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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The Race to Vaccinate the U.S.
Public health experts have warned that the country is now in a race between Covid-19 variants and coronavirus vaccinations. Last week, the U.S. saw a 16 percent increase in new Covid-19 cases. On Monday, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said she feels “impending doom” as cases and hospitalizations rise.
In recent weeks, the distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has also experienced issues: Millions of doses have been delivered to states but are still sitting unused; meanwhile, the supply of promised doses to the federal government has been delayed. Seeking to increase access to vaccinations, President Joe Biden announced on Monday that 90 percent of Americans will be eligible for the vaccine by April 19.
New Vaccine Data
New data released by the CDC showed that both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are highly effective at preventing infections among frontline workers, with the two-dose regimen preventing 90 percent of infections. The efficacy rate was high even as variants spread during the time of the study, suggesting the vaccines protect against those new mutations. Since infections were so rare, the study suggests that transmission among vaccinated individuals is rare as well.
Trump Administration Officials Speak Out
On Sunday, senior Trump administration officials spoke to CNN about the federal pandemic response. Dr. Deborah Birx, the former White House coronavirus response coordinator, said hundreds of thousands of U.S. Covid-19 deaths “could have been mitigated or decreased substantially” if the administration had taken necessary action. She also described how White House officials were angry after she spoke about the dangers of the coronavirus in a televised interview last summer, prompting her to retreat from the national stage.
The former officials also offered new details about the Trump administration’s scientific interference, with former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn saying that his relationship with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar was strained after Azar limited the FDA’s oversight of Covid-19 testing. Robert Redfield, the former CDC director, claimed that Azar and his team pressured the CDC to revise scientific reports. American Oversight previously obtained documents that showed Trump political appointees’ influence over pandemic-related communications.
In Florida: Rising Cases, Vaccination Concerns
Reviewing Covid-19 Relief Programs
Last week, the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis held a hearing investigating “nearly $84 billion in potential fraud” in the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. SBA Inspector General Hannibal Ware testified that the SBA refused to implement key anti-fraud controls, even though they would not have hampered the relief programs. In advance of the hearing, the subcommittee released new evidence about the scope of fraud in these programs.
Also last week, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen testified in front of Congress, both speaking on the $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill that Biden signed two and a half weeks ago. Yellen said the Treasury was working to ensure that the PPP reaches millions more businesses, “especially in rural and low-income areas.”
Report: Cashing in on Covid Relief
Public Citizen released a report about Meadowwood Financial Services and Wellshire Financial Services, two lending companies that received $35 million in relief loans from the Main Street Lending Program. The MSLP limited the amount of money that affiliated businesses could receive by requiring them to apply for loans through the same MSLP facility; details of the two businesses’ structures suggest that they are affiliated entities and thus should have applied for their loans within the same facility, having potentially violated MSLP rules.
Challenges to Transparency in the Covid-19 Era
Open the Government published a report detailing challenges to government transparency during the pandemic, particularly related to Freedom of Information Act requests. The report detailed how federal agencies failed to produce records in a timely manner in response to public records requests and highlighted the Trump administration’s secrecy surrounding its pandemic response and agencies’ abuses of administrative rights.
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