President Joe Biden began addressing the COVID-19 pandemic on January 21st, signing ten executive orders to expand testing and vaccine access, invoking the Defense Production Act, and setting new travel restrictions, according to CBS News.
“We’re entering what may be the toughest and deadliest period of the virus,” said Biden in his inauguration speech, “We must set aside politics and finally face this pandemic as one nation.”
With the US now surpassing 400,000 deaths from COVID-19, responding to the health and economic effects of this pandemic is a top priority for the newly inaugurated President Joe Biden. The Biden-Harris administration’s plan to combat COVID-19 focuses on science and the expertise of health professionals as well as ensuring trust between the people and the government. Their extensive plan is detailed on their website in a seven step process.
The first aspect of their plan includes access to free vaccines for all to improve tracing. This translates to doubling drive-through testing sites, investing in innovative testing such as at-home and instant tests, establishing a Pandemic Testing board to aid in the massive scale production and distribution of tests, and creating a US Public Health Jobs Corps so that 100,000 Americans can aid in tracing particularly for at-risk populations. This testing plan alone is reportedly $50 billion, according to USA Today.
Next, the plan outlines a federal response to provide all states PPE, which will be manufactured in the United States to promote national independence. A crucial aspect of this is the Defense Production Act which will allow for full PPE, such as masks and face shields, to be provided to all, particularly in areas with vulnerable populations that have suffered from a lack of access.
From an information standpoint, the plan includes giving clear, evidence and science based instructions for communities. Relative to each community, Biden plans to direct the CDC to provide guidelines on when to open certain businesses, how to navigate schools, and when stay-at-home orders are necessary. To prevent states from being forced to cut the salaries of government workers, the plan includes a fund available at the discretion of local governments. The plan also directs Congress to ensure schools have the resources they need and to implement financial packages for small businesses to pay for new safety materials.
Biden’s fourth step includes investing $25 billion for manufacturing and distributing vaccines to every American for free. The plan puts an emphasis on transparency, including publicizing all reports and data. The plan also addresses concerns of price gouging, ensuring equitable access as a priority.
The plan places a special emphasis on protecting those at high risk. A COVID-19 Racial and Ethnic Disparities Task Force, proposed by Senator Harris, is a part of the plan in order to provide oversight on disparities caused by the response. The plan also includes the Nationwide Pandemic Dashboard for individuals to track local transmission in their areas. This is particularly meant to help older Americans gauge the necessary level of precaution. Further, Biden’s campaign has previously released plans for older Americans, people with disabilities, and those without health insurance.
The response plan also operates on a global scale, particularly in regards to China. It includes restoring the National Security Council Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense, rebuilding a relationship with the World Health Organization, relaunching PREDICT (a tracking program), and deploying more CDC employees specifically in Beijing.
Finally, the plan pushes for a nationwide mask mandate. This would mean that masks are always worn outside of the household, which is made mandatory by governors in each state and cooperation from local authorities with those state orders.
With this ambitious plan, the White House requires and has been pushing for in Congress a $2 trillion coronavirus proposal, according to CBS News.
While Republican Senator Mitt Romney said that he trusts the word of the White House, he told “Fox News Sunday” that the amount of money the White House proposed was “shocking” and he didn’t believe it would be “the best thing” for the U.S. economy long term, according to Reuters.
The proposal has faced challenges in Congress, and it is not certain whether the White House will gain the necessary support for the funding the plan requires. Likely, compromise is necessary to gain more bipartisan support. As per Biden’s campaign messaging, the White House is seeking unity around the issue and hoping for a cooperative Congress.
“We can’t wait,” White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told Reuters. “Just because Washington has been gridlocked before doesn’t mean it needs to continue to be gridlocked.”