With COVID-19 cases on the rise and new cases of highly transmissible variants identified in the U.S., President Biden has laid out an ambitious plan to provide federal leadership to address the pandemic crisis, says Virginia Tech expert Lisa M. Lee.

“There are many moving parts to his plan, but several foundational features are important: the response will be based in science and equity; it will provide federal coordination and support for logistics and consistent guidance; and it will re-engage with the global community to prevent similar future challenges,” says Lee.

Lee points to the following key pieces of Biden’s COVID-19 response plan.

  • President Biden has pledged to provide at least 100 million vaccines in his first 100 days.  He has requested $25 billion from Congress to increase vaccine production and distribution.  He has ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide logistical and financial support to states via the National Guard to distribute vaccines through workplaces, community clinics, and special vaccination sites.  As vaccination gets underway and we work to get to herd immunity—where 75-85% of the population is immunized—he has introduced a number of executive orders to help get the current surge under control.
  • He has required face coverings on all federal property, in federal buildings, and in all federal interactions.  Face coverings are also required for any interstate travel on public transportation—airplanes, trains, and interstate bus systems.  He has asked that all of us wear a mask for the next 100 days every time we leave our homes or interact with others who are not part of our household.  Evidence has shown that masks protect both the wearer and those around us and the President is using this evidence as the basis of the requirement.
  • The President has informed the World Health Organization that the United States will again participate in global efforts to get the pandemic under control and serve as a leader in the fight against future health threats.
  • Additionally, President Biden has charged the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, among others, to assess the current stock of pandemic supplies, including vaccination supplies (needles, syringes, etc.), high quality personal protective equipment (for health care providers as well as the broader population); and develop a plan to ensure equitable access to these products.

“These actions, together with the other aspects of his COVID-19 response plan will help both in the short-term and in the longer fight against the virus,” says Lee. “The mask requirements as well as increased production and equitable distribution of effective protective supplies will help reduce spread during the current surge of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.”  

Lee also explains that the deployment of federal resources to assist state health departments with distributing vaccines will help us reach herd immunity faster, bringing relief to our extremely stretched health care providers and systems.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us how connected our health is to the health of all others. This is especially the case with contagious diseases,” says Lee. “To protect the United States from health threats, we must ensure that others are protected from them as well. If we help other countries identify and address novel viruses, not only are doing the right thing, but we will be helping ourselves too.” 

About Lee

Lisa M. Lee is a public health expert specializing in infectious disease epidemiology and public health ethics. She also serves as the associate vice president for research and innovation at Virginia Tech, where she leads the division of Scholarly Integrity and Research Compliance. Lee has worked in public health and ethics at the local, state, and federal levels, including 14 years at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. During the Obama administration, she served as executive director of the Presidential Bioethics Commission. More here.

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