On Monday morning, president-elect Joe Biden got down to business. One of his first moves as president-elect was to name a COVID-19 task force and to outline how his administration plans to combat the pandemic moving forward. Can we just say: What a breath of fresh air, after the past year of watching a leader reject doctors and scientists in favor of misinformation, scare tactics, and meetings with a pillow company owner (yes, really).
Biden wants to make testing free and widely available, and will also increase contact tracing
The Biden administration wants to ensure that everyone who seeks a COVID test can get one free of charge and easily, by establishing at least 10 mobile and drive-through testing sites in each state. He also plans on providing a daily public White House report on how many tests have been done by the CDC, state and local health authorities, and private laboratories.
The White House website touches on the importance of safe and effective testing, but doesn't lay out an explicit plan to make the tests more accessible. Trump previously announced intentions to distribute 150 million rapid coronavirus tests purchased by the federal government to various states. But experts called that number a "small drop in the bucket" when compared to the need for testing. Trump had also scrapped Jared Kushner's testing plan back in July, allegedly in part because he feared that more testing would result in higher case counts, which would look bad.
Biden wants to look into how COVID-19 has disproportionately affected Black and brown communities
According to Biden's campaign website, his administration believes that "long-standing systemic inequalities are contributing to this disparity, including the fact that African Americans are more likely to be uninsured and to live in communities where they are exposed to high levels of air pollution." The website also acknowledges that African Americans represent an especially high percentage of front-line workers, meaning they're at a greater risk of being exposed to the virus at work.
Biden believes that an equitable distribution of resources could possibly help this issue. During an April briefing, Trump claimed to be doing everything he could to "provide support to African American citizens of this country who are going through a lot. But it's been disproportional. They're getting hit very, very hard." But as The Hill reported in late May, his administration didn't offer much by way of a clear strategy for protecting Black communities during the pandemic.
Biden wants to make masks mandatory
More masks = less COVID infections. Given that fact, the Biden administration wants to make wearing them outside of your home mandatory. If 95% of Americans wore masks, more than 100,000 lives could be saved, according to an October study in the journal Nature Medicine.
The president-elect has been vocal about this since August, when he said, "It’s not about your rights. It’s about your responsibilities as an American,” at a press appearance in Wilmington, Delaware. He is interested in working with local governors and mayors to implement a mask plan. (No word yet on how people who refuse to wear masks would be dealt with.)
Trump has taken a different approach. His administration did encourage Americans to wear masks back in August. But the president has also mocked Biden and others for wearing masks during the global pandemic, which has taken more than 240,000 lives.
Biden wants to accelerate the development of treatment and vaccines
According to the Biden administration's website, they'll be investing $25 billion in "a vaccine manufacturing and distribution plan that will guarantee it gets to every American, cost-free." They'll be putting scientists in charge of this process, and publicly release clinical data for any vaccine the FDA approves.
Trump has also emphasized the importance of finding a working vaccine and effective therapies. His administration implemented Operation Warp Speed plan, which aims to produce and deliver 300 million doses of vaccines starting in January 2021 by funding companies with promising vaccine candidates. (Several companies have used this program to accelerate development of their vaccines, though it wasn't used in the development of the Pfizer one.) Defense Secretary Mark Esper was overseeing OWS, but Trump fired him today.
Biden wants to re-join the World Health Organization and prepare for future pandemics
The Trump administration began the process to withdraw from the WHO back in July, but the Biden administration will stop those efforts ASAP. Biden has also said he would restore the White House National Security Council Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense, which was created by the Obama administration, after Trump got rid of it back in 2018. Finally, Biden wants to re-launch the U.S. Agency for International Development’s pathogen-tracking program called PREDICT, which Trump had cut too.