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Week in Washington
Three stories dominated Washington this week: the election, the Supreme Court hearing, and COVID. Here’s a quick overview of what happened in each of those stories
The outcome of the election is slowly coming into focus. Joe Biden will become the 44th President starting on January 21. The Democrats will have the smaller majority in the House. Control of the Senate will be determined based on two run-off elections scheduled for January 6. If Democrats win both races, then they will have control of the Senate; if they lose either, then Republicans will maintain control of the Senate. Regardless of the outcome of the Senate elections, more expansive changes to the US Healthcare system are likely off the table for the next two years (e.g., public option). The most likely outcome, at least in my eyes, is a legislative status quo for at least the next two years.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard the ACA constitutionality case (California v. Texas). While oral hearings are often less than predictive as to the final ruling, the ACA generally had a good day. Many legal observers felt that there was sufficient (at least five votes) support from the ACA to survive, with several conservative judges (most notably Kavanaugh) voicing support for, at minimum, ruling that while the mandate may be unconstitutional, the remainder of the law be upheld. A final ruling is expected in June, although SCOTUS could issue a ruling earlier.
COVID metrics continue to show exponential growth. As can be seen below, case numbers increased by 40%, while hospitalizations and deaths increased more than 20% this week compared to last week. Hardest hit right now is the Midwest, where on a per capita basis, hospitalizations numbers exceed anything that was experienced by any state since the initial days since March. 1 in every 378 US residents tested positive for COVID last week.
On the positive side, there were several promising COVID vaccine announcements this week. Pfizer announced that its vaccine was 90% effective and could be ready for emergency approval as early as December. Additionally, Moderna announced that it would release data on the effectiveness of its vaccine shortly. While more time and information are needed, both announcements are promising for a vaccine available for the public in early 2021.
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