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January 22, 2021

Here's Biden's 'full-scale wartime' strategy to combat Covid-19

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    President Biden on Thursday unveiled his administration's national Covid-19 response plan and took additional execution actions to implement the effort, which calls for increasing coronavirus testing capacity, accelerating Covid-19 vaccinations, safely reopening schools and businesses, and more.

    Radio Advisory episode: Biden's plan for fighting Covid-19

    Inside Biden's national Covid-19 response plan

    Biden's 200-page plan to combat Covid-19, called the "National Strategy for the Covid-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness," encompasses a stronger federal response to the epidemic than the United States saw under former President Donald Trump's administration, the Washington Post reports. Biden described his strategy as a "full-scale wartime effort."

    Biden's plan centers on seven goals:

    • Restoring trust with the American people;
    • Launching a safe, effective, and comprehensive Covid-19 vaccination campaign;
    • Mitigating the coronavirus's spread through clear public health standards and by expanding coronavirus testing, mask wearing, data, treatments, and the health care workforce;
    • Expanding emergency relief and exercising the Defense Production Act;
    • Safely reopening businesses, schools, and travel while protecting workers;
    • Protecting Americans most at risk of Covid-19 and advancing equity; and
    • Restoring U.S. leadership internationally, as well as building better preparedness for future threats.

    To achieve those seven goals, Biden's administration plans to take a number of actions outlined in the national strategy, including:

    • Calling for new guidelines on safely reopening business and schools and ordering the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue guidelines to help protect workers against contracting the coronavirus;
    • Directing federal agencies to invoke the Defense Production Act to expand supplies if necessary;
    • Establishing a "pandemic testing board," which is modeled on former President Franklin Roosevelt's War Production Board, to expand access to coronavirus testing;
    • Providing states with funds from the Federal Emergency Management Administration;
    • Providing Americans with more vaccination sites and promising to administer 100 million Covid-19 shots during Biden's first 100 days in office; and
    • Using National Guard troops to help accelerate vaccine administration, as well as fully reimbursing states for the cost of using the National Guard to accelerate Covid-19 vaccinations.

    Other actions outlined in Biden's plan resemble some efforts initiated by Trump's administration. For example, Biden's plan calls for expanding Covid-19 vaccine eligibility to all Americans ages 65 and older—a move the Trump administration announced last week. Biden's plan breaks with the Trump administration's move, however, by not calling for expanding eligibility to younger Americans with underlying health conditions that put them at risk for developing a severe case of Covid-19, the Post reports.

    Biden takes executive actions to implement plan

    Biden on Thursday also signed 10 executive orders aimed at implementing his national Covid-19 strategy, the Associated Press reports. Among other things, those executive orders aim to:

    • Bolster the collection and analysis of data to shape the federal government's Covid-19 response;
    • Create a Pandemic Testing Board focused on increasing coronavirus testing capacity;
    • Promote research into new Covid-19 treatments and expand the U.S. health care system's capacity to address the epidemic;
    • Direct OSHA to release and enforce guidelines intended to protect workers against the coronavirus;
    • Direct HHS and the Department of Education to provide guidance on safely reopening and operating schools, child care centers, and institutions of higher education; and
    • Require Americans to wear masks while using public transportation, including airplanes, buses, maritime vessels, and trains.

    'It's gonna get worse before it gets better': America continues to see high rates of new coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, and deaths

    Biden released his new Covid-19 response strategy as America continues to report persistently high rates of new coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, and as the country has struggled to quickly roll out its two authorized Covid-19 vaccines.

    According to data compiled by the New York Times, U.S. officials on Thursday reported about 190,630 new cases of the novel coronavirus. As of Friday morning, officials had reported a total of about 24.6 million cases of the virus since America's epidemic began—up from about 24.4 million cases reported as of Thursday morning.

    According to the Times, the United States' average daily number of newly reported coronavirus cases over the past week was 188,110—which is down by 21% when compared with the average from two weeks ago, when the country was seeing a surge in newly reported cases tied to Americans gathering with others over recent holidays.

    As of Friday morning, data from the Times showed that the rates of newly reported coronavirus cases were "staying high" in Puerto Rico; the U.S. Virgin Islands; Washington, D.C.; and 13 states that have had a daily average of at least 15 newly reported cases per 100,000 people over the past week. Those states are Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, and Wyoming.

    The Times' data also showed that, as of Friday morning, the daily average of newly reported cases over the past seven days was "going down" in 36 states that had been seeing comparatively higher rates of coronavirus transmission. Those states are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

    In Hawaii and Guam, meanwhile, the rates of newly reported coronavirus cases were "staying low" as of Friday morning, according to the Times' analysis.

    U.S. hospitalizations for Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, also have remained high. According to data from The Atlantic's COVID Tracking Project, there were 119,927 Americans with Covid-19 hospitalized for treatment on Thursday, including 22,304 who were receiving care in an ICU and 7,370 who were on a ventilator.

    According to data from the Times, U.S. officials reported about 4,142 new deaths linked to the novel coronavirus on Thursday. As of Friday morning, officials had reported a total of about 410,336 U.S. deaths linked to the virus since the country's epidemic began, up from about 406,190 deaths reported as of Thursday morning.

    On Thursday, Biden said he expects that the number of U.S. deaths tied to the coronavirus will reach 500,000 within the next six weeks. "We're still in a dark winter of this pandemic. It's gonna get worse before it gets better. It's gonna take many months before we're where we need to be," he said.

    Meanwhile, CDC data shows that, as of Thursday morning, the federal government had distributed about 38 million doses of the country's authorized Covid-19 vaccines, and about 17.5 million Americans had received their first dose of the two-dose vaccines (Gay Stolberg, New York Times, 1/21; Fernandez/Rummler, Axios, 1/21; Winfield Cunningham, Washington Post, 1/21; National Covid-19 Response Strategy, 1/21; Ollstein/Leonard, Politico, 1/21; Laris/Wan, Washington Post, 1/21; Alonso-Zaldivar/Miller, Associated Press, 1/22; New York Times, 1/22; "The COVID Tracking Project," The Atlantic, accessed 1/22; CDC data, updated 1/21).

    Navigating Biden's first 100 days

    What to expect from the outset of the new administration


    Read this Our Take for a full breakdown of what to watch in Biden's first 100 days, including the health care policies the Biden administration could prioritize.

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