Coronavirus Roundup: At Least 60 Million Households Have Ordered Free Rapid COVID-19 Tests
There's a lot to keep track of. Here’s today’s list of news updates and stories you may have missed.
It’s “not a coincidence that the workforce is the first priority in the [president’s management agenda],” a top Biden administration management official said at a virtual event hosted by the National Academy of Public Administration on Friday.
“There’s not a topic that I see that has more energy and focus than the workforce in the president’s management council meetings as well,” continued Dustin Brown, deputy assistant director for management at the Office of Management and Budget. “The fact that we’re operating in a global pandemic has only heightened people’s sensitivities and focus on workforce issues and planning for the future as well as making sure we’re doing everything we can to keep our workforce safe.” Monday is the deadline to submit feedback on the draft learning agenda for the management plan, which mentions the pandemic throughout. Here are some of the other recent headlines you might have missed.
Since the federal government’s free COVD-19 tests site launched on January 18, about 60 million households have placed orders, said White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, during a press gaggle on Friday. “Already tens of millions of tests have gone out the door and households around the country are already receiving tests so that people have tests on hand if a need arises,” she added.
The Biden administration announced on Friday it awarded another contract as part of its efforts to deliver 500 free test kits to Americans. The contract went to Health Lab Inc., to procure 104.2 million over-the-counter test kits.
The Alaska governor joined the Texas governor’s lawsuit challenging the vaccine mandate for National Guard members. Both are Republicans. “The federal government has no authority to make health decisions for National Guard members who are at work under state authority,” said Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy, in a statement on Thursday. “I pledge to protect that medical freedom and to challenge the trampling of our state’s rights under the 10th Amendment.”
Another federal court has blocked the vaccine mandate for federal contractors. Judge Michael Liburdi of the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona in Phoenix issued a preliminary injunction on Thursday in response to a lawsuit by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich.
The Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery warned late last week it’s running out of money, The Washington Post reported on Friday. “Without another infusion of funds, the office could run out of cash by July 2022, [Special IG Brian] Miller wrote in a series of letters to lawmakers,” said the report. “Even before that deadline, he wrote, the office may have to wind down some of its operations under federal law as soon as March. And already, Miller froze planned hiring and halted expansions pending a resolution on Capitol Hill.”
The Professional Managers Association, which represents non-collective bargaining unit employees and management officials at the Internal Revenue Service, issued a “charge and response” on Friday to a recent bipartisan letter from members of Congress to the IRS about the third tax season during the pandemic. The association “echoes the lawmakers’ enthusiasm for providing high quality and effective taxpayer services. We are also equally concerned regarding the current state of the IRS,” said Chad Hooper, executive director of the association. “However, there is an apparent disconnect between congressional demands and the IRS’s practical capacity to address them,” which “exacerbates inefficiencies and results in negative taxpayer experiences, as well as excessive burden on our members and their staff.”
The Health and Human Services Department awarded and managed five sole source contracts in April 2020 to provide Americans with coronavirus testing “in accordance with applicable federal regulations, and contract terms and conditions,” said a new report by the Government Accountability Office. The contracts, which went to national pharmacy and grocery retail chains, totaled $1.8 billion and, as of October, over $1.2 billion was paid to the contractors. Overall, HHS awarded over $14 billion in contracts in fiscal 2020 in response to the pandemic.
Upcoming: White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will give a briefing at 1 p.m.
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