Coronavirus Roundup: Report Finds Agency Websites ‘Missing the Mark’ on COVID Communications
There's a lot to keep track of. Here’s today’s list of news updates and stories you may have missed.
The United States reported the most new coronavirus cases in a single day (over 69,100) on Friday since July 29. Also, 10 states (Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming) had their highest single day tallies, CNN reported. “Our worry has been that we would see a fall wave, that we’d see a big resurgence in the fall,” Justin Lessler, associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health told CNBC on Saturday. “And that has really been something I think all of us in the public health community have been worried about for a while.” Here are some other recent headlines from over the weekend and today that you might have missed.
Many agencies are “missing the mark” in how they are communicating about the coronavirus on their websites, according to a recent report by the nonprofit Center for Plain Language. Common issues are: too much focus on the agency rather than the public, complicated language and ineffective layout of information. Of the 20 executive agencies they surveyed, only the Health and Human Services Department received an “A” grade and the Veterans Affairs Department and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau each received an “A-.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CBS’s 60 Minutes on Sunday he was “absolutely not” surprised that President Trump contracted the coronavirus. When asked if the White House has been controlling his media appearances during the pandemic he said: “I think you’d have to be honest and say ‘yes.’ I certainly have not been allowed to go on many, many, many shows that have asked for me.”
The White House coronavirus task force started to struggle with the addition of Dr. Scott Atlas, Hoover Institution fellow and former chief of neuroradiology at Stanford University Medical Center, over the summer, The Washington Post reported on Monday. He “routinely has challenged” other task force members, such as Drs. Deborah Birx, Anthony Fauci, Robert Redfield and Stephen Hahn, said the report. “Colleagues said they regard [him] as ill-informed, manipulative and at times dishonest.”
The Post also detailed how Trump has been controlling the messaging around the coronavirus vaccine. “He has plotted with his team on a pre-election promotional campaign to try to convince voters a vaccine is safe, approved and ready for mass distribution — even if none of that is true yet,” said the report.
During a campaign rally on Sunday, Trump mocked former Vice President Joe Biden, Democratic presidential nominee, for saying he would “listen to the scientists” if elected. “If I listened totally to the scientists, we would right now have a country that would be in a massive depression instead—we’re like a rocket ship,” he said, according to a report in The Hill. “Take a look at the numbers.”
HHS and the Defense Department entered agreements with CVS and Walgreens to help provide and administer coronavirus vaccines with no out-of-pocket cost to residents at long-term care facilities. “Today’s historic pharmacy partnership will truly help jurisdictions solve a logistical hurdle and decrease the burden of distributing, administering and reporting COVID-19 vaccination for both states and long-term care facilities,” said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield, in a statement on Friday. “CDC is proud to be a part of this public-private partnership that is advancing care for the nation’s most vulnerable.”
The Democrats on the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis published a report on Sunday about how the most needy small businesses were “neglected” during the implementation of the Paycheck Protection Program. “Contrary to Congress’s clear intent, the Trump administration and many big banks failed to prioritize small businesses in underserved markets, including minority and women-owned businesses,” said the report. “As a result, small businesses that were truly in need of financial support during the economic crisis often faced longer waits and more obstacles to receiving [Paycheck Protection] funding than larger, wealthier companies.”
The Small Business Administration inspector general published a report on Friday saying that one of the top management challenges for SBA in fiscal 2021 will be possible fraud in its coronavirus economic relief programs. In regard to the Paycheck Protection Program, launched in April, the IG said it “received more than 77,000 hotline complaints of potential fraud by the end of September and the numbers continue to rise.”
On Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., set a 48-hour deadline to reach an agreement on the next coronavirus stimulus package. She said on ABC News it “depends on the administration” if Americans receive relief before Election Day.
On Sunday, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., struck down the Agriculture Department’s rule that would have cut food stamps for about 700,000 unemployed Americans during the pandemic. “The final rule at issue in this litigation radically and abruptly alters decades of regulatory practice, leaving states scrambling and exponentially increasing food insecurity for tens of thousands of Americans,” wrote Chief Judge Beryl Howell in the ruling, Reuters reported.
On Monday, the General Services Administration announced the class of 2021 Presidential Innovation Fellows, who will be working on COVID-19 diagnostics, among other things. The fellows will take part in “a year-long ‘tour of duty’ in the U.S. government,” said GSA. “This year’s cohort is especially noteworthy as they are beginning the program in a fully virtual environment and they are our most diverse cohort yet.”
Today’s GovExec Daily podcast episode is about how leaders and organizations can foster connectivity while teleworking.
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 email@example.com.