On Jan. 21, President Biden published a 200-page national plan for combating the COVID-19 pandemic and preparing for the next one.
It is a stark contrast to former President Trump, whose coronavirus task force never created a national plan for responding to the pandemic and instead left it up to states and their health departments to determine strategies for ending the pandemic, resulting in a patchwork of plans that did little to stop the pandemic.
Biden put federal heft behind his national plan, directing agencies to focus on seven goals:
- restore American’s trust in federal public health response,
- mount an effective vaccine campaign,
- slow the virus’s transmission with masking, testing, data, treatment, and public health standards,
- expanding emergency relief and utilize the Defense Production Act to get needed supplies to healthcare workers,
- safely reopening schools, businesses and travel,
- protect those most at risk for illness from the virus, including across racial, ethnic and rural and urban communities, and
- restore U.S. global health leadership to prevent the next pandemic.
Highlights include: the creation of a COVID-19 response office in the White House to coordinate federal response to the pandemic, the expansion vaccine manufacturing and speed out roll creating new venues for people to get the vaccine, a push for governors to together create a national mask mandate, a plan for expanding at-home testing, investment in research and development of COVID-19 and other pandemic therapeutics, a plan to boost supplies of tests, vaccines and drugs by deploying the Defense Production Act, implementation of a national strategy for enable the return of in-school learning, investment in expanding the community healthcare workforce to ensure more equal access to healthcare, vaccines and therapeutics to underserved populations and restoration of U.S. membership in the World Health Organization.
“The Biden administration is putting science and public health first from Day one,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “An encouraging step forward to get the virus under control.”
Now will be the time for journalists to start tracking how well the new administration executes its plan. To see who will be the people in charge of making this plan happen, read this story in Stat on Jan. 21: “10 Biden officials to watch on COVID-19 response.”
And to understand more about the plan, see this Jan. 19 interview in Science News with Dr. Michael Osterholm, who was a member of Biden’s coronavirus transition team. Osterholm is director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy and a long-time expert on pandemic preparedness.
For more resources on covering the pandemic, see our COVID-19 page.