Dr. Ashish Jha is pictured in Providence, R.I., on Dec. 3, 2020. Jha is the new COVID-19 response coordinator.

Dr. Ashish Jha is pictured in Providence, R.I., on Dec. 3, 2020. Jha is the new COVID-19 response coordinator. Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Coronavirus Roundup: A New COVID-19 Response Coordinator, New Reentry Guidance for Defense Civilians 

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

Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, will be replacing Jeff Zients as COVID-19 response coordinator. “Jeff spent the last 14 months working tirelessly to help combat COVID,” said President Biden in a statement on Thursday. “He is a man of service and an expert manager. I will miss his counsel and I’m grateful for his service.” Zients’ deputy, Natalie Quillian, will also be departing.

“For all the progress we’ve made in this pandemic (and there is a lot) we still have important work to do to protect Americans’ lives and well-being,” said Jha in a tweet. “So, when [the president] asked me to serve, I was honored to have the opportunity.” Here are some of the other recent headlines you might have missed. 

Pfizer and BioNTech announced on Tuesday they submitted an application to the Food and Drug Administration for a second COVID-19 booster shot for adults ages 65 and up. “The submission is based on two real-world data sets from Israel analyzed at a time when the Omicron variant was widely circulating,” said a press release. “These data showed evidence that an additional mRNA booster increases immunogenicity and lowers rates of confirmed infections and severe illness.” 

Then Moderna announced on Thursday it submitted an application to the FDA for a second booster shot for all adults 18 and older, which was “based in part on recently published data generated in the United States and Israel following the emergence of Omicron,” said the company in a press release. 

On Thursday, the Defense Department issued new reentry guidance for civilian employees to Defense workplaces. “This updated guidance does not direct a ‘one size fits all’ plan to return to the workplace, rather it directs supervisors to begin discussions with civilian employees in these categories to plan for a return to the workplace or arrange for working on an adjusted schedule,” said a press release. “Specific reentry plans will be dependent on organizational needs, the Health Protection Condition framework, and force health protection guidance.” Unless there is a pressing mission need, department components must give their employees 30 days' advance notice on changes. 

There is no update on the timing of the upcoming executive order aimed at combating identity theft in public benefits programs, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said during the briefing on Thursday. The executive order was part of the White House’s announcement ahead of the State of the Union about ways the Biden administration is cracking down on fraud in pandemic relief programs. 

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., introduced legislation on Thursday that would “restore” the Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery’s jurisdiction after a legal opinion narrowed it last year, and would provide the IG with more funding, after the office warned it was running out of money. Government Executive recently reported on the implications of the fiscal 2022 funding for the special IG, which was created by the CARES Act in March 2020. 

The Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, which was also established by the CARES Act, is looking to hire a chief management officer. “You will be part of an exciting mission with the opportunity to deliver an impact by overseeing and coordinating all administrative and operational areas for the [committee] and serving as a senior advisor to the executive director on administrative policy and procedural matters,” said the job posting. “This work includes management analysis, budgeting and financial management, workforce forecasting, property and space management, procurement and contracting, and other related administrative and operational activities.” 

The White House is resuming tours for the public after stopping them for the pandemic. “The White House will continue to closely monitor the COVID-19 situation with guidance based on recommendations from the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], and other public health officials and medical experts, and reserves the right to adjust availability of the public tours as necessary to adhere to the latest health guidance,” said an announcement on Tuesday. “Within the 10 days prior to the public tour, anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19, has had any COVID-19 symptoms, or been in close contact with someone confirmed or suspected to have COVID-19, should stay home.” Also, there will be face masks available upon entering for anyone who wants to wear them.

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.