The Department of Health and Human Services is bidding out a communications contract worth over $250 million intending to “defeat despair and inspire hope” about the coronavirus pandemic, Politico reports. In what would shape up as a massive public relations campaign, the agency reportedly says its goals include “sharing best practices for businesses to operate in the new normal” and “instill[ing] confidence to return to work and restart the economy.” The campaign would also help build a “coalition of spokespeople” around the country, providing important public health information relating to a potential coronavirus vaccine and phases of reopening. Most money, the document says, would be spent from now until January 2021.
The timing of the HHS contract coincides with growing questions about the independence of federal health agencies from the Trump administration. Stephen Hahn, head of the Food and Drug Administration—an agency within HHS—admitted he overstated the benefits of convalescent plasma at a news conference last week. Hahn then removed the FDA’s top communications official, a political appointee, after only two weeks on the job.