American Oversight’s Covid-19 Oversight Hub provides news and policy resources to help you keep track of investigations into the government’s pandemic response. The project brings together a public documents database, an oversight tracker of important ongoing investigations and litigation, regular news updates, and deeper dives into key issues.
For the latest news on the pandemic, as well as updates on various oversight investigations, sign up for our weekly Covid-19 Oversight News email.
- Tues., July 20: The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee will hold a hearing about the federal pandemic response.
- Wed., July 21: The House Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing about facilitating the coronavirus recovery in the U.S. wood products industry.
State of the Pandemic
In the last three weeks, new daily coronavirus cases in the U.S. have doubled, with case numbers rising in all 50 states. The increase comes amid increasing spread of the Delta variant, as well as slowing of vaccinations.
Last week, US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy spoke in White House press briefing room in his first formal advisory to the U.S., in which he declared vaccine misinformation “an urgent threat to public health.” Murthy said that social media and technology companies should be more aggressive in fighting misinformation and called on all Americans to share accurate information. White House officials are also considering other, more direct measures to combat this misinformation.
In the States
- Last week, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, a Miami-based company sued in federal court to overturn a Florida law that stops businesses from requiring customers to show proof of Covid-19 vaccination.
- Emails reveal that Tennessee health department officials were ordered not to acknowledge that August is National Immunization Awareness Month. Internal documents have also shown that the Tennessee Department of Health is halting all adolescent vaccine outreach in response to pressure from Republican state lawmakers.
- Last week, Los Angeles County, California reinstated its indoor mask mandate regardless of vaccination status.
- A federal judge has upheld Indiana University’s policy requiring students to be vaccinated before returning to campus in the fall.
The Pandemic’s Toll
- According to new data, 93,000 people in the U.S. died due to drug overdose in the last year. The number is a record high and a 29 percent increase from the prior year.
- A new ProPublica report illustrated how the Postal Service and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration failed to protect postal workers during the pandemic. To date, more than 55,000 postal workers around the country have tested positive for Covid-19. In two remote inspections conducted in response to workers complaints, OSHA found that managers weren’t always notifying workers of possible Covid-19 exposure.
In the Documents
American Oversight obtained new documents that provide first-hand accounts of the conditions in immigration detention centers last spring, where thousands of Covid-19 cases have been reported in the last year. These accounts are mostly from a facility in Buffalo, New York, and the Krome Processing Center in Miami, Fla. On March 23, an individual at Krome wrote: “We are cooped up in here with 110 plus detainees, people are coughing, sneezing, getting headaches and getting uncomfortable.” Other immigrants described similar conditions, adding color to previous reporting showing that as the coronavirus spread, people in detention lived in cramped quarters without consistent access to soap, face masks, or medical care.
Misinformation Spread in Trump White House
New emails obtained by a New York University professor and reported on by Buzzfeed News offer additional insight into the state of the pandemic response last summer. In the documents, Dr. Anthony Fauci and then- White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx raised concerns about Scott Atlas, a White House adviser who routinely spread misinformation about Covid-19. The records also suggest that Fauci and Birx lacked access to the White House during this time. In one email, Birx wrote: “I don’t see the President so I don’t have a counter balance opportunity to this Atlas Dogma… Tony and I did not brief the President nor speak to the President between 22 April and the end of July beyond one vaccine briefing in July.”
- The Coast Guard’s Pandemic Response: The Government Accountability Office reviewed the U.S. Coast Guard’s efforts to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. The GAO found that even though Coast Guard expanded its telework program during the pandemic, it lacks controls to ensure that valid and current teleworking agreements are in place. The GAO also analyzed the data from the Coast Guard’s personnel system from April 2020 through April 2021, and found that there was missing data and there were concerns about accuracy.
- Evaluation of the SBA’s Coronavirus Reconstitution Plan: The Small Business Administration Inspector General identified issues with the SBA’s May 2020 Covid Reconstitution Plan, including that the SBA did not implement proper tracking protocols to ensure it consistently traced Covid-19 cases. In addition, the SBA didn’t consistently contact potentially exposed personnel and ensure employees completed 14-day quarantines. The SBA developed a new Workplace Safety Plan in Feb. 2021.
- Potentially Falsified PPP Loan Applications: Sen. Robert Menendez and six other senators wrote to Attorney General Merrick Garland and Acting Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Brian Boynton asking them to examine potential falsified Paycheck Protection Program applications made by companies in the firearm industry. Despite gun makers claiming record demand and rising sales, the industry received over $156 million in PPP funds from SBA.
- Fraud in the EIDL Program: The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis and the House Small Business Committee wrote to SBA Administrator Isabella Guzman requesting information on how the SBA prevented personnel from enabling fraud in the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. The letter came after reports that SBA employees and contractors intentionally aided in the distribution of fraudulent federal loans.
- Customers Seeking Covid-19 Products: Sen. Elizabeth Warren wrote to Attorney General Merrick Garland and Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan urging the Justice Department and the FTC to use authorities granted under the Covid-19 Consumer Protection Act to investigate how Amazon’s search and sponsorship algorithms may mislead customers who are seeking FDA-authorized products during the pandemic.