There's a lot to keep track of. Here’s today’s list of news updates and stories you may have missed.
Coronavirus cases are surging nationwide and the governors of New York, Maryland, Minnesota, Iowa, Utah and others recently imposed new restrictions as some officials said that novel coronavirus is “the most widespread and intense since the pandemic struck in March,” The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday. There were 150,526 new cases in the United States on Thursday, according to The COVID Tracking Project. Here are some other recent headlines you might have missed.
Over 130 Secret Service officers are quarantining because they either tested positive for coronavirus or came in close contact with someone who did, which is believed to be linked to President Trump’s extensive traveling for campaign rallies in the runup to the election, The Washington Post reported on Friday. “The agency is also examining whether some portion of the current infections are not travel-related, one government official said, but instead trace back to the site where many Secret Service officers report for duty each day: the White House,” the report said.
For the first time the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in its updated guidance this week that “the benefit of masking is derived from the combination of source control and personal protection for the mask wearer,” The Washington Post reported. The guidance also says “universal masking policies can help avert future lockdowns, especially if combined with other non-pharmaceutical interventions.”
The Office of Management and Budget issued guidance to all agencies and departments on Thursday about improving their transparency of spending on financial assistance. During fiscal 2020, in which the pandemic and resulting economic recession started, the federal government issued more than $3 trillion in financial assistance. “As stewards of taxpayer dollars the federal government has a responsibility to the American people to promote transparency and accountability of federal spending,” wrote OMB Director Russell Vought. “Data is one of the most valuable assets of the federal government and, if leveraged effectively, can be used to transform the way society, businesses, recipients, and local government interface with the federal government.”
President Trump will receive an update on “Operation Warp Speed” this afternoon. This will be closed to the press. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CBS News he would be present.
Since the General Services Administration hasn’t ascertained President-elect Joe Biden as the election winner yet and the White House won’t give him access to presidential daily briefings, Biden cannot receive updates on the vaccine development process, among other things. “The president-elect’s team is concerned that it is being shut out of planning for the vaccine distribution, a huge undertaking that the incoming administration expects to inherit the moment Mr. Biden is sworn in,” The New York Times reported on Thursday. Instead, “it is focusing on logistical challenges and policy questions, one senior Biden adviser said, like how to prioritize who gets a vaccine and how to make distribution equitable along racial and socioeconomic lines — a priority of Mr. Biden’s, but one rarely discussed by Mr. Trump.”
In his first interview since being named Biden’s White House chief-of-staff, Ron Klain said Biden will name a White House coronavirus response coordinator. “That official will have a team of people that he or she works with," Klain said on MSNBC on Thursday night. "Someone coordinating vaccine distribution, someone fixing the supply chain problems we're having, someone fixing the testing problems we're having, so that we get this response where it needs to be.”
On Thursday, the Health and Human Services Department announced that the Trump administration entered into partnerships with large chain pharmacies and networks that represent regional chains and independent ones to increase access to a coronavirus vaccine if and when one is approved. Vaccines given at any of their partner locations will be at no cost to individuals. “Many pharmacists and the interns and technicians working under their supervision are trained to provide immunizations and are already important immunizers in their communities. Pharmacists are also a trusted health resource in their communities, and have played a vital role in the public health response to COVID-19,” HHS said. “By working with these partners, the federal government will rapidly expand access to COVID-19 vaccines.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., chairman of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, wrote to the Small Business Administration on Thursday requesting information about the economic injury disaster loan program for COVID-19 following a recent inspector general report about potentially billions of dollars in fraudulent loans and grants, including those sent to ineligible businesses. “I am concerned about the agency’s ability to detect and prevent fraud in the program,” Rubio wrote. “As Congress continues to work towards additional small business relief in the future, it is critical that the agency has the necessary controls in place to protect taxpayer dollars.”
The NASA IG said in its annual management challenges report for the agency published on Thursday that “the effects of COVID‐19 is a theme repeated in many of the top challenges.” Nonetheless, NASA is actively supporting the federal government’s response to the pandemic, the IG said. NASA, for example, “announced an employee crowdsourcing initiative to solicit new ideas focused on developing personal protective equipment; developed new ventilation devices; and used NASA data, analytics, high performance computing, and artificial intelligence to predict the spread of COVID‐19 and help address its environmental, economic and societal impacts.”
Today’s GovExec Daily podcast episode is about the Schedule F Executive Order for “policy making” federal employees that could strip those moved to the new schedule of their civil service protections. This could include Dr. Anthony Fauci or other top career public health officials.
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 email@example.com.