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Coronavirus Roundup: National Archives Took on Black History Project During Telework; CDC and Outside Experts Are Working to Determine Who Gets Vaccine First

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

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and White House coronavirus task force member, said at an event hosted by The Hill on Thursday that some states (such California, Arizona, Texas and Florida) should consider “pausing” their reopenings because of continuous rise in new coronavirus cases. At the same event, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar claimed the new outbreaks are the result of people’s decisions to not wear masks and not social distance. “We don't believe it's about the fact of reopening in terms of a legal or regulatory structure,” he said. Here are some other recent headlines you might have missed. 

National Archives staff who couldn’t do their normal jobs during telework used the opportunity to make its over 5,000 documents related to Black history more accessible in its online catalogue. The project continued into the early summer during the nationwide protests for racial justice following the death of George Floyd in police custody. “The National Archives has a wealth of records related to civil rights and race relations, which could provide valuable historical information as people around the country engage in a dialogue on these topics,” said the agency in a post

Since April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and an advisory committee of outside experts have been working to determine who will get the coronavirus vaccine first once it’s developed. According to an initial plan, vaccines “would be offered to vital medical and national security officials first, and then to other essential workers and those considered at high risk,” The New York Times reported on Thursday. “Agency officials and the advisers are also considering what has become a contentious option: putting Black and Latino people, who have disproportionately fallen victim to Covid-19, ahead of others in the population.”

The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, a division of HHS that is charged with preparing for pandemics, spent years focused on warfare threats instead. Therefore it was ill prepared for the coronavirus pandemic, according to current and former officials who spoke to the Wall Street Journal for its investigation. Administration officials disputed the notion, however. “We have to balance those things with all the other things we have to do, like pandemic planning,” Dr. Robert Kadlec, head of the office, told The Wall Street Journal. Additionally, HHS spokesman Michael Caputo said, “It would have been hugely irresponsible not to prepare for those threats, and the federal government is uniquely responsible for doing so.” 

The Washington Post reported on Thursday about the growing rift between the White House and Centers for Disease Control, which most recently played out over school reopening guidelines: “White House officials, who see the president’s reelection prospects tied to economic recovery, also say they’ve been deeply frustrated by what they view as career staffers at the agency determined ‘to keep things closed,’ according to a senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to reveal internal deliberations.” 

Two Marine Corps bases in Japan were put under shelter in space orders this week following new coronavirus outbreaks. The Marines did not say how many individuals tested positive, but they were moved into isolation and the order has since been lifted, Military Times reported on Thursday.

Over 40% of staff at one of the largest immigration holding facilities in the country tested positive for coronavirus. The facility is in Arizona, which is one of the new epicenters of the virus. Correctional officials accused Immigration and Customs Enforcement and CoreCivic, a private prison company that runs the facility under contract, of underreporting cases because some staff infected their families, however the company and ICE denied that claim, USA Today reported on Thursday.

Despite the Trump administration’s crackdown on immigration during the pandemic, arrests at the U.S.-Mexico border increased by 40% from May to June. “Although the June enforcement numbers remain far below the levels tallied during last year’s migration crisis, the sharp month-over-month increase appears to be a sign that the deterrent effects of Trump’s crackdown are wearing off,” The Washington Post reported on Thursday. 

Ahead of the deadline, the Internal Revenue Service answered some frequently asked questions about tax filing in a post on Thursday. Read more here

The Justice Department inspector general published an interim report on Thursday on the Office of Justice Programs’ use of CARES Act funds. The department received $1 billion from the relief legislation and $850 million of it (84%) went to the Office of Justice Programs to award grants to states, tribes and U.S. territories. “Our preliminary work indicates that [the office’s] administration efforts over CARES Act funding appear effective and appropriate as of May 29,” said the IG. “However, [the office’s coronavirus emergency supplemental funding grant program] monitoring strategy may benefit if oversight protocols consider factors such as recipients who are in areas with few positive COVID-19 test results or deaths.” It also suggested that the office notify grant recipients “on a regular basis, of fraud schemes known to be targeting CARES Act funds.”

Today’s GovExec Daily podcast episode looks at the Project on Government Oversight’s recent investigation that found the Justice Department reportedly determined last year that the administration’s plan to dismantle the Office of Personnel Management was illegal. However, officials withheld such information from Congress while moving ahead with the plan anyway.

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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