President Joe Biden on Thursday launched initiatives to curb the COVID-19 pandemic raging in the United States, tackling his top priority on his first full day in the White House as he seeks a change of course compared to the style of government of former President Donald Trump.
The plan, named the National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness, hopes to “restore the confidence of the American people” and “the national strategy will signal clear public leadership and a commitment to a strong whole-of-government response that puts the science at the forefront, ”the White House said in a statement shared with Al Jazeera.
The White House statement lists the goals of Biden’s plan:
- Restore trust with the American people.
- Organize a safe, effective and comprehensive vaccination campaign.
- Mitigate the spread by expanding the wearing of masks, testing, treatment, data, healthcare personnel, and clear public health standards.
- Immediately expand emergency relief and enforce the Defense Production Act.
- Safely reopen schools, businesses and travel while protecting workers.
- Protect those most at risk and promote equity, including across racial, ethnic and rural / urban boundaries.
- Restore U.S. leadership globally and improve your preparedness for future threats.
The COVID-19 pandemic has killed at least 406,196 people in the United States, according to a count from Johns Hopkins University. There have been more than 24,500,000 confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic.
Trump has been criticized for what some call a “sloppy” response to the pandemic and the vaccine rollout. The United States aimed to administer 20 million vaccines by 2021, but only donated 2.8 million.
“We can and will beat COVID-19. America deserves a response to the COVID-19 pandemic that is driven by science, data and public health – not politics, ”the White House said in the statement.
Trump has frequently sought to downplay the severity of the pandemic, but Biden has placed the disease at the top of a list of daunting challenges, including rebuilding a ravaged economy and tackling racial injustice.
Biden will sign a series of executive orders related to the pandemic on Thursday, including wearing a mask at airports and certain types of public transportation, including many trains, planes and intercity buses, officials said.
Among the 10 new orders, Biden will establish a COVID-19 test card to speed up testing, address supply shortages, establish protocols for international travelers and direct resources to hard-hit minority communities.
Biden will also tackle inequalities in hard-hit minority communities as he signs 10 pandemic-related decrees on Thursday.
The new administration aims to deliver 100 million vaccines in its first 100 days, in part by opening up access to the vaccine to new groups, including grocery store workers and teachers.
Some independent experts believe the administration should set a bar higher than 100 million shots.
Dr Christopher Murray of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle told The Associated Press that during flu season, the United States is able to immunize about three million people per day.
“Given the number of people dying from COVID, we could and should be doing more – like what we are able to do against seasonal flu,” Murray said.
Biden will also issue a guideline on Thursday including plans to join the COVID-19 Global Vaccine Access Center (COVAX), which aims to deliver vaccines to poor countries, Biden’s chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci said Thursday. , at the World Health Organization.
One of Biden’s first acts as president was to stop the previous administration’s plans to withdraw from the organization.
Biden last week proposed a $ 1.9 trillion COVID-19 package that would improve unemployment benefits and provide direct cash payments to households to ease financial pain from the coronavirus.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the $ 1.9 trillion includes “the components needed to give people the relief they need,” but acknowledged the package would likely change as it called for the approval of Congress.
On Thursday, Biden plans to task the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) with fully reimbursing states and tribes for costs associated with the National Guard’s efforts to fight the virus, officials said.
The measure reinstates FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund “full reimbursement” for costs associated with reopening schools. FEMA funds are typically dispersed after hurricanes, floods, or other natural disasters.
Officials said the administration would also invoke the Defense Production Act of 1950 for rapid vaccine distribution.
Some of Biden’s early initiatives could get bogged down in Congress, where the US Senate is considering how to proceed with Trump’s impeachment trial.
The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives impeached Trump last week for inciting an insurgency during the deadly Jan.6 rampage on the U.S. Capitol.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has yet to send the impeachment article to the Senate. According to Senate rules, the trial of the former Republican president would begin the day after the charge was sent.
Senate leaders are working to agree on a two-track trajectory for a lengthy impeachment trial, appointments and legislation.
Biden urged lawmakers not to let Trump’s trial interfere with his legislative priorities and confirm Biden’s U.S. cabinet. On Thursday, Psaki reiterated that Biden would leave the mechanics of the procedure until the Senate.