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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Democrats expressed concern after Michael Pack, the new Trump-appointed CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, dismissed the heads of at least three news outlets he oversees and disbanded boards to install allies Wednesday, per AP.

Driving the news: Pack fired Bay Fang, head of Radio Free Asia, Jamie Fly, who headed Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe, and Alberto Fernandez, who was the head of the Middle East Broadcasting Network, Alberto Fernandez, according to AP.

Why it matters: There are fears Pack, a conservative filmmaker with ties to Steve Bannon, may turn Voice of America and other outlets he oversees "into Trump administration propaganda machines," AP notes. (VOA journalists have rejected such claims.)

  • After Senate Republicans voted last Friday to confirm him to the position, Voice of America director Amanda Bennett and deputy director Sandy Sugawara both resigned from their posts at the state-sponsored international news agency.
  • Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement on Wednesday that Pack's actions were an "egregious breach" and confirm he's "on a political mission to destroy the USAGM’s independence."

What they're saying: The Trump administration did not respond to a request for comment.

  • Pack vowed earlier on Wednesday to uphold the mandated role of Voice of America in "providing independent worldwide journalism even though it is a U.S. government-funded agency," according to VOA — which later carried AP's report of the reshuffle on its website.

Of note: The White House accused VOA in April of promoting Chinese propaganda during its coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

The big picture: Broader concerns about VOA's independence arose after an Obama-era legal provision changed governance over the agency from a board of non-partisan directors to a CEO selected by the president, Axios' Sara Fisher notes.

Go deeper: VOA journalists fight claims that it is Trump propaganda

Go deeper

Scoop: Open Technology Fund asks Inspector General to investigate

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Open Technology Fund is requesting that the U.S. Office of the Inspector General investigate its parent, the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), for breaching a firewall provision that is supposed to protect government-funded media agencies from political interference.

The big picture: The move is the latest in a very messy fight between the USAGM and one of the organizations it oversees. Earlier on Monday, journalists at another USAGM agency, Voice of America, wrote a letter to their interim CEO alleging that the new head of USAGM was endangering the agency's reporters.

7 hours ago - Health

Biden says it's "not the time to relax" after touring vaccination site

President Biden speaking after visiting a FEMA Covid-19 vaccination facility in Houston on Feb. 26. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said Friday that "it's not the time to relax" coronavirus mitigation efforts and warned that the number of cases and hospitalizations could rise again as new variants of the virus emerge.

Why it matters: Biden, who made the remarks after touring a vaccination site in Houston, echoed CDC director Rochelle Walensky, who said earlier on Friday that while the U.S. has seen a recent drop in cases and hospitalizations, "these declines follow the highest peak we have experienced in the pandemic."

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: Most COVID-19 survivors can weather risk of reinfection, study says — "Twindemic" averted as flu reports plummet amid coronavirus crisis
  2. Vaccine: FDA advisory panel endorses J&J COVID vaccine for emergency use — About 20% of U.S. adults have received first vaccine dose, White House says — New data reignites the debate over coronavirus vaccine strategy.
  3. Economy: What's really going on with the labor market.
  4. Local: All adult Minnesotans will likely be eligible for COVID-19 vaccine by summer — Another wealthy Florida community receives special access to COVID-19 vaccine.
  5. Sports: Poll weighs impact of athlete vaccination.

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