Updated at 3:36 p.m. ET
President Biden signed a series of orders and directives on his second day in office to take charge of stopping the spread of the coronavirus — steps that he and his advisers say will start to boost testing, vaccinations, supplies and treatments.
"While the vaccine provides so much hope, the rollout has been a dismal failure thus far. So I understand the despair and frustration of so many Americans and how they're feeling," Biden said in remarks shortly before signing the stack of executive actions.
"We didn't get into this mess overnight, and it's going to take months for us to turn things around. But let me be equally clear: We will get through this. We will defeat this pandemic. And to a nation waiting for action, let me be clearest on this point: Help is on the way."
The president is also pushing Congress for another $1.9 trillion in relief, a package that would include direct payments to Americans, support for small businesses and a huge boost in funding for vaccines and testing.
The pandemic relief effort is a means to advance the strategy his team has developed, starting with the 10 executive orders and directives, his COVID-19 response coordinator, Jeff Zients, told reporters.
"Last week you heard the president lay out his vaccine strategy," Zients said, adding that on Thursday, Biden will advance "the road map to guide America out of this public health crisis."
One of the orders directs agencies to use the Defense Production Act to address critical shortfalls in 12 categories of items needed for testing, treating and vaccinating people for COVID-19 — vaccines, N95 masks, gowns, gloves, test supplies and kits, lab analysis machines, therapeutic drugs and other supplies — and will work to spur production of the items in the United States.
"This is a wartime undertaking," Biden said on Thursday.
"We're in a national emergency, and it's time we treated it like one."
Biden also signed a memo to direct the Federal Emergency Management Agency to fully reimburse states for vaccination and testing supplies and for the costs of National Guard deployments associated with the pandemic. Biden plans to establish the COVID-19 Pandemic Testing Board to boost testing.
Other orders and directives are to:
- require masks on planes and buses and in airports, as well as require travelers to show a negative coronavirus test before flying to the United States
- direct more studies and trials of COVID-19 treatments
- mandate more public data on cases and vaccinations
- offer more guidance to schools on reopening
- direct the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to provide guidance for workplaces
- establish a COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force to make recommendations on ensuring that underserved communities hurt worst by the pandemic are treated more fairly
Biden also plans to support the global response to the pandemic and will join the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility and other multilateral initiatives.