President Joe Biden signed more executive orders Thursday that are designed to kick start the federal COVID recovery effort, including ramping up vaccination distribution.
The president is taking quick action to address the COVID crisis that has claimed more than 400,000 lives in the past year, and on the day he took office he signed a raft of orders that included mandating face masks be worn on federal properties.
The president has set a target of administering 100 million vaccine doses in his first 100 days in office, a target that his virus experts said Thursday was achievable.
Biden has cautioned that some of the measures created by his executive orders will require funding, and is calling on Congress to pass his $1.9 trillion coronavirus economic relief plan.
Here's a look at what some of his latest executive orders will address:
1. Addressing vaccine, PPE shortfalls: Biden has directed federal agencies to undertake an immediate review to determine the supplies it has and needs for mass vaccination and continued supply of PPE, and prepares to use all measures necessary – including the Defense Production Act – to address any shortfalls. The DPA, a traditionally wartime act, can be used to compel companies to manufacture supplies for the COVID effort.
2. Workplace safety: An order requiring the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to publish "science-based guidance" to businesses to keep their workers safe from COVID exposure, which will include guidance on mask-wearing. It also launches a program focusing on national enforcement efforts focusing on violations that "put the largest number of workers at serious risk."
3. Creating a coronavirus testing board: This order will establish a national COVID-19 testing and public health workforce strategy, as well as expand the supply of tests, increase test manufacturing in the U.S, and work to increase lab testing capacity. It also looks to expand the country's public health workforce and support screening tests for schools "and priority populations." To oversee this, Biden is creating a COVID-19 Pandemic Testing Board, and beyond the COVID pandemic, it will also seek to make improvements so the country is better prepared to handle future biological outbreaks.
4. Improving COVID treatments: One of Biden's orders directs federal scientists to research and "accelerate the development of novel therapies" to treat COVID-19, as well as supporting the expansion of the nation's healthcare capacity.
5. Safe school reopening: The order will see the federal government provide "evidence-based guidance" to help states, and elementary and secondary schools in deciding whether to and how to reopen, and how to remain open, for in-person learning. This might include guidance on mitigation measures such as "cleaning, masking, proper ventilation, and testing." Similar guidance will be provided by OSHA to help businesses safely reopen.
6. Travel testing, masking, quarantines: Those arriving in the U.S. from foreign countries – including U.S. citizens – must quarantine for 10 days upon their return, while Biden is also ordering that face masks be worn on planes, trains, intercity buses, and ferries unless you have a medical exemption. This is in addition to a previous order issued by President Trump that states from Jan. 26, people traveling internationally into the U.S. must have a negative COVID test before they travel.
7. Data collection: One of Biden's order directs federal agencies to expand data collection and reporting capacity about COVID-19, which will include the CDC publishing a dashboard that shows COVID rates down to the county level.
8. Reimbursements from FEMA: Two memos issued by Biden will will see schools reimbursed for PPE purchases through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and increase FEMA reimbursement rates to states for use of the National Guards from 75% to 100%. National Guards have been used by state governments across the country to assist with COVID response, including in Minnesota.
9. Equitable pandemic response: Biden has ordered the creation of a health equity Taskforce chaired by Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, which will focus on ensuring equitable access to COVID testing and vaccines, with the virus having shown to have a more serious impact on people of color.
10. Creation of COVID-19 Response Office: This office will coordinate the pandemic response across federal agencies, and will "establish clear lines of communications" from the federal level to state and local levels, as well as conducting "regular, expert-led briefings."