Coronavirus Roundup: Smithsonian Announces Reopening; OMB and Oversight Panel Offer Guidelines on Payment Integrity of Relief Funds
There's a lot to keep track of. Here’s today’s list of news updates and stories you may have missed.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s advisory committee voted on Friday to recommend lifting the pause on Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine. The committee also advised adding a warning of increased chances of getting rare blood clots for some recipients. On Friday evening, the Food and Drug Administration and CDC announced they lifted the pause, which was a few days shy of two weeks.
“This pause was an example of our extensive safety monitoring,” said Dr. Janet Woodcock, acting FDA commissioner, in a statement. “We have concluded that the known and potential benefits of the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine outweigh its known and potential risks in individuals 18 years of age and older.” The vaccine meets their standards and the agencies recommend individuals talk with their health care providers if they have questions about which shot is best of them, she said. Here are some of the other recent headlines you might have missed.
The CDC said on Friday that pregnant women should get the coronavirus vaccine, which was much-sought after advice, The Wall Street Journal reported. Also, on Saturday, the CDC released guidance on kids attending summer camps.
The Transportation Security Administration’s mask mandate (tied to an executive order from President Biden and emergency order from the CDC) is set to end on May 11 and airline industry leaders are encouraging the agency to extend it, The Washington Post reported. A TSA spokeswoman told the Post, “there has not been any decision or announcement regarding an extension.”
The Smithsonian announced on Friday its reopening schedule for eight of its locations. “All locations will reopen with added health and safety measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said the Smithsonian. “Visitors will need to reserve free timed-entry passes for all locations. All other Smithsonian museums will remain temporarily closed to the public.”
The Biden administration is still limiting travel for federal employees to mission critical trips, according to new guidance from the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force, Federal News Network reported.
The Office of Management and Budget and Pandemic Response Accountability Committee recently issued guidance to agencies on ensuring payment integrity of funds from the American Rescue Plan. “Since March 2020, the Congress has passed more than $5 trillion in COVID-19 related stimulus funding,” they wrote. “With the recent passage of the American Rescue Plan ($1.9 trillion), it is imperative that executive departments and agencies incorporate in program design, tracking, and reporting lessons learned and mitigating strategies to risks and issues with payment integrity encountered during previous rounds of COVID-19 stimulus.”
Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., top members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote to Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday, asking him to rescind an Office of Legal Counsel opinion memo from January 15 regarding home confinement of federal prisoners after the pandemic. It “incorrectly finds that following the emergency period of the pandemic, the Bureau of Prisons must recall federal inmates released to home confinement pursuant to the CARES Act and require these inmates to complete their sentences at BOP facilities,” they wrote. “In fact, the CARES Act does not require or permit BOP to recall these prisoners.”
A group of bipartisan House lawmakers asked OMB and the Office of Science and Technology Policy on Friday to support the Research Investment to Spark the Economy Act. “Funding is needed to allow federal agencies to support research and researchers, by providing research grant and contract supplements for expenses arising from COVID-19 related impacts; emergency relief to sustain research support personnel and some base operating costs for core research facilities and user-funded research services; and support for additional graduate student and postdoc fellowships, traineeships, and research assistantships,” they wrote in a letter.
The State Department inspector general released a report on Monday about its inspection of the Office of Safety, Health and Environmental Management, one of the department’s bureaus that oversee facilities abroad. The IG found that overall from 2014 to 2020 the office “carried out its mission to assist overseas posts in preventing fatalities and injuries,” to department employees and family members; however, it was faced with “insufficient staffing” levels, database limitations and “outdated, inaccurate and incomplete guidance governing its programs.” As for the pandemic, it was part of the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations’ coronavirus working group and was the State Department’s main adviser on disinfecting facilities overseas. The office also “designated a working group that spent 80% of its time reviewing contractor COVID-19 pandemic plans,” and coordinated with other divisions to create disinfection and ventilation guidelines, said the report.
Tim Manning, White House COVID-19 Supply Coordinator, explained in a tweet thread on Monday morning about the United States’ use of the Defense Production Act and how it relates to the global supply chain, specifically with India, which is suffering a massive coronavirus outbreak. “Here’s what we did yesterday: we diverted our pending orders of vaccine filters to India’s vaccine manufacturing effort,” he said. “This will help India make more vaccine. And it’s only one effort among many to help their COVID19 response (e.g. therapeutics, [personal protective equipment], and oxygen.”
Upcoming: White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki and National Economic Council Director Brian Deese will give a briefing at 12 p.m.
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