Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

Coronavirus Roundup: The 1-Year Anniversary of Lockdowns; Former FDA Heads Call on Biden to Announce His Nominee 

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

Thursday marks the one-year anniversary of the World Health Organization declaring the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. State lockdowns and massive pivots to telework soon followed, with President Trump declaring a national emergency two days later. President Biden will give his first prime time address on Thursday night to mark the anniversary. Here are some of the other recent headlines you might have missed. 

Six former Food and Drug Administration commissioners sent a letter to the White House on Tuesday urging the president to hurry up naming a nominee to lead the agency, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday. “To continue to advance the agency’s mission, and promote its independent role, we urge you to prioritize securing its leadership team, including through seeking the formal nomination and confirmation of an FDA commissioner,” said the letter. They didn’t endorse a candidate, but said acting commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock is “a highly effective advocate for advancing the FDA’s mission” and praised “her commitment to FDA’s scientific mission and its career staff.”

The House passed the final version of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan on Wednesday, which includes sick leave and workers compensation provisions for federal employees. The White House said President Biden will sign the package at 1:30 p.m.; initially the plan was for Friday.

The Professional Services Council, which represents over 400 companies that contract with the federal government, applauded the passage of the relief package as it includes an extension of leave flexibilities for contractors established in the CARES Act. The contractors association was also particularly happy with the $1 billion for technology modernization and cybersecurity included in the package. “Both pandemic impacts and recent cyber events clearly underscore the need for additional technology modernization across the board,” PSC President and CEO David Berteau said. “Legacy systems need faster replacement to bolster security and to support post-vaccine work processes as they evolve. These resources provide a boost, but more will be needed.” 

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., and ranking member Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, sent requests for information to the White House and six agencies about their preparations and response to the pandemic. The specific letters contain a broad range of requests for communication, guidance documents, interviews and more. The agencies are the Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, State, and Defense departments, Office of Management and Budget and National Archives and Records Administration (“in order to gain access to documents and information related to the previous administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said a press release).

The Labor Department released updated pandemic guidance on Wednesday for mine operators and workers. “Operators should implement COVID-19 Prevention Programs at each mine. Operators may consider a stand-alone program or additions to existing training and education programs,” said the guidance. Such programs should involve the following: “conducting a hazard assessment of the mine site; identifying a combination of measures that limit the spread of COVID-19 in mine settings; adopting measures to ensure that miners who are infected or potentially infected are separated and sent home from the mine; and implementing protections from retaliation for miners who raise COVID-19-related concerns.” 

Upcoming: 

  • White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will give a briefing at 2 p.m.
  • Biden will address the anniversary of the COVID lockdowns at 8:02 p.m. 

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

Correction: An earlier version said the American Rescue Plan allotted $1 million for technology modernization and cybersecurity. It is $1 billion.

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