Members of the Nevada National Guard install social distancing stickers while setting up a new temporary coronavirus testing site on Aug. 3 in Las Vegas.

Members of the Nevada National Guard install social distancing stickers while setting up a new temporary coronavirus testing site on Aug. 3 in Las Vegas. John Locher / AP

Coronavirus Roundup: National Guard Deployments Extended With Funding Cuts; NIH Begins Antibody Clinical Trial

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

Lawmakers and the White House are still negotiating over the next coronavirus relief package. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said on Monday that there might not be a resolution until next week. A main point of contention is that Democrats want to extend $600 weekly unemployment benefits through next year, but Republicans want to scale back the payments, Politico reported on Monday. Here are some other recent headlines you might have missed. 

On Monday, President Trump extended coronavirus deployments for National Guard members through the end of the year. The federal government will require all states except for Florida and Texas, which have become the new virus hotspots, to cover 25% of the costs, Politico and The Hill reported.  

A group of House Republicans introduced legislation on Monday to provide $400 million in emergency assistance for states to conduct in-person voting safely and facilitate vote-by-mail securely in the fall. It would also create a cyber unit for the Election Assistance Commission to help election officials as fears increase of foreign interference in voting. 

Trump once again condemned the use of vote-by-mail during the coronavirus briefing and said he has “the right” to issue an executive order on the voting method. “We haven't gotten there yet, but we'll see what happens,” he said. University of Texas Law Professor Steve Vladeck tweeted that the president does not actually have the authority to change states’ laws on use of vote-by-mail. 

When asked about political interference into vaccine development, President Trump said during a briefing on Monday evening that would “absolutely not” happen. He also said it’s “possible” he’ll get involved in determining how to distribute the potential vaccine. 

White House officials will now be subject to randomized coronavirus tests. The tests will be mandatory except for those who were working remotely for the past 30 days or were on previously approved leave, according to a Politico report on Monday. 

Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., chairman of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, said on Monday he’s still concerned that many people (particularly low-income and homeless) are still waiting to receive their stimulus checks. The Treasury Department didn’t tell the subcommittee exactly how many, but said the Internal Revenue Service could be sending out checks through the end of the year. Based on its investigation and response from Treasury, the subcommittee also determined that many stimulus payments sent on debit cards “were discarded or left unopened and [had] glitches” that made them unusable. Clyburn called on the agencies to fix these issues as Congress and the administration consider a second round of stimulus payments. 

On Tuesday, the National Institutes of Health began a clinical trial to test antibody treatment on coronavirus patients in the hospital. This is the fourth ongoing or planned study by the NIH for the coronavirus and is part of the Trump administration’s “Operation Warp Speed” to develop a coronavirus vaccine. 

The Health and Human Services Department inspector general created a new widget for websites that directly links to its coronavirus oversight updates. See the IG’s full oversight work here

Thirty-three Democratic members of Congress asked congressional leadership to include a provision in the next coronavirus stimulus package that would allow the FBI to maintain gun purchase records until background checks are done. “FBI regulation requires NICS to purge incomplete firearm background checks from its systems if a final determination has not been made within 88 days,” they wrote. “The unprecedented surge in gun sales correlated to the COVID-19 pandemic makes this loophole even more dangerous.”

At the insistence of the White House, Senate Republicans included funding for a new FBI building in Washington, D.C., in their coronavirus relief legislation introduced last week. Meanwhile, Sen. Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala., chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has been working on a plan for years to relocate headquarters staff to Huntsville, Ala. FBI spokeswoman Lauren Hagee Glintz said currently 1,500 jobs are moving there and officials expect those employees to be fully operational by the end of fiscal 2021. “The bureau also is planning to relocate 250 jobs to a new data center and office in Pocatello, Idaho, and is evaluating space availability at existing facilities in Clarksburg, W.Va., and at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va.,” The Washington Post reported on Monday. 

Despite disruptions from the pandemic, the Census Bureau will finish all counting efforts on Sept. 30, a month sooner than stated in April, as NPR noted. Census Director Steven Dillingham released a statement on Monday saying this is to “accelerate the completion of data collection and apportionment counts by our statutory deadline of December 31, 2020.” He also noted that the bureau is taking the health and safety of employees seriously by providing protective gear to staff and following federal, state and local public health guidelines. 

The Food and Drug Administration's “shifting” guidance on which Chinese-made respirator masks can be used safely led to much confusion among health care providers and over 60% of foreign-made masks across 220 brands (the majority of them from China) failed U.S. quality inspection tests. “Some of the companies given initial approval were just weeks old or posted incomplete mask-quality tests,” The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday. “The agency also relaxed its rules governing Chinese masks aimed at the general public, allowing hundreds of brands to be sold with little oversight and few quality checks, regulatory records show, rendering the KN95 label all but meaningless.”   

Today’s GovExec Daily podcast episode looks at the switch from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to HHS collecting coronavirus data and recaps Government Executive’s recent interview with former CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden. 

Upcoming: White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany will hold a briefing at 12:30 p.m.

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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