President Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence and members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, takes questions from the press in March.

President Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence and members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, takes questions from the press in March. Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead

Coronavirus Roundup: Coronavirus Task Force Reports Contradict White House Statements; FDA Approves Remdesivir for Wider Use

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

At least 33 states have rejected the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new guidance that says individuals who have been exposed to the coronavirus and don’t have symptoms don’t need to get tested, Reuters reported on Saturday. Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services Admiral Brett Giroir told Reuters the guidance was not swayed by political pressure but “has been updated to reflect current evidence and best public health practices, and to further emphasize using CDC-approved prevention strategies.” However, many public health officials criticized the decision because the disease is so easily spread by individuals who don’t exhibit symptoms. Here are some other recent headlines from over the weekend and today that you might have missed. 

The White House announced on Saturday that it will now provide 100% cost sharing for National Guard coronavirus deployments in Louisiana as it recovers from Hurricane Laura. This came after Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards questioned why his state must pay 25% if the federal government was covering the full cost in several other states. 

Moderna, the biotechnology company that has one of the leading coronavirus vaccine candidates, did not disclose financial support from the federal government for any of its 126 patents over its 10-year history. The Washington Post reported on Friday. Such disclosure is required by law to protect taxpayer investments. “Recognizing the government contribution in the patent also gives the government agencies a consistent means of tracking how government-sponsored inventions are being used and whether they are receiving royalties,” said the report. “The Government Accountability Office said in 2018 that agencies need to do a better job tracking how and when they exert licensing authority and extract royalties from taxpayer-funded inventions.”

Democratic on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee asked the committee’s leadership on Friday to hold a hearing to examine alleged political interference at the Food and Drug Administration and CDC. They cited the CDC’s changes to various guidelines, FDA’s approval and then revocation of emergency use authorization for hydroxychloroquine and concerns around the FDA’s emergency approval of convalescent plasma treatment. 

Despite a lack of evidence supporting the decision, late Friday FDA granted emergency approval for the drug remdesivir to be used on all coronavirus patients in hospitals, USA Today reported. FDA previously approved the drug for certain hospitalized patients, but not its widespread use. “The data show that this treatment has the potential to help even more hospitalized patients who are suffering from the effects of this devastating virus," said FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn. 

Also Friday, FDA announced it will host a public meeting of its Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee on October 22 to discuss the vaccine development and authorization process. “A discussion with this committee, made up of outside scientific and public health experts from around the country, will help ensure clear public understanding regarding clinical development of these vaccines indicated to prevent COVID-19 and the data needed to facilitate their authorization or licensure,” Hahn said in a statement. He told the Financial Times on Sunday he is willing to give fast-track approval to a coronavirus vaccine (even before the clinical trials are over), but said he would not do so just to appease the president. 

The CDC has a new website page on how to choose, wear and clean a mask. Read here for a list of state-specific mask requirements, compiled by the law firm Littler that focuses on employment and labor law. 

On Monday, the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis published eight previously unreleased coronavirus task force reports. The reports, from June 23 to August 9, were turned over to the subcommittee in response to a request in July. “These reports—which the White House sent privately to states but did not disclose to the public—directly contradict the administration’s rosy public statements downplaying the threat of the virus,” according to the subcommittee. 

The president’s recent travel has put Secret Service agents’ health at risk and led some to contract the coronavirus, the Washington Post reported.. “Never before has the Secret Service run up against a president so intent on putting himself first regardless of the costs, including to those around him,” Ned Price, a national security expert and former CIA analyst, told the Post. “By maintaining a rigorous travel schedule and otherwise flouting public health guidance, he is demanding that agents add to their already considerable professional risk in ways that are qualitatively different than what they signed up for.” The White House and Service Service spokespeople told the newspaper they are taking appropriate action to protect agents. 

The Treasury Department inspector general published a guide on reporting and record-keeping requirements for CARES Act funds. Starting on Sept. 1, direct recipients of funds must report their incurred costs from March 1 to December 30 in the federal grant management portal

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Director Andrei Iancu said his agency’s longstanding support for telework helped it transition to full-remote work during the pandemic. Beforehand, over 50% of the workforce teleworked full time and another 37% teleworked at least once a week, Iancu told Federal News Network on Friday. 

Upcoming: The president will hold a news conference at 5:30 p.m. 

Today’s GovExec Daily podcast episode is about the federal government’s long-term need to upgrade its technology systems, which has been underscored by the shift to remote work. 

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