Coronavirus Roundup: Changes at the CDC; the Republicans on the COVID Panel
There’s a lot to keep track of. Here’s a list of this week’s news updates and stories you may have missed.
The House panel that will look into the origins of the coronavirus and investigate the federal government’s response to the pandemic, among other areas desired by Republicans, will be led by Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio.
“As a physician and Army veteran, I believe it is vitally important for the American people that we conduct a thorough after-action report of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Wenstrup said in a statement on Thursday. “By investigating the economic impacts, vaccines and treatments, roles of our agencies, use of taxpayer funds, and the effectiveness of our public health responses, we can better pursue policies that will help prevent our country from being vulnerable in the future.”
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., also named the Republican members of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic this week, which include the far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga. The Democrats have not been announced yet. Here are some of the other recent headlines you might have missed.
President Biden confirmed on Friday that White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain will be departing and Jeff Zients, who previously served as White House COVID response coordinator and in senior roles in the Obama administration, will be the new chief of staff.
The Project on Government Oversight, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the Governmental Accountability Project and several other groups sent a letter to congressional leaders asking them to extend the existence of the Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery until 2030, as opposed to the current expiration in 2025, the watchdog office shared on Wednesday. “The current timeline for the SIGPR office has them shutting down just as new investigations based on defaults would be ready to start up,” the letter reads. “A great deal of time and money has been spent to get the office set up and operating properly. Those investments will be paying off significantly still just as the office is scheduled to close.”
As part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s efforts to remake itself after issues raised during the pandemic, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky is changing up the organization chart. “Walensky is reorganizing the agency so that it can respond faster and communicate its science and research more clearly,” Jasmine Reed, CDC spokesperson, told Government Executive. “The reorganization is one step in a series of efforts designed to strengthen how CDC operates—orienting it toward timely action—ensuring CDC’s science reaches the public in a clear, accessible and implementable manner.” Politico first reported this change.
An advisory committee for the Food and Drug Administration voted unanimously on Thursday to recommend updating and simplifying the country’s COVID-19 vaccination strategy, NPR reported.
A new HHS watchdog report raised issues with the National Institutes of Health’s oversight of $8 million in awards to the global nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance, which has come under fire from Republicans for its ties to a Wuhan, China lab that studied coronaviruses. “Although NIH and EcoHealth had established monitoring procedures, we found deficiencies in complying with those procedures limited NIH and EcoHealth’s ability to effectively monitor federal grant awards and subawards to understand the nature of the research conducted, identify potential problem areas and take corrective action,” the report from the HHS inspector general stated. Other “deficiencies include: NIH’s improper termination of a grant; EcoHealth’s inability to obtain scientific documentation from [the Wuhan Institute of Virology]; and EcoHealth’s improper use of grant funds, resulting in $89,171 in unallowable costs.” NIH concurred or generally concurred with all of the IG’s recommendations.
Republicans on the House oversight committee tweeted on Thursday that the report “makes clear Congress must conduct oversight over NIH” and pledged “oversight and accountability are coming.” Also, 16 House Republicans co-sponsored a bill introduced on Wednesday to ban federal funding from going to EcoHealth Alliance.
As The New York Times noted, “there is no evidence linking the Wuhan laboratory or its work with EcoHealth to the start of the pandemic.”
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