We are just two days into a new administration, and there are already some big changes underway. President Biden says his main focus is ending COVID-19 and getting the country back to life pre-pandemic. The U.S. recently surpassed 400,000 COVID-19 deaths with over 24 million cases, but help may be on the way.
The new president recently unveiled sweeping changes to the country’s response to the crisis.
Here’s what these changes mean for you:
Getting Your Shot
If you still haven’t received your COVID-19 vaccine, you should know that the White House would like to go from 17 million doses administered to 100 million over the next 100 days. That’s a lot of arms to prick.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is hoping to get 100 mass vaccine distribution sites up and running across the country by the end of the month. Its mission is to “provide federal support to existing or new community vaccination centers and mobile clinics across the country.”
According to an official FEMA document, the agency says it “will mobilize thousands of clinical and nonclinical staff and contractors who will work hand-in-glove with the National Guard and state and local teams to assist, augment, and expedite the distribution and administration of coronavirus vaccines.”
The U.S. government would be in charge of these distribution sites, providing equipment, training, and staff support. They will pull from the vaccine supply that’s already being sent out to states and territories instead of a new federal stockpile. Both Moderna and Pfizer are in the process of ramping up production, but officials say demand could exceed supply throughout February and March, so we may see shortages over the next several weeks until manufacturers get more doses out.
At 15,000 square feet, the proposed “Mega Model” vaccination site would be able to administer 6,000 shots a day.
As for the people giving out the shots, the Biden team is asking state licensing boards to expand certain scopes of practice to increase the number of providers qualified to administer the drug.
Overall, the White House is pumping $25 billion into the manufacturing and distribution process to make sure everyone can get shots cost-free.
Testing and Contact Tracing
Testing can still be an issue in many parts of the country. The Biden Administration is planning to double the number of drive-through testing sites across the country, while ramping up the production and distribution of at-home and rapid tests to simplify the process.
Contact tracing is also key to limiting the spread of the virus. It can often be a tedious, thankless job, especially when people outright refuse to answer questions about their health status or personal life.
However, the White House isn’t ready to give up. NPR notes that the country’s contact tracing workforce recently surpassed 70,000 at the end of last year, marking a six-fold increase since the start of the pandemic. However, several states haven’t reported their numbers of contact tracers, and many have said they plan to hire more in the coming weeks. So far, just two states, Hawaii and Montana, appear to have enough tracers in place to investigate every possible case of COVID-19.
To help out, the president is asking for a new U.S. Public Health Jobs Corps, which would mobilize at least 100 Americans across the country to work with trusted local organizations in high-risk communities to “perform culturally competent approaches to contact tracing” so they can protect at-risk individuals, including elderly persons who may have trouble answering a survey over the phone.
Progress at a Glance
You need a lot of data to fight a pandemic.
During WWII, President Roosevelt created the War Production Board, an agency that coordinated with private companies and industries as they converted their operations for the wartime effort. This helped the country quickly scale up the production of airplanes, tanks, ships, and other essential supplies for combat.
Now, the Biden team is asking for the same. Health experts have been calling for a Pandemic Testing Board since the early months of the pandemic; and now, they may finally get their wish. This agency will be used to coordinate the production of tests and other essential supplies until the pandemic comes to an end.
If you’re still having trouble getting access to PPE, the White House also says it will use the Defense Production Act to scale up the manufacturing and distribution process.
You can learn more about the Biden Administration’s plans for combating the pandemic on the White House website.