As promised, President Biden has taken office with a burst of activity, signing nearly 30 executive orders in his first few days. Some are mostly symbolic. Others signal future action. And some will bring prompt change to key parts of the economy. Here are five of Biden’s biggest moves so far.
A national Covid strategy. Nearly one-third of the orders Biden has signed so far relate to the coronavirus pandemic. Biden is building a muscular federal response to the crisis, a major shift from President Trump’s decentralized approach. The Biden plan will include a Pandemic Testing Board to establish unified standards across the country and boost supplies, which are still inadequate. There will be a federal vaccination campaign, with federally run mass vaccination centers and mobile units for rural areas. States and cities will get more funding and personnel for speedy vaccine deployment. The Biden administration will rebuild scientific agencies that Trump shackled or gutted. It will also establish procedures for reopening schools and provide more resources for local school districts.
It’s a mystery why Trump didn’t take these types of steps early in the pandemic. Public health experts and business leaders have stressed all along that massively scaled testing is crucial to safely operating businesses and reopening those forced to close. Vaccines will ultimately reduce the need for testing, but the vaccine rollout has been slow since it kicked off in December, with widespread immunity not likely until 2022 at the current pace. Congress has approved more than $4 trillion in coronavirus relief since last March, yet defeating the virus remains the single biggest stimulus measure there is. Biden is speeding the process.