By Rob Hainer /

Coronavirus Roundup: CDC Employees Decry Systematic Racism at Agency; Top House Lawmakers Ask Watchdog to Review Medical Supply Chain

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

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos reiterated President Trump’s claim on Sunday the administration might withhold federal funding from schools if they don’t reopen in the fall. “American investment in education is a promise to students and their families," she said on Fox News. "If schools aren't going to reopen and not fulfill that promise, they shouldn't get the funds." Here are some other recent headlines from over the weekend and today that you might have missed. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and White House coronavirus task force member, last saw Trump in person on June 2 and has not briefed the president in at least two months. However, he said he was “sure” his messages are being passed along, the Financial Times reported on Friday. 

While visiting a military hospital on Saturday, Trump wore a mask for the first time in public. On April 3, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention started recommending individuals wear masks or face coverings while going out in public. 

On Sunday, Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Public Health Service, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Fauci is “not 100% right” because he looks at the pandemic from “a very narrow public health point of view.” This was in reference to The Washington Post report on Saturday about Fauci’s push for areas of the country with coronavirus spikes to pause their repoenings, which “there is no buy-in for,” according to an official with knowledge of the matter.  

Over 1,000 current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention employees signed a letter decrying the agency’s "ongoing and recurring acts of racism and discrimination" against Black employees, NPR reported on Monday.  They outlined seven “acts of change” the agency should undertake because "in light of the recent calls for justice across this country and around the world, we, as dedicated public health professionals, can no longer stay silent to the widespread acts of racism and discrimination within CDC that are, in fact, undermining the agency's core mission.”

The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority twice rejected a proposal for a plasma shot to prevent coronavirus, despite much agreement among scientists and industry groups that this could be an effective alternative to a vaccine, according to a Los Angeles Times investigation. BARDA received thousands of submissions and “while we are interested in the potential of [immune globulin] for treatment and prevention, we are focused intently on treatments for hospitalized patients to save lives,” an agency spokeswoman told the paper, which “baffled [the researchers] who said the [immune globulin] shots are a far more efficient delivery system that can potentially reach many more people.”

The Health and Human Services Department extended its funding for testing centers in Dallas and Houston through the end of July. This was the second extension and comes as Texas hit a second daily record of over 10,000 cases on Saturday. 

Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, wrote to the Homeland Security Department on Friday with concerns about the increasing number of coronavirus cases among its workforce. “In the last two weeks [Customs and Border Protection] saw a 52% increase in positive COVID-19 cases while [the Transportation Security Administration] saw a 43% increase,” he said. “U.S. Secret Service agents have also been put at risk by the president and vice president’s attendance at political rallies and other public events.” Thompson claimed the department is not doing enough to protect its employees and implored acting DHS Security Chad Wolf to do so. 

The leaders of the House Oversight and Reform Committee and Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis asked the Government Accountability Office on Friday to conduct a review on how to boost the domestic supply chain for personal protective equipment. “On June 9, 2020, a document from [the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s] Supply Chain Stabilization Task Force projected a shortage of approximately 100 million gowns and 40 million N95 respirators in July,” wrote Reps. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., and Jim Clyburn, D-S.C. “The document also indicated that the Task Force planned to address this shortage by recommending reusing masks and gowns, despite guidelines from the [CDC] that reusing masks be reserved only as a method of last resort.” They also noted that more domestic production could help the economy and create more jobs. 

Several Labor Department officials are in quarantine after meeting with at least one member of the White House Personnel Office who tested positive for coronavirus, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday. “Officials from the White House Presidential Personnel Office have begun conducting interviews with political appointees in several federal agencies,” said the report. “People familiar with the interviews described them as assessments of appointees’ suitability for and interest in serving in a second term.” 

As the Federal Bureau of Prisons continues to battle coronavirus outbreaks in its facilities nationwide, it is offering a 10% recruitment incentive at nine “hard-to-fill” locations. The incentive is effective through Sept. 30. 

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

Today’s GovExec Daily podcast episode dives into a recent study that found individuals in their “impressionable years” (ages 18-25) were less trusting of government leadership and institutions following epidemics worldwide from 2006 to 2018. 

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