BIDEN SIGNS CORONAVIRUS-RELATED EXECUTIVE ORDERS, WARNS WILL ‘TAKE MONTHS TO TURN AROUND’: President Biden signed 10 executive orders related to the coronavirus pandemic during his first full day in office Thursday (January 21st), moving immediately to start his national strategy to increase vaccinations and testing, increase the use of face masks, and more. At the same time, he warned that things won’t be fixed right away, saying, “We didn’t get into this mess overnight, and it will take months to turn this around.” But he also had a message for pandemic-weary Americans, saying, “To a nation waiting for action, let me be clear on this point: Help is on the way.” The federal government is taking on full responsibility for the coronavirus response, in a change from the Trump administration, offering to help states with technical assistance and money, instead of delegating major responsibilities to them.
Biden yesterday issued an order requiring face masks for people traveling on planes, ships, intercity buses, trains and public transportation, after having already mandated them on federal property. Overseas travelers must show a negative Covid-19 test before leaving for the U.S., and must quarantine once arriving. He’s also directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to begin setting up vaccination centers, with the goal of having 100 operating in a month, and ordered the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to begin a program to make vaccines available through local pharmacies starting next month, building on a plan from the Trump administration.
Vaccine Shortages Blamed on Expansion
Many states and cities around the country have been complaining about shortages of their vaccine supplies. Public health experts yesterday blamed the problem in part on the Trump administration’s push that began over a week ago to get states to expand eligibility to everyone age 65 and older, according to AP. But that push from the federal government didn’t come with an increase in doses to meet the expanded demand.
In the race to get all Americans vaccinated, there is now also an issue with mutations, including a particularly worrisome one from South Africa that could make the vaccines less effective. Speaking to reporters at the White House yesterday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease specialists, said, “we are paying very close attention to it.”
NATIONAL GUARD TROOPS BEGINNING TO HEAD HOME AFTER INAUGURATION: Now that President Biden‘s inauguration is over, the nearly 26,000 National Guard troops that were brought into Washington, D.C., to secure the nation’s capital in the wake of the attack on the U.S. Capitol are beginning to go home. The National Guard Bureau said Thursday (January 21st), that just 10,600 of the National Guard troops remain on duty, and that it’s helping states with coordination and logistics so that the Guardsmen can get home. Some 7,000 troops are expected to stay in the region through the end of the month.
MCCONNELL PROPOSES PUSHING TRUMP’S IMPEACHMENT TRIAL TO FEBRUARY: Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is proposing push back the start of former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial to mid-February, in order to give him to time to prepare. House Democrats have signaled they want to move quickly, saying it’s necessary before the country can move on. However, some Senate Democrats could favor a delay, according to AP, as it would give the Senate more time to confirm President Biden‘s Cabinet nominees and debate his new $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief proposal. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will ultimately decide when to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate, which would start the trial process, but hasn’t yet said when she’ll do it. Some Republicans are arguing, however, that Trump can’t be tried once he’s no longer in office.
AT LEAST 32 KILLED IN TWIN SUICIDE BOMBINGS IN BAGHDAD, WORST IN YEARS: At least 32 people were killed and dozens wounded in Baghdad yesterday (January 21st) in twin suicide bombings in a busy market in the Iraqi capital. It was the first major bombing there in years, a throwback to militant attacks from several years ago. There are heightened tensions in Iraq over planned early elections and a severe economic crisis. Although no one claimed responsibility, Iraqi military officials blamed the Islamic State (ISIS) group.