Coronavirus Roundup: Military Sees Increase in Leave Deferrals; AFL-CIO Sues OSHA for Emergency Standard to Protect Workers
There's a lot to keep track of. Here’s today’s list of news updates and stories you may have missed.
On Sunday, White House Trade Adviser Peter Navarro said on NBC that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “really let the country down” with its coronavirus testing early on. “Not only did they keep the testing within the bureaucracy, they had a bad test,” he said. “And that did set us back.” When asked about the comments, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said on CBS he doesn’t believe the agency let the country down. “I believe the CDC serves an important public health role,” he added. “And what was always critical was to get the private sector to the table.” Here are some other recent headlines from over the weekend and today that you might have missed.
Vice President Mike Pence announced on Friday that new members were added to the White House coronavirus task force. They are Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue; Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia; National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins; Food and Drug Administration Director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research Dr. Peter Marks; and Health Resources and Services Administration Administrator Thomas Engels. “The announcement comes as the Task Force enters a new phase, which is focused on getting Americans back to work and allowing businesses to re-open,” said a statement from the White House.
HHS is going to award $5 million to support research on health care delivery systems and health care professionals' responsiveness during the pandemic. The funding research opportunity will be through its Healthcare Research and Quality Agency and the deadline to apply for the grant is June 15.
HHS’ Inspector General Office is accepting questions from the health care community on the office’s administrative enforcement authorities related to the pandemic. “As part of OIG's mission to promote economy, efficiency, and effectiveness in HHS programs, we are committed to protecting patients by ensuring that health care providers have the regulatory flexibility necessary to adequately respond to COVID-19 concerns,” said the office. “If you have a question regarding how OIG would view an arrangement that is directly connected to the public health emergency and implicates these authorities, please submit your question to OIGComplianceSuggestions@oig.hhs.gov.” The office plans to update its frequently asked questions site as it responds.
On Friday, the Census Bureau said it updated its coronavirus data hub. The new version has improved search functions, additional demographic variables, new maps and more.
The Census Bureau also said on Friday that it would begin a phased restart of field operations in some states during the week of May 18. Earlier this month, it resumed the “update leave” operation, which happens in areas where most households don’t receive mail at their homes or there is missing mail delivery information.
President Trump announced the multi-agency “Operation Warp Speed” on Friday to hasten the development, manufacturing and distribution of a coronavirus vaccine. Dr. Moncef Slaoui, immunologist and former pharma executive, will be the chief scientist and Gen. Gus Perna, a four-star general who serves as the commanding general of the Army’s Materiel Command, will be the chief operating officer for the operation. HHS Secretary Alex Azar said the administration plans to use “all of our regulatory tools” to make a vaccine available to all Americans by January.
The Veterans Affairs Department said on Friday it launched a clinical trial for veterans to test a prostate cancer drug as a possible coronavirus cure. The West Los Angeles VA Medical Center is leading the study and VA medical centers in New York (Brooklyn and Manhattan) and Washington State (Puget Sound) are also involved.
On Monday, the AFL-CIO sued the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to compel it to create an emergency temporary standard to protect workers from the coronavirus. “We’ve been left no choice” because “millions are infected and nearly 90,000 have died, so it’s beyond urgent that action is taken to protect workers who risk our lives daily to respond to this public health emergency,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “If the Trump administration refuses to act, we must compel them to.”
Reps. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Karen Bass, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Crime, pressed the U.S. Marshall Service on Friday for information on how it’s handling those in custody during the pandemic. “We have received alarming information about increasing numbers of infected detainees at jails with USMS contracts” and “received multiple reports about the substandard manner in which the jails contracting with the USMS are caring for federal detainees during the current crisis,” they wrote.
Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb wrote in The Wall Street Journal on Sunday that the CDC needs to streamline its data and share it with the public in order to assist those on the front lines. “There are shortcomings in our ability to access the electronic systems designed to help glean facts from clinical data,” Gottlieb wrote. “CDC hasn’t been filling its traditional role of promptly publishing medical findings that may help doctors care for patients. Instead, a lot of this information is being passed around social media, by email or even through word of mouth. It’s trial and error on a global scale.”
Due to the pandemic, Social Security could become insolvent by the end of the decade, according to some new estimations. The most recent government projection says the program could run out of money by 2035. However, looking at the massive unemployment during the pandemic and subsequent effects during the pandemic, some outside economists speculated the insolvency could be earlier, Politico reported on Sunday.
Thousands of troops are deferring their plans to leave the military due to the economic uncertainty created by the pandemic. For example, the Army surpassed its goal of retaining 50,000 soldiers in fiscal 2020 as of last week by re-enlisting over 52,000 troops so far, the Associated Press reported on Monday.
A Washington Post deep-dive looks at how the coronavirus crisis has exposed the effects of “decades of denigration of government and also from a steady squeeze on the resources needed to shore up the domestic parts of the executive branch.”
Former top federal vaccine official turned whistleblower Dr. Rick Bright was interviewed on CBS’s 60 Minutes on Sunday about his efforts to sound the alarm about the coronavirus earlier this year, which he claimed led to his demotion ultimately. In response, President Trump criticized the network and Bright on Twitter. He also said “this whole whistleblower racket needs to be looked at very closely, it is causing great injustice & harm.”
Today’s GovExec Daily podcast episode looks at how businesses and organizations can handle recruiting and retaining employees during the pandemic.
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.