CDC agrees with watchdog report recommendations.

CDC agrees with watchdog report recommendations. Nathan Posner/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Coronavirus Roundup: Future Emergency Response Teams Can Learn From Early CDC Mishaps, Says Watchdog

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

A new report from the Health and Human Services watchdog looks at the early pitfalls with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s training and preparations for federal health officials to interact with passengers coming into the country with potential COVID-19 infections, which it says will help the agency prepare for future emergency responses.  

The IG’s recommendations were related to guidance for protecting personnel interacting with potentially infected passengers, personal protective equipment meeting Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards and developing a plan for the risks and benefit of travel-related containment measures. While the recommendations were specific to COVID-19, “we see them as really important in ensuring the protections for HHS personnel in the future, so I think while every response is different and has its own nuances implementing all three recommendations will be really important,” Lauren Buss, a social science research analyst at the HHS IG office and the team leader for this study, told Government Executive. 

The CDC agreed with the inspector general’s three recommendations and noted that early on the situation and available information were constantly changing and the agency’s actions “were shaped by the best available scientific information known at the time.” 

This review has a similar subject matter to others in the past, but “it provides a broader, more programmatic perspective of response efforts over a longer period of time and at multiple locations,” Buss said. “This report also examines the underlying decision-making that informed health and safety recommendations” at quarantine sites (where CDC personnel screened passengers coming in as private citizens though commercial flights) as well as quarantine stations (where personnel screened individuals coming in as evacuees). Here are some of the other recent headlines you might have missed. 

OSHA’s enforcement activities didn’t adequately protect workers from COVID during roughly the first year of the pandemic, said the Labor Department’s IG in a report issued on Monday. “OSHA did not issue citations to enforce the standard for recording and reporting occupational injuries and illnesses in 15% of sampled fatality inspections, lacks complete information on COVID-19 infection rates at worksites, and closed inspections without ensuring it received and reviewed all items requested from employers to demonstrate alleged COVID-19 health hazards had been mitigated,” said the report. OSHA agreed with three of the IG’s five recommendations and said it would take one another into account in the rulemaking process. 

This week a federal jury convicted a man from Queens, New York for his role in a $10 million COVID fraud scheme while he was on pretrial release for another crime, which was investigated by the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee and its law enforcement partners. His co-defendant pleaded guilty in October and received a nine-year prison sentence. “This week’s conviction of Ilori was the first fraud task force case to go to trial and demonstrates the relentless commitment of the inspector general community and federal prosecutors to bring to justice fraudsters who stole money from pandemic relief programs,” said Michael Horowitz, chair of the accountability committee and Justice Department IG, in a statement.  

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is one of the seven individuals whose portrait will be unveiled at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery next week, part of their annual “Portrait of a Nation” honorees. The exhibit will be on view until October 2023.

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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