The news: President Biden said it would take a “war effort” to tackle the covid-19 pandemic as he unveiled a seven-point plan on his first full day on the job. He is committed to being guided by science and to making transparency and accountability core values for his administration’s response. the plan is a distillation of a 200-page strategy document which sets out its intentions, some of which have already started to be implemented through decrees. Thousands of Americans are now dying from covid-19 every day, and the US death toll is just weeks away to reach half a million, so the task couldn’t be more urgent.
So what’s the plan?
- Implement nationwide mask mandates working with mayors and governors to implement local orders; and asking individual Americans to wear masks when around people outside of their homes.
- Make sure all Americans have access to free tests by doubling the number of drive-thru sites, investing in in-home and instant testing, establishing a pandemic testing board to produce and distribute tests, and creating a US Public Health Jobs Corps to enlist at least 100,000 Americans for contact tracing and other public health tasks.
- Resolve persistent problems with personal protective equipment making full use of the Defense Production Act to speed up production and ensure that the United States is able to produce PPE independently from other countries in the future.
- Provide clear, evidence-based public health advice about social distancing, and ask the CDC to give communities clear advice on when to ‘dial in’ measures such as school closings, stay-at-home orders or increasing restaurant restrictions or downward in relation to the level of risk and degree of viral spread. Provide emergency funding to state and local governments, schools and small businesses so they can follow these orders.
- Plan for all Americans to receive free treatments and vaccines investing $ 25 billion in manufacturing and distribution, ensuring vaccine development is a policy-free zone, and tackling issues such as rising pharmaceutical prices as they emerge .
- Protect older Americans and others at high risk setting up a Covid-19 Racial and Ethnic Disparities Task Force to provide recommendations and monitoring, and creating a national pandemic dashboard so Americans can see levels of local transmission in their region by real time.
- Expanding U.S. Defenses to Prevent Future Pandemics restoring the White House National Security Council’s leadership for global health security and biodefense, joining the WHO, relaunching a pathogen monitoring program called PREDICT, and increasing the number of CDC disease detectives .
Now comes the action: Biden has already put this into practice, signature of 10 executive orders yesterday. They include a new requirement for Americans to wear masks on public transportation, the creation of the Pandemic Testing Board, and an ordinance for new guidelines to be created for schools and businesses. But he still faces significant political hurdles, with uncertainty over whether Republicans in Congress will agree to pass a $ 1.9 trillion relief package to pay for the measures.