Coronavirus Roundup: Some States Prepare Their Own Vaccine Reviews; Education Secretary Says It’s Not Her Job to Track School Reopenings  | #Education

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Tuesday that there have been almost 300,000 “excess deaths” (meaning more than there would be in an average year) from January 26 to October 3 and at least two-thirds of them were from the coronavirus. “Among racial and ethnic groups, the smallest average percentage increase in numbers of deaths compared with previous years occurred among white persons (11.9%),” said the report. “The largest [was] for Hispanic persons (53.6%), with intermediate increases (28.9%–36.6%) among [American Indian and Alaska Native], Black, and Asian persons.” Here are some other recent headlines you might have missed. 

The New York Times published a deep dive on Tuesday about how the Food and Drug Administration “stood up” to the president and his inner circle in some instances during the pandemic. For example, the FDA published stronger guidelines on approving a vaccine, despite pushback from the White House and has not yet approved the coronavirus treatment the president received when he was sick, which he called a “cure.” FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn “has tried to erect a shield between his staff and White House officials, asking that all calls be routed directly to him and not to his staff,” said the report. “His situation is especially fraught because Mr. Trump has openly accused the FDA of engaging in political ploys to harm his re-election chances. Alex M. Azar II, the secretary of health and human services and Dr. Hahn’s direct superior, has also questioned Dr. Hahn’s motives in some conversations with the White House.” 

Some states and localities are preparing for their own reviews of a coronavirus vaccine due to fears of political interference at the FDA. This includes New York, California, Michigan, West Virginia and Washington, D.C., Politico reported on Tuesday.

Also on Tuesday, Rep. James Clyburn, chairman of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, published reports (not previously shared with the public) from the White House coronavirus task force from June 23 to October 18 that show the rise in cases and need for more testing and mask mandates. “These reports—which the White House sent privately to governors, but withheld from the public—show that President Trump’s false rhetoric on testing and masks is hindering our nation’s response, and many states are refusing to take critical steps recommended by the task force,” said Clyburn. “It is long past time that the administration implement a national plan to contain this crisis, which is still killing hundreds of Americans each day and could get even worse in the months ahead.”

The White House is considering cutting millions of dollars in funding for the coronavirus, newborns, HIV treatment and other things for Democratic-led cities that Trump has called “anarchist,” Politico reported Tuesday. “The Department of Health and Human Services has identified federal grants covering those services,” said the report. These “are among the nearly 200 health programs that could be in line for cuts as part of a sweeping government-wide directive the administration is advancing during the final weeks of the presidential campaign and amid an intensifying pandemic Trump has downplayed.” 

As the National Guard is already dealing with an unprecedented year due to the pandemic, protests for racial justice and vast hurricanes and wildfires, it is now getting ready for missions involving Election Day and its aftermath. This could include cybersecurity for local electoral authorities, ballot counting in at least one state and backup for police or if unrest erupts after the vote,” The Washington Post reported on Tuesday. 

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said at an event on Tuesday it’s not her department’s job to track schools’ reopening plans or their coronavirus infection rates. This comes as educators have been criticizing the Trump administration for not doing enough to support schools, despite pushing for an opening for in-person classes, USA Today reported.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Justice Department and HHS on Wednesday demanding they release information about the spread of coronavirus in prisons and jails. The ACLU had previously submitted Freedom of Information Act requests for this information. “Despite knowing early on that this population would be particularly susceptible to infection, illness and death, the federal government failed to prevent the spread behind bars,” said the ACLU in a press release. “And despite this reality, government officials have publicly patted themselves on the back while withholding vital information from the public and failing to meet statutory obligations of transparency related to their management of the crisis.”

Upcoming: HHS Secretary Alex Azar, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield and CDC Deputy Director for Infectious Diseases Dr. Jay Butler will give a briefing at 3:45p.m. about the federal government’s coronavirus response and “Operation Warp Speed.” 

Today’s GovExec Daily podcast episode is about efforts to reduce the corporate influence in the federal government, which has been questioned and highlighted during the pandemic. 

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