There's a lot to keep track of. Here’s today’s list of news updates and stories you may have missed.
The House is voting on Friday on the $3 trillion stimulus package for coronavirus relief that the Democrats introduced on Tuesday, which would provide various protections for frontline federal employees. But it’s unclear how far the measures will get once they leave the House. On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the package a "totally unserious effort" that is a "seasonal catalog of left-wing oddities." He previously said the Senate doesn’t intend to consider additional legislation until after Memorial Day. Here are a few other recent headlines you might have missed.
The Pentagon fired its point person for the 1950 Defense Production Act, which the administration is using to obtain medical supplies and equipment during the pandemic. Jennifer Santos, the Pentagon industrial policy chief, was transferred to a position in the Navy, Politico reported on Thursday. “Santos faced challenges leveraging the Defense Production Act, according to a former Pentagon official,” following the president’s initial hesitation to fully use the act. A defense official said the change will allow the Defense Department to bring on someone “who has a stronger background in DPA-related issues."
Five sailors tested positive for coronavirus after returning to the USS Theodore Roosevelt. They were quarantined in Guam for several weeks after initially testing positive and then tested negative before being allowed back on the air carrier that had a severe coronavirus outbreak in March, Task and Purpose reported on Thursday.
The Pentagon is considering reimbursing military members for their pet relocation costs if they are due to the military’s stop movement order during the pandemic, Military Times reported on Thursday.
On Thursday, the Defense Department Inspector General office published a report on its coronavirus oversight plan, which lists current and future investigations of relief funds for cybersecurity, health care, force readiness, information technology procurement and more. “This list is not conclusive and will grow and evolve as new challenges related to COVID-19 emerge,” the report stated. “In addition, the DoD OIG will remain flexible and responsive to developing DoD requirements, to include reevaluating planned or ongoing work to determine whether work should be modified.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s in person checks at construction sites have fallen about 16% from pre-pandemic levels. For context, OSHA did 395 construction inspections in the first week of March and 65 during the week of April 26, Bloomberg News reported on Thursday. The agency said it's prioritizing doing inspections at workplaces with increased risk of coronavirus exposure.
Rep. John Katko, R N.Y., said on Thursday that after a bipartisan push, the Internal Revenue Service created a phone line to answer questions about stimulus payments. The number is 800-919-9835, which leads to an automated messaging system.
The National Institutes of Health announced on Thursday it began a clinical trial to see if the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, given with the antibiotic azithromycin, can treat the coronavirus. The merits of hydroxychloroquine are a matter of debate between some politicians and public health experts.
A group of Democratic senators introduced legislation on Thursday that would create a national coronavirus contact-tracing plan. "To confront a national crisis, we need a proactive nationwide strategy—and the Trump administration is failing to come up with one," said Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. "Our legislation will massively expand our health care workforce to trace and prevent COVID-19, make sure states and localities have the support they need, and provide robust privacy protections to ensure Americans' personal data and health information is protected.”
The Food and Drug Administration issued an alert on Thursday night saying early data suggests there might be some inaccurate results (specifically false negatives) with a widely used rapid coronavirus test from Abbott Labs. “The FDA is sharing early information available about potential inaccurate results in the spirit of transparency,” said the alert. “The agency has been working with Abbott to analyze the information gathered to date and has worked with the company on a customer notification letter to alert users that any negative test results that are not consistent with a patient's clinical signs and symptoms or necessary for patient management should be confirmed with another test.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted new reopening guidelines on Thursday, but they are not as detailed as an earlier version that the White House reportedly “shelved.” A CDC spokesperson said additional guidance might still come out, The Washington Post reported on Thursday.
The Government Accountability Office accepted a group of Senate Democrats’ request to review the Veterans Affairs Department’s oversight of care at state veterans homes following coronavirus outbreaks at many of them.
Disruptions in Census operations due to the pandemic could delay some states’ redistricting efforts. If Congress approves an extension to move the deadline to report population data from April 1, 2021 to July 31, 2021, then the statutory deadlines for 17 states to redraw political maps will fall before that, The Hill reported on Friday.
The Homeland Security Department explained how and why it rescheduled migrant protection protocol hearings during the pandemic, which caused confusion among asylum seekers, attorneys and immigration rights advocates. Read the letter from DHS sent to the nonprofit Human Rights First on Thursday.
An executive for a U.S. mask manufacturer testified before a House committee on Thursday that he’s been warning the federal government about insufficient production of medical masks domestically for 13 years and was ignored until the current pandemic. “The DoD, VA, CDC and HHS could have worked together to secure America’s mask supply. I had suggested this on many occasions to [the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority] and to the CDC,” said Mike Bowen.
He testified after whistleblower Dr. Rick Bright, who told lawmakers the Trump administration ignored his early warnings about the pandemic and demoted him for speaking out. “This is like somebody who was in a choir and is now trying to say he was a soloist back then. What [Bright] was saying is what every single member of this administration and the president was saying: ‘We need more personal protective equipment. We need more ventilators. We need therapeutics. We need vaccines,’” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said on Thursday afternoon. “Every single thing this president was on, this president achieved. And Dr. Bright was part of a team and was simply saying what everybody else at the White House and at HHS was saying.”
HHS Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Kevin Yeskey is retiring effective Friday. He is the top deputy to Assistant Secretary Robert Kadlec, who was cited frequently throughout Bright’s whistleblower complaint. Yeskey said his departure had been planned for months and doesn’t have anything to do with coronavirus, CBS News reported.
While airports and the White House are encouraging the Transportation Security Administration to start checking passengers’ temperatures, lawmakers and former DHS officers are unsure if the agency is legally allowed to do so, Politico reported on Friday.
As of May 13, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has received 3,800 coronavirus-related complaints and opened 281 coronavirus-related inspections. It has not issued any citations so far. “One possible reason: OSHA has said it takes into account a business’ ‘good faith efforts’ when deciding whether to issue a citation,” Politico reported.
Twenty attorneys general wrote to Trump asking for more protections for meatpacking and poultry processing employees during the coronavirus outbreak. They said CDC and OSHA guidance “must be strengthened and made mandatory, with vigorous and robust federal enforcement,” Business Insurance reported on Thursday.
Upcoming: Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany will hold a briefing at 2 p.m.
Today’s GovExec Daily podcast episode examines the financial and management issues the U.S. Postal Service is facing.
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