Coronavirus Roundup: Former Officials Call for More Federal Funds for Elections; FDA Approves COVID-19 ‘Pool’ Test
There's a lot to keep track of. Here’s today’s list of news updates and stories you may have missed.
For every dollar in federal taxes invested in AmeriCorps and Senior Corps, the return on investment to the government, program members and society at large is $17.30, according to a study commissioned by Voices for National Service, a coalition of service programs, published on Monday. “Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, AmeriCorps and Senior Corps members across the country have acted quickly and creatively to address gaps in services and persistent inequities that have only been exacerbated,” said a press release. “Members have delivered millions of meals, conducted hundreds of thousands of wellness checks, expanded access to health screenings, set up temporary isolation sites, organized blood drives and are providing virtual teaching, tutoring and mentoring to students.” Here are some other recent headlines from over the weekend and today that you might have missed.
On Monday, 34 national security leaders wrote to congressional leaders about the need to provide states and local governments with more funds to conduct safe and secure elections in November amid the pandemic. The co-signers include former secretaries of state, defense and homeland security; ambassadors; and directors of national intelligence from Democratic and Republican administrations.
The Homeland Security and Justice departments outlined how and when they will resume migrant protection protocol hearings safely. The departments will notify individuals at least 15 days in advance and provide location-specific information.
The American Federation of Government Employees sent a critical letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler on Saturday in response to the phase three reopening guidance issued last Thursday night. “It was issued as if COVID-l9 was not out of control,” wrote Gary Morton, president of AFGE Council 23S. “We at EPA are an agency of scientists and public health professionals—we cannot allow the science to continue to be ignored, particularly at the expense of our lives and the lives of those in our families and in our communities.” The union said it was caught “off guard” since it is already in the process of bargaining with the agency on phases one and two.
The Trump administration is looking to block billions of dollars in funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, contact tracing and testing for states and the Pentagon and State departments in the next coronavirus relief package, according to a Washington Post report on Saturday. “The administration’s posture has angered some GOP senators, the officials said, and some lawmakers are trying to push back and ensure that the money stays in the bill,” said the paper. “The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to reveal confidential deliberations, cautioned that the talks were fluid and the numbers were in flux.”
On Saturday, The New York Times published a deep dive on the Trump administration’s “rush to abandon leadership” starting in mid-April when it believed the coronavirus outbreak was under control. “Key elements of the administration’s strategy were formulated out of sight in [chief-of-staff Mark] Meadows’s daily meetings, by aides who for the most part had no experience with public health emergencies and were taking their cues from the president,” according to the report. “Officials in the West Wing saw the better-known White House coronavirus task force as dysfunctional, came to view Dr. [Anthony] Fauci as a purveyor of dire warnings but no solutions and blamed officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for mishandling the early stages of the virus.”
President Trump spoke about his relationship with Fauci during an interview on Fox News on Sunday. “He’s a little bit of an alarmist. That’s okay,” said the president. “I have a great relationship with him. I spoke with him at length yesterday. Dr. Fauci at the beginning said, ‘This will pass. Don’t worry about it. This will pass.’ He was wrong. Dr. Fauci said, ‘Don’t ban China. Don’t ban China.’ I did. He then admitted that I was right.”
As of last week, the Health and Human Services Department, not the CDC, is collecting daily coronavirus data reports from hospitals. Stat News explained how this new method will work and potential challenges for hospitals in learning how to use a new data system.
On Friday, the Data Coalition, a trade group that works to make government information more accurate and accessible, raised concerns about data quality and transparency in the administration’s new collection method. It asked HHS to provide more information on “the intent, role, and purpose of the modified approach” as well as show how it incorporated feedback from stakeholders into the shift.
The Food and Drug Administration granted its first emergency approval for a “pool” coronavirus test on Saturday. With this method, samples are collected from a group of individuals and one coronavirus test is administered. If it comes back positive, then each person is tested. Last month, Fauci told The Washington Post that this testing method casts a broader net to identify infected individuals. “Something’s not working,” with the current approach, he said.
The Veterans Affairs inspector general published a report that outlined the Veterans Health Administration's pandemic response thus far. “With the uncertainty of timing and magnitude of possible recurrent outbreaks, this review presented strategies that various facilities put into place over the past several months that will hopefully promote discussion and consideration of lessons learned and best practices among facility and community healthcare leaders,” said the IG.
The Defense Department announced two new actions under the Defense Production Act on Friday, which total $36.9 million. The contracts are aimed at strengthening the domestic aviation industry and shipbuilding.
NBC News created an interactive map to show the geographic distribution of Paycheck Protection Program loans. The zip codes with businesses that received the largest loans were in New York City; Chicago; and Irvine, California.
Today’s GovExec Daily podcast episode looks at challenges and opportunities for the domestic supply chain of personal protective equipment during the pandemic.
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Correction: "Voices for National Service" not "Voices for American Service" did the study mentioned in the introduction.
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