On First Days in Office, President Biden Issues Flurry of Executive Actions

Almost immediately following his inauguration on Wednesday, President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. issued a flurry of executive orders and directives to address the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and economic challenges being experienced throughout the country. President Biden additionally unveiled his Administration’s 200-page National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness laying out a series of actions to bolster the nation’s response to COVID-19 and prepare for future high-consequence public health threats.

A brief summary of the COVID-19 executive actions and directives is provided below:

  • COVID-19 Pandemic Testing Board and Public Health Workforce (Executive Order) – Establishes a COVID-19 Pandemic Testing Board to coordinate federal COVID-19 testing activities; directs specified agencies to address the costs of COVID-19 testing; directs specified agencies to conduct public health workforce activities for COVID-19 and future public health threats, including five-year targets and budget requirements to achieve a sustainable public health workforce, and establishes the U.S. Public Health Job Corps to support COVID-19 response activities
    • COVID-19 Safety in Domestic and International Travel (Executive Order) – Requires masks in airports and commercial aircraft, public vessels, and intercity buses and trains; requires international U.S.-bound travelers to produce proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test prior to entry and comply with applicable CDC quarantine guidance
    • Improving and Expanding Access to Care and Treatments (Executive Order) – Requires development of a plan for supporting a range of studies, including large scale clinical trials, for identifying clinical management strategies and treatments for COVID-19 and future public health threats; directs specified agencies to provide targeted surge assistance to critical care and long-term care facilities and expand access to programs and services to meet long-term health needs of patients recovering from COVID-19; directs specified agencies to set targets for the production, allocation, and distribution of COVID-19 treatments and identify barriers to use of existing COVID-19 treatments
    • Sustainable Public Health Supply Chain (Executive Order) – Directs specified agencies to assess public health supply availability to respond to COVID-19 and, if a shortfall is identified, take appropriate action, including use of the Defense Production Act, to increase supply availability; directs specified agencies to take actions around pandemic response supply pricing; requires development of a strategy to design, build, and sustain long-term capability in the U.S. to manufacture supplies for future pandemics and biological threats
    • Equitable Pandemic Response and Recovery (Executive Order) – Establishes a COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force; directs specified agencies to assess equity-related measures relative to the pandemic response; directs HHS to conduct a nationwide vaccine outreach campaign
    • Reopening Schools and Early Childhood Education (Executive Order) – Directs specified agencies to provide evidence-based guidance related to safe in-person school instruction; directs HHS to support the development of contact tracing programs, provide technical assistance around testing and other activities, and issue guidance
    • Protecting Worker Health and Safety (Executive Order) – Directs specified agencies to issue revised guidance on workplace COVID-19 safety, launch a national program to focus on federal workplace enforcement efforts, and assess occupational safety and health plans
    • International COVID-19 Response and Global Health Preparedness (National Security Directive) – Directs specified agencies to work with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other countries on international efforts to advance global health, health security, and the prevention of future biological catastrophes, including COVID-19; directs specified agencies to take specified international COVID-19 public health and humanitarian response efforts; directs specified agencies to conduct activities relative to COVID-19 response and global health security financing
    • Protecting the Federal Workforce and Requiring Mask-Wearing (Executive Order) – Requires federal workforce compliance with CDC guidelines on mask-wearing, physical distancing, and other public health measures; directs specified agencies to incentivize, support, and encourage widespread mask-wearing; establishes the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force to ensure COVID-19 workplace safety
    • U.S. Leadership on Global Health and Security (Executive Order) – Establishes Biden Administration COVID-19 response team and activities; directs specified agencies to undertake actions to strengthen public health emergency preparedness

A brief summary of the economic-related executive orders and directives is provided below:

  • COVID-19 Economic Relief (Executive Order) – Directs specified agencies to issue new guidance to increase Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) benefits, increase Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) emergency allotments for lowest-income households, and update food assistance benefits; directs specified agencies to expedite delivery of Economic Impact Payments; directs specified agencies to clarify that workers have a federally guaranteed right to refuse employment that will jeopardize their health
  • Protecting and Empowering Federal Workers and Contractors (Executive Order) – Directs specified agencies to conduct activities to pay more federal employees at least $15 per hour, restore collective bargaining power and worker protections, and strengthens civil service employment arrangements   

In addition to the above COVID-19- and economic-related actions, President Biden additionally issued orders on rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, advancing racial equity and support for underserved communities, ending travel bans on primarily Muslim countries, and protecting public health and the environment.

As the Biden Administration continues to ramp up its activities, additional information on the nation’s COVID-19 response activities is expected. CHEAC will keep its members apprised of relevant federal activities over the coming weeks and months.