Coronavirus Roundup: OSHA to Prioritize On-Site Inspections; New HUD Secretary Emphasizes Safety for Employees and Contractors
There's a lot to keep track of. Here’s today’s list of news updates and stories you may have missed.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on “Fox News Sunday,” that “I think it would make all the difference in the world” if former President Trump were to speak to his supporters about the importance of getting the coronavirus vaccine. He “is a such a strongly popular person,” so “it would be very helpful for the effort for that to happen.” According to a PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll released last week, Republican men and Trump supporters are the groups most against getting the vaccine.
Trump said in his Conservative Political Action Conference speech last month to “go get your shot,” but will not be part of the upcoming joint public service announcement by the other former living presidents and first ladies. Here are some of the other recent headlines from over the weekend and today that you might have missed.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration launched a “national emphasis program” on Friday to focus on companies that are putting workers at risk for contracting the coronavirus as well as retaliating against them for filing complaints. This is in response to the executive order President Biden issued on his second day in office. National emphasis program “inspections will enhance the agency’s previous coronavirus enforcement efforts, and will include some follow-up inspections of worksites inspected in 2020,” the Labor Department said in a press release. “The program’s focused strategy ensures abatement and includes monitoring the effectiveness of OSHA’s enforcement and guidance efforts.” It will be in effect for up to a year, but OSHA is able to “amend or cancel the program as the pandemic subsides.”
OSHA also updated its interim enforcement response plan to prioritize doing on-site inspections of workplaces when feasible. “OSHA will ensure that its Compliance Safety and Health Officers have every protection necessary for on-site inspections,” said the Labor Department. “When conducting on-site inspections, OSHA will evaluate all risk and utilize appropriate protective measures, including appropriate respiratory protection and other necessary personal protective equipment.”
While some of the spending from the new $1.9 trillion COVID package can be disbursed fairly quickly, such as relief checks, other items could take longer and then it could take a while for states and localities to make such funding available, CBS News reported on Friday. For example, “there is $130 billion for K-12 schools to hire teachers, upgrade ventilation systems and make other improvements so that in-person classes can resume” and the White House said the Education Department would start to distribute the funding this month, said the report. “But some funds could take time to distribute, since government agencies with their normal spending can take six to nine months to release funds through competitive grants or an application process. Schools and state and local governments also might spread out spending to well after most of the country is vaccinated.”
Jeff Zients, White House coronavirus response coordinator, said during a briefing on Friday that another Federal Emergency Management Agency-supported vaccine site opening, which would be at Ford Field in Detroit. It will be able to administer 6,000 shots per day.
The upcoming rollout of a vaccine website is invoking “the ghosts of Obamacare” since Zients and Andy Slavitt, White House senior COVID adviser, worked on the botched Healthcare.gov in 2013, Politico reported.
Biden tapped Gene Sperling, who led the National Economic Council twice, to oversee the implementation of the relief package, but has yet to make the announcement, The Washington Post reported on Sunday. Several reports previously said that Sperling was a candidate for Office of Management and Budget director.
A few days after getting sworn in, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge told staff in a video message, in regard to the pandemic and resulting housing crisis, “the work ahead will test us, but I know we are up to the task.” Employees can’t forget about the “everyday routine business of the department” too, she noted.
The health and safety of employees and contractors “will always be of paramount importance,” Fudge also said. “HUD’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic–both internally and externally–will continue to be driven by data and science, and we will continue to require the correct and consistent wearing of masks and physical distancing within all HUD buildings. There will also be more communication–not just on COVID-19, but on all matters that impact this department.”
The Small Business Administration inspector general reported on Monday that SBA “did not always have sufficient controls in place to detect and prevent duplicate [paycheck protection program] loans, as of August 31, 2020. This “resulted in more than one loan number for the same borrower,” said the IG. “In addition, we found that SBA’s efforts to remedy the duplicate loan numbers did not fully address the vulnerability because duplicate disbursements occurred until the end of the program on August 8, 2020.” Specifically, the IG reported that lenders gave more than one PPP disbursement to 4,260 borrowers, which totaled $692 million. The IG gave the agency four recommendations for improvement, with which it agreed.
Former White House Coronavirus Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx joined ActivePure Technologies as chief medical and scientific adviser. The company is a global provider of patented products that kill pathogens, such as the COVID virus, on surfaces and in the air.
- White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will give a briefing at 12:30 p.m.
- President Biden will deliver remarks on the implementation of the American Rescue Plan at 1:45 p.m.
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