President Biden’s first full day in office will focus on the coronavirus pandemic, including new executive actions that signal a move aggressive federal approach than that employed by the Trump administration, according to the White House.
With Biden aides complaining that the Trump administration left them with no national plan to follow, the new president on Thursday will sign 10 executive orders and other actions to jump start his team’s strategy to slow the spread of COVID-19. The actions cover rolling out vaccines and ramping up testing so more businesses and schools can open.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Wednesday evening that the new president is willing to compromise with lawmakers in pursuit of his campaign-trail pledge to pass a sweeping coronavirus relief bill. But she acknowledged those negotiations, which have yet to begin, will take time. The coming actions signal Biden intends to use the powers of his office to act when he does not need congressional approval.
On top of recommitting the United States to the World Health Organization and issuing a 100-day mask challenge this week, here are some of the actions Biden will take Thursday:
Expanding emergency relief and exercising the Defense Production Act
Biden will sign an executive order directing agencies to “exercise all appropriate authorities,” such as the DPA, to speed up manufacturing and delivery of COVID-19 equipment and supplies. That includes N95 masks and nitrocellulose material for rapid antigen tests.
He and other Democrats criticized then-President Donald Trump for what they saw as his unwillingness to use the law to compel U.S. companies to do more in combating the virus.
Biden will also issue a presidential memorandum asking the Federal Emergency Management Administration to cover the full cost of states and tribes using National Guard personnel and emergency supplies to help them, for example, reopen schools.
Investing in testing, treatment, and public health workers and creating clear standards
Biden will sign an order that establishes the COVID-19 Pandemic Testing Board to increase testing supplies and access to them. He’ll issue another order requesting studies, particularly of minority communities, to identify the best COVID-19 treatments, therapies, and clinical care. Separately, the order will seek to improve COVID-19 data collection, sharing, and analysis.
Mounting a comprehensive vaccination campaign
With the aim of providing 100 million vaccines by the end of his first 100 days, Biden on Wednesday had FEMA start setting up 100 federally supported vaccination centers, in addition to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention coordinating distribution with local pharmacies. The U.S. Public Health Services Commissioned Corps will assist staffing that effort.
Safely reopening schools, businesses, and travel
Biden will sign an order calling on the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services to offer guidance on how to safely reopen schools, child care centers, universities, and colleges. The order encourages the Federal Communications Commission to boost connectivity options for students who don’t have reliable internet at home.
Biden will also issue an order urging the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Mine Safety and Health Administration to put out safety standards. He’ll task the agencies with enforcing their own rules.
He’ll sign an order, too, mandating masks in airports and on many trains, airplanes, vessels, and intercity buses. International travelers will also have to produce proof of a negative COVID-19 test prior to their arrival in the country.
Protecting vulnerable and minority communities
Biden will sign an order assembling a COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force to make recommendations on how to avoid any virus-related disparities, no matter a person’s race, location, or other considerations.
Restoring U.S. global leadership and preparing for future threats
Biden will sign a presidential directive stating the country’s interest in being involved in international health and humanitarian pandemic responses, as well as biopreparedness for future biological threats.