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Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden has picked former FDA chief David Kessler to lead Operation Warp Speed, a day after unveiling a nearly $2 trillion pandemic relief plan that includes $400 billion for directly combatting the virus.

Why it matters: Biden's transition team said Kessler has been advising the president-elect since the beginning of the pandemic, and hopes his involvement will help accelerate vaccination, the New York Times reports. Operation Warp Speed's current director, Moncef Slaoui, will stay on as a consultant.

The big picture: Money alone can't save us from the virus, and Biden's plan is far from guaranteed to become law, but boosting funding for testing and vaccinations could help bolster the public health tools that experts have been saying for months are vital, yet inadequate.

Details: Biden's plan calls for $20 billion for a national vaccine program, which would create community vaccination centers around the country and send mobile vaccination units to areas that are hard to reach.

  • It would also provide an additional $50 billion for testing and $130 billion to help schools safely reopen.
  • Other elements of the plan, like emergency paid leave, would indirectly help tame the virus by helping people stay home when they're sick without sacrificing income.

Biden also slipped one of the biggest pieces of his plan to strengthen the Affordable Care Act into the proposal, which he says is in response to the millions of Americans who have lost health coverage during the pandemic.

  • He calls for an increase of ACA subsidies, so that enrollees pay no more than 8.5% of their income for coverage. Subsidies are currently capped at 400% of the federal poverty level, creating an affordability cliff for middle-income Americans.
  • He also asks Congress to subsidize COBRA through the end of September.

Go deeper.

Go deeper

Updated Mar 2, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director warns "now is not the time" to lift COVID restrictions — Exclusive: Teenagers' mental health claims doubled last spring.
  2. Axios-Ipsos poll: Americans' hopes rise after a year of COVID
  3. Vaccine: J&J CEO "absolutely" confident in vaccine distribution goals — Vaccine hesitancy is shrinking.
  4. World: China and Russia vaccinate the world, for now.
  5. Energy: Global carbon emissions rebound to pre-COVID levels.
  6. Local: Florida gets more good vaccine newsMinnesota's hunger problem grows amid pandemic — Denver's fitness industry eyes a pandemic recovery.
Jan 30, 2021 - World

Germany to impose travel restrictions to curb spread of coronavirus variants

Border police officers check passports and COVID-19 tests at Frankfurt Airport. Photo: Thomas Lohnes via Getty Images

Germany announced Friday that it was imposing new travel restrictions in an effort to curb the spread of more contagious coronavirus variants.

Details: All non-German residents traveling from countries deemed "areas of variant concern," including the United Kingdom, South Africa, Portugal, Ireland, Brazil, Lesotho and Eswatini, will be banned from entering the country, even if they test negative for the coronavirus.

"Neanderthal thinking": Biden slams states lifting mask mandates

States that are relaxing coronavirus restrictions are making "a big mistake," President Biden told reporters on Wednesday, adding: "The last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking."

Driving the news: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said Wednesday he will end all coronavirus restrictions via executive order, although some businesses are continuing to ask patrons to wear face masks. Mississippi is lifting its mask mandate for all counties Wednesday, per Gov. Tate Reeves (R).