Soldiers attached to the Texas Army National Guard's 36th Infantry Division and 272th Engineer Company receive an COVID-19 IgG, IgM antigen test at Camp Swift in Bastrop, Texas, in June.

Soldiers attached to the Texas Army National Guard's 36th Infantry Division and 272th Engineer Company receive an COVID-19 IgG, IgM antigen test at Camp Swift in Bastrop, Texas, in June. Andrew Ryan Smith / U.S. Army

Coronavirus Roundup: Ninth Military Service Member Dies of COVID; Democrats Ask OPM How Agencies will Protect Feds

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

On Wednesday, the United States reported over 100,000 new coronavirus cases for the first time ever and states such as Indiana, Minnesota, Iowa, Colorado and Idaho reported their record high for daily infections, according to The Wall Street Journal. With the future majority party of the Senate in question, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on Wednesday he would like to pass a fifth coronavirus relief package before the end of the year, The Hill reported. Congress is also facing a December 11 deadline to come to an agreement on government funding and avoid a shutdown. Here are some other recent headlines you might have missed. 

The winner of the presidential election hasn’t been called yet, but Democratic nominee former Vice President Joe Biden launched his transition website on Wednesday. “Votes are still being counted in several states around the country,” it says. “The crises facing the country are severe — from a pandemic to an economic recession, climate change to racial injustice — and the transition team will continue preparing at full speed so that the Biden-Harris administration can hit the ground running on day one.”

Planning for the inauguration is underway for either outcome. Washington, D.C.,’s coronavirus restrictions won’t apply on federal land at the Capitol and National Mall where the festivities will be hosted, Roll Call reported on Thursday. “Permitting for large events on National Park Service land, including the National Mall, now includes COVID-19 mitigation planning,” said the report. “[NPS] ‘strongly encourages’ social distancing and mask wearing, but is not requiring or enforcing their use.”

Earlier this week, top members of the House Ways and Means Committee wrote to the Office of Personnel Management, asking what it’s doing to guide agencies on protecting federal employees from contracting the coronavirus following the Trump administration's “reckless approach” to managing the pandemic. “Trump routinely undermines his own public health officials, mocks basic social distancing practices and mask wearing, and held what Dr. Anthony Fauci called a ‘superspreader event’ at the White House,” they wrote. “We hope that OPM does not allow other federal agency leaders to follow this reckless pattern and similarly endanger the lives of their employees, families and communities.” 

The Veterans Affairs Department published a year-in-review report of fiscal 2020 on Wednesday about how investments in its information technology and digital systems were equipped for the pandemic. This allowed for “rapidly shifting over 415,000 staff and contractor personnel to telework and quickly expanding and securing telehealth access at VA Medical Center facilities nationwide,” said the agency. 

The Internal Revenue Service implemented several changes to help taxpayers impacted by COVID-19 settle their tax disputes more easily. “We understand tax issues and know that dealing with the IRS can be intimidating, but our employees really are here to help," said Darren Guillot, small business/self-employed deputy commissioner for collection and operations support at the IRS. 

The ninth member of the military died from coronavirus. The member was from the Texas Air National Guard, but the name was not identified, Military.com reported on Wednesday 

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ advisory committee on the coronavirus will hold closed meetings on December 8 then December 11-14 to “review and evaluate grant applications,” according to two notices posted in the Federal Register on Thursday. 

Today’s GovExec Daily podcast episode looks at ways to reform the civil service without the new executive order that created a new “Schedule F” for “policy making” federal employees who would lose their civil service protections if moved to it. 

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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