Biden Signs Executive Orders To Battle Pandemic: 'This Is A Wartime Undertaking'

Sanjana Karanth
·Reporter, HuffPost
·5 min read

President Joe Biden signed a slew of orders on Thursday meant to kickstart his administration’s national COVID-19 strategy, calling the aggressive effort a “wartime undertaking.”

The newly minted president signed 10 executive actions designed to focus on mending public trust and increasing transparency; accelerating production of materials for tests and vaccines; improving COVID-19 response coordination with state and local officials; and making sure pandemic strategies are equitable and reach communities that are hit hardest.

“Our national strategy is comprehensive. It’s based on science, not politics. It’s based on truth, not denial. And it’s detailed ― you can review this entire plan,” Biden said at the signing, showing a copy of the plan that’s available on the White House’s website.

“Our plan starts with mounting an aggressive, safe and effective vaccination campaign to meet our goal of administering 100 million shots in our first 100 days in office,” he continued. “This will be one of the greatest operational challenges our nation has ever undertaken. And I’m committed to getting it done, we’re committed to getting it done.”

Here are the 10 executive actions:

  • Executive Order on a Sustainable Public Health Supply Chain

  • Executive Order on Protecting Worker Health and Safety

  • Executive Order on Ensuring an Equitable Pandemic Response and Recovery

  • Executive Order on Promoting COVID-19 Safety in Domestic and International Travel

  • Executive Order on Establishing the COVID-19 Pandemic Testing Board and Ensuring a Sustainable Public Health Workforce

  • Executive Order on Supporting the Reopening and Continuing Operation of Schools and Early Childhood Education Providers

  • Executive Order on Ensuring a Data-Driven Response to COVID-19 and Future High Consequence Public Health Threats

  • Memorandum to Extend Federal Support to Governors’ Use of the National Guard to Respond to COVID-19 and to Increase Reimbursement and Other Assistance Provided to States

  • Executive Order on Improving and Expanding Access to Care and Treatments for COVID-19

  • National Security Directive: United States Global Leadership to Strengthen the International COVID-19 Response

While the executive actions are only the beginning of the Biden administration’s efforts to combat the pandemic and save lives, they already offer a stark contrast to the negligent, misinformation-filled approach that former President Donald Trump’s administration took in fighting the virus.

There was virtually no vaccine distribution plan under Trump, leaving Biden and his team to basically “start from scratch,” according to CNN.

“We couldn’t rely on the federal government to act with the urgency and focus and coordination we needed. And we have seen the tragic cost of that failure,” Biden said. “And while the vaccine provides so much hope, the rollout has been a dismal failure thus far.”

The president said he understands “the despair and frustration” of civilians, state, local and tribal officials who “feel like they’re left on their own without a clear national plan.” But in an effort to be transparent with the public, he stressed that the plan he’s immediately implementing will not produce immediate results.

“Things are going to continue to get worse before they get better. The memorial we held two nights ago will not be our last one, unfortunately. The death toll will likely top 500,000 next month, the cases will continue to mount,” he said. “We didn’t get into this mess overnight. It’s gonna take months for us to turn things around. But let me be equally clear: We will get through this. We will defeat this pandemic. … Help is on the way.”

Part of the executive actions include authorizing the Defense Production Act, which allows the federal government to control industrial production. The DPA would allow companies to produce the pandemic response materials necessary to meet the moment, including materials that would help in the production, distribution and administering of tests and vaccines. Earlier in the pandemic, the DPA was needed to address a shortage of medical devices like ventilators.

On Wednesday, Biden instructed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to begin setting up its first mass vaccination centers.

“Our national plan launches a full-scale wartime effort to address the supply shortages by ramping up production and protective equipment, syringes, needles, you name it,” Biden said. “And when I say wartime, people kind of look at me like, ‘Wartime?’”

“Well, as I said last night, 400,000 Americans died. That’s more than have died in all of World War II,” he continued. “Four-hundred thousand. This is a wartime undertaking.”

Notably, many of the orders include highlighting the need to address vaccine hesitancy, fight coronavirus-related misinformation and encourage Americans to listen to scientists and experts ― all challenges that the Trump administration not only refused to face, but in fact encouraged.

“Above all, our plan is to restore public trust,” Biden said. We will make sure that scientists and public health experts will speak directly to you. That’s why you’re going to hear a lot more from Dr. [Anthony] Fauci again ― not from the president, but from the real, genuine experts and scientists. Science and health alone, not with the political consequences.”

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This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.