COVID-19 News: Agencies Dispel Rumors, Online Training for Medical Professionals, New IBM CEO, 2021 NDAA on Schedule

Here’s an overview of some of the latest developments on the government and tech fronts due to COVID-19:

Agencies Join Forces to Combat Coronavirus Rumors

Across the Federal government, agencies are teaming up to fight COVID-19 coronavirus rumors through online myth versus fact campaigns. Key government resources, coronavirus.gov and USA.gov, provide detailed accounts of the most up-to-date COVID-19 resources for American citizens. Other agencies have implemented rumor control campaigns to fight misinformation. The Department of Defense launched a defense-specific myth versus fact website and the Federal Emergency Management Agency is keeping an updated frequently asked question section on its rumor control landing page.

Non-Profit Launches to Provide Free Training to Medical Professionals

Volunteer Surge, a non-profit consortium of private sector and academia organizations, launched a new website today to recruit, train, and deploy one million volunteer health workers to fight the coronavirus pandemic.  Powered by cloud computing, including services from AWS and Salesforce, anyone can sign up, complete a free 30-hour training, and be connected with volunteer assignments in their community. The project hopes to reduce the burden on healthcare professionals by assigning volunteers simple tasks, such as triage care for non-coronavirus cases and staffing drive-through testing sites, to free up professionals for more serious COVID-19 care.

IBM’s new CEO Arvind Krishna Takes Over

Yesterday marked Arvind Krishna’s first day as IBM’s new CEO. Krishna, who was named CEO in January, replaced Ginny Rometty, who is now the executive chairman of the board until her retirement at the end of 2020.

Under normal circumstances Krishna’s first day may have involved him making the rounds at the office, shaking hands with other executives, but amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Krishna takes the lead as much of the company’s workforce is teleworking. In a letter to employees sent yesterday, Krishna discussed the impact of COVID-19 on the company. He said the company’s first priority is its employees’ “physical health and mental well-being.” Additionally, he praised how well the company has shifted to telework and thanked essential employees who still had to report to work in-person.

In the letter, Krishna announced several changes to IBM’s leadership team, including naming Jim Whitehurst as IBM’s president, Bridget van Kralingen as the senior vice president of Global Markets, Paul Cormier as CEO of Red Hat, and Howard Boville as senior vice president of Cloud Platform.

House Defense Bill to Proceed for May 1 Draft

Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., said Tuesday that he expects a draft of the chamber’s annual defense bill to proceed on schedule amidst the coronavirus pandemic and hopes to have the bill’s language ready by May 1.

“It is more complicated to juggle all of that when you’re not in regular contact with other members,” said Smith, on a call with reporters, “but we are going to work through it and press forward.”

Smith said the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) could be “a little bit smaller” due to the shortened legislative calendar in an election year, but he said he does not expect the bill to be abridged because of the coronavirus.

“There’s no plans at this point to scale back,” Smith said. “The plan basically is to get it ready and then freeze dry it for a while.”

President Trump signed last year’s NDAA on December 20, but Smith said he hoped to get the bill done finished by October 1.

“Originally, with the campaign coming, the plan was get done by the end of September,” Smith said. “That’s part of what drove my optimism.”

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