Coronavirus Roundup: Political Appointees Allegedly Seek to Distort Coronavirus Reports; An ‘Unproven’ Supply and Vaccine Tracking System
There's a lot to keep track of. Here’s today’s list of news updates and stories you may have missed.
Thirty-five percent of Americans overall approve of President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. However, he still has strong support among Republicans (80%), compared to Democrats (5%) and Independents (31%), according to a new ABC News/Ipsos poll released on Sunday. This is the fourth straight poll since July in which his coronavirus approval rating has been in the mid-to-low 30s after he reached a high of 55% approval in late March. Here are some other recent headlines you might have missed.
The Labor Department revised its rule on who is eligible for emergency paid sick leave under the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act” after a New York federal judge ruled last month that the department “went too far in its initial rule when it blocked workers from taking FFCRA leave if their employers don't have work for them to perform,” Law360 reported on Friday. The updated rule takes effect on Wednesday.
Health and Human Services Department politically-appointed communications officials have been trying to alter the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's weekly coronavirus reports in order to boost the president’s “optimistic” message, according to a report. “CDC officials have fought back against the most sweeping changes, but have increasingly agreed to allow the political officials to review the reports and, in a few cases, compromised on the wording,” Politico reported on Friday. “The communications aides’ efforts to change the language in the CDC’s reports have been constant across the summer and continued as recently as Friday afternoon.”
The Trump administration is working to implement an “unproven” tracking system for public health officials to schedule coronavirus shots and manage supplies, Politico reported on Sunday. The administration awarded the consulting firm Deloitte an almost $16 million contract to develop the system that is using software company Salesforce’s technology. The CDC expects an initial version to launch next month, but state health officials have many lingering questions about the reporting requirements and how exactly the system will work, Politico said.
On Monday, Reps. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and Diana DeGette, D-Colo., chairwoman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, demanded HHS Secretary Alex Azar give a briefing following reports that political appointees have been trying to interfere with coronavirus reports and muzzle political health officials. “We are concerned that this unprecedented attempt to undermine our nation’s public health is either happening with your approval or rogue political appointees are taking actions behind your back,” they wrote. “Either way, these actions are doing grave harm to the very public health agencies you lead and threatening the health of the nation.”
Similarly, the Democrats on the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis wrote to Azar and CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield that they also launched an investigation into political interference at the CDC. “Blatant political interference in CDC’s reports on the coronavirus outbreak appears to be just one element in the Trump administration’s all-out strategy to, in the president’s words, ‘play it down,’” they wrote.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is resuming his lavish, taxpayer funded “Madison Dinners” at the department’s headquarters on Monday and “it's unclear what coronavirus precautions, if any, are being taken,” NBC News reported on Sunday. Two House committees are investigating the dinners, which have been paused since March. Also, before he was fired State Department Inspector General Steve Linick was looking into Pompeo’s potential misuse of government funds and resources.
About 8,800 migrant children without their parents and an additional 7,600 members of migrant families have been expelled from the United States under the Trump administration's pandemic restrictions, according to court filings on Friday, CBS News reported. In mid-March, the CDC issued a directive that allowed border agents to prevent migrants from coming into the country in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s third annual national cybersecurity conference will be all virtual this year. It will be in the form of a series of webinars every Wednesday from September 16 to October 7.
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Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said that 35% of Americans disapprove of the president's handling of the pandemic, based on the ABC News/Ipsos poll. It has been updated to say that 35% approve.