President-elect Joe Biden unveiled a comprehensive plan to combat the coronavirus pandemic in the United States on Thursday. He has massively expanded the tests to help reopen schools, create more healthcare jobs, and invest billions in a nationwide Covid-19 vaccination campaign.
The plan, which Biden is expected to discuss at length from his headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, Thursday evening, would invest $ 20 billion in a national vaccination program in partnership with states, locations, tribes and territories. The pace of vaccination is much slower than US officials had hoped, and states blame a lack of funding and inconsistent federal government communications for the slow roll-out.
“Current vaccination efforts are insufficient to vaccinate the vast majority of the US population quickly and fairly,” Biden’s administration wrote in a 19-page document outlining the plan. “We need to make sure the local people have what they need to get vaccinations into people’s arms.”
Here’s a quick look at what Biden’s suggestion would do too:
- Invested $ 50 billion to expand tests
- Financing 100,000 new jobs in healthcare
- Identify and address emerging strains of Covid and invest in new treatments
- Protect vulnerable groups, health workers, and increase supplies of gloves, masks, and other relief supplies
- Join international efforts to stop Covid
- Dedicated $ 170 billion to reopen schools and universities
Biden would also expand the testing to help schools reopen safely and protect vulnerable populations like the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions. His administration said testing was a “critical” strategy for controlling the spread of the virus, but added testing was still not widely used and the US was still not using the tests effectively.
The president-elect’s plan invests $ 50 billion in testing, funds rapid testing, invests in expanding laboratory capacity, and helps states implement regular testing protocols.
Specifically, the plan includes investing in new treatments for Covid-19. A member of Biden’s Covid-19 Advisory Board, Dr. Celine Gounder said earlier in the day public health officials were focusing too much on treatments like monoclonal antibodies and Gilead Sciences’ antiviral drug Remdesivir. Monoclonal antibodies in particular have received a lukewarm response from health care providers who are often sitting idle, according to US officials.
“We need to think about other therapies,” Gounder told the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health during a webcast, adding, “monoclonal antibodies may not be the solution here.”
The plan also provides for the creation of a fund to support 100,000 new health care jobs, as well as the use of the National Guard to improve the supply of vials, gloves and masks to the nation for already frontline health workers.
Biden’s government plans to invest $ 30 billion in the Disaster Relief Fund to ensure adequate supplies of protective equipment. It will also provide 100% federal reimbursement for critical emergency shipments to states, local governments, and tribes, including the deployment of the National Guard, under a draft plan. Biden plans to solicit an additional $ 10 billion to manufacture pandemic supplies.
Biden would “restore US leadership worldwide” and support international health and humanitarian efforts. It’s unclear whether this means the U.S. will rejoin the World Health Organization after President Donald Trump withdrew the nation from the international agency last year. However, Biden has said in the past that he intended to return the US to WHO.
The president-elect’s new plan comes as the coronavirus continues to spread rapidly in the U.S. and deaths soar. The nation currently registers at least 245,300 new Covid-19 cases and at least 3,360 virus-related deaths each day, based on a 7-day average calculated by CNBC using data from Johns Hopkins University. The US reported a record 4,327 coronavirus deaths on Tuesday, the second time in just a week that the country’s daily death toll exceeded 4,000.
Trump’s response to the pandemic has been criticized, including his handling of the distribution of Pfizers and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines.
More than 30.6 million doses of vaccine had been distributed in the U.S. as of 9:00 a.m. ET Thursday, but just over 11.1 million vaccinations had been given, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number is a far cry from the federal government’s goal of vaccinating 20 million Americans by the end of 2020 and 50 million Americans by the end of this month.
The Trump administration on Tuesday passed Biden’s plan to release most of the doses it had withheld for the second round of recording of Pfizer’s and Moderna’s two-dose vaccines.
To speed up the pace of vaccinations, the Trump administration also changed the way vaccine doses are assigned to states, and the CDC expanded vaccination eligibility to include anyone aged 65 and over, as well as those with comorbid conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.