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Biden releases new COVID-19 plan

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A day after being sworn in, President Joe Biden is rolling out a national strategy to fight COVID-19, reopen the nation’s schools and restart the U.S. economy. His plan calls for an expansion of coronavirus testing, accelerated vaccine distribution and new action to prepare for future biological threats. The plan is tied to a $1.9 trillion plan that Biden unveiled last week to combat the pandemic.

The administration’s new strategy is based around seven major goals:

RESTORING TRUST

— Establishes a federal COVID-19 response team to coordinate efforts across agencies and restores a White House team on global health risks that was established during the Obama administration.

— Calls for regular public briefings on COVID-19 to be led by scientific experts.

— The federal government will track data on virus cases, testing, vaccinations and hospital admissions and will make it available to the public. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will start a public dashboard tracking cases at the county level.

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VACCINES

— Increases the production and purchasing of vaccines, including through the Defense Production Act — it allows the president to direct the manufacturing of critical goods during wartime — and ensures availability of glass vials, syringes and other supplies.

— Accelerates vaccinations by ending a policy to hold back large amounts of vaccines while also giving states clearer projections on vaccine availability to help them plan their rollouts.

— Partners with states to create more vaccine centers at locations including stadiums, convention centers and pharmacies.

— Directs federal health agencies to consider raising pay for those who administer vaccines.

— The federal government will identify communities that have been hit hardest by the pandemic and make sure vaccine doses reach them at no out-of-pocket cost to residents.

— Launches a national campaign to educate Americans about vaccines and encourage them to get shots.

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MITIGATE SPREAD

— In addition to Biden’s order asking Americans to wear masks for 100 days, he will issue a separate order to federal agencies to require masks on airplanes, trains and other public transportation.

— A new national testing strategy will expand testing supplies and increase laboratory capacity, and the federal government will work with schools to implement screening programs to help them reopen.

— Creates a program to develop new treatments for COVID-19 and other pandemic threats.

— Calls on the CDC to develop new public health guidance to help schools and businesses make decisions on reopening.

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EMERGENCY RELIEF

— Increases emergency funding to states and orders the Federal Emergency Management Agency to reimburse states for certain costs tied to the pandemic, including supplies of protective equipment and for National Guard personnel supporting the pandemic response.

— Directs federal agencies to invoke the Defense Production Act to close shortages of syringes, N95 masks, gloves and other supplies needed for virus testing and vaccine administration.

— Calls for development of a national strategy to increase U.S. manufacturing of supplies needed to fight pandemics.

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SCHOOLS AND WORKERS

— Biden will issue an order to develop a national strategy to reopen schools, hoping to meet his goal of having most K-8 schools open within his first 100 days in office.

— Orders the Education Department and the Department of Health and Human Services to develop guidelines to help schools reopen and to share best practices gleaned from schools across the nation.

— Calls on Congress to provide at least $130 billion in additional aid to schools and $35 billion for colleges and universities.

— Asks Congress to provide $25 billion to stabilize child care centers at risk of closing and $15 billion in child care aid for struggling families.

— Biden will issue an order calling on federal agencies to issue updated guidance on COVID-19 precautions for workers and to consider new federal emergency standards, including around mask-wearing, are needed.

— Steers virus relief funding to the hardest-hit businesses.

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ADDRESSING DISPARITIES

— Establish an equity task force to address disparities in rates of infection, illness and death across lines of race, ethnicity and geography.

— Direct federal agencies to expand data collection on high-risk populations and use that information to track and evaluate the pandemic response among those populations.

— Equity will be prioritized in the federal government’s pandemic response, including its efforts to provide protective equipment, test, vaccines and treatments.

— Create a U.S. Public Health Workforce Program made up of workers who will help with testing and vaccinations in their communities.

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PREPARING FOR FUTURE THREATS

— The U.S. will rejoin the World Health Organization, reversing the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the global agency.

— Increases humanitarian aid and support other efforts to help fight COVID-19 around the world.

— Calls for congressional support to establish a national center to prevent, detect and respond to future biological threats.

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