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Coronavirus Roundup: More Republican Opposition to Vaccine Rules; HHS Touts High Employee Vaccination Rates

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

Following the release of the top-line numbers by the White House, the Health and Human Service Department released on Friday its division-level data of COVID-19 vaccinations and compliance with the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate. The data show high levels for those vaccinated, and also break out pending or approved exemption requests. 

“Some of our largest divisions now have vaccination rates that exceed the department’s vaccination rate of more than 97%,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, in a statement. “So, no matter how you slice and dice the data at HHS, nearly every member of our workforce has answered the president’s call, and I couldn’t be prouder.” Here are some of the other recent headlines you might have missed. 

All 213 members of the House Republican Conference now support the Congressional Review Act resolution attempting to nullify the Biden administration’s private business vaccine rule, Rep. Fred Keller, R-Pa., who is leading the effort, announced on Tuesday. In order for this to go through, both chambers of Congress would have to pass it and the president would have to sign it. 

Over 100 House Republicans sent a letter to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure on Monday urging the administration to abandon its vaccine mandate for health care workers. “By subjecting providers to egregious federal overreach, our nation’s most vulnerable populations will be at risk and America’s seniors will bear the brunt of any provider loss due to non-compliance with this heavy-handed and constitutionally dubious vaccine mandate,” they wrote. “Americans are quitting their jobs at a record pace, and this new federal mandate will only make matters worse and keep more Americans out of the workforce.” A federal judge recently placed a temporary injunction on the rule.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director, confirmed on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday the Food and Drug Administration is discussing streamlining the approval of a possible vaccine specifically for the Omicron variant. “So those conversations are ongoing, and, certainly, FDA will move swiftly and CDC will move swiftly right thereafter,” she said. 

Dr. Francis Collins, National Institutes of Health director, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that it’s possible that Omicron won’t be “the last emerging variant.” Omicron does have the largest number of mutations that we've seen so far, he said.

President Trump “haunts” the Biden administration vaccine mandates and rules in the courts, The Hill reported on Sunday. “Biden’s vaccine rules for private business, health care workers and federal contractors have all been tied up in court challenges from Republican officials, with some GOP-appointed judges blocking them,” said the report. “Even if the administration ultimately wins the fights, the implementation of the rules could be delayed, potentially significantly.” Overall, this shows the “impact of the conservative-tilted federal bench, which was drastically molded by former President Trump in his tenure.” 

Last week, a pop-up shop, featuring goods from local women-owned small businesses, funded through a CARES Act grant from the Small Business Administration, opened in Union Station in Washington, D.C. This is a collaboration between the D.C. Women’s Business Center, Maryland Women’s Business Center, the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, SBA, Union Station and Ashkenazy Realty. “All the data has shown that women have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Women have been leaving the labor force at the highest rates since 1988,” Natalie Madeira Cofield, assistant administrator for SBA’s Office of Women's Business Ownership, told Government Executive at the event. But that also means it “creates an opportunity for women with the proper support to walk into the doors of entrepreneurship. And that’s why we’ve been aggressively expanding the women’s business center network.” She is the first Black woman to lead the office and is also the co-chair of SBA’s Equity Task Force.

Related, The 19th reported on Tuesday that that office is moving into a new “primary” role that will report directly to SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman.

 The U.S. Agency for International Development announced on Monday a new whole-of-government effort to accelerate vaccine delivery around the world. “Global VAX brings together a whole-of-government effort, through which the United States has already committed more than $1.3 billion for vaccine readiness,” said a press release. Now, “[USAID] Administrator Power announced an additional $400 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds, generously provided by the U.S. Congress, to further augment this work.” 

Upcoming: 

  • The White House COVID-19 response team and public health officials will give a briefing at 12:30 p.m.
  • White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will give a briefing at 2 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.

NEXT STORY: How to Care Less About Work

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