Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, listens during a Senate Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Hearing on the federal government response to COVID-19 on Capitol Hill.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, listens during a Senate Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Hearing on the federal government response to COVID-19 on Capitol Hill. Alex Edelman/AP

Coronavirus Roundup: Critical FDA Meeting Today; Fauci On Mistrust of Government

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

On Wednesday, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expanded its definition of what it means to be in “close contact” of someone who has coronavirus. Initially, the agency defined it as being within six feet of an infectious person for 15 minutes or more. Now, the CDC says, it is “Someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period.” The time does not have to be consecutive, Stat News reported. 

Here are some other recent headlines you might have missed. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said “the elephant in the room” is the “building mistrust now in the transparency of what we do,” during an event last week, of which the watchdog group The Project on Government Oversight posted the video on Wednesday. “You’ve got to make sure that everybody understands where we’re going, what is the goal, and how we’re going to get there. And then you lead by example,” said Fauci. “Consistency is also very important. You can’t, you know, flip-flop on things. Sometimes you change because the evidence changes but you can’t flip-flop on things.”

On Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration's Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee will host a public meeting to discuss the vaccine development and authorization process. This will be the committee’s first all-day meeting. The decisions they make “will not be binding on the FDA, but the agency typically follows the recommendations of its advisory committees,” The Washington Post reported

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar is considering ousting of FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn due to his “defiance” of the Trump administration during the pandemic, Politico reported on Thursday. Tensions have been building since Hahn was installed 10 months ago, but reached a peak when the FDA issued stricter guidelines on approving a vaccine that the president hoped to have before Election Day, according to the report. 

Four top House Democrats asked the State and Homeland Security inspectors general on Wednesday to review the shipment of ventilators from Russia during the onset of the pandemic. “We ask you to consider whether the Trump administration’s decision to accept a shipment of Russian-produced ventilators on April 1, 2020, may have violated U.S. sanctions law or guidance, how the shipment of U.S.-manufactured ventilators to Russia in May furthered U.S. foreign policy objectives, and to what extent, if any, the arrangement may have been inappropriately influenced by President Donald Trump or other White House officials,” they wrote. “We also request that you investigate the circumstances under which the State Department made inaccurate statements to the public about whether U.S. taxpayer funds were used to purchase the April shipment of Russian ventilators.” 

On Wednesday, the Defense Department published an update on travel restrictions at military installations. So far, restrictions have been lifted at 148 of 231 facilities. 

The Pentagon IG is reviewing the Defense Department’s use of CARES Act funds after the report that it mainly used funds to pay defense contractors (in many cases for things unrelated to the pandemic) and produce things such as jet parts and body armor, instead of increasing the country’s supply of medical equipment, Federal News Network reported on Wednesday. 

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency tweeted a reminder on Wednesday that we might not have the results of the election on November 3 due to the surge of mail-in voting during the pandemic. “Remember to be patient when awaiting results and seek out info from trusted sources,” said the agency. 

Upcoming: President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden will face off in the last presidential debate at 9 p.m. 

Today’s GovExec Daily podcast episode features a former State Department official talking about her upcoming book on how to foster civility and empathy in today’s chaotic world. 

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 newstips@govexec.com.

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