By Pavel Metluk /

Coronavirus Roundup: Morale is Low at CDC; Trump Questions Possible FDA Standards Change

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

The Labor Department reported on Thursday morning that there were 870,000 claims for unemployment last week, which was up 4,000 from the previous week. Although the number is down from its initial spike of almost 7 million in March, it has remained above 800,000 in the past few weeks, The Wall Street Journal noted. Here are some of the other recent headlines you might have missed. 

Morale is low among staff at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention due to interference from political officials in its pandemic response. Employees “expressed frustration that the CDC, long an independent voice of dispassionate science, has bent to the whims of an administration that does not acknowledge the severity of a pandemic that has killed more than 200,000 people in the U.S.,” The Hill reported on Wednesday. “They have seen guidance revised or removed — most recently this week, when the CDC took down language that acknowledged the virus mainly spreads through aerosol droplets, something the World Health Organization said months ago.” One employee said he/she has “never seen morale this low.”  

When asked about the report that the Food and Drug Administration is considering imposing tougher standards for a coronavirus vaccine to be approved through emergency authorization and thus making it more difficult to be approved by Election Day, President Trump said “that sounds like a political move,” during a news conference on Wednesday evening. He also said “we’re looking at” the FDA guidance “that has to be approved by the White House. We may or may not approve it.” 

Following Michael Caputo, top Health and Human Services Department spokesman, going on medical leave after making derogatory comments about government employees, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told The Atlantic on Wednesday that Caputo “enabled” his former science adviser Paul Alexander. “Alexander is the one who directly tried to influence the CDC (he may have succeeded, I cannot really say) and even me (I told him to go take a hike),” Fauci said. Alexander permanently left the agency when Caputo went on leave after coming under fire for trying to control the CDC’s messaging and reports. 

Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus task force coordinator, has become “unhappy” with her “diminished” role. Additionally, she is worried about recent task force addition Dr. Scott Atlas’s influence on the president because he is giving the president misinformation on the pandemic, CNN reported on Wednesday. Earlier this month, dozens of Atlas’s former colleagues denounced his “falsehoods and misrepresentations of science” in a letter. 

On Wednesday, the Defense Department published an update on travel restrictions at military installations. So far, restrictions have been lifted at 117 of 231 facilities (about 51%). 

Linda Miller, deputy executive director for the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee established in CARES Act to ensure funds are not misused, said at an event on Wednesday that there has “never been a bigger challenge” in regard to government spending. “The investigations are ongoing, so we won’t know the scope of the fraud for years,” she said. “My guess is when we’re all said and done, it’s going to be significantly higher than 5% in the case of the CARES Act,” Federal News Network reported.  

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

Today’s GovExec Daily podcast episode compares and contrasts how Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, Democratic nominee, would handle the pandemic over the next four years. 

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