Focusing on Public Health, Biden to Seek Change With Numerous Executive Orders

As the nation crossed the threshold of 400,000 deaths from the pandemic, the Biden transition team said that one of his first actions will be an executive order calling on Americans to do “their patriotic duty” and wear a mask.

After Joe Biden is sworn in Wednesday as president amid unprecedented security, he will sign 15 executive orders aimed at undoing the Trump administration’s policies related to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), public health, climate change, and other issues, in some cases instituting new ones, such as a “100 Days Masking Challenge” across the federal government.

As the nation crossed the threshold Tuesday of 400,000 deaths from the pandemic, the Biden transition team said that one of his first actions will be an executive order calling on Americans to do “their patriotic duty” and wear a mask. He will also require masks and physical distancing in all federal buildings, on all federal lands, and by federal employees and contractors.

The Biden administration will also take steps to rejoin the World Health Organization (WHO); on Thursday, Anthony Fauci, MD, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), will speak to the executive board of the WHO.

Biden will also restore the National Security Council (NSC) Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense, which was created by the Obama administration. The Trump administration dissolved the office in 2018, dispersing staff as part of a wider NSC reorganization

In addition, he will create the position of COVID-19 Response Coordinator, who will report directly to the president; Jeff Zients, who previously served in the Obama administration as director of the National Economic Council, and acting director and deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, will be responsible for coordinating the federal COVID-19 response.

In the area of climate change, the administration will rejoin the Paris Climate Accord and revoke the approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

When Donald Trump took office 4 years ago, he signed just 1 executive order, which pledged to seek the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Repeal efforts failed, but the Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling in a case brought by Texas seeking to overturn the health law before its term ends in June.

In addition to the executive orders, the Biden transition team said there will be a review of all regulations and executive actions from the previous administration “that are deemed damaging to the environment or public health” as well as a directive to federal agencies to “prioritize racial equity and review policies that reenforce systemic racism.”