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Coronavirus Roundup: IRS Seeks Public Comment on Deregulation; Top FDA Official Promises ‘Open Process’ on Vaccine Approval 

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

Thanksgiving is in one week and during a press briefing on Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly encouraged Americans against traveling for it. If individuals are traveling, Dr. Henry Walke, CDC COVID-19 incident manager, recommended they do it “as safely as possible by following the same recommendations for everyday living.” Here are some of the other recent headlines you might have missed. 

Dr. Peter Marks, top career official at the Food and Drug Administration, told Business Insider, “We're going to have a very open process” of approving coronavirus vaccine candidates. “What we need here is confidence. Everything that we are trying to do here, this is all about ensuring the public re-develops the kind of trust they once had in vaccines.”

The Biden team is planning how to take coronavirus precautions in the West Wing of the White House, which is a cramped area. It is also considering what to do if President Trump, who so far has refused to concede, invites Biden to the White House, which recently had a second coronavirus outbreak, for the traditional visit, NBC News reported on Wednesday. 

The Justice Department inspector general published a report on Wednesday about DOJ’s top management challenges for fiscal 2021, most of which involve the pandemic. Some examples include: protecting the health and safety of the Federal Bureau of Prisons and U.S. Marshals Service’s staff and inmates, returning employees safely to office buildings, overseeing and administering CARES Act funds, combatting coronavirus-related fraud and minimizing health risks for those going through immigration court proceedings. 

Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., wrote to Comptroller General Gene Dodaro on Wednesday to ask that he give an update on the Government Accountability Office’s review of potential fraud in the Small Business Administration's coronavirus relief programs. “Too many in Washington believe that government waste is inevitable - it’s just the cost of doing business. I know you agree with me that is not acceptable,” he wrote. “Proper and thorough auditing of businesses who received these loans will be key to ensure we stop this criminal activity and protect taxpayer money from being wasted at a time when our nation can least afford it.”

The Internal Revenue Service is inviting the public “to submit comments...concerning regulations and other requirements that can be rescinded, modified, or waived to assist business and individual taxpayers with the ongoing economic recovery from the [pandemic],” in addition to what it’s already done. This is in response to Trump’s executive order in May that directed agencies to waive or modify regulations that could impede the economy’s recovery from the recession created by the pandemic. Public comment is due by January 4, which is a little more than two weeks from Inauguration Day. 

GAO issued a report on Wednesday about how the IRS can improve its reorganization plan (as required by the Taxpayer First Act), which the agency was delayed in doing because of the pandemic, but plans to submit to Congress next month. This is an “opportunity to potentially address long-standing challenges—such as improving taxpayer service and enforcement programs—as well as emerging challenges, such as those highlighted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” said the report. 

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., asked the CDC on Wednesday to provide more clarity on the mortality risks for coronavirus based on age, race and ethnicity. “In the United States, age, race, and ethnicity are intertwined; people of color are, on average, significantly younger than non-Hispanic white Americans—an interaction the CDC has largely ignored in its communication about COVID-19 mortality rates,” she wrote. “By failing to adjust COVID-19 mortality rates by age in its public data releases, the CDC may not be providing an accurate assessment of the increased risk of death and serious illness for communities of color relative to white Americans of the same age.”

Warren and Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., said on Thursday they asked the Health and Human Services, Defense, and Homeland Security departments; National Institutes of Health; and Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide all information and documents related to coronavirus vaccines and therapeutics. “The Trump administration has a long history of cronyism and conflicts of interest— patterns that have continued throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” they wrote. “Transparency into federal COVID-19 contracts is needed to ensure fair pricing, speed, effectiveness, and quality for the American people.”

In late-October, the CDC “quietly” withdrew its much-disputed guidance document that encouraged schools to do in-person learning in the fall, which the president wanted them to do, The Hill reported earlier this week. 

Upcoming: The White House coronavirus task force will hold a briefing at 4 p.m.

Today’s GovExec Daily podcast episode discusses the recent leadership shakeup at the Pentagon.

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