Joe Biden is presumed to be the next president of the U.S. and will assume the office on Jan. 20. Since the pandemic is getting worse every day in the U.S. with record numbers of daily cases and record numbers of hospitalizations, from Michigan to North Dakota, what is Joe Biden’s COVID-19 plan for when he officially replaces President Trump?
Once Biden is in office, he will look to approach the coronavirus pandemic under starkly different terms than Trump. Biden intends to take a far more hands-on approach. While Trump has long pushed for businesses to reopen and downplayed the need for broad mask-wearing, Biden plans to take a coordinated, firm approach to combat COVID-19.
The Biden team isn’t waiting to take office before it begins efforts to curb the coronavirus, however. Health advisers have noted that Biden’s team is already working to court skeptical mayors and governors, form a coronavirus task force, and begin shifting the national narrative around the virus over the next several months.
Joe Biden’s COVID-19 plan, once he takes office, includes potentially implementing a national mask mandate, paying for sick leave, installing a transparent COVID-19 case tracker, restoring Obamacare, and supplying free coronavirus testing to the public. He also hopes to oversee the development and distribution of an effective COVID-19 vaccine and reinvest in global efforts to end this pandemic and to prepare for others.
Here’s what Joe Biden’s COVID-19 plan includes
A national mask mandate
Biden has vowed to push for broader mask-wearing around the nation for at least three months following his inauguration. On the campaign trail, he promised to work toward statewide mask mandates with individual governors. If governors are not willing to institute mandates, he will work with mayors and county executives. If absolutely necessary, Biden has not ruled out an executive order requiring nationwide mask-wearing.
The Biden administration will also work toward acquiring more Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers. If need be, Biden said he will use the Defense Production Act to boost output of PPE and refill the national stock.
Paid sick leave
Biden has big plans to boost America’s workforce. The pandemic has hit many families hard, particularly those working minimum wage jobs. Biden intends to permanently raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, on top of boosting hazard pay and paid sick and caregiving leave.
COVID-19 case tracker
Biden’s team aims to create a Pandemic Testing Board to match an expected surge in cases. The board would be modeled after President Roosevelt’s War Production Board, according to Politico. Biden also hopes to ramp up testing at drive-through sites and add funding to the development of at-home tests.
Contact tracing will also improve drastically if Biden’s plan succeeds. After taking office, Biden plans to direct the CDC to create a transparent real-time dashboard that tracks incoming hospital admissions related to COVID-19. This aims to track the origins of new coronavirus cases to prevent new surges in cases.
The Affordable Care Act, broadly known as Obamacare, was partially dismantled by the Trump administration in 2017. Meanwhile, nearly 7.7 million Americans have lost their employer-sponsored healthcare coverage due to the pandemic, according to MarketWatch.
Biden said he intends to protect and restore Obamacare as quickly as possible once he takes office. If the program is entirely struck down by the Supreme Court, more than 20 million Americans could lose their healthcare coverage.
Free coronavirus testing
Regardless of whether they have health insurance, Biden has pledged to provide free coronavirus testing to anyone who requires it. He promised Americans access to “regular, reliable, and free testing.” This, combined with increased testing and contact tracing, should immensely lessen the burden on working families.
Trump’s “Operation Warpspeed” program initially teased a pre-election vaccine but may instead produce one before 2020 is over. The distribution of any successful vaccines will likely fall to the next administration, however, requiring Biden and his team to have a solid plan.
Many Americans have also said they may not trust a vaccine once one is approved. Biden will need to tackle the task of outreach, to convince the majority of Americans that the vaccine is a safe and effective route to ending the pandemic.
Expanding global efforts
Biden’s team aims to combat the coronavirus—and future pandemics—hand in hand with America’s global allies. He has promised to promptly re-enter the World Health Organization, which Trump pulled out of earlier this year. He also plans to work with America’s allies to develop strategies for any future outbreaks.
With all of those strategies, Biden’s plan differs mightily from Trump’s plan.
“Whatever is being done now, it would be the opposite,” Chris Jennings, a former White House health policy adviser, told Politico. “There will be a much more collaborative relationship with state and local governments. He will empower the agencies, not undermine and discredit them—but he will also hold them accountable for results.”