Medical workers step over bodies as they search a refrigerated trailer at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center on April 3 in Brooklyn, New York.

Medical workers step over bodies as they search a refrigerated trailer at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center on April 3 in Brooklyn, New York. John Minchillo/AP

Coronavirus Roundup: Federal Employee Cases and Deaths Continue to Increase

There's a lot to keep track of. Here’s today’s list of news updates and stories you may have missed.

On Tuesday afternoon, President Trump said he will make a decision with governors on reopening the country, after previously saying it was up to him, not the governors, to determine when and how to resume economic activity. At the press briefing Monday evening, he said, “the president of the United States has the authority to do what the president has the authority to do, which is very powerful.” This was after governors said they were teaming up to develop plans for gradually reopening activities as they are deemed safe. Here are some other recent headlines you might have missed. 

President Trump is expected to announce his “Council to Reopen America” on Tuesday. According to Fox News, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows is expected to chair the council that officials initially said would include cabinet officers, economic advisors, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, although Trump later backtracked on including his daughter and son-in-law after the announcement was widely ridiculed.

A second Transportation Security Administration employed died from the coronavirus, USA Today reported on Monday. Alberto Camacho, a branch manager for TSA's Acquisition Program Management office in Arlington, Virginia, died on April 3, the same day the first employee died. According to USA Today, 373 TSA employees have tested positive for the virus and 23 have recovered. 

The Energy Department said on Monday three more staff members have tested positive for COVID-19, which brings the total to six, after one died, E&E News reported on Tuesday.

Coronavirus cases spiked at the Veterans Affairs and Defense departments over the weekend, as Military Times and Stars and Stripes reported, respectively. More than 4,000 patients and at least 1,520 staff at VA facilities and more than 4,500 “military-linked” individuals have tested positive. 

Additionally, the Navy had its first coronavirus-related death among sailors on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, whose captain was ousted last week after he asked for help for his pandemic stricken ship. Read Defense One’s coverage here. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidance on how visitors can protect themselves while visiting parks and recreational facilities during the pandemic. The National Park Service has not closed all parks, so the CDC advises checking NPS’s website if individuals are considering visiting. 

“Significant portions” of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act don’t require that aid recipients' names be published, The Washington Post reported on Monday. The Small Business Administration does not have to disclose the $349 billion it will give out as well as the “trillions going out to businesses under the auspices of the Federal Reserve.” While supporters say this is necessary to protect individuals’ privacy, others argue it will make the government susceptible to waste, fraud and abuse. 

The Treasury Department announced on Monday that about 80 million Americans would get their stimulus checks by the end of this week through direct deposit, NBC News reported.

Also, the department launched a web portal to speed up disbursement of CARES Act funds to state, local and tribal governments. “This will fast-track the availability of $71 billion to meet immediate cash flow needs,” according to a press release. “The remaining balance of the payment amounts due to States, eligible local governments, and tribal governments will be paid no later than April 24.”

The Internal Revenue Service is relying on fax machines to implement certain business provisions of the CARES Act as the majority of employees are working from home and the agency cannot receive mail. “It's not the first time the IRS is turning to faxes in the wake of coronavirus,” Politico reported on Tuesday. “It previously asked companies to fax the form needed to claim new tax breaks for keeping workers on the rolls, and also for offering family and medical leave. Meanwhile, the mail is piling up at the IRS.”

The Census Bureau is asking Congress to push back the deadline for the 2020 Census by 120 days to give final apportionment counts. “Under its proposal, Census Bureau would extend the window for field data collection and self-response to October 31, 2020,” according to a press release on Monday.” This “will allow for apportionment counts to be delivered to the president by April 30, 2021, and redistricting data to be delivered to the states no later than July 31, 2021.”

During the briefing on Monday night, Trump said, “This is called a situation they have to give and I think 120 days isn’t nearly enough.”

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., House Oversight and Reform Committee chair said on Monday that her committee would examine the administration’s request. “We need more information that the administration has been unwilling to provide,” she said in a press release. “The director of the Census Bureau was not even on today’s call, and the administration has refused for weeks to allow him to brief members of our committee, despite repeated requests.” 

The pandemic has forced the Pentagon to improve its information technology capabilities, such as telework, private network use and Internet connectivity. Read DefenseOne’s full coverage here

The Defense Department published its eighth version of pandemic guidance on Monday, which focuses on mitigating coronavirus spread in workplaces. This includes: restricting access to those infected, collecting information about cases and properly disinfecting workspaces. 

Former Occupational Safety and Health Administration Administrator David Michaels gave the Trump administration an “F” grade for its handling of worker safety during the pandemic. “12 weeks ago safety and health experts said OSHA should be preparing, should be issuing emergency standards to make sure workers are protected first in health care and then all these other essential workers,” he said on CNN on Tuesday morning. “OSHA still hasn’t done it [and] has been invisible in this whole response.” He said the president deserves some blame for not taking the initiative to protect workers or directing OSHA to do so. 

On Monday, the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division and Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Competition reaffirmed the “importance of competition for American workers,” during the coronavirus outbreak, but said that “some cooperation between government, business, and individual actors may be necessary in order to protect the health and safety of Americans.” This is part of the Trump administration’s large-scale effort to crack down on pandemic-related fraud and price gouging. 

The Justice Department also announced the creation of coronavirus task forces in the Southern District of Florida and Nevada. Several other states have created similar teams of local, state and federal law enforcement officials to combat fraud.

On Tuesday, the Government Accountability Office explained in a blog post and video the types of fraud to watch out for as agencies use coronavirus relief funds and how the public can report suspicious activity. 

The Trump administration has yet to release full data on coronavirus cases among racial and ethnic groups, despite research on the health disparities in minority populations and calls from public health officials to do so, Politico reported on Tuesday. “Medicare chief Seema Verma said at the White House daily briefing last week that her office would be providing such data ‘very shortly,’” Politico reported. “But two officials in her department told Politico that no such release is imminent or has been marked as a priority.”

The CIA advised its employees privately that the anti-malaria drug Trump and his supporters have touted as a potential coronavirus cure might have dangerous side effects, The Washington Post reported on Monday night. “The warning, featured on a website for CIA employees with questions related to the spread of covid-19, came in late March after public discussion—and promotion by the president—that hydroxychloroquine, administered in concert with the antibiotic azithromycin, might prove effective against the disease.”

As of April 12, FEMA obligated $5.2 billion to support states’ response efforts, coordinate the delivery of 38 million N95 respirators, 32.6 million surgical masks and 5.5 million face shields, among other supplies and scheduled 28 international flights over the next three weeks to bring in medical supplies (in addition to the 28 previous ones,) according to DHS’s weekly update. 

Additionally, “total border patrol encounters have declined 7% total in March from February, and 76% since the height of the crisis last May,” said DHS. “In addition, 80% of the people who [Customs and Border Protection] encountered since the March 21 enactment of Title 42 are being returned to the country from where they came within two hours.” The CDC issued an emergency directive under Title 42 of the U.S. Code that allows border agents to prevent migrants from coming into the country in order to prevent spread of the virus. 

The Food and Drug Administration approved the first saliva-based coronavirus test on Monday using emergency authority, The Hill reported. A Rutgers University lab developed the test, along with Spectrum Solutions, a Utah-based company, and Accurate Diagnostic Labs, which has hundreds of practices serviced in the New York and New Jersey region.

Today’s GovExec Daily podcast episode is about the Trump administration’s guidance to agencies on spending their coronavirus funds in a fast and transparent manner and other oversight aspects of the pandemic. 

Upcoming: 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