American Oversight’s Covid-19 Oversight Hub provides news and policy resources to help you keep track of the investigations into the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. 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.
Upcoming Congressional Hearings: The Senate Appropriations Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday to examine HHS’s coronavirus response and review next steps. On Thursday, the House Committee on Financial Services will hold a hearing to review the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s response to the pandemic. The same day, the committee will also hold a hearing to examine corporate integrity during the pandemic. Links to watch these hearings live will be posted in our Covid-19 Oversight Tracker.
Interference at Scientific Agencies: Politico investigations have revealed multiple efforts by political appointees at the Department of Health and Human Services to influence actions at the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Politico obtained emails that show Paul Alexander, senior adviser to HHS Assistant Secretary Michael Caputo, telling press officers at the NIH that he opposes widespread testing for children and university students and that Dr. Anthony Fauci should not promote mask-wearing for children.
Other records showed that Caputo and his team have reviewed CDC reports and have even added caveats and changed the language to align with President Donald Trump’s statements minimizing the dangers of Covid-19. According to internal emails, Alexander admonished CDC officials for warning that the coronavirus could spread through reopened schools, accusing the officials of trying to “hurt the President.” Caputo’s team also successfully delayed the release of important reports such as one detailing information about hydroxychloroquine, the malaria drug that Trump endorsed as a coronavirus treatment. On Monday, Congress launched an investigation to determine the full scope of this interference.
ICE Coronavirus Outbreak: A Washington Post investigation has shed light on the outbreak that infected more than 300 detainees at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in Farmville, Va., reportedly the largest outbreak in any immigration facility. In June, ICE transferred a large number of detainees from Arizona and Florida to Virginia on charter flights, claiming it was mitigating overcrowded conditions. But a Department of Homeland Security official said the detainees were brought along to bypass restrictions on the use of charter flights for employee travel, and that the real mission was the dispatch of ICE special response teams to protests in Washington, D.C. Just two weeks later, the Farmville detention center’s case numbers shot up, and one person died from the virus.
Uncertainty about Vaccine Oversight: Last week, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions held a hearing on the development of coronavirus vaccines. NIH Director Francis Collins and Surgeon General Jerome Adams both spoke at length about their confidence in the scientific integrity of a prospective vaccine, and downplayed concerns about the Trump administration’s politicization of the process. Meanwhile, none of the companies with vaccines in advanced-stage trials have made public the plans for those trials or the circumstances under which trials could be stopped early.
SBA Loan Fraud: The Project on Government Oversight recently released a report revealing that after providing more than $160 billion in Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL), the Small Business Administration had “scrambled” in August to enact key anti-fraud controls. The EIDL program was set up in March to support businesses through pandemic shutdowns. Internal SBA emails revealed that many of SBA’s loan officers were untrained and had been approving loans to applicants who should not have received them, casting doubt on SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza’s July 23 statement that SBA was “doing all it can to reduce the risk of fraud on the loan side.”
States Fail to Meet the Challenges of Voting: The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis released a memo illustrating the challenges states are facing in the upcoming general election, citing Texas’ refusal to expand mail-in voting and Florida’s refusal to expand early voting. Texas and Wisconsin are both facing potential poll-worker shortages, and Florida might as well, as the state isn’t helping counties recruit poll workers. Finally, Georgia reversed its policy of sending absentee ballots to all voters, which has led to confusion and potential voter disenfranchisement.
Administration Turns Away Migrant Children: On Friday, the Department of Justice filed court documents showing that the Trump administration has turned away and denied U.S. refuge to nearly 9,000 unaccompanied migrant children during the pandemic. This is the first time these numbers have been released since the administration issued its emergency restriction on immigration in March. In addition to the thousands of unaccompanied children turned away at the border, more than 7,000 members of families that include children have been expelled. In total, more than 159,000 expulsions have been carried out under the new restrictions.
Trump Knew All Along: Last week, journalist Bob Woodward released audio from interviews proving that Trump was aware of the serious dangers posed by the coronavirus as early as Feb. 7. In an interview on that date, Trump described Covid-19 as a virus that can pass through the air and is “more deadly than even your strenuous flus.” Trump’s remarks are outrageous when placed next to his public actions and statements at the same time — in March, the president explicitly compared the coronavirus to the flu and implied that large-scale shutdowns were unnecessary.
Trump Uses the Pandemic To Push Rollbacks: Since March, the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards has been tracking Trump’s regulatory rollbacks during the pandemic. Their tracker shows that in the last six months, the Trump administration has repealed 30 public protections, such as weakened clean air and water protections and safety regulations, and has proposed 20 more.
House Investigates: The House Committee on Oversight and Reform opened an investigation into the $250 million coronavirus-related communications contract awarded to Fors Marsh Group by HHS. The committee wrote letters to HHS Secretary Alex Azar and Fors Marsh Group CEO Ben Garthwaite, expressing concerns that this contract will be funding a “political propaganda campaign” to fuel the president’s reelection efforts. The committee called for the suspension of the contract until Congress can determine that safeguards are in place to ensure the contract is used solely to spread public health information.
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