What Happened, What You Missed: March 14-18


Ashish Jha to Replace Jeff Zients as White House COVID-19 Task Force Chair

On Thursday, President Joe Biden announced that White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zients will step down from his post next month.  President Biden also announced that Zients’ replacement will be Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health and a practicing physician.  Jha has served as an outside advisor for administration officials over the past several months, particularly on the development of the new COVID-19 roadmap that was released earlier this month.  Zients’ departure comes at a time when case numbers have plummeted since the start of the Omicron wave and the administration forges ahead on a new strategy that focuses on living with the virus.

Pfizer, Moderna Seek EUA for Second COVID-19 Booster Shot

This week, both Pfizer and Moderna submitted applications to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for an emergency use authorization (EUA) for a second booster dose of their respective COVID-19 vaccines.  While Pfizer is specifically seeking an EUA for adults over age 65, Moderna is requesting an EUA for anyone over 18 years of age.  However, Pfizer noted in press release that it’s currently conducting a clinical trial in Israel for health care workers aged 18 years or older who have already received three doses of the company’s COVID-19 vaccine.  The submission of both applications comes days after Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said a fourth vaccine dose will probably be needed for everyone.

White House Urged Congress to Provide Additional COVID-19 Relief Funding

The Biden administration is pushing for Congress to pass legislation to provide more funding for COVID-19 after lawmakers nixed $15.6 billion in COVID-19 funding from the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 omnibus appropriations bill due to disagreements over how the additional funds would be paid for.   Without additional funding, the administration warns that it will soon have to wind down federal subsidies that guarantee free COVID-19 treatments for patients like oral antivirals and monoclonal antibodies.  Additionally, administration officials are fearful that a lack of additional funding would mean the government may not be able to supply enough booster doses and antivirals in the event of another surge in cases.  The stalemate over COVID-19 funding comes as public health officials worry that an uptick in COVID-19 cases in Europe could indicate cases number may soon begin to rise again in the US.

Nashville, Milwaukee Are Finalists to Host the 2024 GOP Convention

The Republican National Committee (RNC) has narrowed down its list of possible locations for its 2024 convention to two cities: Milwaukee and Nashville.  Pittsburgh and Salt Lake City were initially in the running, although the latter was dropped because its main arena will be undergoing renovations in 2024.  If selected, Milwaukee would be the first city to host back-to-back conventions since New York City hosted the Democrats’ conventions in 1976 and 1980.  The Democratic National Committee held its virtual national convention in Milwaukee for 2020.  A final decision regarding the location of the Republicans’ 2024 convention is expected by August.

ICYMI: Smithsonian Vetting Locations for Two New Museums The Smithsonian is currently considering 24 potential sites for two new museums that Congress approved in its FY 2021 omnibus appropriations bill: the National Museum of the American Latino and the Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum.  While the spending bill lists fours potential sites near that National Mall that could be used for either museum, the final decision on where to break ground will be up to the Smithsonian Board of Regents.   Consultants are working with the Smithsonian to find potential sites; however, a lack of available, empty land near the National Mall means other potential locations are in play, like the Corcoran Gallery of Art building, the J. Edgar Hoover Building, and L’Enfant Plaza.

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