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.