Updated at Thursday 3:36 p.m. ET
WASHINGTON – President Biden signed a series of orders and directives on his second day in office to take charge of stopping the spread of the coronavirus — steps that he and his advisers say will start to boost testing, vaccinations, supplies and treatments.
“While the vaccine provides so much hope, the rollout has been a dismal failure thus far. So I understand the despair and frustration of so many Americans and how they’re feeling,” Biden said in remarks shortly before signing the stack of executive actions.
“We didn’t get into this mess overnight, and it’s going to take months for us to turn things around. But let me be equally clear: We will get through this. We will defeat this pandemic. And to a nation waiting for action, let me be clearest on this point: Help is on the way.”
The president is also pushing Congress for another $1.9 trillion in relief, a package that would include direct payments to Americans, support for small businesses and a huge boost in funding for vaccines and testing.
The pandemic relief effort is a means to advance the strategy his team has developed, starting with the 10 executive orders and directives, his COVID-19 response coordinator, Jeff Zients, told reporters.
“Last week you heard the president lay out his vaccine strategy,” Zients said, adding that on Thursday, Biden will advance “the road map to guide America out of this public health crisis.”
One of the orders directs agencies to use the Defense Production Act to address critical shortfalls in 12 categories of items needed for testing, treating and vaccinating people for COVID-19 — vaccines, N95 masks, gowns, gloves, test supplies and kits, lab analysis machines, therapeutic drugs and other supplies — and will work to spur production of the items in the United States.
“This is a wartime undertaking,” Biden said on Thursday.
“We’re in a national emergency, and it’s time we treated it like one.”
Biden also signed a memo to direct the Federal Emergency Management Agency to fully reimburse states for vaccination and testing supplies and for the costs of National Guard deployments associated with the pandemic. Biden plans to establish the COVID-19 Pandemic Testing Board to boost testing.
- require masks on planes and buses and in airports, as well as require travelers to show a negative coronavirus test before flying to the United States
- direct more studies and trials of COVID-19 treatments
- mandate more public data on cases and vaccinations
- offer more guidance to schools on reopening
- direct the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to provide guidance for workplaces
- establish a COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force to make recommendations on ensuring that underserved communities hurt worst by the pandemic are treated more fairly
Biden also plans to support the global response to the pandemic and will join the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility and other multilateral initiatives.
What Did Biden Do On His 1st Day As President?
Updated at Wednesday 8:35 p.m. ET
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that President Biden has signed 15 executive actions, part of a flurry of steps he plans to take in the coming days to address his top policy priorities — and to roll back some of former President Donald Trump’s initiatives.
White House officials had originally told reporters there would be 17 actions signed, focused on addressing the COVID-19 crisis, the economy, racial justice and climate change.
The signed actions include a mandate for masks on federal property, an action to rejoin the Paris climate accord, a removal of Trump’s travel ban affecting Muslim-majority nations, a proclamation halting further funding or construction to the wall along the U.S. southern border, and an order reversing Trump’s decision to withdraw from the World Health Organization.
“This will strengthen our own efforts to get the pandemic under control by improving global health,” Psaki said during her first White House press briefing Wednesday night.
She added that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, will participate remotely in a WHO executive board meeting on Thursday.
On climate change, Biden revoked the permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada, which environmentalists have vehemently opposed for years.
Psaki announced that Biden asked agencies to extend nationwide moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures, and the Department of Education to extend the pause on student loan payments and interest.
She also announced the White House has sent an immigration bill to Congress.