Coronavirus Roundup: Federal Agencies Say No Booster Shots Needed Yet; Post-COVID Telework Could Benefit Feds with Disabilities
There's a lot to keep track of. Here’s today’s list of news updates and stories you may have missed.
The Pandemic Response Accountability Committee is now making oversight reports from state and local agencies available on its website. There are over 90 available so far.
“Coordination with our state, local, and Tribal partners expands the breadth, scope and reach of our combined oversight efforts as we work to ensure that the $5 trillion-plus in pandemic relief funds are used as intended,” said Sandra Bruce, chair of the committee’s federal, state, and local coordination subcommittee and acting Education Department inspector general, in a statement on Thursday. “Their ‘boots-on-the-ground’ view as to how these vital federal dollars are disbursed and spent brings to the table potential issues or problems and allows us to work together to address those challenges in real-time.” Here are some of the other recent headlines you might have missed.
The expansion of telework after the pandemic could be beneficial to federal employees with disabilities, FCW reported. “The disability community is no monolith, but people who have mobility issues that make it difficult to commute; employees who are immunocompromised; or those whose chronic illnesses are subject to flare-ups are examples of those who might benefit from a teleworking accommodation,” said the report.
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said on Thursday “it is absolutely the government’s business” to know which Americans have been vaccinated, following backlash from Republican lawmakers on the administration's door-knocking campaign, but then later clarified his remarks, Politico reported.
“Some comments I made today are being taken wildly out of context,” the secretary tweeted. “To be clear: government has no database tracking who is vaccinated. We're encouraging people to step up to protect themselves, others by getting vaccinated. It's the best way to save lives and end this pandemic.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said during the briefing on Thursday those who are doing the door-knocking campaign “are not members of the government.” Rather, “They are volunteers. They are clergy. They are trusted voices in communities who are playing this role and door knocking.”
Pressure is increasing on the Food and Drug Administration to give the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines full approval as the Delta variant surges, Politico reported. “Still, it's unclear how much full licensure of the vaccines will spur unvaccinated Americans to get their shots,” said the report. “Polling released June 30 by the Kaiser Family Foundation showed that nearly a third of unvaccinated adults — and about half of those who said they’re taking a ‘wait and see’ approach to the vaccine — said they’d be more likely to get it if the FDA fully approved one of the shots.”
Pfizer and BioNTech announced on Thursday they plan to seek FDA approval for a third vaccine dose, arguing it could better protect against the Delta variant. Additionally, “the companies are remaining vigilant and are developing an updated version of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine that targets the full spike protein of the Delta variant,” said the statement.
The FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a joint statement after saying that “Americans who have been fully vaccinated do not need a booster shot at this time.” They added that their agencies, along with the National Institutes of Health, are “engaged in a science-based, rigorous process to consider whether or when a booster might be necessary,” which will take time and doesn’t rely “exclusively” on data from the pharmaceutical companies. The statement does not mention Pfizer and BioNTech specifically.
The New York Times reported on Thursday that the death toll of incarcerated people from the coronavirus might be higher than reported. “In some cases, in places including Texas, Ohio and California, deaths were added to facilities’ virus tolls after The Times brought missing names to the attention of officials,” said the report. “In other cases, people who were infected with the coronavirus while incarcerated — but granted legal releases because of the severity of their illnesses — were not included in the death tallies of the jails where they got sick. Still other inmates’ deaths were left off facilities’ virus tolls for reasons that are unexplained.” The report didn’t specify how prevalent this is at the federal versus state and local level.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration extended until August 20 the comment period on the COVID-19 emergency temporary standard that took effect on June 21. OSHA also updated this week its coronavirus national emphasis program, which it first launched in March.
Upcoming: White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will give a briefing at 12:30 p.m.
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