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.
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.
The Growing Pandemic
The Trump administration remains in charge of the nation’s coronavirus response during these next months — and American Oversight isn’t letting up on our scrutiny of the administration’s handling of the pandemic. Last week, the United States hit new coronavirus case records, with daily cases repeatedly exceeding 100,000. As overwhelmed staff work in crowded hospitals, the nation exceeded 10 million total cases on Monday.
A report from last week showed that Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House’s coronavirus task force, has been advocating that administration officials take “much more aggressive action” to combat this new phase of the virus, urging the importance of consistent messaging on masks and the need to increase testing. While the administration has taken no such steps, six White House staffers, including Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, tested positive for Covid-19 last week.
Preliminary Vaccine Success
On Monday, a preliminary analysis showed that Pfizer and BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine can prevent more than 90 percent of people from contracting Covid-19. The vaccine has been tested on more than 40,000 people in six countries, and the companies are expected to file for emergency approval by the end of the month.
HHS Allowed Faulty Covid-19 Tests in the Market
A STAT News investigation found that top officials at the Department of Health and Human services ended oversight of laboratory developed Covid-19 tests in August. HHS directed the Food and Drug Administration to stop requiring emergency authorization for laboratory developed tests. As a result, limited oversight ensured only that labs met quality standards, not that tests were effective. This decision, which was made with the knowledge that laboratory developed tests had serious quality issues, made it difficult for the FDA to track problems related to these tests.
Trump Administration Funds Dubious Covid-19 Treatments
The Associated Press released records showing that Plasma Technologies, a new company testing blood plasma technology it claims will fight Covid-19, may be in line to receive more than $60 million in taxpayer money. Blood plasma is a controversial treatment, and some studies have shown it has no benefit for Covid-19 patients.
If awarded, the contract will be the latest in a series of dubious technologies funded by the administration, including more than half a billion dollars provided to ApiJect Systems America, a startup with an unapproved injection technology and no factory to manufacture its devices, and a $1.6 billion vaccine contract to Novavax Inc. that was made over objections of scientific staff. These contracts have all been supported by Dr. Robert Kadlec, an assistant secretary of health at HHS.
House Report on the Administration’s Failures
The House Committee on Education and Labor released a report highlighting its oversight of the Trump Administration. The report discussed the ways in which the Department of Education mishandled the education relief funds secured for students through the CARES Act; how the Administration pressured the CDC to water down COVID-19 safety recommendations for Smithfield Foods’ meatpacking plant; and HHS’s refusal to establish a Special Enrollment Period to allow individuals to sign up for health insurance coverage during the pandemic.
Pandemic-Related Assistance to Big Banks
Americans for Financial Reform Education Fund published a report detailing some of the ways in which the largest banks have benefited from regulatory forbearance and the Federal Reserve’s financial market interventions during the coronavirus pandemic. The report found that the Fed’s support for bond and equity markets has driven tens of billions in profits for large banks. The findings were based on analyses of regulations and bank financial reports conducted by AFR Education Fund and the online publication Risky Finance.
Upcoming Congressional Hearing
The House Committee on Financial Services will hold a hearing on Thurs., Nov. 12 titled, “Oversight of Prudential Regulators: Ensuring the Safety, Soundness, Diversity, and Accountability of Depository Institutions during the Pandemic.” Brian Brooks, acting comptroller of the currency, and Rodney Hood, the chairman of the National Credit Union Administration, will both be speaking in front of the committee.
President-elect Joe Biden has announced a plan to combat the coronavirus pandemic that includes increasing testing, devoting more resources to contact tracing, and working with governors and local authorities to implement mask mandates in public. Biden’s team also announced the members of his Covid-19 “transition advisory board” that will be led by former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and includes whistleblower Rick Bright.
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