On First Full Day, Biden Takes Aggressive Steps to Ramp Up COVID Fight – Watch LIVE
New U.S. President Joe Biden is moving aggressively Thursday to ramp up the national government’s fight to curb the coronavirus pandemic by signing 10 orders to increase production of vaccines and medical equipment, while attempting to safely reopen schools and businesses. Biden is moving to markedly increase coronavirus testing and, at the same time, trying to open 100 federally supported community vaccination centers around the country within the next month. Sixteen million Americans have been inoculated so far, fewer than the 20 million health officials in the administration of former President Donald Trump had promised to have vaccinated by the end of December. Watch: President Biden makes a statement about COVID-19 efforts The White House said Biden’s orders, buttressed by his request to Congress for $1.9 trillion in new coronavirus relief aid, “will help keep workers safe and healthy, get more Americans back to work, and ultimately reduce the spread of the virus.” The pandemic has already killed more than 406,000 Americans and infected 24.4 million, with both figures higher than in any other country, according to Johns Hopkins University. “We need to ask average Americans to do their part,” said Jeff Zients, the White House official directing the national coronavirus response. “Defeating the virus requires a coordinated nationwide effort.” Biden officials say a lack of cooperation from the Trump administration during the transition hindered their ability to understand their predecessors’ plans for vaccine distribution. However outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar defended his agency’s work on the transition earlier this month, saying it had held more than 300 meetings with President-Elect Biden’s transition team since late November. State governments, meanwhile, have complained they are not getting enough doses even as the national government has expanded the categories of people eligible for the shots. “We are entering what may well be the toughest and deadliest period of the virus,” Biden said in his inauguration address, before pausing for a moment of silence in memory of those who have died from COVID-19. FILE – This undated file photo provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows CDC’s laboratory test kit for the new coronavirus.CDC Initiative
The White House said that starting next month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will launch a federal program to make vaccines available to local pharmacies. Currently, most shots have been administered at local government centers or given to the elderly at nursing homes. The Biden effort to have the national government take greater command of the fight against the virus marks a distinct change from Trump’s decision to cede control to governors in the country’s 50 states. That led to widely varying decisions on school and business closings and restrictions and whether to require people to wear face masks. The White House said Biden would order the U.S. Education and Health and Human Services departments to “provide guidance on safe reopening and operating for schools, childcare providers, and institutions of higher education.” It said “science will be paramount” in decision-making and that federal agencies will collect data about the closing and reopening of schools so that officials can better understand the impact on families with low-incomes, students of color, English-language learners, students with disabilities and others. FILE – United Airlines agent helps a customer check-in for his flight at O’Hare International Airport ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Chicago, Illinois.Mask mandates for travelers
To protect travelers, Biden plans to require mask-wearing in airports, on certain types of public transportation, including many trains, airplanes, maritime vessels, and intercity buses. On Wednesday, after assuming power, he also ordered mandatory face mask wearing on U.S. government property. Under one of the Thursday orders, international travelers headed to the U.S. will be required to produce proof of a negative COVID-19 test and to comply with U.S. regulations on self-isolation and self-quarantine upon arrival. Biden’s new orders, on his first full day in office, come after he told the World Health Organization hours after his inauguration that he would reverse Trump’s withdrawal from the agency. “America’s withdrawal from the world stage and retreat from the World Health Organization has impeded progress on the global COVID-19 response and left the United States and the world more vulnerable to future pandemics,” the White House said.