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Coronavirus Roundup: OSHA COVID-19 Standard Takes Effect; Biden Seeks Permanent HHS Inspector General

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

The Government Accountability Office said in a recently published report that during the pandemic there were “potential racial and ethnic disparities” among the unemployment insurance recipients for the three pandemic programs. “For example, Census Bureau survey data indicates that 80% of white applicants reported receiving benefits, as compared to 73% of Black applicants,” said the report. “We didn't determine the reasons for these differences, but the results could suggest that states may be approving, or processing unemployment claims differently for applicants in different racial and ethnic groups.” GAO said it's continuing to investigate, but wanted to share the preliminary results ahead of these programs expiring in September. Here are some of the other recent headlines you might have missed. 

The emergency temporary standard for COVID-19 (applying to the health care industry only) was published in the Federal Register and took effect on Monday. This is an interim final rule and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is seeking comments by July 6 on whether or not it should become a final rule. 

OSHA, under the Biden administration, has stepped up the enforcement of coronavirus workplace protections, Bloomberg Law reported on Monday. Five months into the administration, OSHA “has issued more than three times as many violations of the general duty clause, a provision of federal law, than it did during the Trump administration,” said the report. “OSHA also has increased the number of inspections of workplaces where COVID-19 could be a hazard, even if an employer or workers haven’t reported complaints to the agency.” However, the proposed fines under the two administrations are about the same.

Biden announced on Friday he intends to nominate Christi Grimm, currently serving as acting Health and Human Services inspector general, to be the permanent one. Grimm, who has been in the role since January 2020 but has worked for the office since 1999, came under fire early in the pandemic from then-President Trump about a report her office put out about vast supply shortages hospitals were facing. 

Politico published a deep dive on Monday about how Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director, is navigating the challenges of the country’s reopening as well as managing the agency, where employees felt demoralized and sidelined under the Trump administration. Agency communications on guidance changes and the roll out of these changes, as well as restrictions on CDC staff speaking with the media, have been points of contention, said the report. 

The White House is considering ending the Trump-era public health order that allows officials to turn away migrant families at the border as early as July 31, Axios reported on Sunday. The order was aimed at preventing the influx of coronavirus infections into the United States. “The administration has been in negotiations with the [American Civil Liberties Union], which has put a temporary hold on its lawsuit targeting the practice of expelling families,” said the report. “Although thousands of families have been kicked back to Mexico under Title 42 in recent months, since March, the policy has been applied to less than half of family encounters...The administration also has set up a process for exempting more migrants from Title 42 out of humanitarian concern.” 

The CDC advisory committee meeting on vaccine safety, scheduled for last Friday, was rescheduled in observation of Juneteenth, which just became a federal holiday. The discussion will be a part of the committee's meetings on June 23-25, says the CDC’s website

Upcoming: White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will give a briefing at 1 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.