Jan 21, 2021 - Health

Biden set to immediately ramp up federal pandemic response

President Biden signs executive orders.

President Biden signs executive hours just hours after being inaugurated. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

On his first full day on the job, President Biden will move quickly to translate his promise of a stronger federal response to the pandemic into policy — starting with 10 executive orders and other directives.

Why it matters: The hands-on federal effort marks a significant change from the Trump administration, which put states in charge of many of the logistical details of their pandemic responses.

What they're saying: “For almost a year now, Americans could not look to the federal government for any strategy, let alone a comprehensive approach," Biden's coronavirus task force coordinator, Jeff Zients, told reporters.

  • "That all changes" with the new administration, he said.

Details: Biden's executive actions will direct agencies to boost supply chains — including by using the Defense Production Act.

  • They'll also establish a federal board to increase coronavirus testing capacity and access, establish an equity task force, and order the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services to provide guidance on how to safely reopen schools.

The big picture: The new administration is taking steps that public experts have been calling for.

  • But putting the pandemic behind us would require a lot of cooperation from the public, and it's far from clear that Biden will have that, no matter what he does.

Between the lines: Almost nothing will be as important — or high-pressure — as the vaccination effort.

  • Biden wants to increase the number of vaccination sites, expand the supply of doses and ask states to expand eligibility for vaccinations.
  • But the Trump administration had already begun sending out most available vaccine doses to states, meaning there's no quick way to boost the supply in the immediate term.
  • In many states, demand is simply overwhelming supply.

Go deeper: The public health presidency

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