On his first full day in office, President Joe Biden released details of his comprehensive plan to fight the coronavirus on Thursday. He announced 10 orders from the executive branch and directed the authorities to use the war-time powers to oblige U.S. companies to manufacture N95 masks, swabs, and other equipment to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
The president’s plan is focused on speeding up testing for the coronavirus, accelerating the pace of vaccinations, and giving state and local officials more resources and instructions. 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, say many epidemiologists and U.S. health officials. 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 U.S. and threaten to drive the nation’s outbreak to even more deadly heights. The 23-page plan, released on Thursday, expands on the initiatives outlined last week and describes how Biden plans 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
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. He also plans to require public transit masks and negative Covid tests for anyone entering the country from overseas.
Biden will also use his executive powers to instruct the agencies to apply the Defense Production Act to force companies to prioritize production deliveries necessary for the pandemic response. This could include protective equipment like masks, vaccine administration supplies and testing supplies, the plan said. The Trump administration also invoked the law to manufacture ventilators and other supplies.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.