WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden launched a comprehensive federal plan on Thursday to rein in the raging COVID-19 pandemic.
He will sign 10 wide-ranging executive orders Thursday afternoon, ordering federal agencies, private industry, and U.S. residents to act to slow the spread of the disease.
USE THE DEFENSE PRODUCTION ACT
To accelerate manufacturing, delivery and supply of vaccines and protective gear, Biden will invoke the Cold War-era act, which grants the president the power to expand industrial production of key materials or products for national security and other reasons.
Besides vaccines, it aims to make items such as N95 masks, isolation gowns, nitrile gloves and sample collection swabs more available.
MASKS ON PLANES, TRAINS, BUSES
A federal mandate will require mask-wearing in airports, and on some trains, airplanes and buses.
International travelers will be required to produce proof of a negative COVID-19 test prior to departing for the United States and to comply with CDC guidelines for self-quarantine upon arrival.
REIMBURSE STATES FOR MORE SUPPLIES
Biden will direct the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) to increase federal reimbursement to states from 75 percent to 100 percent of the cost for National Guard personnel and emergency supplies.
The order also restores full reimbursement for costs to support safe school reopening through the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund.
GET MORE VACCINES OUT, FASTER
To meet an aggressive vaccination target of 100 million shots by the end of Biden’s first 100 days in office, FEMA will create community vaccination centers, with the goal of 100 centers in the next month.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will also launch a federal pharmacy program making vaccines available in local pharmacies.
MORE TESTING, INCLUDING IN SCHOOLS
Biden will also establish a COVID-19 testing board to increase access to testing and expand testing supply.
The order also aims to expand the public health workforce, support COVID-19 screening for schools and ensure communities of color can access tests.
STUDY REOPENING SCHOOLS, INCREASE BROADBAND ACCESS
The Departments of Education and Health and Human Services will be asked to provide guidance on safe reopening of schools, child care providers, and higher education institutions.
The Federal Communications Commission will be directed to increase connectivity options for students lacking access to broadband.
INCREASE MEDICAL CARE
The administration plans to identify new treatments for COVID, and work to improve clinical care, assistance to care facilities and increase the healthcare workforce capacity.
PROTECT WORKERS FROM COVID
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration will be directed to issue clear guidance for employers to help keep workers safe from COVID-19 exposure.
DIRECT MORE COVID AID TO COMMUNITIES OF COLOR
A COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force will recommend ways to allocate resources and funding to underserved communities, which have been disproportionately hit by the virus.
Enhance the U.S. collection, production, sharing, and analysis of data to support a speedier COVID-19 response and recovery.
Reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington, Editing by Heather Timmons and Alistair Bell