Coronavirus Roundup: Unions Support New Stimulus Package; Pentagon to Purchase Protective Gear for Nursing Homes
There's a lot to keep track of. Here’s today’s list of news updates and stories you may have missed.
It’s been two months since President Trump declared a national emergency for the novel coronavirus pandemic. States are beginning to reopen as public health experts caution that there could be a resurgence if this happens too soon and if the proper precautions are not taken. On Wednesday, Trump pushed for schools to reopen, despite National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci suggesting a more cautious approach during testimony before a Senate panel on Tuesday. Here are some other recent headlines you might have missed.
President Trump and coronavirus task force members have been skeptical of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s data collection methodology and have pushed them to revise how it counts deaths, so the total is lower. CDC officials are contesting the changes, however, according to The Daily Beast.
Trump’s nominee to be chairwoman and commissioner of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission was involved in the administration's “shelving” of a detailed CDC report on reopening economies, according to emails obtained by the Associated Press. Nancy Beck, a former chemical industry executive, is serving on detail at the Office of Management and Budget to coordinate the review of pandemic-related stimulus packages and was the CDC’s main point of contact on the agency’s 63-page guide, the Associated Press reported.
A senior administration official briefed reporters on Thursday on how the White House is revamping the strategic national stockpile based on what it has learned in recent months and better preparing for future needs than in the aftermath of the 2009 H1N1 outbreak. “We are restructuring a whole series of relationships internally” between agencies and “externally with external stakeholders: states, hospitals, distributors, manufacturers,” said an official. “We’re going to have a much more robust, more capable and less vulnerable strategic national stockpile,” which will “require the permanent restructuring of a whole series of relationships using information technology and contracting capabilities.”
Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., ranking member of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, wrote to Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., subcommittee chairman, on Wednesday with concerns that oversight is being conducted in too much of a partisan manner. He listed 10 safeguards the subcommittee should take to “protect the fundamental rights of the minority and maintain the focus of the subcommittee on helping our country come back from the shutdown related to this unprecedented pandemic.”
On Wednesday Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said on MSNBC that because Attorney General William Barr “has so politicized the Justice Department,'' people can’t be confident that the decision to allow Paul Manafort, former Trump campaign chairman, to be put on home confinement is “based on the merits.” Manafort was at a federal prison in Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, Schiff said it's unfair that two federal prisons in his district have between 40% and 70% of inmates with coronavirus and they are not getting put on home confinement. One of those locations recently opened an on-site hospital to accommodate the surge of coronavirus cases.
The American Federation of Government Employees and National Treasury Employees Union issued statements on Wednesday in support of the $3 trillion stimulus package House Democrats unveiled on Monday. They both said the legislation would provide the necessary protections for frontline federal employees.
A new report shows the steady increase of complaints referencing the pandemic filed in federal courts between March 1 and May 2. Additionally, contracts were the practice area with the most coronavirus lawsuits, Law360 reported on Wednesday.
The Food and Drug Administration will host a virtual town hall on Friday afternoon, in collaboration with the Veterans Affairs Department and National Institutes of Health, on how to use 3-D printing for coronavirus testing swabs. See more information here.
The coronavirus tests the White House has been championing failed to detect at least one-third of positive cases, according to a preliminary study by New York University. The Food and Drug Administration, which approved the test, said it’s “reviewing the information in this non-peer-reviewed study,” Bloomberg News reported on Wednesday.
The Pentagon announced on Wednesday it awarded a $134 million contract to buy personal protective equipment for over 15,000 nursing homes, which have been hit particularly hard by the virus. This week it started delivering to New York; New Jersey; Washington, D.C.; Baltimore; and Philadelphia, and by the end of June it will make deliveries to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s designated priority locations across the country, Puerto Rico and Guam.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., chairman of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, wrote to the Small Business Administration on Wednesday asking how it's going to balance its disaster loans program for hurricane season alongside the coronavirus relief loan program. Hurricane season in the Atlantic begins on June 1.
On Wednesday night, the FBI served a search warrant to Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., at his residence in the Washington area and confiscated his phone in the bureau’s investigation of the senator’s stock sales at the coronavirus’ onset after he received briefings on the matter. Additionally, the FBI served a second warrant recently to Apple in order to obtain information on Burr’s iCloud account, The Los Angeles Times reported. Following this news, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on Thursday that Burr decided to step down from his role as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee during the investigation.
The Government Accountability Office published a report on Wednesday on the Census Bureau's challenges in partnerships and outreach efforts, which have been disrupted by the pandemic.
GAO also issued a report on the need for the Internal Revenue Service to improve its information security controls, which comes as it’s collecting direct deposit information and distributing stimulus checks. “Such deficiencies increase the risk of unauthorized access to, modification of, or disclosure of financial reporting and taxpayer data and disruption of critical operations,” said GAO.
On Thursday, NTEU repeated its call for the IRS to further extend the tax-filing season from July 15 to October 15. The union would like more time for individuals to fill out their returns and IRS employees to process them.
The need for security clearances may decrease due to increased telework capabilities, National Counterintelligence and Security Center Director William Evanina said on Wednesday. “Right now, our communications from home to work are not safe, whether it's in the private sector, especially not in the government,” he said. “We have to find effective security solutions to get to where we want to be,” Federal Computer Week reported. See DefenseOne’s coverage on how intelligence employees and contractors are handling going into offices during the pandemic.
Today’s GovExec Daily podcast episode looks at the racial disparities in coronavirus cases, death rates and access to care.
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.