Biden makes masks on planes and trains mandatory, in fight against coronavirus
WASHINGTON (US) – President Joe Biden will approve 10 executive orders on Thursday to battle the coronavirus pandemic, including directing that disaster funds should be used to help open schools again and making it mandatory that people wear masks on planes and buses, officials said.
Biden has pledged to fight against the pandemic that killed 400,000 people in the United States under Trump’s watch.
The president said in his inauguration speech, “We’re entering what may be the toughest and deadliest period of the virus and must set aside politics and finally face this pandemic as one nation.”
One order will stress on mask-wearing in airports and on certain modes of public transportation, which includes many trains, airplanes and intercity buses, officials said.
He also plans to sign orders on Thursday to establish a COVID-19 testing board to boost testing, address supply shortfalls, make clear protocols for international travelers and direct resources for minority communities drastically hit by the infectious disease.
He plans to direct the Federal Emergency Management Agency to reimburse states and Native American tribes fully when it comes to costs associated with National Guard and emergency supply efforts to tackle the virus. Biden’s measures also bring back “full reimbursement” from the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund over costs that would be needed for reopening of schools.
FEMA funds are typically paid out after hurricanes, floods or other natural disasters. Institutions including hospitals can also seek approval after Trump declared the pandemic a national emergency in March.
The fund had previously been reimbursing 75% of costs.
Jeff Zients, coordinator of the Biden White House’s coronavirus response, said on a call with reporters, “This is a national emergency and we need to treat it accordingly.”
Biden plans to team up with state and local governments to set up vaccination spots in conference centers, stadiums and gymnasiums.
The new administration will also have thousands of clinical staff from federal agencies, military medical personnel and pharmacy chains on board to increase vaccinations, and make teachers and grocery clerks eligible.
Vaccination programmes have fallen short of the target of 20 million Americans inoculated by the end of 2020.
The administration may call upon the Defense Production Act for speedy vaccine distribution following an inventory of essential items required to fight the pandemic.
Tim Manning, the administration’s new COVID-19 supply coordinator, said, “We have identified 12 immediate supply shortfalls that are critical for the pandemic response right now.”