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.
‘The Most Difficult Time’
As the months get colder, the pandemic’s toll is expected to keep growing. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield has said he believes the next three months will be “the most difficult time in the public health history of this nation.” The United States surpassed 100,000 hospitalizations due to the coronavirus on Sunday, and as the national hospital system becomes overwhelmed, the country faces the possibility of surpassing 3,000 daily deaths this week.
The Consequences of a State-by-State Approach
ProPublica reported that states with few coronavirus restrictions are undermining the mitigation efforts of nearby or neighboring states, since individuals can freely cross borders to attend maskless events, often contracting Covid-19 in the process. A USA Today investigation revealed that residents of Florida who were infected with Covid-19 visited at least 46 states in the weeks before they tested positive, further illustrating the dangers of inter-state travel.
Vaccine Distribution Recommendations Arrive…
Last week, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, a panel of medical and public health experts that advises the CDC, officially recommended that the first doses of a coronavirus vaccine be given to health-care workers and residents and staff of long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes. These recommendations were adopted by CDC Director Robert Redfield and now inform the actions of the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as state officials.
…But Details Remain Unclear
So far, the federal government has left most distribution details to the states, only committing to providing vaccinated individuals paper cards to remind them of their second dose (both Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines require two doses to be effective). State plans remain disparate — some may have health providers make the tough decisions on vaccine allocation, and some may decide not to prioritize incarcerated people, despite high numbers of Covid-19 cases in prisons.
The process might not be smooth, either. Despite the promises made by Operation Warp Speed leaders, state officials have said that many health-care workers and nursing home residents will not be vaccinated in December. Hospitals may have to stagger vaccinations to mitigate the disruption that minor side effects, like headaches and fatigue, could have on the work of essential health-care employees during a time of increasing Covid-19 hospitalizations. Additionally, the wealthy may try to jump ahead in line, by playing up medical diagnoses, lobbying to have certain careers labeled “essential,” or taking other measures.
White House Actions
After months of promoting dubious and dangerous public health strategies, White House adviser Scott Atlas resigned last Monday. Atlas’ departure was followed by the White House Coronavirus Task Force escalating warnings in its most recent report, which urged Americans over 65 to fully isolate and those who traveled over Thanksgiving to “behave as if [they] have the virus.”
After weeks of inaction, President Donald Trump returned to his attempts to pressure federal agencies, admonishing Food and Drug Administration officials for not authorizing coronavirus vaccines fast enough. This week, the president will host state and federal government officials, leading vaccine manufacturers, and drug distributors at a “Covid-19 Vaccine Summit,” which some have criticized as a political event.
The Cost of Evictions
A newly published academic study examined the lifting of eviction moratoriums in 27 states from the spring and summer, finding that ending these moratoriums was linked to an average of 433,700 new Covid-19 cases and 10,700 deaths. The CDC’s national eviction moratorium, which was instituted in September, is set to expire at the end of the year, and by that time, nearly 12 million renters will owe thousands of dollars in back rent and utilities.
The Congressional Oversight Commission’s Latest Report
The Congressional Oversight Commission released its seventh report, which focused on the Treasury Department and the Department of Defense’s $700 million loan to transportation company YRC Worldwide. The loan was made under a program designed for businesses critical to national security, but the Department of Defense has not provided a satisfactory explanation for how YRC fits that description. The commission also expressed concerns about the terms and conditions of the loan; YRC had poor credit ratings before and during the pandemic, yet the Treasury provided the loan at a significantly lower interest rate than those offered to other borrowers with similar credit ratings.
Covid-19 in Behavioral Health and Addiction Treatment Programs
The House Oversight Committee, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Rep. Katie Porter released a report detailing findings from a comprehensive survey of Covid-19 outbreaks in behavioral health and addiction treatment programs. More than half of residential behavioral health facilities covered by the survey had at least one Covid-19 case, while one in seven facilities had larger outbreaks. The investigation found that limited testing capacity prevented residential behavioral health programs from conducting routine testing and that facilities’ paid sick leave policies did not provide sufficient coverage for all workers.
Part of Investigation: