U.S. President Joe Biden signed 10 executive orders Thursday as part of his plan to fight the coronavirus.
Biden will establish a COVID-19 testing board to increase testing, deal with supply shortages, establish rules for international travelers and direct resources to hard-hit minority communities.
The new president has promised to take more forceful measures to contain the virus than the Donald Trump administration. He faces major barriers, with the virus actively spreading in most states. Vaccinations have been slow in many places.
It is also unclear whether congressional Republicans will help him pass a $1.9-trillion economic relief and COVID response bill.
“We need to ask average Americans to do their part,” said Jeff Zients, the White House official directing the national response. “Defeating the virus requires a coordinated nationwide effort.”
Officials in the Biden administration say they were delayed by a lack of cooperation from the Trump administration during the change in presidency. They say they do not have a complete understanding of past actions on vaccine distribution. And they face accusations from states that say they are not getting enough vaccine even as they are being asked to vaccinate more people.
Dr. Anthony Fauci is Biden’s top medical adviser on COVID-19. He announced renewed U.S. support for the World Health Organization after the Trump administration left the United Nations health agency.
Fauci said early Thursday that the U.S. will join the WHO’s efforts to bring vaccines and treatments to people in need, whether in rich or poor countries. He added that the U.S. will again provide full financial and other support for the organization.
A new face mask requirement for travel in the U.S. will apply to airports and airplanes, ships, city buses, trains and public transportation. Biden has also required masks on federal property.
Travelers from overseas must provide a negative COVID-19 test before leaving for the United States and quarantine after arrival.
Biden also is seeking to expand testing and vaccine availability, with the goal of giving 100 million shots in his first 100 days in office.
Biden has directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to begin setting up vaccination centers. The aim is to have 100 centers open in a month. Biden is also ordering the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to begin a program to make vaccines available through local drugstores starting next month. And he is directing the Public Health Service to assist with vaccinations in some areas.
There is also support for states. Biden is ordering FEMA to pay back states for the full cost of using their National Guards to set up vaccination centers. That includes the use of supplies and protective equipment as well as workers.
Some independent experts say the new administration should set a higher goal for itself than 100 million shots. Dr. Christopher Murray is with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle, Washington. He said that during flu season, the country is able to vaccinate about 3 million people in a day.
“Given the number of people dying from COVID, we could and should do more — like what we’re able to do on seasonal flu,” Murray said.
Biden has also set a goal of having most lower-level schools reopen in his first 100 days. He is ordering the departments of Education and Health and Human Services to provide clear guidance for reopening schools safely.
But administration officials say that reopening schools safely depends on increased testing.
“We do not have nearly enough testing capacity in this country,” Jeff Zients said. “We need the money in order to really ramp up testing, which is so important to reopen schools and businesses.”
Efforts to reopen the economy will depend on how quickly lawmakers act on the $1.9 trillion bill proposed by Biden. The bill includes separate measures such as $1,400 in direct payments to people and a $15 minimum wage. There is also a measure to provide aid to state and local governments. Some Republican lawmakers see the measure as unnecessary for dealing with the health crisis.
The Biden plan estimates that a national vaccination plan with increased testing requires $160 billion. The new president wants another $170 billion to help in the reopening of schools and universities. The proposal also calls for major investment in scientific research to track new forms of the virus. Experts are concerned that some mutations may spread more easily and also prove harder to treat.
I’m Jonathan Evans.
Jonathan Evans adapted this story for Learning English based on reports from the Associated Press and Reuters news service. Ashley Thompson was the editor.
Words in This Story
apply – v. to cause (force, pressure, etc.) to have an effect or to be felt
capacity – n. the ability to do something : a mental, emotional, or physical ability
distribution – n. the way that something is divided or spread out
mask – n. a covering used to protect your face or cover your mouth
minimum wage – n. an amount of money that is the least amount of money per hour that workers must be paid according to the law
mutations – n. a change in a gene or the resulting new trait it produces in an individual
negative – adj. not positive
quarantine – n. the period of time during which a person or animal that has a disease or that might have a disease is kept away from others to prevent the disease from spreading
ramp up – v. to buildup; to increase
response – n. something that is done as a reaction to something else