WASHINGTON, DC – One year to the day since the first COVID-19 case was diagnosed in the United States, health officials are reporting near-record fatalities of over 4,000 COVID-19 deaths per day, and states are facing massive vaccine shortages.  Moreover, the previous Administration left no vaccine distribution plan in place.

Today, President Joe Biden sought to turn things around by signing a slate of executive orders to improve the federal government’s pandemic response, accelerate the pace of vaccinations, and increase production of life-saving medical supplies, including N95 masks, personal protective equipment (PPE), syringes, and materials used in vaccines.

U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) supports the president’s plan and is working in Congress to deliver additional federal resources that will help Rhode Island accelerate the pace of vaccinations and effectively fight COVID-19.

“We’ve got to contain COVID-19, boost vaccinations, and bolster the economy.  President Biden is taking bold, decisive action that will make up for lost time and dramatically enhance the COVID-19 response.  A lack of coordinated, science-driven leadership by the previous administration contributed to the virus getting out of control and now a more contagious variant is gaining ground.  Turning things around is imperative and this is a positive step forward.  But it will take a sustained effort and bipartisan commitment to get the job done,” said Senator Reed.

Reed, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, strongly supports President Biden’s move to robustly invoke the Defense Production Act (DPA) to combat COVID-19 and speed up the manufacturing of critical testing and vaccine supplies.

The DPA was first enacted in 1950 to authorize the president to undertake actions to boost domestic manufacturing of goods in extraordinary circumstances.  It can be used to require businesses to prioritize contracts necessary for national defense and to incentivize the domestic industrial base to expand production of critical materials.

The Trump Administration failed to sufficiently utilize the DPA and boost America’s industrial capability to produce and allocate enough testing supplies, PPE, and life-saving medical equipment.

Today, President Biden signaled he will utilize DPA authorities to enhance production of materials needed for vaccines, COVID-19 testing, and protective equipment supplies.

“This is about saving lives and we need to move forward with a sense of urgency.  President Biden is wisely and aggressively addressing immediate supply shortfalls.  The Biden plan is a needed step toward bringing the outbreak under control.  But the President can’t do this alone.  He is seeking to work more closely with Governors, community leaders, and American companies whose ingenuity can help save the country and are willing to put the national good ahead of the bottom line.  Ultimately, all of us as individual citizens must do our part through everyday actions to help prevent more outbreaks.  So that means things like responsibly social distancing, washing hands, wearing a face mask, and getting vaccinated.  The President is leading by example and ramping up vaccine distribution, but we’ve got to have a coordinated plan and communicate with states, hospitals, and people,” said Reed.

One of the orders President Biden will sign directs the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to fully reimburse states for the cost of National Guard personnel and emergency supplies such as PPE for schools.  This will increase federal reimbursement to states from 75 percent to 100 percent of the cost for National Guard personnel and emergency supplies, such as PPE, cleaning and sanitizing efforts, and the personnel and equipment needed to create vaccination centers.  The order also includes restoring full reimbursement for eligible costs necessary to support safe school reopening through the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund.

“President Biden is stepping up pandemic response and these moves will provide a significant boost to Rhode Island.  We’ve got a difficult road ahead, but this is a major step in the right direction,” concluded Reed.