A Washington D.C. National Guard member stands guard and provides limited access at the Lincoln Memorial as D.C. prepares for another day of George Floyd protests on June 4.

A Washington D.C. National Guard member stands guard and provides limited access at the Lincoln Memorial as D.C. prepares for another day of George Floyd protests on June 4. mpi34/MediaPunch /IPX

Coronavirus Roundup: D.C. National Guard Members Test Positive Following Protests; Watchdog Says Pandemic Could Delay 2020 Census

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 over a month since the coronavirus task force held a briefing, despite the fact that the pandemic is not over, Politico noted on Wednesday. Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus task force coordinator, warned governors of coronavirus spikes following the recent protests during a call on Monday, of which The Daily Beast obtained the recording. She said they should “scramble now to make sure there is testing available in urban areas” since 70 testing sites were destroyed during the protests. Vice President Mike Pence said on the call this is “an issue our team is following and there is a concern.”

In addition to prompting concerns about a resurgence of the coronavirus cases, the protests have shed light on the vast health disparities among minorities and how the virus is disproportionately affecting them. Here are a few other recent headlines you might have missed.

NBC 4 interviewed National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci on Tuesday on the outlook of the coronavirus in the Washington, D.C., area, where he lives. “We’ve gotten hit, I would say pretty badly in a sense,” he said. “But I think our city has done well. I think the mayor has done a good job.” As states are going through their reopening phases federal employees are being called back to work, but many in the D.C. area are still teleworking. 

On Tuesday, Sens. Edward Markey, D-Mass., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., renewed their calls for the Health and Human Services and Transportation departments to require face coverings and social distancing while flying during the pandemic. “Although airlines and airports are acting with the best of intentions, air travel is an inherently interstate and international issue that demands stronger leadership from the federal government,” they wrote. “We believe the safety of the flying public requires consistent and enforceable rules from your agencies, and we urge you to act without further delay.”

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, released a white paper on Tuesday preparing for the next pandemic based on the coronavirus and the past 20 years of planning for infectious diseases. The recommendations in the paper include: accelerating research on testing and treatments, bolstering disease surveillance, rebuilding federal and state stockpiles, and improving agency coordination. 

HHS awarded a $628 million contract to a biodefense company to which Robert Kadlec, the assistant secretary for preparedness and response, has ties. Ousted vaccine head Dr. Rick Bright had expressed concern about possible conflicts-of-interest in contract awards as part of his whistleblower complaint. Kadlec, who is leading the agency’s coronavirus response, was a consultant at Emergent Biosolutions until 2015. “Since Kadlec's 2017 confirmation, the biodefense company has received more than $1.2 billion from the division Kadlec oversees, including a part of HHS known as the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority…[and] is scheduled to get more,” Roll Call reported on Wednesday. 

Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., asked the acting HHS IG to issue alerts to the public and Medicaid recipients about nursing homes and other assisted living facilities unlawfully taking residents’ stimulus payments. “This practice, which reportedly has occurred in facilities across the country, is contrary to the provisions of the [CARES Act], which authorized these payments,” they wrote. “We ask that your office look into these practices targeting elderly Americans and individuals with disabilities and issue alerts to raise awareness that this practice is improper and contrary to congressional intent.”

On Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union and two immigration advocacy groups filed the first lawsuit against the Trump administration’s border restrictions due to the pandemic using special authority from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CNN reported.  

Coast Guard Vice Adm. Dan Abel was installed at HHS to help with the coronavirus response. He has been coordinating the daily calls with HHS Secretary Alex Azar and division leaders, which has prompted questions internally. “Meanwhile, the department is steadily turning back to its many pre-COVID-19 priorities,” Politico reported on Wednesday. 

The Internal Revenue Service reminded individuals on Tuesday how and when to file their taxes as the deadline for filing was pushed back to July 15 due to the pandemic. Read more here.  

The State Department told Congress it plans to reopen its consulate in Wuhan, China (where the coronavirus originated) “on or around” June 22. "At this critical juncture in U.S.-China relations, it is critical that our diplomatic posts in China are staffed," the department said, according to a CNN report. The consulate has been closed since late January. 

The Los Angeles Times published a feature article on the resilience of the U.S. Postal Service throughout history and how the pandemic “became another [thing] in a long line of challenges.” Read more from Government Executive on employees’ health and safety concerns and the agency’s financial struggles. 

Some of the 1,300 D.C. National Guard members who responded to the recent protests in Washington, D.C., tested positive for coronavirus, but the agency did not say how many, McClatchy reported on Tuesday. The D.C. National Guard is the only National Guard unit controlled by the president. 

The Government Accountability Office issued a report on Tuesday saying the pandemic presents “delays and risks” for the 2020 census count. Some of the challenges GAO outlined were: maintaining staff levels, communicating contingency operational plans, monitoring risks to information technology systems, managing disinformation and evaluating the impact of the delay on data quality. 

GAO also reported on Tuesday that the Veterans Affairs Department’s ability to give its critical medical centers supplies and equipment during the pandemic was hindered by its “long-standing problems with its antiquated inventory management system.” Although the VA has taken steps to improve, “fully resolving the problem at the agency level is at least 7 years away.”

Internal documents from the Federal Emergency Management Agency released on Tuesday showed the agency hasn’t significantly increased its supply of surgical gowns and masks in the last few months. Also, “the slides show FEMA’s plan to ramp up supply into June and July hinges on the reusing of N95 masks and surgical gowns, increasing the risk of contamination,” Roll Call reported. “Those are supposed to be disposed of after one use.”

A top Secret Service official told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that pandemic-related fraud could lead to at least $30 billion in relief funds getting stolen. “Countering criminal schemes seeking to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic has become a primary investigative focus for the U.S. Secret Service, and will remain so over the coming years,” said Secret Service Assistant Director Michael D’Ambrosio, The Hill reported.  The Justice and Homeland Security departments have also made this a priority. 

On Wednesday, top House Democrats released the transcripts of their interview with ousted State Department Inspector General Steve Linick, who addressed “Diplomacy Strong,” the department’s program to bring employees back into offices. Linick claims that Brian Bulato, State undersecretary for management, pressured him to not pursue investigations into Secretary Mike Pompeo and does not understand the role of IGs. “He did ask me through an email...to help design the department's response to COVID-19, the ‘Diplomacy Strong’ program,” Linick said. “And I did advise him that that wouldn't be appropriate for me to do that because we may be auditing the department's efforts to address COVID-19.” 

Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced on Tuesday it began voluntary coronavirus testing for detainees at facilities in Tacoma, Washington; and Aurora, Colorado. It will assess how testing goes at these locations in the coming months before it expands such efforts. 

Upcoming: White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany will hold a briefing at 2 p.m. 

Today’s GovExec Daily podcast episode talks about how federal employees, who are still mainly teleworking, can participate in the ongoing protests for racial justice without violating the Hatch Act. 

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.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.