President Biden plans to sign a series of orders and directives on his second day in office to take charge of stopping the spread of the coronavirus, steps that his advisers say will start to boost testing, vaccinations, supplies and treatments.
Accelerating the sluggish federal response to COVID-19 is Biden’s top priority, and he has promised 100 million vaccinations in his first 100 days. He is also pushing Congress for another $1.9 trillion in relief, a package that would include direct payments to Americans, support for small businesses and a huge boost in funding for vaccines and testing.
Biden will push to advance the strategy his team has developed, starting with 10 executive orders and directives, his COVID-19 response coordinator, Jeff Zients, told reporters.
“Last week you heard the president lay out his vaccine strategy,” Zients said, adding that on Thursday, Biden will advance “the road map to guide America out of this public health crisis.”
One of the orders will direct agencies to use the Defense Production Act to address critical shortfalls in 12 categories of items needed for testing, treating and vaccinating people for COVID-19: vaccines, N95 masks, gowns, gloves, test supplies and kits, lab analysis machines, therapeutic drugs and other supplies — and will work to spur production of the items in America.
“Where we can produce more, we will — where we need to — use the Defense Production Act to help more be made,” Tim Manning, Biden’s COVID-19 supply coordinator, told reporters.
“We’ll be doing a complete … inventory of what we have on hand, what’s needed across America to respond to this pandemic and what we can do to fill those gaps,” said Manning, a former deputy administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Biden plans to sign a memo to direct FEMA to fully reimburse states for vaccination and testing supplies and for the costs of National Guard deployments associated with the pandemic, officials told reporters. Biden plans to establish the COVID-19 Pandemic Testing Board to boost testing.
Other orders and directives are planned to:
- Require masks on planes and buses and in airports, and require travelers to show a negative COVID-19 test before flying to the United States.
- Direct more studies and trials of COVID-19 treatments.
- Mandate more public data on cases and vaccinations.
- Offer more guidance to schools on reopening.
- Direct the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to provide guidance for workplaces.
- Establish a COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force to make recommendations on ensuring underserved communities hurt worst by the pandemic are treated more fairly.
Biden also plans to support the global response to the pandemic and will join the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility and other multilateral initiatives.