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Coronavirus Roundup: OMB Looks at Post-Pandemic Work; FDA Greenlights Another COVID-19 Drug Treatment

Here’s today’s list of news updates and stories you may have missed.

The international development council within the Professional Services Council, a trade association that represents over 400 companies that contract with the federal government, on Thursday released an outline about how it would like the Biden administration to approach its foreign policy assistance framework in the post-pandemic era.

“The pandemic reminds development professionals that there is no ‘normal’ in our line of work,” said Leland Kruvant, council chair who is also the president and CEO of Creative Associates International. “Even without a pandemic, to appropriately support communities and advance donors’ goals, flexibility and ingenuity are required. Throughout this pandemic, [U.S. Agency for International Development] implementing companies have demonstrated those and many other skills to save lives.” 

Here are some of the other recent headlines you might have missed: 

The federal government has a “huge opportunity” to be a leader “in the battle for talent,” said Jason Miller, deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget at an event earlier this week, Meritalk reported. Post-pandemic, “we need to be utilizing it to take advantage of the innovations that have been developed by agencies throughout the pandemic and delivering our mission in new and productive ways—ways that were more effective than prior,” he said. 

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory group said on Wednesday there isn’t any evidence yet that COVID-19 booster shots are needed. However, this could change over time, NBC News reported. The World Health Organization predicts the individuals most vulnerable to the coronavirus will need annual booster shots, Reuters reported on Thursday. 

There are disagreements over where the proposed Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health should live, The Washington Post reported. The new agency proposed by the Biden administration in its 2022 budget is currently slated to be housed within the National Institutes of Health. However, “some medical experts and lawmakers say that for the agency to successfully innovate, it should be a stand-alone entity within the Department of Health and Human Services, and free of what many experts view as NIH’s bureaucratic and time-consuming approach to innovation and research,” said the report.

The White House and NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins are standing firmly behind their decision. “I think the COVID-19 experience that we’ve had at NIH gave me greater confidence that this approach really can work for biomedical research,” Collins told The Post.

Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., ranking member on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee, released a report on Thursday about HHS’s Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response’s role during the pandemic. The report suggested strengthening public-private partnerships, improving leadership and coordination and incorporating innovation into preparedness. 

On Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration gave emergency use authorization for the drug Actemra to treat hospitalized coronavirus patients. “Although vaccines have been successful in decreasing the number of patients with COVID-19 who require hospitalization, providing additional therapies for those who do become hospitalized is an important step in combating this pandemic,” said Dr. Patrizia Cavazzoni, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, in a statement

The Labor Department announced on Thursday it is making more than $21 million in funding available for workplace hazards and infectious disease training grants. Ten million dollars would come from the American Rescue Plan Act and training could involve understanding Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards, such as the new one for the coronavirus. 

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.