On his first full day in office, President Joe Biden announced ten orders to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, mandating masks for public transportation and directing authorities to US companies during the war to manufacture N95 masks, swabs and to undertake other equipment.
The president’s plan focuses on speeding up testing for the coronavirus, speeding up the pace of vaccinations, and giving state and local officials more money and instructions, according to a copy released Thursday. A key component of the plan is restoring confidence in the American public. It is also focused on vaccinating more people, safely reopening schools, businesses and travel, and slowing the spread of the virus.
“The national strategy provides a roadmap to lead America out of its worst public health crisis in a century,” the plan said. “America has always risen to the challenge we face and we will do that now.”
Biden took office at a crucial time in the pandemic. Nearly 3,000 Americans die from Covid-19 every day, according to Johns Hopkins University, and newly discovered more contagious strains have gained a foothold in the United States, threatening to drive the nation’s outbreak to even more deadly heights. The plan, released on Thursday, expands the initiatives outlined last week and describes how Biden intends to bring the outbreak under control and help the country recover.
President Joe Biden is preparing to sign a series of executive orders at the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office a few hours after his inauguration on January 20, 2021 in Washington.
Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images
Here are the instructions from the executive Biden plans to sign in his first two days in office to help tackle the pandemic:
Hours after Biden was sworn in as the 46th president on Wednesday, he signed more than a dozen executive actions in the Oval Office, including one that requires masks on federal property.
The president will also urge governors, local health officials, mayors and business leaders to encourage mask wear and social distancing.
Biden also plans to sign an ordinance on Thursday mandating masks on public transportation such as trains, buses and planes. International travelers must present a negative Covid-19 test prior to entering the United States and must be quarantined upon arrival. The Executive Ordinance also instructs other agencies to expand public health measures for domestic travel and cross-border land and sea travel.
Biden will also use his executive powers to instruct the agencies to use the Defense Production Act to compel companies to make the supplies necessary to fight the pandemic. This could include protective equipment such as masks as well as accessories for Covid-19 tests and vaccine delivery. The Trump administration invoked the law last year to get U.S. manufacturers to make ventilators and other consumables.
The executive order, entitled “A Sustainable Public Health Supply Chain” will also “guide the development of a new pandemic supply chain resilience strategy” to bolster domestic manufacturing of critical supplies.
“It is time to finally address America’s problems with the COVID response scarcity,” Biden’s plan reads.
State and local support
The administration will also seek to accelerate vaccine adoption by allocating more funding to local and state officials, creating more vaccination sites, and launching a national awareness campaign. The plan also calls for the administration to “encourage the healthcare workforce to support vaccination efforts,” which could include waiving some licensing requirements, for example.
Biden had previously announced that his government would give 100 million vaccine shots in the first 100 days. Jeff Zients, Biden’s Covid Response Coordinator, said on a conference call Wednesday evening that this was just the beginning.
“We are confident that we can get our 100 million shots in 100 days,” said Zients. “But this is really just the beginning where we have to be. We have to vaccinate as much of the US population as possible to get out of this pandemic, but we don’t have the infrastructure.”
Biden will instruct the Federal Emergency Management Agency to set up 100 community vaccination centers over the next month as part of this effort. Much like the Trump administration, Biden’s plan will also encourage states to move forward quickly to expand the groups eligible for the vaccine.
Covid response office
To build confidence in the government’s response, the White House will set up a COVID-19 Response Office to coordinate the pandemic response between federal agencies and establish clear lines of communication with local officials. The federal government will also hold regular expert-led briefings, the plan says.
Another executive ordinance will instruct the response office and all federal authorities to improve federal data collection and release. It instructs the CDC to post a county-level dashboard of Covid-19 cases “so that Americans can measure transmission levels in their own communities to make their own informed decisions,” the plan said.
Even if vaccination efforts accelerate, the plan calls for more research into treatments for Covid, particularly antivirals like Gilead’s remdesivir. Through an ordinance entitled “Improving and Expanding Access to Care and Treatment for COVID-19,” Biden will establish a new drug discovery and development program that emphasizes diversity in clinical trials.
This ordinance, titled Improving and Expanding Access to Care and Treatment for COVID-19, will also expand programs to assist patients recovering from Covid-19 and increase the capacity of health care workers.
In addition to new drugs, the plan is also focusing on further tests. The President will set up a new Pandemic Testing Panel to discover new types of effective and rapid tests and to scale them up quickly.
“To control the COVID-19 pandemic and safely reopen schools and businesses, America needs to conduct widespread testing,” the plan said.
The federal government will also provide guidance to schools, businesses, and other communities on how best to use widespread testing to slow the spread of the virus and cut chains of transmission as per the plan.
Reopening schools and businesses
The safe reopening of schools and businesses is a key component of the plan. It instructs the Department of Health and Human Services to collect data on school openings and the spread of Covid to allow more scientific research into the risk of children returning to school.
The new plan also calls on the health and safety authority to play a bigger role in providing employers with clear guidelines on safe practices and enforcement in the workplace.
Biden will set up a COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force to ensure vaccines, treatments, masks, and other resources reach everyone, including the more severely affected color communities that have suffered disproportionately high death rates in the United States
The plan doesn’t have an estimated cost, but the administration proposed a $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue package last week. The proposal, known as the American bailout plan, includes state and local state aid of $ 350 billion, $ 170 billion for K-12 schools and colleges, $ 50 billion for Covid testing, and $ 20 billion for a national vaccination program.
“We need Congress money to fund the national strategy,” said Zients.