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Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The Department of Health and Human Services is auctioning a more than $250 million contract to a communications firm to "defeat despair and inspire hope" about the coronavirus pandemic, Politico reported Monday evening.

Why it matters: The decision to offer the contract comes as HHS faces questions over its independence from the Trump administration in recent weeks.

  • Food and Drug Administration commissioner Stephen Hahn earlier this month called criticisms against his remarks about granting an emergency use authorization of convalescent plasma as a treatment for the coronavirus "entirely justified."
  • President Trump has previously accused senior health officials of being part of the "Deep State" following a decision to put the plasma treatment on hold.
  • Hahn said in a Twitter post that what he should have said better was that "the data show a relative risk reduction not an absolute risk reduction.

The state of play: The document, viewed by Politico, said a majority of the money will be spent from now until January.

  • The goals of the contract are to "defeat despair and inspire hope, sharing best practices for businesses to operate in the new normal and instill confidence to return to work and restart the economy,” build a “coalition of spokespeople” around the country, provide information on vaccines and therapeutic treatments, and give updates regarding reopenings.
“By harnessing the power of traditional, digital and social media, the sports and entertainment industries, public health associations, and other creative partners to deliver important public health and economic information the administration can defeat despair, inspire hope and achieve national recovery."
  • HHS did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

Go deeper

Updated Oct 19, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: Mix-and-matching gains momentum — Boosters overtake first doses in U.S. — Pfizer to vaccinate Brazilian cityPanel endorses J&J booster.
  2. Health: Age is still a huge coronavirus risk factor — Unvaccinated 11x more likely to die from COVID — 5x more police officers died from COVID than guns.
  3. Politics: Over 30 states limited public health powers — Pope Francis calls on companies to release vaccine patents — Melbourne, "world's most locked-down city," to lift stay-at-home orders.
  4. Education: Education secretary reveals limits to Biden’s mask push on states — LA extends deadline for school employee vaccinations — Parent sues Wisconsin school district after child tests positive.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Dec 9, 2020 - Health

Pennsylvania governor tests positive for coronavirus

Gov. Tom Wolf at a press conference on Oct. 1. Photo: Pete Bannan/MediaNews Group/Daily Local News via Getty Images

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D), 72, tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday, and is experiencing no symptoms as he self-isolates, he tweeted Wednesday.

The big picture: Current coronavirus hospitalizations and cases are skyrocketing in Pennsylvania, as well as in many states across the U.S., per the COVID Tracking Project. Wolf tweeted on Tuesday that "hospitalizations are reaching critical levels" in his state.

Trump says he plans to launch new social media network in 2022

Photo: Chris Delmas/AFP via Getty Images

Former President Trump on Wednesday announced plans to launch a social media network called "Truth Social," and that it would go public via a SPAC.

Why it matters: Most ex-presidents are focused on their legacies, by creating presidential libraries or engaging in philanthropic endeavors. Trump, however, remains consumed by social media.