Salt Lake County Health Department public health nurse Lee Cherie Booth performs a coronavirus test in Salt Lake City on Oct. 23.

Salt Lake County Health Department public health nurse Lee Cherie Booth performs a coronavirus test in Salt Lake City on Oct. 23. Rick Bowmer / AP

Coronavirus Roundup: Nearly Half of Americans Say Federal Government Has Gotten Worse at Pandemic Response

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

With one week until the election, 64,714,357 individuals have already voted (43,798,191 were through mail-in ballots and 20,916,166 were in person.) So far voters have cast 46.9% of the total votes counted in the 2016 election, according to the U.S. Election Project. Also, over the weekend, early voting for the 2020 election surpassed that of 2016 due to the pandemic, The Associated Press reported. Here are some of the other recent headlines you might have missed. 

Forty-six percent of Americans said the federal government has gotten worse at handling the pandemic since the onset, compared to 26% who said it improved, according to a new Axios-Ipsos survey. Also, respondents said that their local governments, their employers, businesses in their area, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have handled it better than other agencies in the federal government. They were “evenly split” on their state governments. 

The watchdog group Project on Government Oversight and Anti-Corruption Data Collective published an investigation on Monday about the industry ties of  HHS’ second-highest ranking official. This includes ties to a company “that won a pandemic response contract worth up to almost a half billion dollars,” said the report. “When viewed alongside other cases of politically connected companies winning large pandemic-related HHS contracts, questions of favoritism are difficult to avoid.”

Under an upcoming rule change, Medicare and Medicaid (through which 120 million Americans receive their health care) will be able to cover the out-of-pocket expenses for coronavirus vaccines that have emergency use authorization. Currently, the programs cannot cover drugs with emergency use authorization and the administration realized it could not address the issue through an executive order, Politico reported on Monday. 

The Defense and Health and Human Services departments announced on Monday that they awarded a $33 million contract to Tecan, a laboratory equipment company, to establish a U.S. industrial base to produce the disposable pipette tips needed for coronavirus testing. The company will begin increasing its production in October 2021 and will eventually produce up to 40 million tips each month. 

The Interior Department inspector general said, in a report released on Monday, that the Bureau of Indian Affairs should improve its training, policies and/or occasional reminders to make sure that officials understand their responsibilities in handling information from tribes. This is in order “to identify and protect sensitive and/or confidential tribal information and not to disclose such information outside the government without proper authorization or an official need to do so.” These recommendations came after the IG’s investigation into how the Interior Department handled registration data for CARES Act funds. 

Despite efforts from the federal government during the pandemic, many Americans are going hungry, Reuters reported on Tuesday. Since May, the Agriculture Department has authorized four rounds of contracts through its “Farmers to Families Food Box Program” to feed families in need (the most recent one was announced on Monday). However, “Weekly survey data from the U.S. Census Bureau and an annual study by [USDA] show that hunger is rising, particularly in rural states, after a decade of decline,” said the report. “By late September, Vermont, West Virginia and North Dakota topped the bureau’s list, with a more than 50% increase in respondents saying they lacked enough to eat.” 

The Washington Post published a three-part documentary series on the federal government’s “failed” pandemic response. It also covers how previous presidents took steps to prepare the strategic national stockpile and health care system for potential pandemics. 

Today’s GovExec Daily podcast episode is about how traditional governance models have and have not worked during the pandemic.

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