Coronavirus Roundup: Report Finds Improvements on Agencies’ COVID-19 Webpages; Smithsonian Animals Get Vaccinated – GovExec.com

The Center for Plain Language recently issued its 10th annual report card for fiscal 2021, which looks at how agencies’ websites comply with the 2010 Plain Writing Act that seeks to eliminate jargon in federal communications. As for writing quality, “overall the average writing grade was a B-, unchanged from last year,” said the center. “But this year’s average was pulled down by poor marks for the [Freedom of Information Act] request pages, where the average grade was a C+.” However, “agencies are doing a better job communicating about the pandemic” due to major improvements from the Treasury Department, Social Security Administration, Housing and Urban Development Department and Small Business Administration. 

Government Executive asked the center what, if any, impact the presidential transition had on the report since fiscal 2021 included both the Trump and Biden administrations. “In the past few months, we’ve seen a real resurgence of interest in plain language,” said David Lipscomb, vice chair of the Center for Plain Language and lead judge for the report card, in response. “Agencies are suddenly reaching out to me: identifying their new plain language officers, notifying me when they’ve published their plain language compliance report, and even asking me to resend our judges’ comments from last year. For the first time since 2015, more than two-thirds of agencies earned an A for their compliance with the [act].”

The Food and Drug Administration is expected to announce this week that individuals can receive booster shots that are different from their original coronavirus vaccines, The Washington Post reported on Monday. “The agency is rushing to make the announcement Wednesday as part of its authorization of boosters for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines,” said the report. “The FDA may also say that people should generally stick to the same vaccine if possible, according to the two federal officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.”

The Biden administration’s COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force will hold a virtual meeting on October 28 to present and vote on its final report that has plans for “mitigating inequities caused or exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and for preventing such inequities in the future,” said a notice in the Federal Register. 

The Congressional Transparency Caucus will host a virtual event with the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee on Wednesday to discuss oversight of over $5 trillion in pandemic relief. Speakers will include Michael Horowitz, committee chairman and Justice Department inspector general; Liz Hempowicz of the Project on Government Oversight; Joseph Ferguson, former IG of Chicago; and Caryl Brzymialkiewicz, Interior Department deputy IG.

The Smithsonian National Zoo administered last week its first round of animal-specific coronavirus vaccines, which the Agriculture Department has authorized. Also, “ the lions and tigers who tested presumptive positive for COVID-19 at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo the week of Sept. 13 are recovering well,” said the Smithsonian in a press release on Friday. “All lions and tigers are behaving, eating and drinking normally.” 

The Government Accountability Office issued a report last week about the Indian Health Services’ contracting during the pandemic. “Despite facing challenges, including unprecedented demand for medical supplies, IHS was able to acquire needed products from a variety of vendors” and used various contracting flexibilities, said the report. “However, we found that IHS contracting officers did not notice that some COVID-related supplies were delivered late. Officials attributed this oversight to the spike in volume as well as the urgency of procurements during a pandemic.” 

Upcoming: White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will give a briefing at 1 p.m.

Help us understand the situation better. Are you a federal employee, contractor or military member with information, concerns, etc. about how your agency is handling the coronavirus? Email us at newstips@govexec.com.

(Image via Flickr user pelican)

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