Biden’s COVID-19 Strategy Focuses on Nationally Coordinated Public Health Efforts

January 22, 2021

President Biden’s National Strategy for COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness includes twelve executive orders and seven goals, including safely reopening schools, businesses, and travel.

The national strategy states the “federal government will mount an unprecedented public campaign that builds trust around vaccination and communicates the importance of... masking, physical distancing, testing, and contact tracing even as people receive safe and effective vaccinations.”

The CDC will develop workplace guidance for monitoring COVID-19 in facilities along with guidance on physical distancing protocols, testing, contact tracing, and reopening businesses.

A national employer pledge will be spearheaded for businesses to ensure their employees and contractors can take paid time-off to get vaccinated.  As outlined in his pandemic relief plan, President Biden also called on Congress to extend the expired emergency paid sick and family leave benefits to over 14 weeks.

The administration will also work with large employers and labor unions, prioritizing industries and occupations that face high risk of COVID-19, and to establish on-site vaccination centers. 

Insurer coverage of COVID-19 testing may become mandatory.  A new executive order directs the Treasury Department, Labor Department, and Department of Health and Human Services to clarify the coverage obligations of group health plans and health insurance issuers for COVID-19 testing.  Since the COVID-19 plan relies on increased school and workplace testing, the EO eliminates the loophole included in the Trump administration policy which often left patients unsure if they will be covered.

Impact on corporate air travel:  A separate executive order will require incoming international travelers to have a recent negative COVID-19 test result prior to departure followed by quarantine on arrival.

Schools and childcare centers will be safely reopened by requiring additional guidance on reopening and calling on Congress to provide $25 billion in relief to child care providers.

The pace of vaccinations will be accelerated by encouraging states and localities to vaccinate priority groups, such as essential workers, more quickly.  The federal government will also work with states to open additional vaccination centers, including federally-run community vaccination centers in places like stadiums and conference centers. 

Outlook:  Some parts of the plan will require a closely divided Congress to pass legislation, with President Biden warning it will take months for his administration’s actions to significantly alter the trajectory of the pandemic.  “We didn’t get into this mess overnight and it’s going to take months for us to turn things around,” the President said.