Defense Secretary Mark Esper speaks during a briefing at the Pentagon.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper speaks during a briefing at the Pentagon. Susan Walsh/AP

Coronavirus Roundup: Pentagon To Enter First Phase of Reopening; Biden Outlines His Plan to Restart Economy if Elected

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

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams told Politico in an interview on Thursday that George Floyd, the unarmed black man who died in police custody on May 25, “could have been me.” He said he understands the “anger, the frustration, the fear and why people feel that they need to prioritize going out and protesting.” Public health experts have warned of coronavirus spikes as a result of the protests. Adams, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, encouraged individuals to use hand sanitizer, wear masks and take other health precautions, if they do attend. “I want to help you understand your risk and ... how to do it as safely as possible," he said. Here are a few other recent headlines you might have missed. 

On Thursday, the D.C. Circuit court rejected the AFL-CIO’s lawsuit against the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to compel it to create a temporary emergency rule to protect workers from the coronavirus. "In light of the unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the regulatory tools that the OSHA has at its disposal to ensure that employers are maintaining hazard-free work environments, ... the OSHA reasonably determined that an [emergency temporary standard] is not necessary at this time," Law360 reported. Read more from Government Executive about Democratic lawmakers and watchdogs’ claims the agency is not being active enough during the pandemic. 

On Thursday, Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, released a plan on how his administration would reopen the economy after the pandemic. The plan includes federally funded testing for employees returning to workplaces, creating a national contact tracing workforce and compelling OSHA to create a temporary emergency standard. 

An investigation by The Wall Street Journal found that some of the equipment nursing homes, which have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus, received from the Federal Emergency Management Agency is unusable. “Nursing-home operators said they had sometimes been confused as shipments of protective gear showed up, apparently from the government, with the exact source not always clear,” the paper reported on Thursday. “Several said they had gotten boxes of cotton masks which they assumed were from FEMA, though they said such masks wouldn’t protect staffers.”

Following the report, the president and CEO of LeadingAge, an association that represents over 5,000 members and partners of nonprofits that provide aging services, wrote to Vice President Mike Pence asking for an investigation. There is “mounting evidence that FEMA shipments of [personal protective equipment] are deeply delayed, frequently stocked with useless and expired supplies, and delivered in quantities radically insufficient to help protect older Americans from the deadly coronavirus,” she said. 

The Defense Department announced on Thursday that the Pentagon Reservation is moving into Phase 1 of reopening on June 15. The guidance says that telework should still be maximized for vulnerable individuals and no more than 40% of the workforce should be in an office space at a time. Face coverings will be mandatory and employees will be subject to random temperature and screening checks at entrances. 

State Department officials said on a briefing call on Friday that as of Thursday, 11 passport processing centers are in Phase 1 of reopening based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance and local conditions. They are “aggressively increasing processing capabilities,” have secured protective equipment for employees and are practicing social distancing, officials said. An official estimated it would take six to eight weeks to catch up on work put on hold due coronavirus limitations. 

The American Federation of Government Employees said it’s “doubtful” the Veterans Affairs Department is ready to reopen facilities, in a statement submitted for the record for a House hearing. The VA is “ill prepared to communicate usable plans to workers and their representatives” and doesn’t have “sufficient PPE inventory, testing and contact tracing,” said the union.  

The Democratic congressional delegation from Washington state wrote to the Environmental Protection Agency administrator on Wednesday with concerns about the reopening of its regional office there. “Washington state has continued to see high rates of infection throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, making ensuring the health and safety of workers transitioning back to in-person duties of the utmost importance,” they wrote. “Any reopening must be conducted in a manner consistent with public health expertise and local and state guidelines, laws and regulations. To date, EPA has detailed no specifics concerning its planned regional reopening efforts.” 

The pandemic presents “complications and opportunities” for federal contractors during the fourth quarter of the fiscal year, which starts in less than three weeks. Read the full analysis Federal News Network published on Thursday using data from Bloomberg Government. 

Despite pleas from the National Taxpayers Union and National Treasury Employees Union, the Treasury Department will not commit to extending the July 15 deadline for filing taxes, Politico reported on Friday.  The normal deadline is April 15, but was pushed back due to the pandemic. 

The Hispanic National Bar Association wrote to congressional leadership on Thursday asking it to increase oversight of immigration detention facilities and hold the relevant agencies accountable. Among its concerns are the increased deportations of detainees during the pandemic (some of whom had confirmed coronavirus cases) and “reports that ICE is unnecessarily transferring detainees infected or suspected of being infected with COVID-19, leading to new outbreaks in other facilities”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention denied a series of requests from Native American tribes and organizations for coronavirus data showing where cases are spreading, according to a Politico report on Thursday. The Native community is already facing vast health disparities and infection rates. “It’s part of the systems of inequity in this country that I have to push, and we don’t always have the political power to push these large agencies to give us what we need,” Abigail Echo-Hawk, the director of the Urban Indian Health Institute, told Politico. "This is public health epidemiology—it's not research. The data is meant to understand the health of the community and address pressing public health concerns."

On Friday, House Energy and Commerce Committee Democrats asked the Federal Communications Commission for more transparency on how it’s distributing CARES Act funds for coronavirus telehealth programs. “While the FCC has posted weekly updates of funding awards, we are troubled by the lack of transparency regarding the health care providers who have applied but have not yet received an award,” wrote Reps. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., committee chairman, and Mike Doyle, D-Pa., chairman of the Communications and Technology subcommittee. “We have heard reports that many health care providers are facing issues obtaining funds, particularly those serving tribal lands.” They asked the agency to provide answers to a list of their questions by June 19. 

Today’s GovExec Daily podcast episode has the latest on oversight and inspectors general news.

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