President Joe Biden’s first full day in office on Thursday focused on rolling out his national strategy to get the coronavirus pandemic under control and signing several executive actions, including ramping up vaccination supplies and requiring international travelers to provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test prior to traveling to the US.
“Our national strategy is comprehensive, it’s based on science, not politics. It’s based on truth, not denial, and it’s detailed,” Biden said, speaking from the White House. He said the 198-page plan is posted on WhiteHouse.gov.
Biden’s plan starts with a national vaccination campaign in order to meet the President’s goal of administering 100 million shots, which is enough to cover 50 million Americans with vaccines that require two doses, in his first 100 days in office.
“We’re at Day 1,” Biden said.
He said the plan was developed with input from the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, among other advisers and experts. Fauci was at the event at the White House, along with Biden’s Covid czar Jeff Zients.
Biden said the American public would be “hearing a lot more from Dr. Fauci again, not from the President, but from the real genuine experts and scientists.”
Former President Donald Trump sidelined and undermined his own medical experts as the pandemic raged across the country.
“We’re going to make sure they work free from political interference and that they make decisions strictly based on science and health care alone, science and health alone, not what the political consequences are,” Biden said.
The day after being sworn-in, Biden signed at least 10 executive orders, memorandums and directives focused on tackling the pandemic, which, as of Thursday afternoon, has claimed the lives of more than 408,000 Americans and infected more than 24 million in the US.
Biden signed executive orders ramping up supplies for vaccination, testing and personal protective equipment and another boosting development of therapeutics to treat Covid-19.
Biden emphasized the need for Americans to wear face masks in order to stop the spread of the virus, saying masks are “even more important than the vaccines.”
The President, who has long stressed the importance of mask-wearing, signed an executive order on his first day in office requiring masks in federal buildings and on federal lands, and asked Americans to wear masks for his first 100 days in office.
Following through on his campaign proposals, Biden signed two executive orders creating a National Pandemic Testing Board to improve US coronavirus testing capacity and a Covid-19 Health Equity Task Force to ensure an “equitable” pandemic response and recovery.
Another executive order he signed enhance the nation’s collection, production, sharing and analysis of data about the virus.
He directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to offer full reimbursement to states for the cost of National Guard personnel and emergency supplies such as PPE for schools.
Biden asked the Department of Education and Department of Health and Human Services to provide guidance for safe reopening and operating of schools, childcare providers, and institutions of higher education.
He signed an executive order calling on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to release clear guidance on Covid-19, decide whether to establish emergency temporary standards, and directs OSHA to enforce worker health and safety requirements.
Building on the order he signed Wednesday making masks mandatory on federal property, Biden also took action to require facial coverings in airports and on certain modes of transportation, including many trains, planes, maritime vessels and intercity buses.
Biden is also issuing a presidential directive to restore America’s leadership, support the international pandemic response effort, promote resilience for future threats, and advance global health security and the Global Health Security Agenda.
Newly-installed White House Covid coordinator Jeff Zients told reporters Wednesday that Biden’s pandemic strategy will be “a fundamentally different approach from the Trump administration,” and will be “driven by science, data, and public health” – not politics.
CNN reported Thursday that Biden and his advisers are inheriting a nonexistent coronavirus vaccine distribution plan to speak of from the Trump administration, with sources telling CNN that they’ll have to essentially “build everything from scratch.”
“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. As President Biden steps into office today that, that’ll change tomorrow,” Zients said Wednesday.
After his swearing-in ceremony Wednesday, Biden’s first action as President was to impose a mask mandate on federal property. Biden also installed a coronavirus response coordinator to oversee the White House’s efforts to distribute vaccines and medical supplies. He also signed an executive order halting US withdrawal from the World Health Organization.
CNN’s Kate Sullivan contributed to this report.