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Coronavirus Roundup: Watchdog Surveys Justice Dept. Workforce on COVID-19 Impact; Safety Advocates Question Mask Guidance Change

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, told Axios during a virtual event on Wednesday he thinks people are “misinterpreting” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's new mask guidance for vaccinated individuals. “It's an assurance to those who are vaccinated that they can feel safe, be they outdoors or indoors,” he said. “People either read them quickly, or listen and hear half of it. They are feeling that we're saying: 'You don't need the mask anymore.' That's not what the CDC said. They said: If you are vaccinated, you can feel safe — that you will not get infected either outdoors or indoors. It did not explicitly say that unvaccinated people should abandon their masks.” Here are some of the other recent headlines you might have missed. 

Unions and safety advocates are disappointed by the CDC’s decision to relax mask guidance for vaccinated individuals, Politico reported on Wednesday. “The White House is in the last stages of finalizing emergency Covid-19 workplace safety rules from [the Occupational Safety and Health Administration], which unions, management-side attorneys and workplace safety experts broadly expected to include a mask mandate — until the administration’s latest changes to its guidelines last week,” said the report. “Attorneys who specialize in federal safety law say they would be surprised if CDC and OSHA went different directions on masking rules.” 

The Justice Department inspector general said on Wednesday it’s conducting two surveys to better understand the pandemic’s impact on the department’s workforce. One is for the U.S. Attorneys Offices, the Executive Office of the U.S. Attorneys, Civil Division, Civil Rights Division, Criminal Division, National Security Division, Antitrust Division, Tax Division, and Environmental and Natural Resources Division and the other is for the Executive Office for Immigration Review. 

The State IG said in a report published on Wednesday that the pandemic delayed training needed to certify new sexual assault investigators at the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s Office of Special Investigations. The IG suggested the office “consider developing alternate training programs in the interim to address the training backlog and prevent future gaps in covering sexual assault investigations.” Officials agreed with the recommendation.

Among U.S. troops, Black service members have the lowest vaccination rate, according to a new review by the Defense Department, Military.com reported on Wednesday. 

The Homeland Security Department said on Thursday it will continue to restrict U.S. individuals’ travel at land borders through June 21 to continue preventing the spread of coronavirus. “We're working closely with Canada [and] Mexico to safely ease restrictions as conditions improve,” said the department. 

Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Thom Tillis, R-N.C., reintroduced legislation on Wednesday that would authorize $500 million through fiscal 2024 to improve the strategic national stockpile and strengthen domestic manufacturing for medical supplies. They introduced this bill as an amendment to the Endless Frontier Act, which the Senate is considering on Thursday. 

Upcoming: President Biden will sign the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act into law and then he and Vice President Harris will give remarks at 2:30 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.

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