Biden launches COVID-19 initiatives
President Joe Biden launched initiatives on Thursday to rein in the raging COVID-19 pandemic, tackling his top priority on his first full day in the White House, as he tries to turn the page on Donald Trump’s tumultuous leadership.
His Administration plans a coordinated federal coronavirus response aimed at restoring trust in the Government and focused on boosting vaccines, increasing testing, reopening schools and addressing inequalities thrown up by the disease.
“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 a statement outlining the administration’s National Strategy on for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness.
Later on Thursday, Biden was due to sign a series of executive orders related to the pandemic, including requiring mask-wearing in airports and on certain public transportation, including many trains, airplanes and intercity buses, officials said.
He will also deliver public remarks on his COVID-19 efforts.
Coronavirus has infected more than 24 million people in the United States and killed more than 405,000, the highest totals in the world. Trump frequently sought to play down the severity of the pandemic and the new Democratic President has put the disease top of a daunting list of challenges, including rebuilding a ravaged economy and addressing racial injustice.
Opening a blitz of policy measures, Biden signed 15 executive actions on Wednesday just hours after he was sworn into office, many aimed at sweeping away Trump’s policies.
Those included mandating masks on federal property and halting the withdrawal from the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as issues such as rejoining the Paris climate accord and ending a travel ban on some Muslim-majority countries.
Among the 10 new orders, Biden will establish a COVID-19 testing board to ramp up testing, address supply shortfalls, establish protocols for international travellers and direct resources to hard-hit minority communities.
Biden has pledged to provide 100 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine during his first 100 days in office. His plan aims to increase vaccinations by opening up eligibility for more people such as teachers and grocery clerks.
Additionally, he will issue a directive on Thursday including the intent to join the COVAX vaccine facility that aims to deliver vaccines to poor countries, Biden’s Chief Medical Adviser, Anthony Fauci, told the WHO.
Fauci will also brief reporters at the White House later on Thursday, White House Spokeswoman Jen Psaki told MSNBC, cautioning any turn around on the disease will take time.
Other issues the Administration said it would address over the next 10 days include healthcare, the economy, immigration and climate change.