Coronavirus Roundup: Biden Administration Invokes Defense Production Act; Ongoing Talks About a Pre-flight COVID Testing Mandate
There's a lot to keep track of. Here’s today’s list of news updates and stories you may have missed.
President Biden said in his pre-Super Bowl interview on CBS News that millions of women dropping out of the workforce and the closing of schools during the coronavirus pandemic amount to a “national emergency.” He also said that National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell told him that his administration could use the league’s 32 stadiums as vaccination sites, which he intends to do. Here are some of the other recent headlines from over the weekend and today that you might have missed.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that the United States should continue with its plan to give individuals their second does of coronavirus vaccines, despite the fact that some in the medical community think as many individuals should get the first vaccine as possible instead. “What we have right now, and what we must go with, is the scientific data that we’ve accumulated. And it’s really solid,” Fauci said. “You can do both, you can get as many people in their first dose at the same time as adhering, within reason, to the timetable of the second dose. It would be great to have the study, but I don’t think we could do it in time.”
Much of the Biden administration’s massive education campaign for people to get vaccinated is on hold because they don’t have enough vaccine doses yet, Politico reported on Sunday. Also, the “ambitions for a broader campaign may be limited by Congress, which would need to appropriate much of the $1 billion that Biden officials originally envisioned as part of the next COVID relief bill.”
Andy Slavitt, acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, outlined on Friday how the administration will use the Defense Production Act. “First to increase [the] existing supply of vaccinations Americans need. Second, to scale production of the tests that Americans need to get back their lives. And third, to reduce our long-term dependence on foreign production of supplies that we need to protect our workforce and fight pandemics,” he said. “Over the coming weeks, the U.S. government has plans to invest in another six suppliers to rapidly surge domestic testing capability. And thanks to this action, 61 million point-of-care or at-home tests will be available by the end of this summer.”
The White House published a memo last week on national security workforce priorities, which says a new working group will identify “best practices from the COVID-19 pandemic and develop agency-specific plans to resource and implement changes that build more flexibility and resiliency into the national security workforce,” such as “remote work options, adoption of secure remote technology, reduction of the over-classification of materials, and flexible work arrangements.”
Despite the fact that President Biden issued an executive order requiring the wearing of masks on interstate travel, “enforcement hasn’t gotten any easier,” Politico reported on Monday.
Top House Democrats reintroduced a bill on Friday to ensure that all Transportation Security Administration employees have the same rights as other federal employees. “Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Transportation Security Officers have remained on the frontline and put themselves at even greater risk every day to keep our skies safe,” said Rep Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. “Despite their zero-fail mission, TSOs are among the lowest paid federal employees and are denied workforce rights available to other federal employees. This is simply unacceptable.”
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said on “Axios on HBO” on Sunday that there is an “active conversation with the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] right now” about a federal mandate for pre-flight coronavirus testing for domestic flights. “What I can tell you is, it's going to be guided by data, by science, by medicine, and by the input of the people who are actually going to have to carry this out,” Buttigieg said.
Johnson & Johnson submitted an application to the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization for its coronavirus vaccine on Friday. “Upon authorization of our investigational COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, we are ready to begin shipping,” said Dr. Paul Stoffels, vice chairman of the Executive Committee and Chief Scientific Officer at Johnson & Johnson, in a statement. If approved, this will be the third vaccine to receive emergency use authorization and the first that only requires one dose.
The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis released new evidence on Monday about how the Trump administration weakened CDC guidance to hide proof that the virus was spreading, “manipulated public health information” and pressured the FDA to approve COVID treatments over the objection of the scientists. The subcommittee also asked White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain and Health and Human Services Acting Secretary Norris Cochran to provide documents to assist their ongoing probe.
Upcoming: White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will give a briefing at 12 p.m.
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