There's a lot to keep track of. Here’s today’s list of news updates and stories you may have missed.
The Transportation Security Administration is encouraging those traveling for the holidays to enroll in TSA Precheck. “TSA has made considerable changes to its checkpoint processes to make commercial air travel more safe and secure for everyone during the pandemic,” said TSA Administrator David Pekoske in a statement on Monday. “Obtaining TSA PreCheck is something that each traveler can do to make the checkpoint experience even more efficient, eliminating several contact points, which in most cases, includes the need for a bin.” Here are some other recent headlines from over the weekend and today that you might have missed.
Moderna, a biotechnology company, announced on Monday morning that its coronavirus vaccine is 94.5% effective, according to the early analysis of the clinical trials. Moderna is part of the Trump administration’s “Operation Warp Speed” and worked with the National Institutes of Health on the clinical trials. This is the second vaccine found to be over 90% effective, based on preliminary data.
Ron Klain, incoming White House chief-of-staff, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that the delay in starting the formal presidential transition could hamper the federal government’s ability to distribute a vaccine. “Joe Biden is going to become president of the United States in the midst of an ongoing crisis. That has to be a seamless transition,” he said. “There are people at [the Health and Human Services Department] making plans to implement that vaccine. Our experts need to talk to those people as soon as possible so nothing drops in this change of power.”
The Biden team will be briefed on the vaccine distribution plans “once [the General Services Administration] determines that there is - if there is - a transition to do,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said on ABC on Monday morning. “We'll make sure that happens when and if it's appropriate to do that.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on CNN on Sunday “it would be better” if the Trump administration could start working with the Biden transition team. “As you know, I've been through multiple transitions now, having served six presidents for 36 years,” he said. “It's very clear that the transition process that we go through ... is really important in a smooth handing over of the information as well as it's almost like passing the baton in a race.”
Fauci also told CNN that it has been several months since President Trump was physically present at a White House coronavirus task force meeting. He said that Vice President Mike Pence, who runs the meetings, “translates” the information to Trump.
During a press conference on Friday afternoon, Moncef Slaoui, co-head of “Operation Warp Speed,” reiterated that the vaccine progress “has been achieved without any political interference.” He added: “At every step [it] has been and is being judged by independent expert bodies, whether it's when the [Food and Drug Administration] grants the green light to go into clinical trials, or whether when the Data Safety Monitoring Boards review the safety of the studies on an ongoing basis and sometimes put them on hold.”
On Monday, the Government Accountability Office published its annual “Performance and Accountability Report” for fiscal 2020. GAO saved $77.6 billion for taxpayers and identified 1,332 improvements for federal agency operations. “GAO rose to the challenge of meeting its statutory obligations to oversee and evaluate $2.6 trillion in spending in response to COVID-19—the largest rescue package in U.S. history,” said the report. “Collectively, these events galvanized GAO’s commitment to the full breadth of our mission.”
Today’s GovExec Daily podcast episode is about the transition activities that cannot occur until the General Services Administration “ascertains” a winner.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
NEXT STORY: COVID-19 Is Out of Control. What Can We Do?