There's a lot to keep track of. Here’s today’s list of news updates and stories you may have missed.
It’s been about a week since the country started hunkering down to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Here are some recent stories you might have missed:
The National Guard Bureau Chief said on Thursday about 2,050 National Guard soldiers and airmen in 27 states now have been activated by governors to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. Read more here.
President Trump said on Friday that the 1950 Defense Production Act was now at a “grade one level,” the highest level of activation. The law makes it easier for the government to obtain medical supplies and equipment from contractors. However, Bloomberg News reported on Thursday that the federal government is now outbidding governors for critical supplies, creating new problems after Trump urged governors to buy their own supplies if they could instead of waiting for federal support.
In an interview with Government Matters, Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director Margaret Weichert said she’s delaying her departure to help with the coronavirus response. “I wanted to make sure there was a consistent transition and that a lot of the infrastructure supporting command and control of cross-agency activities continued,” she said.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced on Twitter that tax filing day has been moved from April 15 to July 15. The National Treasury Employees Union, which represents many IRS employees, had requested that the administration push the date to October 15 to protect IRS workers nationwide.
Federal Aviation Administration Chief Steve Dickson is now self-quarantining after shaking hands with Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., who was diagnosed with coronavirus shortly thereafter, Politico reported.
Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., wrote to Trump on Thursday asking him to reduce the prison population to allow for social distancing. “We urge you to adopt and release decarceral guidelines and use your clemency power to reduce the population of people in federal custody whose release poses no risk to public safety,” they wrote.
On Thursday night, California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a “stay at home” order except for essential services. According to the most recent data from OPM’s fedscope there were 141,004 federal employees in California in March 2019, about 6.7% of the total federal workforce.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who represents one of the states with the most coronavirus cases, asked the Health and Human Services inspector general to investigate the Trump administration’s failures in responding to the coronavirus. “As people in my state and across the country struggle to get answers about the limited supply of tests, long delays in analyzing samples, difficulty obtaining testing supplies, and lack of reporting results, we must understand where HHS has erred in this process and implement lessons learned,” she wrote.
The Veterans Affairs Department is getting ready to deploy 3,000 doctors, nurses and other emergency personnel, as well as mobile hospitals and pharmacies, to help combat the coronavirus, Politico reported on Thursday. The VA is “preparing for a national call on this matter,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. Agency personnel “know that they can be deployed anywhere in the country.”
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency released new guidance on Thursday about the critical infrastructure workers needed to respond to the coronavirus. Among the federal employees nationwide, the guidance lists: healthcare workers, information technology specialists, trade officials, defense and national security personnel and those involved in “mission essential functions.” CISA Director Chris Krebs noted that this is not a mandate, as that is not the agency’s role.
On Thursday night the National Security Council tweeted a message warning people to be wary of disinformation campaigns related to the coronavirus. “[Disinformation] is being spread online about a supposed national lockdown and grounding flights. Be skeptical of rumors. Make sure you’re getting info from legitimate sources. The White House is holding daily briefings and CDC is providing the latest.”
ICE has temporarily closed its Chicago field office and sub-offices in Broadview, Illinois, and St. Louis, Buzzfeed News reported.
At least two staff members tested positive for coronavirus at immigration detention facilities, Reuters reported. The confirmed cases are in New York and New Jersey.
Ten trade associations representing federal contractors wrote to congressional leaders on Thursday about “inconsistent federal agency guidance and direction” They asked for clear direction from OMB and provisions in upcoming legislation that address contractor flexibility such as telework.
The Agriculture and Labor Departments on Thursday announced a new partnership to reduce disruption in the food supply chain and agriculture workforce during the pandemic. They’ve identified about 20,000 H-2A and H-2B certified visa workers whose contracts are expiring soon who “may be available and eligible to transfer to other U.S. agricultural sector employers to fulfill critical workforce needs within the U.S. under existing regulatory authority during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The Seattle Times looked at how previous success of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during the H1N1 flu outbreak pointed to a weakness during the coronavirus outbreak. “A key weakness was overlooked: If something went wrong with the CDC’s tests, the labs that relied on them would be rendered helpless and without immediate testing alternatives,” the paper reported.
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