Covid-19 Oversight News: The Administration’s Vaccine Timeline, PPP Loan Fraud, and Coronavirus Task Force Reports

American Oversight’s Covid-19 Oversight Hub provides news and policy resources relating to 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.

Latest Congressional Investigations: The House Oversight Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy has opened an investigation into all coronavirus-related federal contracts negotiated by White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, who was tasked in the spring with coordinating the administration’s efforts involving the Defense Production Act. This comes on the heels of the subcommittee’s investigation that revealed evidence of hundreds of millions of wasted dollars in a deal for ventilators, which was negotiated by Navarro. American Oversight previously published records in which Navarro circulated emails suggesting that China was “exploiting” the coronavirus pandemic.

Upcoming Congressional Hearings: The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee will hold a hearing on Wed., Sept. 9, to examine how a vaccine rollout can best meet public health needs. Also on Wednesday, the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis will discuss the necessary steps to ensure a fair and safe election during the pandemic. Links to watch both of those hearings live will be posted in our Covid-19 Oversight Tracker.

Political Pressure at FDA and CDC? The same week that the Trump administration confirmed that the United States will not join the World Health Organization’s international coronavirus vaccine effort, CDC Director Robert Redfield urged state governors to waive requirements so as to allow vaccine distribution facilities to become operational by Nov. 1. This sped-up timeline — not to mention the deadline being just two days before Election Day — has worried many health experts that safety is taking a backseat to political expediency. 

Recent actions by the Food and Drug Administration have also led to questions about whether political pressure was harming the scientific independence of the nation’s science agencies. Late last month, the FDA broadened the allowed use of the experimental antiviral drug remdesivir as a treatment for Covid-19; earlier that week, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn came under fire for using a misleading statistic to promote the use of convalescent plasma as a treatment. The National Institutes of Health has since released a statement strongly condemning claims of the efficacy of this treatment and saying that there are no trials proving that this treatment works.

Vaccine Rollout: The “when” of a vaccine is not the only question; there’s also the “who,” as any vaccine will likely not be widely available immediately after it hits the market. Many have called for taking into account racial or ethnic groups that have been hit hardest by the pandemic. Last week, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a set of recommendations for the rollout of a vaccine, prioritizing health-care workers, people with serious medical conditions, and older adults in crowded living conditions. 

Fraud in PPP Loans: In its investigation of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis found waste and fraud totaling more than $1 billion. Part of the CARES Act, the PPP was created to provide loans to small businesses struggling during the coronavirus crisis. The Trump administration’s rules only called for auditing loans of more than $2 million, which according to the subcommittee would have applied to just 65 of the more than 10,000 loans in which the companies had borrowed more than once. The subcommittee also found 600 loans went to companies that had been barred from doing business with the government. And in a deeper dive into CARES Act funding, corporate watchdog group Good Jobs First found that more than 43,000 CARES Act aid recipients have been involved in some form of corporate misconduct during the past decade.

Stay at Home: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just announced a sweeping order to halt residential evictions until the end of this year. The ban, which many expect to be challenged in court, relies on the CDC’s public health powers to prevent the interstate spread of disease; according to the CDC, halting evictions will help facilitate self-isolation and will protect those who are more vulnerable to the virus. Although the announcement has been met with some optimism, many housing advocates and landlords say that without rental assistance, this is only a temporary solution that removes a source of income for landlords — and sets the stage for a crisis at the end of the year. 

The White House’s Coronavirus Reports: The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis released eight weeks of the White House Coronavirus Task Force’s reports from the summer, which make it clear that the White House’s dismissive messaging did not match up with the task force’s assessment of the pandemic’s spread. The reports include warnings about the increasing number of states that were reporting high positive test rates at the same time that the president kept telling reporters that the virus was going to “disappear.” This contrast is especially concerning in light of recent news that one of the president’s most trusted coronavirus advisers, Scott Atlas, has openly questioned whether mask-wearing is necessary and pushed for the CDC’s recent shift in testing guidelines.

GAO Report: Last week, the Government Accountability Office released a Covid-19 Update. The report found that as of August, the vast majority of U.S. states (38) had not met the World Health Organization’s recommended test-positivity threshold of less than 5 percent over a 14-day period. Failed policy has had real consequences: The report also cites CDC data showing that about 125,000 more people died from all causes from Jan. 1 to June 13 than would normally be expected, and economic conditions remain weak. 

School’s In: School just got back in session, and there have already been huge jumps in coronavirus cases at colleges across the country. The University of Mississippi and Tulane University saw hundreds of new cases in a matter of just a few days, and have placed hundreds of students in quarantine. Many schools, like Louisiana State University and Central Michigan University, are forging ahead with in-person classes despite rapid increases in cases. Some colleges are opting to send students home, but the White House, which was instrumental in the push to bring students back on campus, is now instructing universities not to do so, warning that it could lead to renewed outbreaks. 

 

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April 3, 2020

News Roundup: Whose Stockpile, and Which States?

California Office of the Governor, Central Intelligence Agency, Commerce - Bureau of Industry and Security, Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Justice, Department of Labor, Department of State, Department of the Treasury, DHS - Federal Emergency Management Agency, Florida - Broward County, Florida - Duval County, Florida - Gadsden County, Florida - Hendry County, Florida - Jackson County, Florida - Leon County, Florida - Miami-Dade County, Florida - Osceola County, Florida Office of the Governor, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HHS - Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services, HHS - Food and Drug Administration, HHS - National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, New York Office of the Governor, Office of Management and Budget, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Ohio Office of the Governor, Oklahoma Department of Health, Oklahoma Office of the Governor, Texas Attorney General, Texas Office of the Governor, Washington - King County, Washington Office of the Governor
March 30, 2020

‘We Are Flying Blind’: Health Officials’ Late February Emails Show Rising Coronavirus Concerns

Washington - King County
March 28, 2020

A Pandemic Is No Time for Secrecy

March 27, 2020

News Roundup: Transparency and Oversight Are More Important Than Ever

Department of Commerce, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of State, Department of the Treasury, DHS - Immigration and Customs Enforcement, DHS - U.S. Customs and Border Protection, DOJ - Executive Office for Immigration Review, DOJ - Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, DOJ - National Security Division, DOJ - U.S. Marshals Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Election Commission, Florida Attorney General, Florida Department of State, Florida Office of the Governor, General Services Administration, Georgia - Bartow County, Georgia - Cobb County, Georgia - DeKalb County, Georgia - Fulton County, Georgia - Gwinnett County, Georgia Office of the Governor, Georgia Secretary of State, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HHS - Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services, Office of Management and Budget, Office of Personnel Management, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, Tennessee Valley Authority, Texas Attorney General, Texas Office of the Governor, Texas Secretary of State
March 24, 2020

We Cannot Let Trump Use a National Emergency to Get Rich and Ignore the Constitution

Congress, White House
March 23, 2020

CDC Calendars from 2018 and 2019: Pandemic-Related Briefings and Meetings

HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
March 20, 2020

News Roundup: Testing, Messaging and Missed Chances

Department of Commerce, Department of Justice, Department of the Treasury, DOJ - Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, Federal Communications Commission, Florida Attorney General, Georgia Attorney General, Nevada Department of Administration, Office of Management and Budget, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, Texas - Harris County, Texas Attorney General
March 20, 2020

An Update on American Oversight’s Coronavirus Investigation

Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Justice, Department of Labor, Department of State, Department of the Treasury, Department of Transportation, Department of Veterans Affairs, DHS - Federal Emergency Management Agency, DHS - Immigration and Customs Enforcement, DHS - U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, DHS - U.S. Customs and Border Protection, DOJ - Federal Bureau of Prisons, Federal Reserve, HHS - Administration for Children and Families, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HHS - Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services, HHS - National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, HHS - National Institutes of Health, New York Office of the Governor, New York State Department of Health, Office of Management and Budget, Texas Department of State Health Services, U.S. Agency for International Development, Washington - King County, Washington State Department of Health, Wisconsin Department of Health Services
March 13, 2020

News Roundup: Continuing Our Investigation of Coronavirus Response

Department of Defense, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of State, Department of the Treasury, Federal Reserve, Georgia Secretary of State, Texas Secretary of State, Washington State Department of Health, Wisconsin
March 6, 2020

News Roundup: Rising Coronavirus Fears and Sinking Public Trust

Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Justice, Department of Labor, Department of State, Department of the Interior, Department of the Treasury, Department of Transportation, Department of Veterans Affairs, DHS - Federal Emergency Management Agency, DHS - Immigration and Customs Enforcement, DHS - U.S. Customs and Border Protection, DOI - Bureau of Land Management, DOJ - Criminal Division, DOJ - Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, DOJ - Office of Information Policy, Federal Reserve, Georgia - Cobb County, Georgia - Gwinnett County, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Georgia Department of Driver Services, Georgia Secretary of State, HHS - Administration for Children and Families, HHS - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HHS - Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services, HHS - Food and Drug Administration, HHS - National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, HHS - National Institutes of Health, Office of Management and Budget, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, Texas - Briscoe County, Texas - Freestone County, Texas - Hall County, Texas - Hill County, Texas - Hood County, Texas - Jones County, Texas - Kendall County, Texas - Lavaca County, Texas - Leon County, Texas - Limestone County, Texas - Loving County, Texas - Morris County, Texas - Scurry County, Texas - Starr County, Texas - Swisher County, Texas - Victoria County, Texas Secretary of State, U.S. Agency for International Development, VA - Veterans Health Administration, Washington - King County, Washington State Department of Health
March 2, 2020

In the Documents: Read the Script for an HHS Anti-Obamacare Ad That Was Apparently Never Released

Department of Health and Human Services
February 28, 2020

News Roundup: Launching Our Investigation of Trump’s Authoritarian Purges

Central Intelligence Agency, Department of Agriculture, Department of Defense, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Justice, Department of Labor, Department of State, DOD - National Security Agency, DOI - Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, DOJ - Federal Bureau of Investigation, Florida - Hillsborough County, Florida - Leon County, Florida Department of State, HHS - Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services, Office of the Director of National Intelligence
February 21, 2020

News Roundup: The Post-Impeachment Purge and the Knock of Authoritarianism

Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of Labor, Department of State, Department of the Interior, Department of the Treasury, DHS - United States Secret Service, DOI - Fish and Wildlife Service, HHS - Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services, HHS - Food and Drug Administration, Office of Management and Budget, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
February 14, 2020

News Roundup: Trump Has Learned His ‘Lesson’

Central Intelligence Agency, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Justice, Department of State, Department of the Treasury, Department of Transportation, DOJ - Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, DOJ - Office of Information Policy, Federal Reserve, Florida House of Representatives, Florida Senate, Georgia - Cobb County, Georgia - DeKalb County, Georgia - Fulton County, Georgia - Gwinnett County, Georgia Secretary of State, HHS - Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services, Kentucky Office of the Governor, U.S. Election Assistance Commission, Wisconsin Senate, Wisconsin State Assembly
January 17, 2020

News Roundup: The Evidence Continues to Mount

Department of Agriculture, Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Justice, Department of State, Environmental Protection Agency, Georgia - Clayton County, Georgia - Hancock County, Georgia - Jefferson County, HHS - Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services
September 6, 2019

News Roundup: Trump’s Enthusiastic Support for New Drug Raises Questions

Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Justice, Department of State, Department of the Treasury, Department of Transportation, Department of Veterans Affairs, DHS - Immigration and Customs Enforcement, DOJ - Federal Bureau of Investigation, Environmental Protection Agency, Georgia Department of Driver Services, HHS - Food and Drug Administration, Securities and Exchange Commission, Texas Attorney General, White House - Council on Environmental Quality
August 27, 2019

Investigating HHS Secretary Alex Azar’s Connections to Pharmaceutical Companies

Department of Health and Human Services
August 13, 2019

More Examples of Personal Email Use and Heavy-Handed Outside Influence at the VA

Department of Veterans Affairs
June 4, 2019

Documents Reveal Extent of Koch-Funded VA Privatization Group’s Influence

Department of Veterans Affairs
May 30, 2019

Trump Administration Appeals Court Decision Ordering It to Turn Over Communications with Congress About ACA Sabotage

Congress, Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Management and Budget
April 2, 2019

Federal Judge Rejects Administration’s Argument for Withholding Communications with Congress about ACA Sabotage

Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Management and Budget
March 8, 2019

Watchdogs Sue HHS Following Women’s Health Website Overhaul

Department of Health and Human Services
March 1, 2019

HHS Secretary Azar Calendars Show Multiple Meetings with Conservative Health-Care Groups

Department of Health and Human Services
February 21, 2019

New Lawsuit Seeks HHS Communications with Anti-Abortion Groups

Department of Health and Human Services
March 9, 2018

American Oversight Sues HHS and CMS for Verma Ethics Records

Department of Health and Human Services, HHS - Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services
October 17, 2017

Health Care Lawsuit: Fighting for Transparency

Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Management and Budget
September 15, 2017

Congress Enters Legal Fight to Block Release of Obamacare Repeal Emails

Congress, Department of Health and Human Services
September 13, 2017

“News to Me!” – Inside the Health Care Emails

Office of Management and Budget
September 7, 2017

Third Set of Health Care Emails Again Shows Trump Administration Effort to Hide Negotiations

Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Management and Budget
August 2, 2017

New Health Care Documents Show Effort to Hide Details of Negotiations

Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Management and Budget
July 20, 2017

American Oversight Sues HHS and OMB For Secret Trump Letter Outlining Plan to Weaken Obamacare

Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Management and Budget, White House
May 4, 2017

Watchdog Files Lawsuit, Seeks Injunction for HHS, OMB Health Care Negotiation Record

Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Management and Budget
March 23, 2017

American Oversight Demands Release of Secret Health Care Negotiations

Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Management and Budget