By Ashley Fuoco Antonelli, senior editor
Although there's nearly six weeks until inauguration day, President-elect Joe Biden has made it clear that combating the country's novel coronavirus epidemic will be his top priority once he assumes office—and this week, he released more details on how he intends to do so.
The electoral college is scheduled to meet Dec. 14 to officially cast their votes, but analysts do not expect any surprises, as President Trump and his supporters have lost numerous court cases challenging results in six key states, including a recent challenge in the Supreme Court that was filed by Pennsylvania Republicans.
As such, Biden and his team have been moving full steam ahead to prepare for his first 100 days in office. Here's how Biden plans to address America's coronavirus epidemic.
Biden's 3-pronged plan for his first 100 days
This week, Biden laid out a plan for addressing America's coronavirus epidemic during his first 100 days in office that centers around three points:
1. Encouraging mask wearing
Biden said on his first day in office he will sign an executive order requiring people to wear masks "wherever possible" under federal authority, including on buses, planes, and trains that cross state lines and in federal buildings.
In addition, Biden said he will urge state and local officials to implement mask mandates within their jurisdictions. Further, Biden said he will encourage Americans to wear face masks in public for at least the duration of his first 100 days in office.
"As a new president, I'm going to speak directly to the American people," Biden said. "We need your help. Wear a mask for 100 days. It's the easiest thing you can do to reduce Covid cases, hospitalizations, and deaths."
2. Vaccinating Americans against the coronavirus
Biden also said he will aim to get "at least 100 million [Covid-19] vaccine shots into the arms of the American people" during his first 100 days in office. To do so, Biden said his administration will implement "the most efficient mass vaccination plan in U.S. history," though he did not provide details on that plan.
3. Prioritizing teachers and reopening schools
Biden's third focus will be on teachers and reopening schools.
For instance, Biden said he plans to prioritize teachers when distributing vaccines against the novel coronavirus, looking to ensure teachers are able to access a vaccine "as soon as possible"—after health care workers and staff and residents of long-term care facilities.
In addition, Biden said he will work to ensure "the majority of our schools" can reopen—and remain open—during his first 100 days in office. To help do so, Biden called on Congress to allocate dedicated funding to aid schools in preparing for children and teachers to safely return to in-person classes. While Biden during his remarks did not elaborate on what those preparations would entail, in a plan he released in July, Biden called on Congress to make available up to $30 billion to help schools reconfigure classrooms to allow for physical distancing, secure personal protective equipment (PPE), improve ventilation, increase staffing, and construct plans for accommodating students and teachers who are at high risk of developing severe cases of Covid-19.
"It should be a national priority to get our kids back into school and keep them in school," Biden said this week. He continued, "If Congress provides the funding, we need to protect students, educators, and staff. If states and cities put strong public health measures in place that we all follow, then my team will work to see that the majority of our schools can be open by the end of my first 100 days."
Other efforts Biden could pursue within his first 100 days
Biden previously has said he plans to press Congress to pass a new stimulus package by late January that's intended to help offset the economic effects of the country's coronavirus epidemic. Biden's aides have said he would like Congress to pass a bill that guarantees sick leave for workers, covers the cost of coronavirus testing and treatments for uninsured and under-insured Americans, and allocates billions of dollars in funding to help businesses and schools reopen safely, among other things.
In addition, sources familiar with Biden's intentions have said he plans to appoint a "national supply chain commander" and establish a "pandemic testing board" on his first day in office.
Biden's long-term plan for addressing the epidemic
Biden acknowledged that his three priorities for fighting the epidemic during his first 100 days in office won't be enough to end the crisis. "[W]e will still have much to do in the year ahead, and sadly, much difficulty, too. We will be far, far from done," he said this week.
Biden has previously called for shifting the primary responsibility for coordinating America's coronavirus response from states, which have largely been left to take the lead under the Trump administration, to the federal government. This week, Biden said a team of top health officials will help guide the federal response, and he announced his intention to nominate or appoint several leaders to serve in his administration in top health posts:
- California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) to serve as HHS secretary;
- Rochelle Walensky, chief of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor at Harvard Medical School, to serve as CDC director;
- Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, to continue serving in his current role and serve as Biden's chief medical adviser and a member of Biden's Covid-19 response team;
- Vivek Murthy, who served as the United States' surgeon general under former President Barack Obama, to again serve in the post and initially focus on the country's coronavirus response;
- Jeff Zients, a former Obama administration official who currently is serving as co-chair of Biden's transition team, to serve as coordinator of Biden's White House Covid-19 task force; and
- Marcella Nunez-Smith, who is a co-chair of Biden's transition Covid-19 advisory board, to lead a Covid-19 task force focused on health equity and the outsized affect the epidemic has had on ethnic and racial minorities.
Biden hailed those leaders as "world-class experts at the top of their fields" who are "[c]risis tested." They'll be tasked with implementing federal initiatives aimed at bolstering America's supply chain of PPE, distributing authorized vaccines against the novel coronavirus, and increasing coronavirus testing and contact tracing throughout the country, among other things.
Overall, Biden said, "My first 100 days won't end the Covid-19 virus." However, he added, "I'm absolutely convinced that in 100 days we can change the course of the disease and change life in America for the better."