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.
As of last week, more Americans have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine than have tested positive for the virus. The milestone came at a time when the number of new Covid-19 cases in the U.S. had dropped and new vaccine candidates filed for emergency use authorization. According to recent reporting, the Biden administration is even considering sending masks directly to American households, a plan the U.S. Postal Service had considered last year, according to documents uncovered by American Oversight, but that the Trump administration had scrapped.
But the pandemic is still taking its toll, as death rates remain high and essential workers, many of whom have not been vaccinated, remain on the frontlines. Last week, the New York Times reported that more than 6,000 Transportation and Security Administration agents have tested positive for Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic. TSA agents are among the millions of workers who now face the B117 Covid-19 variant, a more contagious form of the virus first identified in the U.K. that is rapidly spreading across the country.
Vaccine Inequity Poses Challenges
As states struggle to meet vaccine demand, essential workers are still waiting for their inoculations, even though they often have the highest risk of exposure and are disproportionately people of color. As of last week, just 5 percent of vaccine doses had gone to Black Americans and only 11 percent to Latinos. Clinics in poorer communities have even seen people from wealthier, largely white neighborhoods flood vaccination appointments.
At the same time, Tiberius, the federal data system created to monitor Covid-19 vaccinations, has fallen short of its goal to track vaccines at every step of the distribution process. The system’s submission process is cumbersome and confusing, leading to long-term data lags and sometimes contradictory information, and making it even more difficult to speed up vaccinations and ensure equity in distribution.
In the States
American Oversight Expands Lawsuit Seeking Pandemic-Related Text Messages
On Monday, American Oversight amended its November lawsuit against the Department of Health and Human Services, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for top Trump administration officials’ text messages about the pandemic response. New documents have shown that senior officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also communicated about the pandemic response through text, and Monday’s filing added the CDC as a defendant in the suit.
CARES Act Funds Supported Franchises, Companies That Dodged Taxes
ICE Used Covid-19 to Threaten Immigrants
The Intercept reported that Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers threatened to expose four individuals in detention centers to Covid-19 if those individuals did not agree to be transferred or deported. Three asylum-seekers who were held in the Pine Prairie ICE Processing Center in Louisiana said an ICE guard told them that if they did not submit to a transfer, they would be placed in a unit with people who had tested positive for Covid-19. One asylum-seeker in Etowah County Detention Center in Alabama said that he and others were threatened with exposure to Covid-19 if they didn’t sign deportation orders.
Review of the U.S. Marshals Service’s Pandemic Response
The Department of Justice’s Inspector General reviewed the U.S. Marshals Service’s response to the pandemic from April through August 2020, including its practices for mitigating Covid-19 outbreaks among the approximately 61,000 people held in the agency’s custody. The report stated that USMS’s oversight plan for detention facilities is inconsistent and does not ensure that all facilities will be checked for how well they implement the latest CDC guidance.
Congressional Investigation Reveals Trump Administration’s Pandemic Interference
The Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis released documents showing that Trump administration officials weakened CDC testing guidance in August 2020 to avoid identifying asymptomatic infections. According to Paul Alexander — a former HHS adviser who according to previous reporting had accused career CDC scientists last summer of trying to “hurt the president” — White House officials opted to change the guidance because testing was “preventing the workforce from working” and would not allow schools to “optimally re-open.” The documents also reveal that Alexander pushed then-FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn to approve hydroxychloroquine and convalescent plasma as Covid-19 treatments.
Federal Pandemic Oversight: New Reports
After requesting information about Strategic National Stockpile shipments of medical supplies to states during the Covid-19 outbreak, American Oversight received records from the Federal Emergency Management Administration. The records include detailed spreadsheets tracking SNS quantities and supplies as they were awarded and delivered to states in March and April 2020.
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