Story by Brendon Donoho / Contributing Writer
Joe Biden began this set of executive orders by establishing the position of Covid-19 Response Coordinator within the White House in an effort to organize a government wide effort to fight the pandemic.
He next directed many departments of the Federal Government, including the Defense, Labor, and Health and Human Services departments to name a few, to appoint a member of their team to focus specifically on COVID-19 related issues and report to the COVID-19 Response Coordinator. He also directed data collecting branches of the government to update and improve data collecting methods. It seems that this group may remain in place after the pandemic to address future public health crises.
Biden also established the COVID-19 Health Equity Taskforce within the Department of Health and Human Services. This team will focus on identifying and recommending remedies for the disproportionate effect of COVID-19 on communities of color in the United States.
Finally, the Proclamation on the Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Non-Immigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Coronavirus Disease sets limitations on travel for foreign nationals from much of Western Europe, the United Kingdom, Ireland, South Africa, and Brazil for fourteen days due to high rates of COVID-19.
COVID-19 Relief and Support
In the first of these orders, Biden directed FEMA to fully reimburse state and local municipalities for any spending on programs to aid the unhoused populations. This is a break from his predecessor’s policy, under which FEMA did not fully reimburse for this.
He also directed the Federal Government to improve the availability of and process of acquiring funds for state and local governments, as well as small businesses and private individuals impacted by the pandemic.
Next, Biden called for the government to support and aid more large scale studies into developing working COVID-19 treatments. He asks for special emphasis on rural communities and other commonly unrepresented groups in these studies.
In the Executive Order on a Sustainable Public Health Supply Chain, Biden called on members of his COVID-19 response team, lead by the Response coordinator, to better organize and distribute necessary items such as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), COVID-19 test kits, and more.
Biden also created a COVID-19 Testing Board within the US Government to coordinate the distribution of tests as well as consider the possibility of manufacturing tests domestically.
The Memorandum to Extend Federal Support to Governors’ Use of the National Guard to Respond to COVID-19 and to Increase Reimbursement and Other Assistance Provided to States covers 100 percent of costs to states associated with deploying FEMA and National Guard efforts in combatting COVID-19.
Finally, Biden ordered the Department of Education along with the Department of Health and Human Services to give guidance to all primary, secondary, and higher education schools on reopening during the pandemic. This includes discussion of when, if, and how to reopen safely.
COVID-19 Worker Safety Measures
First, Biden issues a federal mask requirement on all public transportation services. This includes airports, trains, busses, and more.
The Executive Order on Protecting the Federal Workforce permits federal workers to work remotely when possible and requires masks on all federal workers, undoing a number of Donald Trump’s Executive Orders in the prior year. The order also states a commitment to unionization and a fifteen dollar wage for federal workers, though both of these are suggestions and not immediate policy changes.
The Executive Order on Protecting the Federal Workforce and Requiring Mask-Wearing doubles down on the mask mandate for federal workers, extending the mandate to contractors and also requiring social distancing measures.
Finally, Biden ordered cooperation between the Labor and Health and Human Services Departments on revising and updating COVID-19 guidelines for businesses as well as more heavily enforcing penalties for companies that put their workers at risk through unsafe practices.
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