Coronavirus Roundup: OMB Director Tests Positive for COVID-19
There’s a lot to keep track of. Here’s a list of this week’s news updates and stories you may have missed.
One of the three goals for the president’s management agenda is strengthening and empowering the federal workforce and the Biden administration seeks to do that, in part, by revising work arrangements after the COVID-19 pandemic brought on a maximum telework posture for those who could work remotely.
The Office of Management and Budget published a fiscal 2022 third quarter update to the management agenda on Friday, which outlines the progress the administration has made to the workforce area. This includes: the Office of Personnel Management’s creation and release of theFederal Employees Viewpoint Survey questions on remote work and telework as well as the addition of a new “remote” option on USAJobs.com.
Over the coming months and year, OPM will continue to develop data collection and analysis of telework and remote work, according to Friday’s update. The General Services Administration will also release an updated menu of contracts and solutions to assist planning for hybrid work plans and will work with 24 major federal agencies to complete national portfolio plans, among other agency actions. Here are some of the other recent headlines you might have missed.
The Food and Drug Administration announced on Wednesday it will allow state-licensed pharmacists to prescribe Paxlovid, a COVID-19 antiviral therapeutic, to eligible patients with certain limitations. Previously only health-care providers and the administration’s “test to treat” sites could prescribe it.
“The FDA recognizes the important role pharmacists have played and continue to play in combating this pandemic,” said Dr. Patrizia Cavazzoni, director for the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, in a statement. “Since Paxlovid must be taken within five days after symptoms begin, authorizing state-licensed pharmacists to prescribe Paxlovid could expand access to timely treatment for some patients who are eligible to receive this drug for the treatment of COVID-19.”
The Defense Department released updated workforce COVID-19 guidance on July 1 that removes pre-travel testing requirements for service members, civilian employees, contractor personnel and DoD family members, and removes other guidance on testing requirements for travel, which aligns with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s updated guidance.
OMB Director Shalanda Young tweeted on July 5 that she tested positive for COVID-19 and has mild symptoms. “I am fully vaccinated and boosted. In accordance with CDC guidance, I am isolating and working from home,” she said. “Neither the president nor vice president are considered close contacts as defined by the CDC.”
After reviewing how the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service distributed $931 billion in direct payments for relief during the pandemic, the Government Accountability Office made recommendations on how they can improve their outreach efforts, such as for non-tax filers and underserved communities, for other situations going forward. Additionally, IRS’s newly established Taxpayer Experience Office “is an opportunity for IRS to implement our recommendations to improve outreach efforts to individuals eligible for refundable tax credit,” said GAO in a snapshot report published on June 29.
A recent report from the Agriculture Department’s inspector general looked at a program the Trump administration established early on in the pandemic to purchase foods from struggling farmers and distribute them to families in need, which came under scrutiny from the chair the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis in August 2020 and October 2021. The watchdog found that USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, which administered the program, designed the solicitation for the program (to supply the goods) in accordance with Federal Acquisition Regulation requirements and department guidance and “substantially adhered” to the funding allocations outlined in the solicitations.
“Finally, while AMS established a panel to evaluate the Food Box Program proposals, we found that the agency did not always award Round 1 contracts in accordance with the specified requirements of the solicitation,” said the report. “As a result, some proposals were accepted and awarded contracts despite not meeting the specified requirements of the solicitation.”
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