President-elect Joe Biden speaks in Wilmington, Del., on Saturday.

President-elect Joe Biden speaks in Wilmington, Del., on Saturday. Paul Sancya / AP

Coronavirus Roundup: Biden Will 'Spare No Effort’ on Pandemic; Vaccine Candidate is Over 90% Effective 

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

President-elect Joe Biden in his victory speech on Saturday night vowed to get the pandemic under control. “To all those who volunteered, worked the polls in the middle of this pandemic, local election officials — you deserve a special thanks from this nation,” he said. “I will spare no effort — or commitment — to turn this pandemic around.” Here are some of the other recent headlines from over the weekend and today you might have missed. 

Pfizer and BioNTech announced on Monday that their coronavirus vaccine, which is receiving funding from the Trump administration, is more than 90% effective. “Submission for emergency use authorization to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration [is] planned for soon after the required safety milestone is achieved, which is currently expected to occur in the third week of November,” said the press release. The drug makers didn’t formally join the administration's “Operation Warp Speed,” but received a contract from the Health and Human Services and Defense departments, as The Washington Post noted.   

On Friday, FDA issued emergency use authorization for the first serology test that detects neutralizing antibodies from previous coronavirus infections. These antibodies “bind to a specific part of a pathogen and have been observed in a laboratory setting to decrease [COVID-19] viral infection of cells,” said the agency. “Although the FDA has previously issued EUAs to more than 50 antibody (serology) tests, those tests only detect the presence of binding antibodies,” which “bind to a pathogen, such as a virus, but do not necessarily decrease the infection and destruction of cells...The effect of neutralizing antibodies for [COVID-19] in humans it is still being researched.”

The FDA issued guidance on Monday about increasing diversity in clinical trials. “We have seen these health care disparities, for example, during our fight against COVID-19, as certain segments of the population (e.g., older adults, pregnant women, children, and racial and ethnic minorities) are affected in different ways,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn said. “This difference in impact illustrates why we must encourage developers of any medical product such as treatments or vaccines for COVID-19 – as well as medical products more broadly – to endeavor to include diverse populations to understand their risks or benefits across all groups.”

White House Chief-of-Staff Mark Meadows tested positive for coronavirus on Wednesday, Bloomberg News reported on Friday night. At least five other White House officials have since become infected, which includes Cassidy Hutchinson (close aide to Meadows), Charlton Boyd (aide to senior White House adviser and the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner) and Nick Trainer (senior Trump campaign aide), according to Bloomberg.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson (who attended the election night party at the White House on Tuesday) also tested positive on Monday morning, ABC News reported

Gen. Gus Perna, a four-star general who serves as the commanding general of the Army’s Materiel Command and is chief operating officer of “Operation Warp Speed,” was interviewed on CBS’ 60 Minutes on Sunday about the logistical planning to distribute a coronavirus vaccine if and when one is approved. “I hold myself 100% personally accountable” if the distribution doesn’t go according to plan, Perna said. Also, they are taking “extraordinary precaution” regarding security of the vaccine stockpile. “Not only for maybe some nefarious effort but also natural [disasters] – hurricanes, tornados, etc. right? It's such a commodity to us we're taking the full steps to make sure that the vaccine's secure.” 

The State Department told passport service employees who don’t have high-risk health conditions to return to work by November 16, Federal News Network reported on Friday. The agency said that continued weather and safety leave would only be for those who have conditions listed in a survey administered on October 30. This comes as passport offices throughout the country have been gradually ramping up their passport processing after shuttering during the onset of the pandemic. 

An employee in the State Department’s cafeteria tested positive for coronavirus, so the kitchen is undergoing a deep clean, The Washington Post reported on Monday.  

Politico published a deep dive on Saturday about why Trump lost reelection, which stemmed from the coronavirus onset in February. “Sir, regardless, this is coming. It’s the only thing that could take down your presidency,” said Brad Parscale, then-Trump campaign manager, according to the report based on interviews with 75 insiders. “‘This fucking virus,’ Trump asked dismissively, according to a person with direct knowledge of the exchange, ‘what does it have to do with me getting reelected?’ That was exactly the attitude Joe Biden expected from the president. And Biden saw his task as unambiguous.”

A task force under the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency released a report on Friday about how the pandemic affected the global supply chain. Findings “exposed how some manufacturing companies were unprepared because of their reliance on lean inventory models,” “underscored the difficulties that companies faced in understanding who their junior tier suppliers are and where they are located” and “acknowledged the need for an approach that was already underway over the last six years: diversifying supply chains to a broader array of locations and away from single source/single region suppliers,” said CISA. 

Steve Bannon’s lawyer quit on Friday after the former Breitbart News executive and White House chief strategist said on YouTube on Thursday that Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Christopher Wray, FBI director, should be beheaded as a warning to federal bureaucrats,” The New York Times reported. This lawyer was defending him in federal court in Manhattan over fraud charges. 

Today’s GovExec Daily podcast episode is an update on the presidential transition and what to expect from President-elect Joe Biden on his management of the federal government and pandemic. 

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