Week in Review

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President Biden expands COVID-19 vaccine eligibility, the Justice Department clarifies Title IX sex and gender identity protections, and more…

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IN THE NEWS

  • President Joseph R. Biden announced that all adults in America will be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine by April 19 and that most people will receive at least one dose by the end of May. The Biden Administration had set a goal to administer 200 million doses of the vaccine by April 30, his first 100 days in office, and this announcement marks 150 million doses administered. President Biden, however, cautioned that although this announcement marks progress toward the end of the pandemic, the public should still remain vigilant in preventing the spread of the virus.
  • The U.S. Department of Justice issued a memo to federal agency civil rights directors advising that Title IX’s prohibition of sex discrimination in education includes protections for sex and gender identity. The Justice Department issued the memo in response to inquiries about the application of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, which interpreted  Title VII’s prohibition against sex discrimination in employment to include gender and sex identity. Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, praised the memo because it “made it clear that the law is on the side of LGBTQ students,” and that these students will now be certain they can seek justice if discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidance to allow fully vaccinated Americans to travel within the United States without COVID-19 testing or post-travel self-quarantine. Due to concerns about the spread of new variants of COVID-19, fully vaccinated Americans who traveled abroad must still test negative for COVID-19 before boarding their return flight to the United States and get re-tested for COVID-19 three to five days after reentering the United States. The updated guidance warned that local, state, or foreign authorities may still enforce additional requirements. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky reportedly said that although traveling is a lower risk for fully vaccinated people, Americans should avoid travel as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the United States.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court instructed a lower court to dismiss a case against former President Donald J. Trump for blocking his critics on Twitter. The lower court had ruled that President Trump violated the First Amendment because he blocked certain Twitter users from his account that was used “to conduct official business and interact with the public.” The Supreme Court instructed the lower court to dismiss the case because the matter is moot after Twitter banned President Trump from the platform.
  • The U.S. Department of Education canceled $1.6 billion of debt provided to 45 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) participating in the Education Department’s HBCU Capital Financing Program. Congress created the program to provide low-interest loans to fund infrastructure repair, renovation, and construction projects at HBCUs. Congress passed the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act in December 2020, which designated $82 billion for education and authorized funding to discharge HBCUs’ debt associated with the program. U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said that HBCUs “have long been on an uneven playing field” and the debt relief “will further support these mission-critical institutions and help to ensure they have more resources to educate and graduate students during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.”
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Qelbree, a new drug for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), for children aged 6 to 17. FDA’s approval marked the first time the agency had approved a new drug for ADHD in over a decade. Unlike many ADHD medications, Qelbree is not a stimulant or a controlled substance. Andrew Cutler, Chief Medical Officer for the Neuroscience Education Institute, described Qelbree as a “novel once a day sprinkleable non-stimulant that can be a great option for children and adolescents with ADHD.” Other experts said that the new drug could be a good alternative for parents who do not want to give their children stimulants or for children with substance abuse problems.
  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is proposing new rules that would protect millions of families from residential foreclosures. The new rules would delay foreclosure proceedings, offer loan modification options to struggling borrowers, and require debt servicers to keep borrowers informed about their repayment options. The CFPB’s Acting Director Dave Uejio stressed that the CFPB will do everything possible “to ensure servicers work with struggling families to find solutions that prevent avoidable foreclosures.”
  • Iowa State Representative Ann Meyer (R-Webster County) introduced an amendment that would enable women to obtain hysterectomies without their spouse’s consent. The Iowa State House of Representatives previously passed a bill ending the requirement that women seeking hysterectomies do not need their spouse’s consent, but the bill did not pass the Senate because state senators already did not need their spouse’s consent under existing Iowa law. Meyer reportedly stated that the amendment would  “give women a little protection” and “the freedom to control their own body.”

WHAT WE’RE READING THIS WEEK

  • In a new report, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) evaluated the federal response to the pandemic. In the past year, GAO has made 44 recommendations for federal agencies related to the coronavirus pandemic, but federal agencies have implemented only 6 of the recommendations. GAO added 28 new recommendations in this report, including that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services improve the process for employing emergency use authorizations, make data more easily accessible from a centralized website, ensure better reporting of race and ethnicity vaccination information, and collect data on COVID-19 vaccination rates in nursing homes.
  • In a recent National Bureau of Economic Research working paper, Philipp Ager, professor at the University of Southern Denmark, and his coauthors examined the effect of school closures during the 1918 influenza pandemic on the student’s future outcomes. Many state and local governments decided to close schools during the influenza pandemic, but Ager and his coauthors found that the school closures did not affect students’ eventual educational and economic outcomes. Ager and his coauthors cautioned, however, that the influenza pandemic was different from the coronavirus pandemic—schools were closed for fewer days in 1918, but had higher rates of absenteeism and offered fewer resources for remote learning.
  • In a recent report by the Brookings Institution, demography expert William Frey examined U.S. Census Bureau data and found significant racial segregation in American neighborhoods. Frey reported that white Americans typically live in majority-white neighborhoods––even in the most diverse metropolitan regions––while Black, Latinx or Hispanic, and Asian Americans typically live in neighborhoods over-represented by non-white populations. Although Congress passed the Fair Housing Act in 1968, Frey claimed racial segregation persists because of “discriminatory practices imposed by government and private sector forces.” To address these practices, Frey highlighted President Biden’s recent memo, which directs the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to administer programs that further fair housing and prevent unjustified discrimination.

FLASHBACK FRIDAY

  • In an essay in The Regulatory Review, Jeff Kosseff, cybersecurity law professor at the U.S. Naval Academy, discussed the history of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act that protects internet companies from liability for some content posted on their websites. Kosseff cautioned that both critics and supporters of the law do not have enough information to make informed decisions. As a result, he advocated that Congress create a fact-finding commission to understand how internet platforms actually moderate their content and how platforms decide which content to block or review. Kosseff argued that there is too little data available to understand how to adjust regulation of the internet.