The Department of Agriculture has confirmed an employee at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. has tested positive for coronavirus. The Department of Homeland Security said at least eight agents at the Transportation Security Agency also tested positive. Meanwhile, employees at agencies across government are on the front lines of fighting the pandemic.
Margaret Weichert, deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, delayed her departure from government to help coordinate that response – especially as it pertains to the federal workforce.
“I wanted to make sure there was a consistent transition and that a lot of the infrastructure supporting command and control of cross-agency activities continued,” Weichert said during an exclusive interview with Government Matters’ Francis Rose.
Here are some additional details from Weichert:
– OMB has instituted a daily call with the leading organizations across government – “The Executive PMC” (President’s Management Council). That group receive a situational update then coordinates a response around topics like federal workforce, procurement policies, information technology, buildings, and supply chain activities.
– OMB has been working to provide broad guidance and increasing latitude to agency, bureau, and department heads so they can make decisions on issues like telework.
– For federal workers who are not engaged in mission-critical activities, OMB is providing weather and safety leave coverage (as necessary) in order to streamline operations and promote social distancing.
– The Department of Labor has reduced face-to-face interactions among its workforce by 90-percent.
– “I think one of the things that is missing in the broader narrative [around COVID-19] is you can’t just look at somebody’s job and say, ‘Is that critical or not?’ The agencies themselves are in the best position to say, ‘Does that worker play a role in supporting the broad response to this emergency?’”
– The Office of Personnel Management responded quickly to a request from the Department of Veterans Affairs – and managed questions regarding retired annuitants – to help bring retired health care workers back into the fight against coronavirus.
– The Small Business Administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency are working together to increase call center capacity in order to support small businesses who have questions about loans.
– The Office of Federal Procurement Policy just issued some answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) in order to bring the contracting community into the communications flow.
– On the abrupt resignation of OPM Director Dale Cabaniss, Weichert said: “I’m very confident that Mike Rigas, the acting OPM Director, has [the COVID-19 response] mission front and center in his mind.”
– The amount of questions being asked of the Trump administration has overwhelmed – in a lot of cases – officials’ capacity to provide individualized responses. Weichert recommended employees start with their supervisors and human resource officers. She said the OPM app is also a very efficient way to get answers to FAQs.