Coronavirus Roundup: Trump Lauds Pandemic Deregulation; Moderate Democrats Ask for More Oversight in Next Relief Package
There's a lot to keep track of. Here’s today’s list of news updates and stories you may have missed.
The Center for Public Integrity obtained an unpublished document from the White House coronavirus task force, dated July 14, that says 18 states are in coronavirus “red zones” and suggests they go back to stricter protective measures. This includes: limiting social gatherings, closing bars and gyms, and requiring individuals to wear masks at all times. “The fact that it’s not public makes no sense to me,” Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, told the center on Thursday. “Why are we hiding this information from the American people? This should be published and updated every day.” Here are some other recent headlines you might have missed.
Trump touted his administration’s efforts at deregulation to help the American economy during an event on Thursday afternoon. Specifically, for the pandemic, “we've taken more than 740 actions to suspend regulations that would have slowed our response,” for things such as telemedicine and ventilators, he said. Also, “I have ordered federal agencies to look for ways to make these health care reforms totally permanent.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and White House coronavirus task force member, and the president had their first conversation since June 2, CBS News reported on Thursday. It was not clear what they spoke about.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Thursday it launched a new website with information on how to prepare for and respond to hurricanes and other natural disasters while also protecting yourself from the coronavirus. The agency provided resources for emergency response workers and individuals who might need to evacuate their homes.
On Tuesday, some coronavirus data “disappeared” from the CDC’s website, but then was reinstated the next day after much outcry, The Washington Post reported on Thursday. The Trump administration required that, starting Wednesday, the Health and Human Services Department––not the CDC–– collect daily coronavirus data reports from hospitals.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said, “no one is taking access or data away from the CDC,” during the briefing on Thursday. “And that data is routinely published so that the American people are fully informed.” However, according to a Politico report on Thursday, the data issue is the “latest source of tension” between the White House and CDC.
The House Blue Dog Coalition, a group of moderate Democrats in favor of fiscal responsibility, wrote to congressional leadership on Thursday to ask that more oversight provisions are included in the next coronavirus relief package. Specifically, the coalition requested that Congress codify legislation to stop stimulus checks from being sent to dead people, increase protections for inspectors general and make public reports on how federal funds are used. It also asked Congress to “narrow exemptions from certain transparency measures that have been afforded to the Federal Reserve.”
Similarly, the watchdog Accountable.US and former Small Business Administration Deputy Administrator Marie Johns outlined additional transparency and accountability measures Congress should include in the next small business relief package, in a letter on Thursday.
Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., asked Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to make public how the over $1 trillion in coronavirus funds to state and local governments have been spent before Congress considers spending more. “Without a comprehensive understanding...it would be reckless and irresponsible for Congress to consider additional spending,” he wrote. “We cannot blindly throw taxpayer money at problems.”
Six senators (five Democrats and one independent) criticized the Trump administration's deal to secure a large supply of remdesivir, the only drug approved thus far to treat the coronavirus. “It appears that the [HHS] acquired its supply by allowing Gilead Sciences, the drug’s manufacturer, to charge American health insurers the highest price in the world—representing windfall revenues of up to almost half a billion dollars for the company,” the senators wrote to HHS Secretary Alex Azar. This was “despite having other options available to expand remdesivir access in the U.S, and despite the fact that American taxpayers spent over $70 million to help develop and test the drug.”
On Thursday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein called on HHS and the Environmental Protection Agency to create a national coronavirus wastewater surveillance program, which other countries and some states are doing. “Effective wastewater surveillance holds the potential to detect an outbreak in a community up to a week before people start showing up in the hospital,” Feinstein wrote. “This advanced warning would allow all levels of government to preposition medical supplies, shore up hospitals in the affected community and begin locking down the area.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., asked Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery Brian Miller to look into Trump-connected lobbyists’ alleged influence on companies the federal government selected to receive relief funds. "This special interest lobbying by former Trump administration and campaign insiders presents serious concerns about real and perceived conflicts of interest and merits important oversight by your office," she wrote. “It is critical that your office examine the details of this influence-peddling to ensure that taxpayer funds are distributed in a manner that best serves families and our economy, rather than the personal financial interests of well-connected insiders."
Today’s GovExec Daily podcast episode is about the Office of Personnel Management’s cancellation of this year’s Presidential Rank Awards (given to career Senior Executive Service members and senior career employees) as the administration focuses on economic recovery.
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