5 things to know for October 1: Congress, coronavirus, immigration, opioids, Ethiopia
September was the worst month of the year so far for Wall Street, which ended its final trading day of the quarter in the red.
The looming government shutdown has been averted. Both the House and the Senate voted yesterday in favor of a continuing resolution, which will keep the government funded through December 3. President Biden signed it into law. The bill also provides funding for resettlement of Afghan refugees and aid for areas affected by storms and wildfires. While the stopgap bill was a win of sorts, Democratic leaders were dealt a major blow when progressives defied fierce pressure from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and refused to pass a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, following through on their promise to dig in their heels if a companion $3.5 trillion spending bill covering health care, education and social programs was not addressed at the same time.
An oral pill from Merck and Ridgeback Therapeutics reduced the risk of hospitalization or death from Covid-19 by half, Merck said this morning in a news release. It would become the first oral antivral for Covid-19 if approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization. Meantime, several states are seeing very high compliance rates — and increased vaccination rates — as vaccine mandate deadlines approach. But there’s also plenty of pushback. Some public school teachers in New York asked the Supreme Court to block the New York City vaccine mandate for in-person staff that is set to go into effect this afternoon. Similar disputes over vaccine mandates are playing out elsewhere, like Brazil, where so-called vaccine passports have become highly divisive in Rio de Janeiro. In Europe, some EU nations are lagging heavily behind their highly vaccinated neighbors. Countries like Romania and Bulgaria are said to have all the vaccines they need, but political instability and misinformation have contributed to vaccine hesitancy and low vaccination rates (33% and 22%, respectively). Overall, nearly three-quarters of EU adults are fully vaccinated.
The Biden administration can continue to expel migrant families with children under Title 42, the controversial Trump-era public health provision. That was the decision of a federal appeals court, which put on hold a lower court order that would block such expulsions. The Justice Department has defended the use of Title 42, saying border facilities are not equipped to handle major influxes of migrants amid a pandemic. The Department of Homeland Security has also released new priority-based immigration enforcement guidelines that step back from a more aggressive approach taken under the Trump administration. The department will now prioritize certain undocumented immigrants for arrest and deportation, including terrorism suspects, someone with serious criminal conduct or recent unlawful border-crossers.
4. Opioid crisis
The Drug Enforcement Administration has seized more than 1.8 million fentanyl-laced fake pills and made more than 800 arrests in a two-month sweep to curb counterfeit medications containing the synthetic opioid. Such pills are contributing to the US opioid crisis and are thought to be responsible for about three-quarters of the more than 93,000 fatal drug overdoses in the US last year. 2020 was the deadliest on record for drug overdoses, and health experts attribute that in part to mental health crises fueled by the pandemic. The Biden administration has promised to address the growing crisis and has proposed historic funding to do so in its fiscal year 2022 budget request.
Ethiopia is expelling seven senior United Nations officials after the UN Office of Humanitarian Affairs warned last month that hundreds of thousands could be facing famine in the country. Ethiopia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the officials were “meddling in the internal affairs of the country.” Ongoing conflict in the Tigray region has led to a humanitarian crisis, and UN humanitarian affairs leaders have said there is a “de facto humanitarian aid blockade” preventing needed supplies from reaching some of the estimated 5.2 million people affected. UN leaders have sharply criticized the Ethiopian government for its role in the crisis and requested the government facilitate access for food and supplies. The Ethiopian government has denied blocking such aid.