Joe Biden promises a 'wartime effort' to tackle COVID

President Joe Biden told the public Thursday that the nation must summon a 'full scale war-time effort' to beat back the coronavirus, as he signed new executive orders to speed vaccine delivery and called wearing a mask a patriotic duty. 

Speaking at the White House on his first full day as president, Biden pointed to the 400,000 deaths from COVID-19 so far – more than all of the military forces who died in all of World War II.

'This is a wartime undertaking,' he underscored, as he laid out efforts to deliver 100 million shots into Americans' arms.

'This is a wartime undertaking,' said President Joe Biden as he signed actions to try to beat back COVID-19 Thursday

'This is a wartime undertaking,' said President Joe Biden as he signed actions to try to beat back COVID-19 Thursday

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Biden borrowed a bit of pageantry from his predecessor, seating himself behind one of the same mini desks of the kind used by President when he would sign executive actions, some more consequential than others – while frequently fielding questions and posting with his signature.

In Biden's case, he used a different black pen for each order, then passing each one to an aide. Flanking him were Vice President Kamala Harris and coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci. 

When asked by a reporter whether the 100 million-shot goal was sufficient, Biden replied: 'When I announced it, you all said it’s not possible. Come on, gimme a break man!' 

Biden brandished a mask and repeated his call for Americans to wear them. 

He said he was 'asking the American people to mask up for the first 100 days. For the next 99 days.'

'It’s a patriotic act,' he said, lamenting that mask use had become politicized. 

'They’re more important than the vaccine,' which takes time to work, he said. 

He also promised a devotion to science and experts.  

'You’re going to hear a lot more from Dr. Fauci again – not from the president, but from the real genuine experts and scientists,' he said.

The series of executive orders and actions are intended to dramatically expand vaccine production and distribution – to push forward his goal of vaccinating 100 million Americans in his first 100 days in office.

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They came after he signed a federal mask mandate meaning that masks are now compulsory on all federal property. A second is set to follow today for all interstate travel including planes, trains and buses. 

The actions and orders are the beginning of an effort to revamp the administration's policy to push out the vaccine, with 400,000 Americans already having succumbed to COVID-19, and new mutations already spreading in the country.

The plan will see 100 federal vaccination centers in large venues such as convention centers and stadiums and states reimbursed for setting up their own as well.

Some large cities are already setting up the centers, including in Miami, New York and Los Angeles, but 100 federal sites will spread the idea across the country. 

WHAT'S IN THE PLAN
Federal mask mandate on all federal land and property, interstate planes, trains, ferries and buses  Target of 100 million shots in 100 days  100 new federal vaccination centers in stadium and convention centers States paid to open their own mass vaccination centers, which some already have Use Defense Production Act to order factories to make N95 masks, testing kids, vaccine ingredients and needles Cover cost of deploying National Guard and for states to but emergency supplies Set up Pandemic Testing Board to oversee testing Federal guidance on when and how it is safe to reopen schools Federal standards on how to make workplaces safer from COVID  All international travelers have to provide negative test and self-isolate on arrival  Rejoin the WHO Regular briefings by experts such as Dr. Fauci County-level CDC dashboard showing infections

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And manufacturers will be ordered under the Defense Production Act to produce vaccine materials, from ingredients to needles, where there are shortages, as well as produce protective equipment such as N95 masks. 

Biden is also depending on Congress to provide $1.9 trillion for economic relief and COVID-19 response. There are a litany of complaints from states that say they are not getting enough vaccine even as they are being asked to vaccinate a broader swath of Americans. 

And he is ditching the Operation Warp Speed name, replacing it with a 200-page strategy and a new White House COVID coordinator, Jeff Zients. The White House had no directly equivalent figure, with Mike Pence chairing the coronavirus task force.

The new head of the CDC, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, warned Thursday morning that claims from the administration that vaccines would be in regular pharmacies across the country by mid to late-February were not going to happen.

'Will it be in every pharmacy in this country by that timeline? I don't think so,' she told NBC's Today show.

'And as I said early on, I'm going to tell you the truth here. I don't think late February we're going to have vaccine in every pharmacy in this country.'

With a paradox of vaccine supply falling well short of demand but doses on the shelves unused in parts of the country - and many Americans ignoring guidance to avoid travel and social contacts - the Biden team wants to establish new vaccination centers across the country.

But the rollout of the existing doses as also been hit by problems. More than 35.9 million doses have been manufactured but just about half - 16.5 million - have been distributed, according to a CDC tracker.   

And in New York City officials were forced to reschedule 23,000 vaccine appointments this week alone. 

Wednesday marked the second deadliest day, according to COVID Tracking Project data. The deadliest 24 hours came on January 12, with 4,462 people dead, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins university. 

America's death toll is the highest in the world despite the country accounting for less than five percent of the global population. More than 24.1 million people have been infected since the pandemic began.    

'First we're going to create as many places as possible for people to be vaccinated,' said Bechara Choucair, the new vaccine coordinator, on a call with reporters Wednesday.

The actions and orders are the beginning of an effort to revamp the administration’s policy to push out the vaccine, with 400,000 Americans already having succumbed to COVID-19, and new mutations already spreading in the country.

The actions and orders are the beginning of an effort to revamp the administration's policy to push out the vaccine, with 400,000 Americans already having succumbed to COVID-19, and new mutations already spreading in the country. 

The United States recorded its second deadliest day of the COVID-19 pandemic Wednesday with the deaths of 4,409 Americans.

  The United States recorded its second deadliest day of the COVID-19 pandemic Wednesday with the deaths of 4,409 Americans.

Wednesday marked the second deadliest day, according to COVID tracking project data. The deadliest 24 hours came on January 12, with 4,462 people dead, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins university

Wednesday marked the second deadliest day, according to COVID tracking project data. The deadliest 24 hours came on January 12, with 4,462 people dead, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins university

The immediate goal is to stand up 100 new vaccination centers in a month, following reports of difficulties of getting vaccines out the door in many states, and the U.S. vaccination rate lagging other countries despite the two major vaccines already in distribution here.

Additional efforts will push vaccines into pharmacies, and expand deployments from the Public Health Service.

The push for 100 million would still fall short of what many experts say is needed to achieve 'herd immunity,' but the administration believes it will greatly slow the spread and start to bring infections down.

'It's an ambitious but achievable goal … but just the start,' said Zients, Biden's new COVID czar on a press call Wednesday.

One order would direct agencies to 'exercise all appropriate authorities' – including the Defense Production Act – 'to accelerate manufacturing, delivery, and administration to meet shortfalls in equipment and supplies needed for the COVID-19 response.' 

Another would boost FEMA reimbursement rates for assisting states with their response. Another order aims to expanding testing supply and boost access to testing – with an aim toward getting people back to work and reopening schools.

Still another would seek to ensure drug studies 'address the needs of diverse populations.' Larger studies already seek to examine the effects on different minority groups. Some localities have already experienced disparities in communities that are getting the vaccine.

An executive order to the Education and Health and Services Departments will direct them to provide guidance on reopening schools 'so state and local officials have metrics to inform decision-making.' The administration wants a majority of schools open in 100 days.  

A new testing board will be tasked with developing a 'clear, unified approach' to testing.

The administration is also planning to provide more information to the public, with

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