Biden launching Public Health Jobs Corps, host of executive orders to address COVID-19

President Joe Biden calls for โ€˜unityโ€™ during inaugural address

Joe Biden sworn in as 46th president during his inauguration ceremony in front of the U.S. Capitol.

President Biden laid out on Thursday a strategy for addressing the coronavirus that included increasing funding and the number of federal employees deployed to meet an ambitious set of goals for countering the pandemic.

His national strategy consists of 10 new executive orders directing federal agencies to make a variety of reforms designed to, among other things, fill supply shortfalls. The White House will establish a COVID-19 Response Office responsible for coordinating the multi-faceted effort across federal agencies.

Some of the key provisions include instructing the federal government to fully reimburse costs for vaccinations, using National Guard personnel, providing emergency supplies, and allowing school reopenings. The strategy also creates a Public Health Jobs Corps designed to have in place 100,000 COVID-19 contact tracers, community health workers, and public health nurses. 

Biden has issued an executive order working to implement masking across the U.S. One of his new orders directs agencies to require masks be worn on “many airplanes, trains, and certain other forms of public transportation.”

Thursday’s announcement reflected an effort to follow up on an issue that was a centerpiece of his campaign’s promises and his criticism of the former administration. As of Thursday, the U.S. surpassed 400,000 deaths related to the virus’ 24 million cases — consequences for which Democrats have blamed former President Trump. 

Biden’s first stated goal is to “restore trust with the American people” by working towards transparent decisionmaking, conduct regular briefings, and lead “science-first public health campaigns.”

“To rebuild the trust of the American people, the National Strategy will signal clear public leadership and a commitment to a robust whole-of-government response that puts science first,” reads the strategy document. “The federal government will be transparent with the American people, maintaining an open line of communication with the public and all stakeholders.”

“The federal government will be transparent with the American people, maintaining an open line of communication with the public and all stakeholders.”

Biden is restoring the National Security Council entity former President Obama created for addressing pandemics. The president also sent letters informing the United Nations and World Health Organization (WHO) that the U.S. would reverse Trump’s decision to withdraw from the WHO.

The battle against the coronavirus is hitting a roadblock: A number of states are reporting they are running out of vaccine, and tens of thousands of people who managed to get appointments for a first dose are seeing them canceled.

The push to inoculate Americans has been encountering shortages as states dramatically ramp up their vaccination drives, at the direction of the federal government, to reach people 65 and older, along with other groups deemed essential or at high risk. 

About half of the 31 million doses distributed to the states by the federal government have been administered so far, though only about 2 million people have received the two doses needed for maximum protection against COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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