As President-elect Joe Biden is sworn into office today, he begins an aggressive agenda as president, including a number of executive orders aimed at getting the COVID-19 pandemic under control.
One is a national mask mandate on federal property and on airlines, trains and other public transit systems.
Another executive order Wednesday will create an office of White House COVID-19 response, headed by Jeffrey Zients, the new coronavirus czar, according to The Wall Street Journal. Goals include securing more protective equipment for workers, increasing testing and vaccinations, and reopening schools.
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The first 100 days of Biden's presidency is expected to include a push for his previously announced $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan, which calls for investing $20 billion in a national vaccine program and $50 billion for testing.
WHY THIS MATTERS
Biden takes office as the U.S. reports over 24 million cases of COVID-19 and over 400,000 deaths.
President Donald Trump left the White House on Wednesday morning citing, among his accomplishments, the development of a coronavirus vaccine in record time. But the federal government has fallen short of its goal when it has come to getting vaccines in arms.
Operation Warp Speed officials said 20 million doses would be delivered by the end of 2020. As of Tuesday, 31,161,075 doses had been distributed and 15,707,588 had been administered, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Doses have been held back as each of the vaccines needs a second, booster shot. But last week during his last Operation Warp Speed briefing, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said no doses would be held in reserve. Rather, there was enough of a supply that all of the doses could be given, and more would be available for that second dose 21-to-28-days later, he said.
However, last week Azar told NBC News' Lester Holt there was no reserve of the coronavirus vaccine in a federal stockpile.
THE LARGER TREND
Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have a seven-point plan to beat COVID-19, according to their BuildBackBetter transition site.
The plan calls for doubling the number of drive-through testing sites; investing in testing, including at-home tests and instant tests; and setting up a Pandemic Testing Board such as Roosevelt's War Production Board.
"It's how we produced tanks, planes, uniforms, and supplies in record time, and it's how we will produce and distribute tens of millions of tests," Biden said on the site.
The plan calls for establishing a U.S. Public Health Jobs Corps to mobilize at least 100,000 Americans across the country with support from local organizations in communities most at risk to perform culturally competent approaches to contact tracing and protecting at-risk populations.
Biden said he is taking responsibility and giving states, cities, tribes, and territories the personal protection equipment they need.
The Defense Production Act will be used to ramp up production of masks, face shields and other PPE so that the national supply exceeds demand and stockpiles – especially in hard-hit areas that serve disproportionately vulnerable populations – will be fully replenished.
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