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This blog post is focused on the COVID-19 protections that the Biden-Harris Administration put in place during January of 2021. I am pulling some this information from a generalized health care post that can be found in the “Out of Spoons” section of Book of Jen. I also included relevant information from (then) Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

January 15, 2021

January 15: President-elect Biden posted “Fact Sheet: President-elect Biden Outlines COVID-19 Vaccination Plan” From the Fact-Sheet:

Effectively and equitably vaccinating the U.S. population will happen through stronger partnership with states and communities, increased supply, more vaccination sites, and more vaccinators.

The COVID-19 pandemic is getting worse by the day – more people are hospitalized with COVID-19 than ever before, the death rate is up almost 20 percent, and we’re nearing 400,000 deaths total. At the same time, there is a new, more contagious strain spreading across the country and we are woefully behind on vaccinating the U.S. population.

President-elect Biden will confront this historic challenge with the full strength of the federal government – working closely with local communities already in the trenches. He will lead an unprecedented, whole-of-society effort that mobilizes every resource available – across the public and private sectors. It will take every American doing their part.

As we move forward to get vaccines in arms as quickly as possible, we will not leave anyone behind. Communities across the country are counting on it. The health and economic security of our nation depend on it.

Today, the president-elect outlined key highlights of his plan to efficiently and equitably vaccinate the U.S. population. This includes taking action to:

Get more people vaccinated

  • Encourage states to allow more people to be vaccinated including individuals 65 and older as well as frontline workers. The process of establishing priority groups was driven by science, but the implementation has been too rigid and confusing. We now see doses of vaccines sitting in freezers unused while people who want the vaccine cannot get it. President-elect Biden’s plan encourages states to open up eligibility beyond healthcare workers and long-term care facility residents and staff, to include frontline essential workers like teachers, first responders, grocery store employees, and anyone who is 65 and older. It won’t mean that everyone in this groups will get vaccinated immediately, as supply is not where it needs to be. But it will mean that as vaccines become available, they will reach more people who need them. For states with the capacity and supply to further expand, we encourage that as well. The federal government will continue to look to the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) framework for an equitable, effective vaccination program.
  • Ensure equity throughout the vaccination process to reach those hard-to-reach, marginalized communities. We will ensure that there is equity in the vaccination process by using data to target resources to hard-hit communities, ensuring no out-of-pocket costs for vaccinations, and equitable access to vaccines in marginalized and medically-underserved communities. Partnerships with states local and community-based organizations and trusted health care providers, like community health centers, will be central to this effort.

Create more vaccination sites

  • Stand up new, federally-supported community vaccination centers across the country. Getting as many people as vaccinated as quickly as possible will require close coordination between the federal government and all states and territories. Knowing that not all states and jurisdictions have the resources to scale vaccinations at the pace this crisis demands, the Biden-Harris administration will leverage federal resources and emergency contracting authorities to launch new vaccination sites and to expand state and local efforts across the country. With the support of Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), these sites will mobilize thousand of clinical and non-clinical staff and contractors who will work hand-in-glove with the National Guard and state and local teams. The program will be scaled based on what is working best on the ground for state and local partners, and the communities they serve.
  • Fully reimburse state deployment of the National Guard to support vaccinations and provide additional FEMA assistance. Many states are planning to use their National Guard to support vaccine distribution efforts, including support critical transportation and logistics functions. To further support states, President-elect Biden’s plan fully reimburses states for the use of the National Guard and provides 100% cost match for state and local emergency costs through FEMA.
  • Launch mobile vaccination clinics and provider partnerships to reach underserved urban areas and rural communities. President-elect Biden will deploy mobile vaccination clinics in the most hard-to-reach communities and to support those who face challenges accessing vaccination sites, including individuals who live in underserved urban and rural areas. The federal government will partner with states and local providers, including primary care providers, to ensure that they have the resources needed to help get vaccines to the communities they serve. The federal government will launch targeted programs to engage community health centers, rural health clinics, critical access hospitals, and tribal health services to ensure that we can meet the needs of all communities.
  • Make vaccines available in pharmacies. Millions of Americans turn to their local pharmacies every day for their medicines, flu shots, and much more. Nearly 90 percent of Americans live within five miles of a pharmacy. President-elect Biden will quickly jumpstart efforts to increase capacity at chain and independent pharmacies across the country to get Americans vaccinated.
  • Launch a new partnership with Federally Qualified Health Centers nationwide. Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) serve more than 30 million patients each year – one in 11 people nationwide. Many are people of color and many live in rural communities. FQHC patients are often individuals struggling to make ends meet. Given the critical role that these providers play in their communities, President-elect Biden will launch new program to ensure that FQHCs can directly access vaccine supply where needed. At the same time, the administration will encourage jurisdictions to engage and work closely with health centers in their community vaccination planning. And to ensure that health centers have the resources they need to successfully launch vaccination programs, President-elect Biden has called on Congress to provide additional funds to support community health centers, and HHS will launch a new program to provide guidance, technical assistance, and other resources to prepare and engage the providers nationwide.
  • Launch new models to serve high-risk individuals. The administration will make programs available for high-risk congregate settings, including homeless shelters, jails, and institutions that serve individuals with intellectual and development disabilities.

Increase supply and get it out the door as quickly possible

  • Ensure a robust vaccine supply and spur manufacturing. To help people get vaccinated more quickly, the president-elect will maximize the manufacture of vaccine and vaccine supplies for the country, including using the Defense Production Act. This effort will prioritize supplies that could cause bottlenecks, including glass vials, stoppers, syringes, needles, and the “fill and finish” capacity to package vaccine into vials.
  • Be a reliable partner for states by providing actionable data on vaccine allocation timelines and delivery. To effectively plan and scale distribution, states and localities rely on both advanced understanding of they allocations and timely delivery other ordered doses. Under President-elect Biden’s plan, the federal government will provide regular projections of the allocations states and localities will receive. The federal government will build on the operational plans in place to ensure the effective distribution, storage, and transit of vaccines to states, including support for maintaining or augmenting the vaccine-specific required cold chain. The federal government will also fully leverage the Defense Production Act to fill any distribution gaps, including with respect to any needed refrigeration, transportation, or storage facilities.
  • Increase vaccine availability while maintaining a commitment to the two-dose schedule. President-elect Biden’s plan will release the vast majority of the vaccines when they are available, so more people can get vaccinated quickly, while still retaining a small reserve for any unforeseen shortages or delays. To continue ensuring second-dose availability on the timeline recommended by the FDA, the Biden-Harris administration will closely monitor development, production and release of vaccines, and use the DPA as needed to ensure adequate supply for second doses on the timeline recommended by the FDA.

Mobilize more personnel to get shots in arms.

  • Surge the public health workforce to support the vaccination effort. A diverse, community-based public health workforce is essential to an effective vaccination program. President-elect Biden will address workforce, including by expanding scope of practice laws and waiving licensing requirements as appropriate. The federal government, in partnership with sates, will provide appropriate training, including thorough use of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned The president-elect will also act swiftly to amend the current COVID-19 Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act declaration to permit certain qualified professionals, including retired medical professionals, that are not licensed under state law to administer vaccines to be able to do so without appropriate training in order to expand the number of qualified professionals able to administer the vaccine.
  • Mobilize a public health jobs program to support COVID-19 response. President-elect Biden has asked Congress to make an historic investment in expanding the public health workforce, funding 100,000 public health workers to nearly triple the country’s community health roles. These individuals will be hired to work in their local outreach and contact tracing in the near term, and transition into community health roles to build our long-term public health capacity that will help improve quality of care and reduce hospitalization for low-income and underserved communities.

Ensure the American people have the information and confidence they need to get vaccinated

  • Launch a federally led, locally focused public education campaign. The federal government will build public trust through increased transparency, communication and around progress and setbacks, and a public education campaign that addresses vaccine hesitancy and is tailored to meet the needs of local communities. The campaign will work to elevate trusted local voices and outline the historic efforts to deliver a safe and effective vaccine as part of a national strategy for beating COVID-19.

January 15: Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Democrat) posted a Press Release titled: “Pelosi Statement on Biden-Harris Administration National Vaccine Strategy” From the Press Release:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued this statement on the announcement from the incoming Biden-Harris Administration outlining their vaccine plan:

“The Biden-Harris Administration’s plan takes a giant leap forward to take our nation from vaccine to vaccination, so that we can crush the coronavirus – and do so in an equitable, effective way. With this plan, President-elect Biden is sending a powerful message to the American people: Help Is On The Way.

“The Biden-Harris vaccine plan is a 180-degree reversal from the disastrous vaccine distribution failure of the Trump Administration. Instead of the Trump Administration’s abandoning of state and local governments, the Biden plan works hand-in-hand with our partners to immediately stop the accelerating spread the virus, including by:

  • Getting more people vaccinated: encouraging states to allow more people to be vaccinated including individuals 65 and older as well as frontline workers and ensuring equity throughout the vaccination process to reach those in hard-to-reach, marginalized communities.
  • Creating more vaccination sites: creating new federally-supported community vaccination centers, fully reimbursing state deployment of the National Guard to support vaccination, launching mobile vaccination clinics and partnerships to reach underserved and high-risk communities, and making vaccines available in pharmacies.
  • Increasing supply and distribution: ensuring a robust vaccine supply and spur manufacturing, providing actionable data on vaccine allocation timelines and delivery, and increasing vaccine availability while maintaining a commitment to the two-dose schedule.
  • Mobilizing more personnel to get shots in arms: surging the public health workforce to support the vaccination effort and mobilizing public health jobs program to support COVID-19 response, all in a culturally competent way.
  • Ensuring that the American people have the information and confidence to get vaccinated: launching a federally led and locally focused public education campaign.

“The Democratic House stands ready to work with the Biden-Harris Administration to immediately launch this plan. As the vaccine is being made widely available, we must work to crush the virus with the testing, tracing, treatment, mask wearing and social distancing that are essential to preventing tens of thousands of needless deaths in the coming months.”

January 15: Senator Chuck Schumer posted a Press Release titled: “As NY Ramps Up Vaccination Efforts, Schumer, Gillibrand Demand Feds Immediately Address Significant COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Failures; Senators Urge HHS To Implement Comprehensive National Vaccine Plan & Work To Combat Health Inequities” From the Press Release:

Nationally, 2.6 Million Americans Have Been Vaccinated, Missing Initial 20-Million-By-End-Of-December Goal; In NY, Phase 1B Is Underway With Broadened Eligibility Criteria

Senators Say HHS Must Prove Resources, Support And Guidance To State, Local, Tribal, And Territorial Governments In Order to Efficiently Distribute And Administer Vaccines To People Across New York.

Schumer, Gillibrand: Feds Failure In COVID Vaccine Distribution Must Be Fixed To Get All New Yorkers Vaccinated ASAP

As New York embarks on phase 1B of its COVID-19 vaccination rollout, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today called out the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) failure to develop and implement a comprehensive national vaccine plan, despite having months to do so, and demanded the Department take immediate action to fix the significant failures of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution process. The senators said they have been requesting HHS work and communicate with state, local, tribal, and territorial governments, vaccine and PPE manufacturers, public health experts, and health care providers for months to develop a plan for COVID-19 vaccine distribution and administration.

“The biggest thing we want to ensure about the coronavirus vaccine is access. The vaccine must be available to whoever needs and wants it,” said Senator Schumer. “By refusing to work with local governments to implement a national vaccine plan, HHS is failing New Yorkers who are earnestly waiting their turn for a vaccine, and they must step up to address the health inequities and distribution failures. In order to succeed in the collective goal of public health, I am demanding that HHS fix its broken distribution plan and work with municipalities to get New Yorkers vaccinated ASAP.”

“New York’s health systems have been stretched to the limits and as the virus surges across the state, federal support is necessary to effectively distribute and administer vaccines,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The Trump administration’s lack of leadership has hampered our nation’s vaccine distribution and resulted in doses of vaccine expiring before reaching Americans. Even in the final days of this administration, it’s crucial that they enact a robust federal plan to allow the incoming Biden administration to quickly reach every American in need of a vaccine. The Biden Administration should not have to start from scratch to form close partnerships with state and local governments in order to deliver detailed guidance and essential resources to speed up vaccine administration.”

Schumer and Gillibrand underscored that a successful plan must include guidance and best practices on taking the vaccine from distribution to administration, provide all necessary resources to state, local, Tribal, and territorial governments and other jurisdictions, account for the significant challenges jurisdictions face in scaling up their workforces, and act to ensure vaccine distribution efforts also combat health inequities. The senators also called for HHS to launch a massive public facing campaign to promote vaccine confidence and help people understand where, when and how to get vaccinated.

In the coming weeks, the senators emphasized that HHS must engage with states to proactively identify and address challenges to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are quickly and equitably distributed and administered across the country.

Additionally, Senator Gillibrand recently called for the passage of the Health Force, Resilience Force, and Jobs to Fight COVID-19 Act to address the nation’s lagging vaccine campaign by investing billions in local public health infrastructure and recruiting, training and employing hundreds of thousands of Americans to administer and distribute vaccines, particularly in underserved communities. Community-based public health jobs and resources, like those created by the Health Force, are known to improve local vaccine education, outreach, and vaccination rates. The Health Force proposal would ensure the federal government has a proactive and coordinated approach to vaccine distribution and administration – including delivering $40 billion a year, for the first two years, to meet the COVID-19 vaccine distribution needs and address the various public health challenges caused by the pandemic.

Senator Schumer and Senator Gillibrand’s letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar, signed alongside 43 other senators appears below:

Dear Secretary Azar:

We write to you with concerns about significant challenges in COVID-19 vaccine distribution and administration across the country and to outline key actions the Trump Administration should have taken – and must now take – to address these challenges. With our health system and economy in crisis, and millions of lives at stake, we cannot afford for this vaccination campaign to continue to be hindered by the lack of planning, communication, and leadership we have seen so far.

President Trump tweeted on January 3rd that “the vaccines are being delivered to the states by the Federal Government far faster than they can be administered!” That should have been an indicator of a failed vaccine roll out, not a point of pride. It is the federal government’s role to ensure states, Tribes, localities, and the public are receiving the resources and support they need, rather than requiring every jurisdiction to manage on their own without the benefit of the national resources and perspective that only the federal government can provide.

Since July, we have been calling on the Trump Administration to work with states, Tribes, and localities, vaccine and PPE manufacturers, public health experts, congregate care settings, and other health care providers to develop a comprehensive, national plan for vaccines. Since September, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Operation Warp Speed (OWS) first published their playbook and strategy for vaccine distribution, state, Tribal and local health departments have said that they need clear communication, transparent decision-making, evidence-based guidance, and financial resources to effectively implement vaccine administration plans.

Despite months to plan, the Trump Administration has failed to meet these needs or deliver promised doses to jurisdictions, and as a result of this lack of planning, only 36 percent of distributed vaccines have been administered. We hope the recently announced efforts to scale up vaccinations in pharmacies will help to turn the tide but it is clear much more is needed. States, Tribes, and localities, providers, and the public are being left without federal support or clear, complete information about what to expect in the future as nearly 300,000 Americans fall ill daily from this virus.

In order to avoid these failures, the Trump Administration should have issued and implemented a comprehensive national vaccines plan, including detailed guidance and an infusion of resources to support states. Federal responsibility does not end with the delivery of vaccines to states, as you have suggested. Vaccine administration must be a close partnership between the federal government and state, Tribal, and local governments, with the federal government stepping up to ensure that all needs are met. A vaccine allocated on a spreadsheet, or even a vaccine distributed and sitting on a shelf, is not enough to protect anyone. The metric that matters, and where we are clearly moving too slowly, is vaccines in arms. A comprehensive national plan should:

  • include robust guidance for states, Tribes, localities and health care providers including on personal protective equipment (PPE) usage, vaccine administration prioritization, and best practices for taking the vaccine from distribution to administration;
  • specify how the Federal government will support these entities with funding, supplies, information, and personnel – which thus far the Trump Administration has failed to do; and
  • account for the significant challenges jurisdictions face in scaling up their workforces while continuing other lifesaving public health work, which may include providing increased support for mass vaccination clinics and mobile testing units, as well as supplementing the vaccination workforce including vaccinators, logistical support, and more.

In the absence of this long-overdue national plan, it is all the more important that the Trump Administration actively engage with state planning efforts in the coming days, identify challenges across distribution and administration, and proactively address problems that arise in partnerships with jurisdictions.

In order to support the efforts outlined in a comprehensive, national plan, the Trump Administration must also quickly provide robust vaccine distribution to funding to States, Tribes, and localities. In advance of the vaccine distribution efforts commencing, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) had provided just $617 million in funding for vaccine efforts – this amount was woefully inadequate.

In fact, the Trump Administration falsely stated as recently as November that States did not need funding for vaccine distribution. Ultimately, Congress provided $8.75 billion for vaccine distribution efforts in the recently enacted COVID relief bill which will meaningfully help states execute their vaccine administration plans. The bill requires a portion of this funding to be sent to states within 21 days, and President Trump’s delay in signing this legislation should not further delay the distribution of these funds.

We recognize that the CDC announced the availability of $3 billion for states for vaccination activities, but we cannot afford a repeat performance of this Administration’s decision to sit on billions of dollars in testing funds when states urgently needed them. The Trump Administration must ensure strong support reaches jurisdictions as soon as possible to support their critical work. The challenges we are seeing in vaccine distribution also underscore the need for robust and permanent investments in public health infrastructure to get us out of this cycle of crisis and response.

The Trump Administration must act to correct the lack of transparency and communication from the federal government around COVID-19 vaccine distribution and administration. Over the first two weeks of vaccine distribution, more than a dozen states found their actual vaccine allocations fell significantly below initial OWS allocation forecasts. For several days, OWS denied these discrepancies, before ultimately admitting officials had provided states with flawed numbers. Even now, states are given just one week of advanced notice about the number of doses they will receive and have been given no information about distribution projections after February.

Local health departments are largely excluded from planning calls with OWS and CDC, even though they often ultimately receive and administer vaccines. There is no federal plan to publicly release sufficient data on vaccinations in long-term care settings, where more than 133,350 residents have died, accounting for 37 percent of all deaths from COVID-19. The federal Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program, which states expected to rely on to support vaccination of these particularly vulnerable populations, has administered only 17 percent of the vaccines distributed to these facilities to date.

Jurisdictions and health care providers are not the only ones in the dark; members of the public do not know when, where, or how they will be able to be vaccinated. CDC already supports a national portal to provide information to the public on where they can receive flu vaccines and other vaccines; the public needs this and more information when it comes COVID-19 vaccines, which should be broadly publicized.

Furthermore, while some states are taking steps to educate providers and the public to improve communication and build trust, the Trump Administration has failed to meaningfully address vaccine confidence, after spending months directly undermining such confidence by casting doubt on our nation’s world-class scientists and scientific agencies. The Trump Administration should launch a long-overdue, large-scale public awareness campaign and work with leaders in communities across the country to provide science-based information to promote high vaccination rates. The federal government must play a proactive role in improving transparency and communication with public health departments and the American people.

Finally, the Trump Administration must also act to ensure vaccine distribution efforts combat rather than exacerbate health inequities that have been laid bare by the COVID 19 pandemic. A failure to plan strategically and proactively for vaccine distribution means communities of color, residents of congregate care facilities, rural communities, and other populations disproportionately at-risk will remain neglected in our pandemic response. This is especially true for the millions of health care workers of color who provide the daily care and support for residents of congregate care settings and who provide home health care. We have seen the toll this pandemic has taken on vulnerable communities, and the egregious health disparities that have resulted from this pandemic, and we must act to combat these inequities.

Since FDA granted the first emergency use authorization for a COVID-19 vaccine, only 2 percent of Americans have been vaccinated. In that same time, the United States passed 20 million cumulative cases of COVID-19 and saw a new record in daily deaths from COVID-19 when over 4,085 Americans died on January 7. Of the 20 million doses promised by the end of 2020, only 4 million doses were administered before the end of the year. In light of this failed vaccine rollout admits a surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths, we urge you to finally take the steps necessary to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are quickly and equitably distributed and administered across the country.


January 19, 2021

January 19: Senator Chuck Schumer posted a Press Release titled: “Continuing Their Steadfast Support For Higher Ed During The Pandemic, Schumer, Gillibrand Deliver $1.4 Billion For New York’s Colleges And Universities As Part Of COVID Relief Package; Senators Say Higher Ed Institutions Face Huge Budget Shortfalls Amid Ongoing COVID Crisis” From the Press Release:

Institutions Of Higher Education Are Eliminating Majors & Departments, Pausing Admissions, And Cutting Staff To Make Ends Met During Economic Crisis

Schumer Negotiated, Gillibrand Shepherded Into Passage, $1.4 Billion For NYS Colleges And Universities Into Recent COVID Relief Package, Supplementing Amount Already Disbursed From CARES Act

Schumer, Gillibrand: Additional Aid For Higher Ed Will Help Fight Economic Pandemic

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kristen Gillibrand today announced an additional $1.4 billion in federal funding for New York state’s private, public, and proprietary institutions of higher education, allocated to the U.S. Department of Education’s (DOE) Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund II by the recently Schumer-negotiated, Gillibrand backed, Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA). The funding is in addition to federal funding already allocated from the CARES Act in March.

“Our universities have been navigating the ongoing global pandemic, ripping huge holes in their budgets to prioritize the health and safety,” said Senator Schumer. “Today’s funding I prioritized in negotiations for the recent COVID relief package will help to mitigate some of the financial devastation our colleges and universities face as the crisis continues log beyond what anyone imagined. We need to ensure that our world-class institutions of higher education right here in New York are equipped with the assistance they need to make it through this crisis and thrive.”

“New York’s universities have been hit hard by this pandemic and they’ve been forced to make tough budget cuts in order to prioritize the health and safety of their students and staff. Federal funding is critical to ensure students maintain access to a strong education throughout this crisis,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The funding that Leader Schumer and I fought to deliver will provide an essential lifeline for these institutions to support students, provide essential technology and infrastructure for online learning, and fund increased expenses due to the pandemic. I’m proud to have secured this funding and I will continue working to deliver resources that our higher education institutions need to weather the COVID-19 crisis.”

Schumer and Gillibrand said that public and non-profit schools will be able to use their awards for financial aid grants to students, student support activities, and to cover a variety of institutional costs, including lost revenue, reimbursement for expenses already incurred, technology costs associated with a transition to distance education, faculty and staff trainings, and payroll. Proprietary schools must use their awards exclusively to provide financial aid grants to students.

The DOE specified that allocations to institutions were based on a formula that includes the relative shares of Federal Pell Grant recipients, the relative share of non-Pell Grant recipients, and the relative share of Federal Pell and non-Pell Grant recipients exclusively enrolled in distance education prior to the coronavirus emergency…

January 19: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi posted a press release titled: “Pelosi Statement on 400,000 American Coronavirus Deaths” From the press release:

Washington D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued this statement on the tragic milestone of 400,000 American lives lost to the coronavirus:

“Today, the hearts of all Americans break for the 400,000 who have died from the coronavirus – an unfathomable human toll almost beyond comprehension. As one country, we pray for all lost to this vicious virus: children, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and friends. It is our hope that tonight’s National Memorial and Lighting Ceremony may be a comfort to all affected.

“Tomorrow, when President-elect Biden is sworn in, the American people can have confidence that ‘help is on the way.’ The Biden-Harris emergency coronavirus relief package delivers the big, bold and urgent action that Congressional Democrats have been fighting for – including swift and equitable distribution of the vaccine to crush the virus, bigger direct payment checks, support for state and local government, extended unemployment insurance, and more aid for small businesses, renters and others who are struggling.

“As we mourn this devastating milestone, we must come together to move past the failed Trump response to crush the virus and deliver robust, real relief now.”

January 19: Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) posted a Press Release titled: “OCR Announces Notification of Enforcement Discretion for Use of Online or Web-Based Scheduling Applications for the Scheduling of COVID-19 Vaccination Appointments” From the Press Release”

Today, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that it will exercise its enforcement discretion and will not impose penalties for violations of the HIPPA Rules on covered health care providers or their business associates in connection with the good faith use of online or web-based scheduling applications (collectively, “WBSAs”) for the scheduling of individual appointments for COVID-19 vaccinations during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency. This exercise of enforcement discretion is effective immediately, but has retroactive effect to December 11, 2020.

The Notification explains that the exercise of enforcement discretion applies to covered health care providers and their business associates, including WBSA vendors (as WBSA is defined in this Notification), when the WSBA is used in good faith and only for the limited purpose of scheduling individual appointments for COVID-19 vaccinations during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency. Although OCR is exercising enforcement discretion, the Notification encourages the use of reasonable safeguards to protect the privacy and security of individuals’ protected health information (PHI), such a using only the minimum necessary PHI, encryption technology, and enabling all available privacy settings.

“OCR is using all available means to support the efficient and safe administration of COVID-19 vaccines to as many people as possible,” said March Bell, Acting OCR Director.

January 19: Senator Chuck Schumer posted a Press Release titled: As COVID Cases Rise Again In Update New York, Schumer Reveals Significant Portion of Livingston County Still Does Not Have Sufficient Access To Broadband; Senator, In First Meeting With President-Elect Biden’s USDA Nominee, Renews Fight To Get $11 Million In USDA Grant Funding To Address The County’s Internet Access Needs” From the Press Release:

COVID-19 Has Revealed Serious Disparities In Rural Communities Throughout Update New York, Especially Exacerbating The Digital Divide; As Livingston County Communities Are Encouraged To Stay At Home Amidst A Resurgence In Cases, Broadband Access Has Never Been More Vital.

Senator Fought For Additional $7B In Recent COVID Relief Package To Fund Federal Broadband Programs & Is Pushing To Ensure Broadband Access For Rural Communities Is Among Top Priorities For Incoming Administration.

Schumer To USDA Nominee: Time To Dial Up The Funding & Close The Digital Divide In Livingston County

After a personal visit to Livingston County last August to discuss with local officials the need for more federal funding to expand broadband access, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer last week, in a virtual meeting with President-Elect Biden’s nominee for U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack, urged the nominee to prioritize universal access to affordable broadband, starting with approval of Livingston’s request for $11 million from the USDA’s Rural Development Broadband ReConnect Program.

The Senator explained that the $11 million grant would cover most of the expenses of a $15 million project that will initially provide broadband to 305 miles of Livingston County. Once this project is finished, there are plans for subsequent buildout phases to provide internet for the rest of Livingston County living without access.

“The current public health crisis is making it all too clear that the digital gap in communities across Upstate New York is far too wide,” said Senator Schumer. “Livingston County families, businesses, farms and communities need and deserve top-notch high-speed broadband to help them stay connected during these difficult times and to be as competitive as the economy eventually recovers. As incoming Senate Majority Leader, I promise to continue fighting tooth and nail to secure funding that brings 21st century telecommunications technology to our rural economies across Upstate.”

Livingston County and local telecom provider Empire Access, formed a public-private partnership to build out the new infrastructure to bring robust broadband to now under-served and un-served households. Empire Access, which is a 100-year-old family-owned telecom provider based in Prattsburgh, NY with customers in the Finger Lakes, Southern Tier, and Northern Pennsylvania, will still own and operate the infrastructure.

Schumer has provided strong support for rural broadband access in Upstate New York in the past and throughout the COVID pandemic. Just last month, he helped to secure $7 billion in emergency benefits for broadband service to provide free or low-cost service to low-income families who have been recently laid off or furloughed due to the pandemic.

In August, Schumer met with leaders from Livingston County and Empire access in the Town of York to announce his push to secure this grant funding and the letter he sent to USDA Secretary Purdue in support of the Livingston County application. Additionally, in March of last year, Schumer prioritized additional funding for rural broadband during negotiations for the CARES Act and provided an extra $100 million for the USDA ReConnect Program, which he voted to create in the FY19 Appropriations bill.


January 20, 2021

January 20: The White House posted a press release titled: “Fact Sheet: President-elect Biden’s Day One Executive Actions Deliver Relief for Families Across American Amid Converging Crises” From the press release:

Actions Address the COVID-19 Pandemic, Provide Economic Relief, Tackle Climate Change, and Advance Racial Equity

Today, hours after taking the oath of office, President-elect Biden will take a historic number of actions to deliver immediate relief for families across America that are struggling in the face of converging crises. He will sign a combination of executive orders, memoranda, directives, and letters to take initial steps to address these crises, including by changing the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, providing economic relief, tackling climate change, and advance racial equity. President-elect Biden will take action – not just to reverse the gravest damages of the Trump administration – but also to start moving our country forward. These actions are bold, begin the work of following through on President-elect Biden’s promises to the American people, and, importantly, fall within the constitutional role for the president.

Below are more details about how President-elect Biden’s executive actions will deliver relief for American families and address the crises we face.

CHANGING THE COURSE OF THE COVID PANDEMIC AND PROTECTING PUBLIC HEALTH

Launch a “100 Days Masking Challenge” and Leading by Example in the Federal Government

Today, President-elect Biden is launching his “100 Days Masking Challenge,” asking the American people to do their part – their patriotic duty – and mask up for 100 days. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that masks “are a critical tool in the fight against COVID-19 that could reduce the spread of the disease.” President-elect Biden is also doing his part by issuing an Executive Order today requiring masks and physical distancing in all federal buildings, on all federal lands, and by federal employees and contractors. He is also asking the Department of Health and Human Services and Center for Disease Control to engage with state, local, Tribal, and territorial officials to implement masking, physical distancing, and other CDC public measures stop the spread of COVID-19.

Re-Engage with the World Health Organization (WHO) to Make Americans and the World Safer

Today, President-elect Biden will take action to cease the previous Administration’s process of withdrawing from the World Health Organization – an entity that is critical to coordinating the international response to COVID-19, advancing preparedness for future epidemics and pandemics, and improving the health of all people. The Biden-Harris Administration – with Dr. Tony Fauci as Head of Delegation – will participate in the WHO Executive Board meeting that is ongoing this week. Dr. Fauci will deliver remarks as Head of Delegation to the Executive Board on January 21. Once the United States resumes its engagement with the WHO, the Biden-Harris Administration will work with the WHO and our partners to strengthen and reform the organization, support the COVID-19 health and humanitarian response, and advance global health and health security.

Structure Our Federal Government to Coordinate a Unified National Response

The federal government must act swiftly and aggressively to combat COVID-19. President-elect Biden will sign an Executive Order creating the position of COVID-19 Response Coordinator, who will report directly to the President and be responsible for coordinating all elements of the COVID-19 response across government, including managing efforts to produce, supply and distribute personal protective equipment, vaccines, and tests. In addition, this Executive Order restores the NSC Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense to focus on domestic and global biological threats, play a critical role in stopping the COVID-19 pandemic, and prevent future biological catastrophes.

PROVIDING ECONOMIC RELIEF AND SUPPORT TO WORKING FAMILIES

Extend Eviction and Foreclosure Moratoriums

The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered an almost unprecedented housing and affordability crisis. Today, 1 in 5 renters and 1 in 10 homeowners with a mortgage are behind on payments. President-elect Biden is asking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to consider immediately extending the federal eviction moratorium until at least March 31, 202, while calling on Congress to provide much needed rental assistance and extend it further. And, he will ask the Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Agriculture and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, to consider extending foreclosure moratoriums for federally guaranteed mortgages and continuing applications for forbearance for federally guaranteed mortgages until at least March 31, 2021. On Tuesday, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) extended its foreclosure and eviction moratoriums until February 28, 2021. The president-elect will call on the agency to consider extending the foreclosure moratorium further and continue forbearance applications for all loans guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Extend Student Loan Pause

Currently, borrowers owe over $1.5 trillion in federal student loans. Borrowers of all ages are often faced with a tough tradeoff between making their student loan payments, investing in their long-term financial future, or paying their bills. The pandemic has only increased the economic hardship of the millions of Americans who have student debt. The president-elect is asking the Department of Education to consider immediately extending the pause on interest and principal payments for direct federal loans until at least September 30, 2021.

TACKLING CLIMATE CHANGE, CREATING GOOD UNION JOBS, AND ADVANCING ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE

Rejoin the Paris Agreement on Climate Change

The president-elect will sign the instrument to rejoin the Paris Agreement. The instrument will be deposited with the United Nations today, and the United States will officially become a Party again 30 days later. The United States will be back in position to exercise global leadership in advancing the objectives of the Agreement.

Roll Back President Trump’s Environmental Actions in Order to Protect Public Health and the Environment and Restore Science

Today, President-elect Biden will sign an Executive Order that takes critical first steps to address the climate crisis, create good union jobs, and advance environmental justice, while reversing the previous administration’s harmful policies.

The order jumpstarts swift, initial action to tackle the climate crisis by:

  • Directing all executive departments and agencies to immediately review and take appropriate action to address federal regulations and other executive actions taken during the last four years that were harmful to public health, damaging to the environment, unsupported by the best available science, or otherwise not in the national interest, including agency actions on the attached list;
  • Directing agencies to consider revising vehicle fuel economy and emissions standards, methane emissions standards, and appliance and building efficiency standards to ensure that such standards cut pollution, save consumers money, and create good union jobs;
  • Directing the Department of Interior to protect our nation’s treasures by reviewing the boundaries and conditions of the Grand Staircase-Escalante, Bears Ears, Northeast Canyons, and Seamounts Marine National Monuments and placing a temporary moratorium on all oil and natural gas leasing activities in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge;
  • Re-establishing the Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases (GHG) and directing the issuance of an interim social cost of GHG schedule to ensure that agencies account for the full costs of GHG emissions, including climate risk, environmental justice and intergenerational equity; and
  • Revoking, revising or replacing additional Executive Orders, Presidential Proclamations, Memoranda, and Permits signed over the past 4 years that do not serve the U.S. national interest, including revoking the Presidential permit granted to the Keystone XL pipeline.

ADVANCING RACIAL EQUITY & SUPPORTING UNDERSERVED COMMUNITIES

The president-elect’s equity agenda is grounded in advancing racial justice and building back better for communities who have been underserved, including people of color and Americans with disabilities, LGBTQ+ Americans, religious minorities, and rural and urban communities facing persistent poverty.

Everyone across America benefits when we take deliberate steps to become a more just society. Analysis suggests that closing racial gaps in wages, housing credit, lending opportunities, and access to higher education would amount to an additional $5 trillion in gross domestic product in the American economy over the next 5 years, and create millions of new jobs. We are a nation founded on principles equality and it is in the government be intentional in ensuring that its policies reach all of us in an equitable way. By advancing such equity, the federal government can build pathways so that everyone across America has the opportunity to reach their potential.

President-elect Biden will sign executive actions today to:

Launch a Whole-of-Government Initiative to Advance Racial Equity

The president-elect will sign an Executive Order beginning the work of embedding equity across federal policymaking and rooting out systemic racism and other barriers to opportunity from federal programs and institutions. The Executive Order will define equity as the consistent and systemic fair, just, and impartial treatment of all individuals, including individuals who belong to underserved communities, such as Black, Latino, Indigenous and Native American persons, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and other persons of color; LGBTQ+ persons; people with disabilities; religious minorities, persons who live in rural areas; and persons otherwise affected by persistent poverty or inequality. The president-elect will:

  • Establish that advancing equity for all – including people of color and others who have been historically underserved and marginalized – is the responsibility of the whole of our government;
  • Direct every federal agency to undertake a baseline review of the state of equity within their agency and deliver an action plan within 200 days to address unequal barriers to opportunity in agency policies and programs;
  • Launch a new equitable data working group to ensure that federal data reflects the diversity of America;
  • Tasks the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) with working to more equitably allocate federal resources to empower the invest in communities of color and other underserved communities;
  • Improve the delivery of government benefits and services to ensure that families of all backgrounds across the country can access opportunity, for example by reducing language access barriers;
  • Study new methods that federal agencies can use to assess whether proposed policies advance equity;
  • Direct agencies to engage with communities who have been historically underrepresented, underserved, and harmed by federal policies

President-elect Biden has asked Ambassador Susan Rice, as Domestic Policy Advisor, to lead a robust interagency process to hold the federal government accountable for advancing equity for families across America.

In this Executive Order, the president-elect will also remind the Trump Administration’s 1776 Commission, which has sought to erase America’s history of racial injustice. And, he will revoke President Trump’s damaging executive order limiting the ability of federal government agencies, contractors and even some grantees from implementing important and needed diversity and inclusion training. Additional actions in the coming weeks will restore and reinvigorate the federal government’s commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility.

Reverse President Trump’s Executive Order Excluding Undocumented Immigrants from the Reapportionment Count

President-elect Biden will sign an Executive Order to revoke the prior Administration’s orders setting out an unlawful plan to exclude noncitizens from the census and apportionment of Congressional representatives. President-elect Biden will ensure that the Census Bureau has time to complete an accurate population count for each state. He will then present to Congress an apportionment that is fair and accurate so federal resources are efficiently and fairly distributed for the next decade.

Preserve and Fortify Protections for Dreamers

In 2012, the Obama-Biden administration adopted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to provide temporary relief from deportation on a case-by-case basis to Dreamers, young people who were brought to this country as children. Since then, more than 700,000 young people have applied for this relief and met rigorous requirements and background checks. Many are serving our country in the armed services or as essential workers on the front lines of the pandemic.

The Trump administration has tried to terminate DACA since 2017, but the U.S. Supreme Court rejected that effort and required consideration of that decision. The program continues, accepting new applications and renewing DACA for those who qualify under the 2012 requirements. But those opposed to DACA continue to challenge the program threatening its continuance.

The president-elect is committed to preserving and fortifying DACA. Today, he will sign a Presidential Memorandum directing the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Attorney General, to take all appropriate actions under the law to achieve that goal. The Presidential Memorandum will also call on Congress to enact legislation providing permanent status and a path to citizenship for people who came to this country as children and have lived, worked, and contributed to our country for many years.

Reverse the Muslim Ban

The president-elect will sign an Executive Order putting an end to the Muslim Ban, a policy rooted in religious animus and xenophobia. It repeats Proclamations 9645 and 9983, which restrict entry into the United States from primarily Muslim and African countries, and instructs the State Department to restart visa processing for affected countries and to swiftly develop a proposal to restore fairness and remedy the harms caused by the bans, especially for individuals stuck in the waiver process and those who had immigrant visas denied. This is an important step in providing relief to individuals and families harmed by this Trump Administration policy that is inconsistent with American values. The Executive Action also provides for the strengthening of screening and vetting for travelers by enhancing information sharing with foreign governments and capacity building with our partners, and directs review of other Trump Administration “extreme vetting” practices.

Repeal of Trump Interior Enforcement Executive Order

President-elect Biden will sign an Executive Order revoking a Trump Executive Order that directed harsh and extreme immigration enforcement. This revocation will allow the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies to set civil immigration enforcement policies that best protect the American people and are in line with our values and priorities.

Stop Border Wall Construction

Bipartisan majorities in Congress refused in 2019 to fund President Trump’s plans for a massive wall along our southern border, even after he shut down the government over this issue. He then wastefully diverted billions of dollars to do that construction. By proclamation, President-Biden will today declare an immediate termination of the national emergency declaration that was used as a pretext to justify some of the funding diversions for the wall. The proclamation directs an immediate pause in wall construction projects to allow a close review of the legality of the funding and contracting methods used, and to determine the best way to redirect funds that were diverted by the prior Administration to fund wall construction.

Deferred Enforced Departure for Liberians Presidential Memorandum

The president-elect will sign a Presidential Memorandum to extend until June 20, 2022 the long-standing Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) designation for Liberians who have been in the United States for many years. Liberians with DED will also have their work authorization extended. This PM also directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to ensure that Citizen Immigration Services facilities ease of application and timely adjudication for Liberians applying for residency by the Liberian Relief and Fairness Act.

Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation

All persons should receive equal treatment under the law, no matter their gender identity of sexual orientation. The Biden-Harris Administration will prevent and combat discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation. To begin this work, President-elect Biden will sign an Executive Order that builds on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County (2020) and ensures that the federal government interprets Title VII of the the [sic] Civil Rights Act of 1964 as prohibiting workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. This Order will also direct agencies to take all lawful steps to make sure that federal anti-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, protecting the rights of LGBTQ+ persons.

ENSURING GOVERNMENT WORKS FOR THE AMERICAN PEOPLE

Executive Branch Personnel Ethics Executive Order

President-elect Biden will sign an Executive Order to restore and maintain public trust in government, and ensure that we are a government for the people. The president-elect is ordering every appointee in the executive branch to sign an ethics pledge. The ethics pledge and related ethics rules in the Executive Order are designed to ensure that executive branch employees act in the interest of the American people and not for personal gain. And, the pledge commits federal employees to uphold the independence of the Department of Justice.

Regulatory Process Executive Order and Presidential Memorandum

Regulations are an important tool for the federal government to address the crises facing the nation. The Trump Administration unnecessarily hamstrung this critical tool by creating arbitrary obstacles to regulatory action. Today, the president-elect will issue a Presidential Memorandum withdrawing the Trump Administration’s regulatory process executives orders to remove those needless obstacles to regulating in the public’s interest. And, the president-elect will direct the Director of the OMB to develop recommendations for improving and modernizing regulatory review. These recommendations will create a process to advance regulations that promote public health and safety, economic growth, social welfare, racial justice, environmental stewardship, human dignity, equity, and the interests of future generations.

Today, the White House Chief of Staff will also issue a regulatory freeze memo that will pause any new regulations from moving forward and give the incoming Administration an opportunity to review any regulations that the Trump Administration tried to finalize in its last days. The memo directs all agencies to confer with the Director of OMB before renewing any regulatory activity. This action will allow the Biden Administration to prevent any detrimental so-called “midnight-regulations” from taking effect, while ensuring that urgent measures in the public’s interest can proceed.

As President-elect Biden works to aggressively tackle the simultaneous crises our country faces, he is focused on ensuring that the approaches he takes benefits working Americans and advance racial equity across our society. An assessment of how these day one actions further both of those fundamental goals of the Biden presidency is below.

THE PRESIDENT-ELECT’S EXECUTIVE ACTIONS ADVANCE RACIAL EQUITY

President-elect Biden’s executive actions to restore equal treatment under the law for people across America and to direct a whole-of-government approach to racial justice redirects the federal government to treat Americans fairly. These sweeping actions deliver on the president-elect’s commitments to equity and task agencies with taking immediate steps to redress injustices.

The COVID-19 crisis has claimed more than 400,000 American lives – but for Black and Brown Americans, it’s a mass casualty event. Because of structural racism, people of color are contracting COVID-19 at higher rates and dying from COVID-19 at higher rates. President-elect Biden’s orders to change the course of the virus, including establishing a coordinated national response and implementing a mask mandate on federal property, will help slow the spread of the virus in communities of color.

Extending the federal eviction moratorium and asking federal agencies to consider extending foreclosure moratoriums for federally guaranteed mortgages will provide relief to the families of color that face higher risks of eviction and housing loss.

The president-elect has also directed all executive departments and agencies to review actions taken over the last four years and revise those policies that run counter to his commitment to environmental justice, including undoing the harmful rollbacks of clean air and clean water protection that disproportionately impact low-income communities and communities of color.

THE PRESIDENT-ELECT’S EXECUTIVE ACTIONS SUPPORT AND PROTECT WORKERS

The president-elect’s day one executive actions will protect workers from COVID-19, including by ensuring that federal employees and contractors wear masks and follow other CDC guidelines, setting an example for employers around the country.

They will provide relief to American workers who have lost their jobs or had their hours or wages slashed through no fault of their own, by extending the pause on student debt and the eviction and foreclosure moratorium.

They will help spur the growth of American manufacturing and supply chains, competitiveness of our industries, and creation of good union jobs by directing agencies to consider revising vehicle fuel economy and emissions standards, methane emissions standards, and appliance and building efficiency standards.

And, they’ll take steps to prevent workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and revoke President Trump’s damaging executive order which limited critical diversity and inclusion training in the workplace.

January 20: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) posted a Media Statement titled: “Media Statement from CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH, on Extending the Eviction Moratorium” From the Media Statement:

As a protective public health measure, I will extend the current order temporarily halting residential evictions until at least March 31, 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a historic threat to our nation’s health. It has also triggered a housing affordability crisis that disproportionately affects some communities.

Despite extensive mitigation efforts, COVID-19 continues to spread in America at a concerning pace. We must act to get cases down and keep people in their homes and out of congregate settings – like shelters – where COVID-19 can take an even stronger foothold.

January 20: President Biden issued an executive order titled: “Executive Order on Protecting the Federal Workforce and Requiring Mask-Wearing”. From the executive order:

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including section 7902(c) of title 5, United States Code, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Policy. It is the policy of my Administration to halt the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) by relying on the best available data and science-based public health measures. Such measures include wearing masks when around others, physical distancing, and other related precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Put simply, masks and other public health measures reduce the spread of the disease, particularly when communities make widespread use of such measures, and thus save lives.

Accordingly, to protect the Federal workforce and individuals interacting with the Federal workforce, and to ensure the continuity of Government services and activities, on-duty or or on-site Federal contractors, and other individuals in Federal lands should all wear masks, maintain physical distance, and adhere to other public health measures, as provided in CDC guidelines.

Sec. 2. Immediate Action Regarding Federal Employees, Contractors, Buildings, and Lands. (a) The heads of executive departments and agencies (agencies) shall immediately take action, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, to require compliance with CDC guidelines with respect to wearing masks, maintaining physical distance, and other public health measures by: on-duty or on-site Federal employees; Federal contractors; and all persons in Federal buildings or on Federal lands.

(b) The Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the Director of the office of Personnel Management (OPM), and the Administrator of General Services, in coordination with the President’s Management Council and the Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response and Counselor to the President (COVID-19 Response Coordinator), shall promptly issue guidance to assist heads of agencies with implementation of this section.

(c) Heads of agencies shall promptly consult, as appropriate, with State, local, Tribal and territorial government officials, Federal employees, Federal employee unions, Federal contractors, and any other interested parties concerning the implementation of this section.

(d) Heads of agencies may make categorical or case-by-case exceptions in implementing subsection (a) of this section to the extent that doing so is necessary or required by law, and consistent with applicable law. If heads of agencies make such exceptions, they shall require appropriate alternative safeguards, such as additional physical distancing measures, additional testing, or reconfiguration of workspace, consistent with applicable law. Heads of agencies shall document all exceptions in writing.

(e) Heads of agencies shall review their existing authorities and, to the extent permitted by law and subject to the availability of appropriations and resources, seek to provide masks to individuals in Federal buildings when needed.

(f) The COVID-19 Response Coordinator shall coordinate the implementation of this section. Heads of the agencies listed in 31 U.S.C. 901(b) shall update the COVID-19 Response Coordinator on their progress in implementing this section, including any categorical exceptions established under subsection (d) of this section, within 7 days of the date of this order and regularly thereafter. Heads of agencies are encouraged to bring to the attention of the COVID-19 Response Coordinator any questions regarding the scope or implementation of this section.

Sec. 3: Encouraging Masking Across America. (a) The Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), including through the Director of the CDC, shall engage, as appropriate, with State, local, Tribal and territorial officials, as well as business, union, academic and other community leaders, regarding mask-wearing and other public health measures, with the goal of maximizing public compliance with, and addressing any obstacles to, mask-wearing and other public health best practices identified by CDC.

(b) The COVID-19 Response Coordinator, in coordination with the Secretary of HHS, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the heads of other relevant agencies, shall promptly identify and inform agencies of options to incentivize, support, and encourage widespread mask-wearing consistent with CDC guidelines and applicable law.

Sec. 4 Safer Federal Workforce Task Force.

(a) Establishment. There is hereby established the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force (Task Force).

(b) Membership. The Task Force shall consist of the following members:

(i) the Director of OPM, who shall serve as Co-Chair;

(ii) the Administrator of General Services, who shall serve as Co-chair;

(iii) the COVID-19 Response Coordinator, who shall serves as Co-chair;

(iv) the Director of OMB;

(v) the Director of the Federal Protective Service;

(vi) the Director of the United States Secret Service;

(vii) the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency;

(viii) the Director of CDC; and

(ix) the heads of such other agencies as the Co-Chairs may individually or jointly invite to participate.

(c) Organization. A member of the Task Force may designate, to preform the Task Force functions of the member, a senior-level official who is a full-time officer or employee of the member’s agency. At the direction of the Co-Chairs, the Task Force may establish subgroups consisting exclusively of Task Force members or their designees, as appropriate.

(d) Administration. The General Services Administration shall provide funding and administrative support for the Task Force to the extent permitted by law and within existing appropriations. The Co-Chairs shall convince regular meetings of the Task Force, determine its agenda, and direct its work.

(e) Mission. The Task Force shall provide ongoing guidance to heads of agencies on the operation of the Federal Government, the safety of its employees, and the continuity of Government functions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Such guidance shall be based on public health best practices as determined by CDC and other public health experts, and shall address, at a minimum, the following subjects as they relate to the Federal workforce:

(i) testing methodologies and protocols;

(ii) case investigation and contact tracing;

(iii) requirements of and limitations on physical distancing, including recommended occupancy and density standards;

(iv) equipment needs and requirements, including personal protective equipment;

(v) air filtration;

(vi) enhanced environmental disinfection and cleaning;

(vii) safe commuting and telework options;

(viii) enhanced technological infrastructure to support telework;

(ix) vaccine prioritization, distribution, and administration;

(x) approaches for coordinating with State, local, Tribal and territorial health officials, as well as business, union, academic, and other community leaders;

(xi) any management infrastructure needed by agencies to implement public health guidance; and

(xii) circumstances under which exemptions might appropriately be made to agency policies in accordance with CDC guidelines, such as for mission-critical purposes.

(f) Agency Corporation. The head of each agency listed in 31 U.S.C. 901(b) shall, consistent with applicable law, promptly provided the Task Force a report on COVID-19 safety protocols, safety plans, or guidance regarding the operation of the agency and the safety of its employees, and any other information that the head of the agency deems relevant to the Task Force’s work.

Sec. 5. Federal Employee Testing. The Secretary of HHS, through the Director of the CDC, shall promptly develop and submit to the COVID-19 Response Coordinator a testing plan for the Federal workforce. This plan shall be based on community transmission metrics and address the populations to be tested, testing types, frequency of testing, positive case protocols, and coordination with local public health authorities for contact tracing.

Sec. 6. Research and Development. The Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, in consultation with the Secretary of HHS (through the National Science and Technology Council), the Director of OMB, the Director of CDC, the Director of the National Institutes of Health, the Director of the National Science Foundation, and the heads of any other appropriate agencies, shall assess the availability of Federal research grants to study best practices for implementing, and innovations to better implement, effective mask-wearing and physical distancing policies, with respect to both the Federal workforce and the general public.

Sec. 7. Scope (a) For purposes of this order:

(i) “Federal employees” and “Federal contractors” mean employees (including members of the Armed Forces and members of the National Guard in Federal service) and contractors (including such contractors’ employees) working for the executive branch;

(ii) “Federal buildings” means buildings, or office space within buildings, owned, rented, or leased by the executive branch of which a substantial portion of occupants are Federal employees or Federal contractors; and

(iii) “Federal lands” means lands under executive branch control.

(b) The Director of OPM and the Administrator of General Services shall seek to consult, in coordination with the heads of any other relevant agencies and the COVID-19 Response Coordinator, with the Sergeants at Arms of the Senate and the House of Representatives and the Director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts (or such other persons designated by the Majority and Minority Leaders of the Senate, the Speaker and Minority Leader of the House, or the Chief Justice of the United States, respectively), to promote mask-wearing, physical distancing, and adherence to other public health measures within the legislative and judicial branches, and shall provide requested technical assistance as needed to facilitate compliance with CDC guidelines.

Sec. 8. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative purposes.

(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c) Independent agencies are strongly encouraged to comply with the requirements of this order.

(d) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entitles, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.

January 20: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) posted a Media Statement titled: “Media Statement from CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH, on Extending the Eviction Moratorium” From the Media Statement:

As a protective public measure, I will extend the current order temporarily halting residential evictions until at least March 31, 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a historic threat to our nation’s health. It has also triggered a housing affordability crisis that disproportionately affects some communities.

Despite extensive mitigation efforts, COVID-19 continues to spread in America at a concerning pace. We must act to get cases down and keep people in their homes and out of congregate settings – like shelters – where COVID-19 can take an even stronger foothold.

January 20: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (Democrat-California) posted a press release titled: “Dear Colleague on President Biden’s Day One Executive Actions.” From the press release:

“Dear Democratic Colleague,

Today, when President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris took the oath of office, it was a breath of fresh air for our democracy, for America and for our future. Happily, today, Senator Chuck Schumer became Majority Leader of the Senate.

Now, our Democratic House Majority will work to deliver progress For the People – to honor Joe Biden’s promise that “Help is On the Way.” Working with the Biden-Harris Administration and the new Democratic Majority in the Senate, we will ensure that our nation will recover from the coronavirus and economic crisis. And we will Build Back Better in a way that will advance justice, equality and progress for all Americans.

We must get to work immediately – which is why I am pleased to support President Biden’s Day One Executive Actions to meet the needs of the American people, which will start by addressing the coronavirus. These Executive Actions will:

  • Crush the coronavirus: by launching a unified, all-of-government response to increase mask-wearing and other science-based steps to stop the virus’s spread. It also takes specific action to address the disproportionate impact on communities of color, while recognizing the importance of re-engaging with the international community.
  • Deliver urgent economic relief: by extending moratoriums on evictions, foreclosures and student loan payments.
  • Combat the climate crisis: by rejoining the historic Paris Climate Agreement and rolling back Trump’s special interest, dirty energy Executive Actions.
  • Honor our nation’s diverse heritage: by protecting Dreamers and TPS and DED recipients, rescinding the Muslim ban and taking bold actions to end anti-LGBTQ discrimination.
  • Advance racial equality: by launching a whole-of-government initiative to promote racial equity.

January 20: The White House posted: “President Biden Announces American Rescue Plan” From the post:

Emergency Legislative Package to Fund Vaccinations, Provide Immediate, Direct Relief to Families Bearing the Brunt of the COVID-19 Crisis, and Support Struggling Communities

The COVID-19 pandemic and the corresponding economic crises are devastating families across the country. More than 20 million Americans have contracted COVID-19, and at least 370,000 have died. From big cities to small towns, too many Americans are barely scraping by, or not scraping by at all. And the pandemic has shined light on the persistence of racial injustice in our healthcare system and our economy. The need to act is clear in the lines at food banks, the small businesses that are closed closing, and the growing number of Americans experiencing housing insecurity. After nearly a year of the public health crisis, our nation remains in this dark winter of the pandemic and facing a deep economic crisis.

President Biden is laying out the first step of an aggressive two-step plan for rescue, from the depths of this crisis, and recovery, by investing in America, creating millions of additional good-paying jobs, combatting the climate crisis, advancing racial equity, and building back better than before.

While Congress’s bipartisan action in December was a step in the right direction, it was only a down payment. It fell far short of the resources needed to tackle the immediate crisis. We are in a race against time, and absent additional government assistance, the economic and public health crises could worsen in the months ahead; schools will not be able to safely reopen; and vaccinations will remain far too slow.

At last month’s jobs report underscored, the virus and our economy are intertwined. We cannot rescue our economy without containing the virus.

Today, President Biden is announcing the American Rescue Plan to change the course of the pandemic, build a bridge towards economic recovery, and invest in racial justice. The American Rescue Plan will address the stark, intergenerational inequities that have worsened in the wake of COVID-19. Researchers at Columbia University estimate that these proposals will cut child poverty in half.

Specifically, President Biden’s American Rescue Plan will:

  • Mount a national vaccination program, contain COVID-19, and safely reopen schools, including by setting up community vaccination sites nationwide, scaling up testing and tracing, eliminating supply shortage problems, investing in high-quality treatments, providing paid sick leave to contain spread of the virus, addressing health disparities, and making the necessary investments to meet the president’s goal of safely reopening a majority of K-8 schools in the first 100 days.
  • Deliver immediate relief to working families bearing the brunt of this crisis by sending $1,400 per-person checks to households across America, providing direct housing and nutrition assistance, expanding access to safe and reliable childcare and affordable healthcare, increasing the minimum wage, extending unemployment insurance, and giving families with kids and childless workers an emergency boost this year.
  • Support communities that are struggling in the wake of COVID-19 by providing support for the hardest-hit small businesses, especially small businesses owned by entrepreneurs of color, and protecting the jobs of the first responders, transit workers, and other essential workers we depend on.

In addition to addressing the public health and economic crises head on, the President’s plan will provide emergency funding to upgrade federal information technology infrastructure and address the recent breaches of federal government data systems. This is an urgent national security issue that cannot wait.

President Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan is ambitious, but achievable, and will rescue the American economy and start beating the virus. Congress should act expeditiously to help working families, communities, and small businesses persevere through the pandemic.

This legislative package is needed now to address the immediate crises. In the coming weeks, President Biden will lay out his economic recovery plan to invest in America, create millions of additional good-paying jobs, combat the climate crisis, and build back better than before.

Provide emergency relief and purchase critical supplies and deploy National Guard. Persistent supply shortages – from gloves and masks to glass vials and test reagents – are inhibiting our ability to provide testing and vaccination and putting frontline workers at risk. The president’s plan will invest $30 billion into the Disaster Relief Fund to ensure sufficient supplies and protective gear, and to provide 100% federal reimbursement for critical emergency response resources to states, local governments, and Tribes, including deployment of the National Guard. The president will call for an additional $10 billion investment in expanding domestic manufacturing for pandemic supplies. These funds will support President Biden in fulfilling his commitment to fully use the Defense Production Act and to safeguard the country by producing more pandemic supplies in the U.S.

Invest in treatments for COVID-19. Months into this pandemic, we still do not have reliable and accessible treatments. The federal government urgently needs to invest to support development, manufacturing, and purchase of therapies to ensure wide availability and affordability of effective treatments, as well as invest in studies of the long-term health impacts of COVID-19 and potential therapies to address them.

Protect workers against COVID-19. Millions of Americans, many of whom are people of color, immigrants, and low-wage workers, continue to put their lives on the line to keep the country functioning through the pandemic. They should not have to lie awake at night wondering if they’ll make it home from work safely the next day, or if they’ll bring home the virus to their loved ones and communities. The president is calling on Congress to authorize the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue a COVID-19 Protection Standard that covers a broad set of workers, so that workers not typically covered by OSHA, like many public workers on the frontlines, also receive protection from unsafe working conditions and retaliation. And, President Biden is calling on Congress to provide additional funding for OSHA enforcement and grant funding, including for the Susan Harwood grant program, for organizations to help keep vulnerable workers healthy and safe from COVID-19. These steps will help keep more workers healthy, reopen more businesses safely, and beat the virus.

Restore U.S. leadership and build better preparedness. Protecting the United States from COVID-19 requires a global response, and the pandemic is a grave reminder that biological threats can pose catastrophic consequences to the United States and the world. The president’s plan will provide $11 billion including to support the international health and humanitarian response; mitigate the pandemic’s devastating impact on global health, food security, and gender-based violence; support international efforts to develop and distribute medical countermeasures for COVID-19; and build the capacity required to fight COVID-19, its variants, and emerging biological threats.

Provide schools the resources they need to reopen safely. A critical plank of President Biden’s COVID-19 plan is to safely reopen schools as soon as possible – so kids and educators can get back in class and parents can go back to work. This will require immediate, urgent action by Congress. The COVID-19 pandemic created unprecedented challenges for K-12 schools and institutions of higher education, and the students and parents they serve. School closures have disproportionately impacted the learning of Black and Hispanic students, as well as students with disabilities and English language learners. While the December down payment for schools and higher education institutions was a start, it is not sufficient to address the crisis. President Biden is calling on Congress to provide $170 billion – supplemented by additional state and local relief resources – for K-12 schools and institutions of higher education. These resources will help schools serve all students, no matter where they are learning, and help achieve President Biden’s goal to open the majority of K-8 schools within the first 100 days of his Administration.

  • Provide $130 billion to help schools to safely reopen. Schools need flexible resources to safely reopen and operate and/or facilitate remote learning. The president’s plan will provide $130 billion to support schools in safely reopening. These funds can be used to reduce class sizes and modify spaces so students can teacher can socially distance; improve ventilation; hire more janitors and implement mitigation measures; provide personal protective equipment; ensure every school has access to a nurse; increase transportation capacity to facilitate social distancing on the bus; hire counselors to support students as they transition back to the classroom; close the digital divide that is exacerbating inequities during the pandemic; provide summer school or other support for students that will help make up lost learning time this year; create and expand community schools; and cover other costs needed to support safely reopening and support students.
  • These funds will also include provisions to ensure entire states adequately fund education and protect students in low-income communities that have been hardest hit by COVID-19. Districts must ensure that funds are used to not only reopen schools, but also to meet students’ academic, mental health and social, and emotional needs in response to COVID-19, (e.g. through extended learning time, tutoring, and counselors), wherever they are learning. Funding can be used to prevent cuts to state pre-k programs. A portion of funding will be for a COVID-19 Educational Equity Challenge Grant, which will support state, local and tribal governments in partnering with teachers, parents, and other stake holders to advance equity- and evidence-based policies to respond to COVID-related educational challenges and give all students the support they need to succeed. In addition, schools will be able to access FEMA Disaster Relief Fund resources to get reimbursed for certain COVID-19 related expenses and will receive support to implement regular testing protocols.
  • Expand the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund. The president’s plan will ensure colleges have critical resources to implement public health protocols, execute distance learning plans, and provide emergency grants to students in need. This $35 billion in funding will be directed to public institutions, including community colleges, as well as, public and private Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other Minority Serving Institutions. This funding will provide millions of students up to an additional $1,700 in financial assistance from their college.
  • Hardest Hit Education Fund. Provide $5 billion in funds for governors to use to support educational programs and the learning needs of students significantly impacted by COVID-19, whether K-12, higher education, or early childhood education programs.

Provide emergency paid leave to 106 million more Americans to reduce the spread of the virus. No American should have to choose between putting food on the table and quarantining to prevent further spread of COVID-19. And yet, nearly 1 in 4 workers and close to half of low-income workers lack access to paid sick leave, disproportionately burdening Americans of color. Lack of paid leave is threatening the financial security of working families and increasing the risk of COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths. Congress did the right thing last year when it created an emergency paid leave program through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. That action decreased daily infections by 400 cases per state per day in states that previously had no paid sick leave requirement. While the December down payment extended the Families First employer tax credits through March 2021, it did not renew the requirement that employers provide leave. President Biden is calling on Congress to:

  • Put the requirement back in place and eliminate exemptions for employers with more than 500 and less than 50 employees. He will also make it clear that healthcare workers and responders get these benefits, too. Closing these loopholes in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act will extend emergency paid lave to up to 106 million additional workers.
  • Provide expanded paid sick and family and medical leave. The president will provide 14 weeks of paid sick and family medical leave to help parents with additional caregiving responsibilities when a child or loved one’s school or care center is closed; for people who have or are caring for people with COVID-19 symptoms, or who are quarantining due to exposure; and for people needing to take time to get the vaccine.
  • Expand emergency paid leave to include federal workers. This measure will provide paid leave protections to approximately 2 million Americans who work for the federal government.
  • Provide a maximum paid leave benefit of $1,400 per-week for eligible workers. This will provide full wage replacement for workers earning up to $73,000 annually, more than three-quarters of all workers.
  • Reimburse employers with less than 500 employees for the cost of this leave. Extending the refundable tax credit will reimburse employers for 100 percent of the cost of this leave.
  • Reimburse state and local government for the cost of this leave.
  • Extend emergency paid leave measures until September 30, 2021. With so much uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, extending paid leave until the end of September will help to limit the spread of COVID-19 and provide economic security to millions of working families.

Deliver Immediate, Direct Relief to Families Bearing the Brunt of the Crisis

As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, millions Americans are hurting through no fault of their own. More than 10 million Americans are unemployed, and 4 million have been out of work for half a year or longer. The jobs crisis is particularly severe in communities of color, where 1 in 10 Black workers and 1 in 11 Latino workers are struggling to pay rent or their mortgages and put food on the table. And, last month, it only got worse: we lost 140,000 jobs in December, including 20,000 public educators, and nearly 400,000 jobs at restaurants and bars.

President Biden is calling on Congress to take urgent action to deliver immediate, direct relief to Americans bearing the brunt of this crisis. Altogether, this would devote about $1 trillion towards building a bridge to economic recovery for working families and, according to researchers at Columbia University, cut child poverty in half.

President Biden’s plan will:

Give working families a $1,400 per-person check to help pay their bills, bringing their total relief payment from this and the December down payment to $2,000. More than 1 in 3 households and half of Black and Latino households – are struggling to pay for usual household expenses like rent and groceries during the pandemic. In this crisis, working families need more than the $600 per person that Congress passed last year. President Biden is calling on Congress to increase that direct financial assistance to $2,000. An additional $1,400 per person in direct checks will help hard-hit households cover expenses, spend money at local businesses in their communities, and stimulate the economy.

President Biden’s plan will also expand eligibility to adult dependents who have been left out of previous rounds of relief and all mixed status households. And, his plan will ensure that the Treasury Department has the flexibility and resources it needs to deliver stimulus checks to the families that need them the most, including the millions of families that still haven’t received the $1,200 checks they are entitled to under the CARES Act.

  • Extend financial assistance for workers who have exhausted their regular unemployment compensation benefits. Extending and increasing the additional weeks provided under the emergency unemployment insurance program will ensure that approximately 5 million Americans continue to receive assistance in the months ahead.
  • Extend financial assistance for unemployed workers who do not typically qualify for unemployment compensation benefits. The president believes Congress should extend unemployment support for self-employed workers, like ride-share drivers and many grocery delivery workers, who do not typically qualify for regular unemployment compensation. And, he supports increasing the number of weeks the workers can receive the benefit to provide long-term financial security to the program’s approximately 8 million beneficiaries.
  • Fully fund state’s short-time compensation programs and additional weeks of benefits. Short-time compensation programs, also known as work-sharing, help small businesses stay afloat and economically vulnerable workers make ends meet by enabling workers to stay on the job at reduced hours, while making up the difference in pay. These programs avoid layoffs and pave the way for rapid rehiring and an accelerated recovery.

Help struggling households keep a roof over their heads. The economic fallout of COVID-19 has made it more difficult for working families, especially families of color, to cover their housing expenses. Across the country, 1 in 5 renters and 1 in 10 homeowners with a mortgage are behind on payments. Congress took an important step in the right direction by securing $25 billion in rental assistance and extending the federal eviction moratorium until January 31. However, American families already owe $25 billion in back rent, and the threat of widespread evictions will still exist at the end of January. Further, more than 10 million homeowners havef fallen behind on mortgage payments.

Failing to take additional action will lead to a wave of evictions and foreclosures in the coming months, overwhelming emergency shelter capacity and increasing the likelihood of COVID-19 infections. And Americans of color, who have on average a fraction of the wealth available to white families, face higher risks of eviction and housing loss without critical assistance.

President Biden is calling on Congress to take immediate action to forestall a coming wave of COVID-related evictions and foreclosures.

  • Ensure that families hit hard by the economic crisis won’t face eviction or foreclosure. The president is calling on Congress to extend the eviction and foreclosure moratoriums and continue applications for forbearance on federally-guaranteed mortgages until September 30, 2021. These measures will prevent untold economic hardship for homeowners, while limiting the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. The president is also calling on Congress to provide funds for legal assistance for households facing eviction or foreclosure.
  • Help renters and small landlords make ends meet by providing an additional $30 billion in rental and critical energy and water assistance for hard-hit individuals and families. While the $25 billion allocated by Congress was an important down payment on the back rent accrued during this crisis, it is insufficient to meet the scale of the need. That’s why President Biden is proposing an additional $25 billion in rental assistance to provide much-needed rental relief, especially for low- and moderate-income households who have lost jobs or are out of the labor market. The president is also proposing $5 billion to cover home energy and water costs and arrears through programs like the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program for struggling renters and small landlords, including those in disadvantaged communities that have suffered disproportionately in terms of pollution where they can’t cover their own housing expenses. This program includes a competitive set-aside of funding for states to invest in clean energy and energy efficiency projects that reduce electricity bills for families in disadvantage communities.
  • Deliver $5 billion in emergency assistance to help secure housing for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. This funding will allow states and localities to help approximately 200,000 individuals and families obtain stable housing, while providing a downpayment on the president’s comprehensive approach to ending homelessness and making housing a right for all Americans. Specifically, these funds will provide flexibility for both congregate and non-congregate housing options, help jurisdictions purchase and convert hotels and motels into permanent housing, and give homeless services providers the resources they need to hire and retain staff, maintain outreach programs, and provide essential services.

Address the growing hunger crisis in America. About 1 in 7 households nationwide, including more than 1 in 5 Black and Latino households and many Asian American and Pacific Islander households, are struggling to secure the food they need. While the December down payment provided $13 billion to strengthen and expand federal nutrition programs, it will not solve the hunger crisis in America. President Biden is calling on Congress to ensure all Americans, regardless of background, will have access to healthy, affordable groceries. The president’s plan will:

  • Extend the 15 percent Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit increase. Maintaining the increase through the summer – when childhood hunger spikes due to a lack of school meals – is a critical backstop against rising food insecurity. This is a critical backstop against rising food insecurity. This change will help keep hunger at bay for around 40 million Americans. The president is calling for this to be extended through September 2021. He is also committed to providing this boost for as long as the COVID-19 crisis continues, and will work with Congress on ways to automatically adjust the length and amount of relief depending on health and economic conditions so future legislative delay doesn’t undermine the recovery and families’ access to benefits they need.
  • Invest $3 billion to help women, infants and children to get the food they need.This multi-year investment in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is needed to account for increased enrollment due to growing hunger and to increase outreach to ensure that low-income families have access to high-quality nutritious food and nutrition education.
  • Partner with restaurants to feed American families and keep restaurant workers on the job at the same time. The FEMA Empowering Essential Deliveries (FEED) Act will leverage the resources and expertise of the restaurant industry to help get food to families who need it, and help get laid-off restaurant workers across the country back on the job.
  • Support SNAP by temporarily cutting the state match. The president is calling for a one time emergency infusion of administrative support for state anti-hunger and nutrition programs to ensure that benefits get to the kids and families that need it most.
  • Provide U.S. Territories with $1 billion in additional nutrition assistance for their residents. Bolstering the Nutrition Assistance Program block grant will help thousands of working families in Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands put food on the table for the duration of the pandemic.

Raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. Throughout the pandemic, millions of American workers have put their lives on the line to keep their communities and country functioning, including the 40 percent of frontline workers who are people of color. As President Biden has said, let’s not jus praise them, let’s pay them. Hard working Americans deserve sufficient wages to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads, without having to keep multiple jobs. But millions of working families are struggling to get by. This is why the president is calling on Congress to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour, and end the tipped minimum wage and sub-minimum wage for people with disabilities so that workers across the country can live a middle-class life and provide opportunity for their families.

Call on employers to meet their obligations to frontline essential workers and provide back hazard pay. Essential workers – who are disproportionately Black, Latino, and Asian American and Pacific Islander – have risked their lives to stock shelves, harvest crops, and care for the sick during this crisis. They have kept the country running even during the darkest days of the pandemic. A number of large employers, especially in the retail and grocery sectors, have seen bumper profitability in 2020 and yet have done little or nothing at all to compensate their workers for the risks they took. The president believes these employers have a duty to do right by their frontline essential workers and acknowledge their sacrifices with generous back hazard pay for the risks they took across 2020 and up to today. He and the Vice President will call CEOs and other business leaders to take action to meet these obligations.

Expand access to high-quality, affordable child care. We are facing an acute, immediate child care crisis in America, which is exacerbating our economic crisis. Due to increased costs and lower enrollment, a recent survey, of child care providers expect that they will close in a few months without relief or are uncertain how long they can stay open. If left unaddressed, many child care providers will close – some permanently – and millions of children could go without necessary care, and millions of parents could be left to make devastating choices this winter between caring for their children and working to put food on the table. Early childcare providers are almost entirely women, among whom 40 percent are people of color, and so these closures could devastate engines of opportunity for minority- and women-owned businesses. President Biden is calling on Congress to take immediate actions to address this crisis by helping child care centers reopen and remain open safely, and by making that care affordable to families who need it.

In addition, too many families are unable to afford child care, while early educators earn wages so low that they can’t support their own families. This challenge existed before COVID-19 and the pandemic has exacerbated it. President Biden is calling on Congress to ease the financial burden of care for families, expand financial support for child care providers so that this critical sector can stay afloat during the pandemic and beyond, and make critical investments to improve wages and benefits for the essential sector. President Biden’s plan will:

  • Help hard-hit child care providers, including family child care homes, cover their costs and operate safely by creating a $25 billion emergency stabilization fund. This Emergency Stabilization Fund will help hard-hit child care providers that are in danger of closing and provide support to nearly half of all child care providers. It will also assist those that have had to shut down meet their financial obligations during the pandemic, so that they can reopen. It will help providers pay for rent, utilities, and payroll, as well as increased costs associated with the pandemic including personal protective equipment, ventilation supplies, smaller group sizes, and modifications to make the physical environment safer for children and workers.
  • Expand child care assistance to help millions of families and help parents return to work. Millions of parents are risking their lives as essential workers, whole at the same time struggling to obtain care for their children. Others have become 24/7 caregivers while simultaneously working remotely. Still more are unemployed, caring for their children full-time, and worrying about how they will make ends meet or afford child care when they do find a job. And, the limits access to child care during the pandemic has caused more women to leave the workforce. While the December down payment provides $10 billion in funding through the Child Care and Development Block Grant program, the president’s proposal expands this investment with an additional $15 billion in funding, including for those who experienced a job interruption during the COVID-19 pandemic and are struggling to afford child care. This additional assistance with child care costs will help the disproportionate number of women who left the labor force to take on caregiving duties reenter the workforce. And, this expanded investment will also help rebuild the supply of child care providers, and encourage states to take meaningful steps towards increasing the pay and benefits of child care workers.
  • Increase tax credits to help cover cost of childcare. To help address the childcare affordability crisis, President Biden is calling on Congress to expand child care tax credits on an emergency basis for one year to help working families cover the cost of childcare. Families willet back as a tax credit as much as half of their spending on child care for children under age 13, so that they can receive a total of up to $4,000 for one child or $8,000 for two or more children. The tax credit will be refundable, meaning that families who don’t owe a lot in taxes will still benefit. The full 50 percent reimbursement will be available to families making less than $125,000 a year. And, all families making between $125,000 and $400,000 will receive a partial credit so they can receive benefits at least as generous as those they can receive today.

Bolster financial security for families and essential workers in the midst of the pandemic.The lowest income families are particularly vulnerable in the midst of the pandemic, and President Biden is calling for one year expansions of key supports for families on an emergency basis. The Child Tax Credit should be made fully refundable for the year. Currently, 27 million children live in families with household incomes low enough that they didn’t qualify for the full value of the Child Tax Credit, and this measure would give these children and their families additional needed resources. The president is also calling to increase the credit to $3,000 per child ($3,600 for a child under age 6) and make 17 year-olds qualifying children for the year.

He is also calling for an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit for the year to ensure that the lowest income workers get critical support including millions of essential workers. He is proposing to raise the maximum Earned Income Tax Credit for childless adults from roughly $530 to close to $1,500, raise the income limit for the credit from about $16,000 to $21,000, and expand the age range that is eligible including by eliminating the age cap for older workers and expanding eligibility for younger workers so that they can claim the credit they deserve. Expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit for childless adults would give a needed boost to the earnings of several million workers, including cashiers, home health aids, delivery people, and other people working in essential occupations. The president also is committed to making sure that Americans who see their earnings fall in 2021 due to the pandemic don’t see the Earned Income Tax Credit reduced as a result.

Lastly, the president is calling for an additional $1 billion for states to cover the additional cash assistance that Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) recipients needed as a result of the pandemic crisis. The pandemic has led to increased TANF caseloads generated higher costs for many TANF recipients – from higher utility costs to the need for internet access for remote schooling – and longer periods of joblessness given high unemployment. These funds will provide sorely needed relief.

Preserving and expanding health coverage. Roughly two to three million people lost employer sponsored health insurance between March and September, and even families who have maintained coverage may struggle to pay premiums and afford care. Further, going into this crisis, 30 million people were without coverage, limiting their access to the health care system in the middle of a pandemic. To ensure access to health coverage, President Biden is calling on Congress to subsidize continuation health coverage (COBRA) through the end of September. He is also asking Congress to expand and increase the value of the Premium Tax Credit to lower or eliminate health insurance premiums and ensure enrollees – including those who never had coverage through their jobs – will not pay more than 8.5 percent of their income for coverage. Together, these policies would reduce premiums of the uninsured by millions more.

Expanding access to behavioral health services. The pandemic has made access to mental health and substance use disorder services more essential than ever. The president is calling on Congress to appropriate $4 billion to enable the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to expand access to these vital services.

Ensure adequate funding for veteran’s health. COVID-19 has put enormous pressure in America’s veterans and on the Veteran’s Health Administration that is charged with providing and facilitating top-notch care for them. The president is committed to ensuring America delivers on its promise to the people who have served our country. To account for increased usage as many veterans have lost access to private health insurance, higher overall costs, and other pandemic-related impacts, the president is immediately requesting an additional $20 billion to make sure that veterans’ health care needs can be met through this crisis.

Combat increased risk of gender-based violence. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated domestic violence and sexual assault, creating a “shadow pandemic” for many women and girls who are largely confined to their home with their abuser and facing economic insecurity that makes escape more difficult. President Biden is calling for at least $800 million in supplemental funding for key federal programs that protect survivors.

Provide Critical Support to Struggling Communities

COVID-19 and the resulting economic crisis has devastated communities across the country. Schools remain closed, with students struggling with remote learning and parents – 1.6 million mothers this fall – leaving the workforce. Small businesses, the backbones their communities that employ nearly half of American workers, are unable to keep their doors open. And, some state and local essential workers are seeing their wages reduced or their jobs disappear. President Biden is calling on Congress to send a lifeline to small business; protect educators, public transit workers, and first responders from lay-offs; and keep critical services running at full strength. Altogether, his plan would provide approximately $440 billion in critical support to struggling communities. This is in addition to funds that President Biden is requesting for safely reopening schools throughout the country.

President Biden’s plan will:

Provide small businesses with the funding they need to reopen and rebuild. Small businesses sustain half of the private sector jobs in America, and they have struggled in the wake of COVID-19. Black- and Brown-owned small businesses, and those in hard-hit industries like restaurants, hotels, and the arts, have suffered disproportionately. Nationally, small businesses revenue is down 32 percent, and at least 400,000 firms have permanently closed. To help hard-hit firms survive the pandemic and fully recover, President Biden is calling on Congress to:

  • Provide grants to more than 1 million of the hardest hit small businesses. This $15 billion inflexible, equitably distributed grants will help small businesses get back on their feet, put the current disaster behind them, and build back better.
  • Leverage $35 billion in government funds into $175 billion in additional small business lending and investment. With a $35 billion investment in successful state, local, tribal, and non-profit small business financing programs, Congress can generate as much as $175 billion in low-interest loans and venture capital to help entrepreneurs – including those in the clean energy sector – innovate, create and maintain jobs, build wealth, and provide the essential goods and services that communities depend on.

In addition, the president wants to work with Congress to make sure that restaurants, bars, and other businesses that have suffered disproportionately have sufficient support to bridge to the recovery, including through the Community Credit Corporation at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Provide support for first responders and other essential workers. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, first responders, frontline public health workers, and countless other essential workers have risked their lives to keep our communities safe and functioning. Educators have worked tirelessly to keep our children learning and growing, coming up with new ways to reach and engage their students, often while balancing careers for their own children. Without these front line workers, we will not be able to effectively respond to the pandemic, administer the vaccine, or safely reopen our schools. President Biden is calling on Congress to provide $350 billion in emergency funding for state, local, and territorial governments to ensure that they are in a position to keep front line public workers on the job and paid, while also effectively distributing the vaccine, scaling testing, reopening schools, and maintaining other vital services.

The president is also calling on Congress to allocate $3 billion of this funding to the Economic Development Administration (EDA). Grants from EDA provide resources directly to state and local government entities, tribal institutions, institutions of higher education, and non-profits to fund initiatives that support bottom’s up economic development and enable good paying jobs. This funding – double the amount provided by the CARES Act – will support communities nationwide with a broad range of financial needs as they respond to and recover from COVID-19.

Protect the future of public transit. Safe and dependable public transit systems are critical for a robust and equitable economic recovery. The president is calling for $20 billion in relief for the hardest hit public transit agencies. This relief will keep agencies from laying off transit workers and cutting the routes that essential workers rely on every day while making these transit systems more resilient and ensuring that communities of color maintain the access to opportunity that public transportation provides.

Support Tribal governments’ response to COVID-19. COVID-19 has exacted an especially high toll in Indian Country. People living on reservations are four times more likely to have COVID-19 and American Indian and Alaska Natives are nearly twice as likely to die from COVID-19 than White Americans. While the December down payment had many beneficial provisions, it included little direct funding to help Tribal governments respond to COVID-19. President Biden is calling on Congress to give Tribes the resources they need to obtain sufficient personal protective equipment, increase access to clean water and electricity, and expand internet access so that children can learn remotely and more families can obtain basic health care through telemedicine. President Biden’s plan would invest $20 billion in Indian Country to support Tribal governments’ response to the pandemic. These resource will help reduce start and persistent inequities in COVID-19 transmission, hospitalization, and death, while improving economic conditions and opportunity.

Modernize federal information technology to protect against future cyber attacks.

In addition to the COVID-19 crisis, we also face a crisis when it comes to the nation’s cybersecurity. The recent cybersecurity breaches of federal government data systems underscore the importance and urgency of strengthening U.S. cybersecurity capabilities. President Biden is calling on Congress to launch the most ambitious effort ever to modernize and secure federal IT and networks. To remediate the SolarWinds breach and boost U.S. defenses, including of the COVID-19 vaccine process, President Biden is calling on Congress to:

  • Expand and improve the Technology Modernization Fund. A $9 billion investment will help the U.S. launch major new IT and cybersecurity shared services at the Cyber Security and Information Security Agency (CISA) and the General Services Administration and complete modernization projects at federal agencies. In addition, the president is calling on Congress to change the fund’s reimbursement structure in order to fund more innovative and impactful projects.
  • Surge cybersecurity technology and engineering expert hiring. Providing the Information Technology Oversight and Reform fund with $200 million will allow for the rapid hiring of hundreds of experts to support the federal Chief Information Security Officer and U.S. Digital Service.
  • Build shared, secure services to drive transformational projects. Investing $300 million in no-year funding for Technology Transformation Services in the General Services Administration will drive secure IT projects forward without the need of reimbursement from agencies.
  • Improving security monitoring and incident response activities. An additional $690M for CISA will bolster cybersecurity across federal civilian networks, and support the piloting of new shared security and cloud computing services.

January 20: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) posted a Media Statement titled: “Media Statement from CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH, on Extending the Eviction Moratorium” From the Media Statement:

As a protective public health measure, I will extend the current order temporarily halting residential evictions until at least March 31, 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a historic threat to our nation’s health. It has also triggered a housing affordability crisis that disproportionately affects some communities.

Despite extensive mitigation efforts, COVID-19 continues to spread in America at a concerning pace. We must act to get cases down and keep people in their homes and out of congregate settings – like shelters – where COVID-19 can take an even stronger foothold.

January 20: The White House posted a “Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki, January 20, 2021” From the press release:

Ms. Psaki: Good evening everyone. Thank you for joining us on this historic day. It’s an honor to be here with all of you.

When the President asked me to serve in this role, we talked about the importance of bringing truth and transparency back to the briefing room, and he asked me to ensure we are communicating about the policies across the Biden-Harris administration and the work his team is doing every single day on behalf of all American people.

There will be times when we see things differently in this room – I mean, among all of us. That’s okay. That’s part of our democracy. And rebuilding trust with the American people will be central to our focus in the Press Office and in the White House every single day.

So we had a very busy and active day today, as you all know, but I wanted to take a moment to go through the 15 executive actions – or highlights of them, I should say – and some of the steps that the President asked agencies to take today. You should have all received copies of the executive orders, as well as the accompanying fact sheets, but I want to take this moment to highlight them for the American public, who are watching at home.

To combat the deadly virus, the President launched his 100 Day Masking Challenge, asking Americans to do their part and mask up for 100 days. He’s doing his part, as well, issuing a mask mandate that will require anyone visiting a federal building or federal land or using certain modes of transportation to wear a mask.

He signed an executive order reversing Trump’s decision to withdraw from the World Health Organization. This will strengthen our own efforts to get the pandemic under control by improving global health. And tomorrow – we’re not wasting any time – Dr. Fauci will participate remotely in the meeting of the World Health Organization as the U.S. head of delegation.

President Biden also officially appointed a COVID-19 response coordinator – a position and team we had already previously announced, but made it official today – to create a unified national response to the pandemic. And he reestablished the national security team responsible for global health security and biodefense.

The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered an almost unprecedented housing affordability crisis. He took immediate action to confront the crisis and ask the relevant agencies to extend nationwide moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures. The pandemic has also increase the hardship on millions of Americans who owe federal student loans. In response, the President has asked the Department of Education to extend the pause on student loan payments and interest.

He rejoined the Paris climate agreement, putting the United States back in a position to exercise global leadership in advancing the objectives of the ambitious agreement.

Sorry, hope you’re comfortable. There’s a few more.

And a second broad executive order will roll back harmful regulatory reversals made by the previous administration to protect public health and the environment. This order protects our nation’s treasures by reviewing the boundaries for several national monuments, places a temporary moratorium on all oil and natural gas leasing in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and reestablishes the Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Greenhouse Gasses.

He also launched a whole-of-government effort to advance racial equity and root out systemic racism from federal programs and institutions.

He directed the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Attorney General, to take all appropriate actions to preserve and fortify DACA, which provides temporary relief from deportation to DREAMers, young people who are brought to this country as children.

The President also put an end to the Muslim ban, a policy rooted in religious animus and xenophobia.

He signed a proclamation, effective immediately, halting further funding or the construction of the previous administration’s border wall and terminating the so-called “national emergency use” to wastefully divert billions for wall construction.

Also today, President Biden sent an immigration bill to Congress. The U.S. Citizenship Act modernizes our immigration system. It provides hardworking people who’ve enriched our communities and lived here for decades an opportunity to earn citizenship. The President’s priority reflected in the bill rare to responsibly manage the border, keep families together, grow our economy, address the root causes of migration from Central America, and ensure that America can remain a refuge for those fleeing prosecution.

With that, I’d love to take your question, Zeke. Why don’t you kick us off?

Q: Thanks, Jen. First off, congratulations. And one question about your role. You touched on this a little bit at the top, but when you are up there, do you see yourself – your primary role as promoting the interests of the President, or are you there to provide us the unvarnished truth so that we can share that with the American people

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say, Zeke, that I come to this podium having served both in the White House and at the State Department, as the spokesperson there, and I traveled the world on trips to promote democracy, where I saw the power of the United States and, of course, the power of this podium, and the power of truth, and the importance of setting an example of engagement and transparency.

So I will just state – because you gave me the opportunity – I have deep respect for the role of a free and independent press in our democracy and for the role all of you play.

As I noted earlier, there will be moments when we disagree, and there will certainly be days where we disagree for extensive parts of the briefing even perhaps. But we have a common goal, which is sharing accurate information with the American people.

If the President were standing here with me today, he would say he works for the American people. I work for him, so I also work for the American people. But his objective and his commitment is to bring transparency and truth back to government – to share the truth, even when it’s hard to hear. And that’s something I hope to delve on in this role as well.

Q: And again, just one substantive one since I know we’re short on time. When will President Biden begin making some foreign leader calls? Who is on that initial list? And during the transition, he didn’t speak to President Putin. Does he plan on doing that? And is he going to discuss retaliation for the SolarWinds hack on the federal government?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Let me try to get to those. And I’ll just note, since Zeke mentioned it, I know some of you have to get to another event this evening, because we’re not fully done with the day. So we will have longer briefings in the future, but we’ll try to get to as many questions as possible.

So his first call – foreign leader call will be on Friday with Prime Minister Trudeau. I expect they will certainly discuss the important relationship with Canada, as well as his decision on the Keystone Pipeline that we announced today.

He – I don’t have any plans – or any plans to read out to you, in terms of a call with President Putin. I will not for you that I would expect his early calls will be with partners and allies. He feels it’s important to rebuild those relationships and to address the challenges and threats we’re facing in the world.

On SolarWinds, we’ve spoken with this – about this previously a bit, prior to his inauguration, I should say, today. We are – of course, we reserve the right to respond at a time and in a manner of our choosing to any cyberattack. But our team is, of course, just getting onto their computers, so I don’t have anything to read out for you or to preview for you at this time.

Peter, go ahead.

MS. PSAKI: [sic – was supposed to say Q:] Jen, let me – I have a question for you on policy. First, a quick housekeeping question. A short time ago, President Biden said that he received a very generous letter from President Trump. Of course, he said it was private. He said, “I will not talk about it until I talk to him.” Is President Biden planning to call now former President Trump? And is this White House working in any way to put the two in touch?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Peter, that was a reflection of President Biden’s view. And I was with him when he was reading the letter in the Oval Office right before he signed the executive actions – was that this a letter that was private, as he said to you all. It was both generous and gracious. And it was just a reflection of him not planning release the letter unilaterally, but I wouldn’t take it as an indication of a pending call with the former President.

Q: Let me ask you on policy, if I can quickly. You talk – obvious, your role is sort of in terms of delivering the best information to the American people on behalf of this White House. The battle for truth may be as tough a fight right now as the battle against coronavirus. How do you and President Biden plan to combat disinformation that, in many ways, led to that assault we witnessed two weeks ago today on the Capitol?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Peter, there are a number of ways to combat misinformation. One of them is accurate information and truth and data, and sharing information even when it is hard to hear, and even when it is not meeting the expectations of people at home who are desperate for this crisis to be over.

We’ll have more to share with you in the next few days – hopefully before the weekend. But what we plan to do is not just return to these daily briefings, Monday through Friday – not Saturdays and Sundays; I’m not a monster – but on – but also to return briefings with our health officials and public health officials. We want to do those regularly, in a dependable way, with data, shared with all of you and the public so that they can also track progress we’re making on getting the pandemic under control.

Q: As it relates to the Cabinet, if I can, quickly: We know President Biden is beginning without a single member of his Cabinet confirmed. What is your understanding on how quickly those confirmations will happen? And when should we expect additional nominations and ambassadorships to be announced?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Peter, the desire to get his Cabinet in place and get his team confirmed is front and center for the President. It is an issue – a topic he discussed with members of Congress from both the Republican and Democratic Party today during the course of the day and the course of events.

I think, as we’re coming out here, Avril Haines should be on her way to confirmation, I don’t know if it’s officially votes – been – happened yet. But she’s on her way.

We have prioritized getting our national security team in place, given the crises we’re facing, given the importance of keeping the American people safe at this time. But we are eager for those to move forward quickly in the coming day, ideally tomorrow, by Friday. We’d like to move them quickly. It’s something that he is raising in his conversations, as we all are, with members of Congress and their teams.

Q: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Thank you. Karen.

Q: Jen, has President Biden invited congressional leaders to sit down and talk about the COVID relief measure that he introduced?

MS. PSAKI: Well, he has been discussing the COVID relief measures- the entire package that has, as you know, unemployment insurance; it has relief and assistance for the American people. It also has money to reopen schools, which I know, as a mother, impacts us all.

But he has been discussing that with Democrats and Republicans since long before he was sworn in today. Today was a day where he had conversations about working together in terms of getting his team in place, on his agenda moving forward. But I expect he will be picking up the phone in the coming days and having more of those conversations.

In terms of when he will meet in person, I will say soon, and we hope to have more of an update on that for you soon as well.

Q: What role do you expect him to play in these negotiations? There were a lot of comments today about his familiarity with the Senate. How involved will he be in that process?

MS. PSAKI: He will be quite involved. There is – the issue that he wakes up every day focusing on is getting the pandemic under control. The issue he goes to bed every night focused on is getting the pandemic under control.

This package is a pivotal step to doing that, and it has assistance for the American people to make that bridge, financially. It also has essential funding for vaccine distribution.

He will be very involved. He will not be the only one. We have a whole team here of senior staff, or course. But as you noted, he is not a stranger to the Senate; he served there for 36 years. Many of these people he – many of the members on both sides of the aisle he served with over that time, and I expect he will be quite involved in the process.

Go ahead, Jen.

Q: So, on this COVID relief package: Senator Romney was already saying to reporters that he doesn’t see a need for another virus relief package, and he’s the kind of Republican vote you’re likely going to be trying to get.

So, how long are you willing to work to get Republican support before you decide to go through the budget reconciliation process instead

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, because you all cover it and as I’ve stated a couple times here today, we are in the middle of an urgent crisis in this country. It’s not just impacting Democrats; it’s impacting Republicans. It’s impacting red states and blue states. And this plan is intended to address the suffering of the American people. She we hope – an frankly, we expect – Republicans in Congress and Democrats, too, will support assistance that will bring relief to the people they represent.

This is a conversation. He, of course, gave a primetime address, as you all know, last week – it seems like a long time ago, but it wasn’t – to announce his specifics, and he has already had a number of conversations with Democrats and the Republicans. Those will continue. His clear preference is to move forward with a bipartisan bill. There’s no question about it. But we’re also not going to take any tools off the table for how the Senate – House and Senate can get this urgent package done.

So, we are only – less than a day has he been President of the United States, but he’s going to continue to work with members of both parties to get it done.

Francesca, go ahead.

Q: Thank you, Jen. I have a – I do have a question about reopening schools, but I just want to pick up where she left off on that, and note that Republicans – including Lindsey Graham who is expected to be the Senate Budget Committee ranking member – have already said that the price tag on the President’s proposal is too high for them. So, is there any wiggle room on that number? And has he already begun negotiations with Mitch McConnell?

MS. PSAKI: Well, first, the package wasn’t designed with the number 1.9 trillion as a starting point; it was designed with the components that were necessary to give people the relief they needed.

So, what’s challenging is: What are you going to cut? Are you going to cut funding for vaccinations? Are you going to cut funding for unemployment insurance? Are you going to cut funding for reopening schools?

But it was laid out as his proposal based on recommendations from economists, recommendations from health experts. And as you’ve also seen, there have been also an outpouring of support from everyone from Bernie Sanders to the Chamber of Commerce for the package and the components in it. But this is a discussion. It’s a conversation. And he is no stranger to the process of bill making.

So we’re at the beginning of the process. And as we continue, there’ll be conversations with members of both parties of what will be in a final package, and rarely does it look exactly like the initial package that is proposed.

Q: With regards to reopening schools, what level of vaccination in teachers or students or level of testing does the administration think would be appropriate in order to meet the target date that the President has said?

MS. PSAKI: This is a great question. And as I noted at the beginning, as a mom myself, I want to know all the details as well. We’re going to have more to share from our health experts in the coming days, and I will venture to get them in here to give you all a briefing on the specifics. But we really want to lean into them on their expertise on that front.

Go ahead. I’ll come right to you, right next. Go ahead.

Q: So, President Biden promised to end all new oil and gas leasing on federal lands when he was a candidate. The order you just mentioned, that he signed today, was much narrower than that; it’s a temporary moratorium and it only applies to ANWR. And there is some debate about whether he has the legal flexibility to even follow through with his full promise. Does the administration still have that commitment today to (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI: We do. And the leases will be reviewed by our team. We have only been in office for less than a day now, and I will just – since you gave me the opportunity, just also confirm for all of you: All of our executive actions that we released today were reviewed in advance of the OLC. We went through that process in advance of releasing them. That took a great deal of work from our policy teams, but that was a vital part of the process for us as well.

Q: And could you talk a little bit about the – kind of, the preparations for getting the White House ready and safe for the new president? It’s been reported that you did $500,000 worth of deep cleaning. Could you talk about the measures that you took to ensure that the President is safe?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the – I would refer you to the General Services Administration who oversees any steps like that. What I can speak to, if it’s of interest, of the steps we’re all taking to make sure that we are safe, that he is safe, you are all safe. Those include daily testing when we’re in the White House. It includes wearing N95 masks. I wore it out, of course, here today and I will continue to do that. It includes stringent rules about social distancing and abiding by that in the building. That keeps us safe, but we’re also – the President has asked us to also be models to the American people, and that’s vitally important to us as well.

So there are a number of new COVID steps, precautions that we’ve put in place as of today.

Go ahead, all the way in the back.

Q: Thank you so much, Jen. Thank you for doing this on a daily basis again.

So climate change being one of the priorities, how does President Biden plan to work with Brazil? During the campaign, Biden criticized Brazil on deforestation and then the Brazilian President criticized Biden back, and he was the last one to congratulate President Biden on his election. What is the expectation for their relationship? And does he plan to speak with the Brazilian President?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t have anything to predict for you or advance for you in terms of a call or conversation. What I can convey on climate change, of course, and addressing the climate crisis – it’s one of the four crises that he’s identified will impact his administration; is impacting not just the American people, but the global community – is that rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement is a vital step towards doing that. The United States was one of the only countries in the world, as you all know that was – has not been – has not had a seat at the table the last few years.

A little technical step there is: We have submitted that to the U.S. Secretary General, and it will take approximately 30 days for that to take place. But I use that as an example because that’s one step, but we also know that we need to be models here at home as we are addressing an issue like this. The United States continues to be one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases, and we need to put in place policies and take steps here to address that as well.

But I’m sure we’ll have more to discuss on Brazil in the coming months.

Go ahead, right there.

Q: What are the next steps when it comes to Iran? And does the President have any plans to rejoin the nuclear deal?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the President has made clear that he believes that through follow-on diplomacy, the United States should seek to lengthen and strengthen nuclear constraints on Iran and address other issues of concern. Iran must resume compliance with significant nuclear constraints under the deal for that to proceed.

I will say, as I noted a bit earlier, we would expect that some of his earlier conversations with foreign counterparts or foreign leaders will be with partners and allies, and that we would certainly anticipate that this would be part of the discussion.

Q: And then, could you just give us some color about what it was like for him going into the Oval Office? He’s been waiting for this for so long. What was his reaction?

MS. PSAKI: Well, you know, I spend little time with him earlier, and he had an incredible sense of calm. And he – and a sense of some joy, of course. He spend the day with his family and his grandchildren and his children, and that always has an impact, I think.

But, you know, he also said he felt like he was coming home. Remember, he spent eight years here as the Vice President, playing an important role as a partner to President Obama. And, you know, that was the emotion that overtook him today.

He’s also eager to get to work. He was asking questions about policy and COVID and what’s next. And so, you know, that also reflects his desire to roll up his sleeves and get going.

Let’s see. I’m sorry, I told you I was going to ask you – I just skipped over you. Go ahead.

Q: That’s all right. I’ll take it now. So, if President Biden wants a theme of his presidency to be “unifying the country,” does he think that Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer should drop a potentially divisive Senate impeachment trial?

MS. PSAKI: Well, he spoke today, as you all saw, about unity in his inaugural address and the importance of unity and bringing the country together, and the resolve of the American people in helping to get through this moment.

You know, we are confident though that, just like the American people can, the Senate can also multi-task, and they can do their constitutional duty while continuing to conduct the business of the American people.

And his view is that the way to bring the country together is to address the problems we’re facing. And so that means getting this COVID relief package though, having Democrats and Republicans take a serious look at that and have conversations with each other about how to move it forward. And he’s going to leave the mechanics, the timing, and the specifics of how Congress moves forward on impeachment to them.

Q: And a quick-follow up: On President Trump’s Inauguration Day, he filed the paperwork to run for reelection — same day. Does President Biden have any plans to do that today, late, or on the coming days?

MS. PSAKI: I will say, having talked to him today, his focus is not on politics; it is on getting to work and solving the problems of the American people. So – and as he noted on the campaign, he will wait until sometime into his first term to speak more about his political plans moving forward.

Go ahead.

Q: Yeah. Thank you, Jen. The President pledged today to repair alliances. He has planned his first foreign trip yet?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re only seven hours in her. Your ready for the foreign trip.

Q: I’m looking ahead. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: I’m ready, too. I don’t have any details on a foreign trip to lay out for you at this point in time. Hopefully we will at some point in time.

Go ahead, all the way in the back.

Q: Hi, congratulations on your new position. Owen Jensen with EWTN, Global Catholic Network. Two big concerns for pro-life Americans: the Hyde Amendment, which of course keeps taxpayer dollars, as you know, from paying for abortions – Medicaid abortions – and the Mexico City Policy, which, under previous administration, they expanded to keep tax dollars from overseas paying for abortions. So what are President – what is President Biden planning on doing on those two items right now?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’ll have more to say on the Mexico City Policy in the coming days. But I will just take the opportunity to remind all of you that he is a devout Catholic and somebody who attends church regularly. He started his day attending church with his family this morning. But I don’t have anything more for you on that.

Go ahead.

Q: Yeah, as President-elect, he talked about the possibilities of using the Defense Production Act to ramp up production of vaccines.

MS. PSAKI: Well, stay tuned. We’ll do this again tomorrow, and there may be more specifics to share on plans on COVID tomorrow. I expect there will be, including more details on the Defense Production Act. He absolutely remains committed to invoking the Defense Act in order to get the supply and the materials needed to get the vaccine out to Americans across the country and remains committed to his goal of getting 100 million shots in the arms of Americans in the first 100 days.

Go ahead.

Q: Thank you very much. The President talked movingly about unity today. And I’ve heard from people who say, “Well, that’s just talk.” They want to know what action they’re going to see to show that kind of unity. Can you – I mean Peter mentioned impeachment, right? Can you tell us what kind of action we can expect to see that will assure people that he wants to reach out to people who voted for him and people who did not?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, first, I think anybody who has covered President Biden for some time or worked for him or spent time with him knows that he is somebody who always sees the optimistic side of working with people who may disagree with him, people across the aisle. And that has long been his commitment and desire through his many decades in public service. So his own history tells you how committed he is.

But, you know, part of it is his words, which he shared today with the American people on a quite large stage – also, his actions. He has reached out to not just Democratic members of Congress, but also to Republicans; not just to Democratic governors, but also to Republicans; not just Democratic mayors, but also to Republicans.

And he said today, in his speech – the biggest platform most Presidents have through the course of their presidency – that he will govern for all Americans. And, you know, that, of course, has to be backed up by actions, as you conveyed. But he’s going to venture to do that in – in every policy he pursues, every engagement he has, because he feels if we can come together, we’ll be a stronger country.

Go ahead.

Q: Jen, will we see a death penalty moratorium under this administration?

MS. PSAKI: The President, as you know, has stated his opposition to the death penalty in the past. He remains – that remains his view. I don’t have anything more for you in terms of future actions or mechanisms, though. I can – I’ll circle back if there’s more I can share with you.

Q: On a lighter note, will he keep Donald Trump’s Air Force One color scheme change?

MS PSAKI: This is such a good question. I have not had the opportunity to dig into that today, given the number of executive actions, orders, the inauguration – a few things happening. I will venture to get you an answer on that, and maybe we can talk about it in here tomorrow.

Q: Jen, just one quick one before we let you go. Just following up on Peter’s question: Does President – President Biden believe that President Trump needs to be held accountable for the Capitol insurrection a couple of weeks ago? And does that accountability require that President Trump be barred from holding future federal office?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Zeke, you know, he has spoken very firmly and fiercely, publicly, about his views of the horrific events – on the horrific events on January 6th. And he has also, of course, spoken with members of Congress about that, as you all know. But he is going to leave it to members of Congress to carry out their constitutional duty and determine what the path forward is – and what the mechanisms are going to be, what the process will be, and what the timeline will be.

And, certainly, he ran against Donald Trump because he did not think he was fit to serve in office, long before the events of January 6th. He is here today because he decided to run against him. But we’re focusing on moving forward. We’re focusing on addressing the – the issues facing the American public. And, as you know, that means we’re focused on our COVID package.

Go ahead.

Q: If I can follow up on that a little bit, Jen. Is the President being updated, first of all, on the progress of the FBI investigation? And we know the FBI is leading the investigation into the assault on the Capitol. Does President Biden have confidence in FBI Director Wray?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Peter, as you noted, there’s an ongoing investigation, which we certainly support. I’m not sure that he has received an update today on anything about the investigation, but we certainly support those ongoing. And we will, I’m sure, be receiving updates in the days ahead.

Go ahead.

Q: Does he have confidence in the FBI Director?

MS. PSAKI: I – I think – I have not spoken with him specifically FBI Director Wray in recent days, Peter, but I’ll circle back with you if there’s more to convey.

Q: Jen –

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Karen.

Q: The President did not mention the word “Trump” in his Inaugural Address today.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hm.

Q: What was the intention behind not making any direct reference to his predecessor in that speech?

MS PSAKI: Well, I think the intention was to make the speech not about any individual elected official, any current President, former President, but make it about the American people and the moment we’re facing in history right now – the struggles that millions of Americans are facing who don’t have jobs, the fear people have about the health of their grandparents and their cousins and their brothers – and to make it more about the strength of the American people when they come together and not about any individual.

But as you saw in his speech, it was forward looking; it was not meant to look back on the past.

Q: Jen, one more.

MS PSAKI: Go ahead.

Q: How does President Biden plan to recover the United States’ image around the world, and what is his priority globally?

MS. PSAKI: Well, his priority is, first, rebuilding our partnerships and alliances around the world and regaining America’s seat at the global table. And you can see that as evidenced in his rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement, rejoining the World Health Organization; his plans to engage with partners an allies and work together to address many of the threats and issues we’re facing around the world.

But I think that is what you will see as his focus in the weeks ahead.

Q: Thank you, Jen.

MS. PSAKI: Thank you, Zeke.

Q: Thank you, Jen.

MS. PSAKI: Thank you, everyone. Let’s do this again tomorrow.

January 20: The White House posted “Letter to His Excellency António Guterres” From the letter:

His Excellency

Mr António Guterres

Secretary-General

United Nations

New York

Excellency:

This letter constitutes a retraction by the Government of the United States of the letter dated July 6, 2020, notifying you that the Government of the United States intended to withdraw from the World Health Organization (WHO), effective July 6, 2021. The United States intends to remain a member of the World Health Organization.

The WHO plays a crucial role in the world’s fight against the deadly COVID-19 pandemic as well as countless other threats to global health and health security. The United States will continue to be a full participant and a global leader in confronting such threats and advancing global health and health security.

Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration

JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.

January 20: The White House posted “Executive Order on Revocation of Certain Executive Order Concerning Federal Regulation” From the Executive Order:

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered that:

Section 1. Policy. It is the policy of my Administration to use available tools to confront the urgent challenges facing the Nation, including the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, economic recovery, racial justice, and climate change. To tackle these challenges effectively executive departments and agencies (agencies) must be equipped with the flexibility to use robust regulatory action to address national priorities. This order revokes harmful policies and directives that threaten to frustrate the Federal Government’s ability to confront these problems, and empowers agencies to use appropriate regulatory tools to achieve these goals.

Sec. 2. Revocation of Orders. Executive Order 13771 of January 30, 2017 (Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs), Executive Order 13888 of February 24, 2017 (Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda), Executive Order 13875 of June 14, 2019 (Evaluating and Improving the Utility of Federal Advisory Committees), Executive Order 13891 of October 9, 2019 (Promoting the Rule of Law Through Transparency and Fairness in Civil Administrative Enforcement and Adjudication), and Executive Order 13893 of October 10, 2019 (Increasing Government Accountability for Administrative Actions by Reinvigorating Administrative PAYGO) are hereby revoked.

Sec. 3. Implementation. The Director of the Office of Management and Budget and the heads of agencies shall promptly take steps to rescind any orders, rules, regulations, guidelines, or policies, or portions thereof, implementing or enforcing the Executive Orders identified in section 2 of this order, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, including the Administrative Procedure Act, 5. U.S.C. 551 et seq. If in any case such recession cannot be finalized immediately, the Director and the heads of agencies shall promptly take steps to provide all available exemptions authorized by any such orders, rules, regulations, guidelines, or policies, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law. In addition, any personnel positions, committees, task forces, or other entities established pursuant to the Executive Orders identified in section 2 of this order, including the regulatory reform officer positions and regulatory reform task forces established by section 2 and 3 of Executive Order 13777, shall be abolished, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law.

Sec. 4. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b) This order shall be implemented in a manner consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.

January 20: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) posted a Media Statement titled: “Media Statement from Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH CDC Director and ATSDR Administrator” From the Media Release:

Today, Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH, officially begins her post as the 19th director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the ninth administrator of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). U.S. President Joe Biden selected Dr. Walensky to lead the agency in December. Dr. Walensky comes to CDC from Massachusetts General Hospital, where she served as Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases from 2017-2020; and Harvard Medical School, where she served as Professor of Medicine from 2021-2020. Additional biographical information is available on the CDC website.

Statement from Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH, Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

It is truly a privilege to join the world’s premier public health agency. For 75 years, CDC has carried out a mission to protect America’s safety, health, and security at home and abroad.

I am proud to join this agency, and I recognize the seriousness of the moment. The toll that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on America is truly heartbreaking – for the loss of our loved ones and our beloved ways of life. At Massachusetts General Hospital, I saw firsthand the many difficulties this pandemic brings to our frontline workers and first responders, hospitals, and public health systems, communities, and loved ones.

Better, healthier days lie ahead. But to get there, COVID-19 testing, surveillance, and vaccination must accelerate rapidly. We must also confront the longstanding public health challenges of social and racial injustice and inequity that have demanded action for far too long. And we must make up for potentially lost ground in areas like suicide, substance use disorder and overdose, chronic diseases, and global health initiatives.

America and the world are counting on CDC’s science and leadership. Just as it has since the beginning of the pandemic, CDC will continue to focus on what is known – and what more can be learned – about the virus to guide America. As part of that promise, CDC’s Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat will begin leading a comprehensive review of all existing guidance related to COVID-19. Wherever needed, this guideance will be updated so that people can make decisions and take action based on the best available evidence.

I am so proud to join CDC. Our 24/7 mission is truly more critical than ever.

January 20: The White House posted “Executive Order on Protecting The Federal Workforce and Requiring Mask-Wearing” From the Executive Order:

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including section 7902(c) of title 5, United States Code, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Policy. It is the policy of my Administration to halt the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) by relying on the best available data and science-based public health measures. Such measures include wearing masks when around others, physical distancing, and other related precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Put simply, masks and other public health measures reduce the spread of the disease, particularly when communities make widespread use of such measures, and thus save lives.

Accordingly, to protect the Federal workforce and individuals interacting with the Federal workforce,, and to ensure the continuity of Government services and activities, on-duty or on-site, Federal employees, on-site Federal contractors, and other individuals in Federal buildings and on Federal lands should all wear masks, maintain physical distance, and adhere to other public health measures, as provided in CDC guidelines.

Sec. 2. Immediate Action Regarding Federal Employees, Contractors, Buildings, and Lands. (a) The heads of executive departments and agencies (agencies) shall immediately take action, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, to require compliance with CDC guidelines with respect to wearing masks, maintaining physical distance, and other public health measures by: on-duty or on-site Federal employees; on-site Federal contractors; and all persons in Federal buildings or on Federal lands.

(b) The Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and the Administrator of General Services, in coordination with the President’s Management Council and the Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response and Counselor to the President (COVID-19 Response Coordinator), shall promptly issue guidance to assist heads of agencies with implementation of this section.

(c) Heads of agencies shall promptly consult, as appropriate, with State, local, Tribal, and territorial government officials, Federal employees, Federal employee unions, Federal contractors, and any other interested parties concerning the implementation of this section.

(d) Heads of agencies may make categorial or case-by-case exceptions in implementing subsection (a) of this section to the extent that doing so is necessary or required bylaw, and consistent with applicable law. If heads of agencies make such exceptions, they shall require appropriate alternative safeguards, such as additional physical distancing measures, additional testing, or reconfiguration of the workspace, consistent with applicable law. Heads of agencies shall document all exceptions in writing.

(e) Heads of agencies shall review their existing authorities and, to the extent permitted by law and subject to the availability of appropriations and resources, seek to provide masks to individuals in Federal buildings when needed.

(f) The COVID-19 Response Coordinator shall coordinate the implementation of this section. Heads of agencies listed in 31 U.S.C. 901(b) shall update the COVID-19 Response Coordinator on their progress in implementing this section, including any categorical exceptions established under subsection (d) of this section, within 7 days of the date of this order and regularly thereafter. Heads of agencies are encouraged to bring to the attention of the COVID-19 Response Coordinator any questions regarding the scope or implementation of this section.

Sec. 3. Encouraging Masking Across America. (a) The Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), including through the Director of CDC, shall engage, as appropriate, with State, local, Tribal and territorial officials, as well as business, union, academic, and other community leaders, regarding mask-wearing and other public health measures, with the goal of maximizing public compliance with, and addressing the goal of maximizing public compliance with, and addressing any obstacles to, mask-wearing and other public health best practices identified by CDC.

(b) The COVID-19 Response Coordinator, in coordination with the Secretary of HHS, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the heads of other relevant agencies, shall promptly identify and inform agencies of options to incentivize, support, and encourage widespread mask-wearing consistent with CDC guidelines and applicable law.

Sec. 4. Safer Federal Workforce Task Force.

(a) Establishment. There is hereby established the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force (Task Force).

(b) Membership. The Task Force shall consist of the following members:

(i) the Director of OPM, who shall serve as Co-Chair;

(ii) the Administrator of General Services, who shall serve as Co-Chair;

(iii) the COVID-19 Response Coordinator, who shall serve as Co-Chair;

(iv) The Director of OMB;

(v) the Director of the Federal Protective Service;

(vi) the Director of the United States Secret Service;

(vii) the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency;

(viii) the Director of CDC; and

(ix) the heads of other such agencies as the Co-Chairs may individually or jointly invite to participate.

(c) Organization. A member of the Task Force may designate, to preform the Task Force functions of the member, a senior-level official who is a full-time officer or employee of the member’s agency. At the direction of the Co-Chairs, the Task Force may establish subgroups consisting exclusively of Task Force members or their designees, as appropriate.

(d) Administration. The General Services Administration shall provide funding and administrative support for the Task Force to the extent permitted by law and within existing appropriations. The Co-Chairs shall convene regular meetings of the Task Force, determine its agenda, and direct its work.

(e) Mission. The Task Force shall provide ongoing guidance to heads of agencies on the operation of the Federal Government, the safety of its employees, and the continuity of Government functions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Such guidance shall be based on public health best practices as determined by CDC and other public health experts, and shall address, at a minimum, the following subjects as they relate to the Federal workforce:

(i) testing methodologies and protocols;

(ii) case investigation and contact tracing;

(iii) requirements and limitations on physical distancing, including recommended occupancy and density standards;

(iv) equipment needs and requirements, including personal protective equipment;

(v) air filration;

(vi) enhanced environmental disinfection and cleaning;

(vii) safe commuting and telework options;

(viii) enhanced technological infrastructure to support telework;

(ix) vaccine prioritization, distribution, and administration;

(x) approaches for coordinating with State, local, Tribal and territorial health officials, as well as business, union, academic, and other community leaders;

(xi) any management infrastructure needed by agencies to implement public health guidance; and

(xii) circumstances under which exemptions might appropriately be made to agency policies in accordance with CDC guidelines, such as for mission-critical purposes.

(f) Agency Corporation. The head of each agency listed in 31 U.S.C. 901(b) shall, consistent with applicable law, promptly provide the Task Force a report on COVID-19 safety protocols, safety plans, or guidance regarding the operation of the agency and the safety of its employees, and any other information that the head of the agency deems relevant to the Task Force’s work.

Sec. 5 Federal Employee Testing. The Secretary of HHS, through the Director of CDC, shall promptly develop and submit to the COVID-19 Response Coordinator a testing plan for the federal workforce. This plan shall be based on community transmission metrics and address the populations to be tested, testing types, frequency of testing, positive case protocols, and coordination with local public health authorities for contact tracing.

Sec. 6. Research and Development. The Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, in consultation with the Secretary of HHS (through the National Science and Technology Council), the Director of OMB, the Director of CDC, the Director of the National Institutes of Health, the Director of the National Science Foundation, and the heads of any other appropriate agencies, shall assess the availability of Federal research grants to study best practices for implementing, and innovations to better implement, effective mask-wearing and physical distancing policies, with respect to both the Federal workforce and the general public.

Sec. 7. Scope. (a) For purposes of this order:

(i) “Federal employees” and “Federal contractors” mean employees (including members of the Armed Forces and members of the National Guard in Federal service) and contractors (including such contractors’ employees) working for the executive branch;

(ii) “Federal buildings” means buildings, or office space within buildings, owned, rented, or leased by the executive branch of which a substantial portion of occupants are Federal employees or Federal contractors.

(iii) “Federal lands” means lands under executive branch control.

(b) The Director of OPM and the Administrator of General Services shall seek to consult, in coordination with the heads of any other relevant agencies and the COVID-19 Response Coordinator, with the Sergeants at Arms of the Senate and the House of Representatives and the Director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts (or such other persons designated by the Majority and Minority Leaders of the Senate, the Speaker and Minority Leader of the House, or the Chief Justice of the United States, respectively), to promote mask-wearing, physical distancing, and adherence to other public health measures within the legislative and judicial branches, and shall provide requested technical assistance as needed to facilitate compliance with CDC guidelines.

Sec. 8. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c) Independent agencies are strongly encouraged to comply with the requirements of this order.

(d) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party of the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.

January 20: The White House posted “Executive Order on Organizing and Mobilizing the United States Government to Provide a Unified and Effective Response to Combat COVID-19 and to Provide United States Leadership on Global Health and Security” From the Executive Order:

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Purpose. The Federal Government must act swiftly and aggressively to combat coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). To that end, this order creates the position of Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response and Counselor to the President and takes other steps to organize the White House and activities of the Federal Government to combat COVID-19 and prepare for future biological and pandemic threats.

Sec. 2. Organizing the White House to Combat COVID-19. (a) In order to effectively, fully, and immediately respond to COVID-19, there is established within the Executive Office of the President the position of Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response and Counselor to the President (COVID-19 Response Coordinator) and that position of Deputy Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response. The COVID-19 Response Coordinator shall report directly to the President; advise and assist the President and executive departments and agencies (agencies) in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic; coordinate all elements of the COVID-19 response; and perform such duties as the President may otherwise direct. These duties shall include:

(i) coordinating a Government-wide effort to reduce disparities in the response, care, and treatment of COVID-19, including racial and ethnic disparities;

(ii) coordinating the Federal Government’s efforts to produce, supply, and distribute personal protective equipment, vaccines, tests, and other supplies for the Nation’s vaccines, tests, and other supplies for the Nation’s COVID-19 response, including through the use of the Defense Production Act, as amended (50 U.S.C. 4501 et seq.);

(iii) coordinating the Federal Government’s efforts to expand COVID-19 testing and the use of testing as an effective public health response;

(iv) coordinating the Federal Government’s efforts to support the timely, safe, and effective delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to the United States population;

(v) coordinating the Federal Government’s efforts to support the safe reopening and operation of schools, child care providers, and Head Start programs, and to help ensure the continuity of educational and other services for young children and elementary and secondary students during the COVID-19 pandemic; and

(vi) coordinating, as appropriate, with State, local, Tribal, and territorial authorities.

(b) The COVID-19 Response Coordinator shall have the authority to convene principals from relevant agencies, in consultation with the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy (APDP) on matters involving the domestic COVID-19 response, and in consultation with the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs (APNSA) on matters involving the global COVID-19 response. The COVID-19 Response Coordinator shall also coordinate any corresponding deputies and interagency processes.

(c) The COVID-19 Response Coordinator may act through designees in performing these or any other duties.

Sec. 3. United States Leadership on Global Health and Security and the Global COVID-19 Response.

(a) Preparing to Respond to Biological Threats and Pandemics. To identify, monitor, prepare for, and, if necessary, respond to emerging biological and pandemic threats:

(i) the APNSA shall convene the National Security Council (NSC) Principals Committee as necessary to coordinate the Federal Government’s efforts to address such threats and to advise the President on the global response to and recovery from COVID-19, including matters regarding: the intersection of the COVID-19 response and other national security equities; global health security; engaging with and strengthening the World Health Organization; public health, access to healthcare, and the secondary impacts of COVID-19; and emerging biological risks and threats, whether naturally occurring, deliberate, or accidental.

(ii) Within 180 days of the date of this order, the APNSA shall, in coordination with relevant agencies, the COVID-19 Response Coordinator, and the APDP, complete a review of and recommend actions to the President concerning emerging domestic and global biological risks and national biopreparedness policies. The review and recommended actions shall incorporate lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic and, among other things, address: the readiness of the pandemic supply chain, healthcare workforce, and hospitals; the development of a framework of pandemic readiness with specific triggers for when agencies should take action in response to large-scale biological events; pandemic border readiness; the development and distribution of medical countermeasures; epidemic forecasting and modeling; public health data modernization, bio-related intelligence; bioeconomic investments; biotechnology risks; the development of a framework for coordinating with and distributing responsibilities as between the Federal Government and State, local, Tribal, and territorial authorities; and State, local, Tribal and territorial preparedness for biological events.

(b) NSC Directorate on Global Health Security and Biodefense. There shall be an NSC Directorate on Global Health Security and Biodefense, which shall be headed by a Senior Director for Global Health Security and Biodefense. The Senior Director shall be responsible for monitoring current and emerging biological threats, and shall report concurrently to the APNSA and to the COVID-19 Response Coordinator on matters relating to COVID-19. The Senior Director shall oversee the Global Health Security Agenda Interagency Review Council, which was established pursuant to Executive Order 13747 of November 4, 2016 (Advancing the Global Health Security Agenda To Achieve a World Safe and Secure From Infectious Disease Threats), and is hereby reconvened as descried in that order.

(c) Responsibility for National Biodefense Preparedness. Notwithstanding any statements in the National Security Presidential Memorandum-14 of September 18, 2018 (Support for National Biodefense), the APNSA shall be responsible for coordinating the Nation’s biodefense preparedness efforts, and, as stated in sections 1 and 2 of this order, the COVID-19 Response Coordinator shall be responsible for coordinating the Federal Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sec. 4. Prompt Resolution of Issues Related to the United States COVID-19 Response. The heads of agencies shall, as soon as practicable, bring any procedural, departmental, legal, or funding obstacle to the COVID-19 response to the attention of the COVID-19 Response Coordinator. The COVID-19 Response Coordinator shall, in coordination with the relevant agencies, the APDP, and the APNSA, as appropriate, immediately bring to the President’s attention any issues that require Presidential guidance or decision-making.

Sec. 5. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to availability of appropriations.

(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR

Jan 20: The White House posted a Statement titled: “Letter to His Excellency António Guterres” From the statement:

His Excellency

Mr. António Guterres

Secretary-General

United Nations

New York

Excellency:

This letter constitutes a retraction by the Government of the United States of the letter dated July 6, 2020, notifying you that the Government of the United States intended to withdraw from the World Health Organization (WHO), effective July 6, 2021. The United States intends to remain a member of the World Health Organization.

The WHO plays a crucial role in the world’s fight against the deadly COVID-19 pandemic as well as countless other threats to global health and health security. The United States will continue to be a full participant and a global leader in confronting such threats and advancing global health and health security.

Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.

JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR

January 20: The White House posted a Statement titled: “Pausing Federal Student Loan Payments” From the Statement:

At the request of President Biden, the Acting Secretary of Education will extend the pause on federal student loan payments and collections and keep the interest rate at 0%. Too many Americans are struggling to pay for basic necessities and to provide for their families. They should not be forced to choose between paying their student loans and putting food on the table.

January 20: The White House posted a Statement titled: “Paris Climate Agreement”. From the Statement:

ACCEPTANCE ON BEHALF OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

I, Joseph R. Biden Jr., President of the United States of America, having seen and considered the Paris Agreement done at Paris on December 12, 2015, do hereby accept the said Agreement and every article and clause thereof on behalf of the United States of America.

Done at Washington this 20th day of January, 2021

JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.


January 21, 2021

January 21: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi posted a Press Release titled: “Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today” From the Press Release:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi held her weekly press conference today in the Capitol Visitor Center. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

SPEAKER PELOSI: Good morning, everyone.

What a difference a day makes. Wasn’t that just the most beautiful inauguration, with the theme ‘America United’? It was so perfect in my view not only for the, shall we say, peaceful transfer of power, but the manner in which it happened: ‘America United’.

You know, I’ve said again and again that the arts will bring us together. When we laugh together, we cry together, we’re inspired together, we find our common ground more easily. And that was certainly given proof yesterday when Amanda Gorman made her, recited her beautiful – presented her beautiful poem about unity and about coming together, optimism.

And it was, of course, the complete theme of the inauguration, but also of the Vice President – excuse me, the now President, and he was President when he made his beautiful inaugural address about unity. It was when the day began, the inauguration began.

At the end of the day, I loved what was on TV at the end of one of the celebrations. You know, the President always loves to quote the Irish poets, Seamus Heaney being one of his favorites. So, as the end of the day, to see Lin Manuel Miranda reciting Seamus Heaney’s poem, and then at the end of the poem Joe Biden and [Lin-Manuel] coming together saying, ‘The longed for tidal wave of justice can rise up and hope and history can rhyme.’

It’s about trust. It’s about hope. It’s about optimism. That’s what the inauguration was about.

When the President said, ‘Today is America’s day, today is democracy’s day,’ that was really true. That inauguration was a breath of fresh air for our country. The inauguration of Joe Biden as President, Kamala Harris as Vice President of the United States, with all of the newness that that presented – first woman, first African American woman, first Asian American woman, the best. Not just about democracy, but about quality of leadership. So exciting.

So now with the Biden Harris Administration in place, a Democratic Majority that occurred later in the day, yesterday, when Chuck Schumer became the Majority Leader of the Senate, with the swearing in of three new Members. We’re very proud of Senator Padilla of California, just overwhelmed with joy about the two Senators from Georgia, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. Three new Senators, a new Democratic Majority, now we can recover from the pandemic and get to work to Build Back Better.

Today, our nation marks the passing of the 400,000 people – that was [Tuesday], 400,000 people died. But today marks one year since our first knowledge of this pandemic. And what did we learn this morning? We learned this morning that the Trump Administration had no real plan for the production and distribution of the vaccine. Just another in a series of their terrible, ineffective approach to it from the start, in denial, delay, distortion, calling it a hoax, and now e vids that they don’t – they didn’t even have a plan.

As we go forward, though, we see immediately that Joe Biden has – President Biden has put forth a plan to crush the coronavirus. You know what it is. Yesterday, he talked about it in his Exclusive Actions when he talked about wearing masks, distancing, science based approaches.

Today, he’ll sign further orders, my understanding is, to use the Defense Production Act to speed up PPP – PPE delivery and to expand testing, treatment, and public health workforce that we need and launch a vaccination campaign. All of its is to more safely open up schools and businesses, improve health equity, something that the Republicans would just erase from any bill, addressing the disparity in treatment and testing and therefore the disparity in incidence of COVID 19 in communities of color.

As we salute these actions, we are getting ready for a COVID relief package. We’ll be working on that as we go.

As you probably have seen, Mr. Hoyer announced that as we work in these issues we won’t be back in session until the beginning of February, another week. February 1st, is it, or 2nd? And – but we’ll be doing our, we’ll be doing our committee work all next week so we are completely ready to go to the Floor when we come back.

And then, again, the COVID proposals from the Administration build on many of the initiatives that were in our package all along. It’s what the people need, what the country needs to crush the virus, put money in the pockets of the American people and honor our heroes.

We’re largely talking about Executive Actions, but I just mentioned that one bill, the COVID package. We also were pleased to see the President come forward – the Administration come forward with an immigration proposal. We are pleased that in the House, Linda Sanchez will be taking the lead, Senator Menendez in the Senate. It has the basic principles that we’ve talked about all along, and we’ll see what the timetable is on that.

Today, we are in session to vote on the Austin wavier. It is a wavier so that General Lloyd Austin can serve as Secretary of Defense. As I have said, General Austin is a highly qualified and well respected leader. With over 40 years of decorated service, he brings a great understanding of the challenges facing our nation’s defense and the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform and their families. Once the waiver is approved, I feel confident that the Senate will confirm the General as Secretary of Defense.

Civilian control of the military is not an issue for us, it is a value. It is a principle. And we are so pleased that, unlike the Trump Administration, the Biden Administration not only allow but encourage the General to come and present his views, which is happening right now, in the Armed Services Committee.

So, again, a very happy time. We are – I’m very proud of our Members. Right before I came here, I was in a session that was made available for Members and staff about the trauma of what happened on January 6th, talked about physical trauma, psychological trauma, vicarious trauma and the rest.

When the press came, saw may office and the rest, and asked about things that were stolen, glass that was broken, just violation of the property there, I really said, I don’t – that’s important, I respect the Speaker’s Office and the accoutrement of history that is there, but I’m more concerned about the damage that they did to our staff, to our colleagues in the Congress, to the custodial staff in the Capitol of the United States. That is damage. That is damage that must be addressed.

The resilience that we want to convey, we tried to do that night by coming right back, opening up the session of Congress, proceeding with the business at hand, the counting of the Electoral College votes to ascertain that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were President and Vice President of the United States.

But that was on aspect of resilience. So many Members felt their lives threatened. The uncertainty of it all contributed to the trauma. This is something that everyone in the country should take a measure of how they reacted to this. But let us all pray for the resilience that our country is famous for and that our people need to have as we go forward.

And one other part of that is that we will be, in another few days, when I’ll be talking with the managers as to when the Senate will be ready for the trial of the then-President of the United States for his role in instigating an insurrection on the House, on the Capitol of the United States, on our democracy, to undermine the will of the people.

It’s very clear he has been on this path for a while, but that – just that day he roused the troops, he urged them on to ‘fight like hell,’ he sent them on their way to the Capitol, he called upon lawlessness, he showed a path to the Capitol, and the lawlessness took place, a direct connection in one day over and above all of the other statements he had made before.

So, in any event, we – if somebody is asking – I’m not going to be telling you when it is going, but we had to wait for the Senate to be in session. They’ve now informed us they’re ready to receive. The question is – other questions about how a trial will proceed. But we are ready.

***

With that, I’m pleased to take any questions. What have you got, Chad?

Q: Madam Speaker, good morning. You were talking about security here at the Capitol, and I know you’re very concerned about that. Do you have any evidence or were you briefed in any capacity about these allegations of reconnaissance tours that some have talked about? And if there’s not proof to that – again some of your Members on your side have said that. Some of the Republican Members who were alleged to have given these have denied that they’d given them.

SPEAKER PELOSI: As with all of those things, as you indicate, you have to have evidence of what happened. There is no question that there were Members in this body who gave aid and comfort to those with the idea that they were embracing a lie, a like perpetrated by the President of the United States that the election did not have legitimacy. These people believed it. They believed the President. The President of the United States, his words have weight. They weigh a ton, in fact. So, that’s one thing.

In terms of what you suggest, everything has to be based on evidence, and that remains to be seen. In that regard, I’ve very pleased that we will have an after action review that will review many aspects of what happened. If people did aid and abet, there will be more than just comments from their colleagues here. There will be prosecution if they aided and abetted an insurrection in which people died. But again, Chad, as you rightfully ask, that is something that you have to collect the evidence for you as you proceed, A.

B, I’m very excited because you asked about security here, that General Russel Honoré has agreed to take a big view of the security here. We will have an after action review. There will be a commission, all of that. But immediately, actually before the weekend, he agreed to take a look at the security infrastructure, the interagency relationships, the fact that he is so familiar with the capital regional security aspects of it. We feel and we believe that we are in very good hands with his taking the look that he has and inviting experts in the field to give their views as well. So that’s where we are.

Yes, ma’am.

Q: Thank you, Madam Speaker.

Two things. If you can put any finer point on the timing for the Articles of Impeachment?

SPEAKER PELOSI: No.

[Laughter]

Q: Okay.

SPEAKER PELOSI: It will be soon. As I said, you’ll be the first to know.

Q: Thank you. And also, you mentioned Leader Schumer becoming the Senate Majority Leader.

SPEAKER PELOSI: Yes. It’s very exciting.

Q: You have worked a long time with both Leader Schumer and Leader McConnell. What is your advice for Leader Schumer now that he is the Majority as he confronts Leader McConnell, who let us know yesterday he still sees, you know, that even though Democrats have a sweep of government now with the House, the Senate and White House, Leader McConnell still sees, you know, an important role for Republicans as – you know, in the Congress.

SPEAKER PELOSI: So, you’re asking me what advice I would give to Leader Schumer?

Q: Yes, ma’am.

SPEAKER PELOSI: You know him. I wouldn’t think of giving him any advice on how to deal with the Senate, not at all, nor does he give me advice on how to run the House.

Q: And in dealing with Leader McConnell?

SPEAKER PELOSI: No. Again, that’s a dynamic that is very different from the House. I would say though, for both of us, we have a responsibility to find bipartisanship where we can, to find our common ground where we can. We have that as not only a goal, but a responsibility. When we can’t, we must stand our ground. That’s Thomas Jefferson, standing the ground with that.

But it is – if we’re talking about what the country needs, the country needs to crush the virus. It hasn’t happened yet. The country needs to end the economic crisis that we’re in. We need to do more to that. And one way to do both is to help our heroes, our health care workers, our police and fire, our first responders, our sanitation, transportation, food workers, our teachers, our teachers, our teachers. They are on the front line, risking their lives to save lives in some cases and on the verge of losing their job. So, it’s about a case that we make for what the country needs that hopefully we can have a bipartisan agreement.

Yes?

Q: Thank you. You mentioned unity, the message of unity that came out yesterday.

SPEAKER PELOSI: Yeah.

Q: Are you at all concerned about moving forward that an impeachment trial could undercut that message and alienate Republican supporters of the President?

SPEAKER PELOSI: No. No, I’m not worried about that. The fact is, the President of the United States committed an act of insurrection. I don’t think it’s very unifying to say, ‘Oh, let’s just forget it and move on.’ That’s not how you unify. Joe Biden said it beautifully: If you’re going to unite, you must remember. And we must – we must bring this.

And look, that’s our responsibility, to uphold the integrity of the Congress of the United States. That’s our responsibility, to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and that is what we will do.

And just because he’s now gone, thank God, that we – you don’t say to a President, “Do whatever you want in the last months of your Administration, you’re going to get a get out of jail card free,’ because people think we should make nice and forget that people died here on January 6th, that the attempt to undermine our election or to undermine our democracy, to dishonor our Constitution. No, I don’t see that at all. I think that would be harmful to unity.

Q: Madam Speaker, a year ago, in the context of the last impeachment trial, you said that you cannot have a trial without documents and witnesses.

SPEAKER PELOSI: That’s right.

Q: I’m wondering what kind of trial you’d like to see your impeachment managers put forward. And is that part of your what you’re waiting for, some kind of guidance from the Senate about how they’ll conduct themselves before you send that article over?

SPEAKER PELOSI: Well, let me just say this. We’re talking about two different things. We’re talking about a phone call that the President had as one part of it, that people could say, ‘I need evidence.’ This year, the whole world bore witness to the President’s indictment, to the execution of his call to action, and the violence that was used.

So I, believe it or not, don’t take part in the deliberations of delivering – of making the – preparing for the trial. That’s up to the managers. But I did see a big difference between something that we all witnessed versus what information you might need to substantiate an Article of Impeachment based on, large part, on a call the President made and described as ‘perfect.’ It was perfectly unconstitutional. This is different.

But, again, it’s up to them to decide how we go forward, when we go forward. It will be soon. I don’t think it will be long, But we must do it.

STAFF: Last question.

Q: Speaker Pelosi. Just a quick question. Whats the status of H.R. 1 right now?

SPEAKER PELOSI: H.R. 1 is – the status of H.R. 1 is that it is in an exalted position.

[Laughter.]

We – it is a priority for us. The Senate has S. [1], I think is what theirs is, S. [1].

This is very important, and I thank you for asking about it, because this is really central to the integrity of our government, to reduce the role of big, dark, special interest money in politics, to give more leverage to small donors and grassroots activists, to implement what John Lewis put forth in ending voter suppression. That is what January 6th was about as well, voter suppression, and the list goes on.

We have pulled out H.R. 4, which was part of H.R. 1, the Voting Rights Act, but that’s very much a part of the spirit of that. The reason why we are doing them separately is [H.R. 4] needs to have – and we have provided it with hearings all over the country. Marcia Fudge, now soon to be Madam Secretary, Terri Sewell, John Lewis, bless his heart, when he was here – all were part of establishing that record for H.R. 4, the Voting Rights Act, for now.

So, we’re optimistic we are going to pass both of them, and it will give confidence to the American people that their voice is as important as anyone’s, that big money, which suffocates the airways, is no longer going to be the order of the day.

And I thank John Sarbanes for his tremendous leadership over a long period of time. John Larson was doing it earlier, and now John Sarbanes, both of them. And what’s important about it is that it gives people the hope that, yes, we can have clean air and clean water and address the climate crisis because big, dark money will not dominate the policy; yes, we can have gun violence prevention because big, dark, special interest, gun lobbyist money will not dominate the process.

We in the Democratic Party have advanced these. They have been stopped, as you know, on the other side. But we hope now that the more the public knows the better we will be in terms of policy.

And I’d just – I’ll conclude by saying something you’ve heard me say again and again: ‘Public sentiment is everything. With it, you can accomplish almost everything, without it, practically nothing.” Abraham Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln.

And now that we have the bully pulpit and the President can explain to the public more clearly, because a President has a bigger audience, that the public will know what is at stake, how they can weigh in. And it won’t be a question of the press saying, ‘Oh, they’re bickering, or this or that.’ Now, we’re not. We’re not bickering. We have a very major difference of opinion as to what – how we honor the Constitution. We hope that we can find common ground on it because its very important.

And, again, I’ll further close, wasn’t it beautiful when President Biden quoted what Lincoln, President Lincoln, said when he signed the Emancipation Proclamation on New Year’s Day [1863]? It was in his soul, it was in his being. And Biden, of course, said what he is setting out to do is, again, in his soul and in his being.

Thank you all very much. What a difference a day makes. Thank you.

January 21: The White House posted an executive order titled: “Executive Order on Promoting COVID-19 Safety in Domestic and International Travel” From the Executive Order:

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Policy. Science-based public health measures are critical to preventing the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) by travelers within the United States and those who enter the country from abroad. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),the Surgeon General, and the National Institutes of Health have concluded that mask-wearing, physical distancing, appropriate ventilation, and timely testing can mitigate the risk of travelers spreading COVID-19. Accordingly, to save lives and allow all Americans, including the millions of people employed in the transportation industry, to travel and work safely, it is the policy of my Administration to implement these public health measures consistent with with CDC guidelines on public modes of transportation and at ports of entry to the United States.

Sec. 2. Immediate Action to Require Mask-Wearing on Certain Domestic Modes of Transportation.

(a) Mask Requirement. The Secretary of Labor, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Secretary of Transportation (including through the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)), the Secretary of Homeland Security (including through the Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Commandant of the United States Coast Guard), and the heads of any other executive departments and agencies (agencies) that have relevant regulatory authority (heads of agencies) shall immediately take action, to the extent appropriate and consistent with applicable law, to require masks to be worn in compliance with CDC guidelines in or on:

(i) airports;

(ii) commercial aircraft;

(iii) trains;

(iv) public maritime vessels, including ferries;

(v) intercity bus services; and

(vi) all forms of public transportation as defined in section 5302 of title 49, United States Code.

(b) Consultation. In implementing this section, the heads of agencies shall consult, as appropriate, with interested parties, including State, local, Tribal, and territorial officials’ industry and union representatives from the transportation sector; and consumer representatives.

(c) Exceptions. The heads of agencies may make categorical or case-by-case exceptions to policies developed under this section, consistent with applicable law, to the extent that doing so is necessary or required by law. If the heads of agencies do make exceptions, they shall document all exceptions in writing.

(d) Preemption. To the extent permitted by applicable law, the heads of agencies shall ensure that any action taken to implement this section does not preempt State, local, Tribal, and territorial laws or rules imposing public health measures that are more protective of public health than those required by the heads of agencies.

(e) Coordination. The Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response and Counselor to the President (COVID-19 Response Coordinator) shall coordinate the implementation of this section. The heads of agencies shall update the COVID-19 Response Coordinator on their progress in implementing this section, including any categorical exceptions established under subsection (c) of this section, within 7 days of the date of this order and regularly thereafter. The heads of agencies are encouraged to bring to the attention of the COVID-19 Response Coordinator any questions regarding the scope or implementation of this section.

Sec. 3. Action to Implement Additional Public Health Measures for Domestic Travel.

(a) Recommendations. The Secretary of Transportation (including through the Administer of the FAA) and the Secretary of Homeland Security (including through the Administrator of the TSA and the Commandant of the Coast Guard), in consultation with the Director of CDC, shall promptly provide to the COVID-19 Response Coordinator recommendations concerning how their respective agencies may impose additional public health measures for domestic travel.

(b) Consultation. In implementing this section, the Secretary of Transportation and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall engage with interested parties, including State, local Tribal, and territorial officials; industry and union representatives from the transportation sector; and consumer representatives.

Sec. 4. Support for State, Local, Tribal and Territorial Authorities. The COVID-19 Response Coordinator, in coordination with the Secretary of Transportation and the heads of any other relevant agencies, shall promptly identify and inform agencies of options to incentivize, support, and encourage widespread mask-wearing and physical distancing on public modes of transportation, consistent with CDC guidelines and applicable law.

Sec. 5. International Travel.

(a) Policy. It is the policy of my Administration that, to the extent feasible, travelers seeking to enter the United States from a foreign country shall be:

(i) required to produce proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test prior to entry; and

(ii) required to comply with other applicable CDC guidelines concerning international travel, including recommended periods of self-quarantine or self-isolation after entry into the United States.

(b) Air Travel.

(i) The Secretary of HHS, including through the Director of CDC, and in coordination with the Secretary of Transportation (including through the Administrator of the FAA) and the Secretary of Homeland Security (including through the Administrator of the TSA), shall, within 14 days of the date of this order, assess the CDC order of January 12, 2021, regarding the requirement of a negative COVID-19 test result for airline passengers traveling into the United States, in light of subsection (a) of this section. Based on such assessment, the Secretary of HHS and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall take any further appropriate regulatory action, to the extent feasible and consistent with CDC guidelines and applicable law. Such assessment and regulatory action shall include consideration of:

(A) the timing and types of COVID-19 tests that should satisfy the negative test requirement, including consideration of additional testing immediately prior to departure;

(B) the proof of test results that travelers should be required to provide;

(C) the feasibility of implementing alternative and sufficiently protective public health measures, such as testing, self-quarantine, and self-isolation on arrival, for travelers entering the United States from countries where COVID-19 tests are inaccessible, particularly where such inaccessibility of tests would affect the ability of United States citizens and lawful permanent residents to return to the United States; and

(D) Measures to prevent fraud.

(ii) The Secretary of HHS, in coordination with the Secretary of Transportation (including through the Administrator of the FAA) and the Secretary of Homeland Security (including through the Administrator of the TSA), shall promptly provide to the President, through the COVID-19 Response Coordinator, a plan for how the Secretary and other Federal Government actors could implement the policy stated in subsection (a) of this section with respect to CDC-recommended periods of self-quarantine or self-isolation after a flight to the United States from a foreign country, as he deems appropriate and consistent with applicable law. The plan shall identify agencies’ tools and mechanisms to assist travelers in complying with such policy.

(iii) The Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of HHS (including through the Administrator of the FAA), and the Secretary of Homeland Security, shall seek to consult with foreign governments, the World Health Organization, the International Civil Aviation Organization, the International Air Transport Association, and any other relevant stakeholders to establish guidelines for public health measures associated with safe international travel including on aircraft and at ports of entry. Any such guidelines should address quarantine, testing, COVID-19 vaccination, follow-up testing and symptom-monitoring, air filtration requirements, environmental decontamination standards, and contact tracing.

(c) Land Travel. The Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of HHS, the Secretary of Transportation, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Director of CDC, shall immediately commence diplomatic outreach to the governments of Canada and Mexico regarding public health protocols for land ports of entry. Based on this diplomatic engagement, within 14 days of the date of this order, the Secretary of HHS (including through the Director of CDC), the Secretary of Transportation, and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall submit to the President a plan to implement appropriate public health measures at land ports of entry. The plan should implement CDC guidelines, consistent with applicable law, and take into account the operational considerations relevant to the different populations who enter the United States by land.

(d) Sea Travel. The Secretary of Homeland Security, through the Commandant of the Coast Guard and in consolation with the Secretary of HHS and the Director of CDC, shall, within 14 days of the date of this order, submit to the President a plan to implement appropriate public health measures at sea ports. The plan should implement CDC guidelines, consistent with applicable law, and take into account operational considerations.

(e) International Certificates of Vaccination or Prophylaxis. Consistent with applicable law, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of HHS, and the Secretary of Homeland Security (including through the Administrator of the TSA), in coordination with any relevant international organizations, shall assess the feasibility of linking COVID-19 vaccination to International Certificates of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP) and producing electronic versions of ICVPs.

(f) Coordination. The COVID-19 Response Coordinator, in consultation with the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy, shall coordinate the implementation of this section. The Secretary of State, the Secretary of HHS, the Secretary of Transportation, and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall update the COVID-19 Response Coordinator on their progress in implementing this section within 7 days of the date of this order and regularly thereafter. The heads of all agencies are encouraged to bring to the attention of the COVID Response Coordinator any questions regarding the scope or implementation of this section.

Sec. 6. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary administrative, or legislative proposals

(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.

January 21: The White House posted “Executive Order on Improving and Expanding Access to Care and Treatments for COVID-19” From the Executive Order:

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is nearby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Policy. It is the policy of my Administration to improve the capacity of the Nation’s healthcare systems to address coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), to accelerate the development of novel therapies to treat COVID-19, and to improve all Americans’ access to quality and affordable healthcare.

Sec. 2. Accelerating the Development of Novel Therapies. To enhance the Nation’s ability to quickly develop the most promising COVID-19 interventions, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), in consultation with the Director of the National Institutes of Health shall:

(a) develop a plan for supporting a range of studies including large-scale randomized trials, for identifying optimal clinical management strategies, and for supporting the most promising treatment for COVID-19 and future high-consequence public health threats, that can be easily manufactured, distributed, and administered, both domestically and internationally.

(b) develop a plan, in consultation with non-governmental partners, as appropriate, to support research:

(i) in rural hospitals and other rural locations; and

(ii) that studies the emerging evidence concerning the long-term impact of COVID-19 on patient health; and

(c) consider steps to ensure that clinical trials include populations that have been historically underrepresented in such trials.

Sec. 3. Improving the Capacity of the Nation’s Healthcare Systems to Address COVID-19. To bolster the capacity of the Nation’s healthcare systems to support healthcare workers and patients:

(a) The Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of HHS, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and the heads of other relevant executive departments and agencies, (agencies), in coordination with the Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response and Counselor to the President (COVID-19 Response Coordinator), shall promptly, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, provide targeted surge assistance to critical care and long-term care facilities, including nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, intermediate care facilities for individuals with disabilities, and residential treatment centers, in their efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19.

(b)The COVID-19 Response Coordinator, in coordination with the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of HHS, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and the heads of other relevant agencies, shall review the needs of Federal facilities providing care to COVID-19 patients and develop recommendations for further actions such facilities can take to support active military personnel, veterans, and Tribal nations during this crisis.

(c) The Secretary of HHS shall promptly:

(i) issue recommendations on how States and healthcare providers can increase the capacity of their healthcare workforces to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

(ii) through the Administration of the Health Resources and Services Administration and the Administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, take appropriate actions, as consistent with applicable law, to expand access to programs and services designed to meet the long-term health needs of patients recovering from COVID-19, including through technical assistance and support to community health centers.

Sec. 4. Improving Access to Quality and Affordable Healthcare

(a) To facilitate the equitable and effective distribution of therapeutics and bolster clinical care capacity where needed to support patient care, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of HHS, and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, in coordination with the COVID-19 Response Coordinator, shall establish targets for the production, allocation, and distribution of COVID-19 treatments. To meet those targets, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of HHS, and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall consider prioritizing, including through grants for research and development, investments in therapeutics that can be readily administered and scaled.

(b) To facilitate the utilization of exerting COVID-19 treatments, the Secretary of HHS shall identify barriers to maximizing the effective and equitable use of existing COVID-19 treatment and shall, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, provide support to State, local, Tribal, and territorial authorities aimed at overcoming those barriers.

(c) To address the affordability of treatments and clinical care, the Secretary of HHS shall, promptly and as appropriate and consistent with applicable law:

(i) evaluate the COVID-19 Uninsured Program, operated by the Health Resources and Services Administration within HHS, and take any available steps to promote access to treatments and clinical care for those without adequate coverage, to support safety-net providers in delivering such treatments and clinical care, and to make Program easy to use for patients and providers, with information about the Program widely disseminated; and

(ii) evaluate Medicare, Medicaid, group health plans, and health insurance issuers, and take any available steps to promote insurance coverage for safe and effective COVID-19 treatments and clinical care.

Sec. 5. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.

January 21: Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) posted a Press Release titled: “Dr. Anthony Fauci Remarks at the World Health Organization Executive Board Meeting” From the Press Release:

“Director-General Dr. Tedros, distinguished representatives, friends, and colleagues:

It is an honor for me to be here, representing the United States of America, on behalf of the newly inaugurated Biden-Harris administration, and as the Chief Medical Adviser to President Biden.

I am also here to represent the scientists, public health officials and frontline healthcare workers, and community health workers who have worked so heroically this past year to fight COVID-19, developing medical countermeasures at truly phenomenal speed, adapting policy responses as we learn more about the virus, and courageously treating the millions of people who have been stricken by this historic scourge.

One year ago, to the day, the United States confirmed its first case of SARS-COV-1, in the State of Washington. Today, my country and around the world, we have surpassed 90 million cases, a devastating number that continues to grow.

I join my fellow representatives in thanking the World Health Organization for its role in leading the global public health response to this pandemic. Under trying circumstances, this organization has rallied the scientific and research and development community to accelerate vaccines, therapies and diagnostics; conducted regular, steamed press briefings that authoritatively track global developments; provided millions of vital supplies from lab reagents to protective gear to health care workers in dozens of countries; and relentlessly worked with nations in their fight against COVID-19.

I also know first-hand the work of WHO with whom I have engaged in a collaborative manner touching all aspects of global health over the past 4 decades.

As such, I am honored to announce that the United States will remain a member of the World Health Organization. Yesterday, President Biden signed letters retracting the previous Administration’s announcement to withdraw from the organization, and those letters have been transmitted to the Secretary-General of the United Nations and to you Dr. Tedros, my dear friend.

In addition to retracting of notification of withdrawal and retaining membership in the WHO, the United States will cease the drawdown of U.S. staff seconded to the WHO and will resume regular engagement of U.S. government personnel with the WHO both directly and through our WHO Collaborating Centers.

The United States also intends to fulfill its financial obligations to the organization. The United States sees technical collaboration at all levels as a fundamental part of our relationship with WHO, one that we value deeply and will look to strengthen going forward.

As a WHO member state, the United States will work constructively with partners to strengthen and importantly reform the WHO, to help lead the collective effort to strengthen the international COVID-19 response and address its secondary impacts on people, communities, and health systems around the world.

The Biden Administration also intends to be fully engaged in advancing global health, supporting global health security and the Global Health Security Agenda, and building a healthier future for all people.

I am also pleased to announce today that the United States plans to work multilaterally to respond and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. President Biden will issue a directive later today which will include the intent of the U.S. to join COVAX and support the ACT-Accelerator to advance multilateral efforts for COVID-19 vaccine, therapeutic, and diagnostic distribution, equitable access, and research and development.

The United States will also work with the WHO and Member States to counter the erosion of major gains in global health that we have achieved through decades of research, collaboration and investments in health and health security, including in HIV/AIDS, food security, malaria, and epidemic preparedness.

And it will be our policy to support women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights in the United States, as well as globally. To that end, President Biden will be revoking the Mexico City Policy in the coming days, as part of his broader commitment to protect women’s health and advance gender equality at home and around the world.

We realize that responding to COVID-19 and rebuilding global health and advancing health security around the world will not be easy. And in this regard:

We are committed to transparency, including those events surrounding the early days of the pandemic. It is imperative that we learn and build upon important lessons about how future pandemic events can be averted. The international investigation should be robust and clear, and we look forward to evaluating it;

We will also work with the WHO and partner countries to strengthen and reform the WHO, improve mechanisms for responding to health emergencies across the United Nations, and strengthen the International Health Regulations;

We will commit to building global health security capacity, expanding pandemic preparedness, and supporting efforts to strengthen health systems around the world and to advance the Sustainable Development Goals;

We will work with partners to develop new international financing mechanisms for health security;

We will seek an improved, shared system for early warning and rapid response to emerging biological threats;

We will support robust and ethically sound collaborative science, research and research capacity building, as well as the rapid sharing of research results, pathogen samples and data essential to research progress;

We will look to strengthen pandemic supply chain networks;

And we will work with partners around the world to build a system that leaves us better prepared for this pandemic and for the next one.

And finally, given that a considerable amount of effort will be required by all of us moving forward, the United States stands ready to work in partnership and solidarity to support the international COVID-19 response, mitigate its impact on the world, strengthen our institutions, advance epidemic preparedness for the future, and improve the health and wellbeing of all people throughout the world”

January 21: The White House posted an executive order titled: “Executive Order on Ensuring a Data-Driven Response to COVID-19 and Future High-Consequence Public Health Threats” From the executive order:

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Policy. It is the policy of my Administration to respond to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic through effective approaches guided by the best available science and data, including by building back a better public health infrastructure. This stronger public health infrastructure must help the Nation effectively prevent, detect, and respond to future biological threats, both domestically and internationally.

Consistent with this policy, the heads of all executive departments and agencies (agencies) shall facilitate the gathering, sharing, and publication of COVID-19-related data, in coordination with the Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response and Counselor to the President (COVID-19 Response Coordinator), to the extent permitted by law, and with appropriate protections for confidentiality, privacy, law enforcement, and national security. These efforts shall assist Federal, State, local, Tribal, and territorial authorities in developing and implementing policies to facilitate informed community decision-making, to further public understanding of the pandemic and the response, and to deter the spread of misinformation and disinformation.

Sec. 2. Enhancing Data Collection and Collaboration Capabilities for High-Consequence PublicHealth Threats, Such as the COVID-19 Pandemic. (a) The Secretary of Defense, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Commerce, the Secretary of Labor, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Secretary of Education, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the Director of National Intelligence, the Director of the Office Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), and the Director of the National Science Foundation shall each promptly designate a senior official serve as their agency’s lead to work on COVID-19- and pandemic-related data issues. This official, in consultation with the COVID-19 Response Coordinator, shall take steps to make data relevant to high-consequence public health threats, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, publicly available and accessible.

(b) The COVID-19 Response Coordinator shall, as necessary, convene appropriate representatives from relevant agencies to coordinate the agencies’ collection, provision, and analysis of data, including key equity indicators, regarding the COVID-19 response, as their sharing of such data with State, local, Tribal, and territorial authorities.

(c) The Director of OMB, in consultation with the Director of OSTP, the United States Chief Technology Officer, and the COVID-19 Response Coordinator, shall promptly review the Federal Government’s existing approaches to open data, and shall issue supplemental guidance, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, concerning how to identify COVID-19 related data; how to make data open the public in human- and machine-readable formats as rapidly as possible; and any other topic the Director of OMB concludes would appropriately advance the policy of this order. Any guidance shall include appropriate protections for the information described in section 5 of this order.

(d) The Director of the Office of Personnel Management, in consultation with the Director of OMB, shall promptly:

(i) review the ability of agencies to hire personnel expeditiously into roles related to information technology and the collection, provision, analysis, or other use of data to address high-consequence public health threats, such as the COVID-19 pandemic; and

(ii) take action, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, to support agencies in such efforts.

Sec. 3. Public Health Data Systems. The Secretary of HHS, in consultation with the COVID-19 Response Coordinator and the heads of relevant agencies, shall promptly:

(a) review the effectiveness, interoperability, and connectivity of public health data systems supporting detection of and response to high-consequence public health threats, such as the COVID-19 pandemic;

(b) review the collection of morbidity data by State, local, Tribal, and territorial governments during high-consequence public health threats, such as the COVID-19 pandemic; and

(c) issue a report summarizing the findings of the reviews detailed in subsections (a) and (b) of this section and any recommendations for addressing areas for improvement identified in the reviews.

Sec. 4. Advancing Innovation in Public Health Data and Analytics. The Director of OSTP, in coordination with the National Science and Technology Council, as appropriate, shall develop a plan for advancing innovation in public health data and analytics in the United States.

Sec. 5. Privileged Information. Nothing in this order shall compel or authorize the disclosure of privileged information, law-enforcement information, national-security information, personal information, or information the disclosure of which is prohibited by law.

Sec. 6. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency or the head thereof; or

(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.

January 21: The White House posted a Memorandum titled: “Memorandum to Extend Federal Support to Governors’ Use of the National Guard to Respond to COVID-19 and to Increase Reimbursement and Other Assistance Provided to States”. From the Memorandum:

MEMORANDUM FOR THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE THE SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY

SUBJECT: Memorandum to Extend Federal Support to Governor’s Use of the National Guard to Respond to COVID-19 and to Increase Reimbursement and Other Assistance Provided to States

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, 42. U.S.C. 5121-5207 (the “Stafford Act”), and section 502 of title 32, United States Code, I hereby order as follows:

Section 1. Policy. Consistent with the nationwide emergency declaration concerning the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic on March 13, 2020, it is the policy of my Administration to combat and respond to COVID-19with the full capacity and capability of the Federal Government to protect and support our families, schools, and businesses, and to assist State, local, Tribal, and territorial governments to do the same, to the extent authorized by law.

Sec. 2 Support of Operations or Missions to Prevent and Respond to the Spread of COVID-19. (a) The Secretary of Defense shall, to the maximum extent feasible and consistent with the mission requirements (including geographic proximity), request pursuant to 32 U.S.C. 502(f) that all State and territorial governors order National Guard forces to perform duty to fulfill mission assignments, on a fully reimbursable basis, that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) issues to the Department of Defense for the purpose of supporting State, local, Tribal, and territorial emergency assistance efforts under the Stafford Act.

(b) FEMA shall fund 100 percent of the cost of activities associated with all mission assignments for the use of the National Guard under 32 U.S.C. 502(f) to respond to COVID-19, as associated by sections 403 (42 U.S.C. 5170b), 502 (42 U.S.C. 5192), and 503 (42 U.S.C. 5193) of the Stafford Act.

(c) This section supersedes prior Presidential Memoranda requesting the use of the National Guard to respond to the COVID-19 emergency to the extent they are inconsistent with this memorandum.

Sec. 3. Assistance for Category B Emergency Protective Measures. (a) In accordance with sections 403 (42 U.S.C. 5170b) and 502 (42 U.S.C. 5192) of the Stafford Act, FEMA shall, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, make available under Category B of the Public Assistance program such assistance as may be required by States (including territories and the District of Columbia), local governments, and Tribal governments to provider the safe opening and operation of eligible schools, child-care facilities, healthcare facilities, non-congregate shelters, domestic violence shelters, transit systems, and other eligible applicants. Such assistance may include funding for the provision of personal protective equipment and disinfecting services and supplies.

(b) FEMA shall make assistance under this section available at a 100 percent Federal cost share until September 30, 2021.

Sec. 4. Advanced Reimbursement. To make reimbursements for approved work under the Stafford Act to respond to COVID-19 available more quickly, FEMA shall expedite reimbursement for eligible emergency work projects and, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, provide an advance of the Federal share on a percentage of the expected reimbursement from FEMA-approved projects.

Sec. 5. One-Hundred Percent Cost Share Termination. The 100 percent Federal cost share for use of National Guard forces authorized by section 2(b) of this memorandum shall extend to, and shall be available for, orders of any length authorizing duty through September 30, 2021.

Sec. 6. General Provisions (a) Nothing in this memorandum shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency; or the head thereof; or

(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b) This memorandum shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c) This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

(d) The Secretary of Defense is authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.

JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.

January 21: The White House posted an executive order titled: “Executive Order on a Sustainable Public Health Supply Chain” From the executive order:

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the Defense Production Act of 1950, as amended (50 U.S.C. 4501 et seq.), sections 319 and 361 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 247d and 264), sections 306 and 307 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5149 and 5150), and section 301 of title 3, United States Code, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Purpose. The Federal Government must act urgently and effectively to combat the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. To that end, this order directs immediate actions to secure supplies necessary for responding to the pandemic, so that those supplies are available, and remain available, to the Federal Government and State, local, Tribal and territorial authorities, as well as to American’s health care workers, health systems, and patients. These supplies are vital to the Nation’s ability to reopen its schools and economies soon and safely as possible.

Sec. 2. Immediate Inventory of Response Supplies and Indentification of Emergency Needs. (a) The Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the heads of appropriate executive departments and agencies (agencies), in coordination with the COVID-19 Response Coordinator, shall:

(i) immediately review the availability of critical materials, treatments, and supplies needed to combat COVID-19 (pandemic response supplies), including personal protective equipment (PPE) and the resources necessary to effectively produce and distribute tests and vaccines at scale; and

(ii) assess, including by reviewing prior such assessments, whether United States industry can be reasonably expected to provide such supplies in a timely manner.

(b) Where a review and assessment described in section 2(a)(i) of this order identifies shortfalls in the provision of pandemic response supplies, the head of the relevant agency shall:

(i) promptly revise its operational assumptions and planning factors being used to determine the scope and prioritization, acquisition, and distribution of such supplies; and

(ii) take appropriate action using all available legal authorities, including the Defense Production Act, to fill those shortfalls as soon as practicable by acquiring additional stockpiles, improving distribution systems, building market capacity, or expanding the industrial base.

(c) Upon completing the review and assessment described in section 2(a)(i) of this order, the Secretary of Health and Human Services shall provide to the President, through the COVID-19 Response Coordinator, a report on the status and inventory of the Strategic National Stockpile.

(d) The Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the heads of any other agencies relevant to inventorying pandemic response supplies shall, as soon as practicable, provide to the President, through the COVID-19 Response Coordinator, a report consisting of:

(i) an assessment of the need for, and an inventory of current supplies of, key pandemic response supplies;

(ii) an analysis of their agency’s capacity to produce, provide, and distribute pandemic response supplies;

(iii) an assessment of their agency’s procurement of pandemic response supplies on the availability of such supplies on the open market;

(iv) an account of all existing or ongoing agency actions, contracts, and investment agreements regarding pandemic response supplies;

(v) a list of any gaps between the needs identified in section 2(a)(i) of this order and supply chain delivery, and recommendations on how to close such gaps; and

(vi) a compilation and summary of their agency’s existing distribution and prioritization plans for pandemic response supplies, which shall include any assumptions or planning factors used to determine such needs and any recommendations for changes to such assumptions or factors.

(3) The COVID-19 Response Coordinator, in coordination with the heads of appropriate agencies, shall review the report described in section 2(d) of this order and submit recommendations to the President that address:

(i) whether additional use of the Defense Production Act, by the President or agencies exercising delegated authority under the Act, would be helpful; and

(ii) the extent to which liability risk, regulatory requirements, or other factors impede the development, production and procurement of pandemic response supplies, and any actions that can be taken, consistent with law, to remove those impediments.

(f) The heads of agencies responsible for completing the requirements of this section, as appropriate and in coordination with the COVID-19 Response Coordinator, shall consult with State, local, Tribal and territorial authorities, as well as with other entitles critical to assessing the availability of and need for pandemic response supplies.

Sec. 3. Pricing. To take steps to address the pricing of pandemic response supplies:

(a) The Secretary of Health and Human Services shall promptly recommend to the President, through the COVID-19 Response Coordinator, whether any changes should be made to the authorities delegated the Secretary by Executive Order 13910 of March 23, 2020 (Preventing Hoarding of Health and Medical Resources To Respond to the Spread of COVID-19), with respect to scarce materials or materials the supply of which would be threatened by accumulation for the purpose of holding or price gouging.

(b) The Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall promptly review and provide to the President, through the COVID-19 Response Coordinator, recommendations for how to address the pricing of pandemic response supplies, including whether and how to direct the use of reasonable pricing clauses in Federal contracts and investment agreements, or other related vehicles and whether to use General Services Administration Schedules to facilitate State, local, Tribal and territorial government buyers and compacts in purchasing pandemic response supplies using Federal supply schedules.

Sec. 4. Pandemic Supply Chain Resilience Strategy. Within 180 days of the date of this order, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and the Secretary of Homeland Security, in coordination with the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs (APNSA), the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy, the COVID-19 Response Coordinator, and the heads of any agencies or entities selected by APNSA and COVID-19 Response Coordinator, shall provide to the President a strategy to design, build, and sustain a long-term capability in the United States to manufacture supplies for future pandemics and biological threats. This strategy shall include:

(a) mechanisms to respond to emergency supply needs of State, local, Tribal, and territorial authorities, which should include standards and processes to prioritize requests and delivery and to ensure equitable distribution based on public health criteria:

(b) an analysis of the role of foreign supply chains in America’s pandemic supply chain, America’s role in the international public health supply chain, and options for straightening and better coordinating global supply chain systems in future pandemics;

(c) mechanisms to address points of failure in the supply chains and to ensure necessary redundancies;

(d) the roles of the Strategic National Stockpile and other Federal and military stockpiles in providing pandemic supplies on an ongoing or emergency basis, including their roles in allocating supplies across States, localities, tribes, and territories, sustaining supplies during a pandemic, and in contingency planning to ensure adequate preparedness for future pandemics and public health emergencies;

(e) approaches to assess and maximize the value and efficacy of public/private partnerships and the value of Federal investments in latent manufacturing capacity; and

(f) an approach to develop a multi-year implementation plan for domestic production of pandemic supplies.

Sec. 5. Access to Strategic National Stockpile. The Secretary of Health and Human Services shall consult with Tribal authorities and take steps, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, to facilitate access to the Strategic National Stockpile for federally recognized Tribal governments, Indian Health Service healthcare providers, Tribal health authorities, and Urban Indian Organizations.

Sec. 6. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.

January 21: The White House posted an Executive Order titled: “Executive Order on Supporting the Reopening and Continuing Operation of Schools and Early Childhood Education Providers” From the Executive Order:

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, to ensure that students receive a high-quality education during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, and to support the safe reopening and continued operation of schools, child care providers, Head Start programs and institutions of higher education, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Policy. Every student in America deserves a high-quality education in a safe environment, This promise, which was already out of reach for too many, has been further threatened by the COVID-19 pandemic. School and higher education administrators, educators, faculty, child care providers, custodians and other staff, and families have gone above and beyond to support children’s and students’ learning and meet their needs during this crisis. Students and teachers alike have found new ways to teach and learn. Many child care providers continue to provide care and learning opportunities to children in homes and centers across the country. However, leadership and support from the Federal Government is needed. Two principles should guide the Federal Government’s response to the COVID-19 crisis with respect to schools, child care providers, Head Start programs, and higher education institutions. First, the health and safety of children, students, educators, families, and communities is paramount. Second, every student in the United States should have the opportunity to receive a high-quality education, during and beyond the pandemic.

Accordingly, it is the policy of my Administration to provide support to help create the conditions for safe, in-person learning as quickly as possible; ensure high-quality instruction and the delivery of essential services often received by students and young children at school, institutions of higher education, child care providers, and Head Start programs; mitigate learning loss caused by the pandemic; and address educational disparities and inequities that the pandemic has created and exacerbated.

Sec. 2. Agency Roles and Responsibilities. The following assignments of responsibility shall be exercised in furtherance of the policy described in section 1 of this order:

(a) The Secretary of Education shall, consistent with applicable law:

(i) provide, in consultation with the Secretary of Health and Human Services, evidence-based guidance to assist States and elementary and secondary schools in deciding whether and now to reopen, and how to remain open, for in-person learning; and in safely conducting in-person learning, including by implementing mitigation measures such as cleaning, masking, proper ventilation, and testing:

(ii) provide, in consultation with the Secretary of Health and Human Services, evidence-based guidance to institutions of higher education on safely reopening for in-person learning, which shall take into account considerations such as the institution’s setting, resources, and the population it serves.

(iii) provide advice to State, local, Tribal, and territorial educational authorities, institutions of higher education, local education agencies, and elementary and secondary schools regarding distance and online learning, blended learning, and in-person learning; and the promotion of mental health, social-emotional well-being, and communication with parents and families;

(iv) develop a Safer Schools and Campuses Best Practices Clearinghouse to enable schools and institutions of higher education so that they can ensure high-quality learning during the pandemic;

(vi) direct the Department of Education’s Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights to deliver a report as soon as practicable on the disparate impacts of COVID-19 on students in elementary, secondary, and higher education, including those attending historically black colleges and universities, Tribal colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, and other minority-serving institutions;

(vii) coordinate with the Director of the Institute of Education Sciences to facilitate, consistent with applicable law, the collection of data necessary to fully understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on students and educators, including data on the status of in-person learning. These data shall be disaggregated by student demographics, including race, ethnicity, disability, English-language-learner status, and free or reduced lunch status or other appropriate indicators of family income; and

(viii) consult with those who have been struggling for months with the enormous challenges the COVID-19 pandemic poses for education, including students; educators; unions; families; State, local, Tribal, and territorial officials; and members of civil rights and disability rights organizations, in carrying out the directives in this order.

(b) The Secretary of Health and Human Services shall, consistent with applicable law:

(i) facilitate the collection of data needed to inform the safe reopening and continued operation of elementary and secondary schools, child care providers, and Head Start programs, and ensure that such data are readily available to State, local, Tribal, and territorial leaders and the public, consistent with privacy interests, and that such data are disaggregated by race, ethnicity, and other factors as appropriate;

(ii) ensure, in coordination with the Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response and Counselor to the President (COVID-19 Response Coordinator) and other relevant agencies, that COVID-19 related supplies the Secretary administers, including testing materials, are equitably allocated to elementary and secondary schools, child care providers, and Head Start programs to support in-person care and learning.

(iii) to the maximum extent possible, support the development and operation of contact tracing programs at State, local, Tribal, and territorial level, by providing guidance and technical support to ensure that contact tracing is available to facilitate the reopening and safe operation of elementary and secondary schools, child care providers, Head Start programs, and institutions of higher education.

(iv) provide guidance needed for child care providers and Head Start programs for safely reopening and operating, including procedures for mitigation measures such as cleaning, masking, proper ventilation, and testing, as well as guidance related to meeting the needs of children, families, and staff who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including trauma-informed care, behavioral and mental health support, and family support, as appropriate; and

(v) provide technical assistance to States, localities, Tribes, and territories to support the accelerated distribution of Federal COVID-19 relief funds to child care providers, and identify strategies to help child care providers safely remain open during the pandemic and beyond while the sector experiences widespread financial disruption due to increased costs and less revenue.

(c) The Secretary of Education and the Secretary of Health and Human Services shall submit a report to the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy and the COVID-19 Response Coordinator identifying strategies to address the impact of COVID-19 on educational outcomes, especially along racial and socioeconomic lines, and shall share those strategies with State, local, Tribal, and territorial officials. In developing these strategies, the Secretaries shall, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, consult with such officials, as well as with education experts; educators; unions; civil rights advocates; Tribal education experts; public health experts; child development experts; early educators, including child care providers; Head Start staff; school technology practitioners; families; students; community advocates; and others.

(d) The Federal Communications Commission is encouraged, consistent with applicable law, to increase connectivity for students lacking reliable home broadband, so that they can continue to learn if their schools are operating remotely.

Sec. 3. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR

January 21: The White House posted an Executive Order titled: “Executive Order Protecting Worker Health And Safety” From the Executive Order:

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Policy. Ensuring the health and safety of workers is a national priority and a moral imperative. Healthcare workers and other essential workers, many of whom are people of color and immigrants, have put their lives on the line during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. It is the policy of my Administration to protect the health and safety of workers from COVID-19.

The Federal Government must take swift action to reduce the risk that workers may contract COVID-19 in the workplace. That will require issuing science-based guidance to help keep workers safe from COVID-19 exposure, including with respect to mask-wearing; partnering with State and local governments to better protect public employees; enforcing worker health and safety requirements; and pushing for additional resources to help employers protect employees.

Sec. 2. Protecting Workers from COVID-19 Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. The Secretary of Labor, acting through the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, in furtherance of the policy described in section 1 of this order and consistent with applicable law, shall:

(a) issue, within 2 weeks of the date of this order and in conjunction or consultation with the heads of any other appropriate executive departments and agencies (agencies), revised guidance to employers on workplace safety during the COVID-19 pandemic;

(b) consider whether any emergency temporary standards on COVID-19, including with respect to masks in the workplace, are necessary, and if such standards are determined to be necessary, issue them by March 15, 2021;

(c) review the enforcement efforts of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) related to COVID-19 and identify any short-, medium-, and long-term changes that could be made to better protect workers and ensure equity in enforcement;

(d) launch a national program to focus on OSHA enforcement efforts related to COVID-19 on violations that put the largest number of workers at serious risk or are contrary to anti-retaliation principles; and

(e) coordinate with the Department of Labor’s Office of Public Affairs and Office of Public Engagement and all regional OSHA offices to conduct, consistent with applicable law, a multilingual outreach campaign to inform workers and their representatives of their rights under applicable law. This campaign shall include engagement with labor unions, community organizations, and industries, and place a special emphasis on communities hit hardest by the pandemic.

Sec. 3. Protecting Other Categories of Workers from COVID-19. (a) The Secretary of Labor, acting through the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health and consistent with applicable law, shall:

(i) coordinate with States that have occupational safety and health plans approved under section 18 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (Act) (29 U.S.C. 667) to seek to ensure that workers covered by such plans are adequately protected from COVID-19, consistent with any revised guidance or emergency temporary standards issued by OSHA; and

(iii) in States that do not have such plans, consult with State and local government entities with responsibility for public employee safety and health with public employee unions to bolster protection from COVID-19 for public sector workers.

(b) The Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of Labor, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Secretary of Transportation, and the Secretary of Energy, in consultation with the heads of any other appropriate agencies, shall, consistent, with applicable law, explore mechanisms, to protect workers not protected under the Act so that they remain healthy and safe on the job during the COVID-19 pandemic.

(c) The Secretary of Labor, acting through the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health, shall consider whether any emergency temporary standards on COVID-19 applicable to coal and metal or non-metal mines are necessary, and if such standards are determined to be necessary and consistent with applicable law, issues them as soon as practicable.

Sec. 4. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United State, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.

January 21: The White House posted a Memorandum titled: “National Security Memorandum on United States Global Leadership to Strengthen the International COVID-19 Response and to Advance Global Health Security and Biological Preparedness” From the Memorandum:

NATIONAL SECURITY MEMORANDUM – 1

SUBJECT: United States Global Leadership to Strengthen the International COVID-19 Response and to Advance Global Health Security and Biological Preparedness

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is a grave reminder that biological threats, whether naturally occurring, accidental, or deliberate, can have significant and potentially existential consequences for humanity. This memorandum reaffirms Executive Order 134747 of November 4, 2016, which made clear that these threats pose global challenges that require global solutions. United States international engagement to combat COVID-19 and advance global health security and biopreparedness is thus an urgent priority – to save lives, promote economic recovery, and develop resilience against future biological catastrophes. My Administration will treat epidemic and pandemic preparedness, health security, and global health as top national security priorities, and will work with other nations to combat COVID-19 and seek to create a world that is safe and secure from biological threats.

Section 1. Strengthening and Reforming the World Health Organization. On January 20, 2021, the United States reversed its decision to withdraw from the World Health Organization (WHO) by submitting a letter to the United Nations Secretary-General informing him of the President’s decision that the United States will remain a member of the organization. Accordingly, the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs (APNSA) shall, in coordination with the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), the heads of other relevant executive departments and agencies (agencies), and the Coordination of the COVID-19 Response and Counselor to the President of the COVID-19 Response and Counselor to the President (COVID-19 Response Coordinator), provide to the President within 30 days of the date of this memorandum recommendations on how the United States can: (1) exercise leadership at the WHO and work with partners to lead and reinvigorate the international COVID-19 response; (2) participate in international efforts to advance global health, health security, and the prevention of future biological catastrophes; and (3) otherwise strengthen and reform the WHO.

Sec. 2. United States Leadership in the Global Response to COVID-19

(a) COVID-19 Global Vaccination, Research and Development. In order to support global vaccination and research and development for treatment, tests, and vaccines:

(i)The Secretary of State and the Secretary of HHS shall inform the WHO and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, of the United States’ intent to support the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator and join the multilateral vaccine distribution facility, known as the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) Facility. The Secretaries shall also promptly deliver to the President, through the APNSA and the COVID-19 Response Coordinator, a framework for donating surplus vaccines, once there is sufficient supply in the United States, to countries in need, including through the COVAX Facility.

(ii) The Secretary of State and the Secretary of HHS, in coordination with the heads of other relevant agencies, shall promptly deliver to the APNSA and the COVID-19 Response Coordinator a plan for engaging with and strengthening multilateral initiatives focused on the global COVID-19 response, including the organizations identified in section 2(a)(i) and other initiatives focused on equitable development and distribution of vaccines, therapeutics, tests, and personal protective equipment, such as the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

(b) Health, Diplomatic, and Humanitarian Response to COVID-19. In order to enable the United States to play an active role in the international COVID-19 public health and humanitarian response, including with respect to the pandemic’s secondary effects:

(i) The Secretary of State, in coordination with the Secretary of HHS, the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the heads of other relevant agencies, shall promptly develop and submit to the President, through the APNSA and the COVID-19 Response Coordinator, a Government-wide plan to combat the global COVID-19 pandemic, which shall identify principal strategic objectives, corresponding lines of effort, and lead agencies.

(ii) The Secretary of State shall, in coordination with the heads of other relevant agencies, promptly review and, as necessary, adjust the United States’ current and planned future deployments of of public health, health security, and health diplomacy personnel overseas focused on the COVID-19 response, taking into account best practices for such deployments from partner nations’ COVID-19 response strategies.

(iii) conduct, in coordination with the heads of relevant agencies, a review of existing United States health security policies and strategies and develop recommendations for how the Federal Government may update them, including by, as appropriate: developing stronger global institutions focused on harmonizing crisis response for emerging biological events and public health emergencies; taking steps to strengthen the global pandemic supply chain and address any barriers to the timely delivery of supplies in response to a pandemic; working with partner countries and international organizations to strengthen and implement the International Health Regulations; reducing racial and ethnic disparities in the COVID-19 global response and disproportionate impacts on marginalized and indigenous communities, women and girls, and other groups; reviewing and developing priorities for multilateral fora aimed at reducing the risk of deliberate or accidental biological events; combating antimicrobial resistance; and fighting climate change as a driver of health threats; and

(iv) develop, in coordination with the Secretary of State, the Secretary of HHS, the Administrator of USAID, the Director of the CDC, and the heads of other relevant agencies, protocols for coordinating and deploying a global response to emerging high-consequence infectious disease threats. These protocols should outline the respective roles for relevant agencies in facilitating and supporting such response operations, including by establishing standard operating procedures for how USAID and the CDC coordinate their response efforts.

(b) The APNSA, in coordination with the COVID-19 Response Coordinator, the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy, and the heads of relevant agencies, shall promptly develop a plan for establishing an interagency National Center for Epidemic Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics and modernizing global early warning and trigger systems for scaling action to prevent, detect, respond to, and recover from emerging biological threats.

(c) The Secretary of State and the Representative of the United States to the United Nations shall provide to the President, through the APNSA, recommendations regarding steps the United States should take to encourage or support the establishment of a new position in the office of the United Nations Secretary-General of a facilitator for high-consequence biological threats, particularly for events involving significant collaboration and equities across the United Nations.

(d) To assist in the Federal Government’s efforts to provide warning of pandemics, protect our biotechnology infrastructure from cyber attacks and intellectual property theft, identify and monitor biological threats from states and non-state actors, provide validation of foreign data and response efforts, and assess strategic challenges and opportunities from emerging biotechnologies, the Director of National Intelligence shall:

(i) Review the collection and reporting capabilities in the United States Intelligence Community (IC) related to pandemics and the full range of high-consequence biological threats and develop a plan for how the IC may strengthen and prioritize such capabilities, including through organizational changes or the creation of National Intelligence Manager and National Intelligence Officer positions focused on biological threats, global public health, and biotechnology;

(ii) Develop and submit to the President, through the APNSA and the COVID-19 Response Coordinator, a National Intelligence Estimate on (A) the impact of COVID-19 on national and economic security; and (B) current, emerging, reemerging, potential and future biological risks to national and economic security; and

(iii) In coordination with the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of HHS, the Director of the CDC, the Administrator of USAID, the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the heads of other relevant agencies, promptly develop and submit to the APNSA an analysis of the security implications of biological threats that can be incorporated into modeling, simulation, course of action analysis, and other analyses.

Sec. 6. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this memorandum shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b) This memorandum shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c) This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any part against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.

January 21: The White House posted a Readout titled: “Readout of Vice President Harris’s Call with World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus” From the Readout:

Vice President Kamala Harris spoke by phone today with World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to discuss the decision by the United States to reverse its withdrawal from the WHO in one of the first acts following inauguration, fulfill its financial obligations, and work as a constructive partner to strengthen and reform the WHO. The Vice President emphasized that she and President Biden believe the WHO is vital to controlling COVID-19 and building back better our global health and pandemic preparedness.

The Vice President and the Director-General also discussed the resumption of the United States’ role in the global public health and humanitarian response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vice President Harris also stressed the Biden-Harris Administration’s strong support for efforts to strengthen the global COVID-19 response, mitigate its secondary impacts, including on women and girls, and advance global health security to prevent the next outbreak from becoming an epidemic or pandemic. In addition, the Vice President emphasized the importance of making America safer through global cooperation.

The Director-General thanked the Vice President for the call and congratulated her and President Biden on they inauguration. Both the Director-General and the Vice President reiterated that they look forward to meeting in person.

January 21: The White House posted an Executive Order titled: “Executive Order on Ensuring an Equitable Pandemic Response and Recovery.” From the executive order:

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and in order to address the disproportionate and severe impact of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) on communities of color and other underserved populations, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Purpose. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and exacerbated severe and pervasive health and social inequities in America. For instance, people of color experience systemic and structural racism in many facets of our society and are more likely to become sick and die from COVID-19. The lack of complete data, disaggregated by race and ethnicity, on COVID-19 infection, hospitalization, and mortality rates, as well as underlying health and social vulnerabilities, has further hampered efforts to ensure an equitable pandemic response. Other communities, often obscured in the data, area also disproportionately affected by COVID-19, including sexual and gender minority groups, those living with disabilities, and those living at the margins of our economy. Observed inequities in rural and Tribal communities, territories, and other geographically isolated communities require a place-based approach to data collection and the response. Despite increased State and local efforts to address these inequities, COVID-19’s disparate impact on communities of color and other underserved populations remains unrelenting.

Addressing this devastating toll is both a moral imperative and pragmatic policy. It is impossible to change the course of the pandemic without tackling it in the hardest-hit communities. In order to identify and eliminate health and social inequities resulting in disproportionately higher rates of exposure, illness, and death, I am directing a Government-wide effort to address health equity. The Federal Government must take swift action to prevent and remedy differences in COVID-19 care and outcomes within communities of color and other underserved populations.

Sec. 2. COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force. There is established within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) a COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force (Task Force).

(a) Membership. The Task Force shall consist of the Secretary of the HHS; an individual designated by the Secretary of HHS to Chair the Task Force (COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force Chair); the heads of such other executive departments, agencies, or offices (agencies) as the Chair may invite; and up to 20 members from sectors outside of the Federal Government appointed by the President.

(i) Federal members may designate, to preform the Task Force functions of the member, a senior-level official who is part of the member’s agency and a full-time officer or employee of the Federal Government.

(ii) Nonfederal members shall include individuals with expertise and lived experience relevant to groups suffering disproportionate rates of illness and death in the United States; individuals with expertise and lived experience relevant to equity in public health, health care, education, housing, and community-based services; and any other individuals with expertise the President deems relevant. Appointments will be made without regard to political affiliation and shall reflect a diverse set of perspectives.

(iii) Members of the Task Force shall serve without compensation for their work on the Task Force, but members will be allowed travel expenses, including per diem in lieu of subsistence, as authorized by law for persons serving intermittently in the Government service (5 U.S.C. 5701-5707).

(iv) At the direction of the Chair, the Task Force may establish subgroups consisting exclusively of Task Force members or their designees under this section, as appropriate.

(b) Mission and Work.

(i) Consistent with applicable law and as soon as practicable, the Task Force shall provide specific recommendations to the President, through the Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response and Counselor to the President (COVID-19 Response Coordinator), for mitigating the health inequities caused or exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and for preventing such inequities in the future. The recommendations shall include:

(A) recommendations for how agencies and State, local, Tribal and territorial officials can best allocate COVID-19 resources, in light of disproportionately high rates of COVID-19 infection, hospitalization, and mortality in certain communities and disparities in COVID-19 outcomes by race, ethnicity, and other factors, to the extent permitted by law.

(B) recommendations for agencies with responsibility for disbursing COVID-19 relief funding regarding how to disburse funds in a manner that advances equity; and

(C) recommendations for agencies regarding effective, culturally aligned communication, messaging, and outreach to communities of color and other underserved populations.

(ii) The Task Force shall submit a final report to the COVID-19 Response Coordinator addressing any ongoing health inequities faced by COVID-19 survivors that may merit a public health response, describing the factors that contributed to disparities in COVID-19 outcomes, and recommending actions to combat such disparities in future pandemic responses.

(c) Data Collection. To address the data shortfalls identified in section 1 of this order, and consistent with applicable law, the Task Force shall:

(i) collaborate with the heads of relevant agencies, consistent with the Executive Order entitled “Ensuring a Data-Driven Response to COVID-19 and Future High-Consequence Public Health Threats,” to develop recommendations for expediting data collection for communities of color and other underserved populations and identifying data sources, proxies, or indices that would enable development of short-term targets for pandemic-related actions for such communities and populations;

(ii) develop, in collaboration with the heads of relevant agencies, a set of longer-term recommendations to address these data shortfalls and other foundational data challenges, including those relating to data intersectionality, that must be tackled in order to better prepare and respond to future pandemics; and

(iii) submit the recommendations described in this subsection to the President, through the COVID-19 Response Coordinator.

(d) External Engagement. Consistent with the objectives set out in this order and with applicable law, the Task Force may seek the views of health professionals; policy experts; State, local, Tribal and territorial health officials; faith-based leaders; businesses; health providers; community organizations; those with lived experience with homelessness, incarceration, discrimination, and other relevant issues; and other stakeholders.

(e) Administration. Insofar as the Federal Advisory Committee Act, as amended, (5. U.S.C. App.) may apply to the Task Force, any functions of the President under the Act, except for those in section 6 of the Act, shall be performed by the Secretary of HHS in accordance with the guidelines that have been issued by the Administrator of General Services. HHS shall provide funding and administrative support for the Task Force to the extent permitted by law and within existing appropriations. The Chair shall convene regular meetings of the Task Force, determine its agenda, and direct its work. The Chair shall designate an Executive Director of the Task Force, who shall coordinate the work of the Task Force and head off any staff assigned to the Task Force.

(f) Termination. Unless extended by the President, the Task Force shall terminate within 30 days of accomplishing the objectives set forth in this order, including the delivery of the report and recommendations specified in this section, or 2 years from the date of this order, whichever comes first.

Sec. 3. Ensuring an Equitable Pandemic Response. To address the inequities identified in section 1 of this order, it is hereby directed that:

(a) The Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of Labor, the Secretary of HHS, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, the Secretary of Education, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the heads of all other agencies with authorities or responsibilities relating to the pandemic response and recovery shall, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law:

(i) consult with the Task Force to strengthen equity data collection, reporting, and use related to COVID-19;

(ii) assess pandemic response plans and policies to determine whether personal protective equipment, tests, vaccines, therapeutics, and other resources have been or will be allocated equitably, including by considering:

(A) the disproportionately high rates of COVID-19 infection, hospitalization, and mortality in certain communities; and

(B) any barriers that have restricted access to preventive measures, treatment, and other health services for high-risk populations;

(iii) based on the assessments described in subsection (a)(ii) of this section, modify pandemic response plans and policies to advance equity, with consideration to:

(A) the effect of proposed policy changes on the distribution of resources to, and access to health care by, communities of color and other underserved populations;

(B) the effect of proposed policy changes on agencies’ ability to collect, analyze, and report data necessary to monitor and evaluate the impact of pandemic response plans and policies on communities of color and other underserved populations; and

(C) policy priorities expressed by communities that have suffered disproportionate rates of illness and death as a result of the pandemic;

(iv) strengthen enforcement of anti-discrimination requirements pertaining to the availability of, and access to, COVID-19 care and treatment; and

(v) partner with States, localities, Tribes, and territories to explore mechanisms to provide greater assistance to individuals and families experiencing disproportionate economic or health effects from COVID-19 such as by expanding access to food, housing, child care, or income support.

(b) The Secretary of HHS shall:

(i) provide recommendations to State, local, Tribal and territorial leaders on how to facilitate the placement of contact tracers and other workers in communities that have been hit hardest hit by the pandemic, recruit such workers from those communities, and connect such workers to existing health workforce training programs and other career advancement programs; and

(II) conduct an outreach campaign to promote vaccine trust and uptake among communities of color and other underserved populations with higher levels of vaccine mistrust due to discriminatory medical treatment and research, and engage with leaders within those communities.

Sec. 4. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.

January 21: The White House posted an executive order titled: “Executive Order on Supporting the Reopening and Continuing Operation of School and Early Childhood Educational Providers” From the executive order:

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, to ensure that students receive a high-quality education during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, and to support the safe reopening and continued operation of schools, child care providers, Head State programs, and institutions of higher education, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Policy. Every student in America deserves a high-quality education in a safe environment. This promise, which was already out of reach for too many, has been further threatened by the COVID-19 pandemic. School and higher education administrators, educators, faculty, child care providers, custodians and other staff, and families have gone above and beyond to support children’s and students’ learning and meet their needs during this crisis. Students and teachers alike have found new ways to teach and learn. Many child care providers continue to provide care and learning opportunities to children in homes and centers across the country.

However, leadership and support from the Federal Government is needed. Two principles should guide the Federal Government’s response to the COVID-19 crisis with respect to schools, child care providers, Head Start programs, and higher education institutions. First, the health and safety of children, students, educators, families, and communities is paramount. Second, every student in the United States should have the opportunity to receive a high-quality education, during and beyond the pandemic.

Accordingly, it is the policy of my Administration to provide support to help create the conditions for safe, in-person learning as quickly as possible; ensure high-quality instruction and the delivery of essential services often received by students and young children at school, institutions of higher education, child care providers, and Head Start programs; mitigate learning loss caused by the pandemic; and address educational disparities and inequities that the pandemic has created and exacerbated.

Sec. 2. Agency Roles and Responsibilities. The following assignments of responsibility shall be exercised in furtherance of the policy described in section 1 of this order:

(a) The Secretary of Education shall, consistent with applicable law:

(i) provide, in consultation with the Secretary of Health and Human Services, evidence-based guidance to assist States and elementary and secondary schools in deciding whether and how to reopen, and how to remain open, for in-person learning; and in safely conducting in-person learning, including by implementing mitigation measures such as cleaning, masking, proper ventilation, and testing;

(ii) provide, in consultation with the Secretary of Health and Human Services, evidence-based guidance to institutions of higher education and safely reopening for in-person learning, which shall take into account considerations such as the institution’s setting, resources, and the population it serves;

(iii) provide advice to State, local, Tribal, and territorial educational authorities, institutions of higher education, local education agencies, and elementary and secondary schools regarding distance and online learning, blended learning, and in-person learning; and the promotion of mental health, social-emotional well-being, and communication with parents and families;

(iv) develop a Safer Schools and Campuses Best Practices Clearinghouse to enable schools and institutions of higher education to share lessons learned and best practices for operating safely during the pandemic;

(v) provide technical assistance to schools and institutions of higher education that they can ensure high-quality learning during the pandemic;

(vi) direct the Department of Education’s Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights to deliver a report as soon as practicable on the disparate impacts of COVID-19 on students, in elementary, secondary, and higher education, including those attending historically black colleges and universities, Tribal colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, and other minority-serving institutions;

(vii) coordinate with the Director of the Institute of Education Sciences to facilitate, consistent with applicable law, the collection of data necessary with applicable law, the collection of data necessary to fully understand the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on students and educators, including data on the status of in-person learning. These data shall be disaggregated by student demographics, including race, ethnicity, disability, English-language-learner status, and free or reduced lunch status or other appropriate indicators of family income; and

(viii) consult with those who have been struggling for months with the enormous challenges the COVID-19 pandemic poses for education, including students; educators; unions; families; State, local, Tribal, and territorial officials; and members of civil rights and disability rights organizations, in carrying out the directives in this order.

(b) The Secretary of Health and Human Services shall, consistent with applicable law:

(i) facilitate the collection of data needed to inform the safe reopening and continued operation of elementary and secondary schools, child care providers, and Head Start programs, and ensure that such data are readily available to State, local, Tribal, and territorial leaders and the public, consistent with privacy interests, and that such data are disaggregated by race, ethnicity, and other factors as appropriate;

(ii) ensure, in coordination with the Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response and Counselor to the President (COVID-19 Response Coordinator) and other relevant agencies, that COVID-19-related supplies the Secretary administers, including testing materials, are equitably allocated to elementary and secondary schools, child care providers, and Head Start programs to support in-person care and learning;

(iii) to the maximum extent possible, support the development and operation of contact tracing programs at the State, local, Tribal, and territorial level, by providing guidance and technical support to ensure that contact tracing is available to facilitate the reopening and safe operation of elementary and secondary schools, child care providers, Head Start programs, and institutions of higher education;

(iv) provide guidance needed for child care providers and Head Start programs for safely reopening and operating, including procedure for mitigation measures such as cleaning, masking, proper ventilation, and testing, as well as guidance related to meeting the needs of children, families, and staff who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including trauma-informed care, behavioral and mental health support, and family support, as appropriate; and

(v) provide technical assistance to States, localities, Tribes, and territories to support the accelerated distribution of Federal COVID-19 relief funds to child care providers, and identify strategies to help fund child care providers safely remain open during the pandemic and beyond while the sector experiences widespread financial disruption due to increased costs and less revenue.

(c) The Secretary of Education and the Secretary of Health and Human Services, shall submit a report to the Assistant to the President For Domestic Policy and the COVID-19 Response Coordinator identifying strategies to address the impact of COVID-19 on educational outcomes, especially along racial and socioeconomic lines, and shall share those strategies with State, local, Tribal and territorial officials. In developing these strategies, the Secretaries shall, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, consult with such officials, as well as with education experts; educators; unions, civil rights advocates; Tribal education experts; public health experts; child development experts; early educators, including child care provider; Head Start staff; school technology practitioners; foundations; families; students; community advocates; and others.

(d) The Federal Communications Commission is encouraged, consistent with applicable law, to increase connectivity options for students lacking reliable home broadband, so that they can continue to learn if their schools are operating remotely.

Sec. 3. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b) This order shall be implement consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees or agents, or any other person.

JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.

January 21: The White House posted an executive order titled: “Executive Order on Protecting Worker Health and Safety” From the Executive Order:

By the authorities vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is nearby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Policy. Ensuring the health and safety of workers is a national priority and a moral imperative. Healthcare workers and other essential workers, many of whom are people of color and immigrants, have put their lives on the line during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. It is the policy of my Administration to protect the health and safety of its workers from COVID-19.

The Federal Government must take swift action to reduce the risk that workers may contract COVID-19 in the workplace. That will require issuing science-based guidance to help keep workers safe from COVID-19 exposure, including with respect to mask-wearing; partnering with State and local governments to better protect public employees; enforcing worker health and safety requirements; and pushing for additional resources to help employers protect employees.

Sec. 2. Protecting Workers from COVID-19 Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. The Secretary of Labor, acting through the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, in furtherance of the policy described in section 1 of this order and consistent with applicable law, shall:

(a) issue, within 2 weeks of the date of this order and in conjunction or consolation with the heads of any other appropriate executive departments and agencies (agencies), revised guidance to employers on workplace safety during the COVID-19 pandemic;

(b) consider whether any emergency temporary standards on COVID-19, including with respect to masks in the workplace, are necessary, and if such standards are determined to be necessary, issue them by March 15, 2021:

(c) review the enforcement efforts of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) related to COVID-19 and identify any short-, medium-, and long-term changes that could be made better to protect workers and ensure equity in enforcement;

(d) launch a national program to focus OSHA enforcement efforts related to COVID-19 on violations that put the largest number of workers at serious risk or are contrary to anti-retaliation principles; and

(e) coordinate with the Department of Labor’s Office of Public Affairs and Office of Public Engagement and all regional OSHA offices to conduct, consistent with applicable law, a multilingual outreach campaign to inform workers and their representatives of their rights under applicable law. This campaign shall include engagement with labor unions community organizations, and industries, and place a special emphasis on communities hit hardest by the pandemic.

Sec. 3 Protecting Other Categories of Workers from COVID-19 (a) The Secretary of Labor, acting through the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health and consistent with applicable law, shall:

(i) coordinate with States that have occupational safety and health plans approved under section 18 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (Act) (29 U.S.C. 667) to seek to ensure that workers covered by such plans are adequately protected from COVID-19, consistent with any revised guidance or emergency temporary standards issued by OSHA; and

(ii) in States that do not have such plans, consult with State and local government entities with responsibility for public employee safety and health and with public employee unions to bolster protection from COVID-19 for public sector workers.

(b) The Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of Labor, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Secretary of Transportation, and the Secretary of Energy, in consultation with the heads of any other appropriate agencies, shall, consistent with applicable law, explore mechanisms to protect workers not protected under the Act so that they remain healthy and safe on the job during the COVID-19 pandemic.

(c) The Secretary of Labor, acting through the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health, shall consider whether any emergency temporary standards on COVID-19 applicable to coal and metal or non-metal mines are necessary, and if such standards are determined to be necessary and consistent with applicable law, issue them as soon as practicable.

Sec. 4 General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b) This order shall be implement consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees or agents, or any other person.

JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR

January 21: The White House posted a Statement titled: “United States Global Leadership to Strengthen the International COVID-19 Response and to Advance Global Health Security and Biological Preparedness” From the Statement:

NATIONAL SECURITY MEMORANDUM – 1

SUBJECT: United States Global Leadership to Strengthen the International COVID-19 Response and to Advance Global Health Security and Biological Preparedness

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is a grave reminder that biological threats, weather naturally occurring, accidental, or deliberate, can have significant and potentially existential consequences for humanity.

This memorandum reaffirms Executive Order 13747 of November 4, 2016, which made clear that these threats pose global challenges that require global solutions. United States international engagement to combat COVID-19 and advance global health security and bio preparedness is thus an urgent priority – to save lives, promote economic recovery, and develop resilience against future biological catastrophes.

My Administration will treat epidemic and pandemic preparedness, health security, and global health as top national security priorities, and will work with other nations to combat COVID-19 and seek to create a world that is safe and secure from biological threats.

Section 1. Strengthening and Reforming the World Health Organization. On January 20, 2021, the United States reversed its decision to withdraw from the World Health Organization (WHO) by submitting a letter to the United Nations Secretary-General informing him of the President’s decision that the United States will remain a member of the organization.

Accordingly, the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs (APNSA) shall, in coordination with the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), the heads of other relevant executive departments and agencies (agencies), and the Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response and Counselor to the President (COVID-19 Response Coordinator), provide to the President within 30 days of the date of this memorandum recommendations on how the United States can: (1) exercise leadership at the WHO and work with partners to lead and reinvigorate the international COVID-19 response; (2) participate in international efforts to advance global health, health security, and the prevention of future biological catastrophes; and (3) otherwise strengthen and reform the WHO.

Sec. 2. United States Leadership in the Global Response to COVID-19.

(a) COVID-19 Global Vaccination, Research, and Development. In order to support global vaccination and research and development for treatments, tests, and vaccines:

(i) The Secretary of State and the Secretary of HHS shall inform the WHO and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, of the United States’ intent to support the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator and join the multilateral vaccine distribution facility, known as the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) Facility. The Secretaries shall also promptly deliver to the President, through the APNSA and the COVID-19 Response Coordinator, a framework for donating surplus vaccines, once there is a sufficient supply in the United States, to countries in need, including through the COVAX Facility.

(ii) The Secretary of State and the Secretary of HHS, in coordination with the heads of other relevant agencies, shall promptly deliver to the APNSA and the COVID-19 Response Coordinator a plan for engaging with and strengthening multilateral initiatives focused on the global COVID-19 response, including the organizations identified in section 2(a)(i) and other initiatives focused on equitable development and distribution of vaccines, therapeutics, tests, and personal protective equipment, such as the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

(b) Health, Diplomatic, and Humanitarian Response to COVID-19. In order to enable the United States to play an active role in the international COVID-19 public health and humanitarian response, including with respect to the pandemic’s secondary effects:

(i) The Secretary of State, in coordination with the Secretary of HHS, the Administrator of the United States Agency of HHS, the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the heads of other relevant agencies, shall promptly develop and submit to the President, through the APNSA and the COVID-19 Response Coordinator, a Government-wide plan to combat the global COVID-19 pandemic, which shall identify principal strategic objectives, corresponding lines of effort, and lead agencies.

(ii) The Secretary of State shall, in coordination with the heads of other relevant agencies, promptly review and, as necessary, adjust the United States’ current and planned future deployments of public health, health security, and health diplomacy personnel overseas focused on the COVID-19 response, taking into account best practices for such deployments from partner nations’ COVID-19 response strategies.

(iii) Within 14 days of the date of this memorandum or as soon as possible thereafter, the Security of State shall develop, in consultation with the Secretary of HHS, the Representative of the United States to the United Nations, the Administrator of USAID, and the Director of the CDC, a diplomatic outreach plan for enhancing the United States; response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with a focus on engaging partner nations, the United Nations (including the United Nations Security Council), and other multilateral stakeholders on:

(A) the financing and capacity for strengthening the global COVID-19 response;

(B) the provision of assistance, including in humanitarian settings and to mitigate secondary impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic such as food insecurity and gender-based violence; and

(C) the provision of support, including with the United Nations and other relevant multilateral fora, for the capacity of the most vulnerable communities to prevent, detect, respond to, mitigate, and recover from impacts of COVID-19.

(c) COVID-19 Sanctions Relief. The Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, and the Secretary of Commerce, in consultation with the Secretary of HHS and the Administrator of USAID, shall promptly review existing United States and multilateral financial and economic sanctions to evaluate whether they are unduly hindering responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, and provide recommendations to the President, through the APSNA and the COVID-19 Response Coordinator, for any changes in approach.

Sec. 3 Review of Funding for COVID-19 Response and Global Health Security and Biodefense. In order to ensure that global health security considerations are central to United States foreign policy, global health policy, and national security, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget shall, in coordination with the heads of relevant agencies and the APSNA:

(a) review the funding allocated for the COVID-19 response, including the secondary impacts of the pandemic, as well as for global health security, global health, pandemic preparedness, and biodefense; and

(b) provide the President with an assessment of whether that funding, as well as funding for subsequent budgetary years, is sufficient to support operations and administrative needs related to the COVID-19 response, as well as future global health security, global health, pandemic preparedness, and biodefense needs.

Sec. 4. Financing for Global Health Security. In order to develop a health security financing mechanism, make strategic use of multilateral and bilateral channels and institutions, and assist developing countries in preparing for, preventing, detecting, and responding to COVID-19 and other infectious disease threats:

(a) The APNSA, in coordination with the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of HHS, the Administrator of USAID, the Chief Executive Officer of the United States International Development Finance Corporation, and the heads of other agencies providing foreign assistance and development financing, shall promptly provide to the President recommendations for creating an enduring international catalytic financing multilateral approaches to global health security.

(b) The Secretary of the Treasury shall promptly provide to the President, through APNSA, a strategy on how the United States can promote in international financial institutions, including the World Bank Group and International Monetary Fund, financing, relief, and other policies that are aligned with and support the goals of combating COVID-19 and strengthening global health security.

Sec. 5. Advancing Global Health Security and Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness.

(a) The APNSA shall:

(i) coordinate the Federal Government’s efforts to prepare for, prevent, detect, respond to, and recover from biological events, and to advance the global health security, international pandemic preparedness, and global health resilience;

(ii) coordinate the development of priorities for, and elevate United States leadership and assistance in support of, the Global Health Security Agenda;

(iii) conduct, in coordination with the heads of relevant agencies, a review of existing United States health security policies and strategies and develop recommendations for how the Federal Government may update them, including by, as appropriate: developing stronger global institutions focused on harmonizing crisis response for emerging biological events and public health emergencies; taking steps to strengthen the global pandemic supply chain and address any barriers to the timely delivery of supplies in response to a pandemic; working with partner countries and international organizations to strengthen and implement the Internationals Health Regulations; reducing racial and ethnic disparities in the COVID-19 global response and disproportionate impacts on marginalized and indigenous communities, women and girls, and other groups; reviewing and developing priorities for multilateral fora aimed at reducing the risk of deliberate or accidental biological events; combating antimicrobial resistance; and fighting climate change as a driver of health threats; and

(iv) develop, in coordination with the Secretary of State, the Secretary of HHS, the Administrator of USAID, the Director of the CDC, and the heads of other relevant agencies, protocols for coordinating and deploying a global response to emerging high-consequence infectious disease threats. These protocols should outline the respective roles for relevant agencies in facilitating and supporting such response operations, including by establishing standard operating procedures for how USAID and the CDC coordinate their response efforts.

(b) The APNSA, in coordination with the COVID-19 Response Coordinator, the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy, and the heads of relevant agencies, shall promptly develop a plan for establishing an interagency National Center for Epidemic Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics and modernizing global early warning and trigger systems for scaling action to prevent, detect, respond to, and recover from emerging biological threats.

(c) The Secretary of State and the Representative of the United States to the United Nations shall provide to the President, through the APNSA, recommendations regrind steps the United States should take to encourage or support the establishment of a new position in the office of the United Nations Secretary-General of a facilitator for high-consequence biological threats, particularly for events involving significant collaboration and equities across the United Nations.

(d) To assist in the Federal Government’s efforts to provide warning of pandemics, protect our biotechnology infrastructure from cyber attacks and intellectual property theft, identify and monitor biological threats from states and non-state actors, provide validation of foreign data and response efforts, and assess strategic challenges and opportunities from emerging biotechnologies, the Director of National Intelligence shall:

(i) Review the collection and reporting capabilities in the United States Intelligence Community (IC) related to pandemics and the full range of high-consequence biological threats and develop a plan for how the IC may strengthen and prioritize such capabilities, including through organizational changes or the creation of National Intelligence Manager and National Intelligence Officer positions focused on biological threats, global public health, and biotechnology;

(ii) Develop and submit to the President, through the APNSA and the COVID-19 Response Coordinator, a National Intelligence Estimate on (A) the impact of COVID-19 on national and economic security; and (B) current, emerging, reemerging potential, and future biological risks to national and economic security; and

(iii) In coordination with the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of HHS, the Director of the CDC, the Administrator of USAID, the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the heads of other relevant agencies, promptly develop and submit to the APNSA an analysis of the security implications of biological threats that can be incorporated into modeling, simulation, course of action analysis, and other analyses.

Sec. 6. General Provisions (a) Nothing in this memorandum shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b) This memorandum shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c) This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.

January 21: The White House posted an Executive Order titled: “Executive Order on Establishing the COVID-19 Pandemic Testing Board and Ensuring a Sustainable Public Health Workforce for COVID-19 and Other Biological Threats” From the Executive Order:

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including section 301 title 3, United States Code, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Policy. It is the policy of my Administration to control coronaviruses disease 2019 (COVID-19) by using a Government-wide, unified approach that includes: establishing a national COVID-19 testing and public health workforce strategy; working to expand the supply of tests; working to bring test manufacturing to the United States, where possible; working to enhance laboratory testing capacity; working to expand the public health workforce; supporting screening testing for schools and priority populations; and ensuring a clarity of messaging about the use of tests and insurance coverage.

Sec. 2. COVID-19 Pandemic Testing Board.

(a) Establishment and Membership. There is established a COVID-19 Pandemic Testing Board (Testing Board), chaired by the Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response and Counselor to the President (COVID-19 Response Coordinator) or his designee. The Testing Board shall include representatives from executive departments and agencies (agencies) that are designated by the President. The heads of agencies so designated shall designate officials from their respective agencies to represent them on the Testing Board.

(b) Mission and Functions. To support the implementation and oversight of the policy laid out in section 1 of this order, the Testing Board shall:

(i) coordinate Federal Government efforts to promote COVID-19 diagnostic, screening, and surveillance testing;

(ii) make recommendations to the President with respect for prioritizing the Federal Government’s assistance to State, local, Tribal, and territorial authorities, in order to expand testing and reduce disparities in access to testing;

(iii) identify barriers to access and use of testing in, and coordinate Federal Government efforts to increase testing for:

(A) priority populations, including healthcare workers and other essential workers;

(B) communities with major shortages in testing availability and use;

(C) at-risk settings, including long-term care facilities, correctional facilities, immigration custodial settings, detention facilities, schools, child care settings, and food processing and manufacturing facilities; and

(D) high-risk groups, including people experiencing homelessness, migrants, and seasonal workers;

(iv) identify methods to expand State, local, Tribal, and territorial capacity to conduct testing, contact tracing, and isolation and quarantine, in order for schools, businesses, and travel to be conducted safely;

(v) provide guidance on how to enhance the clarity, consistency, and transparency of Federal Government communication with the public about the goals and purposes of testing;

(vi) identify options for Federal Government to maximize testing capacity of commercial labs and academic labs; and

(vii) propose short-and long-term reforms for the Federal Government to: increase State, local, Tribal and territorial capacity to conduct testing; expand genomic sequencing; and improve the effectiveness and speed of the Federal Government’s response to future pandemics and other biological emergencies.

(d) The Chair of the Testing Board shall coordinate with the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the heads of other relevant agencies or their designees, as necessary, to ensure that the Testing Board’s work is coordinated with the Public Health Emergency Countermeasures Enterprise within HHS.

Sec. 3 Actions to Address the Cost of COVID-19 Testing.

(a) The Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of HHS, and the Secretary of Labor, in coordination with the COVID-19 Response Coordinator, shall promptly, and as appropriate and consistent with applicable law:

(i) facilitate the provision of COVID-19 testing free of charge to those who lack comprehensive health insurance; and

(ii) clarify group health plans’ and health insurance issuers’ obligations to provide coverage for COVID-19 testing.

(b) The Secretary of HHS, the Secretary of Education, and the Security of Homeland Security, through the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in coordination with the COVID-19 Response Coordinator, shall promptly, and as appropriate and consistent with applicable law.

(i) provide support for surveillance tests for settings such as schools; and

(ii) expand equitable access to COVID-19 testing.

Sec. 4. Establishing a Public Health Workforce Program.

(a) The Secretary of HHS and the Secretary of Labor shall promptly consult with State, local, Tribal, and territorial leaders to understand the challenges they face in pandemic response efforts, including challenges recruiting and training sufficient personnel to ensure adequate testing in schools and high-risk settings.

(b) The Secretary of HHS shall, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, as soon as practicable:

(i) provide technical support to State, local, Tribal, and territorial public health agencies with respect to testing and contact-tracing efforts; and

(ii) assist such authorities in the training of public health workers. This may include technical assistance non-Federal public health workforces in connection with testing, contract tracing, and mass vaccinations, as well as other urgent public health workforce needs, such as combating opioid use.

(c) The Secretary of HHS shall submit to the President, through the COVID-19 Response Coordinator, the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy (APAP), and the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs (APNSA), a plan detailing:

(i) how the Secretary of HHS would deploy personnel in response to future high-consequence public health threats; and

(ii) five-year targets and budget requirements for achieving a sustainable public health workforce, as well as options for expanding HHS capacity, such as by expanding the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and Epidemic Intelligence Service, so that the Department can better respond to future pandemics and other biological threats.

(d) The Secretary of HHS, the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Secretary of Labor, the Secretary of Education, and the Chief Executive Officer of the Corporation for National and Community Service, in coordination with the COVID-19 Response Coordinator, the ADAP, and the APNSA, shall submit a plan to the President for establishing a national contact tracing and COVID-19 public health workforce program, to be known as the U.S. Public Health Job Corps, which shall be modeled on or developed as a component of the FEMA Corps program. Such plans shall include means by which the U.S. Public Health Job Corps to immediately assign personnel from any of the agencies involved in the creation of the plan, including existing AmeriCorps members, to join or aid the U.S. Public Health Job Corps. The U.S. Public Health Job Corps will:

(i) conduct and train individuals in contact tracing related to the COVID-19 pandemic;

(ii) assist in outreach for vaccination efforts, including by administering vaccination clinics;

(iii) assist with training programs for State, local, Tribal, and territorial governments to provide testing, including in schools; and

(iv) provide other necessary services to Americans affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sec. 5 General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.

January 21: The White House posted a Press Briefing titled “Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki, January 21, 2021” From the Press Briefing:

MS. PSAKI: Good afternoon. Thank you for joining us today. Many familiar faces from yesterday back again. We are pleased to have Dr. Fauci here with visas part of the President’s commitment to have public health experts lead our communication with the American people about the pandemic.

Just to give you a bit of a run of show here: Dr. Fauci will speak at the top about the state of the pandemic, the status of vaccines. He’ll take some of your questions. I will play the role of the bad cop when it’s time for him to go and get to the work of the American people. And then I will do a topper, and I’ll answer a bunch of your questions as well.

So, there’s lots to come after this. With that, I will turn it over to Dr. Fauci.

DR. FAUCI: Thank you very much. And I’m going to just spend a couple of minutes just summarizing the status of where we are and then maybe addressing some of the things I know are on people’s minds.

So, first of all, obviously, we are still in a very serious situation. I mean, to have over 400,000 deaths is something that, you know, is, unfortunately, historic in the very – in the very bad sense. When you look at the number of new infections that we have, it’s still at a very, very high rate. Hospitalizations are up. There are certain areas of the country, as I think you’re all familiar with, which are really stressed from the standpoint of beds, from the standpoint of the stress on the healthcare system.

However, when you look more recently at the seven-day average of cases – remember, we were going between 300,000 and 400,000, and 200,00 and 300,000. Right now, it looks like it might actually be plateauing in the sense of turning around.

Now, there’s good news in that, but you have to be careful that we may not be seeing perhaps an artifact – an artifact of the slowing down following the holidays. So when we see that, we think it’s real.

But one of the things – and it’s interesting – I’m, sort of, getting a deja vu standing up here, because I said something like this almost a little bit less than a year ago, when we were talking about the acceleration of cases in the late winter / early spring of 2020, when we were having New York City metropolitan area being the epicenter of what was going on – that there are always lags, so please be aware of that; that when you have cases, and then a couple of weeks later, you’ll see it represented in hospitalizations, intensive care, and then a couple of weeks later, in deaths.

So you have almost paradoxical curves, where you see something plateauing and may be coming down at the same time as hospitalizations and deaths might actually be going up.

So this is something that I just put on your radar screen. It is not an unusual thing to see that sort of thing.

The other point I want to make is one that we’re getting asked a lot regarding questions, and that is: What is it about these mutants that you’re hearing about – the mutants in the UK, which we know are about 20-plus states; the mutants that we’re seeing in South Africa and in Brazil

First of all, we need to understand that RNA viruses, like coronaviruses, mutate all the time. Most of the mutations don’t have any physiological relevance with regard to the function of the virus itself. However, every once in a while, you get mutations, either singly or clustered in combinations, which do have an impact.

So what have we learned this far? And I want to emphasize “thus far” because we’re paying very, very careful attention to this, and we take it very seriously. At least from the experience that our colleagues in the UK have had, the one that is in the UK appears to have a greater degree of transmissibility – about twice as much as what we call the “wild type” original virus. The one that is in South Africa is a bit different, and I’ll get to that in a second.

So, it does look like it increases the transmissibility. They say, correctly, on a one-to-one basis, it doesn’t seem to make the virus more virulent or have a greater chance of making you seriously ill or killing you. However, we shouldn’t be lulled into complacency about that, because if you have a virus that is more transmissible, you’re going to get more cases. When you get more cases, you’re going to get more hospitalization. And when you get more hospitalizations, you’re ultimately going to get more deaths. So even though the virus, on a one-to-one basis, isn’t more serious, the phenomenon of a more transmissible virus is something that you take seriously.

The next thing is: Does it change enough to interfere with the efficacy of a whole group of monoclonal antibodies that many of you are aware of? The monoclonal antibodies that are being used for treatment, in some cases, and prevention. Since monoclonal antibodies bind to a very specific part of the virus, when there’s a mutation there, it has much greater chance of obliterating the efficacy of a monoclonal antibody. And we’re seeing it in the much more concerning mutations that are in South Africa – and in some respects, Brazil, which is similar to South Africa – that it is having an effect on the monoclonal antibodies.

The real question that people are quite clearly interested in is: What is the impact of the vaccine? And so far, literally, we have this new phenomenon that a preprint journals – where – where people get data, and they put it into a preprint server where it hasn’t been peer reviewed, but you have to pay attention to it because it gives you good information quickly. Ultimately, it gets confirmed.

And we’re seeing them coming out over the last few days, and what they’re saying is that what we likely will be seeing is a diminution – more South Africa than UK – UK – is that diminution in what would be the efficacy of the vaccine-induced antibodies.

Now, that does not mean that the vaccines will not be effective, and let me explain why. There’s a thing called a “cushion effect.” So, if you have a vaccine, like Moderna and the Pfizer vaccine, that can suppress the virus at dilution, let’s say, of 1 to 1,000, and the mutant influences it by bringing it down to maybe 1 to 800, or something like that, you’re still well above the line of not being effective. So there’s that “cushion” that even though it’s diminished somewhat, it still is effective. That’s what we’re seeing both certainly in the UK, which is very minimal effect. We’re following very carefully the one in South Africa, which is a little bit more concerning but nonetheless, not something that we don’t think we can handle.

What is the message? Because someone can say, “Now, wait a minute – if you have the possibility that the vaccines are diminishing in their impact, why are we vaccinating people?” No. It is all the more reason why we should be vaccinating as many people as you possibly can. Because as long as the virus is out there replicating – viruses don’t mutate unless they replicate. And if you can suppress that by a very good vaccine campaign, then you could actually avoid this deleterious effect that you might get from the mutations.

Bottom line: We’re paying very close attention to it. There are alternative plans if we every have to modify the vaccine. That is not something that is a very onerous thing. We can do that given the platforms we have. But right now, from the reports we have – literally as of today – it appears that the vaccines will still be effective against them, with the caveat in mind you want to pay close attention to it.

So, Jen, why don’t I just stop there and then maybe just answer some questions on anything else that I said?

So, yeah.

Q: How helpful would it have been if Amazon got involved with the federal response to COVID-19 before Biden took office? And do you know about any plans or discussions ahead of yesterday?

DR. FAUCI: No, I don’t think I could answer that question. I’d be waving my hands about that. Sorry.

But, you know, one of the things in this administration is: If you don’t know that answer, don’t guess; just say you don’t know that answer.

(Laughter.)

Yeah.

Q: Dr. Fauci –

DR. FAUCI: Yes.

Q: Dr. Fauci, a couple of questions, if I might. I’d like to follow up with you on what you said about this strain in South Africa. Has that strain made its way to the United States? And what, if any concerns do you have? How much do we understand about it?

DR. FAUCI: Great question. Thus far, it does not appear at all that the South African strain is in the United States. However, we must be honest and say that the level of comprehensive sequence surveillance thus far is not at the level that we would have liked. So we’re going to be looking very, very carefully for it. But given the information we have today, it doesn’t appear that the South African strain is here.

Q: Okay. And if I could just ask you about the effort to distribute the vaccines, because, of course, that’s what most people want to know: when are they going to get a vaccine. Is the Biden administration starting from scratch with the vaccine distribution effort, or are you picking up where the Trump administration left off?

DR. FAUCI: No, I mean, we certainly are not starting from scratch because there is activity going on in the distribution.

But if you look at the plan that the President has put forth about the things that he’s going to do – namely, get community vaccine centers up, get pharmacy more involved; where appropriate, get the Defense Production Act involved, not only perhaps with getting more vaccine, but even the things you need to get a good vaccine program – for example, needles and syringes that might be more useful in that. So it’s taking what’s gone on, but amplifying it in a big way.

Q: President Biden said that what was left was “abysmal,” essentially. Is there anything actionable that you are taking from the previous administration to move it forward?

DR. FAUCI: Well –

Q: And is that delaying your efforts to get the vaccine? I mean, that’s the question that –

DR. FAUCI: No, I mean, we’re coming in with fresh ideas, but also some ideas that were not bad ideas with the – the previous administration. You can’t say it was absolutely not usable at all. So we are continuing, but you’re going to see a real ramping-up of it.

Q: One more final question. You had said that most people will be vaccinated by the middle of 2021. Is that still your expectation?

DR. FAUCI: Yes, it is. I mean, I believe that the goal that was set by the President of getting 100 million people vaccinated in the first hundred days is quite a reasonable goal.

And when you get to the point – and one of the things that I think is something we need to pay attention to – and I, quite frankly, have been spending considerable amount of my own time – is outreaching particularly to minority communities to make sure that you get them to be vaccinated and you explain why it’s so important for themselves, their family, and their community.

If we get 70 to 85 percent of the country vaccinated – let’s say by the time we get to the fall, we will be approaching a degree of normality. It’s not going to be perfectly normal, but one that I think a lot of pressure off the American public.

Q: Dr. Fauci, you’re one of the few holdovers from the previous administration to this current one. What has been your experience with the new team? And, in your view, what would have been different, in terms of trajectory of this outbreak from the start, had a team like this benign placemat the beginning?

DR. FAUCI: Well, I can tell you my impression of what’s going on right now – the team. I’m – I don’t know if I can extrapolate other things. But one of the things that was very clear as recently as about 15 minutes ago, when I was with the President, is that one of the things that we’re going to do is to be completely transparent, open, and honest. If things go wrong, not point fingers, but correct htm. And to make everything we do be based on science and evidence.

I mean, that was literally a conversation I had 15 minutes ago with the President, and he has said that multiple times.

Q: Is there anything that you, looking back on your comments of the last 10 or 12 months, would like to now, with that sort of license, to amend or clarify?

DR. FAUCI: No. I mean, I always said everything on the ba – –that’s why I got in trouble sometimes. (Laughter.)

Q: You mentioned pharmacies. The new CDC director said today that the goal of getting vaccinations into pharmacies by the end of next month isn’t realistic, as had been previously suggested. When will most Americans be able to get a vaccination in their neighborhood pharmacy?

DR. FAUCI: Well, I’m – I didn’t hear that comment. Are you talking about Dr. Welensky’s comment? I didn’t hear that comment, so I don’t really want to comment on the comment. But what she may be saying is that for many people in this country who don’t have access to a pharmacy, they may not be able to utilize getting things in the pharmacy.

I – I’m not sure; I want to be careful because I’m not sure that’s what she said.

We just had a conversation about how we’re going to get vaccines to people who are in pharmacy-desert areas, where they don’t have easy access to a pharmacy. And that’s something we’re working on and taking very seriously.

Q: But just to be clear: If you are in an area where you do have access to a CVS or a Walgreens –

DR. FAUCI: Right.

Q: – when will you be able to get access to this vaccine –

DR. FAUCI: You know –

Q: – like you would a flu vaccine?

DR. FAUCI: You know, in the spirit of not guessing, I really – I’m not sure when that will be, but we can get back to you on that.

Q: And just on the broader timeline: You mentioned the fall. We just heard the President say, you know, the brutal truth us that is going to be several more months. Just to be clear, you’re saying by the fall, the majority of Americans –

DR. FAUCI: No.

Q: – you think will be vaccinated?

DR. FAUCI: No, I didn’t say that. I said if we get the majority of Americans – 70 to 85 percent – vaccinated by then, we could have a degree of herd immunity that would get us back to normal.

The concern I have, and something we’re working on, is getting people who have vaccine hesitancy, who don’t want to get vaccinated – because many people are skeptical about that. So we really need to do a lot of good outreach for that.

I mean, I don’t know what the best case – the best case scenario, if it were for me, is that we’d get 85 percent of the people vaccinated by the end of the summer. If we do, then by the time we ge to the fall, I think we can approach a degree of normality.

DR. FAUCI: No, no. What it is is that you can do in vitro in a test tube setting, binding an affinity to the receptors, which you have in your nose, in your lung, in your GI tract. The receptor for the virus is called an “ACE2″ receptor.” And the facility or affinity with which a virus binds to that means that it very likely will have a better efficiency of infection and replicate more in the nasopharynx. So that’s how you make that determination in the test tube.

Then when you look epidemiologically, and you’ll see a spike – going up in the sense of number of cases – and they sort of match each other. A virus that has the ability to easily bind to replicate with your receptors is one that likely will spread easier.

Q: So it doesn’t mean that you’d have more viral load. You –

DR. FAUCI: Well, you could. Yes. In fact, it would mean – because if it binds more easily, it could replicate in the nasopharynx more easily, and it is likely that you would have a higher viral load.

Q: So does it make masks less effective in that case?

DR. FAUCI: No, it makes it the reason why you absolutely should be wearing a mask. It doesn’t necessarily make it less effective. If you properly wear a mask, then you’ll be okay.

Q: And then, on the UK strain, do you have any data on how widespread that strain is in the United States?

DR. FAUCI: Well, I think it’s in at least 20 states that people have mentioned. Exactly – the real question that’s going to be asked: Is it going to become the dominant strain, or will the strains we already have prevented from flourishing and being the more dominant strain? But it is here, for sure.

Yeah.

Q: Just a follow-up on vaccines. Some state and local authorities are saying that they would be able to distribute more vaccines if they had more. Is the Biden administration now trying to increase production by Moderna and Pfizer in the next six weeks?

DR. FAUCI: Yeah, as well as to utilize what we hope will be another player in the field: J&J, Janssen, as well as other of the companies. But also, as the – as the President has said in his plan, to do whatever he can to expand the availability of vaccines, whatever that is. I mean, he said in his plan, to do whatever he can to expand the availability of vaccines, whatever that is. I mean, he said that he’s going to just use every possibility, including the Defense Production Act.

Q: And can you explain the discrepancy between what some states are saying about needing more vaccines and the CDC saying that a lot of vaccine is still remaining on people’s – or on their shelves?

DR. FAUCI: Yeah, you know, I think that that is something that we need to really take a close look at because that is sort of an inconsistent discrepancy, and one of things we want to do is to find out why that’s the case. And if it is the case – particularly the thing that would be most disturbing: if there’s vaccine laying around, and people are not using it when others would need it.

But I don’t know the answer to that question, but we need to look into it.

Q: Dr. Fauci, you’ve joked couple times today already about the difference that you feel in being kind the spokesperson for this issue in this administration versus the previous one. Can you – can you talk a little bit about how free, how much different – do you feel less constrained?

What is the – you know, I mean, you – for so many times, you stood up behind the podium with Donald Trump standing behind you. That was a different – that was a different feeling, I’m sure, than it is today. Can you talk a little bit about how you feel kind of released from what you had been doing for the last year?

DR. FAUCI: Yeah, but you said I was joking about it. I was very serious – (laughs) – about it. I wasn’t joking.

No, actually I mean – I mean, obviously, I don’t want to be going back, you know, over history, but it was very clear that there were things that were said – be it regarding things like hydroxychloroquine and other things like that – that really was uncomfortable because they were not based on scientific fact.

I can tell you I take no pleasure at all in being a situation of contradicting the President, so it was really something that you didn’t feel that you could actually say something and there wouldn’t be any repercussions about it.

The idea that you can get up here and talk about what you know, what the evidence, what the science is, and know that’s it – let the science speak – it is somewhat of a liberating feeling.

Q: I mean, you were basically banished for a few months there for a while. (Laughter.) Do you feel like you’re back now?

DR. FAUCI: I think so. (Laughter.)

Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s Mike Shear, if you don’t want to take questions from him in the future. (Laughter.)

Thank you, Dr. Fauci, so much for joining us, We really appreciate it, and we’ll have him back again.

DR. FAUCI: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Well, thank you everyone. As I promised, we’ll have a full briefing from here.

So, as you know, just a few moments ago, the President also released a national COVID-19 strategy and signed 10 executive orders and other directives to move quickly to contain the crisis.

Underpinning everything the President signed today and everything we do every day will be equity. Some highlights of those actions include an executive order to fill supply shortfalls for vaccinations, testing, and PPE. The President directed agencies exercise all appropriate authorities, including Defense Production Act; to accelerate manufacturing and delivering of supplies, such as N95 masks, gowns, gloves, PCR swabs, test reagents, and necessary equipment and material for the vaccine.

The President also signed:

  • a presidential memorandum to increase federal reimbursement to states and tribes for the cost of National Guard personnel, emergency supplies, and the personnel and equipment to create vaccination centers
  • an executive order that established a COVID-19 pandemic testing board to bring the full force of the federal government’s expertise to expanding testing supply and increasing access to testing
  • an executive order to bolster access to COVID-19 treatments and clinical care, establishing a comprehensive and coordinated preclinical drug discovery and development program to allow therapeutics to be evaluated and developed in response to pandemic threats.

Sorry, I had to clear buy throat; there’s a lot here.

He also issued:

  • an executive order directing the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services to provide guidance on safe reopening and operating for schools, childcare providers, and institutions of higher education.
  • an executive order on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to immediately release clear guidance for employers to help keep workers safe from COVID-19 exposure.
  • and an executive order establishing a COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force – something we had previously announced, but making it official today – to provide specific recommendations to the President for allocating resources and funding communities with inequities in COVID-19 outcomes by race, ethnicity, geography, disability, and other considerations.

These steps, of course, build in the action we announced yesterday. I had an additional update. Some of you may have seen this come out through last – late last night. But I wanted to share with you that, as a result of one of the executive orders President Biden signed yesterday, the Acting Homeland Security Secretary issued a memorandum to review and reset immigration enforcement policies.

For 100 days, beginning tomorrow, the Department of Homeland Security will pause removals for certain individuals. This pause will allow the administration to review and reset enforcement policies and ensure that resources are dedicated the most pressing challenges, and the we have a fair and effective enforcement system rooted in responsibly managing the border and protecting our national security and public safety.

I had one other item I just wanted to flag for you about something the First Lady is up to. Let me see if I can find that, or I will circle back to it a little bit later.

With that, I’m happy to take your questions. Zeke, why don’t you kick us off?

Q: Thanks, Jen. There was some reporting earlier today about the President’s commitment to extending New START. Can you talk about what the President’s directive on that front has been?

Additionally, did he – can you confirm that the President requested reports from the new DNI for an assessment on potential foreign interference in the 2020 election, and then also the SolarWinds hack?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. I can confirm that the United States intends to seek a five-year extension of New START, as the treaty permits. The President has long been clear that the New START Treaty is in the national security interests of the United States. And this extension makes even more sense when the relationship with Russia is adversarial, as it is at this time.

New START is the only remaining treaty constraining Russian nuclear forces and is an anchor of strategic stability between our two countries.

And to the other part of your question: Even as we war with Russia to advance U.S. interests, so too we work to hold Russia to account for its reckless and adversarial actions. And to this end, the President is also issuing a tasking to the intelligence community for its full assessment of the SolarWinds cyber breach, Russian interference in the 2020 election, its use of chemical weapons against opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and the alleged bounties on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.

So that’s hopefully answered all of it. That was a mouthful.

Q: And just changing gears for a quick second to COVID and the negotiations on Capital Hill: How long is the President willing to pursue bipartisanship? Democrats are already talking about a reconciliation process. Is there a – given the critical need for some sort of aid here that the President is talking about, is there a deadline which he’s going to -he’s giving Republicans – you know, is it February 1st, is it Presidents weekend – by which he’ll say, “No, we’re not going to do this by reconciliation instead”?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to set any deadlines on our first full day in office, but I will say hopefully I’ll have more for all of you on this tomorrow.

We are going to be increasing our engagements; it’s already been ongoing, even before the President was inaugurated yesterday. But hopefully, we’ll have more to share with you tomorrow on meetings, engagements, discussions that will be going on with leaders on Capitol Hill and many members over the course of the next several days.

As I conveyed to all of you yesterday, his preference and priority is a bipartisan package and working with members of both parties to come to agreement on that, because he believes that the crisis facing the American people – as we say, the jobs numbers this morning, the unemploy- unemployment insurance claims, I should say – we put out a statement by our NEC director, in case you didn’t see that; as we’ve seen in the reports from Dr. Fauci just a few minutes ago, this crisis is dire, and it requires immediate action, and we hope and expect members of both parties to work together to do that.

We’re also not going to take options off the table. So, we’ll proceed with those discussions over the next couple of days.

Go ahead, Kristen.

Q: Hi Jen. If I could just follow up on that. There was some reporting that there was going to be a meeting this weekend with a bipartisan group of lawmakers. Can you give us any indication – is that going to happen with President Biden or with his economic team? Is that your expectation?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the reporting was around a meeting with NEC Director Brian Deese. I spoke with him earlier today; he is definitely going to be engaging with a range of members and a range of different groups of members from Capitol Hill in the coming days. I think we were still working to confirm specific meetings before I came out here, and I hope to have more for all of you on that by tomorrow.

Q: Okay. And more broadly speaking, Jen, President Biden has proposed this 1.9-trillion-dollar package. You already have some Republicans who say, “We just passed a stimulus plan.” They’re not going to get on board with this – Mitt Romney among them, who says, “We just passed a program with over $900 billion.” And some people say the price tag is just way too bog. So how does President Biden expect to get this passed with bipartisan support? And how does that fit into his broader message of bipartisanship, proposing something like this that’s that big?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it fits perfectly into his message of bipartisanship. He wants to work with Democrats and Republicans address the crisis that the American people are facing, whether they live in red states or blue states or Democratic – Democrats or Republicans.

The package was designed based on recommendations from health experts, from economists. It’s been applauded by everyone from Senator Bernie Sanders to the Chamber of Commerce. And there are specific pieces in there that are meant to serve as a bridge for the American people, including a large percentage of it that’s for unemployment insurance; funding for vaccine distribution – something that is pivotal, as we’ve already been discussing here today; for reopening of schools.

So part of the discussion we’ll be having with members is, “What do you want to cut?” And this is a plan that he feels addresses the crisis at the moment.

Q: And one quick follow-up on that. The work of the Senate is being held up by this dispute over the filibuster. Where does President Biden come down on that? Does he think that there should not be a filibuster so that the Senate can move forward with its work?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the President-elect spoke just yesterday, as you all saw, about the spirit of working together and bipartisanship to confront the four crises facing us.

You’ve already seen him work with Republicans and Democrats and work toward a bipartisan approach to passing packages that will address the crises we’re facing. And that certainly is his priority and his preference. So that’s what he’ll continue to work on on day two of the administration.

Go ahead, Mike Shear.

Q: Okay. See? You can call on me. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: I just gave you a hard time. Go ahead.

Q: That’s fine. So I want to push you a little bit more on that question. Like if there’s this call for unity that the President made in his speech yesterday, but there has so far been almost no fig leaf even to the Republican Party. You don’t have a Republican Cabinet member, like President Obama and, I Think, President Clinton had. You – you know, the executive orders, much of which the Republican Party likes and agrees with. You’ve put forth an immigration bill that has a path to citizenship but doesn’t do much of a nod toward the border security. And you’ve got a 1.9-trillion dollar COVID relief bill that has, as folks have said, already drawn all sorts of criticism. Where is the – where is the actual action behind this idea of bipartisanship?

And when are we going to see one of those, you know, sort of, substantial outreaches that says, “This is something that, you know, Republicans want to do, too”?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I guess what I would send back to you – there’s a lot in there, so let me do my best here.

But, Mike, is unemployment insurance only an issue that Democrats in the country want? Do only Democrats want their kids to go back to schools? Do only Democrats want vaccines to be distributed across the country? That’s – we feel that package – he feels that package is designed for bipartisan support.

I will also say that we have also had some positive developments on our conformations and our nominees. Last night, as you all saw, his – the President’s nominee, now confirmed, leader – first female leader of the intelligence community was confirmed with a vote of 85 to 10, 84 to 10 – you can check me on that – but an overwhelming vote. We’ve seen progress today on the nomination and hopeful confirmation of Lloyd Austin.

So there is movement, supported by both sides of the aisle and members of both parties.

I think if you talk to Democrats – or Republicans on the Hill, which I know many of you do, they will sa they’re not looking for something symbolic. They are looking for engagement. They’re looking to have a conversation. They’re looking to have a dialogue. And that’s exactly what he’s going to do.

Go ahead, Mary.

Q: On that, has the President reached out to congressional leaders to sit down and discuss his relief package? Will he be? How much personal involvement is he going to have in the process?

MS. PSAKI: I expect he will be rolling up is sleeves and will be quite involved in this process, Mary. And he was – yesterday was quite a busy day for him. As you all know, his schedule was minute by minute, and his family was here. But he was involved even before yesterday, having conversations with members of both parties – picking up the phone and having those conversations. He saw, of course, members of both parties. He invited leaders from both parties to join him at church. Obviously, that wasn’t really a discussion about specifics of the bill, bit they did – he did have an opportunity to talk about his agenda and working for forward – working together on his agenda moving forward.

But I think you will see him quite involved in the days ahead, but you will also see the Vice President quite involved. You will also see policy leaders, like Brian Deese and others in the administration, quite involved in having conversations with both Democrats and Republicans.

Q: But no plans right now to sit down with them?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we will have more to share with you soon in terms of engagement of many of our senior officials with members of both parties.

Q: And on the Defense Production Act, just to be clear, has the administration actually invoked the Defense Production Act? And, if so, can you spell out what changes we may see because of this? Which companies are being asked to make what?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me give you a very specific example that helped really make it clear for me. One area is to acquire a more lo – – low dead volume syringes. And what that does is, these specialized syringes allow pharmacists and vaccinators to extract an extra does of the Pfizer vial – so making more doses available, of course.

It also prioritizes the Defense Production Act raw materials that are used to produce the vaccine, so reducing bottlenecks. And it enables manufacturers – us to empower and invoke, I guess, an action for manufacturers to make sure we have the materials we need to get the vaccines out the door and in the arms of Americans.

In terms of – obviously, he signed it this afternoon. I’ll have to just circle back with you on what it – it it’s officially invoked at this moment, or if to takes some time. And we can circle back with you after the briefing.

Go ahead, Jen.

Q: On stimulus, is the White House drafting a legislative bill?

MS. PSAKI: You mean in terms of the – what he announced last week – last Thursday? Well, he announced what his specific ideas will be and what his vision is, but right now we’re having discussions with members of both parties, as we have for the last week about what that will look like.

Q: Okay, so, no bill draft coming out of the White House is what I’m saying.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m happy to talk to our legislative team about that. I think what was important to the President was to outline what his vision would be. This is how the process should actually work. Right? The President outlines, “Here’s my vision. Here’s what I think should be in a package. Let’s have discussions. Let’s have engagements with both parties, and let’s see what comes out of the sausage-making at the other side.”

Go ahead, Anita. I’ll come back to you. I’m sorry, (inaudible). Go ahead.

Q: Just following up on what Kristen asked, I don’t think I heard an answer about whether the President supports keeping the filibuster – where he sits on that. Has he has he talked to Senator Schumer about that? I mean, he served there a long time. What are his thoughts on that?

MS. PSAKI: I think what I was conveying to Kristen is that the President has been clear: He wants to work with members of both parties and find bipartisan paths forward. And I don’t have any more conversations to read out for you at this point in time.

Q: Okay, but that doesn’t specifically answer that, unless I’m not understanding your answer.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I have more – more to add to my answer.

Q: Okay. And then just on the impeachment trial, I know that there was some talk about, sort of, the Senate doing both – both things at the same time, two things at one. There’s some reporting this afternoon that Republicans are pushing to have the impeachment trial start in February. Where do you stand, still, now on that? Are you still looking for that – both pats to happen at the same time? Would it be preferable to do that first or are you okay with later, as some Republicans are talking about?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Anita, I think we – we have been pretty consistent that we believe the timing and the mechanisms for the Congress and the Senate moving forward in holding the former President accountable – we’ll leave that to them. And what our biggest priority and focus is, is ensuring that it doesn’t delay the Senate, Congress moving forward in consideration and discussion around the COVID-relief package that the President proposed last week.

Go ahead.

Q: Thank you, Jen. As the print pooler, I have a question for myself, and then a question for someone who cannot be here –

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

Q: – because of the social distancing policies.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

Q: My question is this, and it’s about unity again. I’ve heard from conservatives who are afraid that the President is going to try to pull back religious conscience exemptions for groups like Little Sisters of the Poor.

The President pledged he would so that in July when the Little Sisters won the – a case in the Supreme Court. The Health and Human Services nominees, Xavier Becerra, pursued that line of going after the exemptions as Attorney General of California. What’s the President going to do on that?

MS. PSAKI: I haven’t discussed that particular issue with him. I’m happy to circle back with you, but I don’t – there’s not a change in his position form what he said earlier this summer.

Did you have another question?

Q: Yes. I have a question from Adam Longo of WUSA 9. He says, “We saw the President warmly greet Mayor Bowser during the parade yesterday. She is pushing for the D.C. Statehood Measure to be on the President’s desk within 100 days. Will the administration get behind this bill, and does the President support it?”

MS. PSAKI: I hate to disappoint you, but I will have to circle back with your on that well. There is quite a bit going on. I have not discussed D.C. statehood with him in the last 36 hours.

Q: I will look forward to hearing about it. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: Okay, that sounds great.

Go ahead, in the back.

Q: Yeah. Thanks, Jen. I wanted to circle back on something COVID-related. I know the President has obviously made a priority of getting – resuming in-person learning in the first 100 days. I wondered: Is the administration planning to issue any kind of uniform guidance for states on – you know, whether it’s reopening schools, reopening businesses, indoor dining, stuff like that? Or are you planning to just kind of leave it to states to do, sort of, a patchwork based on their own situations?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as Dr. Fauci conveyed, our objective is to ensure that health and medical experts are leading the effort in delivering guidance – determining guidance and also communicating it with the public whenever possible. And any guidance would come, of course, as you know, from the CDC. We – and we will – we will, of course, defer to that.

But part of our priority and our focus here is on providing more engagement with states, more clear guidance from the federal level in terms of how we’re planning to operate, what data we’re seeing, how the – how vaccines are being distributed, what we see as challenges. And that communication has been lacking, as we understand it from our conversations has been lacking, as we understand it from our conversations in the past few months. So that is what we will focus on improving in the months ahead.

Q: So how would you – specifically, are you planning to do, you know, daily or weekly calls with sites? Or how – how are you planning to up the communication there?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we have a – an entire COVID team, as you know, who are now – most of them are official. And part of their role will be engaging with governors – Democrats and Republicans – mayors, local elected officials to gain a better understanding of what’s happening on the ground. That will be how they’re going to be intaking a great deal of information – obviously, healthcare providers and experts on the ground as well.

We will also do engagement from the level of the President and the Vice President as well, because they also want to have that conversation with states and local officials on what they’re experiencing, what they see the challenges as, and how they can be addressed.

And, you know, that’s something – I think, in President Biden’s heart, he is a local elected official still, and he gets into the weeds of what they’re experiencing. And I – and he will be involved in that himself.

Go ahead, in the way back.

Q: Thanks, Jen. There’s a lot of really big things that the administration wants to do: infrastructure, the stimulus, tax reform. Can you sort of lay out the cadence for us over the upcoming year? How do you envision those three major things playing out? What’s the order? When do you think those will be taken up? When will they happen?

MS. PSAKI: Well, what I can lay out for you on our first full day here is what our initial priorities are. And they revolve around addressing the four crises that the President has stated that the country is facing, including getting the pandemic under control, getting people back to work, addressing our climate crisis, and addressing racial equity. And so –

Q: Do you –

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

Q: No, I – I was going to ask you: Do you thin tax reform happens in 2021?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t really have any predictions for you on that. I – I think, at this point in time and for the foreseeable future, addressing the pandemic, getting the pandemic under control, and that linkage to getting people back to work will be his top priority.

Q: And on the Keystone XL – the decision came yesterday from the President – what would you say to those who have lost their job or will lose their job as a result of that decision? What will be the message from the President and the White House be?

MS. PSAKI: The message of the President and the White House would be that he is committed. His record will show – shows the American people that he’s committed to clean-energy jobs – to jobs that are not only good, high-paying jobs, union jobs, but once that are also good for our environment. He thinks it’s possible to do both.

He led an effort when he was Vice President to put millions of people to work with those – both of those priorities in mind, and he will continue to do that as President. But he had opposed the Keystone pipeline back in 2013, when it was – when there was a consideration of the permit, or – sorry, I don’t think it was 2013; I think ti was a little bit after that. And he has been consistent in his view, and he was delivering on a promise he made to the American public during the campaign.

Go ahead, all the way in the back.

Q: Thank you. I wanted to ask you about India-U.S. relationship. What is President Biden’s vision of India -U.S. relationship – the relationship between the world’s oldest and world’s largest democracy?

MS. PSAKI: Well, first, I would say that President Biden, who of course has visited India many times, respects and values the long, bipartisan, successful relationship between leaders in India and the United States. He looks forward to a continuation of that.

Obviously, he selected – and yesterday, she was sworn in – the first Indian American to serve as President or Vice President, certainly a historic moment formal of us in this country, but a further, you know, cementing of the importance of our relationship.

So, go ahead, George.

Q: Yeah, thanks. Two questions, if I could – one on the – on the Hatch Act: Will this administration take that seriously? And do you think it’s ever appropriate for this White House to have a political event or a political meeting?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, there are some political events that are acceptable, but we certainly take the Hatch Act seriously, and we’ll abide by that. And you will not see a rally on the South Lawn of the White House with Pres- – under President Biden.

Q: The second one – this – this may sound trivial, but Presidents and candidates have some events where – they’re fun for the candidate. They – the big crowd on the acceptance speech at the convention, the big crowd at the Inauguration, big rallies. Because of COVID, this President has – has been denied all those. Has he ever been at all wistful about sort of missing the fun parts of being a candidate and the Inauguration?

MS. PSAKI: Not – not in front of me, George. I will say that, even yesterday or over the last couple of days, you know, he tried to find a moment of joy with his family and with his grandchildren, who bring him great – a great deal of joy, and a recognition of, of course, the great responsibility he has on his shoulders, but a moment in history that he was playing a very important part of.

So I would say he’s been in public office, as you all know, for decades, and he’s had many joyful moments. But this moment, serving as President, coming in at a crisis where thousands of people are dying from a pandemic every day, millions of people are out of work, is not really a time for daily joy as the leader of the free world. And he’s focused on doing his job to get the work done for the American people.

Go ahead.

Q: Why weren’t President Biden and all members of the Biden family masked at all times on federal lands last night, if he signed an executive order that mandates masks on federal lands at all times?

MS. PSAKI: At the Inaugural —

Q: At the Lincoln Memorial. Yes.

MS. PSAKI: I think, Steve, he was celebrating an evening of a historic day in our country. And certainly he signed the mask mandate because it’s a way to send a message to the American public about the importance of wearing masks, how it can save tens of thousands of lives.

We take a number of COVID precautions, as you know here, in terms of testing, social distancing, mask wearing, ourselves, as we do every single day. But I don’t know that I have more for you on it than that.

Q: But as Joe Biden often talks about, it is not just important the “example of power” but the “power of our example.” Was that a good example for people who are watching who might not pay attention normally?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Steve, I think the power of his example is also the message he sends by signing 25 executive orders, including almost half of them related to COVID; the requirements that we’re all under every single day here to ensure we’re sending that message to the public.

Yesterday was a historic moment in our history. He was inaugurated as President of the United States. He was surrounded by his family. We take a number of precautions, but I don’t think – I think we have big – bigger issues to worry about at this moment in time.

Go ahead, Anita.

Q: Jen?

Q: You mentioned —

MS. PSAKI: Oh, sorry, Jeff. Let me go to Jeff, Anita, because I already went to you, if that’s okay.

Q: Jeff, go ahead.

Q: Thanks very much. A follow-up on the New START: Do you have an indication from Russia that they will object to the extension of five years? And has the United States already altered Moscow about its desire?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we have not — obviously, as you know, a number of our nominees have talked about our intention during their confirmation hearings over the past couple of days, of extending New START. I don’t have any calls to read out for you, but I can check and see if any notifications or discussions have happened this afternoon.

Q: And to follow up on something from yesterday, which I think you referred to: President Biden had said that President Trump left him a very “generous” note, and he didn’t want to talk about it until he spoke to President Trump. Are President Biden and President – former President Trump going to have a call?

MS. PSAKI: There’s no call planned. What he was conveying is that he didn’t want to release a private note without having an agreement from the former President. But I wouldn’t say he’s seeking it through a phone call; he just was even trying to be respectful in that moment of a private letter that was sent.

Q: With regard to the former President, has President Biden spoken to Speaker Pelosi at all about the timing of when she plans to bring the impeachment articles to the Senate and how he would like to see this trial proceed?

MS. PSAKI: President Biden has been pretty clear about what the focus of his conversations are and what his intention is with his engagements with leaders from both sides if the aisle and in both houses of Congress, including with Speaker Pelosi – someone he’s known for quite some time – and that his intention and focus on getting the COVID package through. So he will leave it to her and to now-Leader Schumer to determine what the path forward and the timeline will be holding the former President accountable.

Anita, go back to you.

Q: Yeah, you earlier mentioned four priorities of the President. I was surprised to not her immigration, per se, in the because, yesterday, many of the executive orders were about immigration. And there were two major agency releases last night about immigration; the bill is being introduced today. Do you not see that as sort of the second big push after the COVID bill? Where do you see that?

And I guess I would say, why is ti – I was going to ask you, why is it going to be – you know, why is it such a priority after the COVID bill? But you didn’t even list it, so I wanted to kind of clarify that and get your thoughts on it.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I wouldn’t – I wouldn’t read into that, other than immigration we consider as part of “racial equity” and part of – which is a broad issue, but that’s how the President has spoken about that crisis over the past several months. And clearly, it is an enormous priority to him because he – we moved forward in announcing the specifics of an immigration bill – an immigration package he is eager to move forward on with Congress on his first day in office.

But, as you know, there has been a lot of history on efforts to do comprehensive immigration reform – to do any form of immigration reform. And what we’re hopeful is that this will be a moment of reset and a moment to restart discussions on Capitol Hill. There are already a number of co-sponsors on Capitol Hill. There are already a number of co-sponsors who have been announced to have those discussions. There are experts on immigration who have worked on this issue from both sides of the aisle.

Historically, it is an issue there – that there is bipartisan support – support from the business community, support from a range of outside groups with different political tilts – and we’re hopeful that that will help propel it forward.

Q: Senator Menendez said today on a call – he called it a “Herculean,” you know, effort to get this through. As you know, it hasn’t gone through, as you just mentioned before. I mean, there are Republicans grumbling today that there’s not more in that bill that they want to see. So is that bill – what do you think the prospect of that bill getting through is?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t know that I can predict that the first day. I mean, it’s only been out for 24 hours. Bu what was important to the President in the outline of this bill is that it is addressing a couple of areas that he doesn’t feel have been effectively done in the past. The last four years, the immigration policy has been based around funding for a wall; that has not worked even to keep the country safer, even to keep bad actors out.

And so his approach is multi-pronged. It is to do smart security – security that will help address ports of entry more effectively and efficiently, and putting that oversight in the hands of the Department of Homeland Security. It will also address root causes of migration, and that hasn’t been in past bills. As you probably well know, Anita, it was not in the bill in 2013, but its something that he has been an advocate for in his time in public office.

And it’s also a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants who are living in the country. There are components here in the bill that address a lot of the issues that have not been addressed in the past. And certainly the components of it make – that talk about smart security, are the kind of border security that we think is essential and more effective than what we’ve seen over the past couple of years.

Go ahead. Oh, can I go to Zeke first and then to you, Kristen? Go ahead.

Q: I just wanted to follow up on a question I asked the President an hour or so about the “100 million vaccines in the first 100 days” target. That’s roughly off the per diem basis of where vaccinations are right now. Can you just elaborate a little bit why the President isn’t setting the bar a little bit higher, maybe require another nudge? Just to explain to the American people when they see the statistics – like, you know, one tracker had 1.6 million yesterday – why isn’t the President shooting just a little bit higher, given the magnitude of the crisis here?

JEN PSAKI: Well, none of us are mathematicians, myself included, so I asked our team to do a little math on this. So, the Trump administration was given 36 million doses when they are in office for 38 days. They administered a total of about 17 million shots. That’s about less than 500,000 shots a day. What we’re proposing is to double that to about 1 million shots per day. And we have outlined this goal and objective in coordination and consultation with our health and medical experts.

So it is ambitious. It’s something that we feel is bold and was called that certainly at the time, and we’re working overtime to help achieve it – try to achieve it.

Q: But is the President trying to – obviously he would try to exceed that if possible. Is it possible we may see you know, in a couple of weeks or a month that the President would up that goal?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Zeke, there are a lot of factors that go into determining how many shots can get into the arms of Americans. We feel confident we can achieve this goal. Obviously, there are other vaccines that are being considered at this point in time by the FDA. There is funding that will be needed for distribution. There are a number of steps that will help expedite, at some point in time. But, right now, our focus is on what many health and medical experts have consistently called a “bold” goal.

I will note also that some of the reporting this morning which Kristen asked about earlier, was that the Trump administration left us with no plan. It’s hard for them to both be exactly true at the same time. And our team has been putting together a plan – our own plan, as Dr. Fauci talked about – for some time, to achieve this goal.

But he also mentioned that there are a number of challenges. It’s not just about lining people up – as you all know, but for people watching – in a football stadium, and giving them shots. We have to overcome vaccine hesitancy. We have to get to health communities where there aren’t – they don’t have access to health centers. That was outlined. A number of steps to address that were outlined in the President’s plan today.

But, you know, we – this is a bold goal, we’re going to work every day to achieve it, and we’ll build form there. There’s a lot more of the administration to go from there and more work on COVID to be done.

Go ahead, Kristen.

Q: Jen, President Biden is reversing a number of former President Trump’s policies, and we’re seeing some of former President Trump’s staffers be placed on leave or be reassigned. Is there an attempt to purge Trump officials?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s a new administration, so obviously there are a number of new officials in place. I know there was some reporting, for example – and I don’t know if this is who you were referencing, so you tell me if not – of the head of the NLRB. That’s an individual who was not carrying out the – you know, anyone would tell you, not just from our administration – the objectives of the NLRB. And so they were – they’re no longer in their position. And we’ll – we’ll take – make those decisions as needed.

Q: So there’s not an effort writ large that you’re assessing – reassessing individuals in the administration?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Kristen, as you know, when a new administration comes in, there’s a massive changeover in political appointees and nominees and people who will serve in a variety of rolls.

There are some people – Christopher Wray, as an example; I’ll just bring him back up – who will continue to serve in his role. But we have great value for career officials, for the officials who have been the heart and soul of agencies across government since long before the Trump administration, but who have served through the Trump administration as well.

Q: On COVID, a question: Did the transition officials know before yesterday that Amazon wanted to get involved in such a meaningful way?

MS. PSAKI: We – not that I’m aware of. I’m happy to check. I mean, when the reporting came out, I asked the question, and I think – internally – and, you know, what was conveyed to me – and I don’t think we discussed this yesterday – was that we’ve had a lot of outreach – some privately, some publicly – from a range of business and private sector entities. And we certainly welcome that, and we’ll be considering all of those offers in what makes the most sense in our plans and proposals.

Q: So, because there are some Trump officials saying they were never offered help from Amazon, and so they’re essentially saying they think this was a political call for Amazon to wait while lives were hanging in the balance. But you’re saying that is not the case.

MS PSAKI: I’m not aware of the timeline of when Amazon reached out. That sounds like a question for Amazon to me.

Go ahead.

Q: Jen, what did you think about all of the pardons that Trump handed out on his way out the door> And do you know if the DOJ or anyone is reviewing any of those?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, we nominated an attorney general just a couple of weeks ago: Merrick Garland. We’re eager to get him confirmed in the coming weeks, hopefully soon.

We – our view of pardons, Jennifer, is that it’s not the way – it’s not a model for how a Biden Justice Department would work. It’s not a model, I should say, for how President Biden would use his own power. He would use his own power far more judiciously.

But we are looking forward, and most important for us and for him, is that the Justice Department, as we look ahead, is independent, makes decisions of they own accord, including their review of any investigations or judicial steps that have been taken.

Q: Thank you, Jen.

Q: Can I do a follow- up?

Q: Jen, one follow-up?

MS. PSAKI: Thank you. Okay I think we’re about to conclude it here. But because its my second day, lets take two more questions. Go ahead, in the back.

Q: About the pardon attorneys –

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

Q: Is the President going to listen to the pardon attorney? President Bush told President Obama that he should use the pardon power early on, but we know that the pardon power has been in disrepute in the last week because of President Trump’s pardons. What – is President Biden going to try to use the power quickly? Or – I mean, you said “judiciously.” But what’s his take going to be?

MS. PSAKI: Well, “judiciously” – and I’m not saying you’re conveying this, but for clarity – is not meant to convey speed; it’s just meant to convey how he approaches it. As you know, he has a long history on judicial issues, having served as the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee many years ago.

But on day two, I don’t have any prediction for you in terms of how he would use pardon – pardon attorneys or the role, but he has a great respect for and value for independence, as you know, and for the role of the judiciary and the independence of that role.

Okay, last actual question. I’m sorry, Zeke.

Q: I appreciate it, and I’m going to bounce off Jeff her on conversations that may or may hot have happened. Can you tell us: Has President Biden spoken to the Fed Chair, Jay Powell? If he hasn’t, does he have any plans on speaking to him at any point in the near future? And generally speaking, how does the President view the stewardship of the Fed chair during this economic crisis?

MS PSAKI: I don’t have any calls to read out for you or to predict for you with the Chairman of the Federal Reserve. He clearly has a great deal of respect and value for the Federal Reserve and the role they’ve played historically, given he nominated the former chair to serve as the first female Treasury Secretary. But I don’t have anything more for you. I can venture to get more for you from our economic team.

Thank you, everyone. I’ll see you again tomorrow.

Q: Thank you, Jen.

January 21: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) posted a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report titled: “Emergence of SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.7. Lineage – United States, December 29, 2020 – January 12, 2021” The report was posted online as an MMWR Early Release. It has also been corrected.

What is already known about this topic?

A more highly transmissible variant of SARS-CoV-2, B.1.1.7, has been detected in 12 U.S. states.

What is added by this report?

Modeling data indicate that B.1.1.7. has the potential to increase the U.S. pandemic trajectory in the coming months. CDC’s system for genomic surveillance and the effort to expand sequencing will increase the availability of timely U.S. genomic surveillance data.

What are the implications for public health practice?

The increased transmissibility of the B.1.1.7. variant warrants universal and increased compliance with mitigation strategies, including distancing and masking. Higher vaccination coverage might need to be achieved to protect the public. Genomic sequence analysis through the National SARS-CoV-2 Strain Surveillance program will enable a targeted approach to identifying variants of concern in the United States.

On December 14, 2020, the United Kingdom reported a SARS-CoV-2 variant of concern (VOC), lineage B.1.1.7, also referred to as VOC 202112/01 or 201/501Y.V1 The B.1.1.7 variant is estimated to have emerged in September 2020 and has quickly become the dominant circulating SARS-CoV-2 variant in England. B.1.1.7. has been detected in over 30 countries, including the United States.

As of January 13, 2021, approximately 76 cases of B.1.1.7 have been detected in 12 states, Multiple lines of evidence indicate that B.1.1.7 is more efficiently transmitted than are other SARS-CoV-2 variants. The modeled trajectory of this variant in the U.S. exhibits rapid growth in early 2021, becoming the predominant variant in March.

Increased SARS-CoV-2 transmission might threaten strained health care resources, require extended and more rigorous implementation of public health strategies, and increase the percentage of population immunity required for pandemic control. Taking measures to reduce transmission now can lessen the potential impact of B.1.1.7 and allow critical time to increase vaccination coverage.

Collectively, enhanced genomic surveillance combined with continued compliance with effective public health measures, including vaccination, physical distancing, use of masks, hand hygiene, and isolation and quarantine, will be essential to limited the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Strategic testing of persons without symptoms but at higher risk of infection, such as those exposed to SARS-CoV-2 or who have frequent unavoidable contact with the public, provides another opportunity to limit ongoing spread.

Global genomic surveillance and rapid open-source sharing of viral genome sequences have facilitated near real-time detection, comparison, and tracking of evolving SARS-CoV-2 variants that can be inform public health efforts to control the pandemic. Whereas some mutations in the viral genome emerge and then recede, others might confer a selective advantage to the variant, including enhanced transmissibility, so that such a variant can rapidly dominate other circulating variants. Early in the pandemic, variants of SARS-CoV-2 containing the D614G mutation in the spike protein that increases the receptor binding avidity ability became dominant in many geographic regions.

In late fall 2020, multiple countries reported detecting SARS-CoV 2 variants that spread more efficiently. In addition to the B.1.1.7 variant, notable variants include the B.1.351 lineage first detected in South Africa and the recently identified B.1.1.28 subclass (renamed “P1”) detected in four travelers from Brazil during routine screening at the Haneda (Tokyo) airport.

These variants carry a constellation of genetic mutations, including the S protein receptor-binding domain, which is essential for binding to the host cell angiotensin-converting enzyme-2 (ACE-2) receptor to facilitate virus entry.

Evidence that other mutations found in these variants might confer not only increased transmissibility but might also affect the performance of some diagnostic real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assays and reduce susceptibility to neutralizing antibodies. A recent case report documented the first case of SARS-CoV-2 variant that contained the E484 mutation, which has been shown to reduce neutralization by convalescent sera and monoclonal antibodies.

This report focuses on the emergence of the B.1.1.7 variant in the United States. As of January 12, 2021, neither the B.1.1.7 nor the P.1 variants have been detected in the United States. For information about emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern, CDC maintains a webpage dedicated to providing information on emerging SARS-CoV 2 variants.

B.1.1.7 lineage (201.501Y.V1)

The B.1.1.7 variant carries a mutation in the S protein (N501Y) that affects the confirmation of receptor-binding domain. This variant has 13 other B.1.1.7 lineage-defining mutations, several of which are the S protein, including a hypothesized to increase transmissibility. The deletion at positions 69 and 70 causes S-gene target failure (SGTF) in at least one RT-PCR-based diagnostic assay (i.e., with the ThermoFishers TaqPath COVID-19 assay, the B.1.1.7 variant and other variants with the del69-70 produce a negative result for S-gene target and a positive result for the other two targets); SGTF has served as a proxy in the United Kingdom for identifying B.1.1.7 cases.

Multiple lines of evidence indicate that B.1.1.7 is more efficiently transmitted compared with other SARS-CoV-2 variants circulating in the United Kingdom. U.K. regions with a higher proportion of B.1.1.7 sequences had faster epidemic growth than did other areas, diagnosis with SGTF increased faster than did non-SGTF diagnoses in the same areas, and a higher proportion of contacts were infected by index patients with B.1.1.7 inflection than by index patients infected with other variants.

Variant B.1.1.7 has the potential to increase the U.S. pandemic trajectory in the coming months. To illustrate this effect, a simple, two-variant compartmental model was developed. The current U.S. prevalence of B.1.1.7 among all circulating viruses in unknown but is thought to be <0.5% among all infections, SARS-CoV-2 immunity from previous infection of 10%-30%, a time-varying reproductive number (Rt) of 1.1 (mitigated but increasing transmission) or 0.9 (decreasing transmission) for current variants, and a reported incident of 60 cases per 100,000 persons per day on January 1, 2021.

These assumptions do not precisely represent any single U.S. location, but rather, indicate a generalization of conditions common across the country. The change in Rt over time resulting from acquired immunity and increasing prevalence of B.1.1.7, was modeled, with the B.1.1.7 Rt assumed be a constant 1.5 times the Rt of current variants, based on initial estimates from the United Kingdom.

Next, the potential impact of vaccination was modeled assuming that 1 million vaccine doses were administered per day beginning January 1, 2021, and that 95% immunity was achieved 14 days after receipt was assumed, although the effectiveness and duration of protection against infection remains uncertain, because these were not the primary endpoint of clinical trials for initial vaccines.

In this model, B.1.1.7 prevalence is initially low, yet because it is more transmissible than are current variants, it exhibits rapid growth in early 2021, becoming the predominant variant in March. Whether transmission of current variants is increasing (initial Rt = 1.1) or slowly decreasing (initial Rt = 0.9) in January, B.1.1.7 drives a substantial change in the transmission trajectory and a new phase of exponential growth. With vaccination that protects against infection, the early epidemic trajectories do not change and B.1.1.7 spread still occurs.

However, after B.1.1.7 becomes the dominant variant, its transmission was substantially reduced. The effect of vaccination on reducing transmission the near term was greatest in the scenario in which transmission was already decreasing (initial Rt = 0.9). Early efforts that can limit the spread of the B.1.1.7 variant, such as universal and increased compliance with public health mitigation strategies, will allow more time for ongoing vaccinations to achieve higher population-level immunity.

Discussion

Currently, there is no known difference in clinical outcomes associated with the described SARS-CoV-2 variants; however, a higher rate of transmission will lead to more cases, increasing the number of persons overall who need clinical care, exacerbating the burden on an already strained health care system, and resulting in more deaths.

Continued genomic surveillance to identify B.1.1.7 cases, as well as the emergence of other variants of concern in the United States, is important for the COVID-19 public health response. Whereas the SGTF results can help identify potential B.1.1.7 cases that can be confirmed by sequencing, identifying priority variants that do not exhibit SGTF relies exclusively on sequence-based surveillance.

The experience in the United Kingdom and the B.1.1.7 models presented in the report illustrate the impact a more contagious variant can have on the number of cased in a population. The increased transmissibility of this variant requires an even more rigorous combined implementation of vaccination and mitigation measures (e.g., distancing, masking, and hand hygiene) to control the spread of SARS-CoV-2.

These measures will be more effective if they are instituted sooner rather than later to slow the initial spread of the B.1.1.7 variant. Efforts to prepare the health care system for further surges in cases are warranted. Increased transmissibility also means that higher than anticipated vaccination coverage must be attained to achieve the same level of disease control to protect the public compared with less transmissible variants….

…The findings in this report are subject to at least three limitations. First, the magnitude of the increase in transmissibility in the United States compared with that observed in the United Kingdom remains unclear. Second, the prevalence of B.1.1.7 in the United States is also unknown this time, but detection of variants and estimation of prevalence will improve with enhanced U.S. surveillance efforts. Finally, local mitigation measures are also highly variable, leading to variation in Rt. The specific outcomes presented here are based on simulations and assumed no change in mitigations beyond January 1.

The increased transmissibility of the B.1.1.7 variant warrants rigorous implementation of public health strategies to reduce transmission and lessen the potential impact of B.1.1.7, buying critical time to increase vaccination coverage. CDC’s modeling data show that universal use of an increase compliance with mitigation measures and vaccination are crucial to reduce the number of new cases and deaths substantially in the coming months.

Further, strategic testing of persons without symptoms of COVID-19, but who are at increased risk for infection with SARS-CoV-2, provides another opportunity to limit outgoing spread. Collectively, enhanced genomic surveillance combined with increased compliance with public health mitigation strategies, including vaccination, physical distancing, use of masks, hand hygiene, and isolation and quarantine, will be essential to limiting the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and protecting public health.


January 22, 2021

January 22: The White House posted Talking Points titled: “Talking Points: January 22 Executive Orders – Economic Relief” From the Talking Points:

  • As the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the U.S. economy into crisis, millions of Americans are unemployment, falling behind on rent payment, or struggling with food security.
  • And, because of pervasive system racism and inequality, the burdens of the economic crisis are hitting communities of color and underserved families the hardest.
  • Today, President Biden is taking new executive actions to deliver economic relief for American families and businesses amid the COVID-19 crisis while addressing the racial inequities it has exacerbated.
  • The President is also issuing an Executive Order that will launch an all-of-government effort to provide equitable emergency economic relief to working families, communities, and small businesses across the nation. The all-of-government effort will:

Address the growing hunger crisis facing 29 million Americans – and as many as 12 million children – by asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture to consider expanding and extending federal nutrition assistance programs.

Ensure equitable and effective delivery of direct payments – by asking the Treasury Department to change its delivery structure and focus on getting relief to the 8 million Americans who still have not received the financial assistance to which they are entitled.

Help approximately 2 million veterans maintain their financial footing by asking the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to consider pausing federal collections on overpayments and debts.

Help ensure that unemployed Americans no longer have to choose between paying their bills and keeping themselves and their families safe from COVID-19 by asking the U.S. Department of Labor to clarify that workers who refuse unsafe working conditions can still receive unemployment insurance.

Enable effective and equitable distribution of government assistance by establishing an interagency benefit coordination structure.

  • While the President will continues working with Congress to take bold action that will help working families through the remainder of the crisis, he is taking these emergency measures and important steps to give millions of Americans real relief during the pandemic.
  • The all-of-government executive order, combined with the President’s historic relief package and forthcoming jobs package will help Americans persevere through the pandemic and lay the foundation for a strong and equitable recovery.

January 22: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) posted a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report titled: “Evaluation of Abbott BinaxNOW Rapid Antigen Test for SARS-CoV-2 Infection at Two Community-Based Testing Sites – Pima County, Arizona, November 3-17, 2020” From the Report:

Summary

The BinaxNOW rapid antigen test received Emergency Use Authorization by the Food and Drug Administration for testing specimens from specimens from symptomatic persons; performance among asymptomatic persons is not well characterized.

What is added by this report?

Sensitivity of the BinaxNOW antigen test, compared with polymerase chain reaction testing was lower when used to test specimens from asymptomatic (35.8%) than from symptomatic (64.2%) persons, but specificity was high. Sensitivity was higher for culture-positive specimens (92.6% and 78.6% for those from symptomatic and asymptomatic persons, respectively); however, some antigen test-negative specimens had cultural virus.

What are the implications for public health practice?

The high specificity and rapid BinaxNOW antigen test turnaround time facilitate earlier isolation of infectious persons. Antigen tests can be an important tool in an overall community testing strategy to reduce transmission.

Rapid antigen tests, such as the Abbott BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card (BinaxNOW), offer results more rapidly (approximately 15-30 minutes) and at a lower cost than do highly sensitive nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs). Rapid antigen tests have received Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for use in symptomatic persons, but data are lacking on test performance in asymptomatic persons to inform expanded screening to testing to rapidly identify and isolate infected persons.

To evaluate the performance of the BinaxNOW rapid antigen test, it was used along with real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing to evaluate 3,419 paired specimens collected from persons aged ≥10 years at two community testing sites in Pima County, Arizona, during November 3-17, 2020. Viral culture was performed on 274 of 303 residual real-time RT-PCR specimens with positive results by either test (29 were not available for culture).

Compared with real-time RT-PCR testing, the BinaxNOW antigen test had a sensitivity of 64.2% for specimens form symptomatic persons and 35.8% for specimens from asymptomatic persons, with near 100% specificity in specimens from both groups. Virus was cultured from 96 of 274 (35.0%) specimens, including 85 (57.8%) of 147 with concordant antigen and real-time RT-PCR positive results, 11 (8.9%) of 147 with concordant antigen and real-time RT-PCR positive results, 11 (8.9%) of 124 with false-negative antigen test results, and none of three with false-positive antigen test results.

Among specimens positive for viral culture, sensitivity was 92.6% for symptomatic and 78.6% for asymptomatic individuals. When the preset probability for receiving positive test results for SARS-CoV-2 is elevated (e.g., in symptomatic persons or in persons with a known COVID-19 exposure), a negative antigen test result should be confirmed by NAAT.

Despite a lower sensitivity to detect infection, rapid antigen tests can be an important tool for screening because of their quick turnaround time, lower costs and resources needs, high specificity, and high positive predictive value (PPV) in setting of high preset probability. The faster turnaround time of the antigen test can help limit transmission by more rapidly identifying infectious persons for isolation, particularly when used as a component of serial testing strategies.

Paired upper respiratory swabs were collected at the same timepoints from persons aged ≥10 years receiving testing for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), at two Pima County Health Department community testing sites during November 3-17 (site A) and November 8-16 (site B). The sites offered SARS-CoV-2 testing to anyone in the community who wanted testing.

A questionnaire capturing demographic information and current and past-14-day symptoms was administered to all participants. At both sites, a health care professional first collected a bilateral anterior nasal swab, using a swab provided in the BinaxNOW kit, immediately followed by a bilateral nasopharyngeal (NP)swab for real-time RT-PCR testing. Anterior nasal swabs were immediately tested on-site using the BinaxNOW antigen test according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

NP swabs were stored in phosphate buffered saline at 39°F (4°C) and analyzed within 24-48 hours by real time RT-PCR using either the CDC 2019-nCoV Real-Time RT-PCR Diagnostic Panel for detection of SARS-CoV-2 (2,582 swabs) or the Fosun COVID-19 RT-PCR Detection Kit (837 swabs). Viral culture was attempted on 274 of 303 residual real-time RT-PCR specimens if either the real RT-PCR or BinaxNOW antigen test were compared to evaluate sensitivity, specificity, negative predictive value (NPV), and PPV.

Statistical analyses were performed using SAS (version 9.4; SAS Institute). Cycle threshold (Ct) values from real-time RT-PCR were compared using a Mann-Whitney U Test; 95% confidence intervals (CIs)were calculated using the exact binomial method. The investigation protocol was reviewed by CDC and determined to be nonresearch and was conducted consistent with applicable federal law and CDC policy.

Paired upper respiratory swabs were collected from 3,419 persons, including 1,458 (42.6%) from site A and 1,961 (57.4%) from site B. Participants ranged in age from 10 to 95 years (median = 41 years) with 236 (6.9%) aged 10 – 17 years, 1,885 (55.1%) aged 18-49 years (21.7%) aged 50-64 years, and 555 (16.2%) aged  ≥65 years. Approximately one third (31.4%) of participants identified as Hispanic or Latino, and three quarters (75.1%) identified as White.

As the time of testing, 827 (24.2%) participants reported at least one COVID-19 -compatible sign or symptom, and 2,592 (75.8%) were asymptomatic. Among asymptomatic participants, 113 (13.7%) received a positive BinaxNOW antigen test result, and 176 (21.3%) received a positive real-time RT-PCR test result. Among asymptomatic participants, 48 (1.9%) received a positive BinaxNOW antigen test result, and 123 (4.7%) received a positive real-time RT-PRC test result.

Testing among symptomatic participants indicated the following for the BinaxNOW antigen test (with real-time RT-PCR as the standard): sensitivity, 64.2%; specificity, 100%; PPV, 100%, and NPV, 91.2% among asymptomatic persons, sensitivity was 35.8%; specificity, 99.8%; PPV, 91.7%; and NPV, 96.9%. For participants who were within 7 days of symptom onset, the BinaxNOW antigen test sensitivity was 71.1% (95% CL = 63.0%-78.4%), specificity was 100% (95% CI = 99.3% – 100%), PPV was 100% (95% Cl = 96.4% – 100%), and NPV was 92.7% (95% CI = 90.2% – 94.7%).

Using real time RT-PCR as the standard, four false-positive BinaxNOW antigen test results occurred, all among specimens from asymptomatic participants. Among 299 real-time RT-PCR positive results, 142 (47.5%) were false-negative. BinaxNOW antigen test results (63 in specimens from symptomatic persons and 79 in specimens from asymptomatic persons).

Virus was recovered from 96 (35.0%) of 274 analyzed specimens that were positive by either test, including 85 (57.8%) of 147 with concordant positive results and 11 (8.9%) of 124 with false-negative BinaxNOW antigen test results. Virus was not recovered from any of the three available specimens with false-negative BinaxNOW antigen test results.

Among the 224 specimens undergoing viral culture that were analyzed with the CDC 2019-nCoV Real-Time RT-PCR Diagnostic Panel for detection of SARS-CoV-2, median Ct values were significantly higher for specimens with false-negative BinaxNOW antigen test results, indicating lower viral RNA levels than in those with concordant positive results (33.9 versus 22.0 in specimens from asymptomatic persons [p<0.001] and 33.9 versus 22.5 in specimens from asymptomatic persons [p<0.001])

Median Ct values for SARS-CoV-2 culture-positive specimens (22.1) were significantly lower than were those for culture-negative specimens (32.8) (p<0.001), indicating higher levels of viral RNA in cuticle positive specimens. Among specimens with positive viral culture, the sensitivity of the BinaxNOW antigen test compared with real-time RT-PCR in specimens from asymptomatic participants was 92.6% (95% CI = 83.7% – 97.6%) and in those from asymptomatic participants was 78.6% (95% CI = 59.1 – 91.7).

Discussion

In this evaluation, using real time RT-PCR as the standard, the sensitivity of the BinaxNOW antigen test was lower among specimens from asymptomatic persons (35.8%) than among specimens from symptomatic persons (64.2%). Specificity (99.8% – 100%) was high in specimens from both asymptomatic and symptomatic groups.

The prevalence of having SARS-CoV-2 real-time RT-PCR positive test results in this population was moderate (8.7% overall; 4.7% for asymptomatic participants); administering the test in a lower prevalence setting will likely result in a lower PPV.

Among 11 participants with antigen-negative, real-time RT-PCR-positive specimens with positive viral culture, five were symptomatic with antigen-negative, real-time RT-PRC-positive specimens with positive viral culture, five were symptomatic and six asymptomatic. Some antigen-negative, real time RT-PCT-positive specimens possibly could represent noninfectious viral particles, but some might also represent infectious virus not detected by the antigen test.

In a clinical context, real-time RT-PCR provides the most sensitive assay to detect infection. Viral culture, although more biologically relevant than real-time RT-PCR, is still an artificial system and is subject to limitations. Numerous biological (e.g., individual antibody status and specific sequence of the virus) and environmental (e.g., storage conditions and number of freeze-thaw cycles) variables can affect the sensitivity and outcome of viral culture.

Despite the limitations of interpreting culture-negative specimens, a positive viral culture is strong evidence for the presence of infectious virus. The performance of the BinaxNOW antigen test compared with the real-time RT-PCR was better for those specimens with positive viral culture than for all specimens, with a sensitivity of 92.6% for specimens from symptomatic persons and 78.6% for those from asymptomatic persons.

The results of the current evaluation differ from those of an evaluation of the BinaxNOW antigen test in a community screening setting in San Francisco, which found a BinaxNOW antigen test overall sensitivity of 89.0% among specimens from all 3,302 participants, regardless of the Ct value of the real time RT-PCR-positive specimens.

The findings in this investigation are subject to at least five limitations. First, anterior nasal swabs were use for BinaxNOW antigen testing, but NP swabs were used for real-time RT-PCR testing, which might have contributed to increased detection for the real-time RT-PCR assay.

Second, participants might have inadvertently reported common nonspecific symptoms as COVID-19-compative symptoms.

Third, this investigation evaluated the BinaxNOW antigen test, and results presented here cannot be generalized to other FDA-authorized SARS-CoV-2 antigen tests.

Fourth, the BinaxNOW antigen test characteristics might be different depending on whether an individual had previously tested positive.

Finally, many factors might limit the ability to culture virus from a specimen, and the inability to detect cultural virus should not be interpreted to mean that a person is not infectious.

Public health departments are implementing various strategies to reduce or prevent SARS-CoV-2 transmission, including expanded screening testing for asymptomatic persons. Because estimates suggest that over 50% of transmission occurs from persons who are presymptomatic or asymptomatic, expanded screening testing, potentially in serial fashion for reducing transmission in specific venues (e.g., institutions of higher education, schools, and congregate housing settings), is essential to interrupting transmission).

Rapid antigen tests can be an important tool for screening because of their quick turnaround time, lower requirement for resources, high specificity, and high PPV in settings of high pretest probability (e.g., providing testing to symptomatic persons, to person’s with a known COVID-19 exposure, or where community transmission is high). Importantly, the faster time from testing to results reporting can speed isolation of infectious persons and will be particularly important in communities with high levels of transmission.

Although the sensitivity of the BinaxNOW antigen test to detect infection was lower compared with real-time RT-PCR, it was relatively high among specimens with positive virus culture, which might reflect better performance for detecting infection in a person with infectious virus present.

Community testing strategies focused on preventing transmission using antigen testing should consider serial testing (e.g., kindergarten through grade 12 schools, institutions of higher education, or congregate housing settings), which might improve test sensitivity in detecting infection.

When the preset probability for receiving positive SARS-CoV-2 test results is elevated (e.g., for symptomatic persons or for persons with a known COVID-19 exposure) a negative antigen test result should be confirmed by NAAT. Asymptomatic persons who receive a positive BinaxNOW antigen test result in a setting with a high risk for adverse consequences resulting from false-positive results (e.g., in long-term care facilities) should also receive confirmatory testing by NAAT.

Despite their reduced sensitivity to detect infection compared with real-time RT-PCR, antigen tests might be particularly useful when real time RT-PCR tests are not readily available or have prolonged turnaround times. Persons who know their positive test result within 15-30 minutes can isolate sooner, and contact tracing can be initiated sooner and be more effective than if a test result is returned days later.

Serial antigen testing can improve detection, but consideration should be given to the logistical and personnel resources needed. All persons receiving negative test results (NAAT or antigen) should be counseled that wearing a mask, avoiding close contact with persons outside of their household, and washing hands frequently remain critical to preventing the spread of COVID-19.

January 22: The White House posted a Fact Sheet titled: “Fact Sheet: President Biden’s New Executive Actions Deliver Economic Relief for American Families and Businesses Amid the COVID-19 Crises” From the Fact Sheet:

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the United States economy into an economic crisis. Across the country, more than 10 million Americans are unemployed, 14 million renters are behind on payments, and 29 million adults – and at least 8 million children – are struggling with food insecurity. Because of pervasive systemic racism and inequality in our economy, the burdens of this economic crisis are hitting communities of color and other underserved families hardest. One in ten Black workers and one in eleven Latino workers are unemployed. Navigating through the current crisis and emerging stronger requires immediate action to provide equitable economic relief to working families everywhere.

Last week, President Biden unveiled a historic legislative package designed to change the course of the pandemic, get students back to school, give families and businesses a bridge to an economic recovery, and invest in advancing racial equity. His plan came on the heels of December’s bipartisan deal to provide a down payment on long-term economic relief for working families. Congress should finish the job by expeditiously passing the American Rescue Plan into law. But the American people cannot afford to wait for Congress to act – they need help and they need it now.

Today, the President is issuing an Executive Order that will launch an all-of-government effort to provide equitable emergency economic relief to working families, communities, and small businesses across the nation. The actions taken as part of this effort will provide relief to millions of American workers who have lost their jobs and had their hours or wages slashed through no fault of their own. They will help working families feed their children and keep a roof over their head. They will help ensure that unemployed Americans no longer have to choose between paying their bills and keeping themselves and their families safe from COVID-19 by clarifying that workers who refuse unsafe working conditions can still receive unemployment insurance. And, they will help more unemployed workers pay for training and college so they can find better jobs and succeed in an increasingly competitive job market.

That all-of-government effort will:

  • Address the growing hunger crisis facing 29 million Americans – and as many as 12 million children – by asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture to consider expanding and extending federal nutrition assistance programs.
  • Ensure equitable and effective delivery of direct payments – by asking the Treasury Department to consider changing its delivery structure and focus on getting relief to 8 million Americans who still have not received the financial assistance to which they are entitled.
  • Help approximately 2 million veterans maintain their financial footing by asking the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to consider pausing federal collections on overpayments and debts.
  • Help ensure that unemployed Americans no longer have to choose between paying their bills and keeping themselves and their families safe from COVID-19 by asking the U.S. Department of Labor to consider clarifying that workers who refuse unsafe working conditions can still receive unemployment insurance.
  • Enable effective and equitable distribution of government assistance by establishing an interagency benefit coordination structure.

While additional congressional action is urgently needed to help working families through the remainder of the crisis, these emergency measures are important steps to give millions of Americans real relief during the pandemic. This executive order, combined with the President’s historic relief package and forthcoming jobs package will help Americans persevere through the pandemic and lay the foundation for a strong and equitable recovery. The President is also recommending immediate action to improve the wages, benefits and bargaining rights of federal workers and contractors.

COVID ECONOMIC RELIEF EXECUTIVE ORDER

Address the Growing Hunger Crisis Facing 29 Million Adults – And As Many As 12 Million Children. Across the country 1 in 7 households and more than 1 in 5 Black and Latino households, report that their household is struggling to secure the food they need. In December, Congress bolstered food assistance programs and provided new funding for food banks and school and child care meals. But these measures along will not solve the growing hunger crisis in America. As part of his American Rescue Plan proposal, President Biden is calling on Congress to provide additional support to ensure that all Americans, regardless of background, have access to healthy, affordable groceries by extending the 15% Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit increase, investing $3 billion to help women, infants and children get the food they need, and other key steps. The President is also asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to consider taking the following steps to provide nutrition assistance to working families, including to:

  • Increase access to nutritious food for millions of children missing meals due to school closures. Established under Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) connects low-income families with kids with food dollars equivalent to the value of the school meals missed due to COVID-related school closures. To date, the program has only allowed P-EBT benefit amounts up to $5.70 per child per school day and many households have had trouble claiming benefits. To address these concerns and expand needed relief, the President is asking USDA to consider issuing new guidance increasing P-EBT benefits by approximately 15% to accurately reflect the costs of missing meals and make it easier for households to claim benefits. For instance, this action could provide a family with three children more than $100 of additional support every two months.
  • Allow larger emergency Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program allotments for the lowest-income households. Congress authorized emergency increases to SNAP benefits to help address food insecurity during the pandemic. So far, those benefit increases have not been made available to all of the lowest income households. USDA will consider issuing new guidance that would allow states to increase SNAP emergency allotments for those who need it most. This would be the first step to ensuring that an additional 12 million people get enhanced SNAP benefits to keep nutritious food on the table.
  • Update food assistance benefits to reflect the true cost of a basic healthy diet. More than 40 million Americans count on SNAP to help put food on the table. Currently, however, USDA’s Thrifty Food Plan, the basis for determining SNAP benefits, is out of date with the economic realities most struggling households face with trying to buy and prepare healthy food. As a result, the benefits fall short of what a health, adequate diet costs for many households. Therefore, as directed by the 2018 Farm Bill, the President will ask USDA to consider beginning the process of revising the Thrifty Food Plan to better reflect the modern cost of a healthy basic diet.
  • Ensure Equitable and Effective Delivery of Direct Payments. As the President fights to get Americans the full $2,000 in direct payments they deserve, his administration is also working to ensure that all those who are eligible receive their full payments. Many Americans faced challenges receiving the first round of direct payments and as many as eight million eligible households did not receive the payments issued in March. In December, Congress passed legislation that would provide Americans with $600 in stimulus. The President’s American Rescue Plan proposes an additional $1,400 per-person payments to ensure that households get the support they need to help pay bills, put food on the table, and support small businesses and their communities. While Treasury and career staff at the IRS have worked tirelessly to deliver two rounds of payments in the midst of a pandemic, the work is far from over. To ensure equitable and effective delivery of direct payments and focus on getting relief to eligible individuals who have not received the financial assistance to which they are entitled, the President is asking the Department of Treasury to consider taking a series of actions to expand and improve delivery of Economic Impact Payments including establishing online tools for claiming their payments, working to make sure that this who have not yet accessed their funs get the relief they deserve, and analyzing unserved households to inform additional outreach efforts.
  • Guarantee that No American Has to Choose Between Paying Their Bills and Keeping Themselves and Their Families Safe from COVID-19. In 2019, 43% of American households reported having at least one member with pre-existing conditions, many of whom may have a heightened risk of serious illness or death if they contract COVID. President Biden believes that workers should have the right to safe work environments and that no one should have to choose between their livelihoods and their own or their families’ health. As one of many measures to help keep workers and their families’ safe throughout the pandemic, the President is asking the Department of Labor to consider clarifying that workers have a federally guaranteed right to refuse employment that will jeopardize their health and if they do so, they will still qualify for unemployment insurance.
  • Help Families, Workers and Small Businesses Access Relief Resources Quickly, Easily and Equitably through Coordinated Benefit Delivery Teams. During the pandemic government programs have provided much needed support to help tens of millions of Americans pay rent, mortgages, and other bills, get the food they need, and access healthcare. However, critical support does not always reach the people who need it: families struggle to navigate complicated eligibility rules while over 20% of Earned Income Tax Credits go unclaimed; many small businesses in communities of color cannot easily access loans; and according to one survey less than 40% of service workers who were laid off or furloughed at the hight of pandemic closures actually received timely unemployment benefits due to system failures as applications surged. At the same time, an estimated 47% of children live in households that have trouble covering usual expenses such as food, housing, and medical care. The stakes are too high and too many families are in need for people not to get the relief that they are entitled to. The Biden-Harris Administration is establishing a network of benefit delivery teams and a coordination structure across federal and state administered programs to reduce the time and burden to access urgent support that provides greater stability and builds towards an equitable recovery.

PROTECTING AND EMPOWERING FEDERAL WORKERS AND CONTRACTORS

The federal government should only award contracts to employers who give their workers the pay and benefits they have earned; President Biden is today directing this administration to start the work that would allow him to issue an Executive Order within the first 100 days that requires federal contractor to pay a $15 minimum wage and provide emergency paid leave to workers.

He is also taking critical steps to protect and empower federal employees, who dedicate their careers to serving the American people. They keep us healthy, safe, and informed, and their work transcends partisan politics. They are health care workers who care for veterans, the elderly, and the disabled. They are expert scientists, medical doctors, and technicians who maintain world-class standards, prevent and combat the spread of infectious diseases, and save countless lives. They deliver our mail, run our national parks, keep our federal buildings up and running, help protect us against climate change and environmental poisoning, and ensure that the law is applies faithfully and fairly. They are talented, hard-working, and inspiring Americans, worthy of the utmost dignity and respect. But, over the last four years, they’ve been undermined and demoralized. The President will sign an executive order taking steps to protect and empower federal employees who are so essential to this country. It:

  • Restores collective bargaining power and worker protections by revoking Trump Executive Orders 13936, 13837, and 13839. It goes further to direct agencies to bargain over permissible, non-mandatory subjects of bargaining when contracts are up for negotiation so that workers have a greater voice in their working conditions.
  • Eliminates Schedule F, which undermines the foundations of the civil service. Its existence threatens the critical protections of career employees and provides a pathway to burrow political appointees into the civil service.
  • Promotes a $15 minimum wage. The Executive Order directs the Office of Personnel Management to develop recommendations to pay more federal employees at least $15 per hour.

These steps will help ensure the federal government is a model employer and restore protections to career civil servants who are so essential to this country.

January 22: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) posted a Morbidity and Mortality Week Report (MMWR) titled: “Vaccination Coverage with Selected Vaccines and Exemption Rates Among Children in Kindergarten – United States, 2019-20 School Year”. From the report:

SUMMARY

What is already known about this topic?

State immunization programs conduct annual kindergarten vaccination assessments to monitor school-entry vaccination coverage with all state-required vaccines.

What is added by this report?

For the 2019-20 school year, national coverage was approximately 95% for diphtheria and tetanus toxoids, and acellular pertussis; measles, mumps, and rubella; and varicella vaccines. The national exemption rate remained low at 2.5%.

What are the implications for public health practice?

Disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic are expected to reduce vaccination coverage in the 2020-21 school year. Increased follow-up of under undervaccinated students needed from schools and immunization programs to maintain the high vaccination coverage necessary to protect students in preparation for schools returning to in-person learning.

State and local school vaccination requirements serve to protect students against vaccine-preventable diseases. This report summarizes data collected by state and local immunization programs on vaccination coverage among children in kindergarten (kindergarteners) in 48 states, exemptions for kindergarteners in 49 states, and provisional enrollment and grace period status for kindergarteners in 28 states for the 2019-20 school year, which was more than halfway completed when most schools moved to virtual learning in the spring because of the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Nationally, vaccination coverage was 94.9% for the state-required number of doses for diphtheria and tetanus toxoids, and acellular pertussis vaccine (DTaP); 95.2% for 2 doses of measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR); and 94.8% for the state-required number of varicella vaccine doses. Although 2.5% of kindergarteners had an exemption from at least one vaccine, another 2.3% were not up to date for MMR and did not have a vaccine exemption. Schools and immunization programs can work together to ensure that under vaccinated students are caught up on vaccinations in preparations for returning to in-person learning. This follow up is especially important in the current school year, in which under vaccination is likely higher because of disruptions in vaccination during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

To meet state and local school entry requirements, parents and guardians submit children’s vaccination records or exemption forms to schools, or schools obtain records from state immunization information systems. Federally funded immunization programs work with departments of education, school nurses, and other school personnel to assess vaccination and exemption status of children, typically those aged 4-6 years, enrolled in public or private kindergartens and report unweighted counts, aggregated by school type, to CDC via a web-based questionnaire in the Secure Access Management System. CDC uses these data to produce state- and national-level estimates of vaccination coverage.

During the 2019-20 school year, 48 states reported coverage for all state-required vaccines among public school kindergarteners and 47 states reported on private coverage for all state-required vaccines among public school kindergarteners. Forty-nine states reported exemption data among public school kindergarteners, and vaccination coverage for the state-required number of doses of DTaP, MMR, and varicella vaccine. Hepatitis B and poliovirus vaccination coverage data, which are not included in this report, are available at SchoolVaxView. Twenty-eight states reported data on kindergarteners who, at the time of assessment, were attending school under a grace period (attendance without proof of complete vaccination scheduled). Coverage and exemptions from U.S. territories and associated states are presented; however, national estimates, medians, and summary measures include only U.S. states.

Vaccination coverage and exemption estimates were adjusted according to survey type and response rates. National estimates measure coverage and exemptions among all kindergarteners, and medians measure the midpoint of state-level coverage regardless of population size. Reported estimates for the 2019-20 school year are based 3,675,882 kindergarteners surveyed for vaccination coverage, 3,914,961 for exemptions, and 2,995,220 for grace period and provisional enrollment among the 4,025,574 children reported as enrolled in kindergarten by immunization programs for 49 states. Potentially achievable coverage with MMR, defined as the sum of the percentage of children who are up to date with 2 doses MMR and those with no documented vaccination exemption but who are not up to date, was calculated for each state. Nonexempt students include those provisionally enrolled, in a grace period, or otherwise without documentation of vaccination. SAS (version 9.4; SAS Institute Inc.) was used for all analyses.

Vaccination assessments varied by immunization program because of differences in states’ required vaccines and number of doses, vaccines assessed, methods of data collection, and data reported. The majority of states reported kindergarteners as up to date for a given vaccine if they had received all doses of that vaccine required for school entry. Seven states reported kindergarteners as up-to-date for any given vaccine only if they had received all doses all vaccines required for school entry.

Nationally, 2-dose MMR coverage was 95.2% (range = >86.6% [Alabama] to >99.1% [Mississippi]). Coverage of >95% was reported by 20 states and coverage of <90% by three states. DTaP coverage was 94.9% (range = 84.0% [Indiana] to >99.1% [Mississippi]), with 20 states reporting coverage of >95%, and three states reporting <90% coverage. Coverage with 2 doses (or 1 dose, as required) of varicella vaccine was 94.8% (range = >86.6% [Alabama] to >99.1% [Mississippi]), with 21 states reporting coverage >95%, and four states reporting >90% coverage.

The percentage of kindergarteners with an exemption from one or more required vaccines (not limited to MMR, DTaP, and varicella vaccines) remained unchanged from the 2018-19 school year at 2.5% (range = 0.1% [New York and West Virginia] to 7.6% [Idaho]). Nationally, 0.3% of kindergarteners had a medical exemption, and 2.2% had a nonmusical exemption. Only 95.2% of kindergarteners were up to date with MMR; 2.5% had an exemption from at least one vaccine, and another 2.3% were not up to date with MMR and did not have a vaccine exemption.

The percentage of kindergarteners attending school within a grace period or provisionally enrolled among the 28 states reporting these data 1.6% (range = <0.1% [Hawaii and Mississippi] to 6.1% [Ohio]). Of the 28 states with MMR coverage <95%, 24 states could potentially achieve >95% MMR coverage if all nonexempt kindergarteners, may of whom where within a grace period or provisionally enrolled, we vaccinated. Among the 30 states reporting a decrease in the percentage of kindergarteners who were not up to date for MMR and did not have an exemption in 2019-2020 compared with 2018-2019, an increase of MMR coverage in 2019-2020 was also reported by 26 states. In three states with MMR coverage >95% in 2018-2019 (Illinois, North Carolina, and South Carolina), coverage increased to >95% in 2019-2020.

Discussion

The purpose of vaccination assessment is to identify populations at risk and aid in taking programatic steps to increase vaccination coverage. Although the COVID-19 pandemic led to late, truncated, or incomplete assessment of kindergarten vaccination status in the 2019-20 school year compared with the 2018-19 school year in some states, most student vaccinations would have already occurred before the start of the 2019-20 school year and would not have been affected by the pandemic. National coverage among kindergarteners remained approximately 95% for MMR, DTaP, and varicella vaccines. However, coverage and exemption rates varied by state.

Measles outbreaks that affected school-aged vaccination requirements for preventing disease spread and school outbreaks of >15 cases during the 2018-19 school year, six reported increases in MMR coverage during 2019-2020. Increases in some states were likely attributable to changes in state laws eliminating nonmusical vaccination exemptions, and vaccination campaigns in response to the outbreaks could also have contributed to the increases in MMR coverage.

The overall percentage of children with an exemption remained at approximately 2.5%; children with exemption represent a small proportion of kindergarteners nationally and in most states. In 25 states, the number of nonexempt undervaccinated kindergarteners equaled or exceeded the number of those with exemptions. In many states, nonexempt under vaccinated students are attending school in a grace period or are provisionally enrolled. Follow-up with undervaccinated students can increase vaccination coverage in this group.

Twenty-six states successfully increased MMR coverage by reducing the number of nonexempt students who are not up to date, with three states (Illinois, North Carolina, and South Carolina) reaching coverage >95%. Some states have implemented policies and activities focused on improving coverage. In Colorado, MMR coverage increased from 87.4% in 2018-2019 to 91.1% in 2019-2020. This was accomplished by prioritizing high MMR coverage.

In addition to providing technical assistance, media toolkits, strategies, and local kindergarten MMR data and targets, the state health department furnished lists of elementary schools with low coverage to local public health agencies, which implemented community-specific strategies. These included digital media campaigns aimed at parents, vaccination reminder/recall, efforts to improve school compliance, outbreak tabletop exercises with schools, and incentives to families (Diana Herrero, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, personal communication, November 13, 2020). Almost all states could achieve >95% MMR coverage if non exempt undervaccinated children were vaccinated according to local and state vaccination policies.

The findings in this report are subject to at least six limitations. First, comparability is limited because of variation in states’ requirements, data collection methods, exemptions allowed, and definitions of grace period and provisional enrollment. Second representatives might be negatively affected because of data collection methods that missed some schools or students or occurred at different times. Third, results might be underestimated or overestimated because of incomplete documentation. Fourth, national coverage estimates include only 48 of 50 states but use lower bound estimates for seven states; exemption estimates include 49 states but use lower bound estimates for three states; and grace period of provisionally enrollment estimates include only 28 states for the 2019-20 school year. Fifth, estimates of potentially achievable MMR coverage are approximations are underestimated for states that do not report vaccine-specific exemptions. Finally, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, schools were closed, and state and local health department staff members were deployed to response activities, limiting the quantity and quality of student vaccination data collected and reported to CDC.

Based on measurements from other data sources, CDC expects that the COVID-19 pandemic has already reduced appointment availability at providers’ offices, parents delaying preventive health care visits, and other barriers to vaccination, and that those disruptions will reduce kindergarten vaccination coverage in the 2020-21 school year. In addition, schools in many states began the 2020-21 school year remotely and might not have enforced the usual vaccination policies.

Providers, schools and immunization programs will need to increase follow-up with undervaccinated students and find ways to overcome pandemic-related barriers to maintain the high level of vaccination coverage necessary to continue protecting school-aged children, their family members, and communities from vaccine-preventable diseases during virtual learning and as schools return to in-person instruction. Jurisdictions should provide resources as appropriate, such as guidance to parents about the importance of maintaining preventative care during the pandemic, lists of immunization providers in the area for children who are unable to be vaccinated by their usual health care provider, or special vaccination clinics at schools or health departments.

January 22: The White House posted a Statement from President Biden and Vice President Harris on the 48th Anniversary of Roe V. Wade. From the Statement:

Today marks the 48th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Roe v. Wade.

In the past four years, reproductive health, including the right to choose, has been under relentless and extreme attack. We are deeply committed to making sure everyone has access to care – including reproductive health care – regardless of income, race, zip code, health insurance status, or immigration status.

The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to codifying Roe v. Wade and appointing judges that respect foundational precedents like Roe. We are also committed to ensuring that we work to eliminate maternal and infant health disparities, increase access to contraception, and support families economically so that all parents can raise their families with dignity. This commitment extends to our critical work on health care outcomes around the world.

As the Biden-Harris Administration begins in this critical moment, now is the time to rededicate ourselves to ensuring that all individual have access to the health care they need.

January 22: The White House posted a Press Briefing titled: “Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki and National Economic Director Brian Deese” From the Press Briefing:

MS. PSAKI: Good afternoon, everyone. Happy Friday. Today, we are joined by National Economic Council Director Brian Deese, who will highlight some key aspects of the executive orders the President is issuing today related to the economy and underline their impact on American families and workers.

Brian is kind enough to take a few questions; I didn’t have to twist his arm too much. But he does have to go to a briefing with the President, so I’ll be the bad cop and come up when he has to cut it off.

Go ahead, Brian.

MR. DEESE: Thanks, Jen. So I want to just take a couple minutes to talk to you about the executive actions that the President will take today.

But just to start with a little bit of context: Our economy is at a very precarious moment. We are 10 million jobs short still of where the economy was when this pandemic started. Last month, the economy lost jobs for the first time since last spring. Retail sales fell last month. And just yesterday, we saw another 900,000 Americans file for unemployment insurance. That’s a weekly rate that is higher than any week during the Great Recession.

It’s a moment that requires decisive action to beat this pandemic and support the economic recovery that American families need. That’s why, a week ago, President Biden laid out a comprehensive American Rescue Plan – a plan that is focus on changing the course of the pandemic, getting students back in school, and giving families and businesses a bridge to the economic recovery, while also addressing the stark inequities in our economy that this crisis has exposed.

We have been engaging closely with members of Congress, with governors, mayors, business and labor organizations in the week since, and we’ll continue to do so and hope that Congress will move quickly to consider this important proposal without delay.

At the same time, the American people are hurting, and they can’t afford to wait. They need help right now. And that’s the motivation behind the actions that the President will take today.

I want to be very clear these actions are not a substitute for comprehensive legislative relief, but they will provide a critical lifeline to millions of families.

So just to get into the specifics: The President will sign two executive orders today. The first directs agencies to consider a number of actions that will provide emergency relief for working families affected by the COVID-19 crisis, within existing authorities, and helping to correct some of the errors or omissions of the prior administration in providing families with relief.

I just want to touch on a couple of elements that are in that executive order to give you a sense of what we’re talking about.

On the issue of food insecurity, which is a growing crisis in American – of hunger – nearly 30 million Americans last week said they didn’t have enough food to put on the table. So the President will ask the Department of Agriculture to consider taking immediate steps to provide nutrition assistance to hard-hit families, first by increasing pandemic EBT benefits by about 15 percent. This is the program that is aimed at supporting families who traditionally rely on the school lunch program to provide meals to millions of kids through their schools.

So in the pandemic -the Pandemic EBT program provides direct assistance to families to cover those costs. But the way it is being implemented today doesn’t get to the fill costs necessary. So, with these changes, an eligible family with three children would get about an additional 100 bucks over two months to help pay for food.

Second, increasing the SNAP benefits – emergency SNAP benefits for as many as 12 million low-income Americans. This is the core program targeted at preventing hunger in America. And these changes – again, for a family of four – would mean about a 15 to 20 percent benefit increase.

And third, revising the Thrifty Food Plan – which is really the basis for determining SNAP benefits – is out of date and needs to be updated to better reflect the cost of a healthy diet.

Another element of this executive order is to promote worker safety. And here, President Biden will ask the Department of Labor to consider clarifying that workers have a federally guaranteed right to refuse employment that would jeopardize their health. And if they do so, they will still qualify for unemployment benefits.

This is a common-senes step to make sure that workers have a right to safe work environments and that we don’t put workers, in the middle of a pandemic, in a position where they have to choose between their own livelihoods and the health of they and their families.

The second executive order that the President will sign is focused on the jobs of federal workers and on federal contractors. He will direct his administration to initiate a process, starting today, that would allow him within 100 days to issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay at least a $15.00 minimum wage and provide emergency paid leave to workers.

This was something the President talked about on the campaign that, when we’re using taxpayer dollars, federal contractors should provide the benefits and pay that workers deserve.

The order will also protect and empower federal employees, who’ve dedicated their careers to serving the American people, many in very difficult circumstances during this pandemic.

And the steps will include restoring collective bargaining power and worker protections for federal workers; eliminating Schedule – so-called Schedule F – which has threatened the protections of career employees and also provided a potential pathway to burrow political appointees into civil service; and also promoting a $15.00 minimum wage by directing the OPM, the Office of Public Management, to develop recommendations to pay more federal workers at least $15.00 an hour.

Finally, just one final note: In addition to the executive orders that we’ll be issuing today, we will be focusing on another key priority of the President and the Vice President, which is equitable relief to small businesses.

In previous rounds of relief, too much of the support that has been dedicated to small businesses has left out the smallest businesses, mom-and-pop businesses that don’t have existing connections with a financial institution. And in particular, black-, Latino-, Asian-, and Native American-owned businesses were shot out completely. And a lot of that is because the outreach and communication from the federal government was either unclear or just nonexistent. And so, too many of those companies have been denied relief, and many of them had to shut their doors for good.

The President is completely focused on changing that. And he has – he has directed us to take immediate steps to make sure that we’re listening to these communities, we’re taking their advice on how to improve the distribution of relief.

So, just this morning, I met, along with representatives of the Small Business Administration, with dozens of groups representing black- and brown-owned businesses and other underserved communities, as well as lenders, to hear their ideas on how we can improve communications and act on them.

We discussed the President’s idea of having navigators who are dedicated to helping small-businesses owners find the right relief programs, fill out paperwork, get the money into their bank accounts – the kind of support that many of these businesses don’t have because of embedded relationships that more well-connected businesses do.

There are some groups out there in the country who are doing this really successfully. We’re determined to learn from them and to scale those efforts nationwide.

And in this vein, I look forward – I will be joining Vice President Harris later today. She will be meeting with small-business owners to discuss both the American Rescue Plan and the need for more effective small-business relief delivered without delay.

So that’s – that is – that is today, and that is our focus through a set of executive orders. And I’m happy to take a couple of questions, of which you all have many. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: Do you want me to (inaudible)?

MR. DEESE: Sure, sure. This is the good cop/bad cop for you. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: Kristen, go ahead.

Q: Thank you, Jen. Hi, Brian.

MR. DEESE: Hi.

Q: Good to see you. Thank you for taking questions today. I want to ask you about the call on Sunday with a bipartisan group of lawmakers. What can you tell us about the call? Will President Biden be on the call? And what is your message to moderate Republicans, like Mitt Romney, who say the economy can’t have another stimulus after you just passed a $900 billion relief package last month?

MR. DEESE: Yeah, thanks, Kristen. So, the President has made clear to his team that we should be reading out to members of Congress from both parties to make the case for the rescue plan and to engage with them, understand their concerns.

So that’s what we’re doing, both myself and senior members of the team. We have been doing that over the course of time. We’ll continue to do that, including the call on Sunday that I’ll be doing with a group of senators, and we’ll continue that engagement going forward.

In terms of the – in terms of the message, it’s pretty clear we’re at a precarious moment for the virus and the economy. Without decisive action, we risk falling into a very serious economic hole, even more serious than the crisis we find ourselves in. And economists across the board – including today, President Trump’s former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers – arguing strenuously that now is the time for that type of decisive action for the economy; and that we can’t wait to provide the resources to make sure that we can open up schools, we can get vaccine shots in people’s arms, and we can provide that bridging relief to families and small businesses.

There’s a lot of support. I met with a group of mayors yesterday – a bipartisan group of mayors from across the country. You hear from mayors, you hear from governors just crying out that in order to take on these crises, the public health and the pandemic and the economic crisis at the same time, now is the moment for that kind of decisive action. That’s the case we’ll be making.

Q: And just to be clear, Brian, will President Biden be on the call? And if not, why not, if this is so urgent?

MR. DEESE: So, like I said, we’re doing all outreach. The President has directed the team to do outreach to members of Congress, to business and labor organizations, to mayors and governors, and we’re in the process of doing that. I’ll be having that conversation on Sunday. You can expect that other members of the administration will be engaging with members of Congress across time as well.

Q: And just very quickly, Brian, if I could: What would a February impeachment trial – how would a February impeachment trial impact getting the COVID relief package passed?

MR. DEESE: Look, I think that we have faced – we are facing right now a period of multiple crises. And what we’re going to need is to be able to act on multiple fronts. And so that’s – certainly we understand, and as Jen has spoken to, we understand that the Senate has a constitutional obligation in this context, but we also have this pressing economic and pandemic priorities as well.

So we’re going to – that’s why we’re engaging. That’s why we’re focused on making the case. And certainly with the expiration that Congress will – will heed that call and move forward.

MS. PSAKI: I promise to do a whole briefing after this, so just – we’ll do econ questions for Brian.

Go ahead, Mary.

Q: Thank you very much. If you are able to pass this nearly $2 trillion plan, do you envision this being the last round of stimulus, or do you think you may need to do more?

MR. DEESE: What I can tell you is, if we don’t act now, we will be in a much worse place, and we will find ourselves needing to do much more to dig out of a much deeper hole.

So what I can tell you is the single most important thing, economically, right now is to take decisive action along the lines of what we’ve laid out in this rescue plan.

And you hear, again, from economists across the board – whether it’s the Federal Reserve, the International Monetary Fund, and economic experts across the political spectrum as well – when you’re at a moment that is as precarious as the one we find ourselves in, the risk of doing too little, the risk of undershooting far outweighs the risk of doing too much. And that’s the economic logic, the economic case behind this package.

I think you also heard the President clearly explain that his economic approach is one where rescue and recovery need to come together. And he’ll be speaking more about his recovery plans in the coming weeks that are about building back better, an urgent priority to start creating the kinds of good jobs that we know we’re going to need coming out if this crisis.

Q: And after the recession, it took nearly a decade to get the country back to full employment under the Obama administration. If you’re able to pass this rescue package, how long do you think it will take for every American who wants a job to be able to have one?

MR. DEESE: Well, I would just point to, you know, just one example of an independent analysis that was done of the American Rescue Plan by Moody’s. And what they said – what they found was that if we passed the American Rescue Plan now, we could see seven and a half million jobs created just this year, and we could see a full return to full employment a full year ahead of what is projected if we don’t. So those are the stakes involved.

And without this kind of decisive action, we’re going to have a much deeper economic hole, and that’s why we are so focused on making the case for a decisive action now.

MS. PSAKI: Justin.

Q: Thanks, Jen and Brian. I wanted to follow on Welker’s question a little bit. The President has talked about seeking “unity” on this bill, but also being “clear-eyed” when there’s policy differences. So I’m wondering if after this call, which is sort of the bipartisan coalition that you’d need to get this bill passed, if you expect to know whether the White House will pursue legislation – bipartisan legislation, or sort of head towards legislation through reconciliation.

And I’m also wondering if you could talk about what sort of red lines will be – the point at which you say “Okay, if you’re not willing to negotiate this in the bill, we’re going to just start working with Democrats as Speaker Pelosi and others have encouraged you to do.

MR. DEESE: Yeah. Well, I guess, I’d say two things to that. The first is, if you look at the elements of the American Rescue Plan, it was designed with a bottom-up focus on what the experts are saying is the actual need. What’s the actual need to get schools open? What’s the actual need to have a national vaccination distribution plan to underwrite the strategy that you heard Dr. Fauci and the President talk about yesterday? And what’s the need to support families and businesses during this transition?

And the second thing – the second thing is that, as a result of that, I think we’re seeing a lot of support, as I said, of bipartisan mayors, bipartisan governors, business organizations, Chamber of Commerce, business roundtable, economists across the board, saying this is a – this is a – an appropriate response to the unprecedented economic circumstance.

So that’s the – that’s the approach that we are taking, and that’s the – that’s the perspective that we are bringing here.

And I think that we are heartened to see that kind of support, and that’s the conversation that we’re going to have with members of Congress, be they Republicans or Democrats, including, you know, looking at where we are, where we’ve come over the last year, and the lessons we’ve learned that, without decisive action, we know the consequences. And so now is a moment not to undershoot or to wait and see; now is a moment to act.

Q: Right. I guess my question is: I think a lesson that a lot of – President Obama and others have talked about from the ACA fight was continuing to court Republican support beyond the point of it being productive. And so I’m wondering, for you guys, what is the decision point going to be where you – you know, you might have Republican mayors, but it doesn’t look like you have Republican senators right now. At what point do you say this is no longer worth, kind of, pushing forward?

MR. DEESE: We’re – we are – we’re making the case. We are engaging, we’re having conversations, we’re listening, and we are also focused on the urgency and the need to act. And so, you know, what I can tell you is that’s where the President’s focus is, that’s where the Vice President’s focus is. That’ll be – continue to be our focus is we want to – we want to act, and that’s going to be what guides us here.

MS. PSAKI: This is going to be the last one. But Brian will come back.

Q: Thank you for doing this, Brian. Back to the point of the objections of some of these Republican senators who have already spoken out – they say they just passed a $900 billion or so at the end of year, and most of it isn’t even out yet. How do you know, if that money hasn’t gotten into the system yet, that you will need to release more at this point? Why move ahead with a trillion-dollar plan if the $900 million that’s already been approved hasn’t even gotten out the door?

MR. DEESE: Sure. Well, first of all, you know, we waited for six months or more before Congress acted. And so, really, a lot of what that $900 billion was doing was filling a hole in the second half of 2020 that desperately needed to be filled. And so – so, it’s – this is not – this is not an issue of Congress acting too much; it’s an issue of not acting enough.

And the second is, if you look at the components of that $900 billion – again, we could go line by line, but these resources that are either already out the door or already – or are addressing economic challenges or public health challenges that were in the rearview mirror.

So as we find ourselves today looking forward, we need a very set – a very decisive set of actions if we are actually going to get schools open, if we’re actually going to get a vaccination program up and running. And I think that the case that we will make is that, today, we’re not where we need to be. And if we go line by line in the American Rescue Plan, these provisions are – have been designed based on an assessment of need, and we think that, looking forward, we’re quite confident that this is – this is the prudent assessment of needs.

Q: And I want to clarify two quick things. How many federal employees or federal contractors are making minimum wage right now? Do you guys know?

MR. DEESE: So I don’t – I don’t have an – I don’t have an estimate of that right now.

Q: And then, last night, you said that there are roughly 8 million people who haven’t received their stimulus checks.

MR. DEESE: Yes.

Q: How do you find them?

MR. DEESE: So, is a great question. This is principally an issue associated with people who are non-filers, so they’re not filing income taxes, in most cases because they don’t make enough money to need to file federal income taxes. And so, as a result, the way that the IRS and the Treasury Department in the previous administration has focused on getting those checks out has been to work through the tax system.

But those are people who are legally entitled to those checks, and so we have a number of strategies that we’re going to pursue. And that, today, we’ll start with the President’s executive order to direct the Department of the Treasury to consider a whole range of efforts, including creating an online portal that would allow people to easily identify if they’re eligible, to work through counterpart organizations to actually affirmatively do outreach to communities to actually do outreach to communities where we know there are significant numbers of these – of these families and these individuals to let people know that they may be available. Some of this is education outreach as well.

And I would just – you know, it’s a little connected to what I was saying about small business as well. What the President is directing all of us to do is to really focus on the affirmative steps that we can take and an affirmative strategy to say it’s not enough to just say, “Well, if folks don’t know or of they don’t have a network, then they’re left out in the cold.”

We’re going to – we’re going to work both directly in what the federal government can do and with partner organizations to try and make sure that every American who’s entitled to a benefit is actually receiving it.

Q: But if there’s someone out there right now who hears you saying this, and realizes, “I’m eligible and I haven’t gotten it,” right now, today, is there a way for them to raise their hand and say, “Send me my check”?

MR. DEESE: Well, starting today, we’re going to start a process to make that a lot easier – a lot easier for families, including being able to go online and do that. But that’s – that’s work that’s going to start today.

MS. PSAKI: I totally skipped the AP, so would you mind taking one more?

M

Q: Just one small –

MS. PSAKI: I didn’t mean to.

Thank you. I just have one small question on the mechanics of the EO targeting the food insecure. Does the USDA have the money to distribute these plus-ups that you’re taking about? Or is there going to need to be an appropriations from Congress?

MR. DEESE: So these are mandatory appropriated programs, so there’s no need for additional congressional action. It’s a change in regulation on the eligibility for benefits. So these are – these are the changes the can be made under existing statute and under existing budgetary authority without any additional action from Congress.

Q: The money is there though to –

MR. DEESE: Yeah. It’s a mandatory program, so it operates based on – the benefits are paid out based on who is eligible.

MS. PSAKI: Great. Thank you, Brian. He’ll be back.

MR. DEESE: Great. Thank you all.

MS. PSAKI: All right, everyone. Happy Friday. I have a couple of things just at the top – some things you’ve been asking about, so hopefully they address some of the questions you may have.

First, we applaud the Senate’s strong bipartisan confirmation of Lloyd Austin, who has been breaking barriers all of his life, as the first black secretary of Defense in our nation’s history.

Secretary Austin’s confirmation is a major benefit to our national security, and he’s going to hit the ground running, leading the Pentagon. He will be sworn in today, but he will be – he will be sworn in more officially by the – not “more officially,” I should say, but he will be sworn in more ceremoniously … officially, by the – not “more officially,” I should say – but he will be sworn in more ceremoniously on Monday by the Vice President.

Similarly, the President is very happy to see that Janet Yellen – the first woman who would ever lead the U.S. Treasury Department – was unanimously voted out of committee this morning. This should be only the beginning.

We’re facing unprecedented challenges and threats to our national security during these emergencies, and our country urgently needs our Secretary of Homeland Security in place. Alejandro Mayorkas is one of the most knowledgeable homeland security experts in the country. He has earned bipartisan praise, and he’s been previously confirmed by the Senate three times. This is a confirmation that we are going to continue to press on in all of our engagements and conversations with the Senate.

I also have some news to share on the President’s response to domestic violent extremism. The January 6th assault on the Capitol and the tragic deaths and destruction that occurred underscored what we have long known: The rise of domestic violent extremism is a serious and growing national security threat.

The Biden administration will confront this threat with the necessary resources and resolve. We are committed to developing policies and strategies based on facts, on objective and rigorous analysis, and on a respect for constitutionally protected free speech and political activities.

Our initial work on DVE will broadly fall into three areas. The first is a tasking from President Biden sent to the ODNI today requesting a comprehensive threat assessment, coordinate with the FBI and DHS, on domestic violent extremism. This assessment will draw on the analysis from across the government and as appropriate, nongovernmental organizations.

The key point here is that we want fact-based analysis upon which we can shape policy. So this is really the first step in the process, and we’ll rely on our appropriate law enforcement and intelligence officials to provide that analysis.

The second will be the building of an NSC capability to focus on countering domestic violent extremism. As a part of this, the NSC will undertake a policy review effort to determine how the government can share information better about this threat, support efforts to prevent radicalization, disrupt violent extremist networks, and more.

There’s important work already underway across the interagency in countering DVE, and we need to understand better its current extent and where there may be gaps to address, so we can determine the best path forward.

The third will be coordinating relevant parts of the federal government to enhance and accelerate efforts to address DVE. This considered, an NSC-convened process will focus on addressing evolving threats, radicalization, the role of social media, opportunities to improve information sharing, operational responses, and more.

Just a couple more items. As you all know, right now, the President and Vice President are having lunch. This is something they look forward to doing every week. They’ll be discussing their agenda, particularly getting relief to working families and containing the COVID crisis, and I’m sure they’ll talk about the last 48 Horus as well.

Later today, the President will speak with Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau. We had confirmed that earlier this week. He’ll also speak with President of Mexico Andrés Manuel López Obrador. We’ll have readouts of both those calls when they happen.

Yesterday evening, the First Lady held a virtual event to honor and show gratitude for the hard work of educators across the country, especially during this difficult time of COVID-19. She was accompanies by the presidents of both the American Federation of teachers and National Education Association. Over 11,000 educators attended the virtual meeting.

Today, she will tour the Whitman-Walker Clinic in Washington D.C., to highlight and promote support services for cancer patients and caregivers. And while I know that was in our guidance, we want to use this platform here to also share with you information about both the Vice President and the First Lady moving forward.

One more item, as well. Earlier this morning – or late this morning, I should say – the President called General Daniel Hokanson, who his head of the National Guard over the last several years. He talked about his own personal commitment and connection to the National Guard, given his son had served previously. And he offered assistance – any assistance needed of both the government, but also on a personal level, and asked him to reach out if here was anything that he ever needed.

I will stop there. Just a few updates. So, (inaudible), why don’t you kick us off?

Q: Yeah, thank you. I know this has been asked you several times, but now that there is an impeachment trial imminent, does President Biden have an opinion on whether former President Trump should be convicted?

And then, secondly, with how this is going, you’re not getting a little bit of momentum on confirmations. Do you have all that you need to get going on coronavirus, on the economy, and so forth? Is this just going to slow everything down? And does it also take away from the ability to unify?

MS. PSAKI: Well, first, remarkably, at this moment in history, we have some recent precedent of the Senate conducting an impeachment trial while also doing the business of the American people. And when the trial was being conducted last January, there were also hearings that were happening nearly on a daily basis, and we expect that type of work to continue.

I’ll also note, purely on an operational level, the House can also proceed and continue to do the work on the American rescue plan, move that forward, and we certainly expect and hope that they will do that.

But what the President’s view is: What cannot be delayed through this process is his proposal to get relief to the American people at this time of crisis. So he’s confident – he remains confident, after serving decades in the Senate, that the Senate members of both parties can walk and chew gum last the same time and can move forward with the business of the American people.

Q: Does he believe that former President Trump should be convicted?

MS. PSAKI: Well, he’s no longer in the Senate, and he believes that it’s up to the Senate and Congress to determine how they will hold the former President accountable, and what the mechanics and timeline of that process will be.

Q: I’d like to ask on – just on –

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

Q: – on DVE, if you don’t mind. Are the tools and methods available to federal law enforcement, are they what we need right now? Are we still stuck in sort of a post-9/11 mindeset? And does there need to be really broad, radical rethinking about how we, sort of, approach things in the federal law enforcement?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the reason that the President wanted to do this review and the national security team wanted to do this review is because it’s a priorate to ensure we are assessing what is happening in government and how we can do it better. So, clearly, more needs to be done. That’s why the President is tasking the national security team to do exactly this review on his first – his second full day in office. So it’s sending an indication of that.

Let me give you just a little bit more information. Homeland Security Advisor Dr. Liz Sherwood-Randall has asked Joshua Geltzer to pioneer a scoping effort in the first 100 days, in coordination with the Senior Director for Counterterrorism, Claire Linkins. Seltzer previously served as the Senior Director for Counterterrorism on the National Security Council from 2015 through 2017. And Deputy Homeland Security Advisor Russ Travers will also bring his extensive experience. So those are some of the people who will be involved in overseeing this review and an assessment of what steps are going to be following.

Go ahead, Kristen.

Q: Thanks, Jen. One on impeachment, and then, if I could, on COVID. On impeachment, did House Speaker Nancy Pelosi consult with President Biden before sending the article of impeachment over to the Senate?

MS PSAKI: I don’t have any calls between them to read out for you, Kristen. Obviously, they’re in regular touch. I can say, from a previous question you asked… obviously they’re in regular touch. I can say due to – from a previous question you asked Brian, that he’s been in touch with members of both parties about his agenda, even since he was inaugurated. So obviously a range of topics come up in those discussions, but I don’t have anything more to read out for you.

Q: And just on the timing: Leader McConnell has said that he’s going to push for a February timeline. I know that you don’t want to comment specifically on the timeline of this, but how would a February trial impact the effort to get COVID relief passed?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the President’s expectation – he believes in the Senate and their ability to multitask and get the work and business of the American people done at the same time while they are proceeding with an impeachment trial, on whatever timeline it begins and ends on, Kristen. So he’s –

Q: Is that fast enough for him? Is mid-February fast enough for President –

MS. PSAKI: He’s going to leave the timeline up to them. But what is important – and again, there’s precedent for this – is that they are continuing to move forward with getting the relief to the American people because that certainly can’t wait and be delayed until March, April, or May. We can’t afford that.

Q: If I could follow up with you on what you said about COVID yesterday, you said your goal is a million shots per day, which would double, you said, what the Trump administration was doing. According to the CDC, we have reached a million shots a day last week. So, given that – given the urgent need for vaccinations, why not aim higher?

MS. PSAKI: Well, first of all, we’re not packing up our bags and leaving at 100 days. We felt it was important. And we set that goal before any American had received a single shot. So, the incoming Biden administration felt it was important to set what was described as a “bold and ambitious” goal at the time. And many doubted we could even get there. So we want to set our own markers, and markers for the American public, so that they know we’re meeting our goal. If we surpass that, that’s great. We’re going to continue working after day 100 as well.

But there are a number of factors here Dr. Fauci also talked about. It’s not just having the access to the vaccine. Right? It is about addressing vaccine hesitancy. It’s about ensuring we have the materials needed. It’s about – and you all have done reporting, of course, on different issues going on in states, from New York and others, where there are concerns about supply, where there’s confusing about the process, and we need to address that. So there are a number of operational challenges that are happening at the same time.

Okay, let’s go to Ed.

Q: Yeah. Following up on the vaccine: Stakeholders we’ve talked to, state leaders, medical experts, have said one of the questions they’re trying to figure out is how much vaccine is already in the National Stockpile right now. Do you have any sense of that yet?

MS. PSAKI: Our team, as you know, has been on the ground for about 48 hours, but certainly what they want to determine is not just the operational issues I referenced, but also what we’re looking at in terms of supply. We are, as you may know – well, we are going to be starting briefings next week – I should say a couple times a week – with some of our health experts. So I expect they’ll be able to provide some update of what they’ve reviewed and what they have access to at that point in time.

Q: Two other quick ones on the previous occupant. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff is calling on President Biden not to extend the courtesy to President Trump of getting access to intelligence briefings. Has a decision been made on that?

MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of, but I’ll follow up with our national security team and see. We would certainly leave the decision to them – to the intelligence community.

Q: Can you clear up the confusion here about these – who exactly dismissed the chief White House usher?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it happened –

Q: Is it the Biden administration or was it the previous occupant?

MS. PSAKI: It is – it is a very important question. I’m so happy you asked it. It is – it happened before we walked in the door, Ed. So I don’t have any more information that what we’ve provided.

Go ahead.

Q: Not to belabor this point, but you’ve said that Congress can walk and chew gum at the same time, which is true, but there are also so many hours in the day. Has the President expressed any concern that a Senate trial will slow down additional confirmations or movement on a COVID relief bill?

MS. PSAKI: Only that it cannot. There are only so many hours in the day; you’re right. But, again, if there’s a Senate trial happening in the Senate – of course it would happen in the Senate – the House can move forward on a package. And certainly there is the capacity and ability to have discussions, have hearings, take steps to move forward on the President’s COVID relief package. And we don’t think it can be delayed or it can wait, so they’re going to have to find a path forward, and he’s confident they can do that.

Q: And President Biden has made pretty clear that he believes former President Trump is unfit to serve. Does he think he should be barred from holding federal office going forward?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ll leave it to Congress. He ran against him because he thought he was unfit to serve, and he’s no longer here because President Biden beat him. But we’ll leave the steps – the accountability steps to Congress to determine.

Q: And can I ask just two –

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

Q: – COVID questions? Any update as to whether the President may sit down with congressional leaders to discuss and try and hammer out this package?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, I will say, without giving you specifics necessarily but – which I know you’re looking for, so I shouldn’t have just walked myself into that rabbit hole, but –

Q: (inaudible)

MS. PSAKI: Right. (Laughs.)

But the President has already done a number of calls with Democrats and Republicans; that will continue. He’s very eager to be closely involved, roll up his sleeves, and be making calls himself. I don’t – soon – but I don’t have an update on any meeting.

I will though add, just for context, I know that the reporting – thanks for your reporting, I suppose – about the meeting this weekend kind of got out there, and obviously Brian confirmed it. There are a lot of meetings happening at one time with a lot of different officials. So I don’t – I wouldn’t see that as like this is the negotiating tool. That is one of many engagements and one of many discussions that the President, the Vice President, senior members of the White House team are having and are ongoing.

Q: And as outlined right now, is he confident that you have enough Democrats on board with this plan to pass this?

MS. PSAKI: Well, he announced the plan about a week ago. Right? And we are – his view is that this is how democracy should work, which is the President of the United States announces what his vision is and what his plan – his proposed plan is to address the crises the American people are facing. Then there are ongoing discussions with Congress. They like some pieces; they don’t like other pieces. You have all seen, Democrats like many pieces; Republicans even like some of the pieces, too. And we’ve – he’s had those encouraging conversations.

But the final package may not look exactly like the package the he proposed. That’s ok. That’s how the process – the legislative process should work.

Go ahead, Justin.

Q: Thanks. Welcome back.

MS. PSAKI: Thank you.

Q: I had a question on COVID, but I wanted to start with just some housekeeping from questions you had earlier in the week that you said –

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

Q: – you might circle back on.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

Q: So I was wondering if –

MS. PSAKI: The plane?

Q: Sure. We can start there. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: Oh, I didn’t – I was – okay. (Laughter.)

On the plane: We are certainly aware of the White House military unit’s proposal that has been submitted to them about reconsidering the color scheme of Air Force One. I can confirm for you here the President has not spent a moment thinking about the color scheme of Air Force One or anything in the house or any article of anything. So – and no one is going to submit a decision memo to him on that particular topic. But certainly we’re aware of the proposals, and as there are any updates, we’re happy to provide them to you.

Q: Maybe a little more substantively, I was wondering, you had mentioned syringes yesterday, but not if you were – or not specific companies that might have had DPA contracts, either started or come in. And then also, D.C. statehood was an issue that was raised in a previous briefing.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, on the first, I don’t have specific companies for you. I can circle back with our COVID team to see if we have more specifics. Obviously, those conversations are happening as we speak.

There was a question yesterday about whether the Defense Production Act had been invoked. It has been invoked. So those processes are now rapidly ongoing. The President has supported D.C. statehood in the past; that certainly remains his position. But I don’t have anything for you on the timeline or next steps there.

Q: And then, sorry –

MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead.

Q: Just the COVID one quickly. A, kind of, trademark of the last administration’s efforts were that there would be a big announcement of, like, Jared Kushner’s testing website, and then no timeline put on it, and it never really materialized. So I was interested when the Chief of Staff last night said that there would be a central clearinghouse for vaccine information. And I was wondering if you could provide a, sort of, expectation or a timeline on when Americans could expect if there’s a .gov email address – or .gov website or a phone number that they could go to to find out their specific vaccination information.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I know all members of my family are also asking the same question, as I’m sure yours are. It is something we’re eager to do and also provide more information to the American public about when they can call their pharmacy and schedule an appointment, just to make it much easier. The lack of information and the lack – the disinformation at times about how people can get the vaccine, when they can get the vaccine, and who’s eligible has created a great deal of confusion, as you all know.

I don’t have anything on the timeline, but I will remind you that the person who saved Healthcare.gov and the person who helped him are working on the COVID team. So we’re in very good hands. And they’re certainly committed to getting more information out in a more accessible way.

Go ahead.

Q: Thanks, Jen. Two questions. The first is having to do with the operations of the West Wing. There was curiosity about this in the early days of the Trump administration, so I’ll ask you. Who has Oval Office walk-in privileges in this White House? Do you have Oval Office walk-in privileges, as you speak for the President? And how is that access to the President controlled here?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t know that I’m going to give you a list of everybody, but I will convey that, you know, since the first conversation I had with then President-Elect Biden, he conveyed to me that it was important that we have regular conversations, and we’re able to have a discussion about how he sees things and questions that are coming up to ensure that we are providing you all with information not just about our policies, which is, of course, pivotal, but his – also his thinking on issues.

So, I talked to him this morning, and certainly I expect and anticipate I’ll have regular conversations with him, and there are a number of other people who have those conversations with him on a daily basis as well. That’s part of his style and part of governing, is to make sure people who are engaging with the outside world have an understanding of his thinking.

Q: One more question for you. Is Dr. Deborah Birx still a member of this President’s COVID response team?

MS. PSAKI: I will have to circle back on that one. That’s an excellent question, and I don’t have any information on it in front of me.

Go ahead, in the back.

Q: Thank you, ma’am. I’ve got a question about the Senate and then also a foreign policy question, if you’ll let me.

MS. PSAKI: Great. I love foreign policy questions.

Q: (Laughs.) Thank you. Senator McConnell and Senator Schumer have been going back and forth over discussions when it comes to a power-sharing situation. Obviously, the sticking point has been the filibuster. Are you concerned that those negotiations could potentially delay the President’s legislative agenda, his nominees? And then also, does the President still oppose overturning the legislative filibuster, like he did in that interview with The New York Times?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, his – the President’s position hasn’t changed, but I will say he’s conveyed in conversations with both now Leader Schumer and Senator McConnell that they need to have their conversations, of course, but he is eager to move his rescue plan forward. He is eager to get relief to the American public. He wants to work with both of them to do exactly that, and he wants it to be a bipartisan bill. So that is his objective.

Q: So his position hasn’t changed? He opposes overturning a legislative filibuster?

MS. PSAKI: He has spoken to this many times. His position has not changed.

Q: And then, the previous administration, on their way out the door, declared that China’s human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims were, quote, “crimes against humanity” and, quote, “a genocide.” Does the President agree with that determination, and will he keep it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I know that our Secretary of State is just about to get confirmed, or so Senator McConnell tells us. And I’m sure he will be reviewing – I know he will be reviewing a number of the decisions and assessments that have made. Obviously, the President has spoken before to the – to the horrific treatment of Uyghurs, but I don’t have anything more for you on that. I can check with our national security team and see if we have a more up-to-date statement.

Go ahead.

Q: Hi. Just a couple of quick follow-ups. The USDA aid for families that depend on schools to feed their children – that is $100 for three children every two months. Is that too little too late? What more are you thinking of doing?

MS. PSAKI: Well, first, I will say that the executive actions – and this is something when we were discussing this with the President earlier today – are just part of his effort to bring relief to the American people. He – his priority was overturning a number of detrimental steps that the Trump administration had taken and to take steps that he can through executive authority, through the review of the legal team to do – to bring that relief.

But he has also opposed this large package, as many of you have pointed out to all of us, to bring additional relief. And he wants to work with Congress to build on the executive actions to take a bipartisan approach to making sure we are – that kids have food to eat, that people who don’t have jobs have the relief they need, that we can get the vaccine out, that schools can reopen. Those are all priorities of his. But the – his big focus is on doing that in a bipartisan way with Congress.

Q: And there was this – there was this other detail mentioned about the $15.00 minimum wage – and I know Brian spoke about federal contractors – but the issue has obviously faced a lot of opposition in Congress over the years. Is President Biden planning to speak to Senator Schumer to bring the bill – the legislation that the House passed on $15.00 – to the Senate? I mean, how does this broadly help workers around the country?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, this is just one part of his step to provide relief to the American people. There are many federal contractors, of course, serving the government, and he felt it was something that was not just right to do, but something necessary to do. But he has proposed a significant relief package – or package that will provide assistance to many, many Americans, and he will continue to advocate for the $15.00 minimum wage moving forward. There’s no question about it.

Go ahead.

Q: Thank you very much, Jen. And I’d like to focus on vaccinations. There’s arguably something that the federal government can do in this front. In New York, there is a looming train wreck that’s actually happening today. Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio say that they’re going to be running out of their batches of first doses of the vaccine today. They don’t expect to get more until Tuesday, so there’s going to be a three-day gap. Is the federal government and is President Biden going to do anything to prevent that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’ve asked the CDC to look into exactly this issue and see what can be done. I don’t have any update beyond that, but certainly, we don’t want any states to run out of access to vaccine. We are hopeful that, in the weeks ahead, as we get our sea legs here and our team starts to operationalize engagement with governors, engagement with local officials, to provide them a greater understanding of supply, of what we are going to have access to, in a farther – in a timeframe that’s further in advance, that we can avoid situations like this in the future. But we’ve asked the CDC to look into what’s happening.

Q: Can I just follow up on that? There’s arguably a way that the federal government can just basically flip a switch and help alleviate some of this problem. New York City says it has 65,000 doses that are reserved for a second shot. Is the federal government considering allowing those to be used for the first shots so that there is not this three-day gap of first-shot vaccinations?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, in the past, we have – we have advocated for releasing additional access from the reserves, but we have really deferred to health and medical experts, so that’s why we have asked the CDC to look into what the options are.

Q: Okay. So you’ve asked the CDC to look into this so there isn’t a gap?

MS. PSAKI: Well, to look into – to have the conversation with officials in New York and to look into what is possible. But I don’t want to get ahead of them. We want to lean into health and medical experts to make the decisions.

Go ahead.

Q: Thanks, Jen. One of the executive orders that was signed yesterday requires that international travelers quarantine or self-isolate. Is the administration going to do anything to enforce that rule, or is it mostly an honor system?

And then, on coronavirus, one more: Has the President considered establishing any sort of national memorial to memorialize those people who have died from coronavirus?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Both are excellent questions, and the first one I should have information on, but I’ll have to follow up with you on both of them. I’m not aware of a discussion about the second piece, so that’s an interesting idea, and I will bring it back to people and see if there’s more to say.

Q: One more then. On the immigration bill: Has the President got a sense of any feedback on the immigration bill that was sent to the Hill yesterday? And is there an overall timeline for when he’d like to see that move?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we already have co-sponsors of the immigration bill, as you may have seen, which is obviously a good sign. There are a number of experts, as you know – because I’m guessing you have covered this issue for some time if you’re asking with a level of detail – who have worked in immigration reform, had bipartisan discussions in the past.

And we are hopeful that this proposal – that this bill that he sent forward – we sent forward yesterday will be an opportunity for a reset to really restart those discussions. But we expect that will be the first step here and that we’re hopeful that the components of this proposed bill – which are different from what has been proposed in the past because it includes smarter security, it includes a path to citizenship, but it also includes funding to address the root cause – will help be the basis of those discussions. And we would like to see them move forward quickly.

Okay, why don’t you go ahead, over there?

Q: You mentioned the issue of vaccine hesitancy. Does the President believe that all Americans should get the vaccine? And then for those who might be reluctant to get it, how do you convince them that it’s safe?

MS. PSAKI: Well, he does. The more people who are vaccinated, the safer we are. Health and medical experts have also conveyed that. That’s who I’m quoting.

In terms of addressing vaccine hesitancy, it’s a big challenge. You heard Dr. Fauci talk about this yesterday, and it will be easier for the first tranche of Americans to get the – to convince them to get the vaccine. They’re just looking for information on where to go and how to sign up and how to get grandma to come with them.

It is really the next layer of people who are concerned, as you alluded to, about the safety and the efficacy. And, unfortunately, there is a large percent – a larger than-should-be percentage in minority communities, communities of color, and so we’ve been quite thoughtful – or we want t one quite thoughtful about how we do outreach and engagement. Obviously, it’s making it accessible, so ensuring we have these community centers and health centers that can provide the vaccine, bit also who’s communicating on behalf of the government or on behalf of the safety of the vaccine.

The President certainly will be doing that; the Vice President will be doing that. I know a lot of celebrities have offered. That’s okay. But what’s been interesting in the data – or great; we welcome that. But what’s interesting in the data is that local doctors and local officials – you know, people from the community – are people who are most often trusted and so we’re really trying to empower and be able to fund local communities to be able to be the spokespeople to build that trust.

Go ahead, in the back.

Q: Thank you, Jen. On the – you mentioned that the COVID-package – the talks may evolve, it may change the package, and there are already some things that you feel like there’s bipartisan support for. Is there any consideration that’s taken place or that may take place in separating some of these pieces out and passing the things, first and foremost, that may generate bipartisan support, given the urgency that you’ve talked – talked about?

MS. PSAKI: Well, you know, I will say, as Brian said, that our objective here – the way that the package was designed was to address the core issues of the crisis. So I think the tricky piece of that question is: Do you delay vaccine funding to distribute the vaccine? Do you delay funding for unemployment insurance? Do you delay finding to reopen schools? Nobody wants to be having a conversation about why schools aren’t reopened in May or June – Democrats, Republicans, no members of Congress. So, there are key components in here that we – that he – that – in the package that was designed to address the current crises.

So, right now, we’re having a discussion about the big package. But, as you noted, there are viewpoints – points of view – no surprise – about many components of it. We certainly understand that, and we welcome the discussion and engagement with members of both parties.

Q: And is there any timeline on the fact-finding period for the domestic violence extremism orders that you — the letters that you’ve sent? Is there a period when that – you’re expecting to get maybe some action (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI: When we’re getting the report back? I don’t believe we have outlined that yet. Let me – we can follow up with you if there’s a specific timeline that we’re putting out publicly at this point.

Go ahead.

Q: Chairman Yellen, in committee yesterday, said that President Biden wouldn’t be signing any free trade deals because the focus was on the domestic economy and infrastructure. Where does that leave the potential for a UK-U.S. trade deal? Which – is it months away or next year or year after?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I can’t give you any timeline. I will say that what is important to the President and also our national security adviser Jake Sullivan is that we do – everything we do must help advance working families and the American middle class. And that certainly includes any trade agreements, and that is part of their objective and how they would approach it.

But, as you noted, at this point in time, we’re working to get the pandemic under control, provide economic relief to the American public. We, of course, can do multiple things at the same time, but those are our primary priorities at this point.

Q: Can I ask for a follow-up? Can I ask what happened to the Churchill bust and what should be read about its removal from the Oval Office?

MS. PSAKI: Oh, such an important question. It’s the plane of today. I will follow up on that. I don’t have – it is – it is something that may certainly be exiting in the complex. Of course, I’m familiar with the bust. But we will circle back with you if there’s more to update you on that.

Go ahead.

Q: Thanks. Two follow-ups to what they were just asking you. On domestic unrest: First of all, does the President have any comment on the ongoing violence in Oregon and Washington State that we’ve seen in recent days?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, we have had our team on the ground – our national security team – even before 12:01, early in the morning, on Inauguration Day because we wanted to be able to monitor events happening across the country and any unrest that was resulting from – from the last couple of weeks.

I haven’t spoken with him specifically about those events, but it is something our national security team – Liz Sherwood-Randall, our Homeland Security Advisor – is closing monitoring, of course. And – but, if we have an additional update, I’m happy to provide it to you.

Q: Thank you. Two more. He’s speaking with the leaders of Canada and Mexico.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hm.

Q: Any word on who else is next? And has there been any discussion about when and under what conditions he, the Vice President, the Secretary of State, would fly oversees to meet with world leaders?

MS. PSAKI: So, despite his desire – my desire, if that matters – to do a foreign trip, I think it will be a bit of time. I don’t have an update for you on when that will take place at this point.

But I would expect he’ll have, of course, additional foreign leader calls next week. As has been the case with our allies and partners, including many of the Europeans. But I don’t have a specific day-by-day calendar for you at this point.

Q: And this is his first weekend in the White House. Does he still plan to go to mass every weekend? And has he picked a parish here in the Washington area or a place where he has plans to go?

MS. PSAKI: Well, his faith is certainly quite important to him, as you know from covering him, and I wold expect that he attends church – continues to attend church very regularly. He has not selected a church yet. But if and when that happens, we’ll certainly keep you updated.

Let’s see, I haven’t taken the – go ahead, all the way in the back.

Q: So, Japan is planning to host a Tokyo Summer Olympic game in six months, but they have not made a final decision if they go (inaudible) or be cancelled because of the pandemic. So does the White House expect to be (inaudible), or is President Biden confident to be a safe Olympic game in Tokyo? And does he feel safe to (inaudible) Tokyo in this summer?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as a big Olympics fan, I’m certainly looking forward to it, but I have not talked to the President or our national security team about plans for the summer or the games. So we’ll have to take that question too, and circle back with you.

But did you have another one? Maybe I can get another one.

Q: Yeah. How about the — President Biden’s Indo-Pacific policy? I’m talking about Japan and North Korea. I understand (inaudible) does talk with his Japanese counterpart. But what is U.S. Policy on Japan?

MS. PSAKI: Well, U.S. policy and Japan, as it relates to North Korea?

Q: Both.

MS. PSAKI: Both. Okay. Well, our – the President’s view is, of course, that it is without question that North Korea’s nuclear ballistic missile and other proliferation-related activities constitute a serious threat to the international peace and security of the world, and undermine the global nonproliferation regime. And we obviously have – still have a vital interest in deterring North Korea – as does Japan, of course.

We will adopt a new strategy to keep the American people and our allies safe. That approach will begin with a thorough policy review of the state of play in North Korea, in close consultation with South Korea, Japan, and other allies on ongoing pressure options and the potential for any future diplomacy.

So I will say we will – as we have historically, the United States will work closely with partners in the region to determine a path forward and work together on deterrence.

Q: How about the the TPP? Is President Biden considering to rejoin the TPP – Trans-Pacific Partnership?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I think, you know, President Biden knows TPP wasn’t perfect and believes we need to make it stronger and better. But, at this point, you know, our focus and his focus as it relates to the economy, is on doing everything we can to advance working families and the American middle class. And so that will be his focus in the coming months.

Go ahead, Justin.

Q: Just a quick one on – on Inauguration Day, China sanctioned a number of outgoing Trump administration officials. I know the NSC has put a statement kind of denouncing that, saying that it was a political act. But there’s been a call from some Republicans on Capitol Hill to either retaliate with sanctions against Chinese officials or to expel the ambassador here in Washington. I’m wondering if you’re contemplating either of those actions?

MS. PSAKI: For those who didn’t have the statement, well, I’ll just – because it was a – there’s been a lot going on this week, I think we can all agree. The Biden-Harris administration has noted China’s sanctioning of more than two dozen former Trump administration officials, imposing these sanctions on Inauguration Day as they did – a seemingly – an attempt to play partisan divides. Americans of both parities should criticize this unproductive and cynical move. And President Biden looks forward to working with leaders in both parties to position America to outcompete China.

I don’t have any additional update, though on the considerations.

Go ahead.

Q: Thank you, ma’am. This morning, the White House put out a statement on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. As a candidate herself, the Vice President proposed an abortion rights law akin to the Voting Rights Act. Is that something she still supports? Is that something that the President is exploring?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update from the Vice President’s policy. Obviously, her policies are of the Biden-Harris administration, and the statement today speaks to those policies.

Q: Thanks, Jen. Can we have a week ahead?

MS. PSAKI: Oh, we have ventured to get you a week ahead. And I promise that we will do it in the future, but we don’t have any really detailed specifics to share with you at this point in time, other than the President will not be leaving the DMV, I can assure you, next week, and he will continue to sign additional executive actions and engage with members of Congress. We will have a more detailed schedule, but we’re still ironing out all the specifics.

Thank you everyone. Let’s do this again on Monday.

January 22: The Secretary of Health and Human Services sent a letter to Governors. From the letter:

Dear Governor:

Thank you for your continued partnership as we further coordinate the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) response. This unprecedented time has shown the resilience and adaptability of states, and the importance of our shared planning and preparation.

We are writing to you today to share more details regarding the public health emergency (PHE) for COVID-19, as declared by the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) under section 319 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. ary of Health and Human Services (HHS) under section 319 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. §247d). The current public health emergency was renewed effective January 21, 2021, and will be in effect for 90 days. To assure you of our commitment to the ongoing response, we have determined that the PHE will likely remain in place for the entirety of 2021, and when a decision is made to terminate the declaration or let it expire, HHS will provide states with 60 days’ notice prior to termination.

Predictability and stability are important given the foundation and flexibilities offered to sates that are tied to the designation of the PHE. Among other things, the PHE determination provides for the ability to streamline and increase the accessibility of healthcare, such as the practice of telemedicine. It allows under section 1135 of the Social Security Act, in conjunction with a Presidential Declaration under the National Emergencies Act or Stafford Act, the Secretary to waive or modify certain Medicare, Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) Privacy Rule requirements. The goal is to ensure to the maximum extend feasible that, in an emergency area during an emergency period, sufficient health care items and services are available to meet the needs of individuals receiving Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP and that providers that furnish such items and services can be reimbursed for them and exempt from sanctions, absent fraud or abuse.

Additionally, the available temporary 6.2 percentage point increase in the Medicaid Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) included Families First Coronavirus Response Act (Pub. L. 116-127) expires at the end of the quarter in which the PHE ends. With the extension and additional advance notice, we seek to provide you with increased budgetary stability and predictability during this challenging time.

In light of the PHE extension, you can expect the continued use of other emergency authorities, including Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act declarations and emergency use authorizations (EUA) for diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines. The Department will consider the use of any available flexibility to aid states in their response to this PHE.

We stand ready to support you as we continue to improve the nations’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Please do not hesitate to reach out to the HHS Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs with questions for further assistance.

Sincerely,

Norris W. Cochran IV – S

Norris Cochran

January 22: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) posted a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) titled: “Evaluation of Abbott BinaxNOW Rapid Antigen Test for SARS-CoV-2 Infection at Two Community-Based Testing Sites – Pima County, Arizona, November 3-17, 2020” From the Report:

Summary

What is already known about this topic?

The BinaxNOW rapid antigen test received Emergency Use Authorization by the Food and Drug Administration for testing specimens from symptomatic persons; performance among asymptomatic persons is not well characterized.

What is added by this report?

Sensitivity of the BinaxNOW antigen test, compared with polymerase chain reaction testing, was lower when used to test specimens from asymptomatic (35.8%) than from symptomatic (64.2%) persons, but specificity was high. Sensitivity was higher for culture-positive specimens (92.6% and 78.6% for those from symptomatic and asymptomatic persons, respectively); however, some antigen test-negative specimens had culturable virus.

What are the implications for public health practice?

The high specificity and rapid BinaxNOW antigen test turnaround time facilitate earlier isolation of infectious persons. Antigen tests can be an important tool in an overall community testing strategy to reduce transmission.

Rapid antigen tests, such as Abbott BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card (BinaxNOW), offer results more rapidly (approximately 15-30 minutes) and at a lower cost than do highly sensitive nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs). Rapid antigen tests have received Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for use in symptomatic persons, but data are lacking on test performance in asymptomatic persons to inform expanded screening to rapidly identify and isolate infected persons.

To evaluate the performance of BinaxNOW rapid antigen test, it was used along with real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing to analyze 3,419 paired specimens collected from persons aged ≥10 years at two community testing sites in Pima County, Arizona, during November 3-17, 2020. Viral culture was performed on 274 of 303 residual real-time RT-PCR specimens with positive results by either test (29 were not available for culture).

Compared with real-time RT-PCR testing, the BinaxNOW antigen test had a sensitivity of 64.2% for specimens from symptomatic persons and 35.8% for specimens from asymptomatic persons, with near 100% specificity in specimens in both groups. Virus was cultured from 96 of the 274 (35.0%) specimens, including 85 (57.8%) of 147 with concordant antigen and real-time RT-PCR positive results, 11 (8.9%) of 124 with false-negative antigen test results, and none of three with false-positive antigen test results. Among specimens positive for viral culture, sensitivity was 92.6% for symptomatic and 78.6% for asymptomatic individuals.

When the present probability for receiving positive test results for SARS-CoV-2 is elevated (e.g., in symptomatic persons or in persons with a known COVID-19 exposure), a negative antigen test result should be confirmed by NAAT. Despite a lower sensitivity to detect infection, rapid antigen tests can be an important tool for screening because of their quick turnaround time, lower costs and resource needs, high specificity, and high positive predictive value (PPV) in settings of high pretest probability. The faster turnaround time of the antigen test can help limit transmission by more rapidly identifying infectious persons for isolation, particularly when used as a component of serial testing strategies.

Paired upper respiratory swabs were collected at the same timepoints from persons aged ≥10 years receiving testing for SARS-CoV-, the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), at two Pima County Health Department community testing sites during November 3-17 (site A) and November 8-16 (site B). The sites offered SARS-CoV-2 testing to anyone in the community who wanted testing. A questionnaire capturing demographic information and current and past-14 day symptoms was administered to all participants.

At both sites, a health care professional first collected a bilateral anterior nasal swab, using swab provided in the BinaxNOW kit, immediately followed by a bilateral nasopharyngeal (NP) swab for real-time RT-PCR testing. Anterior nasal swabs were immediately tested on-site using the BinaxNOW antigen test according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

NP swabs were stored in phosphate buffered saline at 39° F (4°C) and analyzed within 24-48 hours by real-time RT-PCR using either the CDC 2019-nCoV Real-Time RT-PCR Diagnostic Panel of SARS-CoV-2 (2,582 swabs) or the Foson COVID-19 RT-PCR Detection Kit (837 swabs).

Viral culture was attempted on 274 of the 303 residual real-time RT-PCR specimens if either the real-time RT-PCR of BinaxNOW antigen test result was positive (the remaining 29 were not available for viral culture). Results from real-time RT-PCR and the BinaxNOW antigen test were compared to evaluate sensitivity, specificity, negative predictive value (NPV), and PPV. Statistical analyses were performed using SAS (version 9.4; SAS Institute). Cycle threshold (Ct) values from real-time RT-PCR were compared using a Mann-Whitney U Test; 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated using the exact binomial method. The investigation protocol was reviewed by CDC and determined to be non research and was conducted consistent with applicable federal law and CDC policy.

Paired upper respiratory swabs were collected from 3,419 persons, including 1,458 (42.6%) from site A and 1,961 (57.4%) from site B. Participants ranged in age from 10 to 95 years (median = 41 years) with 236 (6.9%) aged 10-17 years, 1,885 (55.1%) aged 18-49 years, 743 (21.7%) aged 50 years, and 555 (16.2%) aged ≥65 years. Approximately one third (31.4%) of participants identified as Hispanic or Latino, and three quarters (75.1%) identified as White.

At the time of testing, 827 (24.2%) participants reported at least one COVID-19-compatible sign or symptom, and 2,592 (75.8%) were asymptomatic. Among symptomatic participants, 113 (13.7%) received a positive BinaxNOW antigen test result, and 176 (21.3%) received a positive real-time RT-PCR test result. Among asymptomatic participants, 48 (1.9%) received a positive BinaxNOW antigen test result, and 123 (4.7%) received a positive real-time RT-PCR test result.

Testing among symptomatic participants indicated the following for the BinaxNOW antigen test (with real-time RT-PCR as the standard): sensitivity, 64.2%; specificity, 100%; PPV, 100%; and NPV 91.2%; among symptomatic persons, sensitivity was 35.8%; specificity, 99.8%; PPV, 91.7%; and NPV, 96.9%. For participants who were within 7 days of symptom onset, the BinaxNOW antigen test sensitivity was 71.1% (95% CI = 63.0% – 78.4%), specificity was 100% (95% CI = 99.3% – 100%), PPV was 100% (95% CI = 96.4-100%), and NPV was 92.7% (95% CI = 90.2% – 94.7%). Using real-time RT-PCR as the standard, four false-positive BinaxNOW antigen test results occurred, all among specimens from asymptomatic participants. Among 299 real-time RT-PCR positive results, 142 (47.5%) were false-negative BinaxNOW antigen test results (63 in specimens from symptomatic persons and 79 in specimens from asymptomatic persons).

Virus was recovered from 96 (35.0%) of 274 analyzed specimens that were positive by either test, including 85 (57.8%) of 147 with concordant positive results and 11 (8.9%) of 124 with false-negative BinaxNOW antigen test results. Virus was not recovered from any of the three available specimens with false-positive BinaxNOW antigen test results.

Among the 224 specimens undergoing viral culture that were analyzed with the CDC 2019-nCoV Real-Time RT-PCR Diagnostic Panel for detection of SARS-CoV-2, median Ct values were significantly higher for specimens with false-negative BinaxNOW antigen test results, indicating lower viral RNA levels than in those with concordant positive results (33.9 versus 22.0 in specimens from symptomatic persons [p<0.001] and 33.9 versus 22.5 in specimens from asymptomatic persons [p<0.001]).

Median Ct values for SARS-CoV-2 culture-positive specimens (22.1) were significantly lower than were those for culture-negative specimens (32.8) (p<0.001), indicating higher levels of viral RNA in culture-positive specimens. Among specimens with positive viral culture, the sensitivity of the BinaxNOW antigen test compared with real-time RT-PCR in specimens from symptomatic participants was 92.6% (95% CI = 83.7% – 97.6%) and in those from asymptomatic participants was 78.6% (95% CI = 59.1% – 91.7%).

Discussion

In this evaluation, using real-time RT-PCR as the standard, the sensitivity of the BinaxNOW antigen test was lower among specimens from asymptomatic persons (35.8%) than among specimens from symptomatic persons (64.2%). Specificity (99.8% – 100%) was high in specimens from both asymptomatic and symptomatic groups. The prevalence of having SARS-CoV-2 real-time RT-PCR positive test results in this population was moderate (8.7% overall; 4.7% for asymptomatic participants); administering the test in a lower prevalence setting will likely result in a lower PPV.

Among 11 participants with antigen-negative, real-time RT-PCR positive specimens with positive viral culture, five were symptomatic and six were asymptomatic. Some antigen-negative, real-time RT-PCR-positive viral culture, five were symptomatic and six asymptomatic. Some antigen-negative, real-time RT-PCR-positive specimens possibly could represent noninfectious viral particles, but some might also represent infectious virus not detected by the antigen test.

In a clinical context, real-time RT-PCR provides the most sensitive assay to detect infection. Viral culture, although more biologically relevant than real-time RT-PCR, is still an artificial system and is subject to limitations. Numerous biological (e.g., individual antibody status and specific sequence of the virus) and environmental (e.g., storage conditions and number of freeze-thaw cycles) variables can affect the sensitivity and outcome of viral culture.

Despite the limitations of interpreting culture-negative specimens, a positive viral culture is strong evidence for the presence of infectious virus. The performance of the BinaxNOW antigen test compared with real-time RT-PCR was better for those specimens with positive viral culture than for all specimens, with a sensitivity of 92.6% for specimens from symptomatic persons and 78.6% for those from asymptomatic persons.

The results of the current evaluation differ from those of an evaluation of the BinaxNOW antigen test in a community screening setting in San Francisco, which found a BinaxNOW antigen test overall sensitivity of 89.0% among specimens from all 3,302 participants, regardless of the Ct value of the real-time RT-PCR positive specimens.

The findings in this investigation are subject to at least five limitations. First, anterior nasal swabs were used for BinaxNOW antigen testing, but NP swabs were used for real-time RT-PCR testing, which might have contributed to increased detection for the real-time RT-PCR assay. Second, participants might have inadvertently reported common nonspecific symptoms as COVID-19-compatible symptoms. Third, this investigation evaluated the BinaxNOW antigen test, and results presented here cannot be generalized to other FDA-authorized SARS-CoV-2 antigen tests. Fourth, the BinaxNOW antigen test characteristics might be different depending on whether an individual had previously tested positive. Finally, many factors might limit the ability to culture virus from a specimen, and the inability to detect culturable virus should not be interpreted to mean that a person is not infectious.

Public health departments are implementing various strategies to reduce or prevent SARS-CoV-2 transmission, including expanded screening testing for asymptomatic persons. Because estimates suggest that over 50% of transmission occurs from persons who are presymptomatic or asymptomatic expanded screening testing, potentially in serial fashion for reducing transmission in specific venues (e.g. institutes of higher education, schools, and congregate housing settings), is essential to interrupting transmission.

Rapid antigen tests can be an important tool for screening because of their quick turnaround time, lower requirement for resources, high specificity, and high PPV in settings of high pretest probability (e.g., providing testing to symptomatic persons, to persons with a known COVID-19 exposure, or where community transmission is high). Importantly, the faster time from testing to results reporting can speed isolation of infectious persons and will be particularly important in communities with high levels of transmission.

Although the sensitivity of the BinaxNOW antigen test to detect infection was lower compared with real-time RT-PCR, it was relatively high among specimens with positive viral culture, which might reflect better performance for detecting infection in a person with positive viral culture, which might reflect better performance for detecting infection in a person with infectious virus present. Community testing strategies focused on preventing transmission using antigen testing should consider serial testing (e.g., in kindergarten through grade 12 schools, institutions of higher education, or congregate housing settings), which might improve test sensitivity in detecting infection.

When the present probability for receiving positive SARS-CoV-2 test results is elevated (e.g. for symptomatic persons or for persons with a known COVID-19 exposure) a negative antigen test result should be confirmed by NAAT. Asymptomatic persons who receive a positive BinaxNOW antigen test result in a setting with a high risk for adverse consequences resulting from false-positive results (e.g. in long-term care facilities) should also receive confirmatory testing by NAAT.

Despite their reduced sensitivity to detect infection compared with real-time RT-PCR, antigen tests might be particularly useful when real-time RT-PCR tests are not readily available or have prolonged turnaround times. Persons who know their positive test result within 15-30 minutes can isolate sooner, and contact tracing can be intimated sooner and be more effective than if a result is returned days later. Serial antigen testing can improve detection, but consideration should be given to the logistical and personnel resources needed. All persons receiving negative test results (NAAT or antigen) should be counseled that wearing a mask, avoiding close contact with persons outside their household, and washing hands frequently remain critical to preventing the spread of COVID-19.

January 22: The White House posted an Executive Order titled: “Executive Order on Economic Relief Related to the COVID-19 Pandemic.” From the Executive Order:

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Background. The pandemic caused by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has led to an economic crisis markedly the closure of small businesses, job loss, food and housing insecurity, and increased challenges for working families balancing jobs and caregiving responsibilities. The current economic crisis has affected Americans throughout the Nation, but it is particularly dire in communities of color. The problems are exacerbated because State and local governments are being forced to consider steep cuts to critical programs to address revenue shortfalls the pandemic has caused. In addition, many individuals, families, and small businesses have had difficulties navigating relief programs with varying eligibility requirements, and some are not receiving the intended assistance. The economic crisis resulting from the pandemic must be met by the full resources of the Federal Government.

Sec. 2. Providing Relief to Individuals, Families, and Small Businesses; and to State, Local, Tribal, and Territorial Governments. (a) All executive departments and agencies (agencies) shall promptly identify actions they can take within existing authorities to address the current economic crisis resulting from the pandemic. Agencies should specifically consider actions that facilitate better use of data and other means to improve access to, reduce unnecessary barrier to, and improve coordination among programs funded in whole or in part by the Federal Government.

(b) Agencies should take the actions identified in subsection (a) of this section, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, and in doing so should prioritize actions that provide the greatest relief to individuals, families, and small businesses; and to State, local, Tribal, and territorial governments.

(c) Independent agencies, as enumerated in 44 U.S.C. 3502(5), are strongly encouraged to comply with this section.

Sec. 3. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals

(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.

January 22: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) posted a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) titled: “COVID-19 Case Investigation and Contact Tracing Efforts From Health Departments – United States, June 25-July 24, 2020” From the Report:

Summary

What is already known about this topic?

Resources have been allocated to supplement the U.S. case investigation and contract tracing workforce as a public health tool to interrupt the spread of COVID-19.

What is added by this report?

Analysis of case investigation and contract tracing metric data reported by 56 U.S. health departments found wide variation in capacity and ability to conduct timely and effective contact tracing. Investigator caseload was inversely related to timely interviewing of patients and number of contacts identified per case.

What are the implications of for public health practice?

Enhanced staffing capacity and ability and improved community engagement could lead to more timely contact tracing interviews and identification of more contacts.

Case investigation and contact tracing are core public health tools used to interrupt transmission of pathogens, including SARS-CoV 2, the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); timeliness is critical to effectiveness. In May 2020, CDC funded 64 state, local, and territorial health departments to support COVID-19 response activities. As part of the monitoring process, case investigation and contact tracing metrics for June 25-July 24, 2020, were submitted by the CDC by 62 health departments.

Descriptive analyses of case investigation and contact tracing load, timeliness, and yield (i.e., the number of contacts elicited divided by the number of patients prioritized for the interview) were performed. A median of 57% of patients were interviewed within 24 hours of report of the case to a health department (interquartile range [IQR] = 27%-82%); a median of 1.15 contacts were identified per patient prioritized for interview (IQR = 0.62 -1.76), and a median of 55% of contacts were notified within 24 hours of identification by a patient (IQR = 32%-79%).

With higher caseloads, the percentage of patients interviewed within 24 hours of case report was lower (Spearman coefficient = – 0.68), and the number of contacts identified per patients interviewed within 24 hours of case report was lower (Spearman coefficient = -0.68), and the number of contacts identified per patient prioritized for interview also decreased among health departments, largely driven by investigators’ caseloads. Incomplete identification of contacts affects the ability to reduce transmission of SARS-CoV-2. Enhanced staffing capacity and ability and improved community engagement could lead to more timely interviews and identification of more contacts.

During July 31-August 14, 2020, baseline data on four metrics for June 25-July 24, 2020, (the evolution period) were submitted by 62 of 64 (97%) health departments funded through the Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity for Prevention and Control of Emerging Infectious Diseases Cooperative Agreement (ELC) to the Research Electronic Data Capture (REDCap) platform. These metrics, developed by the CDC COVID-19 Contact Tracing Innovations Support Team, were vetted by public health partners, including a number of ELC-funded health departments, and include the following:

1) Average caseload per investigator (the total number of probable and confirmed COVID-19 patents assigned for interview during the evaluation period divided by the total number of contact tracers,) and staffing model (separate, mostly separate, or the same health department staffing for case investigation and contact tracing);

2) case investigation timeliness (the percentage of persons with probable and confirmed COVID-19 prioritized for interview successfully reached within 24 hours by a health department staff member or representative);

3) contact tracing timeliness (the percentage of contacts notified by potential exposure to COVID-19 within 24 hours of elicitation of contact information by a patient;)

and 4) contact tracing yield, calculated as the number of contacts elicited divided by the number of patients prioritized for interview.

Because guidance for prioritization of patient interviews was not provided, health departments developed their own criteria, examples of which included interviewing patients when they became known to the health department or prioritizing patient interviews based on whether the patients were symptomatic, had underlying medical conditions, lived in congregate settings, or worked in health care occupations. Descriptive analyses of the four metrics were performed using SAS (version 9.4; SAS Institute). This activity was reviewed by CDC and was conducted with applicable federal law and policy.

Among the 62 funded health departments (6.5%) All U.S.-affiliated Pacific islands) reported no cases, and two (3.2%) submitted partial data and were excluded. Data from the remaining 56 (90%) health departments were analyzed. Because completeness of reporting by health departments varied by metric, denominators varied. Health departments with incomplete data for a metric were excluded for that specific metric.

Among reporting health departments, the median caseload per investigator during the evaluation period was 31, ranging from one to 195, among 54 (96%) health departments with complete data for this metric. Among patients prioritized for interview by these 54 health departments, a median of 57% were interviewed within 24 hours of report to the health department. Among 53 health departments that provided information on the average number of contacts assigned for follow-up per contact tracer, the median was 29, ranging from 0.5 to 200; a median of 55% of contacts were notified within 24 hours of elicitation by a patient. Among 48 health departments that reported information on contact notification 27 (56%) reported that at least one half of contacts were notified within 24 hours of elicitation. However, 12 health departments reported that fewer than one third (<32%) of contacts were reached within 24 hours.

Caseload and timeliness of case investigation were inversely correlated among 48 health departments with complete data for these metrics. (Spearman coronation coefficient = -0.68). Health departments with smaller average caseloads per investigator completed a larger proportion of patient interviews within 24 hours of report. Among four health departments that interviewed >90% of patients within 24 hours, investigators’ average caseloads were fewer than 30 patients each, whereas among four health departments with average caseloads >130 patients per investigator, <30% of interviews were completed within 24 hours.

When restricted to patients prioritized for interview (9,013), among 53 health departments that submitted complete data, 42 (79%) reported fewer than two contacts elicited per patient (median= 1.15). The number of contacts elicited per patient prioritized for interview was smaller in health department with larger caseloads (Spearman correlation coefficient = -0.60). These trends persisted in jurisdictions that allocated different staff members, mostly different staff members, or the same staff members to be case investigators and contact tracers (Spearman correlation coefficients = -0.89. -0.60., and 0.32, respectively).

Discussion

Health departments’ capacity and ability to conduct timely and effective case investigation and contract tracing varied widely across the United States. The ideal workforce size to adequately conduct case investigation and contact tracing per jurisdiction likely depends on several factors; however, the inverse relationship between staff member workload and completeness and timeliness of case investigation and contact tracing suggests that increases in staffing capacity might help reduce delays in interviewing patients and identify more contacts. Most state health departments are hiring more staff members to perform contact tracing.

Health departments might choose to prioritize case investigation and contact tracing based on whether persons are likely to be at higher risk for severe disease, live or work in congregate settings, or are part of a known cluster. Surges in cases might exceed the workforce capacity of jurisdictions to maintain high coverage of case investigation and contact tracing. Continued efforts to ensure notification of patients of their infection and contacts of their exposure are needed. CDC recommends use of prioritization measures to reach populations at risk as well as use of innovative technologies to support this public health imperative.

Approximately one half of health departments were able to achieve a median interval of ≤24 hours from first notification of the patient to interviews; likewise, approximately one half also were able to to achieve a median interval ≤24 from patient interview to contact notification, although these two groups did not always comprise the same health departments.

These findings are comparable with those in recent reports that described median intervals of 1 day from patient report to interview 1 and 3 days from case investigation to contact notification in two U.S. counties. The evaluation period in this report, June 25-July 24, 2020, corresponded to a time of increased COVID-19 incidence; the capacity of health departments in jurisdictions with large numbers of cases to conduct timely patient follow-up and contact notification could be overwhelmed.

The median number of contacts elicited per patient prioritized for interview was 1.15. The number of contacts elicited per patient would have been higher if limited to the number of patients who completed an interview rather than those who were prioritized for an interview; however, the number of patients who completed an interview was not collected at this time, and the calculation was not possible.

A recent assessment of two North Carolina counties reported an average of 3.0 and 4.6 contacts named per interviewed patient during a similar time frame. A contact tracing team in central Pennsylvania identified 953 contacts elicited among 536 confirmed patients (1.8 contacts per patient) during March 24-May 28; the lower number of contacts per patient might be related to the widespread stay-at-home orders that were in effect during that time.

One contributor to low numbers of contacts elicited might be reluctance to engage in contact tracing efforts or to name persons other than household contacts. The number of contacts elicited might vary by caseload, owing to worker fatigue or inexperience; with higher caseloads, contact tracers might are less likely to persist with questioning to identify additional contacts.

The findings in this report are subject to at least four limitations. First, these data are self-reported by health departments and were likely generated from new data systems designed to monitor case investigation and contact tracing. New systems could be prone to errors and might not reflect complete performance within the jurisdiction.

Second, data validity might be affected by health departments’ varying interpretations of metrics. These data include that obtained during health departments’ first reporting period on these metrics, which will continue to be refined.

Third, these data precluded calculation of the average number of contacts elicited per patient who completed an interview, and therefore do not align with other studies’ methods of calculating contacts elicited; the actual number is likely higher, warranting cautious interpretation.

Finally, an important component of contact tracing is laboratory test timeliness, which is not included in these data. During the COVID-19 pandemic, delays from the time of a laboratory specimen collection to report to the health department can have substantial impact on total time to reach a contact; the absence of these data in an assessment of contact tracing timeliness is an especially important limitation of this report.

Delays in interviewing COVID-19 patients decrease the likelihood of quickly identifying and quarantining contacts. Low ascertainment of contacts affects the nation’s potential to interrupt the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 through rapid notification, quarantining, and testing. Caseloads within jurisdictions influence how quickly health departments can reach patients, which might influence the completeness of data used to reach contacts. Increasing staffing capacity might improve the timeliness of case interviews. Strengthening awareness regarding state and local health department contact tracing efforts might improve perception or willingness to provide more complete lists of contacts.

January 22: The White House posted Remarks titled: “Remarks by President Biden on the American Rescue Plan and Signing of Executive Orders” From the Remarks:

THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, folks. Vice President Harris and I just received a briefing from our economic team, and we remain in a once-in-a-century public health crisis that’s led to the most unequal job and economic crisis in modern history. And the crisis is only deepening. It’s not getting better; it’s deepening.

Yesterday, we learned that 900,000 more Americans filed for unemployment – 900,000. They join the millions of Americans who, through no fault of their own, have lost the dignity and respect that comes with a job and a paycheck. So many of them never thought they’d ever be out of work in the first place. And just like my dad did when he was – he used to lie awake at night when I was a kid, staring at the ceiling, unable to sleep because he worried about whether or not he’s about to lose his healthcare, or whether we were going to be – or have the money to pay the mortgage because of the economic circumstance he was in.

And now, a lot of these folks are facing eviction, or waiting hours in their cars – literally hours in their cars, waiting to be able to feed their children as they drive up to a food bank. It’s the United States of American and they’re waiting to feed their kids.

Folks who are able to still keep their job, many have seen their paychecks reduced, and they’ve – and they’re barely hanging on, and wondering what’s next. Sometimes the anxiety about what’s going to happen next is more consequential than what actually happened.

But this is happening today, in America, and this cannot be who we are as a country. These are not the values of our nation. We cannot, will not let people go hungry. We cannot let people be evicted because of nothing they did themselves. They cannot watch people lose their jobs. And we have to act. We have to act now.

It’s not just to meet the moral obligation to treat our fellow Americans with the dignity and respect they deserve; this is an economic imperative. A growing economic consensus that we must act decisively and boldly to grow the economy for all Americans, not just for tomorrow, but in the future.

There’s a growing chorus of top economic – top economists that agree that in this moment of crisis, with this – with the interest rates as low as they are – historic lows – it is smart fiscal investment, including deficit spending. And they’re more urgent than ever.

You know, and that return on these investments and jobs and racial equity is going to prevent long-term economic damage and benefits that are going to far surpass the cost. If we don’t act, the rest of the world is not standing still, in terms of the competitive advantage and the competitive possibilities, relevant to us.

That our debt situation will be more stable and not less stable, according to these economists. And that such investment in our people is going to strengthen our economic competitiveness as a nation and help us outcompete our competitors in the global economy, because we’re going to grow the economy with these investments.

While the COVID-19 package that passed in December was a first step, as I said at the time, it’s just a down payment. We need more action, and we need to move fast.

Last week, I laid our a two-step plan of rescue and recovery to get through the crisis and to a better and stronger and more secure America. The first step of our American Rescue Plan is a plan to tackle the pandemic and get direct financial relief to Americans who need it the most.

You know, in just a few days – it’s just been a few days since I outlined this plan – it’s received bipartisan support from a majority of American mayors and governors. Business and labor organizations have together welcomed as an urgent action that’s needed. Even Wall Street firms have underscored its importance.

In fact, in a – an analysis by Moody’s estimates that if we passed our America Rescue Plan, the economy would create 7.5 million jobs just in this year alone. That would be on the way to the more than 18 million – I think it was 18,600,000 jobs that they believe would be created over the four-year period, with our Build Back Better Recovery Plan.

And with our America Rescue Plan, our economy would return to full employment a full year faster than without the plan.

Even President Trump’s – President Trump’s now – not some liberal organization – Presidents Trump’s top former economic adviser, Kevin Hassett, said, quote, he “absolutely is in favor” of this rescue plan. This almost doesn’t have a partisan piece to it.

We’re seeing the support because this plan takes a step that we so urgently need. More than just a step, a number of steps.

It funds big parts of the COVID-19 National Strategy that I released yesterday – we released yesterday. Our national strategy puts on – us on a war footing to aggressively speed up our COVID-19 response, especially on vaccines and testing and reopening our schools.

I found it fascinating – yesterday the press asked the question: Is, you know, 100 million enough? A week before, they were saying, “Biden, are you crazy? You can’t do 100 million in a hundred days.” Well, we’re going to, God willing, not only do 100 million, we’re going to do more than that. But this is – we have to do this. We have to move.

The American Rescue Plan also includes economic relief for most Americans who are in need. We’re going to finish the job of getting a total of $2,000 in direct payments to folks. Six hundred dollars, which was already passed, is simply not enough if you still have to choose between paying your rent and putting food on the table.

We’ll extend unemployment insurance benefits for millions of workers, beyond the deadline that is now set. It means that 16 million Americans who are currently relying on unemployment benefits while they look for work can count on these checks continuing to be there in the middle of this crisis.

The American Rescue Plan also addresses the growing housing crisis in America. Approximately 14 million Americans – 14 million – have fallen behind on rent, and many risk eviction. If we fail to act, there’ll be a wave of evictions and foreclosures in the coming months as this pandemic rages on, because there’s nothing we can do to change the trajectory of the pandemic in the next several months.

So, look, this would overwhelm emergency shelters and increase COVID-19 infections as people have nowhere to go and are socially – can’t socially distance.

The American Rescue Plan asks Congress to provide rental assistance for millions of hard-hit families and tenants. This will also be a bridge to economic recovery for countless mom-and-pop landlords who can’t afford not to have the rent.

But they can’t wait. So, on Inauguration Day, I directed my administration to extend nationwide restrictions on evictions and foreclosures. These crisis are straining the budgets of states and cities and in tribal communities that are forced consider layoffs and service reductions among essential workers.

Police officers, firefighters, first responders, nurses are all at risk of losing their jobs. Over the last year, more than 600,000 educators have lost their jobs in the cities and towns.

The American Rescue Plan will provide emergency funding to keep these essential workers on the job and maintain essential services.

Look, it will also help small businesses that are the engines of our economic growth. When you say “small business,” most people think the major corporate entities are the ones that hire everybody. These small businesses are the glue that hold – and they’re important – but these small businesses hold the community – are the glue that hold these communities together. They are hurting badly, and they account for nearly half of the entire U.S. workforce. Nearly half.

Our rescue plan will provide flexible grants to help the hardest-hit small businesses survive the pandemic and low-cost capital to help entrepreneurs of all backgrounds create and maintain jobs, plus provide essential goods and services that communities so desperately depend on.

Look, our recover plan also calls for an increase in the minimum wage at 15 – at least $15.00 an hours. No one in America should work 40 hours a week making below the poverty line. Fifteen dollars gets people above the poverty line. We have so many millions of people working 40 hours a week – working – and some with two jobs, and they’re still below the poverty line.

Our plan includes access to affordable childcare that’s going to enable parents, particularly women, to get back to work – millions who are not working now because they don’t have that care.

All told, the American Rescue Plan would lift 12 million Americans out of poverty and cut child poverty in half. That’s 5 million children lifted out of poverty.

Our plan would reduce poverty in the black community by one third and reduce poverty in the Hispanic community by almost 40 percent.

I look forward to working with members of Congress of both parties to move quickly to get this American Rescue Plan to the American people. And then we can move with equal urgency and bipartisanship to the second step of our economic plan, the Build Back Better – the recovery plan.

It’s a plan that will make historic investments in infrastructure, manufacturing, innovation, research and development, and clean energy, and so much more that’s going to create millions more jobs – good-paying jobs, not minimum wage jobs.

But while we work with members of both parties in the Congress, there are steps that we can and must take right now, For example, on Inauguration Day, I directed my administration to pause student loan repayments for interest for – the interest payments for Americans with federal student loans until at least September, so they’re not going to have to pay until September. They still pay the bill, as it stands now, but they will not accrue interest, and they don’t have to pay – begin to pay until September. And we may have to look beyond that, I might add.

Today, I’m signing an executive order that directs the whole-of-government – a whole-of-government effort to help millions of Americans who are badly hurting. It requires all federal agencies to do what they can do to provide relief to families, small businesses, and communities. And in the days ahead, I expect agencies to act.

Let me touch on two ways these actions can help change Americans lives. We need to tackle the growing hunger crisis in America. One in seven households in American – one in seven – more than one in five black and Latino households in America report they do not have enough food to eat. That includes 30 million adults and as many as 12 million children. And again, they’re in a spec- – in this situation through no fault of their own. It’s unconscionable.

The American Rescue Plan provides additional emergency food and nutrition assistance for tens of millions of children and families to address this crisis. But families literally can’t wait another day. As a result of the executive order I’m going to shortly sign, the Department of Agriculture will consider taking immediate steps to make it easier for the hardest-hit families to enroll and claim more generous benefits in the critical food and nutrition assistance area.

This is going to help tens of millions of families, especially those who can’t provide meals for their kids, who are learning remotely at home, are not receiving the regular meal plans that they’d have at school for breakfast or lunch. It’s going to also – and we also need to protect the health and safety of the American worker.

Right now, approximately 40 percent of households in American have at least one member with a preexisting condition. Just imagine: You’re out of work though no fault of your own. You like for unemployment while you’re looking for a job. You find one, and you get an offer. But then you find out there’s a high risk of you getting infected with COVID-19 because of your condition. You and your loved one – and you and your loved ones have ever even greater risk of death and serious illness because of the preexisting conditions, so you turn it down.

Right now, if you did that, you could be denied unemployment insurance because you’re offered a job and you didn’t take it. It’s wrong. No one should have to choose between their livelihoods and their own health or the health of their loved ones in the middle of a deadly pandemic.

Because of the executive order I’m about to sign, I expect the Department of Labor to guarantee the right to refuse unemployment – the employment that will jeopardize your health, and if you do so, you’ll still be able to qualify for the insurance. That’s a judgement the Labor Department will make.

Look, there are just two consequential ways that the action I’m taking today will help people in need. Another – another way to help approximately 2 million veterans maintain their financial footing: by pausing federal collections on overpayments and debts.

Another makes sure that federal contractors are receiving taxpayer dollars, provide their workers with the pay and benefits they deserve. These are places where federal tax dollars are administered – are being made available build things from ships to staircases. And we let out – the federal government lets the contract – and we’re going to make sure that they buy American and are made in America.

And here’s another: Right now, there are up to 8 million people that are eligible for direct payments from the CARES Act and the relief bill passed in December. They are entitled to those payments, but there’s not an easy way for those folks to assess – access them. So we’re making it a priority today to fix that problem and get them the relief they’re entitled to.

Look, I’m going to close and summarize this way: A lot of America is hurting. The virus is surging. We’re 400,000 dead, expected to reach over 600,000. Families are going hungry. People are at risk of being evicted. Job losses are mounting again. We need to act. No matter how you look at it, we need to act.

If – if we act now, our economy will be stronger in both the short and long run. That’s what economists – left, right, and center – are telling us, both liberal and conservative. We’ll be better and stronger across the board. If we act now, we’ll be better able to compete with the world. If we act now, we’ll be better able to meet our moral obligations to one another as Americans.

I don’t believe the people of this country just want to stand by and watch their friend and their neighbors, coworkers, fellow Americans go hungry, lose their homes, or lose their sense of dignity and hope and respect. I don’t believe that – especially in the middle of a pandemic that’s so weakened and wrecked [sic] so much havoc and caused so much pain on America. That’s not who we are.

The bottom line is this: We’re in a national emergency, and we need to act like we’re in a national emergency. So we’ve got to move with everything we’ve got, and we’ve got to do it together. I don’t believe Democrats or Republicans are going hungry and losing jobs; I believe Americans are going hungry and losing their jobs.

And we have the tools to fix it. We have the tools to get through this. We have the tools to get this virus under control and our economy back on track. And we have the tools to help people. So let’s use the tools, all of them. Use them now.

So I’m going to sign this executive order, but let me conclude again by saying: Folks, this is one of the cases where business, labor, Wall Street, Main Street, liberal, conservative, economists know we have to act now, but to allow us to be in the competitive position worldwide and be the leader of the world economy in the next year, and two, and three, and going forward.

So, thank you. I’m going to sign this executive order.

The first one is the economic relief related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

(The executive order is signed.)

The second one is protection – protecting the federal workforce.

(The executive order is signed.)

Thank you very much.

Q: Mr. President, do you support Mitch McConnell’s timeline for a February impeachment trial?

THE PRESIDENT: I haven’t heard the detail of it, but I do think that having some time to get our administration up and running we – they – I want to thank the Senate for passing our Secretary of Defense. It looks like our Secretary of Treasury; it looks like our Secretary of State is in place. So, the more time we have get up and running and meet these crises, the better.

January 22: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) posted a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) titled: “COVID-19 Trends Among Persons Aged 0-24 Years – United States, March 1 – December 12, 2020” From the Report:

Summary

What is already known about this topic?

Studies have consistently shown that children, adolescents, and young adults are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infections. Children and adolescents have had lower incidence and fewer severe COVID-19 outcomes than adults.

What is added by this report?

COVID-19 cases in children, adolescents, and young adults have increased since summer 2020, with weekly incidence higher in each successively increasing age group. Trends among children and adolescents aged 0-17 years paralleled those among adults.

What are the implications for public health practice?

To enable safer in-person learning, schools and communities should fully implement and strictly adhere to multiple mitigation strategies, especially universal and proper mask wearing, to reduce both school and community COVID-19 incidence to help protect students, teachers, and staff members from COVID-19.

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) case and electronic laboratory data reported to CDC were analyzed to describe demographic characteristics, underlying health conditions, and clinical outcomes, as well as trends in laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 incidence and testing volume among U.S. children, adolescents, and young adults (persons aged 0-24 years).

This analysis provides a critical update and expansion of previously published data, to include trends after fall school reopening, and adds preschool-aged children (0-4years) college-aged young adults (18-24 years). Among children, adolescents, and young adults, weekly incidence (cases per 100,000 persons) increased with age and was highest during the final week of the review period (the week of December 6) among all age groups.

Time trends in weekly reported incidence for children and adolescents aged 0-17 years tracked consistently with trends observed among adults since June, with both incidence and positive test results tending to increase since September after summer declines. Reported incidence and positive test results among children aged 0-10 years were consistently lower than those in older age groups.

To reduce community transmission, which will support schools operating more safely for in-person learning, communities and schools should fully implement and strictly adhere to recommended mitigation strategies, especially universal and proper masking, to reduce COVID-19 incidence.

Children, adolescents, and young adults were stratified into five age groups: 0-4, 5-10, 11-13, 14-17, and 18-24 years to align with educational groupings (i.e., pre-elementary, middle, and high schools, and institutions of higher education), and trends in these groups were compared with those in adults aged ≥25 years.

Confirmed COVID-19 cases, defined as positive real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test results for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, were identified from individual-level case reports submitted by state and territorial health departments during March 1-December 12, 2020. COVID-19 case data for all confirmed cases were analyzed to examine demographic characteristics, underlying health conditions, and outcomes. Trends in COVID-19 incidence were analyzed using a daily 7-dat moving average, aggregated by week, and expressed as cases per 100,000 persons.

Trends in laboratory testing volume and percentage of positive test results were assessed using COVID-19 electronic laboratory reporting data. SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR test results for May 31-December 12, 2020 were obtained by electronic laboratory reporting data submitted to CDC by health departments from 44 states, the District of Columbia, two territories, and one freely associated state; when information was unavailable in state-submitted data, records submitted directly by public health, commercial, and reference laboratories were used. Data represent test results, not numbers of persons receiving tests; test result date was used for analyses.

The weekly percentage of positive SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR test results was calculated as the number of positive test results divided by the sum of positive and negative test results. Because some data elements are incomplete for more than 47% of the cases, percentages were calculated only from among those with available information. This project was deemed nonresearch public health practice by the CDC and conducted consistent with applicable federal law and CDC policy. Analyses were conducted using R software (version 4.0.2; The R Foundation).

During March 1-December 12, 2020, a total of 2,871,828 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in children, adolescents, and young adults aged 0-24 years were reported in the United States. Among these cases, the majority (57.4%) occurred among young adults aged 18-24 years; children and adolescents aged 14-17 years accounted for 16.3% of cases, those 11-13 years for 7.9%, those 5-10 years for 10.9%, and those 0-4 years for 7.4%. Overall, 51.8% of cases occurred in females. Among the 1,504,165 (52.4%) children, adolescents and young adults with COVID-19 with complete information on race/ethnicity, 50.2% were non-Hispanic White, 27.4% were Hispanic/Latino (Hispanic), and 11.7% were non-Hispanic Black. The proportion of cases among Hispanic persons decrease with increasing age from 34.4% among those aged 0-4 years to 24.6% among those aged 18-24 years.

Among persons aged 0-24 years, weekly incidence was higher in each successively increasing age group; weekly incidence among adults aged 25-64 years and  ≥65 years exceeded that among children and adolescents aged 0-13 years throughout the review period. Weekly incidence was highest during the final week of the review period (the week of December 6) in all age groups: 99.9 per 100,000 (0-4 years), 131.4 (5-10 years), 180.6 (11-13 years), 255.6 (14-17 years), and 379.3 (18-24 years). Trends in weekly incidence for all age groups aged 0-17 years paralleled those observed among adults since June. The trend in incidence among young adults aged 18-24 years had a distinct and more prominent peak during the week of September 6.

Weekly SARS-CoV-2 laboratory testing among children, adolescents, and young adults increased 423.3% from 435,434 tests during the week beginning December 5. At their peak during the week of November 15, tests conducted among adults aged 18-24 years represented 15.3%. As observed in trends in incidence, weekly percentage of positive test results among children and adolescents paralleled those of adults, declining between July and September, and then increasing through December.

Percentage of positive test results among young adults aged 18-24 years peaked earlier in June and increased slightly in late August; this was not observed among other age groups. In contrast to incidence, percentage of positive test results among children and adolescents aged 11-17 years exceeded that among younger children for all weeks and that of all age groups since the week beginning September 6; test volumes over time were lowest among children and adolescents aged 11-13 years, suggesting incidence among these age groups might be underestimated.

Among cases reviewed, data were available for 41.9%, 8.9% and 49.1% of cases for hospitalizations, intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, and deaths, respectively. Among children, adolescents and young adults with available data for these outcomes, 30,229 (2.5%) were hospitalized, 1,973 (0.8%) required ICU admission, and 654 (<0.1%) died, compared with 16.6%, 8.6% and 5.0% among adults aged ≥25 years, respectively.

Among children, adolescents and young adults, the largest percentage of hospitalizations (4.6%) and ICU admissions (1.8%) occurred among children aged 0-4 years. Among 379,247 (13.2%) children, adolescents, and young adults with COVID-19 and available data on underlying conditions, at least one underlying condition, or underlying health condition that was reported for 114,934 (30.3%), compared with 836,774 (60.4%) among adults aged ≥25 years.

Discussion

Reported weekly incidence of COVID-19 and percentage of positive test results among children, adolescents, and young adults increased during the review period, with spikes in early summer, followed by a decline and then steeply increased in October through December.

In general, trends in incidence and percentage of positive test results among preschool-aged children (0-4 years) and school-aged children and adolescents (5-17 years) paralleled those among adults throughout the summer and fall, including the months that some schools were reopening or open for in-person education.

In addition, incidence among children, adolescents, and young adults increased with age; among children aged 0-10 years, incidence and percentage of positive test results were consistently lower than they were among older age groups. Case data do not indicate that increases in incidence or percentage of positive test results among adults were preceded by increases among preschool- and school-aged children and adolescents.

In contrast, incidence among young adults (aged 18-24 years) was higher than that in other age groups throughout the summer and fall, with peaks in mid-July and early September that preceded increases among other age groups, suggesting that young adults might contribute more to community transmission than do younger children.

Findings from national case and laboratory surveillance data complement available evidence regarding risk for transmission in school settings. As of December 7, nearly two thirds (62.0%) of U.S. kindergarten through grade 12 (K-12) school districts offered either full or partial (hybrid with virtual) in-person learning.

Despite this level of in-person learning, reports to CDC of outbreaks within K-12 schools have been limited, and as of the week beginning December 6, aggregate COVID-19 incidence among the general population in counties where K-12 schools offer in-person education (401.2 per 100,000) was similar to that in counties offering only virtual/online education (418.2 per 100,000).

Several school districts with routine surveillance of in-school cases report lower incidence among students than in the surrounding communities and a recent study found no increase in COVID-19 hospitalization rates associated with in-person education. In contrast to the evidence regarding K-12 school reopenings, previous studies provide evidence for increased community incidence in counties where institutions of higher education reopened for in-person instruction and presented case surveillance data showed unique trends.

Success in preventing introduction and transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in schools depends upon both adherence to mitigation strategies in schools and controlling transmission in communities. In settings with low community incidence, where testing and effective mitigation strategies were in place, studies of in-school transmission have provided preliminary evidence of success in controlling secondary transmission in child care centers and schools.

Schools provide a structured environment that can support adherence to critical mitigation measures to help prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19. When community transmission is high, cases in schools should be expected, and as with any group setting, schools can contribute to COVID-19 transmission, especially when mitigation measures, such as universal and proper masking, are not implemented or followed.

The findings in this report are subject to at least four limitations. First, COVID-19 incidence is likely underestimated among children and adolescents because testing volume among these age groups was lower than that for adults, the rate of positive test results was generally higher among children and adolescents (particularly those aged 11-17 years) than that among adults, and testing frequently prioritized persons with symptoms; asymptomatic infection in children and adolescents occurs frequently.

Second, data on race/ethnicity, symptom status, underlying conditions, and outcomes are incomplete, and completeness varied by jurisdiction; therefore, results for these variable might be subject to reporting biases and should be interpreted with caution. Future reporting would be enhanced by prioritizing completeness of these indicators for all case surveillance efforts.

Third, the reporting of laboratory data differs by jurisdiction and might underrepresent the actual volume of laboratory tests performed; as well, reporting of laboratory and case data are not uniform.

Finally, the presented analysis explores case surveillance data for children, adolescents and young adults; trends in cases among teachers and school staff members are not available because cases are not routinely reported nationally by occupations other than health care workers.

Lower incidence among younger children and deviance from available studies suggest that the risk for COVID-19 introduction and transmission among children associated with reopening child care centers and elementary schools might be lower than that for reopening high schools and institutions of higher education.

However, for schools to operate safely to accommodate in-person learning, communities should fully implement and strictly adhere to multiple mitigation strategies, especially universal and proper masking, to reduce COVID-19 incidence within the community as well as within schools to protect students, teachers, and staff members.

CDC recommends that K-12 schools be the last settings to close after all other mitigation measures have been employed and the first to reopen when they can do so safely. CDC offers tools to help child care programs, schools, colleges and universities, parents and caregivers plan, prepare, and respond to COVID-19, thereby helping to protect students, teachers, and staff members and slowing community spread of COVID-19.

January 22: The White House posted a Readout titled: “Readout of Senior Administration Economic Officials’ Meeting with Small Business Leaders and Advocates” From the Readout:

Today, Acting Small Business Administrator Tami Perriello, Director of the National Economic Council Brian Reese, Deputy Director of the National Economic Council Bhrat Ramamurti, and other senior Biden-Harris Administration officials from the SBA and Department of Treasury held a virtual meeting with more than 100 representatives from small business advocates, minority and women small business leaders, lenders, and other economic organizations.

The senior administration officials underscored President Biden and Vice President Harris’s commitment to providing small businesses with the support they need throughout the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, especially ensuring minority- and women-owned businesses have fair and equitable access to small business relief programs. They discussed how the Biden-Harris Administration will focus on identifying Navigators to ensure small business in communities of color and underserved communities can better access the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and other emergency assistance programs.

Acting Administrator Perriello also asked community navigators to share success about how the community navigator approach has helped underserved businesses. The American Business Immigration Coalition and the Resurrection Project shared their perspective on implementing a community navigator model in Illinois, and the City of Columbus provided insights on its community navigator efforts.

The senior administration thanked participants for joining and said they look forward to continued dialogue about the best ways to support small businesses throughout the ongoing economic crisis.

January 22: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) posted “COVID-19 Science Update released: January 22, 2021 Edition 73” From the information:

Social, Behavioral, and Communication Science

Vaccine Acceptance

Wide uptake of COVID-19 vaccines will be critical to ending the spread of SARS-CoV-2. Here we present findings from 2 surveys on factors associated with intent to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

PEER-REVIEWED

A. Attitudes toward a potential SARS-CoV-2 vaccine. Fisher et. al. Annals of Internal Medicine (December 15, 2020).

Key findings:

Of 991 participants, 57.6% intended and 10.8% did not intend to be vaccinated; 31.6% were not sure.

Intent to vaccinate was higher among men (64.0%) than women (51.6%) and among non-Hispanic Asian (77.5%) and non-Hispanic White (63.5%) persons than among non-Hispanic Black (39.3%) and Hispanic (44.5%) persons.

Factors independently associated with no intent to vaccinate included lower education, identifying as Black or Hispanic, not having received last year’s influence vaccine, and rural setting.

Reasons provide for not intending to vaccinate (n=83) were lack of trust (32.5%), not feeling comfortable with vaccines (21.7%) and concerns about side effects or safety (16.9%).

Methods: Cross-sectional survey of AmeriSpeak Panel members (representative sample covering ~97% of adults in the US household population), fielded from April 16-20. 2020. Limitations: Participants were surveyed before phase 3 vaccine effectiveness and safety trial data were available; low response rate (16.1%).

B. Predictors of intention to vaccinate against COVID-19: Results of a nationwide survey. Ruiz et. al. Vaccine (January 9, 2021).

Key Findings

Of 804 participants, 62.2% were likely and 14.8% unlikely to be vaccinated; 23.0% were unsure.

Intent to vaccinate was higher among men (17.9%) than women (53.8%), White (67.2%) than among Black (59.8%), or Asian (56.5%) persons, and among non-Hispanic (63.7%) than Hispanic (47.3%) persons.

Predictors of intent to vaccinate were vaccine knowledge, not believing vaccine conspiracies, perceiving COVID-19 as a threat, past year influenza vaccine,  ≥5 pre-existing conditions, male sex, household income ≥$120,000, Democratic Party identity, and preferring COVID-19 information sources other than social media.

Methods: Nationwide online survey of US English-speaking adults from an internet survey panel of 2.5 million residents on June 15 and 16, 2020. Limitations: Participants were surveyed before phase 3 vaccine effectiveness and safety trial data were available. Might have missed Spanish speakers and people without internet access.

Implication for both studies (Fisher et. al. & Ruiz et. al.): Increased vaccine hesitancy was more frequent among non-Hispanic Black or Hispanic persons in both studies. Credible information about vaccine safety and effectiveness might improve update. Later surveys suggest that COVID-19 vaccine acceptance among vulnerable populations might have increased with news reports on effective vaccines. Reducing vaccine hesitancy will require a multifaceted approach, including trustworthy information, effective communication, and trusted messengers, potentially including community leaders, clinicians, and social media influencers.


January 25, 2021

January 25: The White House posted a Presidential Actions titled: “A Proclamation on the Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Non-Immigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Coronavirus Disease” From the Presidential Action:

The Federal Government must act swiftly and aggressively to combat coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The national emergency caused by the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States continues to pose a grave threat to our health and security.

As of January 20, 2021, the United States had experienced more than 24 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 400,000 COVID-19 deaths. It is the policy of my Administration to implement science-based public health measures across all areas of the Federal Government, to prevent further spread of the disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), within the Department of Health and Human Services, working in close coordination with the Department of Homeland Security, has determined that the Republic of South Africa is experiencing widespread, ongoing person-to-person transmissions of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, including a variant strain of the virus known as B.1.351.

The World Health Organization has reported that the Republic of South Africa has over 1,400,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Another variant, known as B.1.1.7, is widely circulating and circulating and has been traced to the United Kingdom. Furthermore, a third variant strain, is known as B.1.1.28.1 and may impact the potential for re-infection, has been identified in Brazil.

Based on developments with respect to the variants and the continued spread of the disease, CDC has reexamined its policies on international travel and, after reviewing the public health situations within Schengen Area, the United Kingdom (excluding overseas territories outside of Europe), the Republic of Ireland, the Federative Republic of Brazil, and the Republic of South Africa, has concluded that continued and further measures are required to protect the public health from travelers entering the United States from those jurisdictions.

In my Executive Order of January 21, 2021, entitled “Promoting COVID-19 Safety in Domestic and International Travel,” I directed the Secretary of Health and Human Services, including through the Director of the CDC, and in coordination with the Secretary of Transportation (including through the Administer of the Transportation Security Administration), to further examine certain current public health precautions for international travel and take additional appropriate regulatory action, to the extent feasible and consistent with CDC guidelines and applicable law.

While that review continues, and given the determination of CDC, working in close coordination with the Department of Homeland Security, described above, I have determined that it is in the interests of the United States to take action to restrict and suspend the entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of noncitizens of the United States (“noncitizens”) who were physically present within the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom (excluding overseas territories outside of Europe), the Republic of Ireland, the Federative Republic of Brazil and the Republic of South Africa during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States.

NOW, THEREFORE, I JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR., President of the United States, by authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including sections 212(f) and 215(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. 1182(f) and 1185(a), and section 301 of title 3, United States Code, hereby find that the unrestricted entry into the United States of persons described in section 1 of this proclamation would, except as provided for in section 2 of this proclamation, be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and that their entry should be subject to restrictions, limitations, and exceptions. I therefore hereby proclaim the following:

Section 1. Suspension and Limitation on Entry. (a) The entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of noncitizens who were physically present within the Schengen Area, the United Kingdom (excluding oversees territories outside of Europe), the Republic of Ireland, and the Federative Republic of Brazil during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States, is hereby suspended and limited subject to section 2 of this proclamation.

(b) The entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants of noncitizens who were physically present within the Republic of South Africa during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States, is hereby suspended and limited subject to section 2 of this proclamation.

Sec. 2 Scope of Suspension and Limitation on Entry.

(a) Section 1 of this proclamation shall not apply to:

(i) any lawful permanent resident of the United States;

(ii) any noncitizen national of the United States;

(iii) any noncitizen who is the spouse of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident;

(iv) any noncitizen who is the parent or legal guardian of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, provided that the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident is unmarried and under the age of 21;

(v) any noncitizen who is the sibling of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, provided that both are unmarried and under the age of 21;

(vi) any noncitizen who is the child, foster child, or ward of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident or who is a protective adoptee seeking to enter the United States pursuant to the IR-4 or IH-4 visa classifications

(vii) any noncitizen traveling at the invitation of the United States Government for a purpose related to containment or mitigation of the virus;

(viii) any noncitizen traveling as a nonimmigrant pursuant to a C-1, D, or C-1/D nonimmigrant visa as a crewmember or not or any noncitizen otherwise traveling to the United States as air or sea crew;

(ix) any noncitizen

(A) seeking entry into or transiting the United States pursuant to one of the following visas: A-1, A-2, C-2, C-3 (as a foreign government official or immediate family member of an official), E-1 (as an employee of TECRO or TECO or the employee’s immediate family members), G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, NATO-1 through NATO-4, or NATO-6 (or seeking to enter as a nonimmigrant in one of those NATO categories); or

(B) whose travel falls within the scope of section 11 of the United Nations Headquarters Agreement;

(x) any noncitizen who is a member of the U.S. Armed Forces and any noncitizen who is a spouse or child of a member of the U.S. Armed Forces

(xi) any noncitizen whose entry would further important United States law enforcement objectives, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, on their respective designees, based on a recommendation of the Attorney General or his designee; or

(xii) any noncitizen whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their designees.

(b) Nothing in this proclamation shall be construed to affect any individuals eligibility for asylum, withholding of removal, or protection under the regulation issued pursuant to the legislation implementing the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, consistent with the laws and regulations of the United States.

Sec. 3 Implementation and Enforcement. (a) The Secretary of State shall implement this proclamation as it applies to visas pursuant to such procedures as the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, shall implement this proclamation as is applied to the entry of noncitizens pursuant to such procedures as the Security of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, may establish.

(b) The Secretary of State, the Secretary of Transportation, and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall ensure that any noncitizen subject to this proclamation does not board an aircraft traveling to the United States, to the extent permitted by law.

(c) The Secretary of Homeland Security may establish standards and procedures to ensure the application of this proclamation at and between all United States ports of entry.

(d) The Secretary of State, the Secretary of Transportation, and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall ensure that any noncitizen subject to this proclamation does not board an aircraft traveling to the United States, to the extent permitted by law.

(c) The Secretary of Homeland Security may establish standards and procedures to ensure the application of this proclamation at and between all United States ports of entry.

(d) Where a noncitizen circumvents the application of this proclamation through fraud, willful misrepresentation of a material fact, or illegal entry, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall consider prioritizing such noncitizen for removal.

Sec 4. Termination. This proclamation shall remain in effect until terminated by the President. The Secretary of Health and Human Services shall, as circumstances warrant and no more than 30 days after the date of this proclamation and by the final day of each calendar month thereafter, recommend whether the President should continue, modify, or terminate this proclamation.

Sec. 5 Amendment. Section 5 of Proclamation 9984 of January 31 2020 (Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel Coronavirus and Other Appropriate Measures To Address This Risk), and section 5 of Proclamation 9992 of February 29, 2020, (Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel Coronavirus), are each amended to read as follows:

“Sec. 5 Termination. This proclamation shall remain in effect until terminated by the President. The Secretary of Health and Human Services shall, as circumstances warrant and no more than 30 days after the date of the Proclamation of January 25, 2021, entitled “Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Coronavirus Disease 2019,” and by the final day of each month thereafter, recommend whether the President should continue, modify, or terminate this proclamation.”

Sec. 6 Effective Dates. (a) The suspension and limitation on entry set fourth in section 1 (a) of proclamation is effective at 12:01 a.m. eastern standard time on January 26, 2021. The suspension and limitation on entry set forth in section 1(a) of this proclamation does not apply to persons abroad a flight scheduled to arrive in the United States that departed prior to 12:01 a.m. eastern standard time on January 26, 2021.

(b) The suspension and limitation on entry set forth in section 1(b) of this proclamation is effective standard time on January 30, 2021. The suspension and limitation on entry set forth in section 1(b) of this proclamation does not apply to persons aboard a flight scheduled to arrive in the United States that departed prior to 12:01 a.m. eastern standard time on January 30, 2021.

Sec. 7. Severability. It is the policy of the United States to enforce this proclamation to the maximum extent possible to advance the national security, public safety, and foreign policy interests of the United States. Accordingly:

(a) if any provision of this proclamation, or the application of any provision to any person of circumstance, is held to be invalid, the remainder of this proclamation and the application of its provisions to any other persons or circumstances shall not be affected thereby;

(b) if any provision of this proclamation, or the application of any provision to any person or circumstance, is held to be invalid because of the lack of procedural requirements, the relevant executive branch officials shall implement those procedural requirements to confirm with existing law and with any applicable court orders.

Sec. 8. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in the proclamation shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b) This proclamation shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c) The proclamation is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforcement at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies or entities, its offers employees or agents, or any other person.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-fifth day of January, in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty-one, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-fifth.

JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.

January 25: The White House posted a Press Briefing titled: “Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki, January 25, 2021” From the Press Briefing:

MS. PSAKI: Good afternoon. Happy Monday to everyone. A couple of announcements at the top: First, as a part of this administration’s accessibility and inclusion efforts, starting today, we will have an ASL- an American Sign Language – interpreter for our daily press briefings. Today’s interpreter, Heather, is joining us virtually. The President is committed to building an America that is more committed to building an America that is more inclusive, including Americans with disabilities and their families.

Next, I wanted to share a few updates from the COVID response team. First, today, the President will sign a presidential proclamation to reduce the spread of COVID-19 through travel, especially as we see faster-spreading variants emerging across the world. This proclamation is part of the Biden administration’s whole-of-government, decisive, and science-driven response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of particular note, on advice of our administration’s medical and COVID team, President Biden has decided to maintain restrictions previously in place for the European Schengen area, the United Kingdom, Republican – Republic of Ireland, and Brazil. With the pandemic worsening and more contagiant [sic] variant – contagious variants spreading, this isn’t the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel. And in light of the contagious variant B1532, South Africa has been added to the restricted list.

Additionally, beginning tomorrow, international travelers to the United States must provide proof of a negative test within three days of travel to airlines prior to departure. The President is taking these steps on the advice of his COVID-19 and medical team.

And we’re already working as a real partner to the states to address their needs to vaccinate the public. This weekend, West Virginia asked the Biden administration for assistance at an understaffed vaccine distribution center. At the President’s direction, FEMA was deployed help support the vaccination site.

This comes as part of the President’s order last week that directs FEMA to stand up vaccination centers and support states’ vaccination efforts. We look forward to continuing to be partner of the states moving forward.

Last, on the COVID -last update on COVID, I wanted to briefly preview the first of our public health briefings, which will begin this Wednesday and will be done regularly for the foreseeable future. These will be science-led briefings, featuring our public health officials and members of our COVID-19 response team. These briefings will typically happen three times a week to provide the American people with key updates on the virus and our government’s response.

They’re a reflection of our commitment to being transparent and hones with the public about the pandemic and the work of our whole-of-government team is doing every day, and you will be able to participate within those, of course, as well.

Finally – I think – finally, this morning President Biden issued an executive order setting the policy that all Americans who are qualified to serve in the armed forces of the United States should be able to serve. Today’s action revokes the Presidential Memorandum of March  2013, 2018, and also confirms the revocation of the Presidential Memorandum of August 25th of 2017.

Today’s action fulfills another campaign promise. With this EO, no one will be separated or discharged from the military or denied reenlistment on the basis of gender identity. And for those transgender service members who were discharged or separated because of their gender identity, their cases will be reexamined.

President Biden believes that gender identity should not be a bar to military service and that America’s strength is found in its diversity. America is stronger at home and around the world when it is inclusive.

Last thing – sorry, I said it was the last, but a lot – a lot going on here. This afternoon, the President will sign an executive order that takes an important step to support American manufacturing, With this “Buy American” executive order, the President is already making good on his commitment to building a future that is made in America by all of America’s workers.

Through the Buy American executive order, the President will put to work the early $600 billion in taxpayer dollars that goes toward federal contracting in support of American manufacturers and good-paying jobs for America’s workers. The EO directs agencies to close loopholes in how “Made in America” products are measured so we can close loopholes and ensure – increase the amount of a product that must be made in the U.S. for it to qualify under Buy American law.

He will also appoint a senior White House official to oversee this policy to ensure it’s actually enforced and that all agencies are seeking small- and medium-sized American businesses to make the products they need.

The EO will also tighten and make public the waiver process so that American workers and manufacturers can see how federal dollars are spent where they’re going.

So I will stop there. And, Jonathan, why don’t you kick us off?

Q: Thank you, Jen. We know you have to leave at two o’clock, so we’ll just get started right now. Two topics for you, please, one foreign and one domestic.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

Q: Overseas first: Over the weekend, there were dozens of significant protests in Russian cities over the arrest of Alexei Navalny, which were put down harshly by police there. What sort of U.S. response is being considered? What sort of actions or sanctions could occur? And when does the President plan to speak to President Putin?

MS. PSAKI: First, I’d like to point all of you to a statement that was released this weekend by the State Department, strongly condemning the use of harsh tactics against protestors and journalists in cities throughout Russia. These continued efforts to suppress Russian’s rights to peacefully protest and assemble and ex- and their freedom of expression and the arrest of opposition figure Alexei Navalny and the crackdown on protests that followed are troubling indications of further restrictions on Russian civil society.

So, I’ll just reiterate our call from here on Russian authorities to release all those detained for exercising their universal rights and for the immediate and unconditional release of Alexei Nalvany. We also urge Russia to fully cooperate with the international community’s investigation into the poisoning of Alexei Nalvany and credibly explain the use of a chemical weapon on its soil.

And last week, we announced that the President issued a tasking to the intelligence community for its full assessment of a range of activities, including of course the SolarWinds cyber breach, Russian interference in the 2020 election, its use of chemical weapons against Alexei Nalvany, and the alleged bounties on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. That is ongoing. That review is a 100-day review, so we’ll have an update on that when it concludes.

Actually, let me – I apologize, I may have missatated that. It’s not – I don’t have a timeline for the timeline of the review; it’s something that’s ongoing. There’s – it’s a priority, of course.

Q: And has a call been scheduled with President Putin?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any calls to predict for you at this point. But obviously, the President is picking up the phone, engaging with a range of foreign leaders – Europeans and others. There’s more planned in the next couple of days, and we’ll have readouts as those occur.

Q: Okay. And one on here at home: The President has repeatedly stressed the urgency of the COVID relief package, the need to get something done now. With that in mind, you know, considering the reaction of Republican lawmakers to outreach that was done over the weekend, should there be a more narrow focused on the virus and vaccine that could be done sooner?

And while we know that these White House officials have talked to the Hill, can you please speak to the President’s personal involvement? Who has he spoken to?

MS. PSAKI: The President has been personally engaging and engaging with Democrats and Republicans. We’re not going to read out all those calls for you because they are private conversations, and we feel that’s the most effective way to get this package moving forward. As you know, there was a call that occurred yesterday that we did a brief readout on from that call – part of our ongoing engagement to talk with Democrats and Republicans.

And I’ll convey this is how, in the President’s view – and we talked about this, this morning – this process should work. He puts his policy forward, his vision forward, and then Democrats and Republicans can engage and give their input and feedback on what they think is going to work and how to move this package forward. So, in our view, this is working exactly as it should work.

And – but, in terms of the – is there concern – Democrats themselves – Senator Sanders has – an independent, of course – and Speaker Pelosi have suggested that reconciliation should be considered now, that time is wasting; there isn’t time for this sort of back – legislative back-and-forth.

MS.PSAKI: Well, the President himself has conveyed the urgency of moving this package forward, and that’s certainly something he has also conveyed privately to Democrats and Republicans.

And it’s not just him; there’s urgency to the American people for this package to move forward because we are going to hit a cliff – an unemployment cliff – unemployment insurance cliff, I should say – in March, where millions of people won’t be able to have access to unemployment insurance. We’re going to hit a point where we won’t have enough funding for vaccine distribution. Nobody wants to have the conversation – no member of Congress – in May and June when there – we don’t have the funding to put back – to reopen schools, I should say.

So, there’s an urgency he has conveyed. I will say, as it relates to reconciliation, just to take a step back. Everybody watching is not as in the weeds on the Senate process as all of you. So let me just take a moment to explain.

Reconciliation is a mean – a means of getting a bill passed. There are a number of means of getting bills passed. That does not mean, regardless of how the bill is passed, that Democrats and Republicans cannot both vote for it.

So, the President obviously wants to make this bipartisan. Hence, he’s engaging with members of both parties, and he remains committed to that moving forward.

Go ahead, Kaitlan.

Q: Just real quick. You were talking about the cliff in March. Does he think it will get passed by March?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s an urgency to moving it forward, and he certainly believes it needs to be – there needs to be progress in the next couple of weeks.

Q: So he thinks by March it could get passed?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t want to give a deadline on it, Kaitlan, but I think we are all mindful and looking at that timeline in March as to when we will hit the unemployment cliff. And it’s – it’s vital to get things done quickly and rapidly, as quickly as possible.

Q: So you said, last week, he wants it to be bipartisan. Of course, we’ve already seen the Republicans pushing back on the price tag, the $15 minimum wage, and who is qualifying for these stimulus checks. So is he willing to come down on any of that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to negotiate from here, not that you’re expecting me necessarily to do that. But again, the President feels this is working as it should. He proposed his package. He’s getting feedback. We’re having conversations. We don’t expect the final bill to look exactly the same as the first bill he proposed.

I will remind you, though, that the – bipartisan package that passed in December had the same thresholds for the checks – $150,000, about approximately that amount for families; about $75,000 for individuals – in terms of who would have access to that – those checks.

And each component of this package is vital to get us through this period of time. So that’s how the President looks at the package: that each of them are essential – not just vaccine distribution money, but funding to ensure that people can make sure they are putting food on the table, that their kids are eating, that they can get – that they have the bridge needed to get to the other side of the pandemic.

Q: Okay. And then just quickly: Yesterday, the CDC Director said she could not say how much vaccine there was left to go out. I know it’s complicated what’s being shipped and distributed and actually injected, but is there at least a ballpark amount that officials are aware of, of how much vaccine there is?

MS. PSAKI: Well, our team is working right now. We’ve been her for five days to evaluate the supply so that we can release the maximum amount while also ensuring that everyone can get the second dose on the FDA-recommended schedule.

So the confusion around this issue – which we acknowledge there is some confusion – is – speaks to a larger problem, which is what we’re inheriting from the prior administration, which is much worse than we could have imagined.

So we are assessing now what we have access to and ensuring that we have more of a rapid engagement with states so that they have more of a heads-up on what to expect in the weeks ahead.

Q: But just to button this up: Gus Perna still works there, right? And he’s in charge of the logistics. So could he say how much vaccine there is, since they’re in charge of where it’s going?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, there is a new CDC Director in charge (inaudible) spoke to this. And I think what we’re trying to do now is fully assess what we have access to, what the status of the vaccine supply looks like, and ensure that we’re communicating that accurately and effectively with the public.

Go ahead.

Q: Thanks, Jen. Acknowledging the confusion around the lack of clarity about the vaccine availability, give us a sense of just how stunning that revelation is. I mean, what was President Biden’s reaction to learning that?

MS PSAKI: Well, I will say, having sat in a lot of meetings with President Biden about COVID and his efforts to get the pandemic under control, he asked a lot of detailed questions about the status of supply, the status of distribution, the status of states when there’s reporting from all of you on states not having the information they need. Those are specific issues he raised.

We’re eyes wide open, all of us, including the President, with the knowledge that we were not walking into a circumstance where there was going to be a concrete assessment or plan presented to us when we walked in, and there wasn’t. That’s why he put forward his 200-page vaccine distribution plan last week, and that’s why he hired an experienced and talented team to get to the bottom of exactly what we’re looking at so that we can have that assessment moving forward.

Q: When does the administration expect to have a better sense of the available inventory?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as I noted at the top, we’re going to be doing regular briefings – three times a week. We’ll start those on Wednesday. I don’t know what assessment they’ll have by Wednesday, but what our objective is is to be providing clear and accurate information to the public.

Q: And what’s the White House’s message to Democrats, to President Biden’s supporters who take him at his word and say, as it relates to COVID relief, “We are in a national emergency and we should act like it,” and they want action now. They don’t want any sort of delay, and they don’t want to experience the opportunity costs that might come from a delay in waiting for Republicans to get onboard.

MS. PSAKI: You mean with the COVID package?

Q: With the package. Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Well, he – he agrees. He doesn’t want there to be delay either. And I would note that 70 percent of the public agree with what you said, according to the Ipsos poll this weekend, that the components of this package – the funding for vaccine distribution, but also funding to ensure people can apply for unemployment insurance, put food on the table, money to reopen schools – the public supports that. And we anticipate that the public will be conveying to the leaders who are elected to represent them exactly that.

Go ahead.

Q: Can I just ask you to clarify the travel requirement, or the testing requirement?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hm.

Q: That applies to all people boarding planes into the U.S., including U.S. citizens? Anyone getting on a plane needs to test negative?

MS. PSAKI: From overseas?

Q: From overseas into the U.S.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

Q: Regardless of citizenship.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

Q: Okay, great. I also want to ask a couple of things that the Trump administration did in the final stages that I’m wondering whether you folks are going to intervene. One is that they issued a license to an Israeli billionaire named Dan Gertler to allow him to access the U.S. financial system. That license is in place through the end of January 2022. Will the Biden administration intervene at all? Or does that stand?

Another one is that he begin the delisting – or issued an executive order that triggered the delisting of several Chinese companies, in particular three telecoms that sought a review of that. Do you plan on tweaking or rescinding that order – in other words, stopping the delisting process for these three Chinese telecoms?

MS. PSAKI: On the first question: Fortunately, we’re about to have a Treasury Secretary confirmed, and I’d send you to them to speak to any reviews they may overtake in those sanction – undertake, I should say – in that sanctions review.

And then, on the Chinese, I know there was some reporting, perhaps from your outlet, of course, this morning on that particular issue. As you – as we’ve noted in here previously, we – there are a number of reviews, complex reviews – interagency reviews, I should say, that we’re going to undertake as it relates to a range of regulatory actions and a range of relationships with companies as it relates to Chinese investment and other issues as well.

Those complex reviews are just starting. And as I – as I noted, they will need to go through the interagency, so the State Department, the Treasury Department, a number of others, who will review how we move forward. We’re starting from an approach of patience as it relates to our relationship with China. So that means we’re going to have consultations with our allies, we’re going to have consultations with Democrats and Republicans, and we’re going to allow the interagency process to work its way through to review and assess how we should move forward with our relationship.

Q: It is possible that those reviews could lead to a change in this delisting process down the road?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t want to get ahead of any review, but certainly we’re taking an overarching look at all of our – all of it. And as we have more to report, we’ll report back to you.

Q: Finally, can I just ask broadly what the President believes President Trump’s legacy is with regards to China, in particular around the tariffs he imposed? Does President Biden like those tariffs? They remain in place on quite a large sum of Chinese goods.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

Q: Is that under review at all, or are those appropriate at this time?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as is the case with other areas of our relationship with China, he will take a multilateral approach to engaging with China, and that includes evaluating the tariffs currently in place. And he wants to ensure that we take any steps in coordination with our allies and partners, and with Democrats and Republicans in Congress, as well.

So nothing to report at this point in time, but we’re committed to – the President is committed to stopping China’s economic abuses on many fronts, and the most effective way to do that is through working in concert with our allies and partners to do exactly that.

Go ahead.

Q: I wanted to follow up a little bit on some of the China issues. I know that there was an executive order requiring the sale of TikTok’s U.S. business, and I wondered if there were plans to revoke it or enforce it, or what is the current thinking on that matter?

MS. PSAKI: It’s a great question. I haven’t had the opportunity to speak with our national security team about it. I’m happy to take it and see if we can get you more – something more specific.

Go ahead.

Q: Thank you so much. Two questions for you. The first is, sort of, stepping back for a minute at what the administration’s goals are. Unity is something that President Biden spoke about quite a bit on the campaign trail. He talked about it during the transition. Could you talk a little bit more specifically about what unity will mean to this administration, whether there are any kind of benchmarks that you are – you’ve identified to show that unity has been achieved?

And I just – sort of, to contrast with the, you know, the coronavirus task force – of course, you’ve got very detailed, you know, benchmarks about what that – what you want to achieve, sort of, moment by moment. But with unity, are you talking about bipartisanship? Are you talking about something that’s widely popular in the United States? Can you, sort of, go through what Biden is thinking about when he says that he wants to achieve unity?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, the President came in to lead the country, obviously at a time of great division where there was a great need for healing, in his view. And he spoke about that in his Inaugural Address just last week.

So, “unity,” to him, of course, approaching our work on legislative issues through a bipartisan lens, working with Democrats and Republicans, trying to find a path forward on how we can work together to address the problems the American people are facing. That’s part of it. But it also means projecting that he is going to govern for all people and address all the issues that the American people are facing.

So, for example, that means talking about how the COVID pandemic impacts not just Democrats, but Republicans; not just blue states, but red states; ensuring that he is reaching out to Democratic and Republican governors, Democratic and Republican mayors; and conveying, in every opportunity he has, that this is a problem that we’re all facing together.

So I think it’s a little bit different than how you can mark, of course, achieving 100 million shots in the arms of Americans in the first 100 days. But unity is about the country feeling that they’re in it together, and I think we’ll know that when we see it. But he’s going to be working on that and committed to that every opportunity he has to speak to the public.

Q: I have another question. The Trump administration – or the Obama administration initially had wanted to put Harriet Tubman on the 20-dollar bill. The Trump administration dragged their feet on that. I wanted to see if the Biden administration has a, sort of, view of the timeline on whether or not she should be on the paper currency.

MS. PSAKI: I was here when we – when we announced that, and it was very exciting. It hasn’t moved forward yet, which would have been surprised to learn at the time.

The Treasury Department is taking steps to resume efforts to put Harriet Tubman on the front of the new 20-dollar notes. It’s important that our notes – our money, if people don’t know what a note is – reflect the history and diversity of our country, and Harriet Tubman’s image gracing the new 20-dollar note would certainly reflect that. So we’re exploring ways to speed up that effort, but any specifics would of course come from the Department of Treasury.

Go ahead.

Q: Another one on China. China’s Xi Jinping spoke earlier today. I’m wondering if there’s any official White House reaction to his comments. He talked about unity, as well, and also talked about cooperation on coronavirus and other issues. Is that likely – is that the kind of statement today likely to change or affect the stance that the U.S. – that the Biden administration has toward China on trade and technology?

MS. PSAKI: No. I think our approach to China remains what it has been since – for the last months, if not longer. We’re in a serious competition with China. Strategy competition with China is a defining feature of the 21st century. China is engaged in conduct that hurts American workers, blunts our technological edge, and threatens our alliances and our influence in international organizations.

What we’ve seen over the last few years is that China is growing more authoritarian at home and more assertive abroad. And Beijing is now challenging our security, prosperity, and values in significant way that require a new U.S. approach.

And this is one of the reasons, as we were talking about a little bit earlier, that we want to approach this with some strategic patience, and we want to conduct reviews internally, through our intreragency – even thoughI stumbled over that; I needed a little more coffee before I came out here, I guess. We wanted to engage more with Republicans and Democrats in Congress to discuss the path forward. And most importantly, we want to discuss this with our allies.

So, no, the comments don’t change anything. We believe that this moment requires a strategic and a new approach forward.

Go ahead. Hopefully, if I answer your question – I’m sorry, we’ll go to you next.

Q: I was going to pile on a little more on China while we’re on this topic. But I wondered – Huawei has been on the entity list for, like, two years now. Just before the Trump administration left office, they initiated a new policy to basically revoke and issue intents to deny licenses for even more innocuous items that U.S. companies were selling to Huawei. Does the Biden administration plan to keep Huawei on the entity list and continue to enforce this much more stringent blanket ban on U.S. goods sales to China – to Huawei?

MS. PSAKI: Well, technology, as I just noted, is, of course, at the center of the U.S.-China competition. China has been willing to do whatever it takes to gain a technological advantage – stealing intellectual property, engaging in industrial espionage, and forcing technology transfer.

Our view – the President’s view is we need to play a better defense, which must include holding China accountable for its unfair and illegal practices and making sure that American technologies aren’t facilitating China’s military buildup.

So he’s firmly committed to making sure that Chinese companies cannot misappropriate and misuse American data. And we need a comprehensive strategy, as I’ve said, and a more systematic approach that actually addresses the full range of these issues.

So there is, again, an ongoing review of a range of these issues. We want to look at them carefully, and we’ll be committed to approaching them through the lens of ensuring we’re protecting U.S. data and America’s technological edge. I don’t have more for you on it. As we do, we’re happy to share that with all of you.

Go ahead.

Q: President Biden – now-President Biden condemned protests and violence on the far left and the far right before he was President. Why haven’t we heard anything directly from him about the riots in Portland and the Pacific Northwest since he was inaugurated?

MS. PSAKI: Well, he’s taking questions later this afternoon, so perhaps he will. I will say from here that President Biden condemns violence and any violence in the strongest possible terms. Peaceful protests are a cornerstone of our democracy, but smashing windows is not protesting, and neither is looting. And actions like these are totally unacceptable, and anyone who committed a crime should be prosecuted to the fullest extent. Our team is, of course, monitoring it very closely.

Q: And as he pushes for federal help to businesses affected by COVID, should we expect to see any kind of federal assistance for these businesses up there that are affected by COVID and riots?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I think you know his – because we’ve had this conversation in here already a few times since I joined the team – that his focus is on getting the American people through this period of time and pushing forward on a relief package that will get them the assistance they need as it relates to the pandemic and the impact of the pandemic.

So I don’t have anything more for you on that.

Q: And just one more about the announcement you made off the top about the travel restrictions. When President Trump was imposing travel restrictions in March, specifically on China, then-candidate Biden called it “xenophobic” and “fearmongering.” So now-President Biden is putting travel restrictions on people coming in from other countries. What would do we use to describe that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t think that’s quite a fair articulation. The President has been clear that he felt the Muslim ban was xenophobic. He overturned the Muslim ban. He also, though, has supported – and himself, even before he was inaugurated – steps, travel restrictions in order to keep the American people safe to ensure that we are getting the pandemic under control. That’s been part of his policy.

But he was critical of the former president for having a policy that was not more comprehensive than travel restrictions. And he conveyed at the time, and more recently, the importance of having a multifaceted approach – mask wearing, vaccine distribution funding in order to get 100 million shots in the Arms of Americans in the first hundred days, not just travel restrictions.

Go ahead, in the back.

Q: Yes. Two questions: one domestic and one foreign, please. The first is that Bill Pascrell, a congressman from New Jersey, just about an hour ago suggested firing the entire Postal Board of Governors, and he sent a letter to the President to that effect. Is there any plans to make changes, given what happned at the Post Office over the last couple of years, to try and remove the Postmaster General?

MS. PSAKI: It’s an interesting question. We all love the mailman and mailwoman. I don’t have anything for you on it. I’m happy to check with our team on it and see if we have any specifics. I’m not aware of anything, but we’ll circle back with you.

Q: And on a foreign policy question: It’s my understanding that the previous administration did not release the War Powers Act resolution before they left office. Is there any plans for – I know there’s a new Secretary of Defense as of –

MS. PSAKI: As of a few – well, I guess, Friday but –

Q: Technically Friday –

MS. PSAKI: Technically Friday.

Q: – but ceremonially today.

MS. PSAKI: Yes, exactly.

Q: Is there any plan to either release the Trump administration letter on the troop levels in various countries overseas, or to update that more quickly than might be required by the statute?

MS. PSAKI: It’s an excellent question. I would send you to the Department of Defense and my old friend, John Kirby, who I’m sure would be happy to answer your question.

Go ahead in the back – with the excellent mask on. I can’t even tell what’s on it.

Q: (Laughs.) Flamingos.

MS. PSAKI: Flamingos? All right, we’re getting creative with masks. I like it.

Q: After one year.

So just back to Russia: Given the many unsolved deaths over the years of President Putin’s opponents – or near-deaths, in the case of Navalny – would President Biden be holding President Putin personally accountable for the continued health of Navalny while he’s in prison?

And just one other thing, which is different but related: What’s the position of this administration on Paul Whelan? Because his family and, some of his supporters said, basically, the previous administration just, you know, forgot about it. What’s going on with Paul Whelan, and what’s your position? Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me take the second question and talk to our national security team and get you something more comprehensive. And certainly we don’t plan to follow the same pattern of the last administration.

But on the first question, I would say this is the reason why the President tasked his national security team, his intelligence team, with assessing a range of issues as it relates to our relationship with Russia, including the SolarWinds breach, including the poisoning of Alexei Navalny, which we have been quite outspoken about – from our National Security Advisor to the State Department, and we’ll continue to be.

We want to see the review conclude, but as always been the case, the President reserves the right to respond in the time and manner of his choosing, and I’m not going to take options off the table from here.

Go ahead.

Q: Hi, I’m the print pooler today, so if possible, can I ask a question also on behalf of one of my colleagues who couldn’t be here –

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Go ahead.

Q: – due to social distancing? Okay.

So I’ll start with my question. New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio announced today that the city is delaying the opening of large COVID-19 vaccination sites at Yankee Stadium, at Citi Field. Governor Cuomo has said the state has the capacity to vaccinate up to 100,000 folks a day, if there was supply.

As the administration is, you know, analyzing and reconfiguring its distribution plan, how heavily is infrastructure being weighed? In other words, does New York get first dibs because it has the capacity to do this right away?

And then the second question would be on – kind of, on the same COVID note. There are seniors who don’t have access to websites, don’t have folks vouching for them. Is there anything the administration is doing to ensure that seniors who don’t have, you know, anybody to assist them with scheduling appointments, that they don’t fall through the cracks?

And then I have a second question from another reporter.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. So, on the first question, this is a really important one. Infrastructure is pivotal. It’s not just about the science. Scientists, medical experts, they’ve – what they’ve done over the last year in moving this vaccine forward has been a Herculean effort, but now it is about ensuring that there are more vaccinators and there are more places to actually distribute the vaccine.

And clearly, cases – scenarios where there are large facilities, wether they’re football fields or others, to do that can be quite efficient. There are other places around the country where we are seeing developments along those fronts, and we’re certainly encouraging that.

But this is a multifaceted challenge. It’s not just about having supply, which is pivotal, of course. It’s also about having more people who can physically put the shots into the arms of Americans, and its about ensuring we have places that can be done.

I don’t have anything for you on prioritization. That’s something, of course, that our team is working through, and we want to ensure that we are working closely with governors across the country to effectively do that.

Tell me your second question again. And I know you have one after this, but –

Q: Well, the second part of that question was just: Will there be any federal assistance to support states in reaching out to seniors who may not have access to, you know, Internet or even a phone to schedule these appointments? That’s been a complaint that’s emerged a lot.

MS. PSAKI: Yeah, it’s a really important question because what we’ve discovered is that the farther you get into vaccinating Americans, the harder it becomes. There – for a couple of reasons. One is vaccine hesitancy, which Dr. Fauci talked about as an issue that was of great concern to him and some other health and medical experts, and its more predominant in communities of color.

But, as you noted, there is also an issue with communicating with a range of people in public – some in rural communities, for different reasons, but also seniors and others who don’t – who aren’t picking up their phone and looking at information on Instagram every day and not receiving information in the same way that young adults would be.

So part of our effort is to use an across-the-board public communications campaign, an effort to meet people where they are. And certainly thinking about how to reach seniors – doing it in a way where it is being done locally by trusted authorities and trusted figures locally, we found to be a key – a key, effective approach to that. But we will continue to be working on that, and it’s definitely one of the challenges that we’re facing.

Q: Okay, great.

This question is from Ross Palombo from ABC in South Florida. He asks: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has blasted part of the President’s COVID plan, specifically saying, quote, “FEMA camps are not necessary in Florida.” Has or will the President be reaching out to DeSantis? What is his reaction to comments like these?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the President is a pretty even-keeled guy. So I would say that he doesn’t have much of a reaction, other than he wants to ensure that the vaccines distributed to people across the country, including, of course, the millions of people living in Florida.

And I will note – because we’re data first here, fact first here – they’ve only distributed about 50 percent of the vaccines that they have been given in Florida. So clearly, they have a good deal of the vaccine. That supply will need to continue to increase as they are able to effectively reach people across the state.

But part of the challenge, as we were just talking about, is not having the supply – that’s pivotal – but also having vaccinators and having vaccine distribution places, and doing it in a way that’s reaching people where they are and meeting local communities. And the President is going to be focused on that in a bipartisan manner, regardless of what any elected official may have to say.

Go ahead, all the way in the back. All the way in the back.

Q: Hi.

MS. PSAKI: And then I’ll come to you. Sorry, go ahead.

Q: Thanks, Jen. In an executive order that the President signed last week, he also suspended a Trump administrative – administration executive order that was particularly aimed at keeping foreign countries, specifically China, from interfering in the U.S. power grid. But he suspended that for 90 days in that executive order last week. Given what you said about China today, why did he do that, especially to something so critical to our national security as the power grid?

MS. PSAKI: I’ll have to – I think the President’s view on our relationship with China I tried to do my best to convey to all of you. I’ll have to check on that specific piece, and we’ll – we’ll circle back with you directly.

Go ahead.

Q: Thank you. The administration said that the “Remain in Mexico” policy from the prior administration would not be enforced anymore, but there are thousands of people who are stuck now as a result of that policy, and the administration has not said what you will do with them and how to process these migrants. What is the answer to that?

MS. PSAKI: In terms of migrants at the border? Well, in —

Q: Yeah, who are stuck as a result of the Remain in Mexico. You know, there are many thousands of people.

MS. PSAKI: Well I think there’s a couple of steps that we — we’re working to convey, and convey more effectively to people directly living in many of the countries who are – who have large populations who are coming to the border.

One is that this is not the right time to come. We have proposed a number of policies that we are working to implement, including a pause on deportations, as you know, for people who are in the United States. That is something the Department of Homeland Security would be working to implement. We’ve also proposed an immigration bill, something the President put forward on day one. And we’ve also proposed funding to help address the circumstances and the challenging conditions that are on the ground in a number of these countries.

Q: If I may, I’m talking about those people who are in limbo at the moment – not discouraging new people from coming and not applying it to new people, but those people who were specifically turned away by the Trump administration.

MS. PSAKI: I’d send you to the Department of Homeland Security on that for a more specific assessment.

Q: Okay. And for the second question, I just wanted to press you a little harder. You said earlier that the President had been speaking with members of the Senate-

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hm.

Q: – but you wouldn’t say who they were and anything about those conversations because they were private. I mean, they were, presumably, discussing the people’s business. Is that a matter — you know, why should those be private? Why not be more revealing of who the President is speaking with that is in the government?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the – what I said is that the President is speaking with Democrats and Republicans, as are a number of senior officials from the current White House. And we’ll continue to do that.

And what I meant about those conversations – getting their feedback about what they think about bills and legislation, how they feel about the COVID package that the President put forward, where they have concerns, where they have agreements – that some of those conversations are private. They can speak publicly about their conversations, of course, as many of them have done. But what I was confirming is that he personally is involved and will continue to be involved in moving this package forward.

Q: I guess I’m asking: Why not release the names of the people who the President is speaking with to negotiate on this bill? I mean, I know you want to have more transparency in this administration; you’ve talked about it a lot already. Why not make that a part of the transparency effort?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, he’s speaking with members of both parties. A number of them would like to have those conversations private as well. A number of them have also spoken publicly about conversations they’ve had with the administration. So – and that perfectly – is perfectly fine by us.

Go ahead.

Q: Can I ask a — going back to COVID: Do you know when Americans will be able to be widely vaccinated?

MS. PSAKI: Well, of course, we defer to our health and medical experts, as you know. And Dr. Fauci spoke to this briefly last week, and I expect it’s something that our health and medical experts, who will be doing a briefing later this week, will be able to speak to more specifically.

We obviously have set our bold goal of 100 million vaccine — or 100 million shots in the arms of Americans in the first 100 days. We will build from there, and we are looking forward to build from there.

But I don’t have an assessment – a new assessment for you on when a broad popular – a group of the population.

Q: But anyone can get it if they want it, is essentially what I’m asking. The previous administration said it would be sort of mid-year. They said that regularly.

MS. PSAKI: You know, our – the CDC and other health and medical experts have – from our team – have given assessments leaning towards the summer and fall, but I don’t have a new assessment for you from here. But I encourage you to ask them that, and that’s why we’re putting them out to answer questions to all of you.

Jonathan, go ahead.

Q: The Trump administration, in its final weeks, rushed through a number of federal executions. Has the President directed a moratorium on capital punishment? And does he plan to?

MS. PSAKI: The President’s position on the death penalty – I think you’re probably familiar with, others may not be: He’s opposed to the death penalty. I don’t have anything to preview for you in terms of what steps he may take.

Go ahead, Kaitlan.

Q: You said that these coronavirus briefings are going to start. President Trump did not attend a lot of the corona – – or some of the coronavirus briefings at the end. He did not attend a lot of coronavirus task force briefings. Is President Biden going to attend those task force meetings within the group that’s working on this?

MS. PSAKI: He will be briefed regularly – I suspect, far more regularly than the past President was briefed – on COVID and the developments and progress the team is making. I wouldn’t expect he attends every task force meeting – no – but he expects and requests regular briefings from the team, and I expect he’ll get them.

Okay, go ahead.

Q: If the whole point of impeaching somebody is basically to get rid of them, and Trump is already gone, would President Biden support the Senate censuring him just so that lawmakers can move on with the people’s business?

MS. PSAKI: I really appreciate your creative way of asking that question, which has come up a few times in here. The President is – was in the Senate for 36 years, as you all know. He is no longer in the Senate, and he will leave it up to members of the Senate, Democrats and Republicans, to determine how they will hold the former President accountable.

Q: On quickly –

Q: All right, thank you, Jen. Last one. Go ahead.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, last one. Go ahead. Go ahead.

Q: Yeah, I’m sorry, I just wanted to ask really briefly, on Afghanistan, if you guys foresee further troop reductions there and what kind of numbers would we be talking about.

MS. PSAKI: It’s an excellent question. We’re on day five, so I don’t have any thing new for you on, specifically, Afghanistan troop production, but I’m hoping to get Jake Sullivan out to the briefing room soon to answer a lot of your questions on a range of issues.

Q: Jen?

MS. PSAKI: Thank you, everyone.

Q: Thanks, Jen.

Q: Jen, you haven’t taken my question.

MS. PSAKI: All right, one more. I’m sorry about that. We don’t – we don’t want to leave you hanging.

Q: Sorry.

MS. PSAKI: You’ve been very patient in the back.

Q: I represent the foreign press group.

MS. PSAKI: Of course.

Q: I have two foreign policy issue: one on China and one on the UK.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

Q: On China, we just – you mentioned about competition. And President Biden’s Asia czar, Kurt Campbell, says he hopes for a “stable competition.” Is that what the White House is looking for? And you just mentioned about this comprehensive strategy. When can we expect that?

MS. PSAKI: I appreciate all of those questions. I have no – I don’t have any preview for you on when we will have more specifics on our strategy. I’ve tried to convey overarching – the President’s overarching approach.

But again, this is a relationship that we are going to be convey- – communicating with and working with partners and allies on. Those are – there are a number of calls that will happen over the coming weeks with key partners and allies – I’m sure this will be a topic of discussion – as well as Democrats and Republicans on the Hill, and we’re going to approach it with patience.

Q: And on the UK, we know, over the weekend, President Biden had a phone call with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and Mr. Johnson said they talked about the free trade deal. However, from the White House readout, we don’t see that. Does the President support the free trade deal with the UK?

MS. PSAKI: I haven’t talked to him or Jake Sullivan about that. I’ll venture to do that and see if I can get more for you on it.

Thanks, everyone.

January 25: Senator Chuck Schumer posted a Press Release titled: “SCHUMER, GILLIBRAND ANNOUNCE OVER $300K IN FEMA FUNDING FOR NEW YORK FIREFIGHTER RESPONDING TO COVID-19” From the Press Release:

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced that $306,624.52 in federal funding will be administered to twelve counties across New York to support COVID-19 emergency response preparedness measures. This funding was allocated through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) second round of the Assistance to Firefighters Grant – COVID-19 Supplemental Program (AFG-S 2) in cooperation with the U.S. Fire Administration. This funding was authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and will be used to purchase essential PPE and equipment for firefighters responding to the COVID-19 outbreak across New York.

“From the peak of the pandemic to normal times, our brave firefighters are always on the front lines, risking their lives to protect their communities,” said Senator Schumer. “These courageous first responders deserve all the federal support possible to help them to do their jobs. I will always fight to bring more federal resources to support our heroic firefights, and I’m proud to deliver this funding so New York’s fire departments have the critical PPE and essential support they need as they keep New Yorkers safe during the pandemic.”

“New York’s firefighters and first responders continue working around the clock to keep our communities safe during this public health crisis,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The ongoing pandemic has left local and state governments with limited resources – this critical federal funding will ensure our firefighters are protected on the frontlines and fire stations can maintain clean facilities in accordance with COVID-19 guidelines I will continue to push for emergency funding to keep our fire departments and firefighters safe as they enter the line of duty.”

January 25: The White House posted Remarks titled” “Remarks by President Biden at the Signing of Executive Order on Strengthening American Manufacturing”. From the Remarks:

THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, folks. I’m going to make some brief remarks, sign an executive order, and then take your questions, if that’s okay with you all.

Last week, we immediately got to work to contain the pandemic and deliver economic relief to millions of Americans who need it the most. And today we’re getting to work to rebuild the backbone of America: manufacturing, unions, and the middle class.

It’s based on a simple premise: that we’ll reward work, not wealth, in this country. And the key plank of ensuring the future will be “Made in America.” I’ve long said that I don’t accept the defeatist view that the forces of automation and globalizations can’t keep – can keep union jobs from growing here in America. We can create more of them, not fewer of them.

I don’t buy for one second the – that the vitality of the American manufacturing is a thing of the past. American manufacturing was the arsenal of democracy in World War Two, and it must be part of the engine of American prosperity now. That means we are going to use taxpayers’ money to rebuild America. We’ll buy American products and support American jobs, union jobs.

For example, the federal government every year spends approximately $600 billion in government procurement to keep the country going safe and secure. And there’s a law that’s been on the books for almost a century now: to make sure that money was spent – taxpayers’ dollars for procurement is spent to support American jobs and American businesses.

But the previous administration didn’t take it seriously enough. Federal agencies waived the Buy American requirement without much pushback at all. Big corporations and special interests have long fought for loopholes to redirect American taxpayers’ dollars to foreign companies where the products are being made. The result: tens of billions of American taxpayers’ dollars supporting foreign jobs and foreign industries.

In 1918 – excuse me, in 2018 alone, the Department spent $3 billion – the Defense Department – on foreign construction contracts, leaving American steel and iron out in the cold. It spent nearly 300 million in foreign engines and on vehicles instead of buying American vehicles and engines from American companies, putting Americans to work.

Under the previous administration, the federal government contract awarded directly to foreign companies when up 30 percent. That is going to change on our watch.

Today I’m taking the first steps in my larger Build Back Better Recovery Plan that invests in American workers, unions, and businesses up and down the supply chain. And I know that previous presidents entered office by promising to buy American and instituting the Buy American policy, but here’s why this is different and not the same:

I’ll be signing an executive order in just a moment, tightening the existing Buy American policies, and go further. We’re setting clear directives and clear explanations. We’re going to get to the core issue with a centralized, coordinated effort.

Look, today I’m creating a director of Made in America at the White House Office of Management and Budget who will oversee our all-of-government Made in America initiative. That starts with stopping federal agencies from waiving Buy American requirements with impunity, as has been going on. If an agency wants to issue a waiver to say “We’re not going to buy an American products as part of this project; we’re going to buy a foreign product,” they have to come to the White House and explain it to us.

We’re going to require that waivers be publicly posted; that is, if someone is seeking a waiver to build this particular vehicle or facility and is going to buy the following foreign parts, that waiver – the request for it – is going to be posted. Then we’ll work with small American manufactures and businesses to give them a shot to raise their hand and say, “Yeah, I can do that here in my shop, in my town.”

It’s about – and you’ve heard me say before, I used to have a friend who was a great athlete, who’d say, “You got to know how to know.” These small businesses don’t even know they can compete for making the product that is attempting to be waived and being able to be bought abroad.And

And I’m directing the Office of Management and Budget to review waivers to make sure they are only used in very limited circumstances. For example, when there’s an overwhelming national security, humanitarian, or emergency need here in America. This hasn’t happened before. It will happen now.

Here’s what else we’re going to be doing. Under the Build Back Recovery Plan, we’ll invest hundreds of billions of dollars in buying American products and materials to modernize our infrastructure, and our competitive strength will increase in a competitive world. That means millions of good-paying jobs, using American-made steel and technology, to rebuild our roads, our bridges, our ports, and to make them climate resilient, as well as making them able to move faster and cheaper and cleaner to transport American-made goods across the country and around the world, making us more competitive.

It also means replenishing our stockpiles to enhance our national security. As this pandemic has made clear, we can never again be in a position where we have to rely on a foreign country that doesn’t share our interest in order to protect our people during a national emergency. We need to make our own protective equipment, essential products and supplies. And we’ll work with our allies to make sure they have resilient supply chains as well.

We’ll also make historic investments in research and development – hundreds of billions of dollars – to sharpen America’s innovative edge in markets where global leadership is up for grabs – markets like battery technology, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, clean energy. The federal government also owns and enormous fleet of vehicles, which we’re going to replace with clean, electric vehicles made right here in the American by American workers, creating millions of jobs – a million autoworker jobs in clean energy – and vehicles that are net-zero emissions. And together, this will be the largest mobilization of public investment in procurement, infrastructure, and R&D since World War Two.

And with the executive order I’ll be signing today, we’ll increase Buy American requirements for these kinds of projects and improve the way we measure domestic content requirements. For example, right now, if you manufacture a vehicle for the federal government, you need to show that at least 50 percent of the components were made in America.

Because of loopholes that have been expanded over time, you can count the least valuable possible parts as part of that 50 percent to say “Made in America,” while the most valuable parts – the engines, the steel, the glass, the manufac- – are manufactured abroad. So basically – but basically we’re batting zero for two. The content threshold of 50 percent aren’t high enough. And the way we measure the content doesn’t account for U.S. jobs and economic activity. We’re going to change that as well.

The executive action I’m signing today will not only require that companies make more of their components in America, but that the value of those components is contributing to our economy, measured by things like a number of American jobs created and/or supported.

At the same time, we’ll be committed to working with our trading partners to modernize international trade rules, including those relating to government procurement, to make sure we can use – we can all use our taxpayer dollars to spur investment that promotes growth and resilient supply chains.

And here’s what else the action does. When we buy America, we’ll buy from all of America. That includes communities that have been historically left out of government procurement – black, brown, Native American small businesses and entrepreneurs in every region of the country.

We will use a national network of manufacturers – called a Manufacturing Extension Partnership – that’s in all 50 states and Puerto Rico, to help government agency connect with new domestic suppliers across the country. This is a critical piece of building our economy back better and including everyone in the deal this time, especially small businesses that are badly hurting in this economy.

The executive action I am taking also reiterates my strong support for the Jones Act and American vessels, you know, and our ports, especially those important for America’s clean energy future and the development of offshore renewable energy.

I’ll close with this: The reason we need to do this is America can’t sit on the sidelines in the race for the future. Our competitors aren’t waiting. To ensure the future is made in America, we need to win not just in the jobs of today, but the jobs and industries of tomorrow. And we know that the middle class built this country, and we also know unions built the middle class. So let’s invest in them once again. I know we’re ready, despite all of the – all we’re facing. I have never been more optimistic about the future of America than I am today.

Given even just half a chance, the American people, the American worker, has never, ever, let the country down. Imagine if we give them a full chance. That’s what we’re going to do.

I’ll stop here and sign the executive order, and then come back and take some of your questions.

(The executive order is signed).

There you go. Now I’d be happy to take your questions.

Q: Thank you, Mr. President. Jonathan Lemire with the Associated Press. Two topics, if I may. You have made reopening schools a central part of your first 100 Days agenda, and you’ve long portrayed yourself as an ally to the teachers and unions. Right now, the Chicago Teachers Union has refused. They defied an order to return to in-person classing – for in-person classrooms because of a lack of vaccinations. Do you believe, sir, that teachers should return to schools now?

THE PRESIDENT: I believe we should make school classrooms safe and secure for the students, for the teachers, and the for the help that’s in those schools maintaining the facilities. We need testing for people coming in and out of the class. We need testing for teachers, as well as students. And we need the capacity – the capacity to know that, in fact, the cic- [sic] – or the circumstances in the school is safe and secure for everyone.

For example, there is no reason why the clear guidance will be that every school should be thoroughly sanitized, from the lavatories to the hallways. And so this is about making – and none of the school districts that I’m aware of – there may be some, of public school districts – have insisted that all of those pieces be in place.

And, I might add, its the same kind thing I hope we can do with small businesses, making sure they have the capacity to test their workers when they come in; to make sure they have plastic dividers between their booths in their – in their restaurants, et. cetera; to make sure they can sanitize.

So it’s not so much about the idea that the teachers aren’t going to work. The teachers I know, they want to work. They just want to work in a safe environment as safe as we can rationally make it. And we can do that, and we should be able to open up every – every school, kindergarten though eight grade, if, in fact, we administer these tests.

And it’ll have the added advantage, I might add, of putting millions of people back to work – with all those mothers and fathers that are home taking care of their children, rather than go to work. Even when they can work, they’re not able to do it unless they have the luxury of working distance-wise, like so many of us do. They’re not able to do it. And so this is about generating economic growth overall as well.

WHITE HOUSE AIDE: Great. Alex from Reuters.

Q: Thank you, Mr. President. I’m Alex Alper from Reuters. I wanted to ask a question about Navalny – if you are considering imposing sanctions on any of the individuals involved in his attempted poisoning on any of the individuals involved in his attempted poisoning and/or his arrest when he returned from Germany. And if not, is that related to your concerns about it potentially derailing a New START extension? Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT: I find that we can both operate in the mutual self-interest of our countries as a New START agreement, and make it clear to Russia that we are – we are very concerned about their behavior, whether it’s Navalany, whether its the SolarWinds, or whether its the reports of bounties on the heads of Americans in Afghanistan.

I have asked the agencies in question to do a thorough – a thorough read for me on every one of those issues, the update me on precisely where they are. And I will not hesitate to raise those issues with the Russians.

WHITE HOUSE AIDE: Jeff from NBC.

Q: President Biden, Vice President Harris, a question about your COVID relief deal. On Friday, you said the nation is “in a national emergency [and] we should act like it.” Given that – given the scale and severity of the need, how long are you willing to get sufficient Republican support before you would green light Democrat attempts to use reconciliation, for instance, to pass that bill?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, look, the decision on reconciliation will be made by the leaders of the House and the Senate. But here’s the deal: I have been doing legislative negotiations for a large part of my life. I know how the system works. And what I’m not – I can’t guarantee anything at all, but I can say that what I’m going to be doing – and we’ve already begun – is making it clear to the leadership in the House and the Senate, as well as the – the group of 16, the group – the bipartisan group, as well as Republican individuals who have an interest in the issues that are in the package and saying, “Here’s what I’m doing, and here’s why I want to do it, here’s why I think we need to do it, and what kind of support can or can’t you give to that?” And then we go on to the way in which we deal with legislation all the time.

You know we – we didn’t have any votes for the recovery package when Barack and I came into office. We were short three votes. We didn’t know we had the votes until the day of the — the day of the – of the – bringing it up.

And – but here’s the deal: You know, it’s interesting – and I know you ask a lot of these questions. You know the answers, but you have to – to help educate the public as well; I’m not suggesting you don’t know what I’m about to say. No one wants to give up on their position until there’s no other alternative. They either have to make a decision that they don’t do what – they don’t support what is being proposed, or they insist on what they have, or they let it all go away, fall down. I think we’re fall from that point right now.

The decision to use reconciliation will depend upon how these negotiations go. And let me make clear about negotiations: I’ve always believed part of negotiation – on the part of a President and/or a chairman of a committee trying to get a major piece of legislation passed – is about consultation.

It’s not enough for me to just come up to you and say, “I like this. I expect you to support it.” I want to explain to you why I think it’s so important in this package that we have to provide for money for additional vaccines, why I think it’s so important why we provide money to extend unemployment benefits, why I think it’s so important that we provide money to provide for the ability of people not to be thrown out of their apartments during this pandemic because they can’t afford their rent, and to make the case to you why I think and what I think the priorities within this piece, – that we think the priorities are – I apologize – were within this legislation.

And I don’t expect we’ll know whether we have an agreement or to what extent the entire package will be able to pass or not pass until we get right down to the very end of this process, which will be probably in a couple of weeks. But the point is, this is just the process beginning.

WHITE HOUSE AIDE: Annie, the Washington Post.

Q: Thank you, Mr. President, Annie Linskey with the Washington Post.

THE PRESIDENT: Hi, Annie.

Q: I wanted to ask you a little bit about one of the, sort of, major themes of your campaign, and how you sort of intend to measure and enact it – and that is the idea of unity. If you could talk a little bit about what you see unity as being? There are some people who are defining it as bipartisan. Others are saying it is what most of the people in the country, defined by some poll, might believe, or any sort of number of other – or perhaps it’s 50 plus 1, or 50 plus 2, or 75 percent.

So, given that it is such a key part of your message and your promise, can you talk and reflect a little bit more about what is unity when you see it as you define it?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, Annie, I think it makes up several of the issues – the points you made. One is: Unity requires you to take away – eliminate the vitriol, make anything that you disagree with about the other person’s personality or their lack of integrity or they’re not decent legislators and the like – so we have to get rid of that. And I think that’s already beginning to change, but God knows where things go, number one.

Unity also is: trying to reflect what the majority of the American people – Democrat, Republican, and independent – think is within the fulcrum of what needs to be done to make their lives and the lives of Americans better.

For example, if you look at the data – and I’m not claiming the polling data to be exact, but if you look at the data, you have – I think it’s – I hope I’m saying this correct – you may correct me if I get the number wrong, I think it’s 57, 58 percent of the American people – including Republicans, Democrats, and independents – think that we have to do something about the COVID-vaccine; we have to do something about making sure that people who are hurting badly, can’t eat, don’t have food, are in a position where they’re about to be shown out of their apartments, et cetera, being able to have an opportunity to get a job – that they all think we should be acting, we should be doing more.

Unity is also trying to get, at a minimum – if you pass a piece of legislation that breaks down on party lines but it gets passed, it doesn’t mean there wasn’t unity; it just means it wasn’t bipartisan. I’d prefer these things to be bipartisan, because I’m trying to generate some consensus and take sort of the – how can I say it? – the vitriol out of all of this. Because I’m confident – I’m confident, from my discussions, there are a number of Republicans who know we have to do something about the food insecurity for people in this pandemic. I’m confident they know we have to do something about figuring out how to get children back in school.

There’s just – there’s easy ways to deal with this. One, if you’re anti-union, you can say It’s all because of the teachers. If you want to make a case though that it’s complicated, you say, “Well, what do we have to do to make it safe to get in those schools?” And we’re going to have arguments.

For example, you know I proposed that we – because it was bipartisan, I thought it would increase the prospects of passage – the additional $1,400 in direct cash payment to folks. Well, there’s legitimate reason for people to say, “Do you have the lines drawn the exact right way? Should it go to anybody making over X-number of dollars or why?” I’m open to negotiate those things. That’s all.

I picked it because I thought it was rational, reasonable, and it had overwhelming bipartisan support in the House when it passed. But this is all a bit of a moving target in terms of the precision with which this goes. You’re asking about unity: 51 votes, bipartisan, et cetera.

The other piece of this that it the one thing that gives me hope that we’re not only going to, sort of, stay away from ad hominem attacks on one another, is that there is an overwhelming consensus among the major economists at home and in the world that the way to avoid a deeper, deeper, deeper recession, moving in the direction of losing our competitive capacity, is to spend money now to – from – from across the board, every major institution has said, “If we don’t invest now, we’re going to lose so much altitude, in terms of employment base and our economic growth, it’s going to be harder to reestablish it.”

We can afford to do it now. As a matter of fact, the – I think the response has been, “We can’t afford not to invest now. We can’t afford to fail to invest now.”

And I think there’s a growing realization of that on the part of all but some very, very hard-edged partisans, maybe on both sides, but I think there is a growing consensus. Whether we get it all done exactly the way I want it remains to be seen, but I’m confident that we can work our way through.

We have to work our way through because, as I’ve said 100 times, there is no ability in a democracy for it to function without the ability to reach consensus. Other – – otherwise it just becomes executive fiat or battleground issues that are – gets us virtually nowhere.

I don’t want to hold the – my colleague may know, the Vice President – but, you know, I think there were very few debates on the Senate floor the whole last year –

THE VICE PRESIDENT: That’s correct.

THE PRESIDENT: – on almost any issue.

Well, that benefits no one. It doesn’t inform anybody. It doesn’t allow the public to make judgements about who they think is right or wrong.

So I am – I am optimistic that it may take some time, but over the year, the way – if we treat each other with respect – and we’re going to argue like hell. I’m confident of that. Believe me, I know that. I’ve been there. But I think we can do it in a way that we can get t things done for the American people.

WHITE HOUSE AIDE: Great. Last question. Josh from Bloomberg.

Q: Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT: Josh, they don’t trust you with the mic, huh? I don’t know, man.

Q: No, that’s fine. I wouldn’t either. (Laughter.) Thank you, Mr. President. I appreciate you taking the questions.

You mentioned just now that you might know in a couple of weeks. Can I ask whether it’s more important for you to get something passed in a short timeframe like that or would you be willing to wait longer than to get more partisan support?

And I might also ask that – one of the pillars is the vaccine funding – when do you think any American who wants to get the shot will be able to get the shot?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I’ll try to answer the three parts to your question as I heard them.

One, time is of the essence. Time is of the essence. And I must tell you, I’m reluctant to cherry pick and take out one or two items here, and then have to go through it again to – because these all are kind of – they go, sort of, hand in glove, each of these issues. Number one.

Number two, we are optimistic that we will have enough vaccine and in very short order. We, as you know, came in office without knowledge of how much vaccines held – being held in abeyance or available. Now that we’re here – we’ve been around a week or so – we now have that. And we’ve gotten commitments from some of the producers that they will, in fact, produce more vaccine in a relatively short period of time and then continue that down the road.

So I’m quite confident that we will be in a position, within the next three weeks or so, to be vaccinating people at the range of a million a day or in excess of that. That is my – I promised that we would get at least 100 million vaccinations – that’s not people, because sometimes you need more than one shot of the vaccination. But 100,000 – 100 million shots in people’s arms of the vaccine.

I think with the grace of God, and the goodwill of the neighbor, and the creek not rising, as the old saying goes, I think we may be able to get that to 150 thou- 1.5 million a day, rather than 1 million a day. But we have to meet that goal of a million a day.

And everything points that we’re going to have : A, the – enough vaccine; B, enough syringes and all the paraphernalia needed to store, keep, inject, move into your arm the vaccine, which is not an easy task of those who have – those facilities, like the nursing homes and hospitals – they have people do it, but they don’t have the capacity to do everyone. And so I think we’re going to have – we’re leaning hard on – into areas where we can produce more vaccinators. We feel confident that we can do that.

And thirdly, it’s really important that we have the fora, the place, the facility, the circumstance where people can show up, stand in line, and get their vaccine without having to stand in line for eight hours – being able to pick up the phone, call the pharmacy, and get your name on the list, et cetera.

All those mechanical things are really – they sound simple, but they’re all consequential when we’re trying to get out a minimum of 100 million vaccinations in 100 days and move in the direction where we are well behind that in the next 100 days so we can get to the point where we reach herd immunity in a country of over 300 million people. Did that answer your question?

Q: Well, my question was at what date – or, roughly, when do you think anyone who wants one would be able to get it? Summer? Is it (inaudible)?

THE PRESIDENT: Oh, I – no, I think it’ll be this spring. I think we’ll be able to do that this spring. And – but it’s going to be a logistical challenge that exceeds anything we’ve ever tried in this country, but I think we can do that.

I feel confident that, by summer, we’re going to be well on our way to heading toward herd immunity and increasing access for people who aren’t on the first – aren’t on the list, all the way going down to children and how we deal with that.

But I feel good about where we’re going, and I think we can get it done.

WHITE HOUSE AIDE: Thank you, guys.

Q: One more. One more on vaccines. Mr. President, one more on vaccines.

THE PRESIDENT: Now, wait, wait, wait. I know he always asked me tough questions, and he always has an edge to them, but I like him anyway. So go ahead and answer – ask the question.

Q: Thank you, Mr. President. So you just said that you think within three weeks or so we’ll be at the point where there are a million vaccines per day but it seems like –

THE PRESIDENT: No, I think we’ll get there before that. I said “I hope…” I misspoke. I hope we’ll be able to increase as we go on until we get to the million-five a day. That’s my ex- – my hope.

Q: And then my – the follow-up to that would be : Now that you’re President and you’re saying “There is nothing we can do to change the trajectory of the pandemic in the next several months,” what happened to two months ago when you were talking declaratively about “I’m going to shut down the virus?”

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I’m going to shut down the virus, but not – I never said I’d do it in two months. I said it took a long time to get here; it’s going to take a long time to beat it. And so we have millions of people out there who are – who have the virus.

We’re just, for the first day, I think – correct me if I’m wrong; I’ve been doing other things this morning, speaking with foreign leaders. But one of the things – I think this is one of the first days that the number has actually come down – the numbers of deaths – and the number on a daily basis, and the number of hospitalizations, et. cetera.

It’s going to take time. It’s going to take a heck of a lot of time. And we still have – as Dr. Fauci constantly points out, it’s one thing when we have mass – how can I say it politely? – mass disregard of the warnings about not wearing masks and wearing masks, and social distancing and failure to social distance, and people getting together on holidays in ways that weren’t recommended, et. cetera.

We see – the first thing that happens when we see the number of infections go up. Then you see the hospitalizations go up. Then you see the deaths go up. And so we’re in this for a while. I mean, we’re – what are we now? At about 410,000 deaths. And there’s going to be more. The prediction, as I said from the very beginning to getting here as – after being sworn in, was – the predictions were: We’re going to see somewhere between a total of 600,000 and 660,000 deaths before we begin to turn the corner in a major way.

So – and again, remember: the vaccine – most of the people taking the vaccine – a vast, significant number – required two shots, and they’re an average of three weeks apart. And it takes time for you to be sure that you’re – you get to that 95 percent assurance rate.

And so it’s beginning to move. But I’m confident we will beat this. We will beat this. But we’re still going to be talking about this in the summer. We’re still going to be dealing with the issue in the – in the early fall.

And last point I’ll make – and I know you’re tired of hearing me saying it, particularly – you may be tired of me saying it. (Laughs.) And that is if we wear masks between now and the end of April, the experts tell us we can save 50,000 lives – 50,000 people who would otherwise die.

Thank you very much.


January 26, 2021

January 26: The White House posted Remarks titled: “REMARKS BY VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS AFTER RECEIVING THE SECOND DOSE OF THE COVID-19 VACCINE” From the Remarks:

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, so I’ve had the vaccine, and it was really painless – relatively painless. But I want to thank everyone here at NIH for all you do.

As you said – so, growing up, my mother – our mother – would go – we always knew that Mommy was going to this place called “Bethesda.” I didn’t – “Mommy is going to Bethesda.” Now, we were living in California; my mother would go to Bethesda. And, of course, what she was doing is she was coming here to NIH,

She was in the biochemical endocrinology study section. She was a peer-reviewer. And my mother had two goals in her life; to raise her two daughters and end breast cancer. In fact, a little -known fact: My first job was cleaning pipettes in my mother’s lap. She would take us there with her after school and on weekends.

And I grew up then around science in a way that was taught to me by someone who was profoundly passionate about a gift – which is the gift that scientists give to us – in that their whole reason for being is to see what can be unburdened by what has been. Their whole reason for being is to pursue what is possible for the sake of improving human life and condition. It is such a noble pursuit.

And the importance of NIH is that this is about an essential function of government, which is to provide for the public health. The work that happens here has one goal: to improve public health. And the importance of the pursuit of the work that happens at NIH is not about profit; it’s about the people.

And so I want to everyone who works here: I know who you are. (Laughs.) I know what you do. I know that you work around the clock with those experiments that have to be checked on every few hours, and they don’t care about what time is on the clock. I know the work that you do reviewing grants – because, of course, some of the most significant scientific research have been publicly funded. That’s what my mother did; she reviewed grants.

And so I have the luxury of being here at this moment, on the fifth day of our administration, coming full circle. Because, you see, NIH was such a huge part of my youth as this place that my mother went all the time and was very excited to work.

So, I want to thank everyone for all you’re doing. So now, to the vaccine.

NIH – these scientists, these medical professionals, doing the work of pursuing what is in the interest of the public health, have been a big part of the vaccine that I just took. They – through the research, through the dedication – created something that will save your life and the life of your family and the community.

And so I want to urge everyone to take the vaccine when it is your turn. It is really pretty painless, and it will save your life. So thanks to all who are doing this great and important work. Let’s make sure everyone gets a vaccine.

On behalf of President Biden and myself, I thank you for everything you do every day. And the bottom line is that we’re going to get 100 million vaccination in 100 days. And then we’re going to continue to do what is necessary to improve the health and wellbeing of our country. So thank you all, very much.

Thank you, Dr. Fauci. Thank you again.

January 26: Senator Chuck Schumer posted a Press Release titled: “SCHUMER REVEALS: 1,000 HOUSEHOLDS IN MADISON COUNTY STILL DO NOT HAVE SUFFICIENT – OR ANY – ACCESS TO BROADBAND; SENATOR, IN FIRST MEETING WITH PRESIDENT-ELECT BIDEN’S USDA NOMINEE, RENEWS FIGHT TO GET $15 MILLION IN USDA GRANT FUNDING TO ADDRESS THE COUNTRY’S INTERNET ACCESS NEEDS” From the Press Release:

COVID-19 Has Revealed Serious Disparities In Rural Communities Throughout Upstate New York, Especially Exacerbating The Digital Divide; As Madison County Communities Are Encouraged To Stay At Home Amidst A Resurgence In Cases, Broadband Access Has Never Been More Vital

Senator Fought For Additional $7B In Recent COVID Relief Package To Fund Federal Broadband Programs $7B In Recent COVID Relief Package To Fund Federal Broadband Programs & Is Pushing To Ensure Broadband Access For Rural Communities Is Among Top Priorities For Incoming Administration

Schumer To USDA Nominee: Time To Dial Up The Funding & Close The Digital Divide In Madison County

After a personal visit to Madison County last July, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer earlier this month, in a virtual meeting with President-Elect Biden’s nominee for U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack, urged to prioritize universal access to affordable broadband, starting with approval of Madison’s request for $15 million from USDA’s Rural Development Broadband ReConnect Program. The senator explained that the $15 million grant will provide broadband for nearly 1,000 households in the country, which is vital to the economic strength and recovery of the region, as well as continued educational needs of students in Madison County during the ongoing pandemic.

“The current public health crisis is making it all too clear that the digital gap in communities across Upstate New York is far too wide,” said Senator Schumer. “Madison County families, businesses, farms, and communities need and deserve top-notch high-speed broadband to help them stay connected during these difficult times and to be competitive as the economy eventually recovers. As incoming Senate Majority Leader I promise to continue fighting tooth and nail to secure funding that brings 21st century telecommunications technology to our rural economies across Upstate.”

Schumer has provided strong support for rural broadband access in Upstate New York in the past and throughout the COVID pandemic. Just last month, he helped to secure $7 billion in emergency benefits for broadband service to provide free or low-cost service to low-income families who have been recently laid off or furloughed due to the pandemic. Additionally, in March of last year, Schumer prioritized additional funding for rural broadband during negotiations for the CARES Act and provided an extra $100 million for the USDA Re-Connect Program, which he voted to create in the FY19 Appropriations bill.

January 26: Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) posted an article titled: “How Quickly We Need To Ramp Up Vaccinations To Get To Herd Immunity”. It was written by Drew Altman. From the article:

The country needs to ramp up vaccinations rapidly if we are to reach herd immunity by, say, July 4th our Independence Day, Labor Day, or even by the beginning of next year.

Some basic math and assumptions paint the picture:

+ We need to average 2.4 million doses a day starting now to reach the point where 70% of the population is vaccinated by July 4th (assuming two doses needed per person). There are many estimates out there of what’s needed for herd immunity, and that’s probably the bare minimum. It’s also harder than it sounds, because kids aren’t being vaccinated right now, so we need to reach the vast majority of adults, which means overcoming hesitancy where it exists.

+ It’s 1.9 million doses to reach it by Labor Day.

+ And 1.2 million doses pre day if we achieve the goal by January 1, 2022.

Some believe vaccination could be delayed somewhat for people who have been infected, reducing the target numbers that need to be reached immediately.

Last Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 1.6 million vaccinations were given across the U.S. and yesterday the Biden administration revised its goal to 1.5 million shots per day for the first 100 days. If the administration uses that time to begin to put measures in place such as mobile vaccination clinics, mass vaccination sites, more pharmacy-based vaccination and other steps described in the Biden strategy to replace the current broken vaccination non-system with one that works, it seems reasonable to expect a ramp up in the numbers of shots in arms after that. Increasing to two to three million vaccinations per day by late Spring or early Summer seems doable.

The most important goal to be achieved not a single number in a hundred days or two hundred days, but a steady increase in vaccinations toward the level the county needs to ultimately reach.

The experienced team appointed by the president should add to confidence the job will get done, but they will inevitably need to adapt on the fly as new problems emerge, including potentially new vaccine variants.

Yes but: the limiting factor may be the supply of vaccine. That too seems somewhat hopeful with J+J/Janssen and then others from AstraZeneca and Novavax expected to come on line. And the J&J vaccine is expected to be a single dose, rather than two, so it would mean fewer overall doses are needed. Still, the biggest mystery remains what the supply of vaccine is expected to be and when new approved vaccines will be ready, even if everything breaks favorably.

January 26: The White House posted a Press Release titled: “Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki and Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice, January 26, 2021” From the Press Release:

MS. PSAKI: Good afternoon. As part of our administration’s efforts to increase transparency and introduce all of you to the policy experts who are leading the President’s initiatives, we’re joined today by Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice, who will be talking about the racial equity executive order that the President will be signing this afternoon.

She’s kindly offered to stick around and take some questions. I will, as usual, play the role of bad cop when it’s time for her to go.

So, with that, I’ll turn it over to Susan.

AMBASSADOR RICE: Good afternoon, everyone. It’s good to be back. Jen, thanks.

The President has committed the whole of our government to advancing racial justice and equity for all Americans. I’m leading this effort out of the Domestic Policy Council. I have assembled a first-rate team to drive this agenda forward. We will hold the federal government accountable for advancing equity for families across America.

I have the support of every White House office and every agency in this work, because as President Biden has made clear, advancing equity is everybody’s job.

Tackling these challenges, though, is personal for me. I’m the descendant of immigrants from Jamaica and enslaved Americans. My grandparents and my parents are beneficiaries of the American Dream – and so am I. My family’s story is a remarkable one of the march towards greater equality and opportunity.

But for too many American families, systematic racism and inequality in our economy, laws, and institutions still put the American Dream out of reach.

Today, the average black family has just one tenth the wealth of the average white family, while the gap between the white and black – between white and black in homeownership is now larger than it was in 1960.

These longstanding inequities are compounded by the converging crises we face as a nation. Americans of color are being infected by and dying from COVID-19 at higher rates.

One in ten black Americans and one in eleven Latino workers are currently unemployed. By some estimates, 40 percent of black-owned businesses have been forced to close for good during the COVID crisis.

Black and Latino families with children are twice as likely to be experiencing food insecurity during the pandemic as white families. And black and Latino Americans are 2.8 times more likely to die of COVID-19.

And for Native communities across the country, the overlapping economic and health crisis have devastated tribal economies and healthcare systems.

These are desperate times for so many Americans, and all Americans need urgent federal action to meet this moment.

Today, President Biden will deliver a national address on his plans to advance racial justice and equity, starting with an equitable and inclusive recovery. President Biden will renew the federal government’s commitment to making the American Dream real for families across the nation by taking ambitious steps to redress inequality in our economy and expand opportunity for communities that have been left behind, including communities of color.

His economic plans make historic investments in underserved communities and put equity at the heart of our recovery. His ambitious agenda builds on a legacy of Americans forging opportunity out of crisis.

These aren’t feel-good policies. The evidence is clear: Investing in equity is good for economic growth, and it creates jobs for all Americans. Economists have estimated that the U.S. economy has lost a staggering $16 trillion over the last 20 years because of discrimination against families of color. If we closed racial gaps in income and opportunity, these same economists have estimated we could add $5 trillion to the U.S. economy over the next five years and add over 6 million jobs for all Americans.

So building a more equitable economy is essential if Americans are going to compete and thrive in the 21st century.

We have hit the ground running to embed equity throughout the administration. On day one, the President signed an executive order directing an unprecedented whole-of-government initiative to embed racial equity across federal policies, programs, and institutions. That starts with a review of policies and institutions to redress systemic racism where it exists and to advance equity where we aren’t doing enough.

Every agency will place equity at the core of their public engagement, their policy design, and program delivery to ensure that governmental resources are reaching Americans of color and all marginalized communities – rural, urban, disabled, LGBTQ+, religious minorities, and so many others.

The President has put equity at the center of his response to the COVID-19 and economic crisis. His executive orders signed last week deliver rent relief, student debt reprieve, and emergency food assistance to families across the country, helping all Americans, including black and brown families, who we know are being hit hardest by this crisis.

And he took steps to make our broken immigration system more humane and secure. He restored the integrity of the census so that our constitutionally mandated accounting of every person in the United States is fair and inclusive.

And even before taking office, President Biden released his American Rescue Plan that will make historic investments in advancing equity. Independent economists estimate that his plan will cut child poverty in half – cut child poverty in half for all Americans – and reduce overall poverty in America by 30 percent.

Black families this year will face a poverty rate of 20 percent if Congress does not act on the American Rescue Plan. But if enacted, the poverty rate would fall by over one third, and it’s fall by 40 percent for Latino families and by one fifth for American – for Asian American and Pacific Islander families.

The American Rescue Plan also provides critical relief to Native American communities and tribes. These investments will lift over 8 million black, Latino, and Asian Americans out of poverty and provide relief across sectors where families of color are most disproportionately impacted by this crisis: in food and financial security, healthcare access, and education and childcare.

Today, President Biden is continuing his commitment to embedding equity at the center of his agenda by signing an additional package of executive actions. The President will sign a memorandum directing the Department of Housing and Urban Development to mitigate racial bias in housing and affirmatively advance our nation’s fair housing laws.

He will also sign an executive order directing the Department of Justice not to renew any contracts with private prisons. Private prisons profiteer off of federal prisoners and are proven to be – or found to be by the Department of Justice Inspector General to be less safe for correctional officers and for prisoners. President Biden is committed to reducing mass incarceration while making our communities safer. That starts with ending the federal government’s reliance on private prisons.

The President will also sign an executive order reinvigorating the commitment of all federal agencies to engage in regular, robust, and meaningful consultation with tribal governments.

And the President will sign a memorandum directing all federal agencies to take steps to combat xenophobia and acts of violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who have been targeted by political leaders in our nation’s response to COVID-19.

Again, these are a continuation of our initial steps to advance racial justice and equity throughout early executive action.

Beyond this, the President is committed to working with Congress to address equity in our economy, our criminal justice systems, our healthcare systems, and in our schools.

As I’ve said many times in my personal capacity, and I say again, I believe we all rise or fall together. Advancing equity is a critical part of healing and restoring unity in our nation. The President will have more to say about all of this later this afternoon.

And I’m happy to take a few of your questions.

MS. PSAKI: Peter.

Q: Ambassador Rice, thank you. You speak about communities of color, right now, that are disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Of course, they’re also less inclined to have faith in the federal government response to the vaccination process. So what specifically – and I’ll follow up with others – but what specifically is being done right now for communities of color to convince them it’s okay to get this vaccine?

AMBASSADOR RICE: Well, Peter, I will leave much of this to my colleague, Jeff Zeints, who’s leading our COVID response. But I think two important points: One, we have established within our COVID task force an effort on equity – and that includes, obviously, racial equity – that will focus on health disparities but also on the reality that there are Americans who – and particularly Americans of color – who, for very valid historical reasons, are skeptical and reluctant.

And a large part of what our colleagues on the COVID task force are doing – this is the second part – is reaching out directly, through targeted campaigns, to get to those very communities where the skepticism is highest.

And that’s vitally important because as we – as communities of color are suffering disproportionately and may have less access to information about the vaccine and the ability to easily go online, in some instances, and get an appointment, we have to take those additional steps to ensure that they are aware of its availability, they can get appointments, and that they understand that the vaccine is safe.

Q: Let me ask you – I have a couple of things: One is news of the day, but the other one – there’s a lot of day-one promises right now.

AMBASSADOR RICE: Jen – Jen does the news of the day.

Q: Okay, fine. Let me ask you on –

MS. PSAKI: Yeah, we’ll do a whole thing after this.

Q: – on February 20th of last year, President Biden said, “My first day of office, I’m going to send a bill to the Congress repealing the liability protection for gun manufacturers, closing the background check loopholes and waiting period.” So what happened to that day-one promise?

AMBASSADOR RICE: Well, I think you’ve seen that we have rolled out an unprecedented number of early executive actions. And as you’ve heard Jen say and many of my colleagues say: This is just the beginning. We have 1,454 more days left in President Biden’s first term, and so give us a little something to do over the next few days.

MS. PSAKI: Cecilia.

Q: Thanks, Jen. Thank you, Ambassador. A housekeeping question if I may, and then a follow-up. Can you speak specifically to what this does, as it relates to immigration and immigrants? Does this cover particularly the prison and private prisons housing immigrants – undocumented immigrants, tens of thousands of whom are facing deportation in privately run prisons right now?

AMBASSADOR RICE: This order today applies to the Department of Justice-run prisons. It is not, in this instance, applicable to those run by other agencies.

Q: So not ICE, not anything like that. Okay.

And then – and then, going back to January 6th and what we saw just a few weeks ago at the Capitol, when we saw people roaming that building, carrying Confederate flags, wearing anti-Semitic shirts – we saw lawmakers in that group; we saw firefighters in that group; we saw military veterans in that group – what are you doing to address this issue of white nationalism? And how concerned are you about the threat from some of these groups leading into this impeachment trial in two weeks?

AMBASSADOR RICE: Well, I think that we have seen – and it’s been plain for all Americans on their television sets – just how serious a problem we face from nationalists and white supremacists who have demonstrated a willingness to resort to violence in some instances.

And that is why the President has ordered the intelligence community to compile a comprehensive assessment of the nature of this threat and challenge, and its origins and roots, and thus provide policymakers with inputs that will be very important to address this challenge.

The National Security Council has set up a capacity within the NSC to focus on domestic violent extremism and to ensure that we are, within the White House and within the interagency, coordinating efforts to craft and implement policies that will address this. So we’re taking it quite seriously.

Q: And why doesn’t this address the ICE private detentions?

AMBASSADOR RICE: It addresses the Department of Justice prisons in the first instance. It’s not – it’s silent on what may or may not transpire with ICE facilities. There was a Department of Justice Inspector General report in 2016 that underscored that private prisons funded by DOJ were less safe, less secure, and arguably less humane.

This was – the Obama-Biden administration that took steps to end renewing of contracts for private prisons, the Trump administration reversed that, and we’re reestablishing it.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead. And I know we met this morning, but tells us your name again.

Q: Mario Parker, Bloomberg News.

MS. PSAKI: Thank you.

Q: Thank you, Ambassador Rice. Two questions. The first: What will the administration do to address the relationship between communities of color and police, particularly as part of the mass incarceration component?

And then the second question: Republican legislators have signaled that they’re going to look to roll back some of the voting procedures from the last election. We know that that’s centered in some of those swing states in largely black and brown communities. What’s the administration going to do about that as well?

AMBASSADOR RICE: Well, with respect to prisons, policing, the entire basket of very important criminal justice reform issues: This is something that we are committed to addressing and we will have more to say on criminal justice in the coming weeks, including on matters related to policing. So please stay tuned for that.

With respect to roll back the access to the ballot: This is something that I expect that the President will address in his remarks today. It’s a matter of real concern because we ought to be in the business of encouraging and enabling all Americans who are eligible to vote to be able to vote.

And that’s why, you know, we will continue to work with Congress on its various efforts to advance democratic reforms. There’s legislation on the Hill that would move us in that direction, including restoring and revitalizing the Voting Rights Act.

MS. PSAKI: Jonathan, you’ll have to be the last one. But Susan will come back, I’m sure.

AMBASSADOR RICE: You’re going to let me come back?

MS. PSAKI: We’ll welcome you back. Go ahead.

Q: Thank you, Jen. Thank you, Ambassador. These measures here are executive actions, which of course could be overturned and reversed by a future President. Can you talk about what steps could be taken to codify these, to make them permanent, whether it’s private prisons or other measures, so they could not be undone by a future President?

AMBASSADOR RICE: Okay, well, Jonathan, as you know, to codify something and make it lasting in law requires that Congress – both houses of Congress pass it and that the President sign it. And for this, as well as many other things, there will be areas where legislative actions are the best and most durable approach. There’ll be some instances where, in advance of legislation or efforts to achieve legislation, it’s wise to take executive action.

So I don’t think we should assume that by doing something by executive action, where it may also be appropriate to seek legislation, that we wouldn’t do it. We have a very full legislative agenda. The President’s first policy is enacting the American Rescue Plan, as well as getting our nominees confirmed. And we’ll be focused in the next few weeks on that.

MS. PSAKI: Thank you, Ambassador Rice.

AMBASSADOR RICE: Thank you, Jen. Thank you, everybody.

Q: Thank you, Ambassador Rice.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, Just a couple more things at the top, and then I’d be happy to take your questions.

The President and his team have been working around the clock over the past six days to make meaningful progress on vaccinating as many people as possible. As we’ve talked about in this room before, increasing the vaccine supply and building increased cooperation between federal government and state and local leaders on the ground is key to getting that done.

The President will speak later today on those efforts and provide an update on his team’s work to bolster the vaccine supply available so that we can, in turn, get more shots into American’s arms as quickly as possible.

And I’ll also add, as many of you have reported, there are some calls this afternoon with governors to brief them on these plans and give them an update on how we will continue to work together even more efficiently.

A couple of other things. Earlier today, the first female Vice President swore in the first female Secretary of the Treasury – what’s that for history? Dr. Janet Yellen. Today, of course, is pretty historic day.

And this afternoon, the Vice President will make her first visit to a federal agency, the National Institutes of Health, where she will – she and the secol – Second Gentleman, excuse me, will receive their second dose of the Moderna vaccine. The Vice President will thank Director Collins, Dr. Fauci, and the staff of the NIH for their work to develop the vaccine and efforts to keep Americans safe.

She will also make the case that Congress needs to immediately pass the American Rescue Plan, which includes $20 billion to invest in local community vaccine distribution centers in the hardest-hit areas. Her remarks on the vaccination at NIH will be live-streamed on the White House YouTube channel, so you can all turn in – tune in for all of that.

Okay, Jonathan, kick us off.

Q: Thank you, Jen. First, on the response to the pandemic – two matters there. First, could you give us or provide a little more detail as to how much more of the vaccine is going to be distributed and how quickly to these states? We’ve heard governors sound the alarm that they are desperately low on what they need. And then, can you talk about – has CDC considered, with White House support, a measure for testing for all passengers on U.S. domestic flights?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Jonathan, on – the first part of our effort is certainly to ensure we are more effectively and efficiently working with governors and local officials who have expressed some frustration in recent weeks about the lack of information and the lack of a federal plan.

We’ve only been here six days, but we wanted to take steps as quickly as possible to address that. And part of that will be what the President updates us all on this afternoon. And I would be very short-lived press secretary if I got ahead of the President. And we’re having so much fun in there, so you don’t want that to happen.

On the second question on testing: We’re constantly evaluating – of course, our medical and health experts – steps that need to be taken to keep the American people safe. We announced some travel restrictions, as you know, yesterday. I don’t have any additional restrictions to preview or announce for all of you.

I will remind you that tomorrow is the first day of our briefings that will be happening approximately three times a week – that you can all tune in and learn more from our health experts on our plans.

Q: And on another matter – on impeachment: The President yesterday, in an interview, said that he did not believe that former President Trump would be convicted and therefore removed from office, but he said he felt like it had to go – the trial had to go on anyway. Could you please explain what he meant by that?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, let’s put this in the context of last night. So last night, the House impeachment managers delivered the articles of impeachment to the Senate with a dramatic walk over, as we – you all carried on television. And, you know, the President was referencing a fact that he referenced in his statement of just a couple of weeks ago, when the White House passed the impeach- the articles of impeachment themselves, which is that now it, of course, will move on to the Senate.

As he also said at the time he hopes – and I’ll quote him here – “the Senate leadership will find a way to deal with their constitutional responsibilities on impeachment while also working on the other urgent business of the nation.” He still continues to feel that way.

So, last night, they delivered the articles. The next step, as you all have reported and people watching at home know, is for the Senate to proceed with their trial. He’s going to allow them to move forward at the pace and manner that the leaders in the Senate determine. And I can promise you that we will leave vote counting to leaders in the Senate from now on.

Q: Last follow-up, and then I’ll hand it off. On this, though, why is the President so reluctant to express his personal opinion as to what happens here? We understand he’s not in the Senate anymore –

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

Q: – but he is the leader of the Democratic Party. Why won’t he say what he believes should happen?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the President believes that the Senate has the constitutional duty to proceed as they see fit on holding the former President accountable. He spent 36 years in the Senate; he’s no longer there. As the President of the United States, he feels his role is to deliver on what he promised for the American people. So that’s what he’s trying to do every day.

Go ahead, Peter.

Q: Just a little housekeeping as it relates to what’s going on in the Senate right now. When is the last time that President Biden spoke to Leader McConnell?

MS. PSAKI: He has spoken with Leader McConnell. As he said, he’s spoken with him a couple of times. But I’m not going to –

Q: Since – since inauguration?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to read out specific calls to all of you on the pace or number of their phone calls.

Q: I guess the question is: This is someone who has always said – the President – that his strong suit is the ability to work with both sides of the aisle, and he criticized the previous administration for not brining lawmakers here on COVID relief to sit down in the Oval Office. So why not say to Democrats and Republicans, “Come to the White House right now. Let’s hash this out, and lets get it done”?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I know that would make for excellent television and quite a dramatic moment here at the White House. But he is in close touch, as our team is – members of our senior team – as you know, Brian Deese, a number of senior officials here at the White House – speaking with different caucuses in Congress – Republicans, Democrats, people from different wings of different parties – about our plans and our commitment to getting the COVID package passed. But our view is that a lot of those conversations should happen one-on-one, should happen in small groups, and that’s the most productive way to move this bill forward.

Q: Let me ask you, if I can: There seemed to be a little bit of disagreement in terms of the way both Dr. Fauci and President Biden viewed herd immunity and when we get out of this pandemic right now. We heard the President yesterday say, “I feel confident that by summer we’re going to be well on our way towards herd immunity.” Dr. Fauci said that he thought this would likely occur – where we were closer to being back to normal – by this fall. Just so it’s clear for Americans what the administration is promising or telling them, when should we expect that takes place?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the President is certainly pushing his team every day to deliver results as quickly as possible. So as part of his comments yesterday, he also talked about his desire to ensure there’s greater availability in the spring, and certainly his hope that every American will – that more Americans will have access as quickly as possible.

But he also has said many times it will take months and months for a broad swath of the population to be vaccinated. And, as always, he’s guided, as we all are, by scientists and medical experts and certainly Dr. Fauci’s guidelines of when we can expect a broad swath of the population to be vaccinated.

Q: And for specificity on the vaccine stockpile, yesterday you didn’t have a specific number; CDC director Rochelle Walensky didn’t as well. What is the stockpile right now? Where do we stand at this moment?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the President is going to have more of an update later this afternoon, as I – as I previewed earlier.

Q: Do you know the answer, I guess? Do we now – do we have our hands around that, though?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, There is – we monitor updates on a daily basis through the Tiberius and multiple systems that have available information on vaccine numbers that are distributed to states – what states have received, what they have distributed. And we have been connecting all the dots to ensure we have our best understanding of where the holdups are.

And we, of course, have that assessment, but we’re continuing to dig in every day on where the – what the issues are: Why aren’t – why isn’t the vaccine getting out to states? What is the holdup with vaccinators? Why aren’t there more vaccine sites that are getting the supply they need?

But later this afternoon, he’ll have more of an update on our additional vaccine supply that we’ll make available to the states.

Go ahead, Peter. Its a “Peter row” over here.

Q: “Pete and Pete.” Or Pete and “re-Pete,” I guess.

MS. PSAKI: So, the jokes could go on. Go ahead.

Q: Thank you. Yeah, let’s do that.

So there are some reports that FEMA is now planning to reroute up to $10 billion in money that could be used to combat COVID-19 right now to preemptively combat climate change by building sea walls and elevating flood-prone homes. And I’m curious if there has been any thought given to waiting until COVID is behind us to do that.

MS. PSAKI: Peter, I had not actually seen that report before we came out here. As you know, and I’ll just repeat, the President’s first priority is getting the pandemic under control and doing everything needed, putting all of the necessary resources behind that. But I’m happy to circle back with our team on that specific question.

Q: And another question. The President says that he hopes that the Senate leadership can continue – can do a Senate impeachment trial while working on the people’s business. What if they can’t?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as President, you always have to be hopeful, of course. That’s your role as a leader: to push and push leaders, push Democrats and Republicans to make more progress.

But, you know, I think what the President will continue to do privately in his conversations with members of Congress – Democrats and Republicans – and publicly is make the case for the cost of inaction. And I think he doesn’t feel that there – the Democrats and Republicans in Congress have the space and the time to wait; that there’s an urgency that the American people are going to continue to push members who are representing them on. And so I don’t think he feels there’s an alternative, other than to – them to move forward with urgency.

Q: And then just one more. The riots in Portland and the violence in Portland recently – there was some discussion earlier about the January 6th rioters being reviewed by the DNI as domestic violent extremists. Are the rioters in Portland also being viewed through the same lens, or is that something different, as the White House sees it?

MS. PSAKI: I think we – you and I talked about this yesterday and conveyed that all violence happening around the country will be reviewed as part of the tasking that was done by that national security team. But I don’t have anything to preview on it.

Cecilia, go ahead.

Q: Thanks, Jen. On COVID relief, we’ve heard Republicans come out in opposition in broad brushstrokes at this point. But in terms of the conversations that Brian Deese is having, or the President for that matter, or anyone on your team, has any Republican come forward to give you an alternative? What is happening with these negotiations? What are they telling you that they want? To go? To stay? What’s the non- – without you negotiating from here, but what alternatives are they giving you?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Cecilia, you have the benefit of having covered Congress for quite some time, and you know none of them are quiet about what they like and don’t like, and they often say it publicly.

So, the President and members of our team are hearing many of the same, you know, expressions of support and sometimes expressions of questions about whether packages need – the package needs to be the same size, whether it’s targeted, whether it should be targeted in this way. Those are the same questions that they are hearing privately.

And – but what they all – what the President is also hearing privately and what members of our team are also hearing privately is that they expect him to be focused on this package, and they will be as well, and they hear and understand the urgency.

And as you know from covering this quite – for quite some time yourself, oftentimes things come together right before there’s a vote, right? The President kind of alluded to this yesterday, but we feel democracy is working how it should: He laid out his big package, his big vision of what it should look like, and people are giving their feedback, and he’s happy to have those discussions and fully expects it’s not going to look exactly the same on the other end.

Q: And on the stockpile assessment, I want to flip the answer that you’ve been giving, saying that “it’s five days or six days; give us some time to catch up with this.” I understand that.

On the inverse, it’s been six days. Why don’t we know exactly what is in this stockpile? How – what have been the hurdles, the biggest hurdles in getting that answer?

Slaoui – you probably heard this – yesterday defended the program, Operation Warp Speed, saying that this is – the results were “exceptional.” So why has it taken so long –

MS. PSAKI: I’m not –

Q: – six days in?

MS. PSAKI: (Laughs.) Six days in. Well, six days in, the President is also giving an update on steps we’re going to take to provide more vaccine supply to states across the country in response to their concern there has not been a federal plan in place and that they haven’t received the coordination, cooperation, and information they desired. So, in my view, that’s a pretty rapid response to states’ concerns.

We do have an assessment – as I referenced, Tiberius, which is quite a name for this website, I will say. It sounds like a magical creature a little bit, to me. But it provides vaccine supply that’s gone to states and what’s been used. It doesn’t mean it’s perfect. Oftentimes it isn’t.

But our concerns and our focus is not just on the supply; that’s part of the issue. It’s also about ensuring that states have the number of vaccinators they need, so that means people who are literally taking the shots and qualified to put them in the arms of Americans. And some states and some communities don’t have people who are able to do that and vaccine centers and places where people can go and receive the vaccine.

So there’s multiple steps in this process, and our focus is on ensuring not just the supply is at the rate it needs to be and that states have more advance notice – this is one of the things governors will tell you and have told us, that it is very difficult for them when they find out a day before or a couple of days before that they’re going to run out of supply or when a next supply shipment is coming. They want more time. That’s something we’re also working on.

So, those are all pieces that are part of this herculean operation task that our team has undertaken.

Go ahead, Mario.

Q: Thanks, Jen. Senator Schumer, last night, said that he wants President Biden to consider declaring climate change a national emergency, to give him power similar to what his predecessor, President Trump, did with the wall. Is that something the President is considering?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the President has long said it is one of the four crises that he believes are central to the presidency and central to his time as the Commander-in-Chief and the President of the United States: addressing the threat of climate.

So he has not only taken actions – executive orders – taken actions that fall under the purview of the President, but also he has pushed to find ways to work with Congress on taking additional steps moving forward too.

There will be more we have to share on our efforts on climate in the days ahead, but I don’t think Leader Schumer has any doubt about the President’s commitment to this, and certainly the fact that he has called it a crisis. It is – he said it is central to the issues he wants to take on, and his presidency speaks to his commitment to the issue.

Go ahead.

Q: So two more questions to bring it back to just COVID response for a second. So, first, one of the questions that’s come up is, how much money is needed, exactly, to respond to the emergency that we’re in? Is it $1.9 trillion? Is it some other figure?

Do you have an assessment just of how much money is left from Congress’s last allocation towards these issues? How much is left to spend?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as Brian Deese – the NSC Director Brian Deese said last week, the problem with focusing on the $900 billion package as the answer to our current problem now is that it was catching up for what had not been done for the prior six months. So what we’re really focused on now is what is needed for immediately, now, of course, but also in the months ahead.

And as I was alluding to a little bit earlier, the way the President thinks about this is what the cost of inaction is. So, if you look ahead, it’s critical – and I talked about this a little bit yesterday – that we don’t get anywhere near the March cliff, which would mean the end of eviction and foreclosure moratoriums; the end of $300 additional UI assistance; the end of PPP loan applications for small businesses. And, as you all know from covering what’s happening in the country, you know, people need security, and what we’re trying to do now is provide that.

So this package was designed not with a number in mind – we we weren’t trying to get a shock-value sticker value. The President relied on the advice of economists, of health experts, and others who recommended: This is the size and the components that are needed now, not just to distribute the vaccine, but to provide certainty and a bridge to the American people to get to the other side.

So –

Q: But do you have a number right now for how much is – for vaccine distribution alone, how much you have to spend as compared to what you’ve asked for?

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to check with our team on that, but I will say that what we’re looking ahead to is where are we in a couple of weeks and where are we in two months? And no one wants to be having a conversation in May about why our schools aren’t open and why millions of people have been kicked off of unemployment insurance. So part of our role here is to look ahead, and that’s what – exactly what we’re trying to do with this package.

Q: Okay. And to one other issue: The – President Trump signed an executive order restricting exports of vaccines that are manufactured within the United States. That order is still in effect. First of all, what is your assessment of exactly whether drug manufacturers are able to send these vaccines overseas? Can they do that under current law? And, two, will you take any action to reverse that executive order?

MS. PSAKI: That’s a great question, and we’ve talked about, obviously joining – rejoining the World Health Organization. And ensuring we are a partner to the global community on this effort only makes us safer and the American people safer. But I’d have to check on a specific export question for you.

Go ahead.

Q: Jen, the National COVID strategy of the administration, released just a couple of days ago, says that, quote, “The United States will accelerate the pace of vaccinations by encouraging states and localities to move through priority groups more quickly.” What is “more quickly?” How should interpret that? And, you know, will you provide more detailed guidance to state and public health officials on how they should be going through these priority groups?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the answer is yes. And part of our effort, as I mentioned, there was a call with governors this afternoon to provide an update on vaccine supply and steps we’re taking, from the federal government, to ensure they have not just the information they need but also the access to supply they need.

And in terms of the pace, the guidelines will, of course, be publicized by the CDC. They have their first briefing tomorrow. We’ll see if they have an update on that. But really, what they’re trying to – what we’re all trying to endeavor to do is ensure that we have not just more supply, but more vaccinators – as I noted, more people in communities who can vaccinate – more centers and locations that can provide these vaccinations.

So all of those components will lead to expediting. We’re not asking stats to do this on their own. In fact, we’re asking – we are trying to reset and be partners here in a more effective way than we’ve seen over the last 10 months.

Q: And health officials seem to be recommending now double masking. Is that something that the White House would like to see?

MS. PSAKI: I’ve seen some of those reports. I haven’t see that come officially from the CDC. But again, I’d encourage you to ask them that question tomorrow, and I’d refer to them for any new guidance on that front.

Go ahead.

Q: Hi. Regarding the Defense Production Act, what is the timeline for ramping up production of supplies, specifically the specialized syringes? And has the administration been in talks with any specific companies or manufacturers?

MS. PSAKI: It’s already been invoked and underway, so those discussions and efforts to ramp up production are already underway. They start as of 24 – less than 24 hours after the President signed that executive order and made that announcement last week. I don’t have any specific companies, I don’t think, to kind of preview or read out for you, but I’m sure we can follow up and see if there’s more specific to provide on the specific companies.

Q: And is the Department of Defense considering plans to deploy military – National Guard to help with the vaccinations, be those vaccinators in communities that are underserved?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, the government – across the government, everyone is going to play a role in COVID, and addressing COVID and getting the pandemic under control. But in terms of their specific plans, I would send you to the Department of Defense.

Q: Can I ask one more on behalf of the radio pool?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

Q: The administration – this is for a reporter who can’t be in the room: What are the administration’s plans for Guantanamo and restarting military trials for detainees? One case was announced last week.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything new on that. I’m happy to follow up on that for you as well.

Go ahead.

Q: I just wanted to circle back to Peter’s question. So Dr. Fauci, on Fox today, went back to quoting that “100 million doses in 100 days” number. So did the President misspeak when he said the new goal was 150 million shots in a hundred days, yesterday? Or was he operating under some new update he got?

MS. PSAKI: The President didn’t actually say, “The new goal is…” The President said, “I hope we can do even more than that.” And that is certainly, of course, his hope. He is continuing to push our team to get as many Americans vaccinated as quickly as possible. That’s why we set the bold goal of 100 million shots in the arms of Americans in a hundred days, to begin with.

I would just remind everyone that this has literally never been done before. And what he has asked the team to do, and what the team is focused on doing, is also planning for contingencies. I mean, we’re at war with the virus. So, in a wartime theme here, there are a lot of things you plan for, including trucks breaking down; freezers breaking, you know, needing to plan for that; you know, not having vaccinators in a location to be able to put the syringes in people’s arms.

Q: So the 100 million number, though, would be a more accurate number to be citing?

MS. PSAKI: That’s the number we set, based on the recommendations of health and medical experts; it continues to be our goal. But does he want to do – beat that goal? Of course, he does. Of course, he does.

But, again, it is a goal that was set with contingencies we need to plan for in mind and he’s going to continue to push the team to meat that goal and go beyond it.

Q: And I had one other question –

MS. PSAKI: Go Ahead.

Q: – that I wanted to ask the Ambassador, but I didn’t get a chance to, which is: In terms of the racial equity goals, does the White House support overturning the Small Business Administration language that prohibits people with records from accessing PPP relief? It’s something that on the Hill has the support of Portman and Cardin.

MS. PSAKI: I know I had talked a little bit with our econ – economic team about this issue earlier, but I’ll have to circle back with you on it. It’s a good question. We’ll bring Ambassador Rice back, but we’ll circle back with you on this today.

Yamiche, go ahead in the back.

Q: Hi, I have a couple of questions. The first is: David Kessler said that most Americans would not be vaccinated until the third or fourth quarter of this year. He said that last week. President Biden spoke and said that he – we could possibly have herd immunity as early as this summer. That’s the difference in a couple of months. I’m wondering if you could reconcile the difference there and talk a little bit about when herd immunity and most Americans will be able to vaccinated.

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s sort of similar to what Peter asked a little bit earlier. But, you know, what the President – but the President is, of course, pushing his team to deliver results. And his goal is to ensure there I a greater availability in the spring and that it continues to improve in the summer.

Everybody won’t be – won’t be eligible this spring, as you all know, even with – even as CDC – the CDC continues to provide updated guidance. But he would certainly defer to medical health and medical experts, and obviously the guidance of Dr. Fauci, on when we may be at the pace of reaching herd immunity. But, you know, we will continue to update, as more progress is made, what the goals look like.

Q: And following up on that, in terms of data collection, it’s my understanding that something like 50 percent of the vaccinations are coming in without racial data. Is that accurate, or is there something else there? I’m wondering how you’ll measure success in vaccination people of color in vulnerable communities if you don’t have the data on who’s getting vaccinated.

And will we see – be seeing, kind of, mobile outlooks, mobile, kind of – mobile – just mobile outreach to those communities, in terms of vaccines? When might we see that?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, absolutely. That will be part of it. But also part of it will be working with pharmacies and working with health centers in communities so that communities across the country – rural communities, communities of color – have easier access to know where they can go and get a vaccine.

But this is going to be hard, and we are not trying to sugarcoat that. And it will be very challenging. This is why everybody who comes and speaks about COVID talks about our – the challenge of vaccine hesitancy and how we’re going to overcome that. And it won’t just be about having centers; it will also be about overcoming a lot of these contingencies I’ve mentioned that we have to plan for – about more effectively communicating with people, about the safety of the vaccine, and really being thoughtful about who we’re using to communicate.

So it is – it is going to take a multi-faceted approach, and we are open-eyed about the challenge.

Q: On the data part of that question: Is it accurate that there’s very little racial data, or at least less than 50 percent of racial data coming in on vaccinations?

MS. PSAKI: I would – I would defer – I would refer you to the CDC. And I know they’ll have their first briefing tomorrow, and that sounds like a great question to ask them.

Q: And I know Ambassador Susan Rice, she didn’t take all the questions, so maybe I’ll ask you the same –

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

Q: – the question that I was going to ask her, which is: We’ve seen that, after January 6th, there is obviously this issue of white supremacy and racism coursing through our country. What’s the biggest challenge when you think of equity in this country? And how do you measure success for something like that, especially when we think of all of the different ways that our country is dealing with it?

I know this – these EOs are about housing and about criminal justice, but can you talk a little bit about how you’re going to measure success and what the federal government’s role is on something so big as inequality and racism?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think what Ambassador Rice was conveying to all of you, and obviously what the President will sign later this afternoon, is an executive order that makes racial equity and and addressing racial equity a priority across the government. And what the Pres- – how the President talks about this is that far too often, when you think of racial – issues that are in the racial equity bucket, shall we say, are only related to a couple of categories, and that’s just not accurate.

We need to address racial equity in terms of health disparity. We need to address it in terms of access to lending and to loans. We need to address it in terms of biases and discrimination as it relates to housing.

And so what this executive order will do – it will make it a priority and infuse expertise and personnel to ensure we are addressing issues that impact communities of color across the country every day, and not just every few months when it’s an issue that comes up and prompts questioning.

Go ahead, in the back.

Q: Thank you, Jen. And thank you for making sure that everybody gets the opportunity to ask questions. I really appreciate that. I’ve got one on housekeeping, real quick, and then I’ve got a domestic and a foreign policy question.

So you got some beautiful screens behind you. Your predecessors have rejected multiple requests to bring back the Skype seat to the daily briefings for the benefit of reporters who are trying to stay safe during the pandemic while working remotely. Would you consider bringing back the Skype seat?

MS. PSAKI: We would. I will say – people don’t usually realize this, but there’s normally about 60 people in this room; I think that’s the right number. That’s certainly something we would be happy to have in this room, and I think all of you would too because your asking questions on behalf of your colleagues.

But we also – we rely on the advice of our health and medical experts on what’s safe – not just for us, but for all of you. And having everybody sit seat-by-seat wouldn’t be safe. I know that’s not what you’re asking, but we’d certainly be open to taking questions via Skype.

I took some questions on Twitter the other day. We’re going to try and take some questions from the American people that they ask on YouTube. And so we’ll continue to look for ways to not just bring back the daily briefing, but to take questions from more reporters and people.

Q: Okay. During the campaign – this is the foreign policy question. During the campaign, Mr. Biden had said that he would give benefits to the Palestinians, but he didn’t specify anything that he would ask – any concessions. So the question is: Is it the belief of this administration that the Palestinians don’t have to make concessions to get funding for a consulate?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I’ve talked about this particular issue enough in my old days at the State Department to know I’m going to defer to our national security team and the State Department and Jake Sullivan on any more specifics. Obviously, the President’s view continues to be that of a two-state solution is the only path forward and that – you know, that continues to be the position of his White House and administration.

Q: And finally -finally, this is on behalf of a colleague who was not able to be here today due to social distancing: Does the President believe he can attain unity with the 74 million Trump voters while urging his allies in the Senate to hold an impeachment trial after his predecessor has already left office?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the President’s belief is that he was elected by 81 million Americans, in part because they believed that he was somebody who could help bring the country together, unify the country around addressing the crisis that we face. And when he talks every day, nearly, about getting the pandemic under control, putting people back to work, he’s not just speaking to people who voted for him; he’s speaking to all of the American people who voted for him; he’s speaking to all of the American people, including the 74 million who didn’t vote for him.

And certainly addressing the pandemic, making – ensuring that people don’t worry about the health and safety of their grandparents, of their sisters and brothers, getting kids back to school – that’s not a partisan position; that’s a position – that’s a leadership position and one he’s taking because he wants to make sure he’s delivering for all American people.

Go ahead, all the way in the back.

Q: Thank you, Jen. I’m Marek Wałkuski from Polish Radio. The President spoke with Chancellor Merkel yesterday.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

Q: But the readout from the phone call doesn’t mention Nord Stream 2 – the pipeline from Russia to Germany. Have they discussed this particular project? And what’s President Biden’s position on Nord Stream 2? Is he determined to use the tools he has, like sanctions, to stop the project?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t have any more for you on the particular read out. But I can convey that we continue to believe – the President continues to believe that Nord Stream 2 is a bad deal for Europe. We’re aware that the previous administration imposed new restrictions on activities related to the pipeline under the National Defense Authorization Act, and we will be reviewing those measures.

And so he looks forward to continuing to consult with our European partners on this issue. And if there’s more to share on this conversation with Chancellor Merkel on it, we will certainly circle back with you more directly.

Let me just get to everybody. Go ahead.

Q: Thank you, Jen. This is just following on from Yamiche’s question earlier. We heard the President, yesterday, say that anyone who wanted to get a shot would be able to get one in the spring and that we would be well on our way to herd immunity by summer. I’m wondering how we can make those projections – and we don’t know what the National Stockpile is – when the CDC director says that supply won’t increase until March and when we’re still having these enormous distribution problems in the different states?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first start by saying, as I started the briefing conveying, the President will have more to say on our vaccine supply and also – and also assistance and cooperation that we will be doing with the states later this afternoon. So we’ll have an update on that.

And as I also noted, we do have a sense. There is Tiberius – my favorite word of the day – a website that has available information on not just the vaccine that is available in states, but what has been distributed.

So what I was conveying, and I think what a number of our medical and health experts have been conveying, is that we’ve been here for now six days – I’ll at a certain point stop saying that. But less than a week is not that long period of time. We are addressing every day where the holes are, where the gaps are, what the holdups are. It’s not just supply; it is beyond that. It’s also having the number of vaccinators we need, the number of vaccine distribution sites we need. Those are all issues, if you talk to any governor, that they will say are challenges to getting the vaccine in the arms of the American people.

And what the President’s goal is, is ensuring that there is greater availability in the spring. He will push his team. He pushes his team on COVID and updates on it, even when it’s a meeting about other issues. This is his focus every single day. And – but the fact is, every American is not going to be eligible this spring. We’re going to continue to increase supply; that’s part of it. And he has said many, many times, it’s going to take months and months for a broad swath of the population to be vaccination.

But he would, if he were standing here today – one, he’d be a lot taller than me, but he would say there are – he will defer to health and medical experts to get their assessments on when we can reach the point of herd immunity.

Peter, go ahead.

Q: There is a report now that the Chief Financial Officer of Florida has sent a letter to the International Olympic Committee that Florida would like to host the Olympics if Japan, next year, is uncomfortable because of the pandemic. Is a Florida Olympics in 2021 something you can see the White House supporting?

MS. PSAKI: Wow. Well, that’s a lot of steps that need to take place, and I don’t know the entire process of the Olympics, but I would certainly think – send you to the U.S. Olympic Committee and the International Olympic Committee first, on what their assessment of that offer is, and certainly, of course, what their assessment is of Japan’s preparedness for the Olympics.

Go ahead, right here.

Q: Jen, on contingencies: If these COVID vaccines need to be tweaked or changed because of these emerging variants, how is that going complicate your rollout effort?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Dr. Fauci spoke to this a little bit last week, and I expect this will be one of the lines of questioning with our health and medical experts when they have their first briefing tomorrow. And they have spoken to both assessments that have been made about the efficacy of the vaccine, even with the new variants, and how they are evaluating, you know, what the efficacy will be moving forward. This is something that they will continue to look at through a medical and health lens.

So I don’t think I’m going to have a new update or assessment for you from here, but it’s something they’re looking closely at, and the President will continue to encourage them to be as honest and straightforward with the American people as possible.

Q: Just one unrelated question. One of President Trump’s last acts was to grant protective status to Venezuelans who are in the United States.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

Q: I believe that still stands. Can you give us an update on your position on that?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Let me see. Let’s see.

While the overriding goal of the United States is to support a peaceful democratic transition in Venezuela through free and fair elections, he has long been clear – the President, that is – that his administration’s approach to Venezuela will focus on addressing the humanitarian situation, providing support to the Venezuelan people, and reinvigorating multilateral diplomacy to press for a democratic outcome and pursue individuals involved in corruption, human rights abuses, and pursue individuals involved with that.

I don’t have anything more for you on the status of temporary protected status. That was a mouthful. I will – of course, our national security team is doing a review of all of the positions put in place by the Trump administration and will provide an update when we have one.

Go ahead.

Q: One more question. Ambassador Rice outlined all of these disparities when it comes to Americans of color being infected and dying from COVID at higher rates. Do you – does the White House fault the policies of the previous administration for creating those disparities that we’re seeing?

MS. PSAKI: Well, health disparities in communities of color existed long before the Trump administration took office, and I think that’s a statement of fact. But what did not happen was actions put in place to ensure greater accessibility to communicate – – communities of color for healthcare, greater communications on public campaign about how communities of color could gain access to healthcare and treatments. And certainly the actions taken by the prior administration to, for all intents of [sic] purposes, destroy the Affordable Care Act didn’t help any American and certainly didn’t help communities of color.

So, the vaccine, as you all know, has only – we did not have the scientific and medical breakthrough until late last year. And now it’s incumbent upon this administration, the Biden-Harris administration, to ensure that we are taking secs – steps to increase access, but also to communicate more effectively with communities of color about the vaccine and the efficacy of it. And that certainly is a primary focus. That’s one of the reasons why Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith is leading a COVID task force and is a pivotal part of the COVID team.

And I will say, from being on the transition, she wasn’t a person who was, aside from reputation, but she wasn’t a person known by the President – then President-elect Biden previously, but he was so impressed with her as a member of the COVID Advisory Task Force that he felt, personally, it was important to have her as a pivotal member of the team to address exactly this issue.

Okay, go ahead. Last – last one, says Jonathan.

Q: Thank you very much. If I can ask a follow-up, I’d appreciate it. The Trump administration granted waivers to Arkansas and other states to require work for some Medicaid recipients. That was challenged in the court. The court struck it down. The Trump administration pushed it to the Supreme Court. It’s ending there. Does the Biden administration support these waiver, oppose them? Are they going to argue for it, against it? What’s the position of the administration?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would certainly send you to our Department of Justice, my Department of Justice colleagues, to speak to anything related to a legal case. I will say that President Biden does not believe, as a principle, it should be difficult to – for people to gain access to healthcare. And he’s not – he’s not been supportive in the past, and is not today, of putting additional restrictions in place. And he’s spoken about that publicly, too.

Q: And then, if I could follow up. Yesterday, former President Trump endorsed Sarah Huckabee Sanders for Governor of Arkansas in 2022. Where does President Biden stand on that particular race, and how high is this on his list of priorities?

MS. PSAKI: Wow. How high is the Arkansas Republican gubernatorial primary on the President’s list of priorities? Not high. I can confirm for you I’m not running for Governor of Connecticut in the future. So I’m here to confirm that for you as well. I don’t expect he will get involved in this race, but also politics is not front and center for his mind, in general, at this point in time. He’s focused on getting the pandemic under control.

Okay.

Q: Jen, who leads the governors’ call today, just for clarity?

MS. PSAKI: What did you say?

Q: Who is leading the governors’ call today?

MS. PSAKI: Who is making – leading the governors’ call?

Q: Who is leading it? The President won’t be on it, so who is leading it?

MS. PSAKI: Jeff Zeints will be one of the – one of the health officials, or one of the, I should say, policy officials who is on the call today. There may be others, but he’s one of the primary leaders of the call.

Q: And bipartisan governors, obviously, participating?

MS. PSAKI: I believe so, yes. Exactly.

Okay, last one. I’m breaking Jonathan’s rule, but –

Q: Hey, Jen. We just saw that President Biden has spoken to President Putin. Can you give us an update on the nature of their call? What came up?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Well, I beli- – the call – I can confirm for you the call was scheduled. The call has happened, I believe, since I have come out here. So, we will of course, be putting a readout of the call out. But since you gave me the opportunity, I will just convey to you that he called him – called President Putin this afternoon with the intention of discussing our willingness to extend New START for five years, and also to reaffirm our strong support for Ukraine sovereignty in the face of Russians’ ongoing – Russia’s ongoing aggression, and also to raise matters of concern, including the SolarWinds hack, reports of Russia placing bounties on United States soldiers in Afghanistan, interference in the 2020 Election, the poisoning of Alexei Navalny, and treatment of peaceful protesters by Russian security forces.

His intention was also to make clear that the United States will act firmly in defense of our national interests in response to malign actions by Russia. But we’ll have a readout for you, I assume, sometime early this afternoon.

Thanks, everyone.

January 26: The White House posted Remarks titled: “Remarks by President Biden at Signing of an Executive Order on Racial Equity” From the Remarks:

THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, folks. I thank the Vice President for being with me today as well. In my campaign for President, I made it very clear that the moment had arrived as a nation where we face deep racial inequities in America and system- – systemic racism that has plagued our nation for far, far too long.

I said it over the course of the past year that the blinders had been taken come off the nation of the American people. What ma – – what many Americans didn’t see, or had simply refused to see, couldn’t be ignored any longer.

Those 8 minutes and 46 seconds that took George Floyd’s life opened the eyes of millions of Americans and millions of people around – all over the world. It was the knew on the neck of justice, and it wouldn’t be forgotten. It stirred the conscience of tens of millions of Americans, and, in my view, it marked a tuning point in this country’s attitude toward racial justice.

When his six-years-old – six-year-old daughter, Gianna, who I met with when I met with the family – I landed down to say hi to her, and she said – looked at me, and she said, “Daddy changed the world.” That’s what Gianna said – his daughter. “Daddy changed the world.” And I believe she is right, not because this kind of injustice stopped – it clearly hasn’t – but because the ground has shifted, because it’s changed minds and mindsets, because it laid the groundwork for progress.

COVID-19 has further ripped a path of destruction through every community in American, but no one has been spared, but the devastation in communities of color has been nothing short of stunning. Just look at the numbers: 40 percent of frontline workers – are Americans of color and many are still living on the edge. One in ten black Americans is out of work today. One in eleven Latino Americans is out of work today. One in seven households in America – about one in four black, one in five Latino households in America – report that they don’t have enough food to eat in the United States of America.

Black and Latino Americans are dying of COVID-19 at rates nearly three times that of white Americans. And it’s not white Americans’ fault, but it’s just a fact. And the Americans now know it, especially younger Americans.

One of the reasons I’m so optimistic about this nation is that today’s generation of young Americans is the most progressive, thoughtful, inclusive generation that America has ever seen. And they are pulling us toward justice in so many ways, forcing us to confront the huge gap in economi- -excuse me, economic inequity between those at the top and everyone else, forcing us to confront the existential crisis of climate; and, yes, forcing us to confront systemic racism and white supremacy.

It’s been just weeks since all of American witnessed a group of thugs, insurrectionists, political extremists, and white supremacists violently attack the Capitol of our democracy. And so now – now is the time to act. It’s time to act because that’s what the faith and morality calls us to do.

Across nearly every faith, the same principles hold: We’re all God’s children; we should treat each other as we would like to be treated ourselves. And this is the time to act – and this time to act is because it’s what the core values of this nation call us to do. And I believe the vast majority of Americans – Democrats, Republicans, and independents – share these values and want us to act as well.

We have never fully lived up to the founding principles of this nation, to state the obvious, that all people are created equal and have a right to be treated equally throughout their lives. And it’s time to act now, not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because if we do, we’ll all be better off for it.

For too long, we’ve allowed a narrow, cramped view of the promise of this nation to fester. You know, we’ve – we’ve bought the view that America is a zero-sum game in many cases: “If you succeed, I fail.” “If you get ahead, I fall behind.” “If you get the job, I lose mine.” Maybe worst of all, “If I hold you down, I lift myself up.”

We’ve lost sight of what President Kennedy told us when he said “A rising tide lifts all boats.” And when we lift each other up, we’re all lifted up. You know, and the corollary is true as well: When any one of us is held down, we’re all held back. More and more economic studies in recent years have proven this, but I don’t think you need economic studies to see the truth.

Just imagine if instead of consigning millions of American children to under-resourced schools, we gave each and every three- and four-year-old child a chance to learn, to go to school – not daycare, school – and grow and thrive in school and throughout. When they’ve done that – the places it’s been done, it shows they have an exponentially greater chance of going all the way through 12 years of school and doing it well.

But, you know, does anyone – does anyone in this whole nation think we’re not all better off it that were to happen?

Just imaging if instead of denying millions of Americans the ability to own a home and build generational wealth – who made it possible for them to buy a home, their first home – and begin to build equity to provide for their families and send their children off to school, does anyone doubt that the whole nation would be better off?

Just imagine: Instead of denying millions of young entrepreneurs the ability to access capital, we made it possible to take their dream to market, create jobs, reinvest in their own communities. Does anyone doubt this whole nation wouldn’t be better off?

Just imagine if more incredibly creative and innovative – how much more creative and innovative we’d be if this held – held the historic black colleges and universities to the same opportunities – and minority-serving institutions – that had the same funding and resources of public universities to compete for jobs and industries of the future. You know, just ask the first HBCU graduate elected as Vice President if that’s not true.

But to do this, I believe this nation and this government need to change their whole approach to the issue of racial equal – equity. Yes, we need criminal justice reform, but that isn’t nearly enough. We need to open the promise of America to every American. And that means we need to make the issue of racial equity not just an issue for any one department of government; it has to be the business of the whole of government.

January 26: The White House posted a Fact Sheet titled: “FACT SHEET: President Biden to Take Action to Advance Racial Equity and Support Underserved Communities” From the FACT SHEET:

Administration to Purchase Additional 200 Million Doses to Be Delivered This Summer

This afternoon, President Biden will outline his vision and new elements of his agenda for advancing racial equality for Americans who have been underserved and left behind. Equal opportunity is the fundamental promise of America. But systemic racism and discrimination in our economy, laws, and institutions have put the promise of America out of reach for too many families of color.

President Biden will renew the federal government’s commitment to making the American Dream real for families across the nation by taking bold and ambitious steps to root out inequality by taking bold and ambitious steps to root out inequity from our economy and expand opportunities for communities of color and other underserved Americans.

President Biden will sign four executive actions this afternoon to advance racial equity and take the first steps to root out systemic racism in housing and criminal justice. He will direct the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to take steps necessary to redress racially discriminatory federal housing policies that have contributed to wealth inequality for generations. The President will sign an Executive Order to end the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) use of private prisons. He will recommend the federal government to respect Tribal sovereignty and strengthen Nation-to-Nation relationship between the United States and Tribal Nations. And, President Biden will take action to combat xenophobia against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

These orders build on actions the President took during his first week in office to advance equity, which historians have described as one of the most robust efforts to advance racial justice in the first weeks of any new administration. On his first day in office, President Biden signed an unprecedented Executive Order establishing a whole-of-government initiative to address racial equity and support underserved communities, and to redress systemic racism in federal policies, laws, and programs.

He took immediate action to roll back harmful policies, such as President Trump’s 1776 Commission and ban on diversity and inclusion training for federal employees and contractors. In the days ahead, President Biden will reinvigorate the federal government’s role as a model employer by expanding and building on the efforts of the Obama-Biden Administration, to require agencies to take affirmative steps to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion, as well as by requiring accessibility.

President Biden committed to embedding racial equity across his Administration’s response to COVID-19 and the economic crisis. In his first week in office, he signed executive actions to provide relief to American families that will aid families of color that are being disproportionately impacted by this economic crisis.

He directed the Department of Agriculture to address the growing crisis of hunger facing more than one in five Black and Latino households by increasing access to nutritious food for millions of children missing meals due to school closures, issuing new guidance to help an additional 12 million Americans access nutrition assistance, and beginning to process to increase program benefits to better reflect today’s grocery costs.

The President extended the pause on federal student loan payments and collections, protecting borrowers burdened by educational debt, who are disproportionately Americans of color. He extended the federal government’s foreclosure and eviction moratoriums until February 28, 2021, helping families who are more likely to be rent burdened to stay safely housed.

President Biden directed the Department of Treasury to take steps to make the delivery of stimulus benefits more equitable to help the 8 million households, many of whom are families of color, who never received the first stimulus checks they were entitled to. And, the President began a process of requiring federal contractors to pay a $15 minimum wage and provide emergency paid leave to workers bringing financial relief to low wage workers.

These actions are just the start. The President is committed to working with Congress to pass bold legislation that advances racial equity, including increasing funding for small businesses, investing in Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other Minority Serving Institutions, and tripling funding for Title I schools, which serve a majority of low-income students. As the President has said, he is focused on ensuring that small businesses owned by people of color and others who have been historically disadvantaged – many of whom were shut out of previous relief packages – receive support.

And President Biden’s American Rescue Plan will provide immediate, direct relief to communities and families bearing the brunt of the crisis – including communities and families of color. Economists estimate that the investments in the American Rescue Plan will lift over eight million Black, Latino, and Asian Americans out of poverty and will provide relief across sectors where families of color are most disproportionately impacted in this crisis: in food and financial security, healthcare access, and education and childcare.

The President’s rescue plan will expand protections for frontline workers, 40 percent of whom are people of color. It will increase and extend Unemployment Insurance benefits, supporting the one in ten Black workers and one in eleven Latino workers who are unemployed. And, the plan will provide critical relief to Native American communities and Tribes.

Today, President Biden will sign additional executive actions to:

Advance Fair Housing. President Biden will sign a Presidential Memorandum “Redressing Our Nation’s and the Federal Government’s History of Discriminatory Housing Practices and Policies.” This memorandum recognizes the central role the federal government has played in implementing housing policies across the United States, from redlining to mortgage discrimination to destructive federal highway construction, that have had racially discriminatory impacts. The Fair Housing Act requires the federal government to advance fair housing and combat housing discrimination, including disparate impact discrimination that appears neutral but has an unjustified discriminatory effect in practice.

This Presidential Memorandum directs HUD to examine the effects of the previous Administration’s regulatory actions that undermined fair housing policies and laws. And, it directs HUD to take steps necessary based on that analysis to fully implement the Fair Housing Act’s requirements.

Reform our Incarceration System to End the Use of Private Prisons. More than two million people are currently incarcerated in the United States, and a disproportionate number of these individuals are people of color. Mass incarceration imposes significant costs on our society and communities, while private prisons profiteer off of federal prisoners in less safe conditions for prisoners and correctional officers alike.

President Biden is committed to reducing mass incarceration while making our communities safer. That starts with ending the DOJ’s reliance on private prisons. The Order directs the Attorney General not to renew Department of Justice contracts with privately operated criminal detention facilities.

Reaffirm the Federal Government’s Commitment to Tribal Sovereignty and Consultation. The Biden Administration is committed to re-establishing federal respect for Tribal sovereignty, strengthening the Nation-to-Nation relationship between the federal government and American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes, empowering self-determination, and advancing racial justice for Native communities. This Executive Order reinvigorates the commitment of all federal agencies to engage in regular, robust, and meaningful consultation with Tribal governments.

Combat Xenophobia Against Asian American and Pacific Islanders. While bullying and discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) is a long-standing and unacceptable problem in our country, rates of harassment and violence against AAPIs have risen dramatically in the past year.

President Biden will sign a Presidential Memorandum acknowledging the harm that these actions have caused, and establishing that the policy of his Administration is to condemn and denounce anti-Asian bias and discrimination.

his Memorandum directs the Department of Health and Human Services, in coordination with the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, to consider issuing guidance describing best practices to advance cultural competency, language access, and sensitivity towards AAPIs in the federal government’s COVID-19 response. It also directs the Department of Justice to partner with AAPI communities to prevent hate crimes and harassment against AAPIs.

January 26: The White House posted a Presidential Action titled: “Memorandum Condemning and Combating Racism, Xenophobia, and Intolerance Against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States” From the Presidential Action:

Advancing inclusion and belonging for people of all races, national origins, and ethnicities is critical to guaranteeing the safety and security of the American people.During the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, inflammatory and xenophobic rhetoric has put Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) persons, families, communities, and businesses at risk.

The Federal Government must recognize that it has played a role in furthering these xenophobic sentiments through the actions of political leaders, including references to the COVID-19 pandemic by the geographic location of its origin. Such statements have stoked unfounded fears and perpetuated stigma about Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and have contributed to increasing rates of bullying, harassment, and hate crimes against AAPI persons. These actions defied the best practices and guidelines of public health officials and have caused significant harm to AAPI families and communities that must be addressed.

Despite these increasing acts of intolerance, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have made our Nation more secure during the COVID-19 pandemic and throughout our Nation’s history. An estimated 2 million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have served on the front lines of this crisis as healthcare providers, as first responders, and in other essential roles. The Federal Government should combat racism, xenophobia, and intolerance against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and should work to ensure that all members of AAPI communities – no matter their background, the language they speak, or their religious beliefs – are treated with dignity and equity.

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of American it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Condemning Racism, Xenophobia, and Intolerance Against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. The Federal Government has a responsibility to prevent racism, xenophobia, and intolerance against everyone in America, including Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. My Administration condemns and denounces acts of racism, xenophobia, and intolerance against AAPI communities.

Sec. 2. Combating Racism, Xenophobia, and Intolerance Against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. (a)The Secretary of Health and Human Services shall, in coordination with the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, consider issuing guidance describing best practices for advancing cultural competency, language access, and sensitivity towards Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the context of the Federal Government’s COVID-19 response. In developing any such guidance, the Secretary should consider best practices set forth by public health organizations and experts for mitigating racially discriminatory language in describing the COVID-19 pandemic.

(b) Executive departments and agencies (agencies) shall take all appropriate steps to ensure that official actions, documents, and statements, including those that pertain to the COVID-19 pandemic, do not exhibit or contribute to racism, xenophobia, and intolerance against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Agencies may consult with public health experts, AAPI community leaders, or AAPI community-serving organizations, or may refer to any best practices issued pursuant to subsection (a) of this section, to ensure an understanding of the needs and challenges faced by AAPI communities.

(c) The Attorney General shall explore opportunities to support, consistent with applicable law, the efforts of State and local agencies, as well as AAPI communities and community-based organizations, to prevent discrimination, bullying, harassment, and hate crimes against AAPI individuals and to expand collection of data and public reporting regarding hate incidents against such individuals.

Sec. 3. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this memorandum shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b) This memorandum shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c) Independent agencies are strongly encouraged to comply with the provisions of this memorandum.

(d) This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employers, or agents or any other person.

(e) The Secretary of Health and Human Services is authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.

JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.

January 26: The White House posted a Memorandum titled: “Memorandum on Tribal Consultation and Strengthening Nation-to-Nation Relationships” From the Memorandum:

MEMORANDUM FOR THE HEADS OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES

SUBJECT: Tribal Consultation and Strengthening Nation-to-Nation Relationships

American Indian and Alaska Native Tribal Nations are sovereign governments recognized under the Constitution of the United States, treaties, statutes, Executive Orders, and court decisions. It is a priority of my Administration to make respect for Tribal sovereignty and self-governance, commitment to fulfilling Federal trust and treaty responsibilities to Tribal Nations, and regular, meaningful, and robust consultation with Tribal Nations cornerstones of Federal Indian policy.

To this end, Executive Order 13175 of November 6, 2000 (Consultation and Coordination With Indian Tribal Governments), charges all executive departments with engaging with regular, meaningful, and robust consultation with Tribal officials in the development of Federal policies that have Tribal implications. Tribal consultation under this order strengthens Nation-to-Nation relationship between the United States and Tribal Nations. The Presidential Memorandum of November 5, 2009 (Tribal Consultation) requires each agency to prepare and periodically update a detailed plan of action to implement the policies and directives of Executive Order 13175. This memorandum reaffirms the policy announced in that memorandum.

Section 1. Consultation. My Administration is committed to honoring Tribal sovereignty and including Tribal voices in policy deliberation that affects Tribal communities. The Federal Government has much to learn from Tribal Nations and strong communication is fundamental to a constructive relationship. Accordingly, I hereby direct as follows:

(a) The head of each agency shall submit to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), within 90 days of the date of this memorandum, a detailed plan of actions the agency will take to implement the policies of Executive Order 13175, The plan shall be developed after consultation by the agency with Tribal Nations and Tribal officials as defined in Executive Order 13175.

(b) Each agency’s plan and subsequent reports shall designate an appropriate agency official to coordinate implementation of the plan and preparation of progress reports required by this memorandum. These officials shall submit reports to the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy (APDP) and the Director of OMB, who will review agency plans and subsequent reports for consistency with the policies and directives of Executive Order 13175.

(c) The head of each agency shall submit to the Director of OMB, within 270 days of the date of this memorandum, and annually thereafter, a progress report on the status of each action included in the agency’s plan, together with any proposed updates to its plan.

(d) The Director of OMB, incoordination with the APDP, shall submit to the President, within one year from the date of this memorandum, a report on the implementation of Executive Order 13175 across the executive branch based on the review of agency plans and progress reports. Recommendations for improving the plans and making the Tribal consultation progress more effective, if any, should be included in the report.

Sec. 2. Definitions. The terms “Tribal officials,” “policies that have Tribal implications,” and “agency” as used in this memorandum are defined in Executive Order 13175.

Sec. 3. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this memorandum shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b) This memorandum shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c) This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

Sec. 4. Publication. The Director of OMB is authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.

JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.

January 26: The White House posted a Fact Sheet titled: “Fact Sheet: President Biden Announces New Steps to Boost Vaccine Supply and Increase Transparency for States, Tribes, and Territories”. From the Fact Sheet:

Administration to Purchase Additional 200 Million Doses to Be Delivered This Summer

Just over a year since the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in the United States, the nation has hit another grim milestone in the pandemic, reaching 25 million infections and counting. The pace in which this virus has spread throughout the U.S. is staggering and with new variants emerging, the spread is not slowing any time soon. That’s why it is critical that we vaccinate as many people as possible, as quickly as possible.

President Biden has a comprehensive National Action Strategy to put the pandemic behind us and he and the COVID-19 response team are aggressively implementing it. Today, the President is announcing bold steps that will help meet the goal of administering 100 million shots in 100 days and ramp up the vaccine supply as fast as possible. As a result of these actions, the federal government will have enough vaccine supply for the entire U.S. population by the end of the summer.

The President is taking the following actions today:

An Increase in Weekly Vaccine Supply to States, Tribes and Territories: The Biden-Harris Administration will increase overall, weekly vaccine supply to states, Tribes and territories from 8.6 million doses to a minimum of 10 million doses. This increase of 1.4 million doses per week will allow millions more Americans to get vaccinated sooner than previously anticipated. The Administration is committing to maintaining this as the minimum supply level for the next three weeks.

Increased transparency for States, Tribes, and Territories to Help Their Vaccination Efforts: The Biden-Harris Administration is taking action to provide states, Tribes and territories with a reliable three-week supply look-ahead. The Department of Health and Human Services will provide allocation estimates for the upcoming three weeks as opposed to the one week look-ahead that they previously received. This increased transparency will give state and local leaders greater certainty around supply so that they can plan their vaccination efforts and administer vaccines effectively and efficiently.

Purchase 200 Million Additional Doses to Be Delivered This Summer, Double the Nation’s Vaccine Supply: President Biden directed his COVID-19 Response Coordinator to work with HHS to increase our total vaccine supply for the American people. The Biden-Harris Administration is working to purchase an additional 100 million doses of each of the two Food and Drug Administration-authorized vaccines – Pfizer and Moderna. This increases the total vaccine orderer the U.S. by 50%, from 400 million to 600 million with these additional doses expected to deliver this summer. With these additional doses, the U.S. will have enough vaccine to fully vaccinate 300 million Americans by the end of this summer.

January 26: The White House posted Remarks titled: “Remarks by President Biden at Signing of an Executive Order on Racial Equity” From the Remarks:

THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, folks. I thank the Vice President for being with me today as well. In my campaign for President, I made it very clear that the moment had arrived as a nation where we face deep racial inequities in America and system- – systemic racism that has plagued our nation for far, far too long.

I said it over the course of the past year that the blinders had been taken come off the nation of the American people. What ma- – what many Americans didn’t see, or had simply refused to see, couldn’t be ignored any longer.

Those 8 minutes and 46 seconds that took George Floyd’s life opened up the eyes of millions of Americans and millions of people around – all over the world. It was the knee on the neck of justice, and it wouldn’t be forgotten. It was the knee on the neck of justice, and it wouldn’t be forgotten. It stirred the conscience of tens of millions of Americans, and, in my view, it marked a turning point in this country’s attitude toward racial justice.

When his six-years-old – six-year-old daughter, Gianna, who I met with when I met the family – I landed down to say hi to her, and she said – looked at me, and she said, “Daddy changed the world.” That’s what Gianna said – his daughter. “Daddy changed the world.” And I believe she is right, not because the ground has shifted, because it’s changed minds and mindsets, because it laid the groundwork for progress.

COVID-19 has further ripped a path of destruction through every community in America, but no one has been spared, but the devastation in communities of color has been nothing short of stunning. Just look at the numbers: 40 percent of frontline workers – nurses, first responders, grocery store workers – are Americans of color, and many are still living on the edge. One in ten black Americans is out of work today. One in eleven Latino Americans is out of work today. One in seven households in America – about one in four black, one in five Latino households in American – report that they don’t have enough food to eat in the United States of America.

Black and Latino Americans are dying of COVID-19 at rates nearly three times that of white Americans. And it’s not white Americans’ fault, but it’s just a fact. And the Americans now know it, especially younger Americans.

One of the reasons I’m so optimistic about this nation is that today’s generation of young Americans is the most progressive, thoughtful, inclusive generation that America has ever seen. And they are pulling us toward justice in so many ways, forcing us to confront the huge gap in economi- – excuse me, economic inequity between those at the top and everyone else, forcing us to confront the existential crisis of climate; and yes, forcing us to confront systemic racism and white supremacy.

It’s just been weeks since all of America witnessed a group of thugs, insurrectionists, political extremists, and white supremacists violently attack the Capitol of our democracy. And so now – now is the time to act. It’s time to act because that’s what the faith and morality calls us to do.

Across nearly every faith, the same principles hold: We’re all God’s children; we should treat each other as we would like to be treated ourselves. And this is time to act – and this time is because it’s what the core values of this nation call us to do. And I believe the vast majority of Americans – Democrats, Republicans, and independents – share these values and want us to act as well.

We have never fully lived up to the founding principles of this nation, to state the obvious, that all people are created equal and have a right to be treated equally throughout their lives. And its time to act now, not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because if we do, we’ll all be better off for it.

For too long, we’ve allowed a narrow, cramped view of the promise of this nation to fester. You know we’ve – we’ve bought the new that America is a zero-sum game in many cases: “If you succeed, I fail.” “If you get ahead, I fall behind.” “If you get the job, I lose mine.” Maybe worst of all is, “If I hold you down, I lift myself up.”

We’ve lost sight of what President Kennedy told us when he said, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” And when we lift each other up, we’re all lifted up. You know, and the corollary is true as well: When any one of us is held down, we’re all held back. More and more economic studies in recent years have proven this, but I don’t think you need economic studies to see the truth.

Just imaging if instead of consigning millions of American children to under-resourced schools, we gave each and every three- and four-year-old child a chance to learn, to go to school – not daycare, school – and grow and thrive in school and throughout. When they’ve done that – the places it’s been done, it shows they have an exponentially greater chance of going all the way though 12 years of school and doing it well.

But, you know, does anyone – does anyone in this whole nation think we’re not all better off if that were to happen?

Just imagine instead of denying millions of Americans the ability to own a home and build generational wealth – who made it possible for them to buy a home, their first home – and begin to build equity to provide for their families and send their children off to school, does anyone doubt that the whole nation will be better off?

Just imagine: Instead of denying millions of young entrepreneurs the ability to access capital, we made it possible to take their dream to market, create jobs, reinvest in their own communities. Does anyone doubt this whole nation wouldn’t be better off?

Just imagine if more incredibly creative and innovative – how much more creative and innovative we’d be if this nation held – held the historic black colleges and universities to the same opportunities – and minority-serving institutions – that had the same funding and resources of public universities to compete for jobs and industries of the future. You know, just ask the first HBCU graduate elected as Vice President if that’s not true.

But to do this, I believe this nation and this government need to change their whole approach to the issue of racial equal – – equity. Yes, we need criminal justice reform, but that isn’t nearly enough. We need to open the promise of America to every Americans. And that means we need to make the issue of racial equity not just an issue for any one department of government; it has to be the business of the whole of government.

That’s why I issued, among the first days, my whole-of-government executive order that will, for the first time, advance equity for all throughout our federal policies and institutions. It focuses on the whole range of communities who have been long underserved and overlooked: people of color; Americans with disabilities; LGBTQ Americans; religious minorities; rural, urban, suburban communities facing persistent poverty.

And I’ve asked Ambassador Susan Rice to lead the administration’s charge through the White House and Domestic Policy Council because I know she’ll se it through. Every White House, every White House component, and every agency will be involved in this work because advancing equity has to be everyone’s job.

Today, I’ll be shortly signing an additional package of executive actions to continue this vital work, Housing, for example: Housing is a right in America, and homeownership is an essential tool to wealth creation and to be passed down to generations.

Today, I’m directing the Department of Housing and Urban Affairs – and Urban Development to redress historical racism in federal housing policies. Today, I’m directing the federal agency to reinvigorate the consultation process with Indian tribes. Respect the tribal sovereignty – respect for tribal sovereignty will be a cornerstone of our engaging with Native American communities.

This builds on the work we did last week to expand tribes’ access to the Strategic National Stockpile for the first time, to ensure they receive help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, to fight this pandemic.

Today, I’m directing federal agencies to combat resurgence of xenophobia, particularly against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, that we’ve seen skyrocket during this pandemic. This is unacceptable and it’s un-American. I’ve asked the Department of Justice to strengthen its partnership with the Asian American and Pacific Islander community to prevent those hate crimes.

I’ve also asked the Department of Health and Human Services to put out best practices for combatting xenophobia in our national response to COVID.

Look, in the weeks ahead, I’ll be reaffirming the federal government’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and accessibility, building on the work we started in the Obama-Biden administration. That’s why I reminded the previous administration’s harmful ban on diversity and sensitivity training, and abolished the offensive, counter-factual 1776 Commission. Unity and healing must begin with understanding and truth, not ignorance and lies.

Today, I’m also issuing an executive order that will ultimately end the Justice Department’s use of the private prison indus- private prisons, an industry that houses pretrial detrainees [sic] – detainees and federal prisoners.

The executive order directs the Attorney General to decline to renew contracts with privately operated criminal facilities – a step we started to take at the end of the Obama administration and was reversed under the previous administration.

This is the first step to stop corporations from profiteering off of incarcerating – incarceration that is less humane and less safe, as the studies show. And it is just the beginning of my administration’s plan to address systemic problems in our criminal justice system.

Here’s another thing that we need to do: We need to restore and expand the Voting Rights Act – named after our dear friend, John Lewis – and continue to fight back against laws that many states are engaged in to suppress the right to vote, while expanding access to the ballot box for all eligible voters.

Because here’s the deal, and I’ll close with this: I ran for President because I believe we’re in a battle for the soul of the nation. And the simple truth is, our soul will be troubled as long as systemic racism is allowed to persist. We can’t eliminate it if – it’s not going to be overnight. We can’t eliminate everything.

But it’s corrosive, it’s destructive, and it’s costly. It costs every American, not just those who have felt the sting of injustice. We aren’t just less of a – we are not just a nation of morally deprived because of systemic racism; we’re also less prosperous, we’re less successful, we’re less secure.

So, we must change, and I know it’s going to take time. But I know we can do it. And I firmly believe the nation is ready to change, but government has to change as well. We need to make equity and justice part of what we do every day – today, tomorrow, and every day.

Now I’m going to sign these executive actions to continue the work to make real the promise of America for every Americans. Again, I’m not promising we can end it tomorrow, but I promise you: We’re going to continue to make progress to eliminate systemic racism, and every branch of the White House and the federal government is going to be part of that effort.

Thank you.

This first executive order is a memorandum for the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to redress our nation’s and the federal government’s history of discriminatory housing practices and policies.

(The executive order is signed.)

The next executive order is reforming the incarceration system by eliminating the use of privately operated criminal detention facilities.

(The executive order is signed.)

The third executive order is a memorandum for the heads of executive departments and agencies on tribal consultation, and strengthening nation-to-nation relationships.

(The executive order is signed.)

The last executive order is condemning and combatting racism, xenophobia, and intolerance against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States.

(The executive order is signed.)

I think the country is ready, and I know this administration is ready. Thank you.

Q: Mr. President, what did you talk to Vladimir Putin about?

THE PRESIDENT: You. (Laughter.) He sent his best.

January 26: The White House posted Remarks titled: “Remarks by President Biden on the Fight to Contain the COVID-19 Pandemic.” From the Remarks:

4:50 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you for taking the time to be here. Good afternoon. I’m accompanies by Jeff Zeints, who is heading up our whole COVID team. And today, what I’d like to do is upgrade – update you on where we are. Tomorrow, we’re going to begin the briefings that are going to occur on a regular basis with Mr. Zeints and his team. So we’re brining back the pros to talk about COVID in an unvarnished way. Any questions you have, that’s how we’ll handle them because we’re letting science speak.

And so, I – I’d like to update you on the aggressive steps we’ve ever undertaken as a nation. I’ve said that before, but I must say it again because we’re going to do – we’re going to do everything we can to get it done. But a lot of things can go wrong along the way.

And so, I’ve – as I’ve said in the past, we want to give credit to everyone involved in this vaccine effort and the prior administration and the science community and the medical sphere – (technical equipment falls to the floor) – for getting the program – I didn’t do it, I promise – (laughter) – for getting the program off the ground. And that credit is absolutely due.

But it’s also no secret that we have recently discovered, in the final days of the transition – and it wasn’t until the final days we got the kind of cooperation we needed – that once we arrived, the vaccine program is worse shape than we anticipated or expected. A lot of you who follow this – and nobody is – I mean this sincerely, the press is the smartest group of people in town; you hone this stuff down, clearly – I think you found the same thing.

Even before I took office, I announced a new vaccine – a vaccination strategy for our whole country. And that’s why I directed my COVID team to go to work immediately, and how we could step up the vaccination efforts and the vaccinations.

I’m pleased to announce the first progress in that work today on day seven of my presidency. First, after review of the current vaccine supply manufacturing plants, I can announce that we will increase the overall weekly vaccination distribution to states, tribes, and territories from 8.6 million doses to a minimum of 10 million doses, starting next week. That’s an increase of 1.4 million doses per week.

And you all know – if I may not, parenthetically – you all know that the vaccines are distributed to states based on population. They’re based on population. And so the smaller the state, the less vaccine; the bigger the state, the more they get. And so this is going to allow millions of more Americans to get vaccinated sooner than previously anticipated. We got a long way to go, though.

The second thing: We’re increasing the transparency with states, cities, and tribes, and local partners when it comes to the vaccine supply. This is something we’ve heard over and over again from both Democrats and Republicans, state and local leaders; that they need a plan in order to what – they didn’t know what they had to plan on. They need to know what the order is going to be.

Jeff had a meeting with the governors on Zoom and – and others. And I think we’re getting this coordinated in a way that there’s increased cooperation and confidence.

But until now, we’ve had to guess how much vaccine to expect for the next week. And that’s what the governors had to do: “How much am I getting next week?” This is unacceptable. They – you know, the lives are at stake here.

From this week forward, God willing, we’ll ensure that states, tribes, and territories will now always have a reliable three-week forecast on what the supply they’re going to get. So they’ll know, three weeks ahead of time, what’s going to be there in the third week.

This is going to help make sure governors, mayors, and local leaders have greater certainty around supply so they can carry out their plans to vaccinate as many people as possible.

So, we will both increase the supply in the short term by more than 15 percent and give our states and local partners more certainty about when the deliveries will arrive. These two steps are going to help increase our prospects of hitting – or exceeding, God willing, the ambitious goal of 100 million shots in 100 days.

But I also want to be clear: 100 million shots in 100 days is not the endpoint; it’s just the start. We’re not stopping there. The end goal is to beat COVID-19. And the way we do that is to get more people vaccinated, which means we have to be ready, after we hit the ground [sic] – after we hit the goal of 100 million shots in 100 days.

Now, that means fewer than 100 million people getting totally vaccinated; it means 100 [million] shots, it means somewhere between 60 – maybe less, maybe more – million people will have the – because it requires two shots in many cases – not always.

So today, I’m directing COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zeints, here, to work with the Department of Health and Human Services to increase our total supply of vaccine for the American people. And we believe that we’ll soon be able to confirm the purchase of an additional 100 billion [million] doses for each of the two FDA-authorized vaccines: Pfizer and Moderna. That’s 100 million more doses of Pfizer and 100 million more doses of Moderna – 200 million more doses than the federal government had previously secured. Not in hand yet, but ordered.

We expect these additional 200 million doses to be delivered this summer. And some of it will come as early – begin to come in early summer, but by the mid – – by the mid-summer, that this vaccine will be there. And the order – and that increases the total vaccine order in the United States by 50 percent – from 400 million ordered to 600 million.

This is enough vaccine to fully vaccinate 300 Americans by the end of the summer, beginning of the fall. But if we want to make – look, that’s – I want to repeat: It’ll be enough to vaccinate 300 [million] Americans to beat this pandemic – 300 million Americans. And this is aggregate plan the doesn’t leave any thing on the table or anything to chance, as we’ve seen happen in the past year.

I’ve said before: This is a wartime effort. When I say – when I say that, people ask, “Wartime?” I say, “Yeah, more than 400,000 Americans have already died.” I think it’s four hundred eleven or twelve [thousand] have died in all of – Americans who died in World War Two. This is a wartime undertaking; it’s not hyperbole.

And as such, I directed the team to be ready to exercise all the authorities I have under the Defense Production Act, and expedite these vaccines. And we’re using the Defense Production Act to launch a full-scale, wartime effort to address the supply shortages we inherited from the previous administration.

We’re going to be working across the government, with private industry, to ramp up production of vaccine and protective equipment – the syringes, the needles, the gloves, the swabs, and the masks – everything that’s needed to protect, test, vaccinate, and take care of our people. Well, we’ve already identified supplies, and we’re working with them to move our plan forward.

The biggest problem – I hope you’re all asking me by the end of the summer that, “You have too much vaccine left over. You have too much equipment leftover.” That’s not my worry. I hope that becomes the problem, rather than we somehow find interruptions in supply or access.

These aggressive steps to increase vaccine supply come on top of the steps we took last week to get more people vaccinated for free, to create more places for them to get vaccinated, and to mobilize more medical teams to get hots in people’s arms.

We’ve directed FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to stand up the first federally supported community vaccination centers, and that work is underway. We’re working to make vaccines available to thousands of local pharmacies, beginning in early February; it’s a couple of weeks off. And we – that will enormously expand our reach.

Last week, I also signed a declaration to immediately begin reimbursing states 100 percent for their uses of the National Guard to help the COVID relief effort, both getting people – getting the sites set up and even using some of their personnel to administer some of the vaccines. And I think it’s something Democrats and Republicans and governors alike have called for.

We’re also expanding testing, which will help schools and businesses reopen safely and protect the most vulnerable.

And we formalized the Health Equity Task Force to ensure that equity is at the core of everything we do in urban and rural communities alike, to make sure those people most significantly damaged have – have access. Access. We have to change. We have to move in a direction for those communities that are hard to get to.

But the brutal truth is: It’s going to take months before we can get the majority of Americans vaccinated. Months. In the next few months, masks – not vaccines – are the best defense against COVID-19. Experts say that wearing masks from now just until April would save 500,000 lives who otherwise will pass away if we don’t wear these masks. That’s why I’m asking the American people to mask up for the first 100 days. I’ve issued executive orders requiring masks on federal property and interstate travel – trains and planes and busses.

One congressman pointed out – I could – well, he used a very, anyway, colorful term to say wearing a mask – “I tell him to his my ear; I’m not going to war a mask.” Well, guess what? Not very American. The fact is, you want to be patriotic; you’re going to protect people. And the new COVID-19 variants are – we are instituting new measures to deal with these individuals flying into the United States from other countries.

You’ve all hold – if you could hold a second – you’ve all heard about the strain – the British strain, the Brazilian strain, the South African strain. And they are – they seem to be more transmittable more easily. So, in addition to wearing masks, everyone flying to the United Staes from another country, we need to test before they arrive in America.

I’m going to close with this: I now have a national – we now have a national strategy to beat COVID-19. It’s comprehensive. It’s based on science, not politics. It’s based on truth, not denial. And it is detailed. It’s going to require Congress to pass the American Rescue Plan to provide funding to administer the vaccines, to ramp up testing, to help schools and businesses reopen, and to deliver immediate economic relief to Americans who are badly in need of it through no fault of their own.

And our plan will take time. Progress from our plan will take time to measure, as people getting infected today don’t show up in case counts for weeks, and those who perish from those – from the disease die weeks after that exposure. You know, despite the best our best intentions, we’re going to face setbacks, which I will always explain to you and acknowledge.

And let me be clear: Things are going to continue to get worse before they get better. The death toll, experts tell us, is likely to top 500,000 by the end of next month – February – and cases will continue to mount. We didn’t get into this mess overnight, and it’s going to take months for us to turn things around. But let me be equally clear: We’re going to get through this. We will defeat this pandemic.

And to a nation waiting for action, let me be clearest on this point: Help is on the way. We can do this if we come together, if we listen to the scientists. And as I said: Tomorrow, I say to the press, the entire team will be back in the business of – my COVID team – of answering all your detailed questions.

So, thank you very much for your patience. Keep the faith. We’re going to get this done. And I always level with you about the state of affairs.

Thank you.


January 27, 2021

January 27: The White House posted an Executive Order titled: “Executive Order on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology”. From the Executive Order:

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and in order to establish an advisory council on science, technology, and innovation, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Policy: As directed in the Presidential Memorandum of January 27, 2021 (Scientific Integrity and Evidence-Based Policymaking), it is the policy of my Administration to make evidence-based decisions guided by the best available science and data. Officials and employees across my Administration shall seek from scientists, engineers, and other experts the best available scientific and technological information and advice.

Sec. 2. Establishment. (a) There is hereby established the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST).

(b) The PCAST shall be composed of not more than 26 members. The Assistant to the President for Science and Technology (the “Science Advisor”) shall be a member of PCAST. The Science Advisor, if also serving as the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, may designate the U.S. Chief Technology Officer as a member. The remaining member shall be distinguished individuals and representatives from sectors outside of the Federal government appointed by the President. These non-Federal members shall have diverse perspectives and expertise in science, technology, and innovation.

(c) The Science Advisor shall serve as a Co-Chair of the PCAST. The President shall also designate at least one, but not more than two, of the non-Federal members to serve as a Co-Chair, or Co-Chairs, of the PCAST with the Science Advisor. The Science Advisor may designate up to three Vice Chairs of the PCAST from among the non-Federal members of PCAST, to support the Co-Chairs in the leadership and organization of the PCAST.

Sec. 3. Functions. (a) The PCAST shall advise the President on matters involving policy affecting science, technology, and innovation, as well as on matters needed to inform public policy relating to the economy, worker empowerment, education, energy, the environment, public health and homeland security, racial equity and other topics.

(b) The PCAST shall meet regularly and shall:

(i) respond to requests from the President or the Science Advisor for information, analysis, evaluation, or advice;

(ii)solicit information and ideas from a broad range of stakeholders, including the research community; the private sector; universities; national laboratories; State, local and Tribal governments; foundations; and nonprofit organizations;

(iii) serve as the advisory committee identified in section 101(b) of the High-Performance Computing Act of 1991 (Public Law 102-194), as amended by (15 U.S.C. 5511 (b)), in which capacity the PCAST shall be known as the President’s Innovation and Technology Advisory Committee; and

(iv) serve as the advisory panel identified in section 4 of the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act (Public Law 108-153), as amended (15 U.S.C. 7503), in which capacity the PCAST shall be known as the National Advisory Panel.

(c) The PCAST shall provide advice from the non-Federal sector to the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) in response to requests from the NSTC.

Sec. 4. Administration. (a) The heads of executive departments and agencies shall, to the extent permitted by law, provide the PCAST with information concerning scientific and technological matters when requested for the purpose of carrying out the PCAST’s functions.

(b) In consultation with the Science Advisor, the PCAST is authorized to create standing subcommittees and ad hoc groups, including technical advisory groups, to assist the PCAST and provide preliminary information directly to the PCAST.

(c) In order to allow the PCAST to provide advice and analysis regarding classified maters, the Science Advisor may request that members of the PCAST, its standing subcommittees, or ad hoc groups, who do not hold a current clearance for access to classified information, receive security clearance and access determinations pursuant to Executive Order 12968 of August 2, 1994 (Access to Classified Information) as amended, or any successor order.

(d) The Department of Energy shall provide such funding and administrative technical support as the PCAST may require, to the extent permitted by law and within existing appropriations.

(e) Members of the PCAST shall serve without any compensation for their work on the PCAST, but may receive travel expenses, including per diem in lieu of subsistence, as authorized by law for persons intermittently in the government service (5 U.S.C. 5701-5707).

(f) Insofar as the Federal Advisory Committee Act, as amended (5 U.S.C. App.), may apply to the PCAST, any functions of the President under that Act, except that of reporting to Congress, shall be performed by the Secretary of Energy, in accordance with the guidelines and procedures established by the Administrator of General Services.

Sec. 5. Termination. The PCAST shall terminate 2 years from the date of this order unless extended by the President.

Sec. 6. Revocation. Executive Order 13895 of October 22, 2019, (President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology), is hereby revoked.

Sec. 7. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.

January 27: Senator Charles Schumer posted a Press Release titled: “FOLLOWING THEIR PUSH TO ADVANCE VACCINE DISTRIBUTION EFFORTS, SENATORS SCHUMER & GILLIBRAND ANNOUNCE $466.8 MILLION IN FEMA FEDERAL FUINDS FOR NEW YORK’S COVID-19 VACCINE DISTRIBUTION & ADMINISTRATION” From the Press Release:

NYS Set To Receive Critical Federal Funds to Aid Vaccine Distribution Efforts

Federal Funds Support Costs Of Vaccine Transportation, Essential Medical Supplies & Staff, PPE, Disinfection Services for Vaccine Distribution Sites & More

Senators say Funding Ensures New Yorkers Are Receiving Their COVID-19 Vaccines In A Safe & Effective Way To Keep Up Critical Fight Against The Virus

Following Senator Schumer’s call last week with Mr. Jeffrey Zeints, President Biden’s pick to be the White House coronavirus coordinator, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kristen Gillibrand today announced $466,800,000 in federal funding for New York’s vaccine distribution and administration. These federal funds are critical to the safe and effective distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and were allocated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Specifically, this funding covers the costs of supplies required for storing, handling, distributing, transporting, and administering COVID-19 vaccines.

This includes emergency medical care, containers for medical waste, and supplies necessary for proper storage of the vaccines including liquid nitrogen, dry ice and portable storage units. Additionally, the funding supports vaccine transportation such as refrigerated trucks and transport security, medical and support staff, onsite infection control measures, PPE for staff and face masks for patients, temperature scanners, physical barriers and disinfection services for vaccine distribution facilities. Finally, the funding will be used for facility costs, including leasing space for storage and administration of vaccines.

“In order to get these wonderful vaccines injected into the arms of millions of New Yorkers, we must also inject hundreds of millions of dollars into New York State and New York City’s budgets – so they can get this job done ASAP to keep people safe and to reenergize our economy,” said Senator Schumer. “New York continues to face unprecedented health and economic crises and is working to combat the virus with COVID-19 vaccine distribution and administration. Federal support of the state’s vaccine distribution system is critical to delivering vaccines to New Yorkers as quickly as safely as possible. This infusion of almost half-a-billion in federal funds supports the transportation of COVID-19 vaccines to distribution sites across the state and will ensure that distribution sites are safe and equipped with the proper medical supplies, medical staff, cleaning services, and more. I will continue to fight for federal funds like these so that we can effectively beat back the virus with the safe and equitable distribution of vaccines.”

“While we celebrate the authorization of life-saving COVID-19 vaccines that put us one step closer to eradicating this virus, we have to face reality – federal aid is critical to helping New York State ensure vaccinations are distributed efficiently and equitably to those who need it the most,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I am proud to deliver nearly half-a-billion dollars in federal finding to do exactly that – get vaccines in the arms of New Yorkers. These federal dollars will hire New York guard against our nation’s lagging vaccine distribution by providing resources for staff, supplies, PPE, and distribution centers. Only then can we move forward and begin to recover from the current health and economic crisis.”

U.S. Senators Schumer and Gillibrand have been instrumental in securing federal funds for New York to fight the coronavirus and support its vaccine distribution efforts. In December, the senators delivered $1.3 billion through the COVID relief deal for vaccination distribution, testing, tracing and more. The senators previously announced $14 million in federal funding for COVID-19 vaccine preparedness and response to help New York’s public health agencies and nonprofits implement vaccine programs.

And most recently, Schumer and Gillibrand penned a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regarding the department’s failure to develop and implement a comprehensive national vaccine plan under the former administration. Senator Schumer has also spoken with Mr. Jeffrey Zeints, President Biden’s pick to be the White House coronavirus coordinator, and communicated that New York needs three things: predictability, communication, and vaccines in order to have an effective and efficient vaccine distribution system.

January 27: The White House posted a Memorandum on Restoring Trust in Government Through Scientific Integrity and Evidence-Based Policymaking” From the Memorandum:

MEMORANDUM FOR THE HEADS OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES

It is the policy of my Administration to make evidence-based decisions guided by the best available science and data. Scientific and technological information, data, and evidence are central to the development and iterative improvement of sound policies, and to the delivery of equitable programs, across every area of government.

Scientific findings should never be distorted or influenced by political considerations. When scientific or technological information is considered in policy decisions, it should be subjected to well-established scientific processes, including peer review where feasible and appropriate protections for privacy.

Improper political interference in the work of Federal scientists or other scientists who support the work of the Federal Government and in the communication of scientific facts undermines the welfare of the Nation, contributes to systemic inequities and injustices, and violates the trust that the public places in government to best serve its collective interests.

This memorandum reaffirms and builds on the President Memorandum of March 9, 2009 (Scientific Integrity), and the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy’s Memorandum or December 17, 2010 (Scientific Integrity).

By the authority vested in me as the President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, I direct as follows:

Section 1. Role of the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. The Director of the Offices of Science and Technology Policy (Director) shall ensure the highest level of integrity in all aspects of executive branch involvement with scientific and technological processes. This responsibility shall include ensuring that executive departments and agencies (agencies) establish and enforce scientific-integrity policies that ban improper political interference in the conduct of scientific research and in the collection of scientific or technological data, and that prevent the suppression or distortion of scientific or technological findings, data, information, conclusions, or technical results.

In implementing this memorandum, the Director shall, as appropriate, convene and confer with the heads of agencies and with personnel within the offices of the Executive Office of the President, including the Office of Management and Budget.

Sec. 2. Task Force on Scientific Integrity. (a) The Director shall convene an interagency task force (the “Task Force”) of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) to conduct a thorough review of the effectiveness of agency scientific-integrity policies developed since the issuance of the Presidential Memorandum of March 9, 2009.

(b) The Task Force shall complete its review within 120 days of the date of the appointment of its members, and shall take the following actions when completing its review.

(i) The Task Force shall ensure its review considers whether existing Federal scientific-integrity policies prevent improper political interference in the conduct of scientific research and the collection of scientific or technological data; prevent the suppression or distortion of scientific or technological findings, data, information, conclusions or technical results; support scientists and researchers of all genders, races, ethnicities, and backgrounds; and advance the equitable delivery of the Federal Government’s programs.

(ii) The Task Force’s review shall include an analysis of any instances in which existing scientific-integrity policies have not been followed or enforced, including whether such deviations from existing policies have resulted in improper political interference in the conduct of scientific research and the collection of scientific or technical data; led to the suppression or distortion of scientific or technological findings, data, information, conclusions, or technical results; disproportionately harmed Federal scientists and researchers from groups that are historically underrepresented in science, technology, and related fields; or impeded the equitable delivery of the Federal Government’s programs.

The scope of this review shall include the work of scientific and technological advisory committees, boards, and similar bodies. The existing policies examined by this review shall include those issued pursuant to the Presidential Memorandum of March 9, 2009, and the Director’s Memorandum of December 17, 2019; any other scientific-integrity policies published on agency websites; and commonly accepted scientific-integrity practices.

(iii) The Task Force shall identify effective practices regarding engagement of Federal scientists, as well as contractors working on scientific matters for agencies, with news media and on social media; effective policies that protect scientific independence during clearance and review, and that avoid improper political interference in research or data collection; effective approaches for handling any disagreements about scientific methods and conclusions; effective reporting practices that promote transparency in the implementation of agency scientific-integrity policies and in handling of any allegations of misconduct; effective practices for educating and informing employees and contractors of their rights and responsibilities to agency scientific-integrity policies; promising opportunities to address gaps in current scientific-integrity policies related to emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence and machine-learning, and evolving scientific practices, such as citizen science and community-engaged research’ effective approaches to minimizing conflicts of interest in Federal Government science; and policies that support the professional development of Federal scientists in accordance with, and building on, section IV of the Director’s Memorandum of December 17, 2010.

(iv) To inform the review, the Task Force shall gather input from stakeholders and public regarding scientific-integrity practices. The Task Force shall consider obtaining such input through various means, which may include holding a virtual stakeholder summit hosted by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), issuing a public request for information, and conducting a virtual listening tour or open forums.

(v) Upon the conclusion of its review, the Director shall publish a report on the OSTP website synthesizing the Task Force’s findings. The report shall include a description of agencies’ strengths and weaknesses regarding scientific-integrity policies, as well as a description of best practices and lessons learned.

(c) Within 120 days of the publication of the Task Force’s initial 120-day review of existing scientific-integrity policies, the Task Force shall develop a framework to inform and support the regular assessment and iterative improvement of agency scientific-integrity policies and practices, to support the Director and OSTP in ensuring the agencies adhere to the principles of scientific integrity.

This framework shall include assessment criteria that OSTP and agencies can use to inform, review, and improve the design and implementation of agency scientific-integrity policies. The Director shall publish this framework on the OSTP website.

Sec. 3. Agency Scientific-Integrity Policies. (a) Heads of agencies shall ensure that all agency activities associated with scientific and technological processes are conducted in accordance with the 6 principles set forth in section 1 of the Presidential Memorandum on March 9, 2009, and the 4 foundations of scientific integrity in government set forth in part I of the Director’s Memorandum of December 17, 2010.

(b) Heads of agencies shall ensure that their agency scientific-integrity policies reflect the findings in the Task Force report produced under section (2)(b)(v) of this memorandum, and apply to all agency employees, regardless of the nature of their appointment, as well as contractors who perform scientific activities for agencies. Heads of agencies shall coordinate with the Director in the development, updating, and implementation of any agency-specific policies or procedures deemed necessary to ensure the integrity of scientific decision-making. The following time frames shall apply when completing the activities described in this subsection:

(i) The head of each agency with an existing scientific-integrity policy shall submit an updated policy to the Director within 180 days of the publication of the Task Force’s report.

(ii) The head of each agency without an existing scientific-integrity policy shall submit a draft agency scientific-integrity policy to the Director within 180 days of the publication of the Task Force’s report.

(iii) The Director shall expeditiously review scientific-integrity policies submitted by the agencies to ensure that the policies submitted by the agencies to ensure that the policies respond to the Task Force’s analysis, adhere to the policy directives in this memorandum, and uphold the highest standards of scientific practice.

(iv) The Director shall notify agencies of any deficiencies in the scientific-integrity policies and collaborate with agencies to expeditiously correct those deficiencies.

(c) In implementing this section, heads of agencies shall:

(i) Provide the Director with any information the Director deems necessary to conduct the Director’s duties under this memorandum;

(ii) Publish the agency’s scientific-integrity policy on the agency’s website, and disseminate information about the policy through the agency’s social media channels;

(iii) Develop and publish procedures, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, for implementing the agency’s scientific-integrity policy, including establishing and publishing an administrative process for reporting, investigating, and appealing allegations of deviations from the agency’s policy, and for resolving any disputes or disagreements about scientific methods and conclusions;

(iv) Review and, as needed, update within 60 days of the date of this memorandum any website content, and within 300 days of the date of this memorandum any agency reports, data, or other agency materials issued or published since January 20, 2017, that are inconsistent with the principles set forth in this memorandum and that remain in use by the agency or its stakeholders;

(v) Educate agency employees, as well as contractors who perform scientific activities for the agency, on their rights and responsibilities related to scientific integrity, including by conducting routine training on the agency’s scientific-integrity policy for all employees, and by ensuring any new employees are made aware of their responsibilities under the agency’s scientific-integrity policy shortly after they are hired; and

(vi) Publish, consistent with any requirements related to national security and privacy, as well as any other applicable law, annual report on the agency’s website that includes the number of administrative investigations and appeals involving alleged deviations from the agency’s scientific-integrity policies, as described in section (3)(c)(iii) of this memorandum, for the year covered by the report, and the number of investigations and appeals pending from years prior to the year covered by the report if any.

Sec. 4. Publication of Scientific-Integrity Policies and Ongoing Biennial Reporting. (a) The Director shall publish on the OSTP and NTSC reports on scientific integrity, and links to the scientific-integrity policies on agency websites, to ensure such information and policies can be easily accessed by the public.

(b) The Director shall publish on the OSTP website, and disseminate via social media, a biennial report on the status and implementation of this memorandum across the executive branch. This report shall include a review of the impact on scientific integrity of diversity, equity, and inclusion practices related to the Federal scientific and engineering practices related to the Federal scientific and engineering workforce and scientific Federal advisory committees.

Sec. 5. Evidence-Based Policymaking. (a) Heads of agencies shall ensure that the scientific-integrity policies of their agencies consider, supplement, and support their plans for forming evidence-based policies, including the evidence-building plans required by 5 U.S.C. 312(a) and the annual evaluation plans required by 5 U.S.C. 312(b).

(b) Within 120 days of the date of this memorandum, after consultation with the Director, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) shall issue guidance to improve agencies’ evidence-building plans and annual evaluation plans. Specifically, the Director of OMB shall consider whether, consistent with, and building upon, Executive Order 13707 of September 15, 2015 (Using Behavioral Science Insights to Better Serve the American People), agencies’ evidence-building plans and annual evaluation plans shall include a broad set of plans and annual evaluation plans shall include a broad set of methodological approaches for the evidence-based and iterative development and the equitable delivery of policies, programs, and agency operations.

Relevant approaches might include use of pilot projects, randomized control trials, quantitative-survey research and statistical analysis, qualitative research, ethnography, research based on data linkages in which records from two or more datasets that refer to the same entity are joined, well-established processes for community engagement and inclusion in research, and other approaches that may be informed by the social and behavioral sciences and data science.

(c) The statutory positions required to be designated by agencies by the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018 (Public Law 115-435), which include the Evaluation Officer, the Chief Data Officer, and a senior statistical official, shall incorporate scientific-integrity principles consistent with this memorandum into agencies’ data governance and evaluation approaches.

Similarly, the Chief Data Officers Council shall incorporate scientific-integrity principles consistent with this memorandum into its efforts to establish government-wide best practices for the use, protection, dissemination, and generation of data, and both the Chief Data Officers Council and the Evaluation Officers Council and the Evaluation Officer Council shall identify ways in which agencies can improve upon the production of evidence for use in policymaking.

(d) Consistent with the provisions of the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018, heads of agencies shall, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, expand open and secure access to Federal data routinely collected in the course of administering Federal, State, local, Tribal, or territorial government programs or fulfilling Federal, State, local, Tribal or territorial government mandates, such as tax data, vital records, other statistical data, and Social Security Administration earnings and employment reports, to ensure governmental and non-governmental researchers can use Federal data to assess and evaluate the effectiveness and equitable delivery of policies and to suggest improvements.

In implementing this provision, heads of agencies shall:

(i) Make these data available by default in a machine-readable format and in a manner that protects privacy and confidential or classified information, and any other information protected from disclosure by law;

(ii) Publish an agency data plan that provides a consistent framework for data stewardship, use , and access. If publishing such a plan is not feasible, then the head of the agency shall publish guidelines outlining how the data were collected, metadata on data use, any limitations on data use, and ways for researchers to provide feedback on data shared;

(iii) Follow the mandates of the Information Quality Act (section 515 of Public Law 106-554) in assessing and making available to researchers information on the quality of the data being provided; and

(iv) Where possible, provide such data disaggregated by gender, race, ethnicity, age, income, and other demographic factors that support researchers in understanding the effects of policies and programs on equity and justice.

(e) The Director of OMB shall review whether guidance to agencies on implementation of the Information Quality Act needs to be updated and reissued.

(f) Heads of agencies shall review and expeditiously update any agency policies, processes, and practices issued or published since January 20, 2017, that prevent the best available science and data from informing the agency’s evidence-based and iterative development and equitable delivery of policies and programs.

Sec. 6. Agency Chief Science Officers and Scientific Integrity Officials. (a) Within 120 days of the date of this memorandum, the heads of agencies that fund, conduct, or oversee scientific research shall, to the extent consistent with applicable law, designate a senior agency employee for the role of chief science officer, science advisor, or chief scientist (“Chief Science Officer”), who shall:

(i) Serve as the principal advisor to the head of the agency on scientific issues and ensure that the agency’s research programs are scientifically and technologically well-founded and conducted with integrity; and

(ii) Oversee the implementation and iterative improvement of policies and processes affecting the integrity of research funded, conducted, or overseen by the agency, as well as policies affecting the Federal and non-Federal scientists who support the research activities of the agency, including scientific-integrity policies consistent with the provisions of this memorandum.

(b) Because science, facts, and evidence are vital to addressing policy and programmatic issues across the Federal Government, the heads of all agencies (not only those that fund, conduct, or oversee scientific research) shall designate expeditiously a senior career employee as the agency’s lead scientific-integrity official (“Scientific Integrity Official”) to oversee implementation and iterative improvement of scientific-integrity policies and processes consistent with the provisions of this memorandum, including implementation of the administrative and dispute resolution processes described in section (3)(c)(iii) of this memorandum. For agencies with a Chief Science Officer, the Scientific Integrity Officer shall report to the Chief Science Officer on all matters involving scientific-integrity policies.

(c) To the extent necessary to fully implement the provisions of this memorandum, heads of agencies may designate additional scientific-integrity points of contact with different offices and components, who shall coordinate with the agency’s Scientific Integrity Official in implementing the agency’s scientific-integrity policies and processes.

(d) Heads of agencies should ensure those designated to serve in the roles described in this section, along with their respective staffs, are selected based on their scientific and technological knowledge, skills, experience, and integrity, including experience conducting and overseeing scientific research and utilizing scientific and technological information and data in agency decision-making, prioritizing experience with evidence-based, equitable, inclusive, and participatory practices and structures for the conduct of scientific research and the communication of scientific results.

(e) The Director or a designee of the Director shall regularly convene Chief Science Officers and Scientific Integrity Officials to encourage the discussion and expansion of effective scientific-integrity policies and practices among agencies.

Sec. 7. Scientific Advisor Committees. (a) Within 90 days of the date of this memorandum, heads of agencies shall review their current and future needs for independent scientific and technological advice from Federal advisory committees, commissions, and boards. The review should include an evaluation of those advisory bodies established by law, and should consider both current and anticipated needs.

(b) This review shall assess which Federal scientific and technological advisory committees should be rechartered or recreated to ensure that relevant and highly qualified external experts, with proper safeguards against conflicts of interest, can contribute to critical Federal regulations and other agency actions and decision-making. The review shall also identify any agency policies, processes, or practices that may currently prevent or inhibit relevant and highly qualified external experts from serving on such committees.

(c) In conducting this review, heads of agencies shall take steps to review the membership of scientific and technological advisory committees and, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, ensure that members of future nominees reflect the diversity of America in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, geography, and other characteristics; represent a variety of backgrounds, areas of expertise, and experiences; provide well-rounded and expert advice to agencies; and are selected based on their scientific and technological knowledge, skills, experience, and integrity, including prioritization of experience with evidence-based, equitable, inclusive, and participatory practices and structures for the conduct of scientific research and the communication of scientific results.

(d) Upon completion of their 90-day review, heads of agencies shall provide a summary report to the Director and the Director of OMB with recommendations on which Federal scientific and technology advisory committees should be rechartered or recreated in accordance with subsection (b) of this section; which scientific and technological advisory committees should be prioritized for membership appointments to ensure they provide well-rounded and expert advice reflecting diverse perspectives, in accordance with subsection (c) of this section; and which agency policies, processes, or practices, if any, should be updated to encourage relevant and highly qualified external experts to serve on such committees.

Sec. 8. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this memorandum shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b) This memorandum shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c) This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees or agents, or any other person.

JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.

January 27: The White House posted a Press Briefing titled: “Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, and National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy, January 27, 2021”

NOTE: This one was long, so I chose to include the portion that Press Secretary Jen Psaki led. (The climate-related portion will be posted in the Biden-Harris category).

MS. PSAKI: …I know we have a short period of time here, but I just wanted to provide an update on a question that you all have been asking about, which is some of the outreach our teams are doing as it relates to the COVID package. That is a top priority for President Biden.

As we have talked about almost every day in here – probably every day – our team continues to build support for the American Rescue Plan as more and more voices across the country recognize the urgent need to get American families the help they need.

We’ve obviously seen a broad coalition of support emerge, from the Chamber of Commerce, to Senator Sanders and organized labor, to hundreds of mayors and local public health officials. The President and Vice President are engaged directly with members and have had a number of productive conversations. That will continue through the course of the week and will only pick up in the days ahead.

Senior White House officials are also engaging with not just congressional leaders, but also state and local officials, key constituency groups, and others to gather feedback on the proposal and move the package forward.

So let me give you a couple of examples from just yesterday:

Chief of Staff Ron Klain engaged directly throughout the day, as did Senior Advisor Anita Dunn, which they will both continue to do moving forward. Counselor to the President Steve Ricchetti and Office of Legislative Affairs Director Louisa Terrell are quarterbacking the team’s broader legislative outreach and have had dozens of conversations with individual members to understand their priorities and receive their feedback.

In addition to ongoing conversations with leadership on both sides of the aisle, already this week, members of the National Economic Council and Domestic Policy Council and staff from Treasury have met with the relevant committees, including Senate Banking Committee, Senate Finance Committee, House Ways and Means, House Financial Services, House Education and Labor, and the bicameral Small Business Committee.

NEC Director Brian Deese is doing one-on-one briefings with members of Congress and meetings with caucuses, including yesterday’s meeting, which I believe has been reported, with the Problem Solvers Caucus to discuss the proposal.

Hill engagement will continue, with Jeff Zients and Brian Deese meeting with the New Dem Coalition, along with several other briefings that are scheduled.

Also, our outreach isn’t limited to Congress, which is vitally important. This isn’t just about speaking to the country, and building support, and educating and engaging with leaders across the country.

So, yesterday, Jeff Zeints and his team spoke with bipartisan governors – as you all know, they talked about the COVID package – by the National Governors Association – organized by them. And administration officials briefed tribal leaders and a number of mayors yesterday as well. And the Office of Public Engagement, led by Cedric Richmond, briefed civil rights groups yesterday, including the NAACP, the National Action Network, Justice Action Network, Urban League, Coalition of Black Civic Participation, and Black Women’s Roundtable. Today they have meetings with labor leaders, advocates for young people, as well as organizations dedicated to building wealth in the black community.

On Friday, OP will also – the Office of Public Engagement, I should say; I hate acronyms – will convince 100 presidents of historically black colleges and universities also to discuss this proposal.

And the only other thing I wanted to mention before we get to your questions is that, as you all know, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen was just confirmed. The President will be meeting with his economic team on Friday, including Secretary Yellen, for a briefing on the impact of delay and moving forward with the additional economic relief.

And now, with that, let’s get to your questions. Alex, it’s your first day in the White House Briefing Room.

Q: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: And Alex’s first day. Two Alex’s first days.

Q: It’s good to be here.

MS. PSAKI: There’s an imitation afterwards that the press corps will conduct.

Q: Hazing? I’m ready for it.

MS. PSAKI: Yes, go ahead.

Q: Yeah, I’ll make it quick because I know you have a pretty hard out in a few minutes.

MS. PSAKI: I think you all have a hard out too. But, yes.

Q: Absolutely.

I wanted to ask about one of your favorite topics: impeachment. Nearly every Republican senator last night voted to throw out the impeachment trial against President Trump. Does President Biden have a reaction to that? Does he trust Congress to hold President Trump accountable for the insurrection against the Capitol? And does he see censure against President Trump as a viable alternative to convictions, since it looks unlikely at this point?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the President certainly respects the role that Congress has – senators, of course, – the Senate – as they’re overseeing the trial moving forward, in determining the pace and the path forward for holding the former President accountable. That continues to be his belief.

In all of his conversations that he’s been having with members about the recovery plan, he has – they have said that they expect from him that his focus will be on COVID relief. That’s how he will use the bully pulpit. That’s how he will speak to the American people. And they are eager to work with him on that. So that’s where his focus remains. And what steps they take to hold the former President accountable, he’ll leave it to them.

Q: Why the resistance on weighing in on the issue?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve weighed in many times. The President has been asked about the issue. We put out a statement when the House put out a vote – voted on impeachment, I should say.

But his focus is on doing – delivering on what the American people elected him to do, which is to get relief to the American people, to get the pandemic under control, to ensure working families can put food on the table. And that’s where he feels his efforts should be to remain.

Okay, go ahead.

Q: Thanks, Jen. Does the White House have a comment on this social media profile that has emerged of Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene? And is there a response to whether any disciplinary action should be taken against her, given everything that’s come out?

MS. PSAKI: We don’t. And I’m not going to speak further about her, I think, in this briefing room.

Q: Okay. And –

MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead.

Q: One more, if you don’t mind. Just kind of – a little of a housekeeping.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

Q: The last administration had suggested that – on the origins of the COVID-19 virus – that it may have organized in a lab in China. It was never definitive. Do you have an update on that – on the origin or where we are on an investigation?

MS. PSAKI: Well, first, obviously, the misinformation, of course, that has – we’ve seen also come out of some sources in China is of great concern to us. It’s imperative that we get to the bottom of the early days of the pandemic in China, and we’ve been supportive of an international investigation that we feel should be robust and clear.

We – our view is that we must prepare and draw on information collected and analyzed by the community, which is something that is ongoing, and to work – and also to continue to work with our allies to evaluate the report’s credibility on the investigation once it’s done.

In addition, as you all know, the Secretary of State was just – Tony Blinken was just sworn in yesterday, and one of his priorities is, of course, ensuring that our staffing on the ground in Beijing – which is something that fell back in the last administration – is returned to what was prior, which means we want to have science experts, policy experts on the ground in the roles that they should be serving in to ensure that, you know, we’re also there representing, you know, our interest from the United States, on the ground in China.

Go ahead, Peter.

Q: A couple of quick ones that I still don’t think I fully understand. I know the executive order that was signed, but has this White House invoked the DPA? And how soon until we’ll see companies compelled to produce supplies or vaccine or whatever else that impacts Americans?

MS. PSAKI: We – it was involved the day it was signed – within 24 hours of it being signed.

Q: But you said that jumpstarted the process. So I guess that meant it was invoked?

MS. PSAKI: Yes. And I confined that when it was – the next day – the following day in the briefing room, which I realize everybody can’t be here every day because of COVID.

But it was invoked, and it means that our work is ongoing with companies to ensure that we are expediting the manufacturing of materials to ensure that we can get 100 million shots in the arms of Americans. And I know there’s been some confusion about this and what exactly it is, what does the DPA mean.

There are a few examples that our team has cited, including, on vaccine supply; low dead space syringes, which means it allows for the ability to get an extra dose into the Pfizer vial, which is important to getting more doses out there; help – additional N95 – the production of additional N95 masks; isolation gowns; gloves; pipette tips; and high absorbency foam swabs. So we’re really talking about very specific materials that can be used by vaccinators to get these shots into the arms of Americans.

Q: Thanks for clarifying. There was some confusion on the earlier call, which is why I repeated it here.

Let me ask one other question. Yesterday, you deflected this to the USOC, but my question is a little bit different today. We’re now hearing from the organizers of this year’s Summer Games in Japan, and the head of Japan’s Olympics Committee is seeking public reassurances from President Biden himself – given that the U.S., of course, is the largest contingent of athletes – that the Games should be able to go on. As the world’s – as the world is dealing with the pandemic right now, based on where we are now with the vaccine, does President Biden believe the Games in Japan can safely go on?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the President – and I’m not sure if this readout had gone out yet – but he had spoken with the Prime Minister of Japan earlier this morning, and a readout was going out as we were coming to the briefing. I’m not sure if they spoke about the Olympics. I’m happy to check with our national security team on that, to follow up with, but I don’t have any more assessment of the Olympics at this point in time.

Q: Whether he has – so it hasn’t been discussed whether he has a position on whether it would safely be able to go yet?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything more, the than – I haven’t had much on it, but I don’t have anything more than I’ve had on other days on it.

Q: Japan is asking, so we asked. So we’ll follow up with (inaudible).

MS. PSAKI: Understood. And they just had a call this morning, but I haven’t had a chance to talk to him specifically about it.

Go ahead, Jen.

Q: Thank you Jen.

Q: Thanks, Jen. Two vaccine questions. First of all, this came up on the COVID call earlier, but how seriously is the White House considering using the Defense Production Act to compel other pharmaceutical companies to produce the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to do supply?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I didn’t hear the entirety of the call because we were doing som preparation for the event this afternoon. But from listening to our team talk about it, there are obviously manufacturing facilities that have the capacity and the ability to get these vaccine doses out. And we don’t want to get our – get behind the pace of – and start from scratch, I should say, and ensuring that they’re ready to do that.

I don’t think our concern at this point is whether or not we’re going to have the vaccine doses. Obviously, the President announced yesterday the intention to purchase doches [sic] additional doses, the – our confidence in the manufacturers to have those doses available.

The concerns we have are one, contingency planning and all of the different things that can happen, because this is a herculean task that has never been done before, but also ensuring we have vaccinators, we have vaccine sites, et cetera, available.

So I have not heard from our team plans to seek other manufacturers at this point in time. And I’m happy to follow up with them and see if there’s anything additional.

Q: And then, on the 200 million doses, the President said he’s ordering them.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

Q: What is the status of that order? Have Pfizer and Moderna agreed to produce 100 million doses each? And how quickly do they say they can do it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we expect to get the doses by mid to late summer. The majority of doses by mid to late summer, some earlier than that. So we are confident that we’ll be able to get those from the manufacturers. Yes.

Go ahead, Karen.

Q: Jen, a couple of questions on schools. Does the administration plan to develop metrics or standards for what a safe reopening of schools will look like.

MS. PSAKI: We do. And our CDC director – and I’m not sure, again, if she was asked about this important question – I know as a fellow mother – but we will have specifics that we’ll defer to on the CDC on, on the safe reopening of schools. As you know, the President talked about – has talked about his commitment and his goal of reopening most K-8 schools within 100 days. There are obviously a number of steps that will need to be taken in order for that to be possible. But he has directed the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services, to provide guidance on safe reopening for schools, childcare providers, and institutions of higher education.

But as our COVID team has outlines, that’s going to require testing materials, support for contract tracing, vaccinations for teachers and ensuring they’re equitably provided. But our CDC director and team will be looking into putting together some specific guidelines so there can be clarity on that front, which I know a lot of districts are looking for.

Q: And to follow on that: Those things you mentioned all cost a lot of money, and a big part of the COVID relief package is a lot of money to go to school reopening.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

Q: If Congress doesn’t approve the money you want, and schools don’t have what they need to pay for things to open safely, would the President support teachers staying at home and support virtual learning continuing through this entire school year?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the President recognizes, as we all do, the value of having children in schools and doing that in a safe way, which is one of the reasons he set this ambitious goal of reopening most K-8 schools within 100 days.

But one of the reasons that this – the funding for safe reopening, for getting schools the equipment, the testing, the ventilation, in some cases, that they need is because nobody wants to be having a conversation in May or June about why schools are not reopened.

So this gets back to the argument that our team has been making, and all of these calls and engagements and meeting that I outlined, about the importance and vital nature of each component of the package. So we won’t get into a hypothetical. We’re confident that Congress will move forward with a package.

Let me just go – oh, we got to wrap up soon. Okay, I’m sorry. We’ll do more questions tomorrow, but we had to such great guests.

Jen, go ahead.

Q: Thanks. I just have two quick questions. One is jut on the climate actions today. They leave out the Treasury’s Financial Stability Oversight Council, which experts say could play an influential role in addressing climate risks. Does the administration have plans to take action on climate finance? And should FSOC direct agencies and regulators to address climate change?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m going to use a reference that my friend and colleague, Ambassador Susan Rice, used yesterday, which is: There are 1,453 days left in this administration, and addressing climate and the crisis of climate is an issue that the President has conveyed to members of his Cabinet and members of his senior team as an absolute priority.

So, Secretary Yellen has been in her role for one day, but certainly I’d send you to them for any more specifics. But this is the beginning, not the end, of our work on climate.

Nadia.

Q: And just another question –

MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead.

Q: Is the White House concerned about the stock market activity we’re seeing around GameStop and now with some other stocks as well, including the subsidiary – or whatever – the company that was Blockbuster? And have there been any conversations with the SEC about how to proceed?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m also happy to repeat that we have the first female Treasury Secretary and a team that’s surrounding her. And, often, questions about market we’ll send to them. But our team is, of course – our economic team, including Secretary Yellen and others, are monitoring the situation. It’s a good reminder, though, that the stock market isn’t the only measure of health of our econom- – of our economy. It doesn’t reflect how working and middle-class families are doing.

As you all know from covering this, we’re in the midst of a K-shaped recovery. America’s workers are struggling to make ends meet, which is why the President has introduced this urgent package to get immediate relief families.

All right, I’m going to go Nadia, and then we’ll be totally done because everybody has to go.

Ok, go ahead.

Q: Thank you, Jen. Good to see you on a different podium. I have two questions: one about COVID and one about China.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

Q: Regarding COVID, the President promised to increase supply to states by 10 million doses, yet statistics shows that 47 percent of Americans are hesitant to take the vaccine, despite what that the President and Vice President took it publicly. What is the administration doing to convince Americans to take it to reach herd immunity by, say, 70 percent in the fall?

MS. PSAKI: You’re absolutely right, Nadia, that this is one of the biggest challenges we face. And for anyone who tuned into the briefing that our health team led this morning, it was one of the first issues that CDC Director Dr. Walensky raised.

And one of those things we’re doing is prioritizing – providing correct information about it. And the vaccines – and one – so I’ll take the opportunity: The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are safe and effective. That’s one of the things she said today. They were tested in large clinical trials to make sure they meet safety standards. About 30 percent of U.S. participants in those trials were Hispanic, African American, Asian, or Native American; about half were older adults.

And so we want to provide clear data, as I just did, but also we want to meet people where they are, communicate directly with communities of color, people who have concerns, and use medical and health professionals to do exactly that.

Okay, you had a China question, and then you really have to go, but go ahead.

Q: And, second, many welcomed your rejoining of the WHO, yet some want to push for a transparent investigation into the relationship between China and WHO. And also, yesterday, in her hearing in the Senate, Governor Raimondo declined to blacklist Huawei technology in the U.S. Is this some kind of caving into China, or is it a nuanced way to deal with China?

MS. PSAKI: So, I think you’re – the second reference, I think, was to Huawei, right? And then-

Q: Right.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

So let me just convey clearly our position on this. Let us be clear: Telecommunications equipment made by untrusted vendors, including Huawei, is a threat to the security of the U.S. and our allies. We’ll ensure that the American telecommunications network does not use equipment from untrusted vendors, and we’ll work allies to secure their telecommunications networks and make investments to expand the production of telecommunications equipment by trusted U.S. and allied companies.

Again, we’ll take many more questions tomorrow. Thank you all. Have a great day.


January 28, 2021

January 28: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) posted “COVID-19 vaccination intent, perceptions, and reasons for not vaccinating among groups prioritized for early vaccination, United States, September 2020” From the information:

Summary

As of January 8, 2021, there have been more than 21 million cases and more than 300,000 deaths from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the United States. High vaccination coverage against COVID-19 will be crucial in controlling and ending the pandemic. Federal; agencies partnered with public and private sectors to establish Operation Warp Speed to facilitate and accelerate the development, manufacturing, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, with two COVID-19 vaccines being authorized by the Food and Drug Administration for use under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) in December 2020.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has issued interim recommendations for COVID-19 vaccine allocation, with initial limited supply of vaccines for healthcare personnel and residents of long-term care facilities (phase 1a); frontline essential workers and persons aged ≥75 years (phase 1b); and persons 65-74 years, persons aged 16-64 years at high risk for severe COVID-19 illness due to underlying medical conditions, and other workers in essential and critical infrastructure sectors not included in phases 1a and 1b.

These groups have a high risk of being exposed to the virus and getting sick with COVID-19, have an increased risk for severe COVID-19 illness or perform work duties across critical infrastructure sectors and maintain the services and functions that U.S. residents depend on daily. Assessing intent to get vaccinated among all adults, especially among priority groups, is important for developing targeted messages and strategies to increase the public’s confidence in COVID-19 vaccines.

During September 3 to October 1, 2020, before the first COVID-19 vaccine was authorized, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted a internet panel survey among a representative sample of U.S. adults (n=3,541) to examine baseline perceptions about the COVID-19 vaccine and intentions to get vaccinated among groups recommended to receive initial allocations of the vaccine and the general public.

Among participants who responded that they were very likely to get vaccinated against COVID-19, 53.3% said they would get the vaccine within a week if the vaccine were available today at no cost, compared with 6.8% who were somewhat likely to get vaccinated. Among those who were somewhat likely to get vaccinated, 37.2% of respondents said they would wait longer than six months to get the vaccine, compared to 2.8% who were very likely to get vaccinated.

Among the 38.1% of participants who responded they were not likely to get vaccinated against COVID-19, the main reasons reported were:

Concerns about the side effects and safety of the COVID-19 vaccine (23.4%), concerns that the COVID-19 vaccine is being developed too fast (21.7%), and waiting to see if the COVID-19 vaccine is safe and indicating they may get it later (17.9%).

Prevalence of non-intent to get vaccinated varied by demographic factors:

Non-intent to get vaccinated varied by age group, sex race/ethnicity, education level, household income level, region, Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA status), urbanicity, and health insurance status. Younger adults, females, non-Hispanic Black populations, those with lower education or no health insurance, and adults in households with lower income levels and in rural areas were least likely to express intent to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Non-intent to get vaccinated was lowest among adults ≥75 years compared with adults in other priority subgroups (frontline workers, other essential workers, and adults with underlying medical conditions).

Methods

From September 3 to October 1, 2020, CDC conducted a probability-based Internet panel survey (KnowledgePanel) to assess perceptions about and intent to receive a COVID-19 vaccine among a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults aged 18 years and older. This activity was reviewed by CDC and was conducted consistent with applicable federal law and CDC policy.

The panel used an address-based sampling methodology covering nearly all households in the United States, regardless of their phone or internet status. To reach a 70% cooperation rate, 5,160 out of more than 600,000 panelists in the KnowledgePanel were sent an email invitation, including a survey link, and up to seven email reminders to complete the survey were sent to non-respondents.

Beginning on September 19, 2020, an additional incentive of $5 was provided to non-responders to reach target completion rates. A total of 3,595 panelists completed the survey for a completion rate of 69.7%. After data clearing, the final sample consisted of 3,541 respondents.

Data were weighted to ensure representativeness of the U.S. population using demographic benchmarks from the 2020 Current Population Survey (for age, sex, race/ethnicity, Census region, residence in a Metropolitan Statistical Area, level of education, and household income) and the 2018 American Community Survey (for language proficiency [English or Spanish] among Hispanic respondents). All analyses were conducted in SUDAAN Callable SAS (Cary, NC) using weighted data.

The survey included questions about COVID-19 vaccination intentions, perceptions, and reasons for not receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. Intent was assessed by the following question: “If a vaccine against COVID-19 were available today at no cost, how likely would you be to get it?” Response options were absolutely certain, very likely, somewhat likely, and not likely.

Intent to receive a COVID-19 vaccination was defined as reporting being “absolutely certain” or “very likely” to receive a COVID-19 vaccination (hereafter referred to as “very likely”; non-intent was defined as reporting being “not likely”. Vaccination intentions and related perceptions were stratified by mutually exclusive groups recommended for the vaccine, hereafter referred to as “priority groups”. Groups were defined as Tier 1a, 1b, or 1c, corresponding to adults in phase 1a, 1b, or 1c, respectively.

Subgroups were defined as specific groups within each Tier: healthcare personnel (Tier 1a); frontline essential workers, and persons aged ≥75 years (Tier 1b); and persons aged 65-74 years, persons aged 16-64 years at high risk for severe COVID-19 illness due to underlying medical conditions, and other workers in essential and critical infrastructure sectors not included in phases 1a and 1b (Tier 1c).

The survey did not collect information on long-term care residents. Analyses were conducted to provide estimates among all adults, priority groups and subgroups, and adults who were aged 18-64 years with no underlying medical conditions and were not essential workers (hereafter referred to as “adults 18-64 years”). Responses to questions on intent, perceptions, and reasons for not getting vaccinated were examined by sociodemographic characteristics and stratified by priority groups and subgroups, race/ethnicity, and urbanicity. Expected timing of vaccination was assessed among those who intend to be vaccinated.

Results

Overall, of 3,541 adults, 39.4% responded that they were very likely, 22.5% somewhat likely, and 38,1% not likely to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Intend to get vaccinated

Tier 1b had the highest percentage of respondents reporting they would be very likely to get vaccinated. (43.4%).

Among priority subgroups, adults ≥75 years had the highest percentage of respondents reporting they would be very likely to get vaccinated (51.8%).

Among adults who said they were very likely to get the vaccine, more than one-half of adults would get it within a week if available to them (59.3%).

Do not intend to get vaccinated

Tier 1a and 1c had higher percentages of respondents who reported they would be not likely to get vaccinated (38.2% and 38.8%, respectively) compared to persons in Tier 1b (34.3%).

Among priority subgroups, non-intent to get vaccinated was highest among non-frontline essential workers (41.5%), followed by persons with underlying medical conditions (40.1%) and frontline essential workers (38.5%), and lowest among adults ≥75 years (26.3%).

Variations in non-intent by priority groups and socioeconomic characteristics

Non-intent to get vaccinated differed by priority groups and select socioeconomic characteristics these examples demonstrate:

Non-intent was highest among adults aged 50 to 64 years (42.0%), females (42.1%), non-Hispanic Black adults (56.1%) those with a high school diploma or less (47.0%), those with lower household income levels (44.0-45.1% for incomes ≤$49,999), and those who do not have health insurance (48.7%).

The prevalence of non-intent varied within groups. For example, among different racial/ethnic groups, non-intent ranged from 32.1% among adults of non-Hispanic other races to 56.1% among non-Hispanic Black adults. Non-intent was also 47.0% among adults with a high school diploma or less compared to 23.8% among adults with more than a college degree. Furthermore, non-intent was 44.0% among adults with an annual household income of ≤$35,000 compared to 33.5% among adults with an annual household income of ≥$75,000.

Non-intent was also highest among those living in the South (41.1%), non-metro areas (46.2%), or rural areas (47.1%).

Adults who rarely or never wear a mask and those who are not likely to get the flu vaccine in the 2020-21 influenza season were also not likely to get the COVID-19 vaccine (78.4% and 67.0%, respectively).

Reasons for not intending to get vaccinated

Among all adults, the main reason for respondents reporting they were not likely to get vaccinated were concerns about the side effects and safety of the COVID-19 vaccine (23.4%), concerns that the COVID-19 vaccine is being developed too fast (21.7%), and waiting to see if the COVID-19 vaccine is safe and indicating they may get it later (17.9%).

The most commonly reported main reasons for not getting vaccinated were the same for each priority group: concerns about the side effects and safety of the COVID-19 vaccine, concern that the vaccine is being developed too fast, waiting to see if the COVID-19 vaccine is safe and indicating they may get it later.

Among priority subgroups, concern that the vaccine is being developed too fast was highest among adults  ≥75 years (28.4%).

Concern about the side effects and safety of the COVID-19 vaccine was highest among adults in Tier 1a (32.6%), Hispanic adults (31.5%), and adults who are non-Hispanic other race category (29.0%).

Concerned about COVID-19 illness vs. vaccine

When asked if respondents were more concerned about COVID-19 illness or side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine, more adults said they were concerned about COVID-19 illness (38.3%) than side effects from the vaccine (14.3%); however, 36.7% said they were equally concerned about both.

Trust vs. do not trust manufacturing or approval process

Approximately one quarter of adults (23.4%) did not trust the COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing process; about one third (34.6%) did not trust the approval process.

The sources in which respondents reported having the highest level of trust to provide accurate information about the COVID-19 vaccine were primary care providers (73.0%), nurses (67.1%), CDC (60.8%), and pharmacists (60.0%).

The sources with the lowest level of trust among all adults were news sources (17.3%), religious leaders (15.9%) and social media (4.1%).

Limitations

These findings are subject to at least four limitations. First, this survey was fielded in September 2020, prior to the release of information about COVID-19 vaccine safety and efficacy based on clinical trials, and intentions to get vaccinated likely have changed since then.

Second, although panel recruitment methodology and data weighting were designed to produce nationally representative results, the cooperation rate was 70% and respondents may not be fully representative of the general U.S. adult population.

Third, high-risk medical condition and essential worker status were self-reported, so there may be potential for misclassification.

Fourth, some estimates may not be reliable because relative standard error was >30% or sample size <30, which were suppressed in the tables.

Discussion

In this survey, conducted in September 2020, almost 40% of the population said they did not intend to get a COVID-19 vaccination, citing concerns about safety, side effects, and the speed of the vaccine development process. While adults aged ≥75 years expressed the highest likelihood of getting vaccinated, healthcare personnel, frontline workers, and other essential workers, and persons with underlying medical conditions reported being less likely to get vaccinated than adults ≥75 years. Better understanding and addressing the safety concerns of these groups is critical for controlling COVID-19 through vaccination programs.

Since this survey was conducted, COVID-19 cases have risen in all 50 states, causing significant morbidity and mortality as well as a burden on the healthcare system that treats severely ill patients.

Recent polls suggest that non-intent to get vaccinated in December, with only 15% of adults reporting that they would not get the COVID-19 vaccine when it is available. While non-intent has declined among adults, its impact on vaccination coverage, particularly among high risk groups, is unclear.

With the initial allocation of vaccines to priority groups, it is important to develop strategies to address concerns among these groups in order to increase acceptance and vaccination uptake. High vaccine uptake to achieve herd immunity is an important part of preventing the spread of COVID-19. Continuing to promote vaccine acceptance and uptake is critical in this effort.

Conclusion

The results of this survey can inform strategies to educate healthcare personnel, essential workers, and the public about the vaccine development process, the safety protocols in place, and the known effectiveness and safety of the vaccines. Healthcare providers were identified in this survey as the most trusted source of information about vaccines. Providers can use CDC-recommended strategies to talk to patients about vaccine safety and address concerns.

Getting vaccinated is more important than ever to reduce morbidity and mortality due to COVID-19, preserve limited healthcare resources, reduce health disparities among racial and ethnic groups, and protect the public’s health.

As the vaccines continue to be rolled out, having high vaccination coverage across all populations, in addition to a multipronged approach to mitigation of COVID-19, may prevent the spread of COVID-19 and contribute to the end of the pandemic.

January 28: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi posted a Press Release titled: “Pelosi Statement on President Biden Executive Actions Strengthening Health Care” From the Press Release:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued this statement on the Executive Actions announced by President Biden today to strengthen Americans’ access to quality, affordable health care:

“The coronavirus pandemic and economic crisis have demonstrated with heartbreaking clarity that access to health care is a matter of life-or-death. President Biden’s Executive Actions are a lifeline for millions of American families and a clear sign that our nation now has the leadership in the White House to turn these crises around.

“These Executive Actions represent a 180-degree reversal from the assault on heath care waged by Donald Trump and Republicans in the courts and Congress in the middle of the pandemic. In stark contrast, President Biden is restoring and expanding access to health care in a way that promotes equity and justice for working families, those who have lost jobs, seniors, women in need of reproductive health care at home and abroad, and more. In particular, opening a special enrollment period will enable potentially millions of Americans who have lost their health insurance through no fault of their own to access care.

“The Democratic Congress applauds these lifesaving actions, and we will continue our work to protect and improve affordable, quality health care – during this pandemic, and in the months and years to come.”

January 28: The White House posted an Executive Order titled: “Executive Order on Strengthening Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act” from the Executive Order:

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Policy. In the 10 years since its enactment, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has reduced the number of uninsured Americans by more than 20 million, extended critical consumer protections to more than 100 million people, and strengthened and improved the Nation’s healthcare system. At the same time, millions of people who are potentially eligible for coverage under the ACA or other laws remain uninsured, and obtaining insurance benefits is more difficult than necessary. For these reasons, it is the policy of my Administration to protect and strengthen Medicaid and the ACA and to make high-quality healthcare accessible and affordable for every American.

Sec. 2. Special Enrollment Period. The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has triggered a historic public health and economic crisis. In January of 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic was spreading, the Secretary of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency. In March of 2020, the President declared a national emergency. Although almost a year has passed, the emergency continues – over 5 million Americans have contracted the disease in January 2021, and thousand are dying every week.

Over 30 million Americans remain uninsured, preventing many from obtaining necessary health services and treatment. Black, Latino, and Native American persons are more likely to be uninsured, and communities of color have been especially hard hit by both the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic downturn.

In light of the exceptional circumstances caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Secretary of Health and Human Services shall consider establishing a Special Enrollment Period for uninsured and under-insured Americans to seek coverage through the Federal Facilitated Marketplace, pursuant to existing authorities, including sections 18031 and 18041 of title 42, United States Code, and section 155.420(d)(9) of title 45, Code of Federal Regulations, and consistent with applicable law.

Sec. 3. Immediate Review of Agency Actions. (a) The Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Labor, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and the heads of all other executive departments and agencies with authorities and responsibilities related to Medicaid and the ACA (collectively, heads of agencies) shall, as soon as practicable, review all existing regulations, orders, guidance documents, policies, and any other similar agency actions (collectively, agency actions) to determine whether such agency actions are inconsistent with the policy set forth in section 1 of this order. As part of this review, the heads of agencies shall examine the following:

(i) policies or practices that may undermine protections for people with pre-existing conditions, including complications related to COVID-19, under the ACA;

(ii) demonstrations and waivers, as well as demonstration and waiver policies, that may reduce coverage under or otherwise undermine Medicaid or the ACA;

(iii) policies and practices that may undermine the Health Insurance Marketplace or the individual; small group, or large group markets for health insurance in the Untied States;

(iv) policies or practices that may present unnecessary barriers to individuals and families attempting to access Medicaid or ACA coverage, including for mid-year enrollment; and

(v) policies or practices that may reduce the affordability of coverage or financial assistance for coverage including for dependents.

(b) Heads of agencies shall, as soon as practicable and as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, consider whether to suspend, revise, or rescind – and, as applicable, publish for notice and comment proposed rules suspending, revising or rescinding – those agency actions identified as inconsistent with the policy set forth in section 1 of this order.

(c) Heads of agencies shall, as soon as practicable and as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, consider whether to take any additional agency actions to more fully enforce the policy set forth in section 1 of this order.

Sec. 4. Revocation of Certain Presidential Actions and Review of Associated Agency Actions. (a) Executive Order 13765 of January 20, 2017 (Minimizing the Economic Burden of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Pending Repeal), and Executive order 13813 of October 12, 2017 (Promoting Healthcare Choice and Competition Across the United States), are revoked.

(b) As part of the review required under section 3 of this order, heads of agencies shall identify existing agencies actions related to or arising from Executive Orders 13765 and 13813. Heads of agencies shall, as soon as practicable, consider whether to suspend, revise, or rescind — and, as applicable, publish for notice and comment proposed rules suspending, revising, or rescinding – any such agency actions, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law and the policy set forth in section 1 of this order.

Sec. 5. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.

January 28: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)posted a Release titled: “HHS Amends PREP Act Declaration to Increase Workforce Authorized to Administer COVID-19 Vaccines” From the Release:

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today issued a fifth amendment to the Declaration under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP Act) to add additional categories of qualified persons authorized to prescribe, dispense, and administer COVID-19 vaccines authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“To response to the nationwide public health emergency caused by COVID-19, the Biden Administration is broadening use of the PREP Act to expand the vaccination workforce quickly with additional qualified healthcare professionals,” said HHS Acting Secretary Norris Cochran. “As vaccines supply is made more widely available over the coming months, having additional vaccinators at the ready will help providers and state health departments meet the demand for vaccine and protect their communities more quickly.”

Among other things, the amendment:

  • Authorizes any healthcare provider who is licensed or certified in a state to prescribe, dispense, and/or administer COVID-19 vaccines in any other state or U.S. territory.
  • Authorizes any physician registered nurse, or practical nurse whose license or certification expired within the past five years to prescribe, dispense and/or administer COVID-19 vaccines in any state or U.S. territory so long as the license or certification was active and in good standing prior to the date it went inactive.
  • Requires any healthcare professional described above to complete Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 Vaccine Training and, for healthcare providers who are not currently practicing or whose license or certification is expired, requires an on-site observation period by a currently practicing healthcare professional

Under the PREP Act and the Declaration, a qualified person is covered person. Subject to certain limitations, a covered person is immune from suit and liability under federal and state law with respect to all claims for loss resulting from the administration or use of a covered countermeasure if a declaration under the PREP Act has been issued with respect to such countermeasure.

Further Background

Why is HHS expanding the size of COVID-19 vaccinators across state lines?

Working with state and territorial health departments, the Acting Secretary identified an urgent need to expand the pool of COVID-19 vaccinators to help increase access to COVID-19 vaccinations. This wil help states and U.S. territorials meet the demand for vaccines and protect their communities as quickly as possible.

Where can I find a list of healthcare providers in my state who are authorized to administer a COVID-19 vaccine?

Contact your state health department for a list of providers authorized under state law to prescribe, dispense, or administer COVID-19 vaccine. If the state does not maintain a list, each state licensing and certification agency (state licensing board) would have this information. The intent of this PREP Act amendment is to expand the available providers beyond this licensed in each state.

Does this action preempt state and local restrictions on which providers are authorized to administer a COVID-19 vaccine?

If a person is authorized under the Declaration to administer covered countermeasures, including a COVID-19 vaccine, any state law that prohibits or effectively prohibits such a person from doing so is preempted.

How will this Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) payments for the administration of COVID-19 vaccine across states lines?

Information from the Centers of Medicare & Medicaid Services on the implications of this Amendment for Medicaid and CHIP payments will be forthcoming.

What happens if a person is injured by someone who is made immune under the Declaration?

As is typically the case under the PREP Act, persons with serious physical injury or death arising from the administration or use of a covered countermeasure may be eligible for compensation from the Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program. This is fund managed by the Health Resources and Services Administration. Moreover, the PREP Act and Declaration do not provide immunity to persons who engage in willful misconduct.

January 28: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) posted a Release titled: “South Carolina detects first US cases associated with variant first detected in South Africa” From the Release:

CDC is aware that the first US documented cases of the B 1.351 variant of SARS-CoV-2, which was first detected in South Africa, have been identified in South Carolina.

CDC is early in its efforts to understand this variant and will continue to provide updates as we learn more. At this time, we have no evidence that infections by this variant cause more severe disease. Like the UK and Brazilian variants, preliminary data suggests this variant may spread more easily and quickly than other variants.

CDC will continue communicating with international, state, and local partners to monitor the presence and impact of variants in the United States and around the world. Monitoring variants is why CDC has expanded National SARS-CoV-2 Strain Surveillance (NS3). We continue working with national reference laboratories, state health departments and researchers from around the country to gather sequence data and increase the use of genomic sequencing data in response to this pandemic.

CDC recommends that people avoid travel at this time. However, for those who must travel, additional measures have been put in place to increase safety; especially as COVID-19 variants have spread around the world. As of January 26, all air passengers flying in the United States must provide a negative test result or documentation of recovery to the airline before they board a flight to the US. This is one aspect of the comprehensive, science-driven response to reduce the spread of COVID-19 through travel and in the United States.

CDC’s recommendations for slowing the spread – wearing masks, staying at least 6 feet apart from others, avoiding crowds, ventilating indoor spaces, and washing hands often – will also prevent the spread of this variant.

January 28: The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) posted a Release titled: “HHS Announces Marketplace Special Enrollment Period for COVID-19 Public Health Emergency” From the Release:

In accordance with the Executive Order issued today by President Biden, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), announced a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) for individuals and families for Marketplace coverage in response to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, which has left millions of Americans facing uncertainty and exceptional circumstances while millions of American have experienced new health problems during the pandemic.

This SEP will allow individuals and families in states with Marketplaces served by the HealthCare.gov platform to enroll 2021 health insurance coverages. Beginning February 15, 2021 and through May 15, 2021, these Marketplaces will operationalize functionality to make this SEP available to all Marketplace-eligible consumers who are submitting a new application or updating an existing application. State-based Marketplaces (SBMs) operating their own platform have the opportunity to take similar action within their states.

“The Department is committed that we will deploy every resource during the Public Health Emergency. This Special Enrollment Period will ensure that more individuals and families have access to quality, affordable health coverage during this unprecedented time,” said HHS Acting Secretary Norris Cochran.

The SEP will be offered to consumers applying for new coverage or updating an existing application through HealthCare.gov, the Marketplace call center, or through direct enrollment channels. Coverage is prospective, with coverage beginning the first day of the month following the date of plan selection.

To promote the SEP and ensure that a broad and diverse range of consumers are aware of this option, CMS will utilize a variety of tools including a paid advertising campaign and direct outreach to consumers, in cooperation with community and stakeholder organizations in English, Spanish, and other languages. Some consumers may already be eligible for other existing SEPs, Medicaid, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) – they can visit HealthCare.gov now to find out if they can enroll in the meantime. Starting February 15, consumers seeking to take advantage of the new SEP can find out if they are eligible by listing HealthCare.gov. Consumers can find local help at Localhelp.healthcare.gov or by calling the Marketplace Call Center at 1-800-318-2596. TTY users should call 1-855-889-4325.

January 28: The White House posted Remarks titled: “Remarks by President Biden at Signing of Executive Orders Strengthening Americans’ Access to Quality, Affordable Healthcare” From the Remarks:

THE PRESIDENT: Since we are socially distanced, I think I can take my mask off to make this very brief announcement. I know that you’ve been briefed by the healthcare team about what this is about. And there is an easy and quick way for us to describe this.

It’s been a busy week, and I’ve signed executive orders tackling COVID-19, the economic and climate crisis, as well as advancing racial equity.

But today, I’m about to sign two executive orders that are – basically, the best way to describe them to undo the damage that Trump has done. There’s nothing new that we’re doing here, other than restoring the Affordable Care Act and restoring the Medicaid to the way it was before Trump became President, which by fiat he changed – made more inaccessible, more expensive, and more difficult for people to qualify for either of those two items: The Affordable Care Act or Medicaid.

And the second – the second order I’m going to be signing also changes what the President has done – the President – the President – what the former President has done. And it – a memorandum reversed the – my predecessor’s attack on women’s health – (coughs) – excuse me – health access. And as we continue to battle COVID-19, it’s even more critical that Americans have meaningful access to healthcare.

And so that’s what I’m about to do. And again, I’m not initiating any new law, any new aspect of the law. This is going back to what the situation was prior to the President’s executive orders.

And the first one I’m going to be signing here is to strengthen Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act. And of all times that we need to reinstate access to, affordability of, and the extent of access to Medicaid is now, in the middle of this COVID crisis.

(The executive order is signed.)

And the second order I’m signing relates to protecting women’s health at home and abroad, and it reinstates the changes that were made to Title 10 and other things, making it harder for women to have access to affordable healthcare as it relates to their reproductive rights.

(The executive order is signed.)

I’m sorry you had to stand in the cold before you all came in. Thank you all very much.

Q: Mr. President, is healthcare working as is, or when are you going to put out healthcare legislation?

THE PRESIDENT: We got a lot to do. And the first thing I got to do is get this COVID package passed.

Q: Do you think that COVID relief has to require you to break it up in chunks, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT: No one requires me to do anything.

Thank you.

January 28: The White House posted a FACT SHEET titled: “FACT SHEET: President Biden to Sign Executive Orders Strengthening Americans’ Access to Quality, Affordable Health Care” From the FACT SHEET:

The Biden-Harris Administration will open a Special Enrollment Period for Americans to sign up for health coverage and roll back attacks on the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, and access to reproductive health care.

After four years of attempts to strip health care from millions of Americans, President Biden will sign two executive actions that will begin to restore and strengthen American’s access to quality, affordable health care. The Biden-Harris administration will re-open enrollment to the Health Insurance Marketplace, take additions steps to strengthen Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act, and protect women’s health. These actions demonstrate a strong commitment by the Biden-Harris Administration to protect and build on the Affordable Care Act, meet the health care needs created by the pandemic, reduce health care costs, protect access to reproductive health care, and make our health care system easier to navigate and more equitable.

For President Biden, this is personal. He believes that every American has a right to the peace of mind the comes with knowing they have access to affordable, quality health care. Because of the Affordable Care Act, over 100 million people no longer have to worry that an insurance company will deny coverage or charge higher premiums just because they have a pre-existing condition. Roughly 20 million additional Americans obtained the security that comes with health insurance, and young people transitioning from school to a job can stay covered by their parents’ plan until age 26.

As we continue to battle COVID-19, it is even more critical that Americans have meaningful access to affordable care. The actions the President is taking today complement the commitment he made in the American Rescue Plan to make health insurance coverage more affordable for millions of Americans. Reliable and affordable access to health insurance doesn’t just benefit families’ health; it is a critical source of economic security and peace of mind for all.

Today’s actions include:

Strengthening Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act.

This Executive Order takes critical steps to reverse attacks on and strengthen Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act, so they can continue to provide access to life-saving care for millions of Americans. Based on this Executive Order, it is expected that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will open HealthCare.gov for a “Special Enrollment Period,” from February 15, 2021 – May 15, 2021. This Special Enrollment Period will give Americans that need health care coverage during the global pandemic the opportunity to sign up.

The President will also direct federal agencies to reconsider rules and other policies that limit American’s access to health care, and consider actions that will protect and strengthen that access:

Agencies are directed to re-examine:

  • Policies that undermine protections for people with pre-existing conditions, including complications related to COVID-19;
  • Demonstrations and waivers under Medicaid and the ACA that may reduce coverage or undermine the programs, including work requirements;
  • Policies that undermine the Health Insurance Marketplace or other markets for health insurance;
  • Policies that make it more difficult to enroll in Medicaid and the ACA; and
  • Policies that reduce affordability of coverage or financial assistance, including for dependents.

As part of their reviews, agencies will consider whether to take additional actions to strengthen and protect access to health care.

Protecting Women’s Health at Home and Abroad. Across the country and around the world, people – particularly women, Black, Indigenous and other people of color, LGBTQ+ people, and those with low incomes – have been denied access to reproductive health care.

President Biden is also issuing a Presidential Memorandum to protect and expand access to comprehensive reproductive health care. The memorandum reflects the policy of the Biden-Harris Administration to support women and girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights in the United States, as well as globally.

Like memoranda issued by President Clinton and President Obama before him, it immediately rescinds the global gag rule, also referred to as the Mexico City Policy, which bars international non-profits that provide abortion counseling or referrals from receiving U.S. funding.

In recognition of the additional work necessary to protect access to reproductive health care, President Biden’s memorandum also directs the Department of Health and Human Services to take immediate action to consider whether to rescind regulations under its Title X family planning program.

January 28: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) posted a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) titled: “Allergic Reactions Including Anaphylaxis After Receipt of the First Dose of Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine – United States, December 21, 2020 – January 10, 2021” From the Report:

Summary

What is already known about this topic?

Anaphylaxis is a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction that occurs rarely after vaccination.

What is added to this report?

During December 21, 2020 – January 10, 2021, monitoring by the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System detected 10 cases of anaphylaxis after administration of a reported 4,041,396 first does of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine (2.5 cases per million doses administered.) In nine cases, onset occurred within 15 minutes of vaccination. No anaphylaxis-related deaths were reported.

What are the implications for public health practice?

Locations administering COVID-19 vaccines should adhere to CDC guidance, including screening recipients for contraindications and precautions, having necessary supplies and staff members available to manage anaphylaxis, implementing recommended postvaccination observation periods, and immediately treating suspected anaphylaxis with intramuscular epinephrine injection.

As of January 20, 2021, a total of 24,135,690 cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and 400,306 associated deaths had been reported in the United States. On December 18, 2020, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for Moderna COVID-19 vaccine administered as 2 doses, 1 month apart to prevent COVID-19.

On December 19, 2020, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) issued an interim recommendation for use of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. As of January 10, 2021, a reported 4,041,396 first doses of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine had been administered in the United States, and reports of 1,266 (0.03%) adverse events after receipt of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine were submitted to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).

Among these, 108 case reports were identified for further review as possible cases of severe allergic reaction, including anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening allergic reaction that occurs rarely after vaccination, with onset typically within minutes to hours. Among these case reports, 10 cases were determined to be anaphylaxis (a rate of 2.5 anaphylaxis cases per million Moderna COVID-19 vaccine doses administered), including nine in persons with a documented history of allergies or allergic reactions, five of whom had a previous history of anaphylaxis.

The median interval from vaccine receipt to symptom onset was 7.5 minutes (range = 1-45 minutes). Among eight persons with follow-up information available all had recovered or been discharged home.

Among the remaining case reports that were determined not to be anaphylaxis, 47 were assessed to be nonanaphylaxis allergic reactions, and 47 were considered nonallergic adverse events. For four case reports, investigators have been unable to obtain sufficient information to assess the likelihood of anaphylaxis.

This report summarizes the clinical and epidemiological characteristics of case reports of allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis and non anaphylaxis allergic reactions, after receipt of the first dose of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine during December 21, 2020-January 10, 2021, in the United States. CDC has issues updated interim clinical considerations for use of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized in the United States and interim considerations for preparing for the potential management of anaphylaxis.

Using methods previously described, CDC and FDA identified reports of suspected anaphylaxis in VAERS, the national passive surveillance (i.e., spontaneous reporting) system for monitoring adverse events after immunization. CDC physicians screened VAERS reports describing suspected severe allergic reactions and anaphylaxis and applied Brighton Collaboration case definition for anaphylaxis.

After initial screening, reports with sufficient evidence to suggest anaphylaxis were followed up by collecting information from medical providers, and, in some cases, vaccine recipients. Physician reviewers classified all initially identified case reports as anaphylaxis or not anaphylaxis and used clinical judgement to further categorize reports that were considered not anaphylaxis as non anaphylaxis allergic reaction cases with symptom onset occurring later than the day after vaccination (e.g., outside the 0-1 day risk window) were also excluded because of the difficulty in clearly attributing allergic reactions with onset later than this to vaccination.

During December 21, 2020 – January 10, 2021, the administration of 4,041,396 first doses of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine (2,465,411 to females [61%], 1,450,996 males [36%], and 125,019 to persons whose sex was not recorded [3%]) was reported to CDC. During the same period, reports of 1,266 (0.03%) adverse events after receipt of the first dose of Moderna COVID-10 vaccine had been submitted to VAERS.

Among these, 108 case reports were identified for symptoms; 10 of these reports, all describing events in females, met the Brighton Collaboration case definition criteria for anaphylaxis, corresponding to an initial estimated rate of 2.5 anaphylaxis cases per million first Moderna COVID-19 vaccine doses administered.

The median age of persons with anaphylaxis was 47 years (range = 31-63 years). The median interval from vaccine receipt to symptom onset was 7.5 minutes (range = 1-45 minutes); nine patients had onset within 15 minutes, and one had onset after 30 minutes. In all 10 reports, patients received epinephrine as part of initial emergency treatment; the route of administration was confirmed in the VAERS report.

Six patients were hospitalized (including five in intensive care, four of whom required endotracheal intubation), and four were treated in an emergency department; eight patients with follow-up information available are known to have been discharged home or had recovered at the time of report to VAERS. No deaths from anaphylaxis were reported after receipt of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

Nine out of 10 anaphylaxis case reports included a patient history of allergies or allergic reactions, including to drugs (six), contrast media (two), and foods (one); five patients had experienced an episode of anaphylaxis in the past, none of which was associated with receipt of a vaccine. No geographical clustering of anaphylaxis cases was observed, and the cases occurred after receipt of doses from multiple vaccine lots. At the time of this publication, despite follow-up efforts, investigator have been unable to obtain sufficient information to assess the likelihood of anaphylaxis in four of the initial 108 suspected cases reported.

Among the 43 cases of nonanaphylaxis allergic reaction after receipt of Moderna COVID-19 vaccination with symptom onset within the 0-1 day risk window, 26 (60%) were classified as nonserious. Commonly reported symptoms included pruritus, rash, itchy sensations in the mouth and throat, sensations of throat closure, and respiratory symptoms.

The media patient age was 43 years (range = 22-96 years), and 39 (91%) of the reported reactions occurred in women. The median interval from vaccine receipt to symptom onset was 15 minutes (range = <1 minute-24 hours); in 30 (73%) cases, onset occurred within 30 minutes, in 11 cases, onset occurred after 30 minutes, and for two cases, time of onset was missing. For 26 (60%) case reports, a past history of allergic reactions, mostly to food and drugs, was documented.

Discussion

Early safety monitoring of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine detected 10 cases of anaphylaxis after reported administration of 4,041,396 first doses of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine (2.5 cases per million Moderna COVID-19 vaccine doses administered) as well as cases of less severe nonanaphylaxis allergic reactions, based on U.S. data for December 21, 2020 – January 10, 2021.

Anaphylaxis is potentially life-threatening and requires immediate treatment. Based on this early monitoring, anaphylaxis after receipt of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine appears to be a rare event; however, limited data of anaphylaxis risk with that associated with non-COVID-19 vaccines are constrained at this time by the limited data available this early in the COVID-19 vaccination program.

A previous analysis of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, also an mRNA vaccine, estimated an initial rate of 11.1 cases per million doses administered after receipt of the first dose of the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. CDC and FDA will continue to enhanced monitoring for anaphylaxis among recipients COVID-19 vaccines and will review case reports to VARES.

In nine of 10 cases of anaphylaxis after receipt of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, patients had symptoms onset within 30 minutes of vaccination, and nine anaphylaxis patients also had a history of allergic reactions, including some with previous anaphylaxis events; up to 30% of persons in the general population may have some type of allergy or history of allergic reactions.

All 10 anaphylaxis cases reported after receipt of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine occurred in women. Whereas a previous review of anaphylaxis reports to VAERS found that 80% of cases reported in adults involved females, the current finding could be affected by the observation that more woman than men had received a first dose of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine during the analytic period (61% of doses administered versus 36%, respectively).

In a previous analysis of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, two thirds of first doses were administered in women. The clinical and epidemiological characteristics of anaphylaxis case reports after receipt of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine are similar to those reported after of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

The clinical and epidemiologic characteristics of anaphylaxis case reports after receipt of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine are similar to those reported after receipt of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-10 vaccine. For both vaccines, symptom onset after vaccination occurred quickly, usually within minutes. A strong female predominance of anaphylaxis case reports exists for both vaccines. Finally, many persons experiencing anaphylaxis after receiving either vaccine had a history of allergies or allergic reactions, with several having experienced an anaphylaxis episode in the past. Similar patient characteristics in case reports of nonanaphylaxis allergic reactions were observed among two vaccines.

The findings in this report are subject to at least two limitations. First, analyses of passive surveillance data include reporting biases, both underreporting because of lack of awareness or compliance with reporting requirements and reporting guidance, as well as stimulated reporting related to increased awareness from media or other public information sources.

Second, incomplete information in reports and potential data lags because of processing times might result in an undercount of cases, and lags in reporting for vaccine doses administered might underestimate denominator data. However, reporting efficiency to VAERS for clinically severe adverse condition such as anaphylaxis occurs relatively quietly, and VAERS is likely sensitive at capturing anaphylaxis cases occurring after COVID-19 vaccination.

Mortality from COVID-19 in populations at increased risk for severe illness is substantial, and treatment options are limited. Widespread vaccination against COVID-19 with highly effective vaccines represents a critical tool in efforts to control the pandemic and save lives.

CDC and FDA will continue to monitor for adverse events, including anaphylaxis, after administration of COVID-19 vaccines and will regularly assess the benefits and risks of vaccination in the context of the evolving epidemiology of the pandemic. Continued monitoring in VAERS and additional monitoring in population-based surveillance systems, such as the CDC’s Vaccine Safety Datalink will help to further characterize the risk for anaphylaxis after administration of COVID-19 vaccines.

CDC guidance on use of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines and management of anaphylaxis is available. Persons with an immediate allergic reaction to the first does of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine should not receive additional doses of either of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines.

In addition to screening for contraindications and precautions before administering COVID-19 vaccines, vaccine locations should have the necessary supplies and trained staff members available to manage anaphylaxis, implement postvaccination observation periods, immediately treat persons experiencing anaphylaxis signs and symptoms with intramuscular injection of epinephrine, and transport patients to facilities where they can receive advanced medical care.

In addition all patients should be instructed to seek immediate medical care if they develop signs or symptoms of an allergic reaction after their observation period ends and they have left the vaccination location. Health care providers can play an important role in vaccine safety monitoring by vigilant in recognizing and reporting adverse events after immunization to VAERS.

January 28: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer posted a Press Release titled: “SCHUMER, GILLIBRAND DELIVER OVER $36.5 MILLION FOR UPSTATE NY AIRPORTS DEVASTATED BY PANDEMIC AS PART OF LAST MONTH’S COVID RELIEF PACKAGE” From the Press Release:

Schumer and Gillibrand Have Fought Tirelessly To Keep Airports Open and Operating Amid COVID Blow; Airports Serve Important Functions In Many Upstate New York Communities, Especially For Rural Regions

Senators Say Relief Funding Will Help Keep Airports Afloat Through Second Wave

Schumer, Gillibrand: COVID Package Will Help Airports Take-Off As Pandemic Battle Continues

After days of doggedly negotiating on behalf of Upstate New York, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand revealed that last month’s bipartisan COVID relief package includes $36,559,697 for specific airports across Upstate New York. The senator said that as the crisis extends beyond what was initially estimated, impacting the air travel industry for months on end, the federal funding allocated for airports in the COVID package will help airports stay afloat through the second wave.

“Air travel is vital to the connectivity and success of the Upstate economy, which is why, as New York battles a second wave of the pandemic, I fought tooth and nail in negotiations to get airports the funding they need to keep services running,” said Senator Schumer. “Airports serve important functions in many communities, especially in the more rural areas, connecting people to the rest of the world and allowing for economic opportunities to land. In the new congress, I will continue to fight for federal funding to keep our airports open and operational and to make sure Upstate New York has the help it needs to revive and thrive.”

“As New Yorkers continue battling the COVID-19 crisis, we cannot leave airports behind,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Airports, travel, and tourism will be a critical part of our economic recovery and these federal dollars will help airports across Upstate New York continue providing high-quality and safe transit when travel takes off.”

Jason Terreri Executive Director of Syracuse Hancock International Airport said, “The Syracuse Regional Airport Authority deeply appreciates the continued efforts of Senator Schumer and his team to secure nearly $4.8 million dollars in grant funds for Syracuse Hancock International Airport (SYR) through the most recent recovery package. These funds are critical to maintaining the safety and efficiency of the airport during this unprecedented time. It will allow the airport to continue operating seamlessly and ensure that SYR Airport is in the best position possible to recover from impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“This finding is integral to airports everywhere, especially BGM. This funding will allow BGM to keep running a safe and secure airport for our community. It is a step towards recovery and restoring confidence in air travel. We are grateful for the efforts of Senator Schumer in looking out for our Airport,” said Mark Heefner Commissioner of Aviation Greater Binghamton Airport.

Adam Bello, Monroe County NY County Executive said, “Like so many airports throughout the country, the Greater Rochester International Airport has experienced a decrease in air travel throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The $4.7 million in federal aid secured by Leader Schumer and Senator Gillibrand will help our airport continue to adapt and improve our health and safety measures as we slowly emerge from the pandemic, we have taken numerous steps to ensure the public health and safety of travelers and passengers, including those efforts and provide the best experience for residents and visitors of Monroe County.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the airline industry and airports across the country. We thank Senator Schumer and Senator Gilibrand for fighting to secure over $2.3 million for New York Stewart International Airport in the latest federal COVID relief package and look forward to working with them in the future as we all look to recover from this pandemic and bolster the regional economy,” said Rick Cotton, Executive Director, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

“The Westchester County Airport has felt the brunt of devastating financial impacts of this pandemic since Covid-19 was first confirmed in our community. The airport is a major economic driver for our region and this federal funding will go a long way in serving our hard working airport employees while also providing a boost to residents and businesses who rely on its operation for their bottom lines. We thank Senator Schumer and Senator Gillibrand for securing over $4 million for Westchester County Airport in the latest federal COVID relief package,” said Westchester County Executive George Latimer.

“We are so grateful to Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, who fought hard for this funding, it will be a lifeline for our aviation operations,” said Kim Minkel, NFTA Executive Director. “With our passenger traffic down approximately 85 percent due to COVID coupled by the U.S. and Canadian border closure, this money will ensure that we can continue to provide aviation services to those traveling to and from Western New York and that our airports will be well positioned to play a critical role in the communities post-pandemic economic recovery.”

Funding will be allocated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) under the Department of Transportation (DOT)…

January 28: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) posted a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) titled: “Implementation and Evolution of Mitigation Measures, Testing, and Contact Tracing in the National Football League, August 9-November 21, 2020” From the Report:

Summary

What is already known about this topic?

COVID-19 contact tracing is important to prevent transmission, but risk characterization is difficult.

What is added by this report?

The National Football League observed SARS-CoV-2 transmission after <15 minutes of cumulative interaction, leading to a revised definition of a high-risk contact that evaluated mask use and ventilation in addition to duration and proximity of interaction. Intensive mitigation protocols effectively reduced close interactions.

What are the implications for public health practice?

Assessment of the context of each interaction, including mask use, indoor versus outdoor setting, and ventilation, in addition to duration and proximity, can improve identification of high-risk contacts during contact tracing. Postexposure quarantine based on redefined high-risk criteria, combined with testing and environment-specific intensive protocols, can protect communities before and after case identification.

The National Football League (NFL) and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) began the 2020 football season in July, implementing extensive mitigation and surveillance measures in facilities and during travel and gameplay. Mitigation protocols were evaluated and modified based on data from routine transcription-polymerase chain reaction devices; and detailed interviews.

Midseason, transmission was observed in persons who had cumulative interactions of <15 minutes’ duration, leading to a revised definition of high-risk contacts that required consideration of mask use, setting and room ventilation in addition to proximity and duration of interaction.

The NFL also developed an intensive protocol that imposed stricter infection prevention precautions when a case was identified at an NFL club. The intensive protocol effectively prevented the occurrence of high-risk interactions, with no high risk contacts identified for 71% of traced cases at clubs under the intensive protocol. The incorporation of the nature and location of the interaction, including mask use, indoor versus outdoor setting, and ventilation, in addition to proximity and duration, likely improved identification of exposed persons at higher risk for SARS-CoV-2 infection. Quarantine of these persons, along with testing and intensive protocols, can reduce spread of infection.

The NFL consists of 32 member clubs based in 24 states. The NFL-NFLPA implemented a standard COVID-19 mitigation protocol in July that included mandatory masking; physical distancing; frequent handwashing; facility disinfection; restricted facility access; and regular, frequent testing of players and staff members.

Contact tracing was performed by trained staff members and supported by KINEXON wearable proximity devices that were required to be worn by players and personnel when in club environments. Device recordings captured consecutive and cumulative minutes/seconds of interactions among persons within 1.8 meters (6 feet) of one another.

When testing identified a new COVID-19 case, trained staff members conducted interviews to identify contacts including and beyond device-identified persons (e.g. non club activities, social interactions, and times when the device was not worn.) RT-PCR tests, with results available in 24 hours, were initially conducted 6 days per week for players and most staff members.

Analysis were preformed to actively evaluate the efficacy of the NFL-NFLPA protocols in limiting high-risk interactions and preventing COVID-19, including comprehensive review of RT-PCR results, device-recorded interactions, and contact tracing interviews. This activity was reviewed by CDC and was conducted consistent with applicable federal law, CDC, and NFL-NFLPA policy.

Over the course of the monitoring period (August 9 – November 21), 623,000 RT-PCR tests were performed among approximately 11,400 players and staff members; 329 (approximately 2.9%) laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 were identified.

After intake screening, in August and early September, fewer than 10 COVID-19 cases were identified per week for the following 7 weeks during which time the standard protocol was in effect, which emphasized physical distancing, masking, limited numbers of persons in specific areas, and other important behavioral and facility-related parameters.

However, during September 27 – October 10, a total of 41 cases were identified among players and staff members, 21 of which were believed to have resulted from within-club transmission at a single club, requiring closure of that club’s facilities. Subsequent contact tracing identified multiple instances of transmission that likely occurred during <15 minutes of cumulative interaction within 1.8 meters (6 feet).

Among the 21 persons with suspected within-club transmission , 12 had no device-recorded interactions of ≥15 consecutive minutes with a person confirmed with COVID-19, including eight who had no interactions >5 consecutive minutes and seven who had no interactions  >15 cumulative minutes per day (with no other known exposures to a person with COVID-19).

Interviews revealed that, among the brief interactions that did occur, some were doing unmasked meetings in small rooms or while eating. Persons who contracted COVID-19 within this single-club transmission group received negative test results for several days after exposure (i.e., after club activities ceased) before receiving a positive result.

After this cluster of cases, several league-wide changes were implemented. The first involved the clubs moving on to an intensive protocol for 7 days when a positive test was received; the intensive protocol mandated further restrictions for the entire club to mitigate spread. The intensive protocol was implemented for any club if any players or staff members with facility access contracted COVID-19, or if the team played a game against an opposing player who received a next-day positive result from his game-day test.

During October 1-November 21, among the 32 clubs, 23 spent 431 days under intensive protocol. During this time, the median number of within-facility interactions of ≥15 consecutive minutes at <1.8 meters (<6 feet) per club per day decreased by 60%, from 60 to 24, and interactions of ≥2 consecutive minutes decreased by 28%, from 1,691 to 1,222.

The second change involved increasing testing frequency from 6 to 7 days per week. A third league-wide change was expansion of contact tracing and transmission risk assessment focusing on high-risk contact identification, which comprised of our main components.

These were, in addition to consideration of duration of exposure and specific distance between persons, assessment of face mask use (e.g., medical mask versus cloth face covering, proper mask use for both infected person and contact, and any mask removal to eat or drink) and setting ventilation (e.g., outdoor, indoor large volume, indoor small volume, and during transportation).

Expanded contact tracing covered all club-related contacts of persons with confirmed COVID-19 within the preceding 48 hours, including those outside the facility, with interviews regarding the full context of exposure and medical expert evaluation of the risk level for each interaction. Designation of a high-risk contact generally required concern by medical experts about the interaction involving two or more components; mask use and outdoor settings were considered protective.

For example, short car rides with partial mask use were considered high-risk, whereas prolonged interaction (>15 minutes) in well-ventilated settings (e.g., outdoors) with proper mask use were not. Contact tracing interviews and adjudication of high-risk contact status were typically completed within 18 hours of a positive test result.

All contacts of COVID-19 patients, regardless of duration of interaction, were instructed to remain out of club facilities until high-risk status determination was complete. Persons could also be designated high-risk contacts if a household member received a positive test result; self-reporting of cases among household members was required.

The mandatory minimum quarantine for high-risk contacts was 5 days post exposure, shorter than recommended in CDC guidance; this was deemed acceptable because of daily RT-PCR testing with <24-hour turnaround was available. Upon release from quarantine, high-risk contacts continued daily testing and symptom monitoring, enabling rapid identification and isolation of persons who received positive test results after quarantine.

During October 15 – November 21, a total of 189 NFL players and staff members were identified as high-risk contacts of 215 persons with confirmed COVID-19 and were subsequently quarantined. Among these, 20 (11%) persons from 12 clubs received positive test results (mean and median interval from exposure to positive RT-PCR sample collection = 5 days [range = 1-9 days]).

Seven of these 20 contacts received positive test results after release from 5-day quarantine; however, they continued to test daily and adhere to strict mitigation measures, and no within-club secondary transmission was identified among these persons. Among those exposed outside of the home, all reported partial or no mask use, and the majority of exposures were external to the NFL environment (e.g., sharing a vehicle and eating at a restaurant). Among 107 traced cases among clubs already in the intensive protocol at the time of positive test result, 76 persons (71%) had no high-risk contacts identified.

Discussion

Real-time evaluation of surveillance data and response to suspected COVID-19 transmission events within NFL clubs led to important changes in NFL-NFLPA COVID-19 protocols. Compulsory 7-day intensive protocol implementation for clubs with any exposure COVID-19, mandatory 5-day quarantine of high-risk contacts, and daily RT-PCR testing effectively reduced exposure and facilitated earlier case identification. Daily testing allowed early, albeit not immediate, identification of infection, necessitating quarantine after exposure; high frequency testing also facilitated real-time program evaluation.

To date, the ability to define a close contact has been limited. An investigation from a Vermont corrections facility confirmed that cumulative brief interactions exceeding 15 minutes in total could lead to transmission.

However, among 21 NFL cases for which contact tracing indicating likely within-club transmission, seven infected persons has no interactions exceeding 15 cumulative minutes per day within 1.8 meters (6 feet) of a person with COVID-19, as confirmed by wearable proximity devices. This finding led to a revised high-risk contact definition that include ascertainment of mask use and setting, in addition to duration of exposure and proximity.

An intensive protocol designed for this environment and deployed to facilities with known exposure was an effective mitigation measure. Some NFL clubs chose to retain intensive protocol restrictions beyond mandatory periods; implementation and completion of an intensive protocol can serve an important motivator and reminder of the need for diligence.

The quarantine of exposed persons and ability of the full employee population to move into a more restrictive protocol during periods of increased risk is an intervention that could be extended to settings such as long-term care facilities, schools, and high-density environments.

The intensive protocol was likely critical in preventing transmission of SARS-CoV-2 because seven of 20 quarantined high-risk contacts did not receive a positive test result until completing their 5-day quarantine. In scenarios without daily testing, duration of both quarantine and intensive protocol implementation might require extension.

Intensive protocol restrictions can be tailored to each environment to include, at minimum, more extensive masking and outdoor venue use and further restrictions in access, room volume, in-person meetings, and mealtime interactions.

The increase in cases identified in NFL clubs in October and November mirrored the increased incidence in the United States during that time. These infections were primarily related to community exposures, based on contact tracing interviews and exemplified by the high proportion of persons who contracted COVID-19 after household exposure.

Although the intensive protocol and high-risk contact designations were primarily intended to prevent work-related exposure, employees were regularly educated about risks from household and community exposure. Implementation of the intensive protocol decreased within-facility exposures despite increasing community transmission of COVID-19 across the country during this time.

The findings in this report are subject to at least three limitations. First, wearable device metrics rely on adherence; individual-level compliance is unknown. Second, determination of high-risk contact status is interview-based and subject to recall and reporting bias; household exposures are based on self-report. Finally, source and date of transmission cannot be confirmed.

COVID-19 mitigation measures must be continually optimized based on available data. In the NFL, COVID-19 transmission was identified in persons with <15 minutes of consecutive or cumulative interaction and was reduced through implementation of an intensive protocol focused on environmental change, increased personal protection, avoidance of high-risk interactions such as vehicle sharing, eating in the same room or common areas, and expansion of the components of contact tracing to incorporate high-risk contact designations.

Although the protocols implemented by the NFL were resource-intensive, strategies such as accounting for specific protocols implemented by the NFL were resource-intensive, strategies such as accounting for specific characteristics of the close contact, in addition to time and duration, and creation of an intensive protocol are applicable to other settings, including essential workplaces, long-term care facilities, and schools.


January 29, 2021

January 29: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) posted a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) titled: “COVID-19 Cases and Transmission in 17 K-12 Schools – Wood County, Wisconsin, August 31 – November 29, 2020” From the Report:

Summary

What is already known about this topic?

COVID-19 outbreaks related to kindergarten through grade 12 (K-12) classroom setting have been rarely reported; however, in-school transmission risk has not been well described.

What is added by this report?

Among 17 rural Wisconsin schools, reported student mask-wearing was high, and the COVID-19 incidence among students and staff members was lower than in the county overall (3,453 versus 5,466 per 100,000). Among 191 cases identified in students and staff members, only seven (3.7%) cases, all among students, were linked to in-school spread.

What are the implications for public health practice?

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has disrupted in-person learning in the United States, with approximately one half of all students receiving online-only instructor since March 2020. Discontinuation of in-person schooling can result in many hardships and disproportionately affects families of lower socioeconomic status. Current evidence suggests that transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in kindergarten through grade 12 (K-12) schools might not significantly contribute to COVID-19 spread nationwide.

During August 31-November 29, 2020, COVID-19 cases, spread, compliance with mask use were investigated among 4,876 students and 654 staff members who participated in in-person learning in 17 K-12 schools in rural Wisconsin.

School-attributable COVID-19 case rates were compared with rates in the surrounding community. School administration and public health officials provided information on COVID-19 cases within schools.

During the study period, widespread community transmission was observed, with 7%-40% of COVID-19 tests having positive results. Masking was required for all students and staff members at all schools, and rate of reported student mask-wearing was high (>92%). COVID-19 case rates among students and staff members were lower (191 cases among 5,530 persons, or 3,453 cases per cases per 100,000) than were those in the county overall (5,466 per 100,000).

Among the 191 cases identified in students and staff members, one in 20 cases among students was linked to in-school transmission; no infections among staff members were found to have been acquired at school. These findings suggest that, with proper mitigation strategies, K-12 schools might be capable of opening for in-person learning with minimal in-school transmission of SARS-CoV-2.

Among 18 selected schools in Wood County, Wisconsin, 17 agreed to participate in this study of COVID-19 in schools and compliance of mask use. One school opted not to participate based on teacher preference. Surveillance was initiated by a small group of physician and medical student researchers.

Participating schools were from three public school districts, one private school district, and one independent private school. Eight schools with elementary (grades K-6) with 1,539 students attending in-person, and nine were secondary (grades 7-12) with 3,347 students attending in-person. An estimated 12.4% of Wood County’s children were attending virtually.

A number of infection mitigation measures were employed at the schools. The Legacy Foundation of Central Wisconsin provided funding for the districts to purchase 2-3-layer cloth face coverings for all students, and all students received three to five masks as a result of this grant. Students were asked to wear masks when within 6 feet of another person outdoors and at all times indoors.

A classroom cohort included students from one grade level who avoided mixing with other students and ranged in size from 11 to 20 students. All classes and lunch periods were held indoors. Schools generally attempted to seat students near the same person within their cohort, if possible.

Staff member were instructed to wear masks, maintain a distance of 6 feet from all persons, if possible. Staff members were instructed to wear masks, maintain a distance of 6 feet from all persons, if possible, and limit time in shared indoor spaces. If a student was excluded from in-person school because of COVID-19 symptoms, that student’s siblings were also excluded from in-person school. No systematic COVID-19 screening was conducted in the schools or the community.

A free online survey using Google Forms was distributed to all eligible classroom teachers (305) by the school administration or the research team. Information regarding the total number of students expected to attend school in-person, number of students actually attending in-person, and number of students donning or wearing masks when expected to do so was obtained from these surveys. Teachers were instructed to complete the survey once per week during a single class and were instructed to complete the survey based on what they were observing at that time on survey day. Information on masking compliance among staff members was not collected.

Information was obtained from the Wood County public health COVID-19 dashboard on weekly cases and percentage of COVID-19 test results in the community. A COVID-19 case was defined as a positive SARS-CoV-2 reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) rest result. COVID-19 cases in schools were reported by public health or school administration officials using deidentified data.

When a school was alerted to a positive case in a student or staff member, school officials identified persons who had had close contact with the patient through interviews with the patient, parents, and school staff members. Close contact was defined as being within 6 feet for longer than 15 cumulative minutes during a 24-hour period. Patients’ close contacts were required to quarantine in their homes, and if they experienced symptoms during the quarantine period, they were further investigated to determine whether in-school spread might have occurred.

Descriptive statistics were used to calculate school and district average masking compliance as well as percentage of students absent based on the weekly surveys. The protocol was reviewed by the Aspirus Wausau Hospital Institutional Review Board and determined to be exempt from human subjects review because it met the requirements under 45 CFR 46. 104 (d)(2) and underwent a limited review as required under 46.111 (a)(7).

A total of 4,876 students and 654 staff members contributed data to the study. Wood County in central Wisconsin has a population of approximately 73,000, with just under 100 persons per square mile. According to a 2019 U.S. Census Bureau estimate, 92.0% of the population in Wood County identified as non-Hispanic White, median income was $54,913, and 10.7% of persons met poverty thresholds.

During the 13-week study period (August 31-November 29), a total of 3,393 COVID cases were reported in Wood County (cumulative incidence = 5,466 per 100,000 persons), including 191 cases within the participating schools (cumulative incidence = 3,454 per 100,000), including 191 cases within the participating schools (cumulative incidence – 3,454 per 100,000). Cases occurred in 133 students and 58 staff members.

Among these 191 cases, seven (3.7%) were attributed to in-school SARS-CoV-2 transmission, and all occurred within secondary school cohorts. Three of these seven cases occurred in one class in one elementary school, and the other four occurred at separate schools. No in-school transmission between separate classroom cohorts was reported. Weekly COVID-19 incidence ranged from 34 – 1,189 per 100,000 persons in the community, and from 72 to 699 cases per 100,000 among students and staff members in the schools. COVID-19 incidence unschools conducting in-person instruction was 37% lower than that in the surrounding community. During the study period, 7% – 40% of RT-PCR tests from Wood County had positive results.

A total of 2,846 teacher survey responses were collected weekly (response rate = 54%), including 37,575 weekly student masking observations. Observed student masking compliance ranged from 92.1% to 97.4% and did not vary by student age. During the study period, masking noncompliance increased slightly from 2.6% to 7.9%

Discussion

This study, involving students and staff members in 17 K-12 schools in five rural Wisconsin districts under district and statewide mask mandates, found high teacher-reported student masking compliance. Among 5,530 students and staff members, 191 COVID-19 cases were reported. Only seven (3.7%) of these cases were associated with in-school transmission, all in students. Despite widespread community transmission, COVID-19 incidence in schools conducting in-person instruction was 37% lower than that in the surrounding community.

Children might be more likely to be asymptomatic carries of COVID-19 than are adults. In the present study, the absence of identified child-to-staff member transition during the 13-week study period suggests in-school spread was uncommon.

This apparent lack of transmission is consistent with recent research, which found an asymptomatic attack rate of only 0.7% within households and a lower rate of transmission from children than from adults. However, this study was unable to rule out asymptomatic transmission within the school setting because surveillance testing was not conducted.

Student masking compliance was reported to exceed 92% throughout the course of the study. Older children were reported to be equally compliant with masking as younger children. High levels of compliance, small cohort sizes (maximum of 20 students), and limited contact between cohorts likely helped mitigate in-school SARS-CoV-2 transmission and could be responsible for the low levels of transmission detected in schools.

Investigation of 191 school-related COVID-19 cases in students and staff members suggested that most transmission occurred outside of required school activities. This finding is consistent with recently reported data suggesting limited transmission within schools.

Some school districts throughout the country have set thresholds for reopening based on percentage of positive test results in the community (e.g., Virginia: 10%, California: 8%). The percentage of positive COVID-19 test results ranged from 7% to 40% in the community, and confirmed COVID-19 cases within schools were few.

These findings suggest that attending school where recommended mitigation strategies are implements might not place children in a higher risk environment than exists in the community. Having children in a monitored school setting might increase adherence to mask compliance, and cohosting can help minimize exposures for children and adults. In-person schooling for children has numerous health and societal benefits, especially for children and parents of lower socioeconomic status.

The findings in this report are subject to at least seven limitations. First, mask use was assessed using a survey that was not validated, dependent on voluntary teacher response and subject to recall and social desirability biases. The actual mask-wearing rate might have been different because only approximately one half of teachers participated in the study. Teachers with lower masking compliance in their cohort might have been less likely to complete the survey, which limits the reliability of this measure.

Second, lack of data about masking compliance among staff members might also lead to a reported masking compliance that differed from actual masking compliance among persons in the study.

Third, it was not possible to determine the specific roles that mask-wearing and other disease mitigation strategies played in the low rate of disease spread, and information on school ventilation systems was not obtained.

Fourth, because schools did not perform infection screening of staff members and students, the prevalence of asymptomatic spread could not be determined. However, recent serological survey data from a school setting found asymptomatic spread to be minimal.

Fifth, sources of infection among identified cases were detected through contact tracing, which is less accurate than is genomic sequencing.

Sixth, rural schools might differ in important ways from those in more densely populated areas. For example, the capacity to achieve physical distancing in schools might differ if classroom size and outdoor space in rural schools is different from that in suburban or urban schools. However, all the classes and lunch periods in this study were held indoors, as would be consistent with most urban settings.

Finally, the ethnic makeup of this rural population was predominantly non-Hispanic White, and the results of this study might not be generalizable to other rural or nonrural school populations.

In a setting of widespread community SARS-CoV-2 transmission, few instances of in-school transmission were identified among students and staff members, with limited spread among children within their cohorts and no documented transmission to or from staff members.

Only seven of 191 cases (3.7%) were linked to in-school transmission, and all seven were among children. Mask-wearing among students was reported by teachers as high, which likely contributed to low levels of observed disease transmission in these 17 K-12 schools. Although asymptomatic transmission is possible, this study demonstrated that, with precautions in place, in-school transmission of SARS-CoV-2 appeared to be uncommon in this rural Wisconsin community, despite a 40% positive SARS-CoV-2 test rate in the surrounding community.

January 29: The White House posted a Press Briefing titled: “Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki, January 29, 2021” From the Press Briefing:

MS. PSAKI: Early morning briefing. We’ll see how this goes; you guys can give feedback on the time of day.

Okay, I have several announcements for your today. To begin, I know many of you and the American people are interested in the news coming from Johnson & Johnson’s trial data. The President is encouraged by positive data on a new potential vaccine. He also knows that this is just new data, and now is the time for the FDA to do its job of evaluating the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. In the meantime, he continues to urge all Americans to mask up and follow public health guidelines until it’s their turn to get vaccinated.

Now, I know there may be a lot of questions you have of us about the trial data or Johnson & Johnson. I’m here to tell you that I’m not going to get a