Technicians prepare to run a test of one of the Battelle decontamination systems delivered to Colorado by FEMA and HHS on May 8 in Brighton, Colorado. Photo: Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

The Department of Homeland Security's watchdog has launched a new investigation into how FEMA coordinated with federal agencies to prepare for — and respond to — the coronavirus pandemic.

Why it matters: FEMA is leading federal operations in response to the outbreak and is tasked with distributing vital medical supplies and protective equipment across the U.S.

  • Yes, but: When procuring supplies, inexperienced volunteers recruited by Jared Kushner were reportedly tasked with choosing where the equipment should go, per the New York Times.

What they're saying: “The COVID-19 Supply Chain Task Force vetted hundreds of leads for PPE that were passed along to FEMA and HHS. While the volunteers played an important role, they were not FEMA employees," a FEMA spokesperson told Axios.

  • The agency said it could not yet respond to the IG's ongoing investigation, as it is not finished.
  • FEMA is enabled to "closely coordinate with our federal and non-governmental partners to support state, territorial, local and tribal governments" in response to the pandemic, the spokesperson said.

Flashback: Top vaccine doctor Rick Bright alleged in his whistleblower report that FEMA and the Department of Health and Human Services were "passing the buck back and forth" on who should buy more needles and syringes, in response to a shortage.

Of note: The DHS watchdog has also opened a new probe into how Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Patrol are managing the coronavirus among detainees and staff at their facilities.

Go deeper: FEMA has been another coronavirus lifeline for health care providers

Editor's note: This story has been updated with FEMA's response.

Go deeper

Updated Oct 7, 2020 - Health

World coronavirus updates

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Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

New Zealand now has active no coronavirus cases in the community after the final six people linked to the Auckland cluster recovered, the country's Health Ministry confirmed in an email Wednesday.

The big picture: The country's second outbreak won't officially be declared closed until there have been "no new cases for two incubation periods," the ministry said. Auckland will join the rest of NZ in enjoying no domestic restrictions from late Wednesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, declaring that NZ had "beat the virus again."

Iowa closes bars, nightclubs in 6 counties due to coronavirus spikes among young people

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) on Thursday ordered all bars, nightclubs and breweries to close in six counties across the state after a spike in positive coronavirus cases, specifically among young adults, the Des Moines Register reports.

The state of play: The order will remain in effect until at least Sept. 5, and counties containing major universities were specifically targeted. Restaurants in the affected counties will also be ordered to stop serving alcohol after 10 p.m.

Trump admin to buy 150 million rapid COVID-19 tests from Abbott

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and President Trump on Aug. 27. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

The Trump administration plans to purchase 150 million rapid coronavirus tests from Abbott Laboratories, the White House announced Thursday.

Why it matters: Abbott said Wednesday it plans to make 50 million of the $5 coronavirus tests by the start of October. COVID-19 testing, which is essential to tracking the spread of the virus, declined across the U.S. this month.

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