Vice President Mike Pence, right, accompanied by Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Seema Verma, left, participates in a meeting on safety and quality for nursing homes on Sept. 17.

Vice President Mike Pence, right, accompanied by Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Seema Verma, left, participates in a meeting on safety and quality for nursing homes on Sept. 17. Andrew Harnik/AP

Coronavirus Roundup: Former Pence Aide Speaks Out; Report on Minorities Voting During Pandemic Was Shelved 

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

Saturday marks 45 days until the presidential election and is the deadline for election officials to send ballots to military members stationed abroad or other Americans living out of the country. “COVID-19 disruptions present new challenges for election officials and voters alike, making it even more important for robust communication between election jurisdictions and their voters overseas,” said the National Association of State Election directors in a statement on Friday. “We encourage these voters to reach out to their election officials if they have not already, and leverage resources from the Federal Voting Assistance Program at the Department of Defense.” 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not write the questionable guidance issued last month saying that asymptomatic individuals don’t need to be tested for coronavirus, The New York Times reported on Thursday evening. “That was a doc that came from the top down, from the [Health and Human Services Department] and the task force,” a federal official knowledgeable of the situation told the paper, referring to the White House coronavirus task force. “That policy does not reflect what many people at the CDC feel should be the policy.” Additionally, the official said the updated guidance did not go through the normal scientific review process. 

Olivia Troye, former homeland security adviser and coronavirus task aide for Vice President Mike Pence, released a video on Thursday denouncing the Trump administration and its handling of the pandemic. She resigned two months ago and is the first White House coronavirus task force official to go public with criticism. Troye told The New Yorker the president was “disruptive” and couldn’t “focus” and the pandemic response “was all about the election.”

The outgoing U.S. ambassador to China criticized Beijing's initial handling of the pandemic, telling CNN on Friday, "What could have been contained in Wuhan ended up becoming a worldwide pandemic." Terry Branstad, one of Trump’s first ambassador picks in late 2016, announced on Monday he will be leaving his position next month. He noted on CNN that he served longer than his three predecessors. 

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights worked on a report for months about threats to minorities’ voting rights during the pandemic, but the conservative commissioners voted to “shelve” it, USA Today reported on Tuesday. The commission has eight members and the vote was split between the liberal and conservative members. “Conservative lawyer J. Christian Adams, who was appointed to the commission two weeks before the meeting, said in an email that he voted against releasing the report because it ‘overlooked the disenfranchising effect of mail voting,’ such as ballots that are undeliverable, rejected, or lost,” said the report. “After he made similar assertions in June, PolitiFact ruled them mostly false.” Adams was on the president’s voter fraud task force before it was disbanded in 2018. 

On Thursday, the Agriculture Department announced it approved $1 billion in contracts for the third round of its pandemic food assistance program. “These contract awards will go to vendors who submitted the strongest proposals in support of American agriculture and the American people,” USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue said. Last month, Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., chairman of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, launched an investigation into the $3 billion program due to reports of mismanagement. 

The Trump administration has negatively impacted workers’ and communities' safety through its deregulatory actions and the pandemic response has only made it worse, according to an analysis published on Thursday by the BlueGreen Alliance, a national partnership of labor unions and environmental groups. This is exemplified by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration not issuing an emergency temporary standard and the president being slow to use the Defense Production Act to acquire protective equipment for frontline workers, said the report, adding: “All of this may have been avoided had it not been for the shortsighted rollback of the Obama-era pandemic response plans early in the Trump presidency.” 

The Defense Department inspector general published an updated version of its pandemic oversight plan on Friday. Challenges include: “maintaining readiness and conducting ongoing operations while adhering to COVID-19 restrictions; ensuring access to and quality of health care for service members and their families; and ensuring appropriate financial management and accountability of COVID-19 related funds,” said the IG. 

Upcoming: Trump will hold a news conference at 2 p.m. 

Today’s GovExec Daily podcast episode is about the best dates for federal employees to retire in 2021 after a very unprecedented year.

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