celebrate. It’s time to work hard and to pray.” By 1990, nearly all of the ceremony surrounding Washington’s public New Year’s Eve party had evaporated. Today, Washingtonians will watch Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve broadcast from New York, Los Angeles and New Orleans thinking about what could have been.

Shots, shots, shots, shots, shots, shots 

  • In a bid to increase confidence in the COVID-19 vaccines being administered under Emergency Use Authorizations (EUA), several prominent American politicians received their shots in public. This included: 
    • Friday, December 18: Vice President Mike Pence, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). (AP Washington Bureau)
    • Monday, December 21: President-Elect Joe Biden (AxiosThe Hill)
    • Tuesday, December 22: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci and Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar (The Hill)

Who’s next in line? 

  • On Sunday, a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advisory panel recommended that adults over the age of 75 as well as essential frontline workers receive access to COVID-19 vaccines in Phase 1b of the vaccine rollout. (Phase 1a includes healthcare workers as well as long-term care facility residents and staff.) Frontline workers were defined as “first responders, teachers and other education workers including day care workers, food and agriculture workers, correctional facility staff, postal workers, public transit workers, and people who work in manufacturing and in grocery stores.” (STAT)

COVID-19 relief bill: Are we there yet? 

  • Congress came to an agreement on a 5,593 page bill with $900 billion earmarked for COVID-19 relief and $1.4 trillion in government funding. While the future of the bill is up in the air after President Trump announced his intent to veto the current iteration on Tuesday nightRoll Call’s Mary Ellen McIntire broke down the top three healthcare policy implications that are tucked into the bill approved by the House and Senate: 
    • Public health funding: The government funding portion of the bill provides the National Institutes of Health and CDC with increased funding for Alzheimer’s Research, public health preparedness and improvements to laboratory capacity, among other initiatives. Through the COVID-19 relief package, these agencies would receive appropriations for vaccine manufacturing and distribution, contact tracing, COVID-19 research and more. 
    • Surprise medical billing: Beginning in 2022, patients would be protected from surprise medical bills. Notably exempted from the surprise medical billing ban are ambulance trips. 
    • Extend health programs: The bill extends existing funding levels for community health centers, teaching health centers and the national health service corps through the 2023 fiscal year. The bill also extends access to telehealth under Medicare. 
      • Read morePOLITICO published a more detailed summary of the bill.

Holiday homework for HHS and CDC

  • On Monday, the House Select Subcommittee on Coronavirus released new documents which detail the efforts of political appointees to modify and suppress reports from the CDC. Subcommittee chair Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) also subpoenaed HHS Secretary Alex Azar and CDC Director Robert Redfield to provide additional “full and unredacted” documents relevant to the ongoing the inquiry by December 30. (POLITICOThe Hill)

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Policy News

The Making of a D.C. Institution

Hot Topics | December 18th, 2020

The Smithsonian Institution is nothing short of, well, a Washington D.C. institution. A visit to the city is hardly complete without a visit to one of the cultural and scientific trust’s 19 museums or the National Zoo.

Although the Smithsonian is synonymous with America’s capital, it owes its existence to British scientist James Smithson who bequeathed his estate to the United States to create “an establishment for the increase and diffuse of knowledge.” In an ironic twist, no one knows why Smithson decided to leave his estate to a country he never visited in his lifetime. That being said, Smithson is interred at the Smithsonian Castle in Washington D.C., which happens to be open to the public if crypts are your type of tourist attraction. 

If crypts aren’t your thing, we have some good headlines this week:

Five days of vaccine news in five bullets

  • Did the deluge of COVID-19 vaccine news this week leave your head spinning? We summarize the highlights below:
    • Pfizer and BioNTech: This week the first doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech were administered to healthcare workers around the U.S. following the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization last week. (The Washington PostThe Hill)
      • The U.S. government is also in the process of negotiating the procurement of 100 million additional doses of the vaccines. (POLITICOThe Hill)
      • Healthcare workers made a curious discovery this week: Six or sometimes seven full does of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine could be drawn from the vials, which are labeled to hold five doses. On Wednesday, the FDA authorized hospitals and pharmacists to administer these sixth or seventh doses, if the full doses could be drawn from a vial. The additional doses, which are the result from a routine industry packaging practice, could increase the U.S. vaccine supply up to 40%. (POLITICO)
    • Moderna: Following an endorsement from an FDA advisory committee on Thursday, Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate is expected to receive an Emergency Use Authorization. If authorized, Moderna’s vaccine candidate would be the second to become available to the American public. (The Washington PostThe Hill)
    • Vaccine Brand Names: Wondering when we can stop referring to the COVID-19 vaccines as COVID-19 vaccines? Companies are not expected to announce brand names for COVID-19 vaccines until the FDA fully approves the shots, expected in 2021. (STAT)

Sackler’s take the hot seat

  • Yesterday members of the Sackler family testified in front of the House Oversight Committee on the role of Purdue Pharma in the opioid epidemic. During the hearing, members of Congress peppered Dr. Kathe Sackler and David Sackler of knowing more than they let on and for evading responsibility for their role in the crisis. Tensions ran high, with Rep. James Cooper (D-Tenn.) telling David Sackler, “Watching you testify makes my blood boil…I’m not sure that I’m aware of any family in America that’s more evil.” (The HillSTAT)

Drug card program gets yellow card

  • On September 24, President Trump announced a plan to send 33 million Medicare beneficiaries a card that could be used to pay up to $200 in prescription drug costs. This week, his administration’s plan encountered an unexpected roadblock: An obscure industry group that sets standards for health benefit cards has blocked the cards from being created. The consortium rebuffed the cards on the grounds that they would not be consistent with the other cards it regulates, which can be used to purchase more than drugs. (POLITICO

Don’t expect this campaign to take home a Clio

  • The Department of Health and Human Services had earmarked more than $300 million for a star-studded ad campaign to boost public confidence in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the country. The only problem is that few of the celebs on HHS’ wish list expressed interest in the campaign for a variety of reasons. According to POLITICO, the project has faced a litany of issues with personnel and vendors.

If you enjoyed this excerpt from this week’s Policy News from Goodfuse, we invite you to email us at [email protected] to sign up the full weekly “insider only” newsletter featuring fun-to-read round-ups of Hot Topics, breaking news and some quirky facts to make your Fridays Goodfused.

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