Biden’s Virus Response Resembles Trump’s, Adds Bureaucracy

by EditorK
Aside from a handful of exceptions, Biden’s actions restate predecessor’s agenda while infusing pandemic response with ‘equity’ agenda 

News analysis

President Joe Biden campaigned on a promise to turn the tide of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic, telling Americans that he had a superior plan to the one that was being executed by the administration of President Donald Trump.

Biden unveiled his strategy in the first days of his administration amid a flurry of executive orders.

While some of Biden’s ideas are truly novel, including his vision for a centralized national contact-tracing workforce through the establishment of the U.S. Public Health Job Corps, the plan largely mirrors what had been set in motion by Trump, plus the addition of several layers of bureaucracy and the infusion of the quasi-Marxist “equity” agenda into every aspect of the pandemic response.

While Trump streamlined the coordination of the response through the White House Coronavirus Task Force, Biden’s executive orders erect a federal bureaucracy tasked with accomplishing the same work. There is now a National Security Council principals committee, the NSC Directorate of Global Health Security and Biodefense, the Global Health Interagency Review Council, the Pandemic Testing Board among others, all tasked with handling overlapping aspects of the pandemic response.

Despite the sheer volume of activity, a review of Biden’s pandemic executive actions shows that the majority of the activity the president has ordered was already being performed by the government during the Trump administration. Some orders duplicate existing efforts or task officials working on the response with the “equity” task of unearthing and rectifying racism and sexism at every turn.

The vast majority of new activity ordered by Biden consists of directives to create “plans” and “reports.” A review of the 15 major executive actions the president has taken on the pandemic shows that he has directed the government to create 14 different plans and seven reports. They include a “plan to combat the global COVID-19 pandemic,” “a plan for advancing innovation in public health data and analytics,” and “a plan for advancing innovation in public health data and analytics.”

In almost all cases, the orders don’t specify deadlines for completion of the plans and reports.

The proliferation of the various make-a-plan orders is notable, considering that Biden ran on a platform of having a plan for solving the pandemic crisis and had nearly a year to formulate a strategy.

The president’s broader strategy features some ideas that are entirely novel, including the establishment of thousands of “community vaccination centers” and the contact-tracing Public Health Jobs Corps. The president ordered a plan for the jobs entity and asked Congress for funding for the vaccination centers. The lack of urgency on either of these suggests they aren’t the silver pandemic bullet that Biden sold on the campaign trail. The president himself conceded in a speech on Jan. 22 that he has no silver bullet.

“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,” Biden said.

White House officials didn’t immediately respond to a request by The Epoch Times for comment.

Biden’s early steps aren’t entirely without urgency. The president acted on warnings of a more dangerous virus strain in South Africa and banned travel from the nation. The move nevertheless isn’t a novel idea. Trump barred travel from China, the origin of the CCP virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus, in January 2020. However, Democrats, including Biden, attacked the ban. Biden also extended the travel bans that Trump had imposed on most of Europe and Brazil.

The president also imposed a negative COVID-19 test requirement on international travelers, which appears to be his only major novel and urgent action so far. Whether the move proves to be effective remains to be seen. The negative tests can be from up to three days prior, and there are no guards in place to prevent travelers from presenting fraudulent documents.

Bureaucracy

The executive order, which establishes the management structure of Biden’s response team, created the position of the COVID-19 response coordinator, a role that Trump had assigned to Vice President Mike Pence. The order tasks the response coordinator, Jeff Zients, with doing everything Pence had already been doing since late February last year, including the coordination of testing, treatment, equipment and supply production, vaccination, and public outreach.

Zients is responsible for convening “principals from relevant agencies,” which appears to be another way of saying that Biden will carry on, under a different name, the White House Coronavirus Task Force meetings that Trump initiated almost a year ago.

The order also directs the assistant to the president for national security affairs to convene a meeting of National Security Council (NSC) principals “as necessary” to “identify, monitor, prepare for, and, if necessary, respond to emerging biological and pandemic threats.” Beyond the “as necessary” and “if necessary” hypothetical nature of this entity, the only action item it’s responsible for is to complete, in 180 days, “a review of and recommend actions to the president concerning emerging domestic and global biological risks and national biopreparedness policies.”

The principals’ meeting isn’t the only bureaucratic entity created through this executive action. The order resurrects the NSC Directorate on Global Health Security and Biodefense, a relic of the Obama era, which is “responsible for monitoring current and emerging biological threats.” If the description sounds familiar, that’s because the bureaucratic entity described in the previous paragraph is responsible for the same thing.

The effort isn’t duplicated only within the order itself. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) already have subdivisions dedicated to monitoring emerging global biological threats.

Biden’s COVID-19 data order, is similarly duplicative, calling on the heads of several agencies to designate senior officials to “work on COVID-19 and pandemic-related data issues” and to make pandemic data “publicly available and accessible.” The CDC has been tracking and publicly reporting COVID-19 data since the early days of the pandemic, including statistics on case trends, county-level reports, testing, vaccinations, seroprevalence levels, global trends, and effects on unique populations, among other metrics.

The HHS has made the COVID-19 datasets, including reporting from individual states and county-level data, available to the public through the HealthData.gov website.

Vaccination Campaign

One of Biden’s seven goals for tackling the pandemic is to “execute an aggressive vaccination strategy.” His target metric to administer 100 million vaccines in 100 days was already surpassed by the vaccination pace under Trump. On Inauguration Day, more than 1.9 million vaccines had been administered in the United States, according to the CDC. At that rate, the Biden administration could reach its goal in half the time without changing anything about the distribution strategy set up by Trump as part of Operation Warp Speed.

Of the more than a dozen executive actions Biden undertook so far related to the pandemic, only two include directives on vaccines, neither of which tackles domestic distribution.

One order directs the government to “conduct an outreach campaign to promote vaccine trust and uptake among communities of color and other underserved populations.” It’s unclear how many minds such a campaign could change while millions who trust and want the vaccines await their shots. Another order directs the United States to join the Vaccine Alliance in order to donate surplus vaccines to other nations “once there is sufficient supply in the United States.”

Biden’s broader vaccine distribution strategy envisions thousands of “community vaccination centers,” which are to be created with $20 billion in funding that isn’t yet approved by Congress. In a speech on Jan. 15, Biden said personnel from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Guard could staff the “vaccination centers.” None of the president’s publicly announced executive actions to date have gone toward establishing such centers.

FEMA and the National Guard didn’t immediately respond to questions on whether any work is in progress.

Masking, Testing, Treatment

The president’s executive order mandating masks on federal property and for interstate travel was largely symbolic, since masks have been mandated on public interstate transportation and federal properties, such as courthouses, for months. Airlines have deplaned passengers who refuse to wear masks, while federal judges have worn masks even when conducting remote hearings. The CDC long ago issued guidelines for masks in transportation hubs and public transport.

Biden’s strategy calls for implementing “masking nationwide by working with governors, mayors, and the American people.” Compliance with local masking orders, which stem from the federal guidelines established by the Trump administration, has been high, especially in large cities such as New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

The same executive order established the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force, the mission of which is to 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.” This task force appears to be one of several carrying out the work of Trump’s White House Coronavirus Task Force, but with a limited scope and in an entirely advisory role.

It’s unclear why the advice from this new task force is needed when the CDC has been issuing and updating employer guidelines for masking, symptom screening, testing, and other issues.

In a separate order, Biden established the COVID-19 Pandemic Testing Board, tasked with the same mission as Trump’s centralized task force. As of Jan. 25, the United States had conducted more than 280 million tests, leading the world in testing. India, the country with the second most tests conducted, trailed the United States by nearly 100 million tests. The testing board is tasked with accomplishing what was already being done under the Trump administration, including providing free COVID-19 tests to people with insufficient health insurance, something handled via the HHS Provider Relief Fund.

While the money is there, COVID-19 testing bills could still go unpaid if patients don’t know how to ask for the relief or if providers don’t know how to use it. Biden’s testing board could potentially improve on what the previous administration built. The board is also tasked with making tests available to schools, another item already implemented by Trump’s task force.

The same order also calls for a plan to create the U.S. Public Health Job Corps, which will be responsible for COVID-19 contact tracing; however, the order gives no deadline for when the plan is due.

The Department of Education, the Department of Labor, and the HHS, the agencies tasked with coming up with the plan, didn’t immediately respond to requests by The Epoch Times for information.

Follow Ivan on Twitter: @ivanpentchoukov

Leave a Comment

You may also like