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President-elect Joe Biden outlined his plan to control the pandemic. JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images
  • President-elect Joe Biden outlined his plan to control the coronavirus pandemic.
  • The package, called the American Rescue Plan, has a price tag of $1.9 trillion, with $400 billion aimed at combating the pandemic and the rest focused on economic relief.
  • The plan provides $130 billion to safely reopen most schools by the end of the new administration’s first 100 days.

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President-elect Joe Biden outlined his plan this week for controlling the coronavirus crisis in the United States, and providing economic relief, which in turn is expected to boost the economy.

The proposal, called the American Rescue Plan, has a price tag of $1.9 trillion, with $400 billion aimed at combating the pandemic and the rest focused on economic relief.

“It’s not hard to see that we are in the middle of a once-in-several generations economic crisis, with a once-in-several generations public health crisis. A crisis of deep human suffering is in plain sight,” Biden said at a press conference the night of Thursday, Jan. 14.

“We have to act, and we have to act now,” he said. “We cannot afford inaction.”

The plan is a multifaceted and aggressive attempt by the new administration to weaken the grip of the coronavirus on the country, one that is dragging down the economy.

The United States reported 4,327 COVID-19 deaths on Jan. 12, the highest number of deaths in one day, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Almost 129,000 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

Many hospitals have reported being near breaking point.

In addition, jobless claims are at their highest level since August, with nearly 1 million people filing for unemployment last week, according to The Washington Post.

In his Jan. 15 address, he said he will use the Defense Production Act to direct manufacturers to increase the supply of vaccines and materials needed to administer them.

He also supports the Trump administration’s decision earlier this week to urge states to widen the criteria of who’s eligible for the vaccine. This would include those 65 and older, as well as younger people with health conditions that increase their risk of severe COVID-19.

Also on Biden’s priority list is improving communication between the federal government and states, something states have complained about with the current administration.

Earlier this week, the Trump administration promised to release millions of doses that were being held for a second-dose round. But The Washington Post reported Jan. 15 that no such reserve exists.

Here’s a breakdown of what else is included in Biden’s plan.

The approved coronavirus vaccines offer a way to help get the pandemic under control — but only if the doses reach people’s arms.

Biden said Jan. 14 that the vaccine rollout so far has been a “dismal failure.”

Of the over 30 million doses distributed by the Trump administration to states, only about 11 million have been administered, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

William A. Haseltine, PhD, a former professor at Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health, and founder of nonprofit ACCESS Health International, said the federal government did well with supporting the development of the coronavirus vaccines.

But the rollout has been hindered by many of the same problems that plagued the entire response to the pandemic.

“The federal government has more or less abrogated management of COVID-19,” he said. “That’s true with testing, with therapeutics, with public health measures, and now with the vaccines.”

“The problems are due to the federal government’s unwillingness to oversee, manage, and support the necessary efforts across the board,” he added.

Biden is hinting at a more hands-on approach in dealing with the pandemic, including providing the resources needed by the states to contain COVID-19.

His goal is for 100 million people to be vaccinated during his first 100 days in office, calling this one of the “most challenging” operations undertaken by the country.

“We’ll have to move heaven and earth to get more people vaccinated,” Biden said. “To create more places for them to get vaccinated, to mobilize more medical teams to get shots in people’s arms, to increase vaccine supply, and to get it out the door as fast as possible.”

The plan calls for investing $20 billion in a national vaccination program, including the launch of vaccination centers in the community, and using mobile units to reach isolated areas.

School closures have been a big issue during the pandemic, with many states and cities pushing to keep them open even when case numbers are rising.

While scientists are still trying to figure out exactly how much children and teens spread the virus, it’s clear that when community transmission is high, it’s harder to keep schools open.

That’s why reopening the schools has to go hand-in-hand with containing the spread of the virus.

“We’ll also do everything we can to keep our educators and students safe, to safely reopen the majority of our K-8 schools by the end of the first 100 days,” Biden said.

He called for providing schools with clear guidance on reopening safely, and resources such as expanded testing, additional sanitation, and improved ventilation in schools.

The plan provides $130 billion to safely reopen most schools by the end of the new administration’s first 100 days.

In addition, $50 billion is provided to expand testing, which includes funding for the purchase of rapid tests, increasing lab capacity, and supporting regular testing in schools.

The public health system in the United States has been underfunded for decades, which left it unable to respond effectively to the pandemic.

Biden’s plan calls for hiring 100,000 additional public health workers to do contact tracing and vaccine outreach, with a big emphasis on helping low-income and underserved communities.

Hispanic, Black, American Indian, Alaskan Native, Native Hawaiian, and other Pacific Islander communities have been affected more by COVID-19, with higher rates of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.

The pandemic is a reminder that biological threats that arise in other parts of the world can threaten the health of people in the United States and the security of the country.

Responding to global threats requires coordination among countries. During Trump’s tenure, the United States stepped back from its global leadership, including withdrawing from the World Health Organization (WHO).

Biden’s plan aims to “restore U.S. leadership globally,” including supporting international health and humanitarian efforts, and working with other countries to develop and share treatments.

There’s also a proposal to boost investment in genetic sequencing and other technologies to help track new virus strains, including the more contagious variants of the coronavirus identified in the United Kingdom and South Africa.

Biden emphasized in his speech that stopping the pandemic won’t happen overnight.

“We’re better equipped to do this than any nation in the world,” he said. “But even with all these small steps, it’s going to take time.”