There's a lot to keep track of. Here’s today’s list of news updates and stories you may have missed.
The Labor Department on Friday released data showing that the economy lost over 20.5 million jobs in April, propelling the unemployment rate to nearly 15%—a rate not reached since the Great Depression. Employment fell sharply in all sectors, but leisure and hospitality were especially hard hit.
Here are some other recent headlines you might have missed.
A White House spokesperson said it ordered the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to revise its reopening guidelines because they were “too prescriptive” and could lead to “counter messaging” as the Trump administration is pushing states to come up with their own policies. A CDC spokesperson said he was not familiar with the discussion about a revision, Politico reported on Thursday.
Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said there should be federal standards for reopening the country that are science-based, during her weekly briefing on Thursday.
The House Oversight and Reform Committee said a review found that the Trump administration didn’t sufficiently screen passengers coming in from South Korea and Italy as the coronavirus was spreading in those countries. Read more here.
Two top House Democrats wrote to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Health and Human Services Department on Thursday asking for more transparency in how they are spending their coronavirus relief funds. “We appreciate that the department yesterday took its first step towards publicly releasing some data with regard to recipients of funds from the Provider Relief Fund. But we continue to request that the department provide to Congress all of the data on all distributions,” they wrote. “The department has also failed to make available any provider-specific data with regard to the Medicare Accelerated and Advance Payment Programs, despite repeated requests by Congress for this basic level of transparency and the department’s ability to do so for other CARES Act funding awards.”
Similarly, The Washington Post published an investigation on Friday about the “secrecy” regarding “Project Airbridge” to obtain personal protective equipment.
Doctors and hospitals nationwide criticized the administration’s “uneven and opaque” way of distributing the coronavirus drug remdesivir, for which the Food and Drug Administration granted emergency approval last week. “About two dozen hospitals are believed to have been chosen to receive the drug so far, but clinicians told STAT it is unclear why some medical centers were chosen to receive coveted doses while others weren’t—and who is making those decisions in the first place,” Stat News reported.
The Government Accountability Office published a report on Thursday describing problems with how the Homeland Security Department oversees its contractors. The review, which spanned fiscal 2013 to 2018, noted that the shortcomings in oversight “could put the government at risk of losing control of its mission.” NextGov reported on April 23 that at one point during the pandemic, DHS was the third largest agency spender on coronavirus related contracts.
GAO said on Thursday it’s giving auditors more time and flexibility to complete their training requirements for audits due to disruptions from the pandemic. “GAO is keenly aware of the wide-ranging impact of the coronavirus on people’s lives,” said Comptroller General of the United States and head of the GAO Gene Dodaro. “The new flexibilities announced today are intended to help auditors maintain the highest standards in their work, while accommodating the new realities of daily life, whether it’s working from home or caring for family members.”
On Friday, GAO published another pandemic-relevant report: HHS “has had trouble recruiting and retaining medical, engineering, and other science and technology professionals to support activities like biomedical and clinical research,” said GAO. “This research can include studies of HIV, flu, and COVID-19.”
On Thursday, Navy Secretary nominee Kenneth Braithwaite testified before a Senate committee about how he would amend “failings of leadership” both prior to and during the pandemic. Read Defense One’s full coverage here.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement said on Thursday a Salvadoran man in ICE custody in San Diego died on Wednesday while being treated for coronavirus. This is the first known coronavirus-related death among ICE detainees.
Exceeding the deadline associated with the president’s use of the 1950 Defense Production Act, over 4,400 ventilators were produced for the national stockpile. This topped the 2,922 that were due Monday and 850 due on Friday, USA Today reported.
The Federal Courts asked Congress for an additional $36.6 million in coronavirus relief. The money would be used to increase teleworking infrastructure to handle their backlog of cases, bolster courtroom safety precautions and pay for more judgeships. The judiciary already received $7.5 million from the $2.2 trillion CARES Act passed in March, Law360 reported.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons said on Thursday it will “substantially expand” coronavirus testing capacities as the number of staff and inmates with positive cases has been increasing steadily. “The bureau currently has testing in place at facilities experiencing sustained transmission, and the additional test kits will be placed first at quarantine and pre-trial detention centers,” said a press release. “As we continue to manage the federal inmate population, including the management of detention bedspace, the bureau’s increased use of testing will help to mitigate the transmission of the disease and allow the bureau to resume limited movement as necessary to manage the arrival of inmates from outside bureau custody.”
The same day, the American Civil Liberties Union and Council of Prison Locals called for mass testing of all incarcerated individuals and BOP employees.
The Veterans Affairs Department announced a three-phase plan on how it will resume normal operations at medical centers, benefit offices and national cemeteries: “Under VA’s plan, conditions on the ground will determine how quickly each facility resumes normal operations, and each phase of the plan is aimed at making sure that Veterans’ safety comes first,” the department said.
Reps. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., and Nita Lowey, D-N.Y. published an op-ed in The Daily Herald on Friday about the need to protect elections during the pandemic, such as by expanding vote by mail. “Coronavirus is threatening the 2020 election. Voting and election integrity shouldn't be a partisan issue,” they wrote. “By moving swiftly to dramatically scale up election assistance to states, we can limit burdens on voters, protect public health, and safeguard election integrity.”
The Transportation Security Administration said on Thursday that employees must wear face protections while at screening checkpoints. The agency also said passengers are “encouraged” to wear face coverings.
The Internal Revenue Service released the latest state-by-state stimulus payment numbers on Friday. About 130 million individuals received payments worth more than $200 billion in the first four weeks of the program.
Six Democratic senators wrote to Maximus, the largest federal call center contractor, expressing concerns it has not done enough to protect employees during the pandemic. They asked for information about how the company is practicing social distancing and taking other safety precautions, what is the timeline to launch telework and if the company will provide premium pay to all workers, so employees are not incentivized to come into work sick.
Today’s GovExec Daily podcast episode explores how federal employees can avoid security lapses while teleworking.
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.