Mary Altaffer / AP

Coronavirus Roundup: Insight on the Contractor Vaccine Mandate; Health Officials Divided on Boosters 

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

Following the Biden administration’s release of supplementary guidance for the federal contractor vaccine mandate, Government Executive spoke with several experts for their thoughts and further questions. 

“The regulatory structure for the contractor vaccine mandate will in some ways parallel the facility clearance process involved in securing classified information,” said Albert Krachman, a partner for government contracts at the law firm Blank Rome LLP. “Like facility clearance officers who control corporate classified information, companies may create ‘CSOs’—COVID security officers—to administer the COVID guidance,” which “might make it easier for agencies to monitor and enforce the program if there is one designated point person in charge of implementing the mandate.”

The guidance and mandate are “a quintessential example of how presidential administrations use the procurement industry as a vehicle to drive public policy,” said Alex Sarria, government contracts partner at the law firm Miller & Chevalier Chartered. It “remains to be seen how individual agencies will react to that guidance,” which “strongly encourages” agencies to apply the mandate to contracts not technically subject to the requirements. Also, there are open questions about how the guidance will evolve over time, he said, because, understandably, the government’s pandemic response is itself continuously evolving. He encouraged contractors to “continue to be well-informed” and "to adopt a flexible compliance plan” because “what you're doing today to comply with the requirements may have to change down the road as the government’s response to the pandemic evolves.” Here are some of the other recent headlines you might have missed. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an advisory on Wednesday urging vaccinations for those who are pregnant, were recently pregnant or might become pregnant in the future. “According to CDC data, only 31% of pregnant people have been vaccinated against COVID-19 and vaccination rates vary markedly by race and ethnicity,” said a press release. “Pregnant people with COVID-19 are at increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes that could include preterm birth, stillbirth, and admission into the ICU of a newborn also infected with COVID-19.”

Biden administration health officials are divided over whether or not all adults should eventually be offered booster shots, Politico reported on Thursday. “On one side are CDC and [Food and Drug Administration] scientists, who believe COVID-19 will continue to circulate well after the pandemic ends. There’s little definitive data that boosters would eliminate cases in vaccinated people, and only a small percentage of those who suffer breakthroughs end up hospitalized,” said the report. “But on the other side are advisers like [National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director] Anthony Fauci, who has argued against ruling out giving boosters to the broader population.” 

The Government Accountability Office released a report on Wednesday that said “dedicated user fee revenue declined in fiscal year 2020 for most of the 25 executive branch agencies that collected these revenues.” The report noted that “the Federal Aviation Administration, National Park Service, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services all prioritized spending on essential expenses, sought to increase available funds or operational flexibilities, and relied on carryover balances to cover essential expenses during the pandemic. However, FAA and NPS have not documented plans to review certain management plans and policies.” 

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ Anthony Fauci was the highest paid government employee in fiscal 2020, for the second straight year, according to a new report from Open the Books, a nonprofit that advocates for government transparency. “In [fiscal] 2020, Fauci earned $434,312,” said the report. “In the previous ten-year period between 2010 and 2019, Fauci made $3.6 million in salary. Since 2014, Fauci’s pay increased from $335,000 to the current $434,312.”

The Pandemic Response Accountability Committee and the National Academy of Public Administration are having a panel discussion on October 5 about the impact of COVID-19 housing and rental relief on underserved communities. One of the topics will be the “federal agencies’ efforts to help state and local governments design effective and efficient housing relief programs,” said a press release.

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.

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