White House

Biden to Sign Ten Executive Orders, Invoke Defense Production Act to Combat COVID

President Joe Biden signs executive orders in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., January 20, 2021. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

President Joe Biden on Thursday unveiled a plan to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, which includes issuing ten executive orders and directing agencies to use the wartime Defense Production Act to require U.S. companies to prioritize manufacturing supplies such as N95 masks, swabs, and other equipment.

The executive orders will aim to increase COVID-19 vaccinations, bolster testing and reopen schools.

“The National Strategy provides a roadmap to guide America out of the worst public health crisis in a century,” the plan says. “America has always risen to the challenge we face and we will do so now.”

The United States’ fight against COVID-19 sits on a precipice as Biden takes office: nearly 3,000 Americans are dying each day of the virus as more infectious strains continue to spread. A further increase in the number of cases could prove even more deadly as many hospitals nationwide are already stretched to their limits.

Biden’s plan to give 100 million shots in 100 days will include ramping up vaccine production using the Defense Production Act and increasing the number of vaccination sites by creating federal community vaccination centers in stadiums, gymnasiums and conference centers. The sites will be staffed with thousands of additional workers, some of whom will come from federal agencies and the military, as well as first responders.

The Democrat will recommend that all states begin vaccinating people 65 and older, as well as a number of essential workers, including teachers and grocery store employees.

Officials say they believe they have the supply and resources to increase vaccinations — up from 17 million shots that have been recorded in a little over a month — but will need funding from Congress for vaccinations and other efforts, asking for more than $400 million for the pandemic response as part of a $1.9 trillion stimulus package.

“While we will urgently execute the strategy, we do need Congress to act — and act quickly. Congress must provide the necessary funding in the Covid relief package, the American Rescue Plan, that the president will soon be sending them,” Jeffrey Zients, Biden’s Covid-19 response coordinator, told reporters.

The president is also set to sign an executive order requiring people to don masks in airports and on airplanes, trains and maritime vessels. He will mandate that international travelers have tested negative for COVID-19 before they depart for the U.S.

To achieve his goal of reopening the majority of K-8 schools in his first 100 days in office, he will sign a presidential memorandum reimbursing schools for additional cleaning, protective equipment and other associated costs using disaster relief funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

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