On Friday, the White House held its first Coronavirus Task Force briefing since May. Despite rising numbers of coronavirus infections in many areas of the country, Vice President Mike Pence, head of the Task Force, sought to reassure the public about the federal government’s response and recovery efforts. “We have made truly remarkable progress in moving our nation forward,” he said. He also praised governors for reopening efforts and reiterated messaging from President Trump that the rise in cases is related to a rise in testing. "It is almost inarguable that more testing is generating more cases," he said. "The volume of new cases coming in is a reflection of a great success of expanding testing."
Dr. Anthony Fauci expressed optimism that a vaccine will be available by early 2021 but noted the US will not achieve “herd immunity” unless a large portion of the population takes the vaccine. Fauci also said federal health officials are considering pooled sampling to speed up testing. Pooled sampling allows groups of individuals to be tested at the same time.
According to an ABC News-Ipsos poll, 89% of Americans report wearing face masks in public. Currently only 18 states require face masks in public. The poll found only 21% of respondents would be willing to attend a large gathering, down from 29% in mid-April.
Capitol Hill. Today, the House will vote on HR 7301, which provides additional assistance to renters, homeowners, and people experiencing homelessness during the coronavirus pandemic. The bill authorizes $194 billion in housing aid, expands moratoriums on foreclosures and evictions, authorizes federal loans for rental property owners and mortgage servicers, and offers bankruptcy relief, among other provisions. (One-Page Bill Factsheet/ Section-by-Section Bill Summary)
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in a letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called for immediate bipartisan, bicameral negotiations on legislation to address the public health and economic crises caused by the coronavirus.
Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), Chairman of the House Oversight Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, sent a letter to Secretary of HHS Alex Azar urging him to reverse the decision to end federal support for 13 coronavirus testing across five states.
Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) led more than 20 Representatives in a letter calling on House leadership to provide increased federal investments in public transit agencies impacted by the coronavirus.
Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) wrote to HHS Secretary Alex Azar requesting state testing plans required under the Paycheck Protection Program and the Health Care Enhancement Act. The legislation requires non-federal COVID-19 funding recipients to submit testing plans to HHS.
There are a few hearings this week, including:
Oversight. The Government Accountability Office released its bimonthly oversight report. The report identifies several current and future challenges, including incomplete reporting from state and local health departments on testing, critical supply distribution, the integrity of PPP and federal economic impact payments, and the lack of a national aviation preparedness plan. A report summary is here.
The Congressional Research Service updated its report on Resources for Tracking Federal Spending.
Administration. HHS Secretary Alex Azar warned on CNN’s ‘State of the Union’ the “window is closing” for the nation to take action and get the coronavirus under control. Azar called the current state of the outbreak a “very, very serious situation,” as reported by Axios.
The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) issued two Field Assistance Bulletins to clarify issues relevant to the pandemic’s effects on the workplace.
HHS announced an agreement to secure large supplies of the drug remdesivir from Gilead Sciences through September, allowing hospitals to purchase the drug in amounts allocated by HHS and state health departments.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin agreed to provide PPP data to relevant congressional committees. The information will include borrower names and amounts but will exclude nonpublic personally identifiable and commercially sensitive business information.
The FCC announced a process developed with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation to ensure critical infrastructure communications projects can be completed quickly because so many Americans are relying on high-speed internet service. The new process will allow wireless licensees to request expedited review for essential and immediate projects that respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The CDC held a Telebriefing Update on June 25. A transcript and audio recording of the briefing – including comments by CDC’s Dr. Robert Redfield and Dr. Jay Butler – is here.
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos issued a rule that would help to ensure students whose learning was impacted by COVID-19 are served equitably by CARES Act funding. The rule, which became effective immediately, outlines how local education agencies must calculate the emergency funds available for providing equitable services to students and teachers in private schools.