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.
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Uneven Vaccine Progress
On July 4, communities across the country held parades and gathered for potlucks, as President Joe Biden highlighted the nation’s progress in fighting the coronavirus pandemic. But the U.S. fell short of the president’s stated goal to have 70 percent of adults fully vaccinated by the holiday.
The country is averaging fewer than 1 million shots per day, and recent CDC data showed that nearly 15 million people didn’t get their second vaccine dose. Vaccination progress has been uneven: While 20 states, as well as Washington, D.C., have already passed the 70 percent goal, 16 remain below 60 percent. Some of the nation’s most populous states, including Texas and Florida, remain below the goal.
Delta Variant Continues to Spread
As the Delta coronavirus variant fuels a surge around the world and now accounts for more than 25 percent of Covid-19 cases in the United States, scientists are learning more about it. Thus far, most vaccines have proven effective against the Delta strain, including the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. In England, the effectiveness of the vaccines is clear: Although the Delta variant is responsible for most of the country’s Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations have remained low.
Last week, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky again said that those who are vaccinated don’t need to wear masks in most situations. But as vaccination rates remain uneven in the United States, the Biden administration has created “surge response” teams that are intended to work directly with communities with low rates that are at risk of new Covid-19 outbreaks. The teams will help provide additional medical supplies as needed.
In the States
The Trump Administration’s Support for the Meatpacking Industry
New emails obtained by nonprofit Public Citizen show that former Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue personally lobbied to keep meatpacking plants open last spring. American Oversight previously obtained documents revealing the meatpacking industry’s heavy influence in an executive order signed by President Trump last spring that allowed plants to stay open even amid a devastating rise in cases among workers. The new records published by Public Citizen show that Perdue also tried to push through a second executive order and had directly emailed then-CDC Director Robert Redfield about the importance of keeping the food supply chain “operational.”
The Pandemic in Prisons
As the number of coronavirus infections in prisons decrease, the pandemic has created and spotlighted new and pre-existing problems, including understaffing and poor access to medical care or recreational activities. And now, prison populations may increase as thousands of nonviolent offenders who were placed in home confinement last year may have to return to prison, even if they had not violated the terms. Early this year, the Trump administration had declared that these home-confinement arrangements would be limited to a “pandemic emergency period.”
The Pandemic in Detention Centers
Meanwhile, cases of the virus are surging in immigrant detention centers, where the number of people in custody — most of whom were not vaccinated, as of May — has been increasing in recent weeks. Last week, the Government Accountability Office released a report that examined pandemic mitigation measures in detention centers, noting that facilities had trouble quarantining detained immigrants and ensuring that all detained individuals were wearing masks.
In the Documents
American Oversight obtained nearly 1,000 pages of documents from the Florida Department of Emergency Management that provide additional insight into how testing failures impacted the state in the early months of the pandemic. State officials lacked adequate testing supply, and at times, did not have clear information about when more could be expected. As Florida officials awaited additional tests, the supply limitations restricted testing even among first responders.
Federal Pandemic Response
Where Is the Money?
In a new analysis of Paycheck Protection Program funds, ProPublica reporting offered yet more evidence that the program, which was designed to help small businesses maintain payrolls during the pandemic, was exploited by larger businesses that conducted massive layoffs. ProPublica found multiple cases in 2020 in which companies received more than a million dollars in PPP loans but then terminated more than 50 workers.
Congressional Oversight Commission Report
The Congressional Oversight Commission published its 14th report summarizing its oversight of the implementation of Treasury and Federal Reserve pandemic relief programs and lending facilities. As of Jan. 8, 2021, all emergency lending programs created by the Treasury and the Fed under the CARES Act have ceased operations. This report summarized the key developments from each of these facilities and summarized the outstanding amounts of credit extended by each facility.
Part of Investigation: