Coronavirus Roundup: Agencies Warn of Cyber Breaches During Telework
There's a lot to keep track of. Here’s today’s list of news updates and stories you may have missed.
The death toll in the United States from coronavirus topped 10,000 on Monday, as White House and federal officials warned this would be a dire week. Here are some recent headlines you might have missed.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched a new website to bolster the government’s biosurveillance database. “The system collects data from hospitals, local public health departments, pharmacies and more to give researchers and officials a view of how diseases spread across the country,” NextGov reported. CDC is working with Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory on the initiative. Read more here.
On Monday, following New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s request, President Trump authorized coronavirus patients to be admitted to the military hospital ship in New York. Originally the ship was meant for other treatment, but Cuomo said during his press conference that hospitals need more assistance for coronavirus than anything else.
The military news website Task and Purpose obtained audio on Monday of Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly calling former Capt. Brett Crozier “too naive or too stupid” for his letter requesting help for his aircraft carrier stricken with coronavirus. After initially standing by his remarks, Modly apologized later on Monday to Crozier, who has tested positive for COVID-19 along with at least 155 sailors, Crozier’s family and USS Roosevelt crew.
During the briefing on Monday night, President Trump said he “may just get involved” in the situation. “I’m good at settling these arguments.”
The Army paused bringing new recruits to basic training for two weeks after which it will reassess. This does not apply to recruits already at training. So far there are 100 confirmed coronavirus cases among trainees, some of whom have recovered, The Army Times reported on Monday.
The Defense Department is helping other federal agencies in the five clinical trials for possible coronavirus vaccines, officials said during a press briefing on Monday.
NASA is experiencing increased cyber threats during the pandemic, according to an agency memo published by Space Ref. This includes phishing attempts, malware attacks, and unknown users trying to access “malicious sites.”
Similarly, FCW obtained a HHS email noting, “The surge of telework among federal agencies following the coronavirus outbreak has created a wide attack surface for malicious third-parties to exploit in numerous ways.” It outlines risks associated with video conferencing, web meetings and social media.
Read DefenseOne’s coverage of the Pentagon’s use of Zoom for video calls and the potential security vulnerabilities with it.
The Health and Human Services inspector general reported on Monday that hospitals are facing “severe shortages of testing supplies” and “widespread shortages of [personal protective equipment].” During the briefing on Monday, Trump was irked by questions about the report and questioned the credibility of acting HHS Inspector General Christi Grimm. Grimm has only been in her current role since January, but has worked for the office since 1999.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., named Bharat Ramamurti, a former aide to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., as his pick for the panel that will oversee the administration’s coronavirus spending. The five-member panel was established in the $2 trillion CARES Act. Schumer was the first of the congressional leaders to announce his pick, Politico reported.
Thirty-two bipartisan organizations wrote to congressional leadership on Monday with suggested transparency and oversight guidelines for coronavirus relief packages. “Each of our respective organizations has preferred public policy outcomes that we work to achieve,” they wrote. “But in this time of crisis, we all believe it most important to put aside our disagreements and focus on the shared goal of doing what is best for the country.”
On Monday, Trump removed Glenn Fine, the acting Pentagon inspector general, who was tapped by the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency to lead the oversight effort for the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, Politico reported. He named the Environmental Protection Agency’s IG to temporarily serve as acting Defense IG, which effectively removed Fine from the job of leading the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee because the new law requires only current IGs to serve in that role.
The Justice Department announced that Minnesota and Georgia created their own teams to combat coronavirus fraud in their states. The teams are partnerships of local, state and federal prosecutors.
Attorney General William Barr directed federal prosecutors on Monday to consider the coronavirus in deciding whether or not to seek pretrial detention for criminal defendants, Law360 reported. “Even with the extensive precautions we are currently taking, each time a new person is added to a jail, it presents at least some risk to the personnel who operate that facility and to the people incarcerated therein,” he wrote. “It also presents risk to the individual being remanded into custody.”
A third State Department locally employed staffer overseas died from coronavirus, Dr. William Walters, State’s managing director of operational medicine, told reporters on Monday. See the department's online tracker for updates on repatriations and employee coronavirus cases and deaths.
State Secretary Mike Pompeo “thanked President Zelensky for Ukraine's support in repatriating U.S. citizens and residents, including more than 200 Peace Corps volunteers” on a Monday call, according to Department Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus. She said the two discussed U.S. assistance to Ukraine during coronavirus, among other things.
Bloomberg News reported on Monday there were only 44 coronavirus patients so far at the Javits Convention Center in New York. Pentagon officials said it will have a 1,700-bed capacity by Friday, “in a sign the emergency facility provided by the military can offer more relief for the city’s overwhelmed hospitals.”
The Homeland Security Department published an update on Monday afternoon on its coronavirus response. As of April 5, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has obligated about $4.1 billion for the coronavirus response. Also, between March 30 and April 5, Customs and Border Protection processed about $21 billion worth of commercial cargo between the United States, Mexico and Canada. Read the full list here.
The administration has used the 1950 Defense Production Act “so powerfully that we don’t have to use it too much,” Trump said during the briefing on Monday. Using the act as leverage, the administration reached an “amicable” agreement with manufacturing company 3M to produce millions of masks, he announced.
Trump also said the Army Corps of Engineers is building 22 field hospitals and alternative care sites in 18 states and that a second round of direct, stimulus payments are “under serious consideration.”
Vice President Mike Pence downplayed reports that the White House is looking for a czar to oversee the supply chain. During the briefing, Pence lauded the efforts of FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor and Rear Admiral John Polowczyk, who is overseeing logistics for supplies coming in from all over the world.
Today’s GovExec Daily podcast episode is about the oversight and accountability provisions in the $2.2 trillion CARES Act.
Upcoming: Trump will participate in an update on the small business relief from the CARES Act at 3 p.m. The White House coronavirus task force will have a briefing at 5.p.m.
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.
NEXT STORY: The Pentagon Is Using Zoom. Is it Safe?