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 is steadily improving — as of last week, more than two-thirds of doses delivered to states had been used (at the beginning of the year, only a quarter of delivered doses had been used). Last Thursday, Biden administration officials said they finalized a deal to get 200 million more doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines by the end of the summer, an increase that means the U.S. has now secured enough doses to vaccinate 300 million people. And although vaccines are currently authorized only for adults, clinical trials for adolescents are beginning and raising hopes that some children may qualify for the vaccine this year.
There’s still a long road ahead, as critical levels of immunity may not be reached until the fall or even early winter of 2021. Inequities in the distribution process also continue to pose a hurdle to widespread protection. A recent ProPublica article discussed how many states’ decisions to vaccinate those over the age of 75 leaves behind Black people, who are less likely to reach that age. Black people who die of Covid-19 also tend to be 10 years younger on average than white victims of the disease, showing how age cut-offs may be missing at-risk groups.
One Year Later
Jan. 31 marked the one-year anniversary of the U.S. first declaring a public health emergency due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In the year since, more than 450,000 Americans have died of Covid-19 (and the actual count is likely much higher). The country still needs many of the same protective measures that were lacking last spring: a robust testing and contact-tracing system, an adequate supply of personal protective equipment, and consistent opening and closing guidelines. With the onset of new variants, the U.S. must also expand genetic sequencing efforts. The country is currently sequencing .5 percent of all Covid-19 testing samples, but experts say at least 5 percent of all samples must be sequenced to effectively track the spread of variants.
Health Officials’ Early Communications About Masking
American Oversight obtained documents from last April in which Anne Schuchat, the principal deputy director at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, spoke about how CDC officials had “moved [their] opinions” on masks and were discussing “the homemade option” for making them. The email stated that officials planned to review evidence about masking on April 3, 2020, the same day the CDC first recommended that Americans wear face coverings in public.
We previously obtained documents that showed top officials privately endorsing mask-wearing even when they were not doing so publicly. In an email exchange from March 2020, Deputy National Security Adviser Matthew Pottinger, who served on the White House Coronavirus Task Force, and Robert Kadlec, the assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the Department of Health and Human Services, praised a public service announcement from the Czech Republic about the importance of masks. We also published emails from May 2020 in which Jared Kushner forwarded what he labeled “interesting intel from a good source” about the importance of masks. The forwarded information specified the benefits of surgical masks as compared with homemade ones and said that “masks really work” and were “the silver bullet in Asia.”
GAO Review of Operation Warp Speed’s Covid-19 Vaccine Development Efforts
The Government Accountability Office published a review of Operation Warp Speed’s vaccine development efforts. It noted challenges such as limited manufacturing capacity and disruptions to manufacturing supply chains, but highlighted ways federal officials are working to mitigate those issues.
Evaluation of the Navy’s Covid-19 Response
The Defense Department Inspector General (OIG) evaluated the Navy’s procedures for reducing the spread of Covid-19, and found that although infection-control policies were in place, the Navy had not fully implemented these measures. OIG also assessed the Navy’s response to two Covid-19 outbreaks on Navy ships that were on operational deployments, and found that on one of the ships, leadership did not effectively implement mitigation and social-distancing measures for the majority of the crew.
The Trump Administration’s Covid-19 Political Interference: The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis wrote to White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain and Acting HHS Secretary Norris Cochran seeking assistance in obtaining documents to complete its investigation into the Trump administration’s political interference in Covid-19 guidance, testing, and treatments.
Part of Investigation: