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Biden Releases National Strategy for COVID-19 Response, Pandemic Preparedness

January 21, 2021 by Reece Nations
President Joe Biden, accompanied by first lady Jill Biden, places his hand over his heart during a performance of the national anthem, during a virtual Presidential Inaugural Prayer Service in the State Dinning Room of the White House, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON — On the first full day of his term, President Joe Biden announced his plan to combat the novel coronavirus pandemic, entitled “National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness.” 

Biden’s strategy includes issuing 10 executive orders to mitigate the virus. In addition to these orders, Biden’s plan will recommit the United States to the World Health Organization after former-President Donald Trump severed ties with the organization in May 2020. 

“In addition to retracting the notification of withdrawal and retaining membership in the WHO, the United States will cease the drawdown of U.S. staff seconded to the WHO and will resume regular engagement of U.S. government personnel with the WHO both directly and through our WHO Collaborating Centers,” Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical advisor to the president, said in remarks at the World Health Organization Executive Board Meeting. 

Biden signed letters to United Nations Secretary General António Guterres and WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom to rescind the U.S.’s withdrawal from the organization. This directive aims to “support the international health and humanitarian response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its secondary impacts, global health security and diplomacy, and better biopreparedness and resilience for emerging and future biological threats,” according to a Biden administration release. 

“I am also pleased to announce today that the United States plans to work multilaterally to respond to and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Fauci said. “President Biden will issue a directive later today which will include the intent of the U.S. to join COVAX and support the ACT-Accelerator to advance multilateral efforts for COVID-19 vaccine, therapeutic, and diagnostic distribution, equitable access, and research and development.” 

Fauci continued, “The United States will also work with the WHO and member states to counter the erosion of major gains in global health that we have achieved through decades of research, collaboration and investments in health and health security, including in HIV/AIDS, food security, malaria, and epidemic preparedness.” 

Biden also intends to enact orders directing appropriate agencies to accelerate the manufacturing of supplies vaccination, testing and personal protective equipment, increasing reimbursement to states from the Federal Emergency Management Administration from 75% to 100% of the cost for National Guard personnel and emergency supplies, and establishing the “COVID-19 Pandemic Testing Board.” 

Further, Biden’s plan entails orders that will establish a preclinical drug discovery and development program, enhance federal data collection and analysis relating to the virus, and direct FEMA to institute federally-supported community vaccination centers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is also establishing a federal pharmacy program that will roll out vaccines to community pharmacies under Biden’s plan. 

Biden will also direct the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services to provide federal guidelines for schools, child care providers, and institutions of higher education to reopen and operate under. The plan also directs the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to enforce worker health and safety requirements related to coronavirus mitigation. 

“President Joe Biden has made clear that he intends to change the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, and America’s mayors are grateful for his leadership,” U.S. Conference of Mayors President and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said in a statement. “We applaud his actions today to both establish a coordinated and unified national response to this pandemic and re-engage with the World Health Organization to enable a collaborative international response.” 

Fischer continued in his statement, “Like President Biden, we know the only way to get this pandemic under control is to ask the American people to do their part and wear a mask. We support President Biden’s 100 Days Masking Challenge and look forward to working with our federal partners at the Department of Health and Human Services and Centers for Disease Control to help implement masking, physical distancing, and other public health measures to help stop the spread of COVID-19.” 

A separate executive action will mandate face-coverings “in airports, on certain modes of public transportation, including many trains, airplanes, maritime vessels, and intercity buses,” according to a plan summary released by the Biden administration. Biden’s order also “requires international travelers to produce proof of a negative COVID-19 test prior to departing for the United States and to comply with CDC guidelines for self-isolation and self-quarantine upon arrival.” 

Trump issued international travel restrictions in response to the pandemic but stopped short of federally mandating mask-wearing in public areas and federal property. Just days before leaving office, Trump acted to repeal coronavirus-related travel restrictions for parts of Europe, Ireland, the United Kingdom and Brazil. 

A portion of Biden’s plan addresses the virus’ “disproportionate and severe impact” in underserved communities and communities of color. The plan will establish the “COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force” that will furnish recommendations for the allocation of resources and funding in communities with pandemic-related inequities by race, ethnicity, geography, disability and other considerations. 

“Millions of Americans continue to suffer severe economic hardship as a result of this pandemic,” Fischer said in a statement. “President Biden’s actions directing federal agencies to review extending the federal eviction moratorium and the pause on payments for direct student federal loans will provide much needed relief for the millions of Americans struggling economically, even as we continue to fight this pandemic for months to come. America’s Mayors are committed to working with the Biden-Harris administration to change the course of this pandemic and ensure the American people get the support they need during this difficult time.” 

On Capitol Hill Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters House Democrats have rearranged their schedule over the next two weeks to move immediately on a massive coronavirus relief package.

“We’re getting ready for a COVID relief package. We’ll be working on that as we go,” she said. “We’ll be doing our committee work all next week so that we are completely ready to go to the floor when we come back.”

Pelosi suggested the next COVID-19 relief package could be ready for a vote on the House floor as soon as the week of Feb. 1. However, as of Thursday, no floor vote has been scheduled.

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