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January 22, 2021

Health Law Weekly

Biden Releases Action Plan for Federal Government's COVID-19 Response

  • January 22, 2021

President Joe Biden is moving quickly to make good on his pledge to make combatting COVID-19 a top priority, unveiling January 21 a far-reaching plan for ramping up the federal government’s response to the crisis.

The nearly 200-page plan, among other things, calls for a national vaccination effort; expanding testing, data, treatments, and the health care workforce; leveraging the Defense Product Act (DPA) to help ensure the availability of critical supplies; and advancing equity across racial, ethnic, and rural/urban lines.

Biden also issued a series of executive orders and other directives taking aim at the pandemic.

In addition to mandating mask wearing on all federal lands and in all federal buildings, Biden also issued an executive order requiring masks to be worn on many airplanes, trains, and certain other forms of public transportation.

Other executive orders called for establishing a national pandemic testing board to oversee implementation of a unified approach to testing; requiring steps to boost clinical care capacity, provide assistance to long term care facilities, increase health care workforce capacity, and support access to COVID-19 therapies for those without coverage; and directing agencies to fill supply shortfalls using all available legal authorities, including the DPA.

Biden issued another executive order for establishing a COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, which will include the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary, a chair designated by the Secretary, other federal agency heads, and up to 20 members from outside the federal government.

The task force is charged with making specific recommendations “for mitigating the health inequities caused or exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and for preventing such inequities in the future,” according to the order.

In a January 20 executive order, Biden also formalized the new Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response position, reporting directly to the President, to help coordinate the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.