Federal Update: New Coronavirus Cases Across the World Jump by the Most Ever in One Day, Taxpayers Face Delays as Backlogged IRS Struggles, CDC Sources: White House Putting Politics Ahead of Science

May 20, 2020

  • The number of newly reported coronavirus cases worldwide hit a daily record this week with more than 100,000 new cases over the last 24 hours, according to the World Health Organization. Almost two-thirds of the cases were reported in just four countries, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. “We still have a long way to go in this pandemic.” The majority of new confirmed cases are coming from the Americas, followed by Europe, according to WHO’s daily report. The U.S. reported 45,251 new cases on Tuesday, according to the agency. Russia had the second-most reported cases Tuesday at 9,263, according to WHO.
  • The tax behemoth that touches virtually every American has made the government’s most aggressive effort so far to recall its workforce. But like other federal agencies following President Trump’s push to reopen the country, the IRS is struggling to ensure the safety of its employees as it tries to chip away at a crushing backlog and reconnect with tens of millions of taxpayers it has struggled to serve since late March. No federal leaders could fully prepare for a disruption on this scale. Yet the IRS, awash in sensitive taxpayer information, finds itself in a morass brought on by years of crippling budget cuts, cumbersome paper-based systems and resistance to telework. The challenges seem insurmountable. Even before the recent coronavirus infections, few employees felt secure enough to go back. As of Monday, about 3,000 customer-service and clerical workers had volunteered to return to the office, an absentee rate of almost 75 percent.
  • CDC officials say their agency's efforts to mount a coordinated response to the COVID-19 pandemic have been hamstrung by a White House whose decisions are driven by politics rather than science. The result has worsened the effects of the crisis, sources inside the CDC say, relegating the 73-year-old agency that has traditionally led the nation's response to infectious disease to a supporting role. Rising tensions between CDC leadership and the White House over the perception that the agency has been sidelined has been a developing story in the media for weeks. But now, mid- and higher-ranking staff members within the agency are starting to voice their discontent.

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