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 Senate is in recess this week and next. There are no relevant hearings in the House.
The Delta Surge
Per CNN’s analysis of CDC data, hospitalization rates for children and adults under 50 are at their highest levels yet, especially among people in their 30s and children under 18. Tens of thousands of Covid-19 patients, the vast majority unvaccinated, are currently hospitalized, straining hospital resources past capacity and draining the supply of overworked health workers. “Governors and hospital directors warn that the staffing crisis is so acute that patients, whether suffering from Covid-19, a heart attack or the effects of a car accident, can no longer expect the level of care that might have been available six weeks ago,” wrote Politico on Monday.
Full Pfizer Vaccine Approval
As anticipated, the Food and Drug Administration issued full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Monday, paving the way for what many predict will be more employers, universities, and other institutions mandating shots. That same day, the Pentagon said that it will require members of the military to be inoculated, with a timeline expected in the coming days. And last week, the Biden administration announced that nursing home staff must also get the vaccine for facilities to continue receiving federal funding.
The full FDA approval comes a week after the administration announced a plan to make booster shots available in September for all U.S. adults who received Pfizer’s or Moderna’s mRNA vaccine. (Recommendations for those who received a Johnson & Johnson vaccine are reportedly expected soon.) The move has been criticized by the World Health Organization, given the lack of vaccine availability in many poorer countries, but the Sept. 20 timeline is not yet firm, as both the FDA and a CDC advisory committee must sign off.
Resistance to Public Health Measures
There are indications that the tragic and avoidable surge is spurring more people to finally get their shots, with just over half of Americans fully vaccinated. But battles over common-sense health measures are still waging, and even former President Trump was booed at a rally after telling the crowd to get vaccinated. The fight over mask mandates in public schools has not de-escalated, even as more children are hospitalized and thousands who have already returned to school are isolated or in quarantine.
Some school districts in Florida and Texas are defying their respective governors’ executive orders prohibiting school mask mandates, as are districts in Arizona that are announcing their own requirements despite a prohibition in this summer’s budget passed by the state Legislature. Similar fights have also been playing out in Arkansas and Tennessee. This weekend, with some governors having threatened to withhold funding from defiant districts, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said that governors could not deny federal funds from districts seeking to enforce mask requirements.
‘Inside America’s Covid-reporting breakdown’
A Politico investigation published last week looked at the inefficiencies and failures in the U.S. data-reporting system used to track Covid-19 cases, finding that “the coronavirus exposed a patchwork system in which state officials struggled to control the spread of Covid-19 because their outdated surveillance systems did not allow them to collect and analyze data in real-time.”
Report: Federal Debt Management
The Government Accountability Office examined the actions taken by the Treasury Department to finance the federal government’s pandemic response, finding that the Treasury acted quickly to raise money but that it could be “more transparent about how it implemented its cash management policy.”
Report: Texas VA Medical Center Case
The inspector general of the Department of Veterans Affairs conducted an inspection of a VA medical facility in Houston, looking into allegations about the Covid screening and subsequent treatment of a patient with serious mental illness. The report identified a number of areas of concern, including deficiencies in informing patients and families about screening processes and failure to comply with certain policies.
Covid-19 in State-Run VA Homes
Politico investigated the weak oversight of federally funded, state-run nursing homes for veterans, including the lack of proper controls that allowed the pandemic to sweep through many of the facilities, leading to the deaths of more than 1,400 people. “More than half the deaths occurred well into the pandemic,” Politico reported, “after testing, protective gear and other resources became more available, and after much had been learned about how to contain the virus and prevent its devastating spread, including by asymptomatic staff. It was tragic. But not inevitable.”
Oregon’s congressional delegation sent a letter to Deanne Criswell, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, requesting that FEMA medical personnel help their state respond to the surge in Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations.
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