President Joe Biden is set to sign a flurry of executive orders Thursday aimed at nationalizing America’s fight against the pandemic, accelerating the production and rollout of vaccines, overseeing production and distribution of protective gear, and mandating mask-wearing on federal property.
Less than 24 hours after being sworn in as 46th president of the United States, Biden is set to sign an additional 10 executive orders ranging from speeding up the production and distribution of approved vaccines produced by the likes of Pfizer (PFE) - Get Pfizer Inc. Report and Moderna (MRNA) - Get Moderna Inc. Report as well as personal protective equipment that to date has been procured in hodgepodge form at local and state levels and in many cases from outside the country.
One of Biden’s top priorities will be to curb the onslaught of the virus, which to date has killed more than 406,000 Americans and has shown no signs of slowing down. While Biden wasted no time on Wednesday signing 21 executive orders kickstarting some of his biggest policy objectives - curbing climate change, expanding health coverage and overhauling immigration laws - his administration’s immediate focus is on fighting the pandemic.
On Thursday, Biden will sign additional executive actions to “move aggressively to change the course of the Covid-19 crisis and safely re-open schools and businesses, including by taking action to mitigate spread through expanding testing, protecting workers, and establishing clear public health standards,” according to a memo by White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain seen by Bloomberg.
Businesses are ready and willing to support. Amazon.com (AMZN) - Get Amazon.com Inc. Report has offered help in administering vaccines through its vast delivery network as well as its agreements with licensed third-party occupational healthcare providers already on site at Amazon facilities, according to a letter made public by the company.
Manufacturers of protective gear including 3M (MMM) - Get 3M Company Report, Honeywell (HON) - Get Honeywell International Inc. Report and others are also prepping to receive marching orders from the Biden administration to bolster national supplies of PPE, with the Biden administration already contemplating invoking the Defense Production Act to combat the pandemic.
Hospitals continue to clamor for personal protective equipment amid surging new cases, even after major increases to domestic production by manufacturers.
Donald Trump wielded the Defense Production Act last year to expedite production of masks and ventilators, though his administration’s use of the 1950 law that gives a president broad authority to influence industry for the national defense was sporadic.
Biden’s national strategy is part of a flurry of actions aimed at curbing the virus in his first 100 days, including the federal mask mandate as well as the administration of 100 million vaccines, the establishment of 100 federally supported vaccination centers, and reopening of most schools from kindergarten through eighth grade.
The orders also call for studies, including large-scale randomized trials, to identify treatments, and Biden’s administration will create public dashboards with state-by-state and national information on testing, vaccinations and hospital admissions.
The Biden team's most urgent concerns on Covid-19 include potential vaccine supply problems, coordination between federal and local governments, as well as funding, staffing and other resource needs for local governments. That is in addition to the emerging Covid variants, which the new White House - in consultation with scientists and experts - is watching warily.
Biden has made clear that slowing down the spread of Covid-19 and getting 100 million vaccine shots into Americans' arms in his first 100 days in office are of utmost priority - goals that will shape whether Biden's first years in office are ultimately deemed successful.