Dr. Francis Collins stepped down as NIH director on Sunday.

Dr. Francis Collins stepped down as NIH director on Sunday. Sarah Silbiger/Pool via AP

Coronavirus Roundup: Tracking Vaccine Mandate Clauses in Contracts; Dr. Collins Has Stepped Down as NIH Director

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

The General Services Administration launched a dashboard in November to track the progress of contractors inserting clauses to implement the vaccine mandate into governmentwide contracts overseen by the Federal Acquisition Service. 

“During the pendency of the nationwide preliminary injunction, GSA will not require or request that contractors accept the COVID-19 safety protocols modification,” a GSA spokesperson recently told Government Executive. “If a contractor, of its own volition and without any further prompting by GSA, accepts a modification that was requested prior to the entry of the injunction, GSA will add that to the dashboard.” 

When asked if before the injunction there were any challenges in tracking contractors' process in implementing the mandate, the spokesperson said, “before the injunction, the deadline for contractors to comply with the vaccination requirement was January 18, 2022, and GSA committed to working with its contractors to ensure they have the time and opportunity to achieve full compliance.” Here are some of the other recent headlines you might have missed. 

On Friday night, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals lifted the nationwide injunction on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s vaccine rule for private businesses with 100 or more employees. Right after, “multiple parties, including 27 states, have filed emergency motions with the U.S. Supreme Court to block the [emergency temporary standard],” wrote members of the law firm Jackson Lewis P.C.

The Labor Department applauded the 6th Circuit ruling. “To account for any uncertainty created by the stay, OSHA is exercising enforcement discretion with respect to the compliance dates of the [emergency temporary standard],” said a statement from the department on Saturday. “OSHA will not issue citations for noncompliance with any requirements of the [standard] before January 10 and will not issue citations for noncompliance with the standard’s testing requirements before February 9, so long as an employer is exercising reasonable, good faith efforts to come into compliance with the standard.”

In one lawsuit challenging the vaccine mandate for federal employees, a judge ruled that a federal employee cannot remain anonymous, The Arizona Daily Star reported. The judge “said if [the employee’s attorneys] do not refile the complaint by Monday with the worker’s true name, he will be dropped as a plaintiff from the lawsuit,” said the report. 

There were three positive COVID-19 cases on the secretary of State’s trip last week, two of which––from the Air Force flight crew–– were not disclosed, CBS reported. The other was a journalist. “At no time on the trip were the secretary or his senior staff deemed to be close contacts of anyone who tested positive for COVID-19," a State Department spokesperson told CBS. “Throughout the trip, we far exceeded [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines in terms of our testing and mitigation measures.” 

Almost two years into the pandemic, the CDC is still struggling to collect data on COVID-19 cases and public health officials worry that the federal government’s efforts are not enough to meet the challenges of the Omicron variant, Politico reported on Monday. 

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health for the past 12 years, stepped down from his position on Sunday. He will return to his lab at NIH’s National Human Genome Research Institute. “If I wasn’t going to stay through this entire presidential term, it would not be good to leave late in that term, because then the president might not have much of a chance to nominate and get a replacement confirmed,” Collins told the Association of American Medical Colleges in a recent interview. “People ask, ‘Well, what about COVID? We're not over that yet, and you've been in the middle of it.’ The NIH’s contributions to COVID’s challenge have been remarkably strong and effective, and we're in a very good place to continue making those contributions.” 

In an exit interview with CBS on Sunday, Collins described the challenges faced during the pandemic under President Trump, due to his refusal to endorse certain treatments that have not been proven to be effective and resisting demands from Republicans to fire Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who is now also the president’s chief medical advisor. 

President Biden will give remarks on Tuesday about the fight against the Omicron variant as cases rise. “Building off his winter plan, the president will announce new steps the administration is taking to help communities in need of assistance, while also issuing a stark warning of what the winter will look like for Americans who choose to remain unvaccinated,” said the week ahead guidance from the White House. 

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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