There's a lot to keep track of. Here’s today’s list of news updates and stories you may have missed.
President Trump would like the majority of the country to reopen by Easter, but the numbers of confirmed novel coronavirus cases and deaths continue to increase every day. Here are some other headlines you might have missed.
A survey by CBS and YouGov released on Tuesday found that medical and health professionals and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were the top two trustworthy sources for coronavirus information. President Trump was ranked third to last, above the national media and social media and other online sources.
Several immigration rights advocacy groups sued U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Tuesday to release ICE detainees in Maryland facilities who are at high risk for coronavirus. Read the full complaint.
The first Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainee tested positive for coronavirus, Buzzfeed News reported on Tuesday. The 31-year-old Mexican detainee is at Bergen County Jail in New Jersey.
House Natural Resources Committee Democrats said on Tuesday they had a call with senior Indian Health Service officials, who outlined steps they’re taking to protect Native Americans from coronavirus. “I’m encouraged to hear that the administration is now taking some of the necessary steps to support Indian Country,” said Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., chairman of the committee, in a press release. “Congress needs to continue to give Indian Country the resources, funding and support necessary to protect human life and prevent the virus from spreading beyond our control.”
The federal government’s “secret” stockpile of ventilators is not nearly enough to meet the country’s need, The Center for Public Integrity reported on Tuesday. A Health and Human Services Department official who works in the reserve program confirmed there are 16,600 ventilators in the stockpile that started in 1999. For context, the center said many of the country’s approximate 160,000 ventilators are “already in use and not nearly enough to help patients survive a severe outbreak of coronavirus infections.”
As air traffic controllers increasingly test positive for coronavirus, the country’s aviation system could be threatened as this has prompted some closures, Politico reported on Wednesday. Although the Federal Aviation Administration has contingency plans, “no amount of contingency planning could anticipate a system affected by virus hot spots across the country.”
The FAA decided tentatively to extend coronavirus-related relief through October 24, 2020, according to a document published in the Federal Register on Wednesday. The agency is seeking comments by March 30 on its initial decision to “provide carriers with maximum flexibility during this unprecedented situation and to support the long-term viability of carrier operations.” This affects airports in New York; Washington, D.C.; Chicago; Newark; New Jersey; San Francisco; and Los Angeles.
The Associated Press looked at how some government officials have not been following the public health guidance that they are advocating Americans follow. It cited examples from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.; President Trump; and other members of the coronavirus task force. “Their business-as-usual actions are at odds with the restrictions everyday Americans find themselves under, and with the government’s own messaging,” the Associated Press reported.
Defense Under Secretary for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord told reporters on Wednesday she is using a joint acquisitions task force to be the "single point” for all Federal Emergency Management Agency and HHS demands related to COVID-19. "Our objective is to move forward as quickly as responsibly as possible,” she said.
State Department officials told reporters on Tuesday about the process for testing embassy staff members for coronavirus. The department has “doctors, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and nurses deployed at almost every mission around the world,” but “in COVID-19 obviously, as health infrastructure overseas breaks down, it’s more of a challenge.” The officials said they’re working to implement their own monitoring and testing, so the embassies don’t have to rely as much on local sources.
The Homeland Security Department stopped updating its annual pandemic models in 2017 after a “bureaucratic dispute over its value,” according to two former officials, Politico reported. “The reports were meant to guide policymakers toward areas that would demand their attention in the event of an outbreak.”
The Washington Post did a deep dive on how the coronavirus could be the Federal Emergency Management Agency's biggest disaster ever and “threatens to swamp the agency.” For example, Trump and FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor have given mixed messages on the use of the 1950 Defense Production Act.
The Executive Office for Immigration Review said several immigration courts would reopen on Wednesday to accept filings only, although they can also be mailed. The courts are in Atlanta, Houston, Los Angeles, Memphis, New York and Sacramento. Read Government Executive’s previous coverage on the immigration court postponements.
During the White House briefing on Tuesday night, the president said he would like most of the country to reopen by Easter, which is in less than three weeks. Meanwhile Pentagon officials said earlier on Tuesday the outbreak could last months. Watch the virtual town hall here.
Also during the briefing the president said the 1950 Defense Production Act has “already been activated, actually, a long time ago — quite a long time ago,” despite his earlier statements. And he said in addition to the four hospitals the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the National Guard are building at the Javits Center in New York City, they’re also building four other facilities in the state.
The HHS inspector general headquarters in Washington, D.C., closed on Tuesday, but asserted it will still be able to “provide critical services while we work remotely.” This IG office oversees the CDC and National Institutes of Health, as well as HHS.
The National Defense Industrial Association, a trade association that represents federal contractors, is asking small business contractors to share the challenges they’re facing during coronavirus. It’s asking them to fill out a survey by Friday, after which it will share results with the Defense Department.
Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel, director of the National Guard Bureau, told reporters on Tuesday that about 10,000 guard personnel are serving in all U.S. states and territories, and he expects that number to grow. He added that the National Guard is increasing its efforts to make sure that personnel responding to the virus stay healthy, Air Force Magazine reported.
The Agriculture Department closed the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C., to the public on Tuesday to mitigate the spread of coronavirus. However, employees will still have access to continue their botanical research and care for the gardens.
Upcoming: The White House coronavirus task force will have a briefing at 5p.m.
Today’s GovExec Daily podcast episode is about the Trump administration’s coronavirus guidance for federal contractors and some of the challenges these employees are facing.
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 email@example.com.