President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Thursday revealed a slate of new executive orders and presidential directives intended to speed up production of Covid-19 supplies, increase testing capacity and require mask wearing during interstate travel — part of a sprawling 200-page national pandemic strategy he announced at a White House event. He is expected to sign more orders on Friday.
Taken together, the orders signal Mr. Biden’s earliest priorities in mounting a more centralized federal response to the spread of the coronavirus. Some of them mirror actions taken during the Trump administration, while most look to alter course.
Here’s what the orders aim to do.
Ramp up the pace of manufacturing and testing.
One order calls on agency leaders to check for shortages in areas like personal protective gear and vaccine supplies, and identify where the administration could invoke the Defense Production Act to increase manufacturing.
Another order establishes a Pandemic Testing Board, an idea drawn from President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s War Production Board, to ramp up testing. The new administration is promising to expand the nation’s supply of rapid tests, double test supplies and increase lab space for tests and surveillance for coronavirus hot spots.
Require mask wearing during interstate travel.
Mr. Biden has vowed to use his powers as president to influence mask wearing wherever he is legally allowed to, including on federal property and in travel that crosses state lines. An order issued Thursday requires mask wearing in airports and on many airplanes, intercity buses and trains.
The same order also requires international travelers to prove they have a recent negative Covid-19 test before heading to the United States and to comply with quarantining guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention once they land.
Publish guidance for schools and workers.
Mr. Biden issued an order meant to protect the health of workers during the pandemic, telling the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to release new guidance for employers. The order also asks the agency to step up enforcement of existing rules to help stop the spread of Covid-19 in the workplace.
The president also directed the departments of Education and Health and Human Services to issue new guidance on how to safely reopen schools — a major source of controversy over the summer when White House and health department officials pressured the C.D.C. to play down the risk of sending students back.
Find more treatments for Covid-19 and future pandemics.
The Biden administration is calling on the health and human services secretary and the director of the National Institutes of Health to draft a plan to support the study of new drugs for Covid-19 and future public health crises through large, randomized trials.