On Wednesday, Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States—and he is not here to play games when it comes to getting the country back on track. Within hours, President Biden signed (or announced he’ll sign) a flurry of executive orders, including more than a few dedicated to a national COVID-19 plan; Biden’s team is essentially starting “from scratch” because the prior administration did not have a nationwide vaccination plan.
On the campaign trail, Biden assured the country that he will get the pandemic under control and distribute the vaccine directly to local communities where vulnerable populations live. “He’s talking about addressing and making sure that the vaccines get distributed in those areas, that’s my area. Because in Queens, we were hit very hard,” says Michele C. Reed, DO, a board certified family physician practicing in New York City.
President Biden’s COVID-19 plan takes a holistic approach, tackling the crumbling economy, lagging vaccine dissemination, the ongoing housing crisis, and more.
The Biden COVID-19 Plan
1. 100 days mask challenge
It has been almost a year now since masks and social distancing became a part of daily life. According to the CDC, masks help contain the spread of COVID-19 because they prevent respiratory droplets from reaching others. However, masks work best when everyone around you is wearing one.
Since the inception of Biden’s campaign, he has been working diligently to enact a nationwide face–mask and social-distancing mandate. Although a national mask mandate is unlikely due to legal challenges, President Biden’s 100 Days Mask Challenge is a second best. It would require people who walk through the doors of federal buildings and properties to wear a mask and practice social distancing. This would include federal employees and contractors.
The 100 Days Mask Challenge is not just limited to federal workers, but is meant to urge all Americans to wear masks throughout the pandemic.
2. New school reopening guidelines
Schools closures illuminated disparities in education throughout the U.S. Students from lower-income households did not have the resources such as internet or a laptop to complete assignments. “One of the other issues is that we do have kids who are learning remotely and not everybody is able to learn effectively,” says Dr. Reed.
Biden pledges to reopen most K-12 schools within 100 days and plans to sign an executive order to help support this reopening goal. The executive order will direct the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services to provide reopening guidance to schools.
A separate presidential memorandum is expected to offer reimbursement to schools to purchase personal protective equipment and classroom air ventilation, a fund from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster relief. Biden is pushing Congress to approve $170 billion for K-12 schools and universities to aid them in a safe reopening and operation.
3. 100 million vaccines in the first 100 days
President Biden plans to distribute 100 million vaccines in the first 100 days in an effort to curb the spread and protect Americans from the deadly virus. Dr. Reed is excited about this initiative because this means her clinic might gain access to vaccines for the community she serves. “There aren’t enough [vaccines] being allocated for the state. It’s key because we really have to get to the community,” says Dr. Reed.
Another foe that stands in the way of reaching herd immunity: vaccine hesitancy. Among President Biden’s priorities is to develop public education campaigns in an effort to overcome vaccine hesitancy. He will also call for these campaigns to prioritize the needs of marginalized communities, who have been disproportionately impacted by the virus.
“We said 100 million doses in the first 100 days and we’re going to stick to that plan,” Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told Today co-anchor Savannah Guthrie. “But I also want to be very cognizant of the fact that after 100 days, there’s still a lot of Americans who need vaccine.” It is likely that more vaccines will need to be rolled out after 100 days.
4. The United States will rejoin the World Health Organization
In May 2020, President Donald Trump terminated the United States’ relationship with the World Health Organization (WHO), a leading organization of public and global health issues to “redirect those funds to other worldwide and deserving global public health needs.”
President Biden plans to resume funding to WHO and reestablish the U.S. as an active leader in the consortium. The rejoining will mark a more collaborative approach to fighting the pandemic and is an effort to share COVID-19 vaccines more equitably with other countries.
Vaccines are safe. Here’s how they work:
5. Extension of the nationwide eviction moratorium
No doubt the pandemic has upended the financial situations of millions of Americans, leaving people without jobs, health insurance, and homes. In May 2020, 20.5 million people were unemployed, superseding the unemployment rate during the Great Depression. People are running their savings dry, leaving women, BIPOC, and immigrants most heavily impacted.
On January 20, the day of his inauguration, President Biden extended the housing moratorium—which was set to expire on January 31—until the end of March in an effort to provide economic relief to millions of families who are hanging by a thread. To ensure that plans will run smoothly, President Biden will call on the CDC to extend an eviction moratorium and direct mortgage agencies to extend their own bans to prevent evictions from occurring.
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