A senator wants the White House to launch a centralized public website to coordinate the latest accurate information on the spread of the coronavirus so Americans can be best informed and prepare for the illness’s impacts.
Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., wrote to Vice President Mike Pence, who was appointed to lead response efforts, asking the Trump administration to create a “central hub of trusted information” under a domain such as coronavirus.gov or — using the virus’s scientific identifier COVID-19 — covid19.gov.
Without such a central resource, disinformation and misleading information are harming Americans’ ability to find accurate reports on the dangers and spread of the virus, Peters says. In his letter, he cites a State Department report that found “roughly 2 million tweets peddled conspiracy theories about the coronavirus over the three-week period when the outbreak began to spread outside China.”
“I have heard from public health and safety professionals in Michigan that the flood of mixed messaging and misinformation circulating about the Coronavirus has undermined the government’s ability to communicate effectively with the American people,” Peters, the ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said in a statement. “That’s why I’m calling on the Trump Administration to launch Coronavirus.gov. A centralized website would allow the federal government to deliver timely, trusted, and much-needed guidance to public health officials, health care providers, and the public to better contain the spread of Coronavirus…”
Peters thanked agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Homeland Security and others for their work to create fact sheets around the impact of the virus as it relates to their mission. A website, however, would do one better by bringing all of that information together in a central hub that can be regularly updated, he says in the letter.
Meanwhile, the federal government is preparing for the possibility of coronavirus spreading in regions with a large federal workforce. The Office of Personnel Management issued preliminary guidance late Tuesday for agencies to be prepared to grant telework, should the virus’ spread impact operations at federal buildings.
“To be prepared for COVID-19, departments and agencies must incorporate telework in their continuity of operations (COOP) plans,” says the guidance from OPM Director Dale Cabaniss. “[A]gencies should immediately review their current COOP plans to ensure that telework has been fully incorporated and that as many employees as possible have been identified as telework employees in the plan, and are telework capable (or “telework ready”).”
The spread of the virus in the state of Washington has caused DHS to close down one of its offices in the area.