Biden lays out plans for COVID-19 testing, vaccinations and masks
U.S. President Joe Biden moved swiftly to coordinate a federal effort to fight the COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday, his first full day in office, with steps to expand testing and vaccinations and increase mask-wearing, Reuters reports.
His predecessor Donald Trump left much of the planning to individual states, resulting in a patchwork of policies across the country.
At a White House event, Biden said the rollout of the vaccine has been a “dismal failure so far.”
“Things are going to continue to get worse before they get better,” Biden said.
Executive orders signed by Biden on Thursday will establish a COVID-19 testing board to ramp up testing, address supply shortfalls, establish protocols for international travelers and direct resources to hard-hit minority communities.
They require mask-wearing in airports and on certain public transportation, including many trains, airplanes and intercity buses.
The administration will expand vaccine manufacturing and its power to purchase more vaccines by “fully leveraging contract authorities, including the Defense Production Act,” according to the plan.
The Trump administration had invoked the law, which grants the president broad authority to “expedite and expand the supply of resources from the U.S. industrial base” for protective gear, but never enacted it for testing or vaccine production.
Biden will also direct the Federal Emergency Management Agency to reimburse states and tribes fully for the costs associated with National Guard-related efforts to battle the virus.
The measure restores “full reimbursement” from the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund for costs related to reopening schools. FEMA funds are typically dispersed after hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters.