Top HHS Spokesman Michael Caputo, shown here in May 2018.

Top HHS Spokesman Michael Caputo, shown here in May 2018. J. Scott Applewhile / AP file photo

Coronavirus Roundup: Top HHS Spokesperson Accuses CDC Scientists of 'Sedition;' ICE Whistleblower Outlines Unsafe Health Conditions  

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

Fifty-six percent of over 3,000 technology professionals surveyed have become less confident in election security since the pandemic has started, according to a survey released by the global technology nonprofit ISACA on Tuesday. Misinformation/disinformation campaigns, tampering of voting results, and hacking attempts of voting machines and registration rolls were the top threats they identified. 

“The good thing is that the vast majority of localities have sound election security procedures and controls in place—but that is not necessarily the public’s perception,” said retired Brig. Gen. Greg Touhill, ISACA board director and president of the computer security firm AppGate’s federal group, who previously served as the first federal chief information security officer. “It is critically important for government officials, from the county level on up, to clearly and robustly communicate what they have done to mitigate the risk of cyber attacks to ensure the integrity of the election infrastructure.” Here are some other recent headlines you might have missed. 

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, condemned the White House for blocking White House Trade Adviser Peter Navarro’s testimony about his role in the Health and Human Services Department’s now canceled ventilator contracts. “HHS took an important step by publicly acknowledging and remedying hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars-worth of waste, fraud, and abuse,” Krishnamoorthi wrote to HHS Secretary Alex Azar. However, “when a federal agency terminates a contract, it sometimes negotiates a termination settlement…[which] can involve payouts to the companies whose contracts were terminated. American taxpayers need to know that the termination of wasteful contracts with Philips, Hamilton, and Vyaire will not be undercut by generous termination settlements that involve payoffs to these companies.” 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outlined how, starting Monday, the federal government will not be doing advanced coronavirus screenings for countries deemed high-risk because they have a better understanding of the virus’s transmission now. “[Federal government] resources will instead be dedicated to more effective mitigation efforts that focus on the individual passenger,” the CDC said. This includes: health education before, during and after flights; voluntary collection of contact information; crowd and line control; airport illness response readiness; and more. 

Dozens of former colleagues of the president’s new pandemic adviser Dr. Scott Atlas, Hoover Institution fellow and former chief of neuroradiology at Stanford University Medical Center, denounced his “falsehoods and misrepresentations of science” in a letter last week, The Mercury News reported

Sixty-one House Democrats wrote to the Council on Environmental Quality and the Interior and Agriculture departments on Monday to argue that the Trump administration’s environmental regulation rollbacks are harmful to public health, especially during the pandemic, and will undermine federal science. “Undoubtedly, our country is confronting many shared challenges, including the pandemic, climate change, environmental and racial injustice, biodiversity loss, and the need for a more equitable society,” they wrote. “But efforts to suppress the voice of the public, deliberately exclude disclosure of harm in environmental analyses, and limit access to the courts are the opposite of what our country needs right now.” 

Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, introduced legislation on Monday that would establish a task force that would coordinate the government’s analysis and response to coronavirus misinformation and disinformation. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency would lead it and members would include representatives from the FBI; CDC; National Institutes of Health; Federal Emergency Management Agency; and Homeland Security, State, and Health and Human Services departments. 

Top HHS Spokesman Michael Caputo, who is a former Trump campaign operative, accused CDC scientists of “sedition” and made other derogatory and false claims about career government employees during a live video for his Facebook audience on Sunday. CDC scientists“haven’t gotten out of their sweatpants except for meetings at coffee shops” to plot “how they’re going to attack Donald Trump next,” he said, The New York Times reported on Monday. “There are scientists who work for this government who do not want America to get well, not until after Joe Biden is president.” 

The International Development Finance Corp. inspector general agreed to review the Trump administration's $765 million loan to the photography company Kodak to produce pharmaceutical ingredients, following a request from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. The Securities and Exchange Commission previously launched an investigation into the loan in August about how the company disclosed the loan, which prompted the administration to put it on hold.

A nurse at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Georgia filed a whistleblower complaint with the Homeland SecurityIG detailing the facility’s horrendous medical conditions and coronavirus dangers. The Irwin Detention Center, “which is run by the private corporation LaSalle Corrections, has underreported Covid-19 cases, knowingly placed staff and detainees at risk of contracting the virus, neglected medical complaints, and refused to test symptomatic detainees, among other dangerous practices,” The Intercept reported on Monday. “The grim situation inside the facility reflects what she called ‘a silent pandemic’ running rampant behind the prison bars.”

On Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was questioned about resuming his lavish, taxpayer funded “Madison Dinners” at the department’s headquarters, which were paused in March and are now under investigation by two House committees. “We will comply with every instruction from the State Department medical team,” he said. “We’ll be safe and we’ll have a great set of meetings and conversations,” CBS News reported

Today’s GovExec Daily podcast episode talks about a new report on how the federal government can make work more satisfying and engaging for employees.

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