Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci testifies on Capitol Hill on June 30.

Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci testifies on Capitol Hill on June 30. Al Drago/Pool via AP

Coronavirus Roundup: 'It's Complicated' Between Fauci and Trump; Contracting Community Asks for Extended Relief 

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

After White House Trade Adviser Peter Navarro attacked Dr. Anthony Fauci in a USA Today editorial,  Fauci shot back during an event hosted by The Atlantic on Wednesday. “I can't explain Peter Navarro—he's in a world by himself. So, I don't even want to go there,” said the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.  "We've got to almost reset this and say, ‘Okay, let's stop this nonsense and figure out how can we get our control over [the novel coronavirus] now.’” Here are some other recent headlines you might have missed. 

“It’s complicated” is how Fauci described his relationship with President Trump during an interview with CBS’s Norah O’Donnell published in In Style Magazine on Wednesday. “In some respects I have a very good relationship with him,” Fauci said. “During the times that I was seeing him a fair amount, it was quite a collegial relationship. And in many respects, it probably still is, but I don’t see him very much anymore.” 

The Health and Human Services Department inspector general started a review of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s collection and use of data on communities of color and economically disadvantaged communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus. 

State health and hospital officials are worried that the Trump administration’s new requirement that HHS––not the CDC–– collect daily coronavirus data reports from hospitals will put an unnecessary burden on facilities that rely on the CDC for analysis and reports, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday. 

On Wednesday, the trade association Professional Services Council urged Congress to extend through the end of the year the provision of the CARES Act that allows federal agencies to use their funds to give contractors sick or paid leave during the pandemic if they are not able to access their worksites or telework. “When the CARES Act was enacted on March 27, 2020, there was no clear estimation or understanding of the duration or magnitude of the impact of COVID-19 on federal government operations and on the many thousands of contractors whose support is vital to those operations,” wrote David Berteau, president and CEO of the contractor association. “Today, it is apparent that such impact will clearly extend beyond September 30, and it is not possible to predict how long such authority will be needed.” Read more from Government Executive about the specific provision here

Thirty-one states and territories asked the Defense Department to extend the coronavirus deployments of National Guard troops from Aug. 21 through the fall  and possibly the end of the year, Stars and Stripes reported on Wednesday. The deployments were previously extended after uproar from lawmakers that some members would be one day shy of qualifying for federal retirement and education benefits. 

Vote-by-mail has only increased since 1996, said Elaine Kamarck, Brookings Institution senior fellow and director of the Center for Effective Public Management, during a webinar on Wednesday. For example, only 62% of Americans voted in person in 2018. President Trump has been continuing to attack the use of vote-by-mail as we get closer to the November 2020 election and more states are making it easier to do so due to the pandemic. 

The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis announced on Wednesday it launched an investigation into the Trump administration’s pandemic contracting process. “Recent reports indicate that federal agencies awarded contracts to businesses that had political connections to the Trump administration, lacked federal contracting experience and had been selected by the White House without competition or transparency,” the committee wrote to administration officials on Wednesday. “Some of these companies failed to provide the supplies promised. The select subcommittee is concerned that these contracting practices may have wasted taxpayer dollars and exacerbated shortages of critical supplies, contributing to the spread of the coronavirus and the death of Americans.”

In a related matter, the HHS inspector general released a report on Thursday that details how Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Chief Seema Verma violated federal contracting rules in handling millions of dollars of contracts that ultimately benefited Republican-algined consultants

The White House Personnel Office is conducting “loyalty tests” of health officials and hundreds of other political appointees to determine who should serve in a potential second term Trump administration. The “tests come at a moment when Trump appointees are already struggling to manage portfolios that have ballooned during the pandemic,” according to a Politico report on Wednesday. HHS staff described the “balancing act” between managing the pandemic and the president's other priorities as “exhausting.” 

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

Today’s GovExec Daily podcast episode is about how government contract call centers have changed the way they do business due to the pandemic.  

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

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