There is power in the president’s pen, and America’s newest President Joe Biden is expected to sign the fuck out of some executive orders Thursday in an attempt to ramp up “COVID-19 testing and vaccinations, tightening enforcement of workplace safety rules and funneling more federal dollars to states struggling through the pandemic and economic crisis.”
According to Politico, former President Trump didn’t do shit (OK, I’m editorializing a bit) to stop the coronavirus, so Biden is trying to establish a strategy that will hopefully limit the spread of the virus.
“For almost a year now, Americans could not look to the federal government for any strategy, let alone a comprehensive approach, to respond to Covid, and we’ve seen the tragic costs of that failure,” Jeff Zients, Biden’s coronavirus coordinator, told reporters on a Wednesday night call, Politico reports. Zients added that Biden’s plan will “fundamentally change the course of the pandemic” and “get us back to our lives and loved ones.”
In Jesus’ name.
Just hours after being sworn in, Biden signed an order mandating that face coverings also called face condoms be worn on federal property. He also canceled Trump’s attempt to leave the World Health Organization because that was just really fucking stupid. But make no mistake about it, Biden can only do so much with his pen. He’s going to need Congress to make some long-lasting and permanent changes.
“We do need Congress to act and act quickly,” Zients said, calling for passage of the $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill Biden unveiled last week, Politico reports. “We will only overcome this pandemic together. It’s the only way out of the darkness.”
Topping Biden’s list is an order invoking the Defense Production Act to increase the supply of all the materials needed to get the vaccines into arms and ramp up testing. The order covers N95 masks and other protective gear, testing machines, rapid test kits and syringes capable of maximizing the amount of Covid vaccine that can be extracted from vials.
Tim Manning, a former FEMA official who will be Biden’s Covid-19 supply coordinator, said he sees the DPA as just one of many tools the new administration can use going forward.
“We’ll do whatever we need to do to ensure that we have an adequate supply of vaccine,” he said.
Biden will also order the creation of a pandemic testing board, modeled on President Franklin Roosevelt’s War Production Board, that will be tasked with expanding testing capacity, particularly in schools. Officials said Biden will also “clarify” health insurance companies’ obligation to cover Covid-19 testing, a sign the new administration may reverse a policy that has allowed insurers to refuse to cover testing of asymptomatic individuals for public health surveillance or back-to-work programs.
Other executive actions will create a public dashboard with real-time national and state-level data on cases, testing, vaccinations and hospital admissions, and impose a mask-wearing mandate on airplanes and other forms of interstate transportation. The administration also will deploy FEMA to set up 100 community vaccination sites in the next 30 days.
Biden will restore full federal funding for the National Guard’s pandemic work after Trump cut funding by 25 percent. The same order will approve funding to FEMA to help states reopen schools, including reimbursing teachers for items like masks.
Biden will also sign an order to “strengthen enforcement against employers who put their workers at risk of contracting Covid-19, directing the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to put out stronger guidance around virus prevention measures and go after ‘the worst violators.’”
Biden’s Covid response team members also noted that they are concerned about “reports of stark racial disparities in who is getting the first vaccines — and plan to take steps to make sure people of color don’t get left behind,” Politico reports. Another executive order will create a Covid-19 Health Equity Task Force to advise the team on these issues because President Biden is here to fix all of the problems former President Trump left behind.