- During his first hours in office, President Joe Biden issued more than a dozen executive orders, including a mask mandate on federal property. He also said the U.S. would rejoin the World Health Organization and the global vaccine initiative COVAX.
- The administration plans more efforts aimed at combating the novel coronavirus Thursday. Biden is expected to create a federal board to increase testing efforts and to begin the process of increasing healthcare supplies through use of the Defense Production Act. He also has a public address regarding COVID-19 on his schedule for the day.
- Also Wednesday, the president named acting directors for several federal agencies. Leading the Food and Drug Administration for now will be longtime agency staffer Janet Woodcock, who is reportedly being considered for the permanent role. HHS Deputy Assistant Secretary of Budget Norris Cochran will lead the agency on a temporary basis while the nominee for secretary, Xavier Becerra, awaits confirmation hearings.
Biden pledged throughout his campaign and transition period to hit the ground running when it came to pandemic response, and his first actions as president reflected that.
He faces huge tasks in attempting to lower community spread of the novel coronavirus and to fix the beleaguered rollout of the first vaccines. A lack of federal coordination under former President Donald Trump has left states scrambling to secure doses and keep them stable among strict cold chain requirements.
"We will need all our strength to persevere through this dark winter. We are entering what may well be the toughest and deadliest period of the virus," Biden said during his inaugural address. "We must set aside the politics and finally face this pandemic as one nation." He later asked for a moment of silence for the more than 400,000 in the U.S. who have died from COVID-19.
In statements Wednesday, the American Medical Association and Infectious Diseases Society of America applauded the new administration.
"The president's action today, as well as the administration's COVID-19 rescue plan and vaccine strategy released last week, offers new promise that together we can flatten the curve of COVID-19 in the United States. We urge all people to seize this moment," IDSA said.
Medical device lobby AdvaMed congratulated the new administration in a statement Wednesday, saying that the group is ready "for a new era of bipartisanship on behalf of the patients our industry serves."
Among other appointments Wednesday, Becerra aide Sean McCluskie was named HHS chief of staff and Arcadia executive Micky Tripathi was named director of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT.
CMS acting administrator will be Liz Richter, who has been with the agency for three decades.
In remarks to the WHO posted Thursday, Anthony Fauci, Biden's chief medical adviser on COVID-19, said he "represent[s] the scientists, public health officials and frontline healthcare workers and community health workers" who have battled the pandemic in the U.S. "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," he said.