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On his first full day in office, President Joe Biden unveiled a 198-page national plan to tackle the coronavirus pandemic as the U.S. death toll tops 410,000. He signed 10 executive orders to create a new national COVID-19 testing board, to help schools reopen, to mandate international travelers to quarantine upon arrival, and to require masks on many forms of interstate transportation. Biden also invoked the Defense Production Act to increase COVID-19 testing and the production of vaccine supplies, saying a wartime effort is needed to combat the virus.
"It just feels like the federal government is back, the federal government is going to play a constructive and helpful role in this pandemic and the pandemic response. And that's critical," says Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. "It's science-driven stuff that I wish we had had a year ago." Dr. Jha also discusses his proposal to delay giving out second shots of coronavirus vaccines until there is more supply, as well as how new variants of the coronavirus impact the efficacy of existing vaccines.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: On his first full day in office, President Biden unveiled a 198-page national plan to tackle the coronavirus pandemic and ramp up vaccines, as the U.S. death toll tops 410,000. This comes after President Trump left Biden with no plan for a national vaccine rollout. Biden signed 10 executive orders to create a new national COVID-19 testing board, to help schools reopen, to mandate international travelers to quarantine upon arrival, and to require masks on many forms of interstate transportation. Another order creates a COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force. Biden also invoked the Defense Production Act to increase COVID-19 testing and the production of vaccine supplies.
PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Today I'm signing an executive action to use the Defense Production Act and all other available authorities to direct all federal agencies and private industry to accelerate the making of everything that's needed to protect, test, vaccinate and take care of our people.
AMY GOODMAN: President Biden said a wartime effort is needed to combat the virus.
PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Our national plan launches a full-scale wartime effort to address the supply shortages by ramping up production and protective equipment, syringes, needles, you name it. And when I say "wartime," people kind of look at me like "Wartime?" Well, as I said last night, 400,000 Americans have died. That's more than have died in all of World War II. "
We will make sure that science and public scientists and public health experts will speak directly to you. That's why you're going to be hearing a lot more from Dr. Fauci again not from the president, but from the real, genuine experts and scientists. We're going to make sure they work free from political interference and they make decisions strictly based on science and healthcare alone, science and health alone, not what the political consequences are. ...
The honest truth is, we're still in a dark winter of this pandemic. It's going to get worse before it gets better. It's going to take many months to get where we need to be.
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