WASHINGTON – President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Thursday announced a series of new presidential ordinances and guidelines aimed at expediting the production of Covid-19 consumables, increasing testing capacity, and requiring masks to be worn during interstate travel – part a spread 200-page national pandemic strategy he announced at an event in the White House.
Taken together, the orders signal Mr Biden’s earliest priorities to achieve a more central federal response to the spread of the coronavirus. Some of them reflect actions taken during the Trump administration, while most are trying to change course.
Here is the goal of the orders.
Speed up manufacturing and testing.
A mandate calls on those in charge of the authorities to look for bottlenecks in areas such as personal protective equipment and vaccine supply and determine where the administration could apply the Defense Production Act to increase production. The White House has announced that it will use the Korean War-era law that the Trump administration used in its vaccine development program to increase production of a type of syringe that pharmacists can use to extract an extra dose from vaccine bottles.
The Biden team said they identified 12 “immediate supply bottlenecks” that are critical to the pandemic response, including N95 surgical masks and isolation gowns, and swabs, reagents and pipettes used for testing.
“On the asymptomatic screening side, we are completely undercapacitive, so we need the money to really move the testing forward, which is so important for schools and businesses to reopen,” said Jeffrey D. Zients, the white’s new Covid-19 House response coordinator.
Another assignment is to set up a Pandemic Testing Board, an idea that came from President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s War Production Board, to speed up testing. The new government promises to expand the country’s range of rapid tests and double tests, and expand the laboratory space for testing and monitoring for coronavirus hotspots.
“These efforts will ensure that we test where it is needed and where it is most needed, and help schools and businesses reopen safely and protect the most vulnerable, such as those living in long-term care facilities.” said Biden in his Thursday remarks.
It is required to wear a mask while traveling between states.
Mr. Biden has vowed to use his powers as President to influence the wearing of masks wherever legally entitled, including on federal property and when traveling across state lines. An order issued on Thursday requires wearing a mask at airports and on many planes, intercity buses and trains.
The same ruling also requires international travelers to demonstrate that they recently had a negative coronavirus test before traveling to the U.S. and adhere to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Quarantine guidelines after landing.
Build better data acquisition systems.
On a mandate, the Secretary for Health and Human Services and the White House Covid-19 Response Coordinator are being asked to re-evaluate the federal government’s Covid-19 data collection systems and report on their findings. It also calls on the heads of “all executive departments and agencies” to collect and share coronavirus-related data.
The Biden Administration
The Trump administration struggled to agree on a centralized system last year, and competed with programs from the Department of Health and Human Services and the C.D.C. against each other. Alex M. Azar II, the former secretary for health and personal services, ordered hospitals to send daily reports of virus cases to a private provider, who sent them to a centralized database in Washington, rather than the CDC, where the data was previously held were stored. The decision, which remains in effect, angered C.D.C. Scientist.
Establish a Health Justice Task Force.
Another mandate is to set up a Covid 19 Task Force for “Health Justice”, which recommends, among other things, that more funds be made available for parts of the population who are particularly hard hit by the virus. The needs are analyzed according to race, ethnicity, geographical location and disability, among other things. Mr Biden said Thursday that the task force will address hesitation in taking the vaccines.
The panel, which is housed in the Department of Health and Human Services, is part of a bigger effort by the Biden government to draw more attention to persistent racial and ethnic differences in access to health care as minorities have been hospitalized and involved in Covid-19 died much higher rates. Mr. Biden appointed Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, an Associate Professor of Internal Medicine, Public Health, and Management at Yale, to lead the task force.
Publish guidance to schools and workers.
Mr Biden issued an order to protect workers’ health during the pandemic and asked the labor protection agency to publish new guidelines for employers. The regulation also calls on the agency to step up enforcement of existing regulations to stop the spread of Covid-19 in the workplace.
The president also directed education, health, and human services departments to issue new guidelines for safely reopening schools – a major source of controversy during the summer when White House and Health Department officials put pressure on the C.D.C. exercised. downplaying the risk of sending students back.
Find more treatments for Covid-19 and future pandemics.
Biden’s government is calling on the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Director of the National Institutes of Health to work out a plan to support large, randomized trials of new drugs for Covid-19 and future public health crises . According to the Executive Order, treatments should be “easy to manufacture, sell and administer, both domestically and internationally”.
The focus on randomized trials is on two emergency approvals – for convalescent plasma and the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine – that hit the Food and Drug Administration last year. Federal health officials, including F.D.A. Scientists remain angry with the agency’s decisions under pressure from the Trump administration to clarify treatments without strong evidence from randomized trials.