On January 20, 2021, Joseph R. Biden was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States. Within hours of taking the oath, President Biden signed an executive order entitled Executive Order on Protecting the Federal Workforce and Requiring Mask-Wearing that requires wearing masks and encouraging social distancing in Federal buildings and on Federal lands. President Biden also signed an Executive Order on Organizing and Mobilizing the United States Government to Provide a Unified and Effective Response to Combat COVID-19 and to Provide United States Leadership on Global Health and Security. This Order established a position of Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response and Counselor to the President and reversed former President Trump’s attempt to the withdraw the United States from the World Health Organization. On January 21, 2021, he began in put his imprimatur on fighting the coronavirus in the U.S. by issuing the National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness (the “National Strategy”) and additional Executive Orders addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 National Strategy
On January 21, 2021, President Biden unveiled his National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness, which outlines an actionable plan across the federal government to address the COVID-19 pandemic. The National Strategy is organized around seven goals: 1) Restore trust with American people; 2) Mount a safe, effective, and comprehensive vaccination campaign; 3) Mitigate spread through expanding masking, testing, data, treatments, healthcare workforce, and clear public health standards; 4) Immediately expand emergency relief and exercise the Defense Production Act; 5) Safely reopen schools, businesses, and travel while protecting workers; 6) Protect those most at risk and advance equity, including across racial, ethnic, and rural/urban lines; and 7) Restore U.S. leadership globally and build better preparedness for future threats. The National Strategy emphasizes ramping up testing, accelerating the pace of vaccinations, and providing more funding and direction to state and local officials.
In addition to the two Executive Orders related to COVID-19 issued yesterday, President Biden signed eight more executive orders on January 21, 2021 related to COVID-19.
- The Executive Order entitled Executive Order on Promoting COVID-19 Safety in Domestic and International Travel requires mask-wearing on certain public modes of transportation and at ports of entry to the United States. For international air travel, the Executive Order requires a recent negative COVID-19 test prior to the departure and quarantine on arrival, consistent with CDC guidelines. The Executive Order also directs agencies to develop options for expanding public health measures for domestic travel and cross-border land and sea travel and calls for incentives to support and encourage compliance with CDC guidelines on public transportation.
- The Executive Order entitled Executive Order on Establishing the National Pandemic Testing Board and Ensuring a Sustainable Public Health Workforce for COVID-19 and other Biological Threats establishes the COVID-19 Pandemic Testing Board and increases testing supplies and testing capacity. Through this Executive Order, the President directs agencies to facilitate testing free of charge for those who lack health insurance and to clarify insurers’ obligation to cover testing.
- The Executive Order entitled Executive Order on Ensuring a Data-Driven Response to COVID-19 and Future High Consequence Public Health Threats directs steps to enhance federal agencies’ collection, production sharing, and analysis of, and collaboration with respect to data to support an equitable COVID-19 response and recovery.
- The Executive Order entitled Executive Order on Improving and Expanding Access to Care and Treatments for COVID-19 outlines steps to bolster clinical care capacity, provide assistance to long-term care facilities and intermediate care facilities for people with disabilities, increase health care workforce capacity, expand access to programs designed to meet long-term health needs of patients recovering from COVID-19, and support access to safe and effective COVID-19 therapies for those without coverage.
- The Executive Order entitled Executive Order on A Sustainable Public Health Supply Chain directs agencies to use all available legal authorities, including the Defense Production Act, to accelerate manufacturing, delivery, and administration to meet shortfalls in twelve categories of supplies identified as critical to the pandemic response.
- The Executive Order entitled Executive Order on Supporting the Reopening and Continuing Operation of Schools and Early Childhood Education Providers directs a national strategy for safely reopening schools, postsecondary institutions, and early childhood education providers, including requiring the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services to 1) provide guidance on safely reopening and operating; and 2) develop a Safer Schools and Campuses Best Practices Clearinghouse to share lessons learned and best practices from across the country.
- The Executive Order entitled Executive Order on Protecting Worker Health and Safety directs the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) to issue updated guidance on COVID-19 worker protections and directs OSHA and the Mine Safety and Health Administration to consider whether emergency temporary standards, including with respect to mask wearing, are necessary.
- The Executive Order entitled Executive Order on Ensuring an Equitable Pandemic Response and Recovery establishes a high-level task force, which will convene national experts on health equity, to address COVID-19 related health and social inequities and help coordinate an equitable pandemic response and recovery.
Norton Rose Fulbright lawyers will continue to provide relevant updates on the COVID-19 PHE on the Health Law Pulse.