NEW ORLEANS — One of President Joe Biden’s first orders of business is to get the Coronavirus pandemic under control and to press reset on the vaccine rollout.
His plan to defeat COVID-19 could very well define his presidency.
“This virus isn’t political,” said Dr. Rebekah Gee, former Louisiana Health Secretary and CEO of LSU Health Services. “This virus is a virus. It’s programmed to infect and to kill. The sooner we can act like scientists and the sooner we can organize in a logical fashion and take politics out it, as President Biden has said he will do, the sooner we can put COVID behind us.”
Biden wants to deliver 100 million vaccine shots in his first 100 days in office.
He is also asking Americans for 100 days of mask wearing and ordering all federal workers to wear face coverings.
“First and foremost, it’s important to understand that mask wearing is something that needs to be social currency,” Gee said. “It’s something that needs to be cool. It’s something that needs to be expected because when we wear masks, we save lives.”
Biden said he would invoke the Defense Production Act to help get more vaccine in the pipeline.
Tulane University health economist Engy Ziedan says the wartime law allows a president to direct the manufacture of critical goods.
“It basically incentivizes private producers to invest in making the vaccine or making components, raw materials, inputs that are required for the vaccine,” Ziedan said.
President Biden promises a national Coronavirus vaccination strategy. The Trump administration put much of the responsibility on individual states.
“The federal government does need to take over some of these responsibilities,” Gee said. “The Trump administration has delegated much of the COVID response to states and as a result what you see are states like Louisiana that have great governors and robust public health infrastructure doing better than state’s that don’t.”
Ziedan says the U.S. should also use federal agencies to distribute the vaccine.
“If you take Medicare alone and Medicaid, you’re talking 60 million here, 60 million there, that’s a big chunk of the American population covered,” Ziedan said.
Dr. Gee expects Biden to restore trust, credibility and common purpose in battling the pandemic.
“Not attacking scientists,” Gee said. “I think we’re going to stop seeing that. We’re going to see supporting of local public health officials. Listening to the science and supporting local public health infrastructure to address the pandemic.
Biden has also vowed to reopen most schools within his first 100 days.
Last week, the president unveiled a nearly $2 trillion Coronavirus rescue package.
It includes more money to speed up COVID vaccinations, bigger stimulus checks and an increase the minimum wage.