A TSA officer talks to a traveler at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago on Tuesday.

A TSA officer talks to a traveler at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago on Tuesday. Nam Y. Huh/AP

Coronavirus Roundup: Bipartisan Bill to Expand National Service; Pandemic Oversight Committee Releases First Report

There's a lot to keep track of. Here’s today’s list of news updates and stories you may have missed.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a new report that offers more detailed demographic data on those most affected by the coronavirus. It confirmed earlier reports that minorities, older individuals and people with pre-existing health conditions are most at risk of dying from the coronavirus. Using federal, state and local data, the CDC determined there were 1,761,503 confirmed cases 103,700 related deaths in the United States from January 22 to May 30. Here are some other recent headlines you might have missed. 

On Wednesday, the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee released its first report, which is on the top challenges agencies will face in using their CARES Act funds. The report found “areas of common concern among agencies of different sizes and with disparate agency missions” such as “financial management of CARES Act and other funds; grant management; information technology security and management; and protecting health and safety while maintaining effective operations.” 

On Tuesday, a group of bipartisan senators introduced legislation that would dramatically expand national service in the next coronavirus relief package. It would double the number of AmeriCorps positions this year and create 600,000 service opportunities over the next three years. “These positions could support a variety of response and recovery efforts based on community needs, including expanding food pantry capacity, mentoring and tutoring at-risk students, bridging health inequities by expanding access to COVID-19 screening and testing, and more,” said a press release. The bill is based on similar legislation Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., introduced last month. 

The Trump administration is extending non-essential travel restrictions to and from Canada and Mexico until July 21 due to ongoing pandemic concerns. “This extension protects Americans while keeping essential trade and travel flowing as we reopen the American economy,” said Acting Homeland Security Department Secretary Chad Wolf. “[DHS] is in close contact with our Canadian and Mexican counterparts regarding this extension, and they agree on the need to extend their non-essential travel restrictions as well.”

DHS and the Justice Department said on Tuesday they plan to resume migrant protection protocol hearings on July 20 and in-person document services on July 17. “When conditions are deemed safe, the departments will provide notice 15 days prior to resumption with additional, location-specific information,” said a press release. “Individuals should continue to check on case status in English and Spanish by calling the Automated Case Information Hotline at 1-800-898-7180 or visiting the EOIR Automated Case Information portal.” 

On Tuesday, Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr., D-N.J., repeated his request to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to provide him with claims data on coronavirus cases by race, ethnicity and gender. “It has now been nine weeks since I first requested access to this data, and 10 weeks since you stated that the data would be available ‘very shortly.’ Despite the urgency with which this information is needed, you have yet to make any of this data publicly available,” he wrote. “Your delay in providing Congress and the American people with the critical demographic information that is available to your agency and that you promised to release raises significant concerns about CMS’s response to this pandemic.”

Over 35% of federal inmates tested for coronavirus were positive, according to an analysis by ABC News. "As testing resources have become more available, we are testing our inmate population more broadly, which is helping us to quickly identify and isolate positive cases to rapidly flatten the curve when outbreaks occur,” a BOP spokesperson told ABC. “As a result of our expanded testing capabilities and the BOP’s robust pandemic plan, we currently have more staff and inmates recovered from COVID-19 than are positive."

Prior to the Food and Drug Administration revoking the emergency use authorizations for the controversial chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine drugs on Monday, the White House created a stockpile of 66 million doses. President Trump and some in his inner circle have promoted the drugs to treat coronavirus, yet medical and public health experts have been warning of the potential risks. The stockpile, started in March, “included accepting a donation from the pharmaceutical giant Bayer of three million tablets from a factory in Pakistan that had not been certified by the FDA as safe,” The New York Times reported on Tuesday. 

U.S. service members would be among the first to get an approved coronavirus vaccine. “We are well aware of the crisis of vaccine confidence in recent years in the U.S. and around the world, and the Department of Health and Human Services has undertaken significant efforts to fight back against these trends,” senior administration officials told the Military Times on Tuesday. “The same steps we will take to ensure the safety of vaccines that protect millions of American lives every day will be required.”

During the pandemic, the Navy lost about 50,000 workdays a month at its four public shipyards, so it's bringing in 1,600 reservists to help catch up. “This level of mobilization for maintenance is unprecedented,” Bryan Clark, an analyst with the Hudson Institute, told Breaking Defense. However, “their activation really only helps make up for the about 25% of shipyard workers who haven’t been able to come into work or need to shift to more isolated duties because their age or pre-existing conditions make them more vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19.” 

A federal judge ordered the Treasury Department to distribute the $679 million in COVID-19 relief funds to Native American tribes, which should have happened months ago. “The latest problem is that [Treasury Secretary Steven] Mnuchin has been withholding $679 million of tribes’ money while a separate court challenge plays out over the agency’s methodology for calculating how much money tribes get,” HuffPost reported on Tuesday. “But [the judge] said Monday that $679 million is ‘grossly disproportionate’ to the amount of money that Treasury could have to pay out … and there is no court order preventing the agency from releasing that money to tribes.”

Three Internal Revenue Service employees who returned to work in Austin, Texas tested positive for coronavirus. The agency assured employees that their workplaces are being cleaned and the agency has protocols to protect staff members. However, the National Treasury Employees Union said the IRS should have isolated the areas faster and urged the government to push the deadline for tax filing from July 15 to October 15, Politico reported on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Meritalk reported details of the Energy Department’s reopening plans. On June 1, the department  started bringing back political appointees to offices in the Washington metro area. Read more from Government Executive on how other agencies are planning to bring employees back.  

The National Employment Law Project said on Wednesday the Agriculture Department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service allowed 15 large poultry plants to increase line speeds in April and each “had reports of severe injuries, a history of [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] violations, or were the site of a COVID-19 outbreak.” Read the full report here and more from Government Executive on the issues federal food inspectors faced during the pandemic. 

Upcoming: White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany will hold a briefing at 1p.m.

Today’s GovExec Daily podcast episode talks about the possibility of creating a national database or registry to keep track of police misconduct following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man in police custody in Minneapolis. 

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 newstips@govexec.com.