A Russian medical worker prepares a shot of Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine in Moscow on Dec. 10.

A Russian medical worker prepares a shot of Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine in Moscow on Dec. 10. Pavel Golovkin / AP

Coronavirus Roundup: Diplomats are Asking Foreign Governments for Vaccines; Democrats ask IRS to Delay Tax Season Deadline

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

On Friday, President Biden will give remarks at the virtual G7 about protecting vulnerable populations worldwide from the pandemic. “Using money appropriated by a bipartisan congressional vote in December 2020, the United States will provide an initial $2 billion contribution to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance for the COVAX Advance Market Commitment…which supports access to safe and effective vaccines for 92 low- and middle-income economies,” said a press release from the White House. The country “will also take a leadership role in galvanizing further global contributions to COVAX by releasing an additional $2 billion through 2021 and 2022.” A senior Biden administration official said on Thursday that the United States would not share its own vaccine shots with poor countries until the country has purchased enough to vaccinate most Americans, according to Politico. Here are some of the other recent headlines you might have missed. 

The Veterans Affairs Department announced new appointments on Thursday, which includes a COVID-19 response coordinator. Christopher Villatoro, who has over 14 years of experience between the Marine Corps and VA, will serve in that role. 

Due to the limited supply of vaccine doses, many U.S. diplomats are requesting shots from foreign governments, including Russia, The Washington Post reported. “At least 13 foreign governments offered to inoculate U.S. officials serving abroad with their own supplies of U.S.-made Moderna and Pfizer vaccines — a gesture the State Department has already accepted,” said the report. “The State Department, like other U.S. agencies, is at the mercy of the Department of Health and Human Services for how much vaccine it receives. The State Department requested 315,000 doses but has received only 23% of that in three separate tranches.” 

Robin Bailey, chief human capital officer for the Internal Revenue Service, outlined the agency’s commitment to “mission, people and country” in a post on Thursday. “IRS employees nationwide are hard at work supporting tax administration, helping taxpayers, engaging stakeholders, enforcing laws to promote a fair tax system, apprehending criminals who exploit children or engage in terrorism, and issuing timely refunds to taxpayers,” he wrote. “And as we’ve demonstrated during the COVID-19 pandemic, we support one another and people in our communities. This is a special place to work.” 

Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee asked the IRS on Thursday to extend the deadline for tax filing season beyond April 15 due to the pandemic. Last year the agency extended it to July 15. “One year later, another unique filing season is underway, and many of these same pandemic-related difficulties and challenges persist for taxpayers, practitioners and the IRS,” the lawmakers wrote. “Importantly, as well, the IRS is still processing millions of returns from last year and has had less time to adjust to the training and safety needs of newly-hired or recalled employees.” 

In regard to the government’s response to the massive winter storm impacting many parts of the county, a Homeland Security official said on Thursday “there is a silver lining to the very dark cloud of COVID, which is that our FEMA teams have been deeply embedded for quite a long time with state emergency preparedness and response agencies across the country and in this affected region.” Liz Sherwood-Randall, DHS advisor and deputy national security advisor, speaking at the White House briefing, added, “So there's a great deal of familiarity among the people involved in needing to work these issues now, because they've been working together quite a while on COVID response.”

Members of Biden’s coronavirus advisory board for the transition wrote in The New York Times on Thursday “the COVID-19 omens are not good.” They outlined steps to avoid lockdowns in the spring. “We urge President Biden to specify clear thresholds for government action and announce them to the public,” they wrote. “States will then understand the rules, and Americans will know when to expect public health interventions, right up to full lockdowns.”

Today’s GovExec Daily podcast episode is about current and proposed oversight efforts for the pandemic.

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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