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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On Monday, health care workers around the country rolled up their sleeves to receive the first approved Covid-19 vaccine — the start of a months-long effort to inoculate Americans. On Friday, the vaccine created by Pfizer and BioNTech became the first candidate to be granted emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration. The next day, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices officially recommended it for those 16 and older. CDC Director Robert Redfield accepted these recommendations on Sunday, giving the green light for inoculations to begin.
Within the next few days, the vaccine is expected to arrive at 600 sites across the country. Last Thursday, representatives from FedEx and UPS assured a Senate subcommittee on transportation that vaccines will receive special location tracking and priority over all other items. The vaccine has arrived at a crucial time, as cases continue to rise in the United States and the country surpasses 300,000 Covid-19 deaths.
American Oversight Sues for Pfizer-Related Records
On Wednesday, American Oversight sued the Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the FDA for records of any communications with Pfizer. The lawsuit was prompted by the agencies’ failure to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests that we filed in October.
The lawsuit also came amid last week’s news that in the late summer or fall, the Trump administration turned down an offer from Pfizer to purchase additional doses of its vaccine — even after interim data were released. The U.S. has currently secured 100 million doses, which will vaccinate 50 million Americans, as the vaccine is a two-dose treatment. Pfizer has said it cannot supply additional doses to the U.S. until next summer.
American Oversight Demands Transparency from the CDC
Last week, a senior official at the CDC told congressional investigators that Redfield instructed staff to delete an email in which a Trump political appointee was attempting to interfere with the agency’s scientific reports. According to Politico, Redfield’s order came in response to an Aug. 8 email sent by former HHS scientific adviser Paul Alexander, who demanded an “immediate stop” on all of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports and said, “Nothing to go out unless I read and agree with the findings … and I tweak it to ensure it is fair and balanced and ‘complete.’”
American Oversight called on the CDC and HHS to ensure that the email and other records are preserved, or recovered, as required by federal law. American Oversight has ongoing Freedom of Information Act lawsuits against the administration, including for communications, orders, and directives from officials at the CDC and HHS. The email in question is the type of record that may be responsive to those requests.
19 Deaths an Hour and Rising
The Senate Special Committee on Aging published a report showing that rates of death and Covid-19 infection are rising in nursing homes. In November, more than 15 nursing home residents died from Covid-19 every hour, with 19 dying each hour during the week of Nov. 22, the most recent week reported. To date, more than 104,000 residents and workers in long-term care facilities have died from the coronavirus. The report also shows that workforce shortages in nursing homes have increased — in November, one in six nursing homes nationwide reported that it had an insufficient workforce.
ICE Pandemic Abuses
Earlier this month, the Intercept reported that Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers placed immigrant detainees into solitary confinement if they asked for a Covid-19 test or if they tested positive for the coronavirus. Detention Watch Network published a report estimating that between May and August, ICE detention facilities contributed to more than 245,000 additional Covid-19 cases in communities across the U.S.
Hate Groups Received Pandemic Aid
According to data released by the Small Business Administration, 14 organizations that have been designated as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center or the Anti-Defamation League received funding from the Paycheck Protection Program, totaling $4.3 million. The groups that received aid included anti-LGBT groups that advocate for conversion therapy as well as anti-immigrant groups with ties to white supremacists.
PPP Failed to Protect Workers From Layoffs
Good Jobs First conducted a national analysis of Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act notices. The resulting report reveals that since March, more than 190,000 American workers have been laid off across 1,900 companies that received loans through the Paycheck Protection Program. About one in eight of those workers lost their job permanently. Although the WARN Act requires certain employers to provide workers 60 days’ notice before layoffs, more than two-thirds of workers received no advance warning at all.
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