Biden unveils “wartime” COVID strategy

President Biden on Thursday signed a slew of executive orders to address the coronavirus pandemic, including an interstate face mask mandate and an order to renew supplies of PPE, testing materials and vaccines through the Defense Production Act.

Why it matters: The stakes are highest for Biden’s vaccination effort. Several states cannot keep up with demand.

  • Biden acknowledged that the death toll from the pandemic is likely to reach 500,000 people by next month, after the U.S. hit 400,000 deaths due to COVID-19 just days ago.

Details: Biden signed 10 executive orders related to the pandemic, which included asking Americans to wear masks when traveling across state borders, and mandating that people flying in the U.S. wear face coverings and get COVID tests prior to traveling.

The plan also calls for:

  • Masks in airports, trains, planes, ships and intercity buses.
  • Proof of negative tests for international travelers before departing for the U.S.
  • OSHA guidance for work safety enforcement.
  • Massive efforts for “real-time” data collection for schools and higher education, plus a public dashboard on coronavirus cases, testing, vaccinations and hospital admissions.
  • The Department of Education and Health and Human Services to provide schools and communities with resources to safely reopen schools.

Our thought bubble: Biden’s executive orders are providing a more uniform approach to controlling the pandemic across state lines, unlike during the Trump administration when governors and public health departments were left to coordinate most of the logistics.

What he’s saying: “You’re going to be hearing a lot from Dr. Fauci again,” Biden added, saying that scientists will be involved in the federal government’s planning for the pandemic and “free from political interference.”

  • “We will level with you when we make a mistake,” he said, adding: “We’re still in a dark winter of this pandemic. It’s gonna get worse before it gets better. It’s gonna take many months before we’re where we need to be.”
  • “Despite the best intentions, we’re going to have setbacks, which I will always explain to you.”

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