President Trump speaks with members of the media before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington on Thursday for a short trip to Andrews Air Force Base, Md., and then on to Cleveland, Ohio.

President Trump speaks with members of the media before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington on Thursday for a short trip to Andrews Air Force Base, Md., and then on to Cleveland, Ohio. Andrew Harnik/AP

Coronavirus Roundup: Transition Plans Include Public Health Guidance; Top Democrats Release Joint Oversight Analysis of Federal Pandemic Response 

There's a lot to keep track of. Here’s today’s list of news updates and stories you may have missed.

Earlier this week, the Trump administration reported to Congress its transition efforts three months out from the election (as required by law), which incorporated public health precautions. “The eligible candidate(s) and the respective presidential transition team(s) will be informed of the Centers for Disease Control and [General Services Administration] guidelines for COVID-19, and other relevant guidance,” wrote Federal Transition Coordinator Mary Gibert. “The eligible candidate(s) will then determine how the guidelines will be implemented for his/her team in the office space GSA provides.” David Marchick, director of the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service's presidential transition center, told Government Executive it was a “thorough report” and he’s “been impressed” with the executive branch’s transition efforts overall. 

Ahead of the potential transition, both former Vice President Joe Biden, presumptive Democratic nominee, and President Trump altered their plans for their respective conventions. The Democratic National Convention Committee announced on Wednesday that Biden would accept the party’s nomination remotely during the Milwaukee convention happening later this month, which will be mostly online. Also, on Wednesday Trump said he might give his acceptance speech from the White House lawn instead of Charlotte, N.C., scrapping plans to be in Charlotte then Jacksonville, Fla. Here are some other recent headlines you might have missed. 

Six House committee chairs released a joint oversight report on Thursday about the Trump administration’s “disastrous” pandemic response and need for a more comprehensive national strategy. “Trump’s deadly denial, distortion and delay has led to the worst federal response to a national emergency in our history,” said the report. “His actions are directly responsible for tens of thousands of needless deaths, tens of millions of people out of work, and mass confusion that has crippled our nation’s response.” 

According to the Agriculture Department's reopening guidance, shared with Government Executive, the agency "does not intend to adjust the pre-COVID-19 telework policy of two days per pay period when normal operations resume." The guidance was issued on July 31. 

On Wednesday, the Defense Department published an update on travel restrictions at military installations. Restrictions have been lifted at 95 of 231 facilities (41%). 

Almost three dozen House Democrats asked the Defense and Homeland Security departments on Wednesday why the administration cut funding for coronavirus National Guard deployments in 47 states and territories, but maintained full funding for Florida and Texas, Politico reported. “This is not consistent with the treatment of these costs during previous disasters and undermines the overall response to the virus,” the lawmakers wrote. 

Federal News Network interviewed Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie Bunch III about how museum staff managed working from home during the pandemic and his strategies for reopening. So far only the National Zoo and the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, have reopened. 

The Health and Human Services and Defense departments announced an agreement on Wednesday with medical and pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson to manufacture and deliver 100 million doses of the company’s coronavirus vaccines. The vaccine will either be used in clinical trials or distributed to the public if the Food and Drug Administration approves it. The federal government previously awarded the company a $456 million contract to help develop its vaccine. 

Trump said on Thursday that it’s possible a vaccine could be developed before the presidential election on November 3, Reuters reported

FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen M. Hahn wrote in The Washington Post on Wednesday that despite the pressing need for a vaccine, his agency would not rush the approval process. “I have been asked repeatedly whether there has been any inappropriate pressure on the FDA to make decisions that are not based on good data and good science,” he wrote. “I have repeatedly said that all FDA decisions have been, and will continue to be, based solely on good science and data. The public can count on that commitment.”

The Secret Service awarded a $281,540 contract to a Wisconsin company for coronavirus tests for the Democratic convention in Milwaukee later this month, ProPublica reported

About 70,000 adults and children have been expelled from the United States since the Trump administration invoked an emergency public health directive in March, the Associated Press reported on Thursday. Spokesmen for Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement “refused to answer most questions about how they treat [them]” and “ how they decide whether to expel children or where to detain them before expulsion, including in hotels where at least 150 unaccompanied children as young as 1 year old have been held,” said the report. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and White House coronavirus task force member, told Politico on Wednesday that the country can survive the coronavirus outbreak without another shutdown. "You don't have to lock down again, but everybody has got to be on board for doing these five or six fundamental public health measures" like wearing masks and practicing social distancing, he said. He also denied Vanity Fair’s report last week that claimed the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner ceased plans to create a coronavirus national testing strategy as a political move, so Democratic governors could be blamed. 

Twenty-one senators (20 Democratic and one independent) wrote to the Labor Department and Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Wednesday with concerns about reports that people of color are being disproportionately retaliated against when reporting issues related to the pandemic. “Workers need to trust that OSHA will enforce whistleblower protections to shield them against retaliation when reporting workplace hazards, and hold bad employers accountable,” they wrote. “Without confidence in OSHA, as the report illustrates, employers will be free to silence and punish Black and Latino workers.” 

The Veterans Affairs Department released new data on Thursday that shows the increased use of its online health care tools during the pandemic. “From January to June 2020, veterans and providers exchanged more than 11.6 million secure messages through My HealtheVet, a 24.1% increase compared to the same period in 2019,” said the agency. “Veterans also made more than 11.2 million prescription refill requests through My HealtheVet; an 8.1% increase compared to the same period in 2019.” 

Today’s GovExec Daily podcast episode discusses the potential implications of the moratorium on housing evictions ending on August 1.

Help us understand the situation better. Are you a federal employee, contractor or military member with information, concerns, etc. about how your agency is handling the coronavirus? Email us at newstips@govexec.com.

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