There's a lot to keep track of. Here’s today’s list of news updates and stories you may have missed.
During an interview with CNN on Wednesday Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and White House coronavirus task force member, said a second wave of the novel coronavirus is "not inevitable" if the United States does the proper mitigation and contact tracing now. Also on Wednesday, the number of coronavirus deaths in the United States surpassed 100,000. Here are some other recent headlines you might have missed.
Top Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee wrote to the Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday with concerns about food safety and the supply chain. “Following FDA’s suspension of routine inspections in March, the average number of inspections per month dropped from 900 to just eight in April,” they wrote. “Consumer protection advocates are concerned this reduction makes an already weak inspection system even weaker, while other experts believe the ultimate impact will be limited as the food companies themselves are the primary testers, not FDA, in assessing the safety of its product. We too are concerned...and want to know more about how FDA is preparing for the inspections to resume.” Read more from Government Executive about the safety concerns and frustrations of federal food inspectors.
The National Institutes of Health is looking to use digital tools to do coronavirus contact tracing and other mitigation efforts, according to a recent request for information. Read NextGov’s full coverage here.
On Wednesday the Internal Revenue Service updated its information online for the nearly 4 million individuals who will receive their stimulus checks on prepaid debit cards. The Treasury Department’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service determines who will receive the cards, which will come in a plain envelope from "Money Network Cardholder Services."
Marc Short, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief-of-staff, has between $506,043 and $1.6 million worth of stocks in companies doing work for the federal government’s pandemic response, which could create a conflict-of-interest, NPR reported on Thursday. Pence is the head of the task force that is overseeing the pandemic response. Devin O'Malley, a spokesman for the vice president, said: “Short has followed all applicable ethics laws, and even sought to divest from potential financial conflicts.” But ethics watchdogs told NPR that Short “needs to divest or recuse himself from issues that may impact his personal financial holdings.”
Federal and state governments have altered or hidden data on coronavirus testing, deaths and cases as the president pushes to reopen the country. In addition to at least a dozen states, the “Centers for Disease Control and Prevention blended diagnostic and antibody tests, boosting the nation's overall testing numbers” and the Health and Human Services Department “took out of context data on the danger of ‘deaths of despair’ from overdoses and suicides amid an economic debacle,” Politico reported on Wednesday.
In a break from precedent, the White House is not planning to release its annual economic projections over the summer due to the economic downturn created by the pandemic. Instead the projections—produced by the Office of Management and Budget, chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, and Treasury secretary—are slated to be released in October, The Washington Post reported on Thursday.
The pandemic is helping the military prepare for the future of war. For example, “the COVID-19 response shows that data can move between the Air Force, Navy and Army in a way that does allow everyone to know what’s going on. It’s been a dress rehearsal in a way that some military exercises aren’t,” Defense One reported. Read Defense One’s full coverage here.
Fifteen senators (14 Democratic and one independent) wrote to Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Wednesday looking for information on how the Pentagon is protecting inmates at Guantanamo Bay. They asked for answers to a list of questions by June 10.
On Thursday, the Veterans Affairs Department began a four-year study on the impact of coronavirus on veterans. “By analyzing data on COVID-19 risk factors, progression, outcomes and immunity, this VA research promises to significantly advance the fight against the disease,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “The study will complement a similar effort by the Department of Defense.” VA’s Cooperative Studies Program and Seattle Epidemiologic Research and Information Center are leading the effort, with the help of CSP epidemiology centers in Durham, North Carolina; West Haven, Connecticut; and Boston.
Upcoming: White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany will hold a briefing at 2 p.m.
Today’s GovExec Daily podcast episode looks at how and when federal employees will return to their offices as states are beginning to reopen.
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.
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