But then, looking directly at the television camera, Biden said, “For a nation waiting for action, let me be clear on this: Help is on the way.”
The new president has promised to take much more aggressive measures to control the virus than his predecessor, starting with strict adherence to public health guidelines. The key difference is that under Biden, the federal government takes full responsibility for COVID’s response. And instead of delegating major tasks to the states, he offers to help them with technical archiving and federal money.
He faces steep obstacles, with the virus spreading widely in most countries, vaccine shortages, slow progress in distribution and political uncertainty over whether Republicans in Congress will help him cross the $ 1
Viral mutations are added to the challenges, especially the one that has emerged in South Africa, which may make vaccines a little less effective. Dr Anthony Fauci told reporters at a White House briefing that “we pay a lot of attention to him.” Biden’s plan includes expanding research capabilities to outline the genetic structure of the new variants.
On Thursday, a group influential with Republican officials backed the president’s strategy. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said: “We support the new administration’s focus on removing barriers to vaccinations and rebuilding schools, both of which are important steps in accelerating broad economic recovery for all Americans.”
Biden officials said they were hampered by a lack of cooperation from the Trump administration during the transition. They say they do not fully understand the actions of their predecessors regarding the spread of vaccines. And they face numerous complaints from countries that say they do not get enough vaccine, even when asked to vaccinate more categories of people.
Biden’s mask order applies to airports and planes, ships, intercity buses, trains and public transport. Travelers from abroad must pass a negative COVID-19 test before leaving for the United States and must be quarantined on arrival. Biden has already appointed masks on federal property.
Although airlines, Amtrak and other transportation providers now need masks, Biden’s order makes it a federal mandate, leaving little room for passengers tempted to argue about their rights. The action was applauded by the airlines and supported by a large trade group in the industry.
This marks a sharp break with the culture of President Donald Trump’s administration, in which masks were not mandatory, and Trump made sure to go without masks and host large meetings of like-minded people. Science has shown that masks that are worn properly reduce the transmission of coronavirus.
Biden said his administration’s decisions about the coronavirus would be based on science, not politics.
Biden is working to expand testing and vaccine availability, targeting 100 million photos in the first 100 days in the office. But some independent experts say his administration should aim for two or three times the number. Even with the slow pace of vaccinations, the United States now closes 1 million photos a day.
“It’s a disappointingly low bar,” said Dr. Leana Wen, a public health expert and emergency physician.
Asked about it at the White House on Thursday, Biden told a reporter, “When I announced it, you all said it wasn’t possible. Come on, give me a break, man.”
Fauci told reporters that the United States could return to a “degree of normalcy” by the fall if the vaccination campaign goes well. Achieving widespread or “herd” immunity will require vaccination of about 280 million people.
Biden has ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency to start setting up vaccination centers, aiming to set up 100 and run for a month. He ordered the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to begin a program to provide vaccines through local pharmacies next month, based on a plan developed by the Trump administration. And he’s working to train more people to shoot.
Biden has set himself the goal of reopening most K-8 schools in the first 100 days, and he has instructed education and health and humanitarian services to provide clear guidelines for their safe reopening. States will also be able to benefit from the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund to help open schools.
Moving schools and childcare will help ease the slowdown in the U.S. economy by making it easier for parents to return to work and restaurants to find customers for lunch.
But administration officials stressed that reopening schools safely depends on intensive testing.
Biden gives the green light to government agencies to use the Cold War Defense Manufacturing Act. It allows the government to direct private industry to produce supplies needed during emergencies in the country. In this case, it can be anything from tampons, masks to certain chemicals.
“We don’t have nearly enough testing capacity in this country,” said White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zienz.
Biden’s plan estimates that a national vaccination strategy with expanded testing will cost $ 160 billion, and he wants an additional $ 170 billion to help open schools and universities.
As part of his strategy, Biden ordered the establishment of a Working Group on Equality in Health to ensure that minorities and underserved communities do not fall outside the government’s response. Blacks, Latinos, and Indians have borne the heavy burden of death and disease from the virus. Studies show that vaccine variability is higher among African Americans, a problem the administration plans to address through an educational campaign.
Associated Press writers Colin Binkley and Josh Boak contributed to this report.