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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A New Vaccine is Approved, Boosting Supply
Last week, the Food and Drug Administration authorized the Moderna vaccine, with inoculations expected to begin this week. Unlike Pfizer’s vaccine, the Moderna vaccine does not require super-cold storage and can be stored in normal freezers, making it easier to distribute to rural areas.
According to Operation Warp Speed officials, states are expected to receive nearly 20 million vaccine doses by the first week of January with the addition of the new vaccine. The U.S. government recently announced it would buy an additional 100 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, bringing the secured supply to 200 million doses. Administration officials are also negotiating with Pfizer for more vaccine doses in 2021. Health officials have found that the distributed Pfizer vials have been overfilled, which could result in millions of extra doses.
Officials Receive Vaccines, States Face Distribution Challenges
Last week, Vice President Mike Pence became one of the most prominent officials to receive a Covid-19 vaccine. In a televised ceremony, the vice president urged Americans to wear masks and celebrated the “safe and effective” vaccine. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also received their first doses last week. Dr. Anthony Fauci has said that to successfully limit the virus’ spread, at least 75 percent of the nation needs to be vaccinated, making it crucial for people across the country to trust the vaccine.
As Covid-19 continues to spread in the U.S., with the country passing 17 million cases, states are facing difficult questions about vaccine distribution. Many states don’t know how many vaccines to expect this year and are unable to vaccinate all health workers with the limited doses currently available. Vaccinating individuals in nursing homes is complicated: there are concerns about how to get consent to vaccinate residents who can’t make their own medical decisions and fears that side effects may stretch resources in already under-staffed facilities.
Congress Agrees on a Relief Bill
After months of negotiation between legislative leaders and the Trump administration, Congress is expected to pass a second Covid-19 relief bill on Monday. The proposed legislation includes direct payment checks of up to $600 for Americans below a certain income bracket, aid for small businesses through additional Paycheck Protection Program loans, enhanced unemployment benefits through March, and an eviction moratorium extension.
White House Interference at the CDC
Kyle McGowan, former chief of staff at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Amanda Campbell, his deputy, were installed at the CDC by President Donald Trump in 2018. After leaving the agency in August, last week they spoke to the New York Times, saying that White House officials were fixated on the pandemic’s economic impact and pushed back on CDC recommendations for social distancing with the claim that they would burden businesses. According to McGowan, “Every time that the science clashed with the messaging, messaging won.”
Fossil Fuel Companies Benefited from Pandemic Lending Programs
A new analysis by BailoutWatch showed that fossil fuel companies were the top beneficiaries of the Federal Reserve’s Main Street Lending Program, collecting more loans than any other sector. The program, which was created to support medium-sized businesses during the pandemic, actually excluded many oil and gas companies in its initial design, but the fossil fuel industry successfully lobbied for its inclusion. In total, 46 fossil fuel companies received more than $800 million in loans. The average loan awarded to a fossil fuel company was $18 million — nearly double the program’s average loan size of $9.8 million.
Veterans Health Administration’s Emergency Health Operations During the Pandemic
The Department of Veterans’ Affairs Office of the Inspector General reviewed the Veterans Health Administration’s response to anticipated demand for urgent care services in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. The OIG found that 23 emergency department and urgent care center directors lost staff due in part to providers testing positive for Covid-19 and that some directors had reported the need to ration personal protective equipment.
House Subcommittee Investigates Political Interference at the CDC
Earlier this month, a senior CDC official told the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis that CDC Director Robert Redfield had ordered staff to delete an email showing political interference from members of the Trump administration. Now, the committee’s chairman, Rep. James Clyburn, has issued subpoenas to Redfield and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to produce documents related to political interference in the CDC’s Covid-19 response.
The subcommittee also obtained internal emails, reported by Politico, that show former HHS official Paul Alexander repeatedly promoted a “herd immunity” strategy, saying it would be best “if we open up and flood the zone and let the kids and young folk get infected.” In reference to “infants, kids, teens, young people, young adults,” and “middle aged [people] with no conditions,” Alexander wrote, “we want them infected.” We previously obtained records showing that in May, HHS Assistant Secretary Michael Caputo had listed Alexander as one of three public affairs officers approved to handle press inquiries.
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