There's a lot to keep track of. Here’s this week’s list of news updates and stories you may have missed.
Now that COVID shots that have been updated for the new variants are available, federal public health officials say the country is in a new phase of the pandemic.
“Barring those variant curveballs, for a large majority of Americans, we are moving to a point where a single annual COVID shot should provide a high degree of protection against serious illness all year,” Dr. Ashish Jha, White House COVID response coordinator, said during a briefing on Tuesday. However, for those who are high-risk, they “may need more than annual protection, and we will ensure in this administration that they get whatever protection they need.”
On Thursday, the Biden administration released its plan to deliver updated shots and manage the pandemic this fall. As part of the plan, “the entire weight of the federal government will continue to be able to rapidly bring resources to bear in the event of a new surge or variant,” said a fact-sheet. “This includes activating the robust emergency response infrastructure we have built to surge federal personnel, critical supplies, personal protective equipment, testing capacity, and other support to local health systems when needed.”
With its limited funding, the administration will increase the supply of at-home tests in the Strategic National Stockpile as well as continue to call on Congress to provide more COVID funding. Here are some of the other recent headlines you might have missed.
Before reopening childcare centers in General Services Administration facilities that closed during the pandemic, GSA’s Public Buildings Service did not test efficiently for water contamination, the agency’s watchdog said this week. “Due to extended periods of limited or no occupancy, water in these facilities may have become stagnant, which presents a risk for elevated levels of hazardous contaminants like lead and copper metals and Legionella bacteria,” stated an alert memorandum issued on Sept. 6. “Without proper testing, PBS cannot ensure that children or staff at the childcare centers have access to safe drinking water.” Nina Albert, PBS commissioner, pushed back on much of the alert in her response, saying the meaning and relevant actions taken by PSH are not mentioned” and argued that PBS doesn’t operate the water systems for the childcare centers. The IG office said her response had “misleading and incomplete information.”
Two top House lawmakers asked the Treasury watchdog to review the pandemic relief funds given to airlines out of concern that they may have been used for buyouts and early retirement packages for some pilots, which could have exacerbated the shortage of commercial pilots. “Three of the leading U.S. airlines each cut a substantial share of their workforce and urged employees to take early retirement, contrary to the intent of the CARES Act and American Rescue Plan Act,” wrote Reps. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., and Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., chairs of the House Oversight and Reform Committee and House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, in a letter on Thursday. “American taxpayers supported the airline industry during its darkest days at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, when nearly 75% of commercial flights were grounded” and they “deserve transparency into how airlines have used the federal funds they have received.”
Republican senators are showing early opposition to the Biden administration’s request for COVID and monkeypox funding to be included in a continuing resolution to fund the government past the end of the fiscal year, Politico reported on Wednesday. “As senators ruminate on the Biden administration’s request for more money for addressing the pandemic and monkeypox, Democratic leaders have yet to finalize key details about the funding package, including which chamber will take it up first,” said the report. “The House is set to come back next week.”
During the briefing on Thursday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was asked about the report that the White House may be thinking of winding down its COVID response team sometime next year. “I don't have anything to share on that,” she replied. “Right now, we're still trying to make sure that we continue the success that we have seen with the work that the president has done on COVID.”
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This article was published first on GovExec, a FederalSoup partner site.