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Coronavirus Roundup: FDA Gives Emergency Use Authorization to Antibody Drug; HHS Launches COVID Innovation Contests 

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

Six in ten Americans are “somewhat” or “very likely” to get a coronavirus vaccine only if it cuts the risk of becoming infected by at least 50%, according to a survey by Stat News and The Harris Poll released on Tuesday. They also found that 81% of Americans overall see the novel coronavirus as “somewhat” or a “serious” public health threat, but the results vary among age groups. Here are some other recent headlines you might have missed. 

The Professional Services Council, a nonpartisan trade group that represents over 400 companies that contract with the federal government, congratulated President-elect Joe Biden on his win and said it looks forward to working with him. “Contractors have responded in true partnership with their government customers during the COVID-19 health emergency to keep the government operating, ensure worker safety, and move forward with needed improvements across all federal missions,” PSC said in a statement on Monday. “However, there are important actions that cannot wait for either the next Congress or the next administration. PSC urges this Congress to enact full-year appropriations that prevent the need for another continuing resolution and a COVID-19 response bill that keeps the federal and contractor workforce intact and available as the public health emergency continues.”

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-M.d., said on Tuesday that a coronavirus relief package is among his priorities for the lame duck session, Bloomberg Government reported

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on CNN on Monday it’s “a big deal” that Pfizer and BioNTech announced their coronavirus vaccine is more than 90% effective. “The process now is to go over in great detail” how durable the effectiveness is and if it affects the elderly and young differently, he said. But said this is “immediate good news.” He also noted that even when a vaccine is approved, Americans cannot give up other public health measures to mitigate the spread of coronavirus. 

The FDA granted emergency use authorization to an antibody drug to treat mild to moderate cases of the coronavirus, which President Trump touted after receiving a similar treatment when he was infected. Also, Chris Christie, former Republican governor of New Jersey, received this specific drug when he was hospitalized, The Washington Post reported

In a series of tweets on Monday night, President Trump tied the vaccine announcement to politics. “The [Food and Drug Administration] and the Democrats didn’t want to have me get a Vaccine WIN, prior to the election, so instead it came out five days later – As I’ve said all along!,” said one tweet. “If Joe Biden were President, you wouldn’t have the Vaccine for another four years, nor would the [FDA] have ever approved it so quickly. The bureaucracy would have destroyed millions of lives!,” said another.  

On Monday, the Health and Human Services Department and American Society of Nephrology launched the “KidneyX COVID-19 Kidney Care Challenge” to find solutions to reduce the risk of coronavirus among those with kidney problems, and will award winners with monetary prizes. Initial submissions are due by December 4. HHS also launched a “design-a-thon” on Monday to develop innovative solutions to manage data on coronavirus testing and diagnostics.

David Bossie, Trump adviser who was recently tapped to lead the president’s election legal challenges, tested positive for coronavirus on Sunday, Bloomberg News reported on Monday. Bossie, White House Chief-of-Staff Mark Meadows (who was initially going to head the effort) and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson all tested positive after attending an election night party at the White House on November 3. 

The Veterans Affairs Department released a report on Monday about their response to the pandemic. “As the nation’s largest integrated health care system, VA’s COVID-19 response has been robust and far-reaching. This includes 24 current and 75 completed Fourth Mission assignments involving more than 2,000 VA employees helping to support non-veteran patients and non-VA health care systems,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said. “This report reflects VA’s agility throughout the pandemic to adapt based on lessons learned in order to continue providing safe, quality health care to veterans as we continue to battle the pandemic.” 

NIAID’s coronavirus advisory committee will have a closed meeting on December 18 to “review and evaluate grant applications,” according to a notice posted in the Federal Register on Tuesday. 

The Justice Department inspector general released a report on Tuesday about its remote inspection of the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, which is the largest federal metropolitan detention center in the country. The facility “followed [the Federal Bureau of Prisons] directives regarding testing symptomatic inmates for COVID-19; however, limited testing supplies inhibited the institution’s ability to test other inmates to measure the true number of COVID-19 cases in April and May,” said the IG. “The institution’s self-contained, tiered housing units with closed cells on separate floors limits contact and potential cross-contamination among inmates in different units... likely contributed to the institution’s low number of overall cases…. [however] the shortage of medical staff at MDC Brooklyn was among the biggest challenges in appropriately screening inmates and staff members for COVID-19 symptoms.”

Today’s GovExec Daily podcast episode is about how to maximize productivity while working from home. 

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