A day after being sworn into office, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris hit the ground running in a race to beat COVID-19, which has now claimed more than 400,000 lives in the U.S.
Speaking with members of the media Thursday afternoon, Biden laid out his administration’s plans to aggressively change the course of COVID-19 by expanding testing, vaccinating more people, protecting those most at risk, and addressing racial and other disparities in COVID impact and care.
Biden pledged to level with the public. “Let me be clear,” he said during the White House press conference, “Things are going to continue to get worse before they get better.” However, he also promised that “help is on the way.”
Biden vowed to listen to the science to inform public policy and not sideline public health professionals.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, also appeared at the briefing. He spoke at length with the media and acknowledged that he now feels “liberated” to share his expertise under this administration. The previous administration hadn’t held a COVID-19 briefing since November.
President Biden signed 10 executive orders. His administration aims to expand testing and vaccine availability to administer 100 million doses by the end of April—many experts and political pundits have said the administration will greatly exceed that goal. The orders also included a federal mask mandate, requiring the wearing of masks in all federal buildings.
Additionally, the Biden administration kicked off a 100-day masking effort to encourage Americans to wear a mask in public for the next 100 days to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
More details on the seven-point Biden-Harris plan below:
Ensure all Americans have access to regular, reliable, and free testing.
- Double the number of drive-through testing sites.
- Invest in next-generation testing, including at home tests and instant tests, so we can scale up our testing capacity by orders of magnitude.
- Stand up a Pandemic Testing Board like Roosevelt’s War Production Board. It’s how we produced tanks, planes, uniforms, and supplies in record time, and it’s how we will produce and distribute tens of millions of tests.
- Establish a U.S. Public Health Jobs Corps to mobilize at least 100,000 Americans across the country with support from trusted local organizations in communities most at risk to perform culturally competent approaches to contact tracing and protecting at-risk populations.
Fix personal protective equipment (PPE) problems for good.
President Biden is taking responsibility and giving states, cities, tribes, and territories the critical supplies they need.
- Fully use the Defense Production Act to ramp up production of masks, face shields, and other PPE so that the national supply of personal protective equipment exceeds demand and our stores and stockpiles — especially in hard-hit areas that serve disproportionately vulnerable populations — are fully replenished.
- Build immediately toward a future, flexible American-sourced and manufactured capability to ensure we are not dependent on other countries in a crisis.
Provide clear, consistent, evidence-based guidance for how communities should navigate the pandemic – and the resources for schools, small businesses, and families to make it through.
- Social distancing is not a light switch. It is a dial. President Biden will direct the CDC to provide specific evidence-based guidance for how to turn the dial up or down relative to the level of risk and degree of viral spread in a community, including when to open or close certain businesses, bars, restaurants, and other spaces; when to open or close schools, and what steps they need to take to make classrooms and facilities safe; appropriate restrictions on size of gatherings; when to issue stay-at-home restrictions.
- Establish a renewable fund for state and local governments to help prevent budget shortfalls, which may cause states to face steep cuts to teachers and first responders.
- Call on Congress to pass an emergency package to ensure schools have the additional resources they need to adapt effectively to COVID-19.
- Provide a “restart package” that helps small businesses cover the costs of operating safely, including things like plexiglass and PPE.
Plan for the effective, equitable distribution of treatments and vaccines — because development isn’t enough if they aren’t effectively distributed.
- Invest $25 billion in a vaccine manufacturing and distribution plan that will guarantee it gets to every American, cost-free.
- Ensure that politics plays no role in determining the safety and efficacy of any vaccine. The following 3 principles will guide the Biden-Harris administration: Put scientists in charge of all decisions on safety and efficacy; publicly release clinical data for any vaccine the FDA approves; and authorize career staff to write a written report for public review and permit them to appear before Congress and speak publicly uncensored.
- Ensure everyone — not just the wealthy and well-connected — in America receives the protection and care they deserve, and consumers are not price gouged as new drugs and therapies come to market.
Protect older Americans and others at high risk.
President Biden understands that older Americans and others at high-risk are most vulnerable to COVID-19.
- Establish a COVID-19 Racial and Ethnic Disparities Task Force, as proposed by Vice President Harris, to provide recommendations and oversight on disparities in the public health and economic response. At the end of this health crisis, it will transition to a permanent Infectious Disease Racial Disparities Task Force.
- Create the Nationwide Pandemic Dashboard that Americans can check in real-time to help them gauge whether local transmission is actively occurring in their zip codes. This information is critical to helping all individuals, but especially older Americans and others at high risk, understand what level of precaution to take.
Rebuild and expand defenses to predict, prevent, and mitigate pandemic threats, including those coming from China.
- Immediately restore the White House National Security Council Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense, originally established by the Obama-Biden administration.
- Immediately restore our relationship with the World Health Organization, which — while not perfect — is essential to coordinating a global response during a pandemic.
- Re-launch and strengthen U.S. Agency for International Development’s pathogen-tracking program called PREDICT.
- Expand the number of CDC’s deployed disease detectives so we have eyes and ears on the ground, including rebuilding the office in Beijing.
Implement mask mandates nationwide by working with governors and mayors and by asking the American people to do what they do best: step up in a time of crisis.
Experts agree that tens of thousands of lives can be saved if Americans wear masks. President Biden will continue to call on:
- Every American to wear a mask when they are around people outside their household.
- Every Governor to make that mandatory in their state.
- Local authorities to also make it mandatory to buttress their state orders.
—Information provided, in part, by the Biden-Harris administration.