Coronavirus Roundup: SBA Resumes Accepting Loan Applications; Second Navy Ship With Virus Outbreak Returns Home
There's a lot to keep track of. Here’s today’s list of news updates and stories you may have missed.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added six new symptoms to its list of possible coronavirus signs. Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, said on NBC on Sunday “social distancing will be with us through the summer to really ensure that we protect one another” while moving through the phases of the virus’ spread. There were 967,585 recorded coronavirus cases and 54,931 deaths in the United States as of Monday morning, according to Johns Hopkins University’s data. Here are some other recent headlines from over the weekend and today you might have missed.
The Food and Drug Administration said on Monday over 1,500 additional manufacturers are now registered with the agency to produce much-sought after hand sanitizer. The FDA addressed safety concerns. “It is important that hand sanitizer be manufactured in a way that makes them unpalatable to people, especially young children, and that they are appropriately labeled to discourage accidental or intentional ingestion,” said a press release. “Additionally, hand sanitizers are not proven to treat COVID-19, and like other products meant for external use, are not for ingestion, inhalation or intravenous use.”
On Friday, following their review, Navy officials recommended that Capt. Brett Crozier should be reinstated as the commander of the aircraft carrier the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt, Defense One reported. Earlier this month Crozier was ousted following his plea for help for his coronavirus-stricken ship. Defense Secretary Mark Esper hasn’t made a decision yet.
Meanwhile, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is calling for a broader investigation into what happened, according to a Politico report on Saturday. "Milley isn't faulting Crozier," a Defense official told Politico. "He wants more than just an inquiry ... that's the holdup." A final decision is supposedly expected next week.
The Defense Department inspector general aggregated reports from the last three years “to share lessons learned and best practices” that could help military treatment facilities in their coronavirus response. The reports focus on personal information protection on Defense networks and systems.
The U.S.S. Kidd, the second Navy ship with a coronavirus outbreak, returned home to Everett, Washington, The Seattle Times reported on Sunday. “On Saturday, the Navy reported that 33 sailors aboard the guided-missile destroyer had tested positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, up from the 18 cases announced just 24 hours earlier.”
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services expects to reopen its offices on or after June 4. This includes: field offices, asylum offices and application support centers. “Employees in these offices are continuing to perform mission-essential services that do not require face-to-face contact with the public while the offices are closed,” said a press release on Friday.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement is expected to receive 2,000 tests per month from the Health and Human Services Department to screen migrants in detention centers before deporting them, Reuters reported. The agency did this “to avoid risking more countries’ pulling back cooperation with deportation flights,” as countries have expressed concerns about receiving migrants with coronavirus cases.
The Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend that the administration is considering replacing HHS Secretary Alex Azar following backlash over his early handling of the pandemic. However, the president tweeted on Sunday evening that the reports were “fake news” and that Azar “is doing an excellent job.”
The Agriculture Department took over a month to “make its first significant move to buy up surplus fruits and vegetables,” which led to tens of millions of pounds of produce rotting, as food banks scrambled to meet increased demands during the pandemic, Politico reported on Sunday. “USDA is committed to maximizing our services and flexibilities to ensure children and others who need food can get it during this coronavirus epidemic,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told Politico. “This is a challenging time for many Americans, but it is reassuring to see President Trump and our fellow Americans stepping up to the challenges facing us to make sure kids and those facing hunger are fed.”
The Internal Revenue Service updated its online tool to help individuals track the status of their stimulus checks and add direct deposit information. Read more here.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. is planning to push for a provision in the next stimulus package that would ban putting the president’s signature on any future relief checks, Politico reported on Monday. “The No PR Act puts an end to the president’s exploitation of taxpayer money for promotional material that only benefits his re-election campaign,” Schumer told Politico. “Delaying the release of stimulus checks so his signature could be added is a waste of time and money.” As The Washington Post reported earlier this month, it is standard protocol for a civil servant to sign checks from the government.
In addition to temporarily halting funding to the World Health Organization while it assesses its handling of the coronavirus, the Trump administration is taking further action. “At the State Department, officials are stripping references to the WHO from virus fact sheets, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has instructed his employees to ‘cut out the middleman’ when it comes to public health initiatives the United States previously supported through the WHO,” The Washington Post reported on Saturday.
Starting on Tuesday, the Census Bureau is inviting the public to comment on the questions added to the census to assess the impact of the pandemic on businesses, according to a document in the Federal Register. On April 8, the Office of Management and Budget initially gave emergency approval for such questions through October 31, 2020. “The Census Bureau now seeks to extend clearance for the COVID-19 supplemental questions for an additional three years,” according to the post. “Currently, there is no way to anticipate an end to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy. Therefore, the Census Bureau needs to be prepared for the possibility of collecting these data for an extended period of time.”
The nonprofit advocacy group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility said on Monday as the national parks reopen they must confront their “chronic crippling overcrowding” problem. The 1978 National Parks and Recreation Act “requires ‘visitor carrying capacities for all areas’ of each park unit,” said a press release. “Yet more than 40 years after its enactment, a review by PEER indicates that almost no major national parks have adopted carrying capacities to prevent harmful overcrowding.” The nonprofit said the parks’ historic inability to address crowds could make social distancing difficult.
Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said on Friday they requested the Justice Department Inspector General to review the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ transfer and home confinement policies during the pandemic. “We are concerned that BOP is not fully and expeditiously implementing relevant statutory authority and directives from the attorney general,” they wrote. “We are also concerned about how closely BOP is following CDC guidance or taking other preventive measures to adequately protect BOP staff and inmates from the spread of COVID-19,” Forbes reported.
On Monday, the Small Business Administration resumed accepting applications for the paycheck protection program for small businesses.
Schumer, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and other Democrats asked the Treasury and Small Business Administration inspectors general on Friday to review how banks implemented the emergency payment program for small businesses and if the businesses that received funds were truly in need, Politico reported on Monday.
On Sunday, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and CDC issued new guidance for the meatpacking industry following outbreaks at facilities nationwide. "A lot of it is just a repeat of what's on the CDC website," Debbie Berkowitz, a former OSHA policy adviser during the Obama administration, currently with the National Employment Law Project, told Politico. "This industry ignored CDC guidance before—why would they do it now?"
Today’s GovExec Daily podcast episode looks at how managers can help employees avoid getting burned out as they work from home.
Upcoming: The White House scheduled a briefing for 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: Viewpoint: Save the Postal Service