Coronavirus Roundup: Public Confidence in Fauci and CDC Has Steadily Decreased, Contractors Call for Extension of Sick Leave Reimbursement
There's a lot to keep track of. Here’s today’s list of news updates and stories you may have missed.
Friday marks the 19th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley conducted an observation ceremony at the Pentagon that was live streamed due to pandemic restrictions. Vice President Mike Pence and former Vice President Joe Biden, Democratic presidential nominee, visited the 9/11-memorial site in New York City where events were also altered to follow public health guidance. Here are some of the other recent headlines you might have missed.
The Professional Services Council, a trade association that represents over 400 companies that contract with the federal government, asked congressional leadership to extend the reimbursement period beyond the Sept. 30 deadline to give contractors paid or sick leave if they cannot access their workplaces due to the pandemic. “Across the federal government, [the CARES Act] is quietly and effectively working as intended," PSC President and CEO David Berteau wrote in a letter shared with Politico. "Dozens of federal programs are actively using this authority to address their needs, maintaining access to tens of thousands of critical workers who could otherwise be lost to that agency for their missions." Berteau asked the extension be included in the stopgap funding bill expected later this month.
Over the last few months hundreds of individuals in Austria have received U.S. coronavirus stimulus checks, some of whom were ineligible for them. It is unclear how many of these checks sent by mistake were cashed, The Washington Post reported. The Internal Revenue Service did not respond to the Post for comment.
Emails obtained by Reveal, a publication through the Center for Investigative Reporting, show the resistance the New Mexico state government received from Immigration and Customs Enforcement in trying to control the coronavirus outbreaks in detention facilities in the state. For example, State Health Department Secretary Kathy Kunkel wrote in one email they sent 500 coronavirus tests to a center in Otero, New Mexico, but officials didn’t answer their calls. However, “It was too late,” said the report published on Thursday. “Otero has since become one of the ICE facilities hardest hit by the pandemic, despite the fact that New Mexico’s public health experts repeatedly offered their help and expertise to slow the spread of COVID-19.”
Over the summer, ICE flew hundreds of detainees from Florida and Arizona to a Virginia jail, which the agency said was to prevent overcrowding at detention facilities, but was primarily to “skirt rules that bar ICE employees from traveling on the charter flights unless detainees are also aboard,” so agents could be deployed to the protests in Washington, D.C. This led to a massive coronavirus outbreak in the Virginia facility, The Washington Post reported on Friday.
The Justice Department created a new webpage that aggregates all information on its Paycheck Protection Program fraud charges thus far. The department announced on Thursday that since May—with the help of officials from other agencies and inspector general offices—they’ve charged 57 people for trying to steal $175 million from the Small Business Administration's relief program. They’ve recovered $30 million so far and expect to add to that soon.
Since April, public confidence in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and White House coronavirus task force member, has dropped rapidly. This is felt stronger among Republicans, according to a new survey by Kaiser Family Foundation. Additionally, 62% of respondents fear that the Trump administration will pressure the Food and Drug Administration to approve a coronavirus vaccine too prematurely. Democrats and Independents expressed higher levels of concerns than Republicans.
During a briefing on Thursday, Trump said, “we have rounded the final turn” of the pandemic. However, at an event earlier in the day Fauci said, “We need to hunker down and get through this fall and winter because it’s not going to be easy.” Last week he said the United States has about 40,000 new cases a day, which is “an unacceptably high baseline” and he would “like to see it 10,000 or less, hopefully less.”
FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn tweeted on Thursday that his agency will soon release guidance on standards for emergency use authorization for a potential coronavirus vaccine. Peter Marks, a top career official at the FDA who will lead the approval process, made similar remarks earlier in the day, Politico reported.
The Trump administration rejected dozens of requests from states for the federal government to provide full funding for coronavirus National Guard deployments, Politico reported on Friday. Texas, Florida, California, Louisiana, Arizona and Connecticut were the only states exempt from the funding cuts.
The State Department is restricting U.S. diplomats’ interactions with World Health Organization officials as the country goes through the withdrawal process, Foreign Policy reported. New directives “pare back interactions with the organization’s officials and require them to seek prior approval to participate in WHO-related events and meetings, a full year before the U.S. withdrawal from the body takes effect,” said the report. However, “the cable appears to offer wide latitude for exemptions for activities that promote U.S. national security and economic and commercial interests, including meetings on international standards for tobacco and pharmaceuticals.”
The Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, established by the CARES Act, launched a new website on Thursday to outline how and where the federal government is spending money for the pandemic through charts, graphs and maps. The data includes all spending data from USASpending.
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