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Coronavirus Roundup: Pandemic Watchdog Outlines ‘Lessons Learned;’ HHS Re-Delegates Regulation Authority to FDA

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, established by the March 2020 CARES Act, released a report on Wednesday afternoon to showcase what it has learned from overseeing about $5 trillion in pandemic relief. The committee and inspectors general across the government have issued more than 275 reports about challenges in relief programs. 

The lessons identified so far were: Self-certified information must be validated before payments, such as small business loans or unemployment insurance benefits, are distributed; small business funding for underserved communities should be prioritized; existing federal data sources should be used to determine eligibility for benefits; recipients and administrators of benefits need timely and explicit guidance on how to distribute them efficiently; and recipients of small business loans should be made public. This will be a living document, so it will be updated with additional lessons learned as the committee uncovers more. Here are some of the other recent headlines you might have missed. 

The Food and Drug Administration’s advisory committee will meet on September 17 to discuss coronavirus booster shots as well as the application from Pfizer/BioNTech for a third dose. This is just three days before the Biden administration’s booster shot campaign will begin.

The Health and Human Services Department revoked a September 2020 memo from the Trump administration that gave HHS authority over the FDA in issuing regulations regarding medicines, foods, and medical devices and products, according to a notice published in the Federal Register on Thursday. “Outside observers were alarmed by the new memo and worried that it could contribute to a public perception of political meddling in science-based regulatory decisions,” The New York Times reported in September 2020. “Dr. Mark McClellan, who formerly headed the F.D.A. and now runs Duke University’s health policy center, praised the agency’s work on vaccine development but said the policy change was ill-timed.”

Nina Albert, commissioner of the Public Buildings Service within the General Services Administration, spoke with Federal News Network this week about changes to federal real estate and the federal workplace due to the pandemic. “For over the past year, [GSA has] assembled more than 100 experts from 18 different agencies to identify and create the principles for the future of work. And that’s resulted in an initiative that we’re calling Workspace 2030,” Albert said. “And that includes and assumes that the future of work will be a combination of office space, work and work from home.”

In terms of real estate, “we would like to use any consolidation of space to favor reuse of federally owned facilities rather than to lease new space,” she said. “This will require an investment in our existing facilities to ensure that they’re modernized and meet the needs of agencies.”

Human capital officers from a group of agencies spoke about the evolving nature of their return to office plans due to the Delta variant during a webinar hosted by Federal News Network on Wednesday. “As we’re experiencing conditions with the Delta variant and everything else, we’re reassessing our timeline,” said Bill Malyszka, deputy chief human capital officer for the National Science Foundation. “Our fundamental guiding principles are still the same. We want to get to a future of work that includes a lot of flexibilities and options with attention to the mission of the agency.”

Moderna announced on Wednesday it submitted its initial data on booster shots to the FDA. “We will continue to generate data and transparently share to support governments and regulators as they make evidence-based decisions regarding future vaccination strategies,” said Stéphane Bancel, Moderna CEO, in a press release.

The top U.S. diplomat in Afghanistan, who left the country on August 15, recently tested positive for coronavirus, Politico reported. The report does not say exactly when he tested positive. 

On Wednesday, the Office of Management and Budget launched Evidence.gov, a hub for agencies to post their progress on implementing the 2019 Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act, Federal News Network reported. “The website, in addition to meeting goals set under the Evidence Act, also flags four priority areas for evaluation under the Biden administration: climate change, racial equity, economic recovery, and COVID-19,” said the report. 

The nonprofit Partnership for Public Service published a new report on Wednesday with 38 recommendations on how to improve the federal government, as it faces the pandemic, recession, and other international and domestic challenges. “This requires rebuilding and revitalizing our government, the nation’s most important democratic institution, by improving federal leadership, supporting the federal workforce, promoting innovation, modernizing technology and accelerating collaboration across government and across sectors,” said the introduction to the report. 

Upcoming: 

  • White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will give a briefing at 1 p.m.
  • The White House COVID-19 Response Team and public health officials will give a briefing at 3 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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