While it is both refreshing and exciting to see a President stand up and reveal the truth about COVID-19 and the extent of the measures taken to end the pandemic, this truth, which has been ignored in the White House for so long, is daunting. Biden made it clear that the 400,000 dead will likely be half a million within a month. He also pointed out the pathetic failure of a country home to 4% of the world’s population but 25% of COVID-19 cases and 20% of deaths.
One of the main themes of the Biden Plan may be more difficult than any medical feat: restoring confidence in the federal government’s handling of the pandemic. After a year where politics consisted of telling overly optimistic lies and leaving all real decisions to the states, Biden actually means taking the helm. That means creating a federal COVID-19 response team to coordinate policies across all agencies and replace the National Security Council’s positions on dealing with pandemics that existed during the Obama administration.
In addition to the 100-day mask challenge and the new requirements for federal assets, the ordinances specify requirements for masks for aircraft, trains and other public transport. This has largely been left to the transport companies up to this point, which has led to erratic enforcement and has made it difficult to impose penalties beyond the ban on passengers from onward travel with a particular provider. The orders also do the following:
Accelerate the production and purchase of vaccines, including applying the Defense Production Act to commission private companies to manufacture more vaccines. The same goes for PPE and test materials. Revert to a policy of regular public briefings on COVID-19, led by scientific experts, not politicians or publicists. Finally, establish a federal public dashboard at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that tracks cases, deaths, hospitalizations and tests, and provides a consistent view of the publicly available data. From WorldOMeters to Johns Hopkins, there have been many websites that have gone to great lengths from the start. However, this is the official data down to the county level, including hospital data, which has been largely hidden since the database was subcontracted to private companies in the middle of the pandemic. Ends the policy of withholding vaccines specifically for a second dose – a policy that, in practice, seems never to have been applied. This will also help states get more realistic estimates of when they will receive additional vaccine. Establish a number of new mass vaccination centers in locations such as convention centers and stadiums, as well as in smaller locations such as pharmacies and clinics. The plan initially envisages 100 such centers. Leads the federal government to the communities hardest hit by the pandemic and expedites free vaccines to these areas. Biden mentioned the Black, Latino and Native American communities as those who have lost people at much higher rates to COVID-19. Start a national education campaign to educate Americans about vaccine safety and the need for almost anyone to get a sting to stop the pandemic. Instructs federal agencies to consider wage increases for those who administer vaccines. Biden also talked about recruiting all sorts of employees – lab technicians, medical students, nursing students, and even veterinarians – to deliver vaccines.
It’s very good to have responsible adults again. However, it is also disheartening to see how big a hole is in a year of neglect, misinformation, and disinformation.
A .pdf with the full national strategy to combat COVID-19 is now available at whitehouse.gov.