Travelers walk through the nearly empty JetBlue terminal at Logan Airport on Nov. 20 in Boston. With the coronavirus surging out of control, the nation's top public health agency pleaded with Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving.

Travelers walk through the nearly empty JetBlue terminal at Logan Airport on Nov. 20 in Boston. With the coronavirus surging out of control, the nation's top public health agency pleaded with Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving. Michael Dwyer / AP

Coronavirus Roundup: FDA Approves Second Antibody Treatment; HHS Seeks Feedback on Handling of the Pandemic

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

The Agriculture Department shared Thanksgiving food safety tips on Monday. “Our data shows that consumers can reduce their likelihood of foodborne illness by focusing on good hand hygiene and other food safety practices,” said Dr. Mindy Brashears, USDA undersecretary for food safety. “As home chefs nationwide prepare their Thanksgiving meals, proper handwashing and avoiding cross contamination in the kitchen are critical to keeping your loved ones safe.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people do not travel for the holiday to mitigate the spread of novel coronavirus. Here are some of the other recent headlines from over the weekend and today that you might have missed. 

President-elect Joe Biden plans to reinvigorate the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by bringing back regular briefings and giving career officials back their crucial roles after being sidelined during the Trump administration, Politico reported on Monday. 

Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are going to meet virtually with the United States Conference of Mayors on Monday, according to the daily transition schedule. Last week they met with a bipartisan group of governors to discuss the pandemic. 

On Saturday, the Food and Drug Administration gave emergency use authorization for the coronavirus antibody treatment (from the biotechnology company Regeneron) that President Trump received when he was being treated for coronavirus. “In a clinical trial of patients with COVID-19, [antibodies] casirivimab and imdevimab, administered together, were shown to reduce COVID-19-related hospitalization or emergency room visits in patients at high risk for disease progression within 28 days after treatment when compared to placebo,” said the FDA. “The safety and effectiveness of this investigational therapy for use in the treatment of COVID-19 continues to be evaluated.” This is the second antibody treatment for which the FDA gave emergency use authorization.

Moncef Slaoui, chief scientist for the administration's “Operation Warp Speed,” said on CNN on Sunday that they plan to ship millions of vaccine doses within 24 hours of FDA approval. Pfizer and BioNTech submitted an application to the FDA on Friday and the FDA’s vaccine advisory committee is set to meet on December 10. “I would expect maybe on day two after approval, on the 11th or on the 12th of December, hopefully, the first people will be immunized across the United States, across all states, in all the areas where the state departments of health will have told us where to deliver the vaccine,” he said. 

Thousands of vaccine shots could be wasted due to the short shelf life of Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine, Politico reported on Sunday. “Pharmacies set to administer many of the shots are worried about waste, and cash-strapped state and local health departments say they need more money and direction from the federal government,” said the report. “The federal health department says states have what they need and that the government will backstop any shortages that occur.” 

Housing and Urban Development Department Secretary Ben Carson wrote on Facebook on Friday that he was “desperately ill” with coronavirus and the president “cleared me for the monoclonal antibody therapy that he had previously received.” He believes he is now “out of the woods,” NPR reported

The Health and Human Services Department is seeking feedback on how the pandemic impacted health care systems and providers. “Many health care systems and clinicians have rapidly reengineered their policies and programs to improve access, safety, quality, outcomes including mortality and morbidity, cost, and value for both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 related medical conditions,” said a request for information posted in the Federal Register on Monday. “HHS plans to identify and learn from effective innovative approaches and best practices implemented by non-HHS organizations in order to inform HHS priorities and programs.”

The Government Accountability Office told Government Executive on Friday that staff are still reviewing the Trump administration’s withholding of funds to the World Health Organization, for its handling of the coronavirus, as a potential violation of the Impoundment Control Act. On Friday morning, three House committees published a report claiming the Office of Management and Budget withheld the funds to the WHO using the “same tactic” it did to illegally withhold funding to Ukraine last year, which was part of what led to the House impeaching Trump. A senior Trump administration official disputed the findings. 

Today’s GovExec Daily podcast episode is about the General Services Administration’s delay in starting the formal presidential transition, which could harm vaccine distribution plans, among other things. 

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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