TSA reported a significant increase in travelers over the July 4th holiday weekend.

TSA reported a significant increase in travelers over the July 4th holiday weekend. Elaine Thompson/AP

Coronavirus Roundup: TSA Sees Major Uptick in Travelers; OSHA Sees Spike in Unsafe Working Condition Complaints

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

President Trump said, inaccurately, that 99% of coronavirus cases are "totally harmless” during his Fourth of July remarks on Saturday. When pressed on CNN on Sunday, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn would not specifically address or correct the statement. “What I'll say is that we have data in the White House task force. Those data show us that this is a serious problem. People need to take it seriously,” Hahn said. 

Here are some other recent headlines from over the holiday weekend and today that you might have missed. 

Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced last week it began voluntary coronavirus testing of people in custody at its three family residential centers––a small fraction of its total facilities nationwide. The centers are located in Leesport, Pennsylvania; Dilley, Texas and Karnes County, Texas. 

On Sunday, Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia said on Fox News that employees could return to workplaces safely, despite the nationwide spike in coronavirus cases. “It is going to be important that people take social distancing seriously, wear masks in circumstances where they’re not able to social distance and the like,” he said. “We can reopen safely, we can reopen while the virus is still there but it will get more challenging if people don’t take that seriously.

Many Agriculture Department employees in the Washington metropolitan area have fears about phase three of USDA’s reopening plan, when the majority of employees will have to return to offices. About 1,100 employees returned to offices during the first two phases of reopening and department officials had previously said the remainder could return as early as July 6.. But USDA officials said today they have not yet made a decision on phase three, and would give employees seven day’s notice before they have to return, Federal News Network reported.  

A Washington Post investigation discovered that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made similar mistakes during the Zika virus outbreak in 2016 as they made during the coronavirus pandemic. “In both emergencies, the CDC pressured the public health labs to shelve the effective tests and to use less reliable test kits manufactured by the agency that sought to detect multiple pathogens,” the paper reported. “The agency stood behind the troubled test kits despite internal data indicating they were flawed. Ultimately, the CDC notified the public lab officials that they could switch to more effective tests.”

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration has received over 6,000 complaints nationwide about unsafe working conditions during the pandemic. However, some lawmakers and experts have been criticizing the agency for its lax guidance and lack of enforcement mechanisms. “There’s been more complaints filed with OSHA in the past four months than any previous four months,” the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health’s Peter Dooley told the Miami Herald. “They’ve been missing in action and it’s a national disgrace.” 

The Transportation and Security Administration announced that over the holiday weekend TSA officials screened more than 700,000 travelers in a day for the first time since the start of the pandemic. They screened 764,761 on Thursday, 718,988 on Friday, 466,669 on Saturday and 732,123 on Sunday. 

The House Appropriations Committee released several fiscal 2021 bill proposals on Sunday that all cite the need for more funding to aid the federal government’s pandemic response. The Military Construction and Veterans Affairs bill would provide $251 billion in both discretionary and mandatory funding, which is $15 billion more than enacted in fiscal year 2020 and more than $2 billion above what Trump proposed earlier this year. “In the midst of a global pandemic, we are making unprecedented investments in our veterans through our VA medical system to ensure that every veteran has access to the top-notch health care that they deserve,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., chairwoman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies. The legislation “includes historic spending for women veterans, mental health, suicide prevention, medical research, and homeless prevention, while closely monitoring VA claims processing and system modernizations.” 

On Monday, the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service for the first time started its annual Excellence in Government program virtually. The program, which has been around for over 30 years, is a leadership course for federal employees at the GS-14 and GS-15 levels.

Upcoming: White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany will hold a briefing at 1 p.m.

Today’s GovExec Daily podcast episode looks at navigating the “new normal” and conversations with coworkers upon return to workplaces. 

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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