Biden declares war on COVID-19
January 26, 2021
Newly sworn-in President Joe Biden took swift steps to keep one of his campaign promises: to immediately declare war on the novel coronavirus COVID-19 through a series of executive orders.
Biden’s plan, which New York Times opinion columnist Ezra Klein termed “maddeningly obvious,” is a straightforward one that rests squarely on getting the COVID-19 vaccine into arms as quickly as possible. That means vaccinating over 300 million people, something only the federal government can do. This directly contradicts the Trump administration’s earlier decision to scrape that responsibility onto the states.
“This will be one of the most challenging operational efforts ever undertaken by our country,” Biden stated on January 22. “You have my word that we will manage the hell out of this operation.”
Biden set a goal of 1.5 million vaccinations per day on January 25, up from his original goal of 100 million vaccinations in 100 days.
Biden started by placing Jeff Zients, who led the rescue of HealthCare.gov during the Obama administration, in charge of the rollout. Zients detailed the four parts of his plan to speed up vaccinations: 1) loosen restrictions on who can get vaccinated and when; 2) set up far more vaccination sites; 3) mobilize medical personnel to deliver vaccines; and 4) increase vaccine supply and accelerate its production through the power of the federal government.
“We’re going to throw the full resources and weight of the federal government behind this emergency,” Zients vowed.
Biden’s team will use the Federal Emergency Management Agency to create thousands of vaccination sites across the country in facilities such as community centers and stadiums. The National Guard will staff the effort, which means overburdened states won’t have to foot the bill. The team will mobilize retired medical professionals to help. To reach those in remote locations or who are unable to travel to a vaccination site, the team will create mobile vaccination efforts.
The team is examining whether it’s possible to squeeze more vaccines out of the existing supply. Is it possible, for example, to get six doses from a syringe rather than five? The Defense Production Act may help accelerate production of needed testing equipment as well as more vaccines.
But the Biden administration is under no delusion that this will magically cure the pandemic. Biden acknowledged that it will take time to get vaccinations up to speed since no distribution plan was in place when he took office on January 20. To slow the progress of the disease, he has issued a series of executive orders requiring mask-wearing for everyone on all airplanes, trains, and public transportation, as well as mask-wearing and physical distancing in all federal buildings, on all federal land, and by federal employees and contractors. Biden team members are working on a publicity push to encourage reluctant citizens to get the vaccine. In addition, Biden plans to create a COVID-19 Pandemic Testing Board. This will expand testing capacity, especially in schools.
One of the frustrating things for new CDC head Rochelle Walensky has been the lack of data relating to COVID-19.
“One of the biggest problems right now is I can't tell you how much vaccine we have, and if I can't tell it to you then I can't tell it to the governors and I can't tell it to the state health officials,” Dr. Walensky told “Fox News Sunday” on January 24.
Because this lack of data seriously disrupts the vaccination process, the administration plans to enhance data collection, production, sharing, and assessment. It will work with states to collect and analyze data. The conclusions and information will be shared publicly through dashboards containing national and state information on numbers of cases, testing, vaccinations, and hospital admissions.
The Biden administration also plans to help school districts, higher education institutions, and daycare facilities reopen safely by collecting data to help guide re-opening decision-making.
On January 21, Democratic Governor Tony Evers emphasized how vital it is to speed up vaccine distribution in Wisconsin.
“It’s my hope that the president does everything in his power to increase production, so that we can get more vaccines in people’s arms,” Evers stated. “…If we want to do this as quickly as possible, we need to have more.”
Meanwhile, Wisconsin’s GOP Legislature plans to vote down an extension of Evers’s statewide mask mandate.
To access the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccination plan, visit https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/National-Strategy-for-the-COVID-19-Response-and-Pandemic-Preparedness.pdf?fbclid=IwAR2ueUmcDtI2fR51mbFzBQzh2O3W_AubQUsCK0WTfftfJQJd0SPoiDDYvTI.
To access Wisconsin COVID-19 information, visit https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/index.htm.