Coronavirus Roundup: HHS Extends Public Health Emergency; CDC Releases New School Guidelines
There's a lot to keep track of. Here’s today’s list of news updates and stories you may have missed.
On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its much-anticipated guidance about school reopenings for Kindergarten through 12th grade. “The unique and critical role that schools play makes them a priority for opening and remaining open, enabling students to receive both academic instruction and support as well as critical services,” said the agency. However, it noted that the guidelines are “meant to supplement—not replace—any state, local, territorial, or tribal health and safety laws, rules and regulations with which schools must comply.” This comes after President Trump criticized the agency’s initial guidelines earlier this month, claiming they were “very tough and expensive,” and threatened to cut off federal funding to schools if they don’t reopen in the fall. Here are some other recent headlines you might have missed.
Fifteen Democratic senators urged the Health and Human Services Department to take more action to protect pregnant women during the pandemic. Over 12,000 pregnant women tested positive for coronavirus and 35 have died, as of July 16. In a letter the lawmakers recommended: “patching holes in data collection, expanding surveillance efforts, improving public health communication, ensuring the proper inclusion of pregnant people in clinical trials for COVID-19 therapeutic and vaccine candidates and addressing racial disparities in health care outcomes related to both COVID-19 and maternal health.”
HHS Secretary Alex Azar announced on Thursday that the administration extended the emergency declaration for the pandemic another 90 days.
National Guard coronavirus deployments are likely to remain through the rest of the year. The National Guard Bureau supports the requests from nearly every state asking for the extensions. The Defense Department forwarded the request to the Justice Department for approval before the president signs off on it, Politico reported on Friday.
Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Pete Gaynor testified before a House committee on Friday about his agency’s response to the pandemic and lessons learned. “Among the first lessons learned was the need to preserve [personal protective equipment] and prioritize its distribution,” he said.
President Trump said on Tuesday that the administration doesn’t have any unfilled requests from governors for medical supplies and equipment. However, that that is not the case for 13 states, ABC News reported on Thursday. “Officials in Oregon, Indiana, Georgia, New Hampshire, Alaska, Montana, Wyoming, North Carolina, Maryland, Michigan, Idaho, Utah and Washington each told ABC News they are either waiting for requests to be fulfilled, had identified orders that were never filled at all or have made recent requests that they understand are being processed,” said the report.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and White House coronavirus task force member, and his family now have a security detail after receiving “serious threats.” During an interview on a CNN podcast he said: “This is a public health issue, the fundamental principles of public health, and I don’t see how people can have animosity to that.”
House Republicans introduced a bill on Thursday that would prevent government payments from going to deceased individuals after the Government Accountability Office found that the Internal Revenue Service and Treasury Department distributed almost 1.1 million coronavirus relief payments totaling nearly $1.4 billion to dead people. The Senate passed a similar bill on July 1.
The Energy Department revised “phase three” of its reopening plan in the Washington, D.C., area to allow for more telework. “It is unlikely that local conditions in the national capital region will support a fully ‘back to normal’ phase three return to the workplace as originally envisioned in the [headquarters] plan,” said a July 13 memo from the agency obtained by Federal News Network. “Logistical challenges in the [region] will likely mean that a substantial number of employees may need to continue to telework on a full or part-time basis until local conditions change.”
During the news conference on Thursday evening, Trump said he believes the FBI needs a new building in Washington, D.C., but isn’t sure if funding for the site will be included in the next coronavirus stimulus package. He said it should remain in downtown D.C., near the Justice Department. The Washington Post reported last weekend that the administration was trying to use the relief package (which Senate Republicans delayed releasing until next week) to reach its long-term goal of getting a new building.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., pushed back on Trump's comments, saying that Congress has been working for years to get the FBI a new building. “Despite significant progress towards this goal, President Trump pulled the plug on the plan when he came into office. The Congress has received little to no rationale for the administration’s reversal of previous plans,” he said. “It’s outrageous that the President would now attempt to exploit the next emergency COVID-19 bill in order to build on the FBI’s current, inadequate site, near Trump Hotel. The Congress must block this blatantly self-serving ploy.”
On Friday, Voices for National Service, a coalition of service programs, pushed for funding to expand national service programs to be included in the next relief package. “Since the pandemic began, AmeriCorps and Senior Corps programs have ramped up their efforts to address critical gaps in services facing our communities and to give Americans who are out of work the opportunity to make a difference in their communities, said AnnMaura Connolly, president of the organization. “We are committed to working with our champions, including Senators Chris Coons and Roger Wicker and their many colleagues from both sides of the aisle, as the stimulus package works its way through the legislative process to ensure that national service can best contribute to the nation’s recovery.”
Upcoming: Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany will hold a press briefing at 1 p.m.
Today’s GovExec Daily podcast episode discusses the vast number of acting officials in the Trump administration and the implications of the Vacancies Act.
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