Coronavirus Roundup: First Military Service Member Dies, IRS Issues Information on Stimulus Checks
There's a lot to keep track of. Here’s today’s list of news updates and stories you may have missed.
Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, said on NBC on Monday there could be up to 200,000 deaths in the United States from coronavirus even “if we do things almost perfectly.” Later on Monday, Maryland, D.C., and Virginia joined the growing list of states with “stay-at-home” orders. Here are some of the other recent headlines you might have missed.
“Here in the nation's capital...we’re home in three jurisdictions to 440,000 federal workers that are involved in the response for the rest of the nation,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said on CNN on Monday evening. “We’re about to have an explosion exponentially of the same kinds of problems that are facing both New York and some of these other major metropolitan jurisdictions.”
The first military service member (active, reserve or guard) died from coronavirus. A New Jersey Army National Guardsman, who was in the hospital since March 21, died on Saturday, the Defense Department announced on Monday.
Military families are struggling to obtain childcare. “About 1.6 million children have a parent in the military, which means young kids whose parents maintain nuclear facilities, are doing some intelligence jobs or any other work that needs them to be on-location may need to be put in childcare centers,” Federal News Network reported. “Even more children may need care because of schools closing due to the coronavirus.”
The captain of the aircraft carrier whose ship has an increasing number of coronavirus cases pleaded with the Defense Department for more help, The San Francisco Chronicle reported on Tuesday. “We are not at war,” wrote Capt. Brett E. Crozier of the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt, which has over 4,000 crewmembers. “Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our sailors.”
President Trump said over 14,000 National Guard members were activated nationwide to distribute personal protective equipment, during the White House briefing on Monday night.
Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Eric Dreiband asked property managers to give service members and the National Guard lease, payment and moving flexibilities because of travel restrictions and other coronavirus-related circumstances. Read the full message here.
On Monday, Transportation Security Administration officers screened the lowest number of passengers at security checkpoints in 10 years, according to TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein. For context, she said they screened 154,080 passengers on Monday, compared to almost 2.4 million one year ago.
The Federal Aviation Administration created an online map via Google to track FAA facilities affected by coronavirus. As of Tuesday mid-morning, there were 19 on the list that is updated daily at 7 p.m.
The Internal Revenue Service published information on how and when Americans (tax filers or not) will get their stimulus checks. In the coming weeks, the Treasury Department is going to launch an online portal where individuals can enter their banking information, so they don’t have to get a check in the mail.
The Professional Managers Association, which represents non-collective bargaining unit employees and management officials at the IRS, is pleased the IRS instructed the majority of employees to work from home, but is concerned about those who must enter facilities. “IRS facilities largely lack appropriate cleaning supplies due to global shortages and IRS employees are still barred from utilizing their own cleaning supplies,” PMA said in a press release. “We implore IRS leadership to allow employees to bring” their own.
Glenn Fine, currently performing the duties of the Pentagon’s inspector general, will lead the IG community’s coronavirus transparency and oversight efforts outlined in the stimulus package, the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency said on Monday. The president objected to some of these provisions in a signing statement, but experts say the IG still has authority.
Ian Brownlee, State Department principal deputy secretary in the Bureau of Consular Affairs, said “some posts around the world are facing reduced staffs, but where needed, we are sending additional staff out to assist,” during a briefing on Monday. Thirteen staff and consular officers were dispatched to Peru, but he could not give the total numbers for around the world, at the time.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman Office said in an email on Monday that although it temporarily suspended in-person meetings, it “remains operational and continues to process requests for case assistance.” Additionally, the office is tracking coronavirus-related issues; individuals can alert it to those via email.
Customs and Border Protection is “swiftly deporting” migrant children to their home countries instead of transferring them to refugee facilities as per usual, CBS reported. It is using a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention order that allows the government to ban foreigners from entering if they are deemed to potentially be carrying a communicable disease.
CBP agents at Detroit Metro Airport stopped a Chinese biologist with SARS virus and flu samples in his luggage in November 2018, according to a FBI report from November 2019 obtained by Yahoo News. “The report, which came out more than two months before the World Health Organization learned of a cluster of pneumonia cases in Wuhan, [China], that turned out to be COVID-19, appears to be part of a larger FBI concern about China’s involvement with scientific research in the U.S.”
Construction on Trump’s border wall in Arizona is ongoing, as other states have curbed construction projects. “The Trump administration contends that the wall will help prevent the spread of the virus into the United States from Mexico,” The New York Times reported on Tuesday. However, “epidemiologists and the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say such a barrier would not mitigate the outbreaks already occurring in every state.”
Here is an updated list of federal court closures from Law360.
The nonprofit Worldwide Assurance for Employees of Public Agencies will host a free webinar with the Center for Risk Communication on Thursday on how federal employees can cope with coronavirus-related stress. Learn more here.
Upcoming: The White House coronavirus task force will have a briefing at 5 p.m.
Today’s GovExec Daily podcast episode is about the IRS’s process and challenges in distributing the stimulus checks.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.