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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Vaccine Distribution Plans
With Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar’s claims that both vaccines could begin to be administered before Christmas and reports that the first 6.4 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine could reach states as early as mid-December, preparations to distribute the vaccine are underway. On Friday, airlines began operating charter flights carrying the vaccine to the United States in preparation for eventual distribution. UPS and Ford Motor Company announced that they have ordered portable freezers to store the vaccine, as both Pfizer’s and Moderna’s must be held at below-freezing temperatures.
Last week, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, a group of outside experts who make recommendations to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about vaccines, indicated that health-care workers and people living in long-term care facilities should be first to receive the vaccine, with adults older than 65 and people with high-risk medical conditions next in line. The committee will meet again on Tuesday.
CDC May Recommend Shorter Quarantine Period
As public health officials urge those who traveled over Thanksgiving to self-quarantine, the CDC is finalizing new guidelines that would shorten the recommended length of time an individual should self-quarantine after potential exposure to the coronavirus. The agency currently recommends quarantining for 14 days, but the new recommendations will suggest a quarantine period of 7 to 10 days along with a Covid-19 test. According to agency officials, shortening the recommended quarantine may encourage compliance while still capturing the vast majority of Covid-19 infections.
Millions of Workers Could Lose Benefits
The Century Foundation released a report finding that approximately 12 million workers will lose Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, or Extended Benefits when funding for these programs expires on Dec. 26. The report’s authors noted that unless these programs are extended, only 18 states will provide any type of additional benefits to millions of Americans experiencing long-term unemployment.
As many as 87 million workers also face losing access to federally mandated paid sick and family leave that was enacted in March through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Under the law, many employers were required to provide workers with two weeks of fully paid coronavirus-related sick leave and up to 12 weeks of leave to care for family members. Although Covid-19 cases are at record highs, this provision is set to expire at year’s end.
HHS Fails to Collect Accurate Data
Science magazine reported this week that the Department of Health and Human Services’ system for tracking Covid-19 data, known as HHS Protect, includes data that does not correspond with states’ hospital data. One CDC source told Science, “The HHS Protect data are poor quality, inconsistent with state reports, and the analysis is slipshod.” HHS’s system was created after White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx threw out the CDC’s tracking system, and is controlled by private contractors TeleTracking Technologies and Palantir. Untrustworthy numbers could have disastrous effects for supplying and supporting hospitals in the months ahead.
Nursing Home Outbreaks Reach Record-Highs
The latest Covid-19 case surge is fueling a record-high number of nursing home outbreaks. More than 1,300 long-term care facilities across the country reported three or more confirmed Covid-19 cases during the first week of November, the highest number reported in a single week since the start of the pandemic. Midwestern states have the most cases. Although less than 1 percent of the U.S. lives in such facilities, nursing homes account for nearly 40 percent of the country’s coronavirus deaths.
SCOTUS Changes Course
After rejecting challenges to similar restrictions over the summer, the Supreme Court, now with Justice Amy Coney Barrett, issued a narrow ruling that barred New York state from imposing limits on religious gatherings during the pandemic. In May and July, the court had supported California’s and Nevada’s restrictions on church gatherings, saying that states required flexibility to handle the pandemic.
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