How the Incoming Biden Administration Plans to Fight the Ongoing COVID Pandemic
President-elect Joe Biden urged Americans to “wear a mask” as he laid out how his new administration will handle the virus
President-elect Joe Biden will not take office until January 20, but with the COVID-19 pandemic “getting significantly more worrisome all across the country,” he said Friday, the former vice president is laying out his response plans now.
On Monday, the same day that U.S. cases of COVID-19 surpassed 10 million, Biden announced a 13-person team of doctors and health experts that will lead his coronavirus task force. It will be led by Dr. Vivek Murthy, the surgeon general during the Obama administration, Dr. David Kessler, the Food and Drug Administration commissioner under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, the associate dean for health equity research at the Yale School of Medicine.
This task force will work during the transition period between the election and inauguration day, and President Donald Trump’s White House coronavirus task force will continue their efforts. Biden has previously spoken highly of one member of Trump’s task force, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci, and it's thought that he would also name Fauci to his own task force once in office.
Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have been speaking with Murthy and Kessler for the last few months to stay up-to-date on the pandemic, and they laid out a plan in October that focuses on significantly expanding testing, mandating masks, increasing contact tracing and planning for vaccine distribution.
"Daily cases are skyrocketing," Biden said during a speech in Wilmington Friday night. "I want everyone — everyone — to know on Day 1, we're going to put our plan to control this virus into action."
The first step in the Biden administration’s seven-point plan is to immediately ramp up testing for COVID-19. The goal is to “ensure that all Americans have access to regular, reliable and free testing” by doubling the number of drive-thru testing sites and investing in better testing technology like instant and home tests.
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They also intend to increase contact tracing, to track down anyone who may have been exposed to a person who tests positive. The Biden administration said they will create a U.S. Public Health Jobs Corps to hire “at least 100,000 Americans” to do contact tracing.
"Imagine a public health workforce that was also helping train school officials in how to reopen safely," Murthy told NPR. "Think about a workforce that was diverse, that looked like the country that we're trying to serve.”
Make Mask Mandates
Currently, masks are required in some states but not all, and many governors have left the decision up to individual cities and counties. Trump has balked at a nationwide mask mandate and often mocked those who wear them, but Biden said he will work with governors to make masks required in every state.
Speaking on Monday, Biden urged all Americans to wear masks now.
“Please, I implore you, wear a mask, do it for yourself, do it for your neighbor. A mask is not a political statement, but it is a good way to start pulling the country together,” he said.
Create More PPE
Biden intends to “fully use” the Defense Production Act, which allows the president to force the production of medical equipment like N95 masks and gloves. Trump has resisted using the act beyond requiring General Motors to switch over to building ventilators in March.
The U.S. has dealt with a shortage of PPE since the start of the pandemic, with medical workers being forced to reuse masks and gloves as they care for COVID-19 patients. A study from the Centers for Disease Control has found that about 6 percent of adults hospitalized with COVID-19 from March to May were health care professionals, and the National Nurses United union estimates that more than 1,700 health care workers have died during the pandemic.
Biden said he will build up the national supple of PPE so it “exceeds demand and our stores and stockpiles — especially in hard-hit areas that serve disproportionately vulnerable populations — are fully replenished.”
Add Vaccine Funding
Along with the billions that the Trump administration has put into Operation Warp Speed to find a viable COVID-19 vaccine, Biden said he would invest an additional $25 billion to help with production and distribution once a vaccine is found. That money will help with the massive infrastructure needed to vaccinate the hundreds of millions of people in the U.S.
The vaccine distribution will be “equitable,” Biden said, with those who need it the most, such as the elderly and medical workers, getting the vaccine first.
On Monday, Biden highlighted the news from Pfizer that their vaccine trials are showing 90 percent effectiveness in preventing COVID-19, but emphasized that the U.S. is “still facing a very dark winter” before a vaccine will be ready for distribution. Until then, he said, wearing a mask is the best option.
The Biden administration plans to create a national “pandemic dashboard” with “evidence-based” guidance, made in conjunction with public health experts, on how to best reopen schools, businesses, restaurants and bars with safety in mind. Along with this guidance, they would also create a fund for state and local governments to help their businesses stay afloat.
Rejoin WHO and Build Up Agencies
Biden said they would immediately rejoin the World Health Organization, which Trump split from in May. The new administration also intends to rebuild the White House National Security Council Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense, an organization built by the Obama administration to prepare for a global pandemic which the Trump administration eliminated in 2018.
Biden said Monday that he “will spare no effort to turn this pandemic around” once he is sworn in as president “to get our kids back to school safely, our businesses growing and our economy running at full speed again.”
He also asked all Americans — including those who did not vote for him — to come together to end this pandemic.
“This election is over,” Biden said. “It’s time to put aside the partisanship and the rhetoric that [is] designed to demonize one another. It’s time to end the politicization of basic responsible public health steps like mask-wearing and social distancing. ”
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