President Biden speaks during a meeting with his Cabinet on Tuesday.

President Biden speaks during a meeting with his Cabinet on Tuesday. Susan Walsh / AP

Coronavirus Roundup: Biden Administration Hits Six-Month Mark

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

President Biden hosted his second Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, which marked his administration’s six-month anniversary, and he gave remarks about what his administration has accomplished so far and addressed concerns about the pandemic.

“I know folks are watching the number of cases rising again and wondering, quite frankly, what it means to them,” he said. “But overall COVID-19 deaths are down dramatically. And these last six months, about 90% down due to our vaccination program. And I want to thank you all for the great job you did in getting that done.” However, with the Delta variant “we have to stay vigilant,” Biden said. The president noted that most of the new coronavirus hospitalizations and deaths are from unvaccinated people. Here are some of the other recent headlines you might have missed. 

Axios reported on Tuesday that a White House official and a staff member for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who are both vaccinated, tested positive for coronavirus after attending the same reception last week. They have mild symptoms. 

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirmed during the briefing on Tuesday that a White House official did test positive and they are following their “rigorous COVID-19 protocols.” She said there have been other breakthrough cases among White House staff and “according to an agreement we made during the transition to be transparent and make information available, we committed that we would release information proactively if it is commissioned officers,” who are the “highest-level ranking people in the White House.” When asked how many commissioned officers there are, Psaki said she would have to follow up on that. 

During a hearing on Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., “you do not know what you are talking about, quite frankly,” regarding National Institutes of Health funded research in China that the senator claimed could have contributed to the pandemic, CNBC reported. “Paul grilled Fauci about an NIH funded study that he says qualifies as gain of function research, the process of altering a pathogen to make it more transmissible in order to better predict emerging diseases,” said the report. “Fauci denied in previous Senate testimony that the NIH has directly funded the research at a lab in Wuhan, China, that has come under intense scrutiny as a possible source of the virus.” 

The U.S. Agency for International Development, which has a key role in distributing vaccines around the world, is having vast financial issues, Politico reported on Wednesday. This started “after the White House siphoned money from the agency to pay for additional doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine — leaving USAID scrambling to find new funding meant to help foreign countries distribute shots and buy COVID drugs and personal protective gear,” said the report. “USAID is now negotiating with Congress for more money and may ask for supplemental funding that would close the $1.5 billion gap.” Politico also noted that the 500 million Pfizer doses that the White House bought with money from USAID are not expected to arrive for months.

Paul Mango, a top Health and Human Services Department official under the Trump administration, is writing a tell-all book about “Operation Warp Speed,” Politico reported on Wednesday. While some of it will be complimentary to the Trump administration, it will also depict the “number of personalities … and tension-filled meetings and differences of opinion about what should be done," Mango told Politico

Upcoming: President Biden will take part in a CNN town hall at 8 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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