Coronavirus

Biden issues slew of pandemic initiatives to improve vaccine distribution, expand testing and reopen schools

TOPSHOT - US President Joe Biden sits in the Oval Office as he signs a series of orders at the White House in Washington, DC, after being sworn in at the US Capitol on January 20, 2021. - US President Joe Biden signed a raft of executive orders to launch his administration, including a decision to rejoin the Paris climate accord. The orders were aimed at reversing decisions by his predecessor, reversing the process of leaving the World Health Organization, ending the ban on entries from mostly Muslim-majority countries, bolstering environmental protections and strengthening the fight against Covid-19. (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

(CNN) — President Joe Biden’s first full day in office Thursday will focus on getting the Covid-19 pandemic under control, rolling out his national strategy that includes several executive actions related to vaccinations and testing in hopes of moving the federal response in a different direction.

The day after being sworn-in, Biden plans to sign at least 10 executive orders, memorandums and directives focused on tackling the pandemic, which, as of Thursday morning, has claimed the lives of more than 400,000 Americans and infected over 24 million in the US. And he is set to present some of his initiatives to the public at 2 p.m. ET and his press secretary and Dr. Anthony Fauci will answer questions at 4 p.m. ET.

Biden will sign an order ramping up supplies for vaccination, testing and personal protective equipment and another boosting development of therapeutics to treat Covid-19.

Following through on his campaign proposals, Biden will sign two executive orders creating a National Pandemic Testing Board to improve US coronavirus testing capacity and a Covid-19 Health Equity Task Force to ensure an “equitable” pandemic response and recovery.

Another executive order will enhance the nation’s collection, production, sharing and analysis of data about the virus.

He will direct the Federal Emergency Management Agency to offer full reimbursement to states for the cost of National Guard personnel and emergency supplies such as PPE for schools.

Biden will direct the Department of Education and Department of Health and Human Services to provide guidance for safe reopening and operating of schools, childcare providers, and institutions of higher education.

He will issue an executive order calling on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to release clear guidance on Covid-19, decide whether to establish emergency temporary standards, and directs OSHA to enforce worker health and safety requirements.

Building on the order he signed Wednesday making masks mandatory on federal property, Biden will also take action to require facial coverings in airports and on certain modes of transportation, including many trains, planes, maritime vessels and intercity buses. Thursday’s executive order will also require international travelers to provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test prior to traveling to the US.

Biden also plans to issue a presidential directive to restore America’s leadership, support the international pandemic response effort, promote resilience for future threats, and advance global health security and the Global Health Security Agenda.

Newly-installed White House Covid coordinator Jeff Zients told reporters Wednesday that Biden’s pandemic strategy will be “a fundamentally different approach from the Trump administration,” and will be “driven by science, data, and public health” — not politics.

CNN reported Thursday that Biden and his advisers are inheriting a nonexistent coronavirus vaccine distribution plan to speak of from the Trump administration, with sources telling CNN that they’ll have to essentially “build everything from scratch.”

“For almost a year now, Americans could not look to the federal government for any strategy, let alone a comprehensive approach to respond to COVID. And we’ve seen the tragic costs of that failure. As President Biden steps into office today that, that’ll change tomorrow,” Zients said Wednesday.

After his swearing-in ceremony Wednesday, Biden’s first action as President was to impose a mask mandate on federal property. Biden also installed a coronavirus response coordinator to oversee the White House’s efforts to distribute vaccines and medical supplies. He also signed an executive order halting US withdrawal from the World Health Organization.

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