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.
In just a week, the United States has reported more than 1 million new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of U.S. cases since the pandemic began to more than 11 million.
But unlike those frightening months in the spring, the rise isn’t limited to a handful of states. In its weekly update, the White House Coronavirus Task Force reported that 42 states are in the “red zone.” In North Dakota, hospitals are at 100 percent capacity and nurses who have tested positive for Covid-19 but have no symptoms have been told to continue working. Hospitals in Wisconsin, Mississippi, Indiana, and Minnesota are quickly running out of intensive care unit space. And clinical laboratories are warning that testing may not be able to keep up with the surge.
But while more than 69,000 Americans were in hospitals because of Covid-19 on Saturday, President Donald Trump was out golfing. The White House is making no apparent attempt to slow the virus’ spread and some governors are refusing to implement mask mandates, with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis even having adopted risky re-opening strategies that verge on a deadly “herd immunity” approach.
While the virus spreads across the country, once again those in the White House haven’t been spared. Last week, even more people who attended the White House’s election night watch party tested positive for Covid-19, including Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson and Trump campaign adviser Corey Lewandowski. Since September, at least 20 members of the president’s administration and inner circle have contracted the virus.
This spread is not without consequence, and of course puts residents of DC, Maryland, and Virginia at greater risk. The Washington Post reported that because of the president’s rallies and reckless lack of precautionary measures, more than 130 Secret Service officers are infected with coronavirus or quarantining in the wake of Trump’s campaign travel — a number that amounts to roughly 10 percent of the agency’s core security team.
On Monday, Moderna announced that according to preliminary analysis, its experimental vaccine is 94.5 percent effective in preventing Covid-19. The announcement came after last week’s news that Pfizer’s vaccine is 90 percent effective. Although there are concerns that most states and rural areas will have trouble storing and distributing the Pfizer vaccine, which needs to be stored at an extremely low temperature, the Moderna vaccine’s storage temperature requirements are reportedly less stringent. Both vaccines require two doses, administered weeks apart.
Last week, Novavax released its $1.6 billion Operation Warp Speed contract — after the Department of Health and Human Services had told NPR in August that it had “no records” of the contract. Earlier this month, Regeneron, which makes the experimental coronavirus treatment that Trump received, released its $450 million federal contract for supplying up to 300 million doses, and HHS also released Operation Warp Speed’s $1 billion contract with Johnson & Johnson.
Taxpayer money is funding the development of these vaccines and treatments before their efficacy is ascertained, so it’s crucial to know whether these contracts include protections against price-gouging that could put new treatments out of reach for many Americans. While Novavax’s contract allows the government to take over the vaccine’s production if the manufacturer sets an unreasonable price, Johnson & Johnson’s contract only allows this intervention under the narrower circumstances of a public health emergency, which could become an issue if the coronavirus becomes endemic and requires booster shots after the emergency has passed. Regeneron’s contract restricts possible intervention even further, so that the government can only take control if Regeneron is unwilling to manufacture it, not if it raises the price too high.
Last week, the Food and Drug Administration granted emergency authorization to a Covid-19 antibody treatment made by American pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly. The FDA said the treatment should not be used for hospitalized patients, but it has been approved for anyone over the age of 12 who has tested positive for Covid-19 and is at risk for developing a severe case. Last month, the company reached a $375 million deal to sell 300,000 doses to the U.S. government. Details of this contract have not been made public.
A new report from the COVID, Corrections, and Oversight Project at the University of Texas sheds light on the pandemic’s heavy toll on prison populations. Texas has seen more deaths than any other prison system, with more than 200 people held in prisons and jails dying from the coronavirus. At the Duncan Unity facility, nearly 6 percent of the incarcerated population has died from Covid-19. The report also notes that deaths of people who were not tested for the virus and those with a pre-existing medical condition that was worsened by the virus are not reported as Covid-19 deaths, suggesting that the true death toll is higher.
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to reinstate a federal judge’s order that a Texas prison for elderly inmates implement certain safety requirements to mitigate the spread of Covid-19. The Wallace Pack Unit in southeastern Texas has already seen 20 inmates die after contracting the disease.
The Veterans Health Administration released a report detailing its efforts to address the coronavirus pandemic from January to June of this year. The report details the challenges the Department of Veterans Affairs needs to address in order to respond to the pandemic, including challenges surrounding personal protective equipment and deploying health-care personnel to meet critical needs in certain areas. As of Nov. 6, the VA has tested 879,457 veterans and employees for Covid-19 and diagnosed 67,905 veterans with the disease, of which 14,168 were admitted to a VA medical center for care.
Part of Investigation: