Brian Miller waits ahead of a Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee nomination hearing in May. Miller, the special pandemic IG, released his first report to Congress this week.

Brian Miller waits ahead of a Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee nomination hearing in May. Miller, the special pandemic IG, released his first report to Congress this week. Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via AP Pool

Coronavirus Roundup: Pandemic IG Publishes First Report; Fourth Military Service Member Dies of COVID-19 

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

Due to the lack of a national coronavirus testing strategy, seven governors (three Republicans and four Democrats), along with the Rockefeller Foundation, a private philanthropic organization, are working together on their own. “With severe shortages and delays in testing and the federal administration attempting to cut funding for testing, the states are banding together to acquire millions of faster tests to help save lives and slow the spread of COVID-19,” said Republican Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan in a statement on Tuesday. “We will be working to bring additional states, cities and local governments on board as this initiative moves forward.” Here are some other recent headlines you might have missed. 

As negotiations on the next coronavirus stimulus package continue, President Trump is considering a series of executive orders that would upend such talks and could be subject to a legal challenge by Democrats. The orders would be to reinstitute the eviction moratorium, postpone collection of federal payroll taxes and extend federal unemployment benefits, Politico reported on Tuesday.  

The Office of the Special Inspector General For Pandemic Recovery sent its first report to Congress earlier this week, which outlined its staffing and office structure, 12 current investigations, its relationship with other oversight bodies and its recommendations for the Treasury Department based on its initial audits. “In setting up an office from nothing, I am personally working through the intricacies of the bureaucracy during a pandemic,” wrote IG Brian Miller. “Starting an office from scratch is a struggle in the best of times.” However, Miller said his office is “making progress in hiring, budgeting, acquiring physical space to meet and work, setting up the IT infrastructure to share information within the office, and connecting with other agencies and the public.” 

The Securities and Exchange Commission is looking into the $765 million government loan the photography company Kodak received last week to make pharmaceutical ingredients for generic drugs. The Trump administration awarded the loan under the 1950 Defense Production Act, which was the first of its kind. “Among the areas being probed by regulators: how Kodak controlled disclosure of the loan, word of which began to emerge on July 27, causing Kodak’s stock price to rise 25% that day,” The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday. On Wednesday several House committee chairs announced they are also looking into the matter. 

After touting the Kodak deal during a briefing last week, Trump distanced himself from it during a news conference on Tuesday evening. “The concept of the deal was good, but I’ll let you know. We’ll do a little study on that,” he said. “But I wasn’t involved in it. It’s a big deal. It’s a way of bringing back a great area, too, in addition to pharmaceuticals. Kodak has been a great name but obviously pretty much in a different business. So we’ll see what that’s all about.”

National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien came back to work at the White House after testing positive for the coronavirus on July 23, Politico reported on Tuesday. He was the highest-ranking Trump administration official known to be infected so far.

Thirty-one state attorneys general asked the Health and Human Services Department on Tuesday to invoke a federal patent law to increase supply and lower prices of remdesivir, the only drug approved thus far to treat the coronavirus. “The 1980 Bayh-Dole Act allows federal agencies to retain patent rights if a drug company charges too much or fails to reasonably ‘alleviate health or safety needs’ of consumers, the letter says,” USA Today reported. “If federal agencies refuse the request, the group wants 'march-in' rights to be assigned to states.”

Reps. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., and Adam Schiff, D-Calif., wrote to congressional leadership on Tuesday to ask that they include mask-related provisions in the upcoming stimulus package. This would entail funding for free mask distribution to all individuals, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention public service campaign, and further National Institutes of Health research on mask use and design.

Trump issued an executive order on Monday to make permanent telehealth expansions during the pandemic at the Veterans Affairs and Defense departments and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services as well as improve health care in rural areas. Read Nextgov’s full coverage here.  

The fourth military service member died from the coronavirus, according to recently updated data by the Defense Department. There are no further details about the individual. There have been 43 civilian, seven military dependent and 14 contractor cumulative deaths, as of Monday.  

The coronavirus vaccine being developed by Novavax, a Maryland-based biotechnology company part of Operation Warp Speed, showed “positive” results in the first phase of the clinical trial. Novavax received a $1.6 billion contract from the Trump administration in July, despite never bringing a vaccine to market in its 33-year history. 

Today’s GovExec Daily podcast episode looks at the logistics of distributing a coronavirus vaccine if and when one is approved. 

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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