Biden unveils coronavirus national strategy, calls it a 'war-time undertaking'

Biden delivers remarks on his administration’s COVID-19 response

President Biden unveiled his national strategy for coronavirus, calling it a “war-time undertaking” and signing a number of executive actions to “beat this pandemic.”

Biden, speaking from the Oval Office, outlined his administration’s coronavirus response, saying it is “comprehensive, based on science, not politics,” and “based on truth, not denial.”

“While the vaccine provides so much hope, the rollout has been a dismal failure thus far,” Biden said. “Let me be very clear — things are going to continue to get worse before they get better.”

Biden, painting a grim yet realistic picture, said the death toll from the novel coronavirus will likely top 500,000 by next month.

“We didn’t get into this mess overnight, and it’s going to take months to turn this around,” Biden said. “But let me be equally clear, we will get through this. Help is on the way.”

Biden said his administration would mount an “aggressive, safe and effective vaccination campaign,” and vowed to deliver 100 million shots in his first 100 days in office, calling it “one of the greatest operational challenges our nation has ever undertaken.”

“We’re committed to getting it done—we will move heaven and earth to get more people vaccinated for free and create more places for them to get vaccinated, increase vaccine supply, and get it out the door as quickly as possible,” Biden said.

Biden said he has directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to begin creating federally supported vaccination centers, saying there is a goal to have up to 100 centers by next month.

The presicent announced that the administration will also launch a federal pharmacy program to make vaccines available to communities’ local pharmacies — a move he said would be ready by early February. He also said he has asked the Department of Health and Human Services to “prepare and expand the pool of medical professionals who can administer the vaccine.”

Biden also said he directed FEMA to create a COVID-19 liaison for each state to maximize the coordination between the federal government and states to ensure a smooth vaccine distribution, and also said he would “immediately begin reimbursing states 100% for the use of their national guards to help COVID relief efforts,” something he said both Democrat and Republican governors alike have called for.

“The brutal truth — it is going to take months before we can get the majority of the American people vaccinated,” Biden admitted, again urging Americans to “mask up,” and partake in his 100-day mask challenge.

“By wearing a mask from now until April, we’d save more than 50,000 lives,” Biden said,

Meanwhile, the president signed an executive action to extend the requirement of mask-wearing to planes, trains and buses.

Biden said that in light of the new COVID-19 strain, the U.S. would institute a new measure for individuals flying into the U.S. from other countries. In addition to wearing masks, travelers from outside the U.S. would be required to get tested before boarding the plane, and required to quarantine upon arrival to the U.S.

“This is a full-scale, war-time effort,” Biden said, noting that more than 400,000 Americans have died—a figure larger than the American death toll in all of World War II.

“This is a war-time undertaking,” Biden said, adding that he has invoked the Defense Production Act to prioritize manufacturing masks and supplies necessary to administer vaccines. The Trump administration also invoked the Defense Production Act to expand the manufacturing of ventilators and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) early on in the pandemic.

With regards to schools, Biden said he has directed the Department of Education and HHS to provide schools and communities with “clear guidance and resources to safely reopen schools and childcare centers,” saying that doing so would sent families back to work.


And as for testing, Biden said he is launching a COVID-19 testing board, and putting “the full force of the federal government behind expanding testing.”

Biden said the administration’s strategy would be based on science and said health officials will “work free from political interference and make decisions based on science and health care alone.”

“Vice President Harris and I and our administration will always be honest and transparent with you, about both the good news and the bad,” Biden said, adding that they will “always level with you when we make a mistake.”

“Despite the best intentions, we’re going to face setbacks, which I will always explain to you,” Biden said. “But also know, we can do this if we come together.”

Biden, echoing the sentiment in his inaugural address, said, “Ultimately, our plan is based on unity and all of us acting as one nation.”

“This is the plan,” Biden said. “This is the plan.”

Biden signed a number of COVID-19-related executive actions from the Oval Office, which directed federal agencies to make a variety of reforms designed to, among other things, fill supply shortfalls. The White House will establish a COVID-19 Response Office responsible for coordinating the multi-faceted effort across federal agencies.

Biden’s first stated goal is to “restore trust with the American people” by working towards transparent decision-making, conduct regular briefings, and lead “science-first public health campaigns.”

“To rebuild the trust of the American people, the National Strategy will signal clear public leadership and a commitment to a robust whole-of-government response that puts science first,” reads the strategy document. “The federal government will be transparent with the American people, maintaining an open line of communication with the public and all stakeholders.”

Biden, since taking office, also restored the National Security Council entity former President Obama created for addressing pandemics. The president also sent letters informing the United Nations and World Health Organization (WHO) that the U.S. would reverse Trump’s decision to withdraw from the WHO.

The battle against the coronavirus is hitting a roadblock: A number of states are reporting they are running out of vaccine, and tens of thousands of people who managed to get appointments for a first dose are seeing them canceled.

The push to inoculate Americans has been encountering shortages as states dramatically ramp up their vaccination drives, at the direction of the federal government, to reach people 65 and older, along with other groups deemed essential or at high risk. 

About half of the 31 million doses distributed to the states by the federal government have been administered so far, though only about 2 million people have received the two doses needed for maximum protection against COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Fox News’ Sam Dorman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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