A police officer points a hand cannon at protesters who have been detained pending arrest on May 31 in Minneapolis. Protests following the death of George Floyd could result in a spike in coronavirus cases, health officials predict.

A police officer points a hand cannon at protesters who have been detained pending arrest on May 31 in Minneapolis. Protests following the death of George Floyd could result in a spike in coronavirus cases, health officials predict. John Minchillo/AP

Coronavirus Roundup: Transportation Agencies Spend Millions on Cleaning and Protective Gear; OSHA Issues Guidance on Social Distancing

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

Nationwide protests over the weekend following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man killed in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25, led to concerns of further coronavirus spread. Although many political leaders affirmed individuals' right to protest, they urged them to take health precautions, as The New York Times reported. Here are some other headlines from over the weekend and today you might have missed.

The Labor Department inspector general issued an alert memo on Friday regarding the department’s administration of CARES Act unemployment assistance. During an ongoing audit, the IG determined the Labor Department needs better proactive measures to prevent and detect fraud and improper payments.  

Last week, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued guidance for employers on social distancing and other safety measures as employees return to their workplaces. “The alert is the latest effort by OSHA to educate and protect America’s workers and employers during the coronavirus pandemic,” said the release. However, many lawmakers and watchdogs have been calling on the agency to take a more active role during the padenmimc. 

During the pandemic, many Democrats and election experts have been encouraging the use of vote-by-mail, but President Trump has repeatedly said it will be susceptible to fraud. In the Federal Election Commission’s weekly newsletter on Friday, Democratic Commissioner Ellen Weintraub issued a statement to assure people of the safety of voting by mail, following many tweets earlier in the week. 

Republican FEC Chairwoman Caroline Hunter also included a statement in the newsletter saying the FEC “has absolutely no jurisdiction over election administration, including whether states permit vote-by-mail.” She added the commission (which recently regained its quorum) administers, enforces and formulates policy regarding campaign finance. 

Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, wrote to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts on Friday asking him to make live audio access to oral arguments permanent after the pandemic. “Due to the ongoing COVID-19 emergency, the court wisely conducted oral arguments throughout the month of May via teleconference to ensure the health and safety of all participants,” they wrote. “By providing live audio access, the court clearly demonstrated its technical capability to provide prompt disclosure and transparency to the public. And from all indications, the business before the court was conducted in as dignified and professional a manner as is witnessed inside the courtroom under more normal circumstances.”

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has continued to transfer detainees during the pandemic, putting them and staffers at risk, NBC News reported on Sunday. “Since ICE announced its first case in March, COVID-19 has surfaced in at least 55 of the roughly 200 facilities that ICE uses. More than 1,400 detainees have been infected, roughly half of all those tested, ICE data show. Two immigrants and three staffers have died,” NBC reported. “ICE declined to provide information on how many transfers have occurred throughout the pandemic. But NBC News identified nearly 80 since the pandemic was declared, and that is not a complete accounting.”

In a tweet thread on Sunday, Food and Drug Administration Administrator Dr. Stephen Hahn said hydroxychloroquine “remains a safe drug for approved indications” to treat the coronavirus. The anti-malaria drug touted by the president is extremely controversial between politicians and public health experts. “While we at FDA wait for data from controlled trials to determine the safety and efficacy of [hydroxychloroquine] for the treatment of #COVID19, physicians should make the decision about prescribing [hydroxychloroquine] while assessing the risks and benefits,” Hahn tweeted. FDA “does not regulate the practice of medicine. The agency neither endorses nor prohibits physicians from prescribing medications.”

The White House said on Sunday it’s giving Brazil 2 million doses of hydroxychloroquine and 1,000 ventilators to help with its coronavirus outbreak. Additionally, the two countries will be collaborating on coronavirus research. 

Dr. Robert Redfield, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that a study published on Friday shows the CDC’s coronavirus testing delays did not hinder the government’s coronavirus response. The study found the coronavirus didn’t start spreading until late January or early February and, “until late February, COVID-19 incidence was too low to be detected.”  However, some public health experts said the government could have been doing better public health surveillance, NPR reported.   

Federal transportation agencies have spent millions of dollars on personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies during the pandemic. The Federal Aviation Administration “has spent $7 million for enhanced cleaning of roughly 50 air traffic control facilities where employees tested positive,” Politico reported on Monday. “[The Homeland Security Department] recently spent more than $5 million on 5.4 million surgical masks, according to federal contract records. And [the Transportation Security Administration] spent $1.2 million on sanitizer and wipes, including one contract with a Connecticut nonprofit disability center that recently pivoted to selling PPE.”

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

Today’s GovExec Daily podcast episode features the Justice Department's Jon Michael Seward talking about his decades of work fighting for minority communities' ability to access banking and credit.

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.