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Coronavirus Roundup: Planning for the Next Pandemic; More Workforce Guidance

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

The White House released a plan on Friday for transforming U.S. capabilities to prepare for future pandemics. “The work is organized across five pillars: transforming our medical defenses, ensuring situation awareness, strengthening public health systems, building core capabilities and managing the mission,” Eric Lander, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Jake Sullivan, national security advisor, wrote in the introduction to the report. “Achieving these capabilities will require a systematic effort and shared vision for biological preparedness across our government that is akin to the nation’s Apollo mission.” Here are some of the other recent headlines you might have missed. 

Ahead of the long-weekend, the Biden administration's Safer Federal Workforce Task Force released updated guidance on vaccine-related leave, the definition of fully vaccinated, and who is responsible for cleaning and hygiene products in General Services Administration-controlled facilities. 

Given the pandemic, increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters, and now Afghanistan refugee resettlement, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is facing a daunting workload, NBC reported on Sunday. Following the last year and a half, “FEMA is stretched thin, relying on an overworked workforce," an agency official speaking on the condition of anonymity told NBC. “We were not designed to be America's 911.” 

The Labor Department announced on Monday that it’s inducting the essential workers of the pandemic into its hall of fame, which was established in 1988 to “recognize Americans whose distinctive contributions have elevated working conditions, wages and overall quality of life for the nation’s families.” Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said in a statement: “We can’t induct every essential worker by name, so we’re inviting everyone to tell us about workers they want to recognize. We look forward to sharing these stories as part of our Hall of Honor induction celebration.”

The Biden administration is delaying the September 20 deadline for beginning some booster shots and instead rolling out the shots as the data on their efficacy becomes available, Politico reported on Friday. “The decision to delay the rollout comes in part because Moderna does not have full results from its booster shot clinical trial and [the Food and Drug Administration's] window to review data before Sept. 20 is quickly narrowing,” said the report. “Officials still expect Pfizer, which completed its booster application with FDA on Aug. 27, to be ready by the late September target.”

A document that took effect on August 15, but was published in the Federal Register on Friday, outlines the exemption for evacuees from Afghanistan from the CDC’s testing order for those coming from foreign countries. The order, issued on January 12, 2021, says that travelers to the United States from foreign countries get tested no more than three days before their flights and show the negative test before boarding. The exemption was granted with the understanding that other public health protocols are followed.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki said during a press gaggle on Tuesday morning that President Biden will give a speech on Thursday to outline a “six-pronged strategy” to increase vaccinations and fight the Delta variant “working across the public and private sectors.” She said there will be more to preview as it gets closer. 

The pretrial hearings for the 9/11 case will resume on Tuesday after a year and a half pause due to the pandemic and personnel changes, CNN reported on Monday. “The hearings also come the week before the 20th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks,” said the report. “Several family members of victims killed in the attacks are in Guantanamo Bay to observe the hearings.”

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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