Biden seeks to jump-start COVID-19 response with a series of executive orders

Biden seeks to jump-start COVID-19 response with a series of executive orders

President Biden’s success in achieving some of his biggest policy objectives—curbing climate change, expanding health coverage and overhauling immigration laws—will depend in large part on his success in combating the coronavirus pandemic, which he sought to jump-start Thursday with a national road map and a series of executive orders.

Mr. Biden’s national strategy announced Thursday is part of a blizzard of activity to curb the virus in his first 100 days, including a federal mask mandate, the administration of 100 million vaccines, the establishment of 100 federally supported vaccination centers, and reopening of most kindergarten-through-eighth-grade schools.

See: Coronavirus tally: Global cases of COVID-19 top 96.9 million

The new strategy is focused partly on ramping up vaccinations and curbing the spread of the virus through mask wearing, testing data and treatments, and will include the signing Thursday of 10 executive orders and directives. One order will direct agencies to use their authority, including the Defense Production Act, to meet shortfalls in supplies such as masks, while another will establish a pandemic testing board to expand testing supply and access.

The orders also call for studies, including large-scale randomized trials, to identify treatments and Mr. Biden’s administration will create public dashboards with state-by-state and national information on testing, vaccinations and hospital admissions.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will make vaccines available in local pharmacies beginning next month, and agencies will work on guidance for reopening schools and emergency temporary standards requiring employers to take steps to keep workers safe from Covid-19.

The president has promised to make the vaccine available regardless of immigration status and outlined plans to establish thousands of community vaccination centers across the country. One of the executive orders will create a Covid-19 Health Equity Task Force to provide recommendations to tackle inequities in outcomes by race, ethnicity, geography and disability.

Vaccine supplies from drugmakers are limited, restricting the number of people able to get the shots. Any efforts to further boost output by using the Defense Production Act and funneling $20 billion to the national vaccination effort, as Mr. Biden has promised, will take time.

Many of Mr. Biden’s proposals, including mass vaccination centers and mask mandates, call for partnership with state leaders. Some Republican governors such as Ron DeSantis of Florida, Tate Reeves of Mississippi, Doug Ducey of Arizona and Brian Kemp of Georgia have eschewed full statewide mask mandates. Mr. Biden has said he would use his authority to enforce a mask mandate in federal buildings and on interstate travel and work with governors to encourage state mask mandates where they don’t already exist.

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